Wednesday, September 28, 2011

How can we create a useful, strong orphanage garden, with 'Hands Across the Water' ?

The Challenge

To draw up an amazing little garden. One that will bring surprise and delight to the world of these lovely children, while costing everyone as little as possible.  

Thats Permaculture, and it can change the world.

If we do a compelling design,  then it will become real.  Materials will be donated, and the good people from 'Hands across the water' will actually create it with us.
Their third working bee is coming up, mid November.

Maybe you will take the plunge and join them.

Who its For?

The beautiful children of the Suthasinee Noiin Orphanage, who want so little but need so much.

Mrs Noiin has been loving and caring for HIV affected children for 20 years, doing her best to make their sometimes short lives beautiful. 
"More than 1,000 children have died in my arms" 

Recently she learned that she herself will not be around much longer.
The kids had been 'doing it tough'.  But since the capable people at 'Hands across the Water' committed to looking after these children, daily life has become so, so much brighter.

How joyful these children are. Where does it come from??

This project is mostly for us though.
To remind us that life is temporary, for all of us. To remind us to put as much love and joy into each day as we can. And to surprise ourselves with how capable and resourceful we can be, once we get started.

Tools and 'How To' ideas

Fantasize. Draw up a design that will kind-of fit the template below.  Go over the edges. Use unlikely colors, put visiting creatures in, and artworks if you like.

This looks a likely spot for a loved, loveable garden

Double click to enlarge, then trace in your own ideas

Double-click this edge-garden template, to enlarge.  Put some paper over your computer screen, turn out the lights, and trace it, gently.
Make three copies, so you can mess the first ones up, with joyful abandon.  At first, don't erase mistakes. Make multiple layers of mess. Rich layers of mess, let them meld and produce offspring. Let your pencil lines go thick and wild. 

Select what works best
Lift out the good ideas, maybe trace them again. Here are some helpful low-tech tricks for drawing up expressive garden plans.
Think about clever (or silly) ways to manage the yearly floods and dry spells, how to attract children's help, what to plant that they will love, and that will survive. Here are some ideas from a Japanese childrens garden I made last year, on getting the water, plants, love, and resources that will make a garden flourish. 

Share with the world, see what comes back
Post your heroic drawing efforts on your Facebook page, for your friends to giggle at. Maybe they will find whats missing, and put it in. Email your pics to to me - I have no idea how to make a tropical garden, thats why I'm asking everybody.  Just take a photo of your drawing with your camera, and send.
I sent the first draft of this story to water expert Ross Mars, and look what came back - Rainfall data we need,  to design a water system that works.

'Ready! Fire! Aim!" is the correct order, for getting totally new things done.

This Video shows last year's volunteers in action, doing their magic at Yasothon, in 2010.

Feeling Daunted?
Design never comes naturally, don't worry.

Unfamilar with tropical Plants? 
Just make up fictional plants. 
Whirligig flowers, leaves like petticoats, if you like. 
Just write notes discribing what your fantasy plants DO, and what they need. 

A plant-lover might read it, then suggest the name of something actual. 
Like ice-cream bean, or dragon fruit. 
Tropical plants all sound made-up to me anyway.

You can't mess up
Nobody, NOBODY knows how to do this.
Last year as part of their renovation blitz, the 'Hands across the Water' team had a go at planting an irrigated garden.
Tradies, businessmen, teenagers all volunteered their time, effort, resources, and flew all the way to Thailand. 
The building renovation was amazing, but the garden didn't survive first go.  
Did they fail? NO, because now we are hearing their story. 
We have Permaculture, and they didn't. 
Now they have us.
As every artist knows, you always need a few rough drafts when doing something totally new. 

Your capacity for embarrassment is equal to your capacity to change the world. I really believe this. 

Spend an hour, watch the impact 
Its doing the things we don't naturally 'feel' like doing that change our life, set our orbit on a wider trajectory.  If you get out the paper, the erasers, and a friend to help, you will be a new person. 
Your garden, or your friends garden will be next, because you have set up a new 'tram tracks' of the mind. Your world will change. After just an hour of trying.

Contact me with your good ideas, suggestions, and offers of help, I would love to hear from you.
0412 474    cecilia.macaulay(at)
Contact the team at Hands across the Water, offer your smarts and strength, make some great friends.

About Hands Across the Water
Hands across the water is a Boutique charity, established by Detective Inspector Baines and his colleagues after the Thailand tsunami. A year after completing his work for those who had died, he found the children orphaned by the tsunami were still living in a tent, with an uncertain future.

