Thursday, May 26, 2011

Permaculture's David Holmgren comes to Sydney

Something big is coming to my kitchen

Its David Holmren, the co-originator of Permaculture.

And his bright beloved, Su Dennett, who is also my friend, and a delicious gardening-cook.
They are in Sydney for Permacutlure Courses, and a weed debate with Sydney's weed experts.

"I'm Dazzeled" says David, "With this Sydney icon just here, in front of me".
I'm Dazzled too, with this Australian icon at my moring tea.

David notices everything. Nothing is too humble to get him riveted, in detective mode.

While I just see an artistically shaped chopping board, he sees a 44 year old **** pine tree, with a branch growing out to the right.

He also sees the little one-year old sapling, from way back in 1967. He loves talking about the sixties. 

Pine seeding photo DougWW

"See here, these dots... You know how when the trees are really young, the needles come straight out from the trunk? Here is the needlewood'.

On their fact-fining missions - neighborhood stroll - , they discover only 12 people walking the streets. They did a demographic breakdown, theorizing on their reasons for being there. They re-designed a fantasy Balmain where people where home working during the day, and even more people were living in the office buildings across the water, reducing excessive building. 

Homeless possums illustration by Cecilia Macaulay

They came home with hands full of herb tit-bits, and explained Balmain has almost no edible gardens, and that the closest one is, In Fact,  just around the corner from me. It is public, it is in sun, and someone already tends it. Perfect. It was also thirsty. They gave it what was in their drink bottle, and made a small withdrawal for our lunch. 

Later we went to the Balmain shops, where Su got some seeds and seedlings for the 'round-the-corner' garden. 

Balmain shops are cute, classy, but sometimes people yell at you when you try to drive. I will be glad when I can eat from the garden we are planting, so I can shop less and get yelled at less.
Balmain will be glad too, will less appearances from me.

David, Su and I did a deposit, of parsley and corriander, rocket and lettuce seeds.

"Who came trip trapping in MY garden", somebody might be wondering. Wouldn't she be surpised to find it was David Holmgren himself? 
Maybe David's books had put her up to it in the first place.

It had been a lonely weekend. I was so happy to have some mates to share my view with.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Life. Be in it at Cooma

I've been back a while from my Cooma trip,  back to my luxury house in Sydney, where everything is provided.

That's a problem.

Its actually the longing for things, the Chasing and Stretching and Fixing and then Actually GETTING that makes life thrilling. The things left for me to want in my real Sydney life are things I have no idea how to do. Getting Grants. Writing books. Making a family with someone. Daunting.

Cooma though, was simple. Just doing the same physical things that made me happy when I was a kid.

Here was my last Saturday WWOOFing in Cooma, before Saying goodbye to host Kevin.

  • Arranging the furniture

Op shop treasures: Mosquito net, 70's bed sheet, glass saucepan.

Back in the old days, doing some midnight re-arranging of furniture was an irresistible form of excitement for us seven Macaulay children. We can change the world!

This could not be done at Kevin's. The reason being, he has no furniture.
Fearing the lumpy practical discards that ascetic Kevin would probably buy 'for now' - and then keep on using for the next 20 years - I took him for a pre-emptive opp shop.

I Ceciliaized.
Poor bloke. But his daughters will be happy to come home to pretty things.

Mosquito net. Its snowing outside. And now inside too.

"Go Gustavian" I instructed him, remembering the airy 18th century Scandinavian houses from travels long ago.  "Don't buy things unless they are silvery, snowy, blue or a natural flesh color.  And beautiful.

Kevin Kirton

The rule is, get your house to look like you. 

Cooma opp shopping

When we came back to pick up the pretty Wedgwood blue couch I'd found, the nice lady threw in a Seventies tray, as it went so well with the rest of my stash. Just looking at it re-activated the 70's 'Life Be in it' Jingle, and gave us a soundtrack to sing for our house warming, house equipping party-for-two.

  • Optimising

Cecilia's list of pre-lunch tasks for Kevin

I can't do anything in this world unless I trick myself into wanting to do it. Carefully selected words are like rocket-fuel for me.

Do I want a 'To-Do' list telling me what to do? 
How about we make it 'Creative Actions' list? 
Count me in!

Do I want to 'tidy' the bins, 'clean out' the esky? 
NO. That would make me a powerless drudge.

'Redesigning' the garbage, 'Optimizing' the esky is just fine. That makes me a powerful designer.
But because I've got the habit of putting things so nicely, I often miss the chance to actually do housework. Other people beat me to it.


While Miss Resourceful re-covered the missing button, Kevin chopped wood. 
If you do work that requires problem solving, seeking out materials, it makes people around you feel grateful for mundane tasks they actually know how to proceed with. That gives them energy. 

Energizing each other is the best way to do it. Humans aren't really designed to energize themselves. As I'm finding out in my Solitary Sydney life.

Lovely 70's tray-table with Cosmos, from the opp shop
  • Gardening

Kevin's decision to join the Cooma Community Garden meant I didn't have to get him started on one at home - people get energy from each other, his gardening life would be just fine.