'Results not Excuses'
Detective Baines is young, and quiet. He doesn't smile much, but gets things done. One year after he and his colleagues established 'Hands', the million dollars for the children's new home was raised. Not only do they have a colorful home. A palm oil and a rubber plantation were acquired. The children play and picnic there now, amongst trees that will be income source in their future.
Detective Baines and other directors pay for 'Hands' administration out of their own pockets.
Every cent donated to Hands across the water goes directly to caring for the children - food, medicine, and education.
Detective Bains won the Australian of the Year award recently, and lectures to Corporate groups on effective leadership.
Hands across the water 8-day fundraising bike ride though Thailand

Monday, September 19, 2011

How to do something New - invite a friend to help with Bagna Cauda

Bagna Cauda was tremendously popular starter dish in Japan last time I was there, but rarely seen on menus here in Sydney. 

Bagna Cauda from Bon Appetit

Its simply an array of fresh baby vegetables, dipped into a hot buttery sauce of anchovy and garlic. Like a seventies fondue party, a candle is lit under the sauce, to keep things moving. 

Minimum shopping, Minimum washing up

I've long thought: What a useful, low-energy Permaculture dish.
You just go to your balcony garden, pick a few stalks of celery, florets of cauliflower, or baby pea pods, as they come into season. You blanch them by pouring over water from the kettle.
You hold a piece of chewy Italian bread under each vegetable stick, to catch the drips of sauce, then instead of washing the dishes afterwards, you just eat the bread

Since I have a farewell party coming up, with a 'Paleolithic' theme, I decided on Bagna Cauda, or 'hot bath', as a somewhat suitable hunter-gatherer dish. 
I know, I know. They didn't have grain in caveman times, so no bread. No domesticated animals either, so no butter. But its close. 

Garden Bath, illustration by Cecilia

Next I had to decide on a friend to help me cook the new things I had planned. 

Yes. Like everyone ever alive, I'm hesitant to do things I haven't done before.
The further I go from my playful kittenhood, the more conservative I become. 

It took me a few years of running "Inner Permaculture' workshops to realize, that nobody 'changes' behaviour all by themselves.   But they do mimic people they like and trust, doing things a 'half step' from where they already are.

I like Nigella Lawson, so I got my Bagna Cauda recipie from her.
And I like Risa Koyama, a new friend, so I asked her over for a cooking session, so she could learn something new too.  

Risa and I enjoy tea on the Veranda
Risa gathers her cooking energy from the Harbor Bridge view
 Bagna Cauda Caveman Style

I chose the most 'primitive' veggies I could find, such as kale, flowering Asian greens, and the tatsoi I'm growing on the veranda.
The 'gurilla garden' we are cultivating around the corner made some contributions too.

All you have to do is pour boiling water over the vegetables to soften them, then arrange. No cooking.
I fried up a little polenta for her, as she had never seen it before. This crispy-fluffy way to eat corn-meal is one of my staples. She marveled over it, especially with the velvety-salty-pungent sauce.

Share the Surplus 

I sent Risa home with flowers, new recipes to try, and something a bit strange, but good.
A three-quarters empty bottle of Rice-bran oil.

For ten years I knew I shouldn't fry in olive oil, that it has a 'low smoke point', and that all its health benefits turn to poison when it gets too hot.
Yet I continued using it.
I pretended I would be careful and not let it burn, though it always did.
Why do I do this?
Because people like to keep on doing what they are already doing.

We are scary.

Giving my friends the little bit left from the bottle gets them started on the new, better habit, so the next time they shop, they recognize and reach for their new friend - cheap, high-smoke-point oil.

There are so, so many 'surpluses' like this that we can share, rubbish to us, but life-changing when put in the right hands.

Here is a useful oil guide from Whole Foods.
Enjoy salty bagna cauda with your snappy little vegetables.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

September 11 and the Lemonade Stalls of Spring - Sydney Children out saving the world

On my way home from the Strathfield Spring Festival, I had the highlight of my day - Children out in front of their house, selling lemonade and coconut ice.

Very blue, sugary coconut ice, just like I used to make when I was 10

Very happy children, with a purpose to their day, and to their life.

They are raising money for a village in Kenya. Look what good business people they are, with seductive specials in their pricing strategy.

When I asked them if they had a lemonade stand website I could google, to tell my friends about their lovely project, one ran and got a poster from her mum, across the road.

Look how the bike out the front porch matches the project.
Sometimes, when we just do what we love, our lives become 'All of a Piece', with every part fitting into every other part.
Her brother greeted me at the door with his paint-spattered clothers.
Another generative, useful and happy kid, changing the world. Or at least, changing the living-room wall.

Peoples dreams always make them beautiful.

Kipepo means 'Butterfly' in Kenyan. You can learn more about the Kipepo Project here, and maybe buy the greeting cards they sell.

I want to buy the children, take them home and do projects together. 
Maybe I should make my own.