Gorgeous freindly Sculpture by ???

Strawberry bathtub
  • Going for walks

You might see something lovely like...


A frog!

Or a fence.
Isn't this marvelous.
It almost completely redeems the architecture behind it.
I want to be friends with whoever did this.
Each piece of timber is allowed to turn up and express itself, fitting in nicely with its neighbors. And look how the Main posts mingle with the crowd.

I want to live life like this fence.

Beautiful natural fence, Cooma

Visit beautiful Cooma - Design to make cooking easy

Kevin is impressed with the dinners I'm making from our 'indoor campsite' - the new house in Cooma. 

But I don't cook easily because I'm particularly blessed with talent. 
I get the groundwork right, and the food kind of cooks itself. 

The trout from yesterday was smoked, maybe even caught, by the fellow who sold it to us.  With a trout like that, a bit of pasta, cream and spring onions, you have major deliciousness.  And can do it on one camping pan.    

The thermometer says its 4 degrees in the kitchen, so Kevin's decision to go without a fridge for now is quite sensible.

What we do need is space and beauty, so that was the first thing I claimed.
I've lived in, visited so many houses. Its pretty much a rule - people who bravely try to dredge food up from a cluttered kitchen do it at great cost to their levels of calm.
Professionals don't do it, why should we expect we can?
We think we choose to eat out. But really, our kitchens are usually kicking us out of our own homes.

And if your kitchen doesn't let you eat home-cooked meals, everything in life gets harder.  You can think of the list yourself.

Here is my usual routine when taking over other peoples kitchens:

1. Put the draining board, everything, under the sink

Unless you have lots of dishes, you don't need it. 
It makes you think the sink is meant to have dishes sitting on it all the time. This makes them harder to shift. 
Its like putting parking meters in traffic intersections, and wondering why it takes so much willpower to get through. 
Dishes sitting around get in the way of cooking, and of washing the next batch of dishes. Let them live dangerously. Love us and leave us.

2. Defend your kitchen sink with Guard-Flowers

We put our beauty in EXACTLY the wrong places. Evening dresses. Dinners to impress people who we don't love.  Nobody tells you this, but put your beauty in the opposite place, rubbish bins, brooms, and kitchen sinks, and wait for surprises to happen. 
People start doing your housework for you. 
At least, you find yourself doing it, the kicking and screaming strangely silent. 

It took a long walk though Cooma to gather these flowers,  all picked from various road-sides.  I like the frostiness of the silver foliage. It makes friends with the stainless steel of the sink. Make connections, and the result is perceived as beauty. 


The blue linings of the cupboards make me think of Maa Makutsi's beloved blue-lined shoes. I am charmed by this old-timer kitchen, which somebody bothered to line sky blue.
Maybe these cupboards too will give Kevin good advice when he is going astray. 

3. Chop & clean before cooking, wash dishes before eating

My life is a constant 'putting to bed' of the "Hurry Hurry Monster". 
My usual instinct for cooking is to first turn on the stove, then start chopping onions. 
Freaking myself into a race against .....I don't know what, until dinner is on the table, and my heart rate can go back down again.

My Japanese housemates showed me another way, which I try to remember each day:
Put everything back that doesn't go in the pan.
Then cook. 
Wash implements while cooking. 
Serve the food, wash the pan - 20 seconds - then say grace and start eating another 20 seconds after that. 
After dinner, there is just one plate each, one glass each, and set of chopsticks to be daintily washed.

Nobody wants to face greasy aftermath on a full stomach. 
To have it all intrude into the freshness of the next morning is even worse. 

The Hurry-Hurry-Monster, if you have one, loves you.
He is trying to protect you, get you fed, and get you out of there before ....before something terrible interrupts.
He is old, thousands of years.  He got you and your genes all the way here in safely. So you can't just dismiss him. 
But do let him know you have things under control, you started preparing early, and he can go and have a nap.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Visit beautiful Cooma II - crime, punishment and playtime

Not everyone who lives in Cooma actually chose to be here. 

I'd choose Cooma. One reason is their gorgeous sense of humor.

A lone guard-rose to replace the guard dog.

Anti violence-against-women Posters, found in.....

....the women's toilets.

The art of positive re-framing:  'We aren't a blight, we are a tourist attraction'

This is a prison with a good attitude. 

I love the way they cherish their stuff - the contraption that made the prison's bricks is now part of their prison 'balcony garden', and a trim and orderly garden it is. 

I think all gardens should have enchanted letter-boxes, where strangers or mates can post each other love letters, and other correspondence. Notes about pest management, for the next gardener, maybe.

I'm just guessing, but I think this guy (or gal) really likes their job.

Visting beautiful Cooma - when planting plants is just too hard

Welcome to Eden, Cooma Style

Life is full of mysteries


Some failures repeated over and over

But there is also the miraculous

Things get fancy


and you can find all sorts of reasons to get enthusiastic.


Taking it easy in your home and your castle.

Flowers are hard, but that doesn't mean you cant enjoy your yard.