I love doorsteps and edges, quiet curbs, and how creative projects can bring people together.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Kitchen sink dancing - Life after Michelle Bowden's presentation skills workshop

This is what happens when you do the 'Advanced Presentations Skills' workshop with the amazing Michelle Bowden.

The rules and structures she gives you for clear, persuasive speaking don't just take over your brain. They take over your kitchen walls. 

It gets worse, because she choreographed a dance, so the kinestetic learner in us remembers the 13 steps, even if our brain doesn't.  
"Pace, Pace, Pace, Lead! Reduce, Maintain Increase..."
So now I've got a new kitchen sink dance, to entertain the passing ferries with.

The hardships of harborside life: you need sunnies for breakfast

I'll tell the story of how the presentations are going, its a big one, for another day.

For one more week I have this lovely house to enjoy, and must continue preparations for my next exciting episode.

If you want to make your life interesting and easy, visit Michelle's generous and inspired website, subscribe to her free magazine, and say 'If only I knew all this years ago"!


Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Help me bring Spring deliciousness to Norma's jewel-box garden, Balmain

I have a new friend, Norma, who lives across the road.

Minkie the cat introduced us just last week.  I had chased him down for a pat, outside her house. There she was chatting to other neighbors, in her jewel-box of a garden.

She is an artist, and 80 now.  She talks about real and interesting things, like love.
Actually, I just now realized something.
She doesn't complain.

She mentions how she misses her husband, how she misses seeing him in his chair, reading the paper. "He was such a lovely man. With an eye for beauty". Or about how she just buried a possum, and maybe it was made homeless when the big trees got cut down. She lends me books about Japanese gardens, and books about what makes beauty beautiful.
But she doesn't complain. She doesn't seem to have the 'chemistry' for it.

You know what she said yesterday, while we drank green tea on her balcony? That I should quickly find someone, get married, and have a child, or I will become a boring old lady.

Yes Norma. I will do my best.

"Its like a bad haircut"

Norma has desires for her garden. She wishes there was less straggliness, that there were herbs to eat. 
Most of the plants just made their own way to her garden, presents from friends, things that landed from a seed in the wind.

Lets get some herbs for Norma

Gardens that are loved and already part-beautiful call out to me, as a part-unwrapped chocolate bar calls out. 
Here are the main things I'd like to help her do:
Put in the parsley that she fills her soup with, and other herbs and salad things.
Continue the bright pink and vivid green theme, avoiding other colors
Continue the Japanese theme, with its stepping stones and mondo grass
Somehow disguise the bins yet keep them accessible. How?
Make a sturdy, beautiful wooden hand-rail, so she can walk safely over the stepping stones
Find a wooden chair, and made a dappled a sitting area, so that she can spend time in this pretty place, connecting with passers-by who need a chat.  
Like me.

'Observe and Interact'
To get started, today I got Norma to take photos of 10 things she thinks are beautiful, and 10 that she doesn't.
Actually taking photos helps you see things you have become blind to, I have discovered.

Here are some of the the winners:

Doorstep river stone from her son
Lots of pink flowers in terracotta
Her daughter found this on the street
The loosers include bare bits of ground, withered hanging baskets, rubbish bins, and plants that 'don't do anything'.

This Saturday is my Balmain harborside gardening day. 
If you are nearby, and have some things for Norma's garden, you would make two ladies very happy.


Saturday, September 3, 2011

Share the surplus - tree felling and a good use of Twitter

I sometimes tweet on Twitter. I don't know why I am doing it, nobody cares, and this leaves me feeling a bit silly.
I've just had this strange scene unfold under my kitchen window. If we tweeted the right things to the right people, we could become black-belts of permacultures 3rd goal 'Share the Surplus'.

 Some trees had to be cut down, to start construction on the new Harborside Park. Limbs were lying around everywhere, uselessly.

What if the owners of fireplaces were all 'following' the tree loppers on Twitter.   'Come and get it!' they could tweet. Neigbours would appear, carry home the logs, and the muscly guys could knock off at 10am instead of 1pm, saving three smokey, stinky, ear-splitting hours shattering it all into wood chips.


The pile of chips started composting, rapidly. Steam was rising. Somebody panicked. Foam was sprayed all over the place, by a new set of burly men. They tell me the foam is made of detergent, and will help keep oxygen out of the pile.  I wonder if the chips are now too toxic for gardens?

The imaginary gardeners who follow the tree loppers on Twitter could have come and taken away the mulch, for free.

Then the gardeners who follow the firemen on Twitter could have give them some helfpul advice, and let them leave their truck at home. Advice such as 'Make smaller piles' or 'Syphon off the heat'. The compost-powered showers of the Permaculture Convergence was one of the highlighs of my 2010.

I wonder what other uses for a smoking pile there are?

I wonder what truly useful twitter connections I could be making, to dive in and share someone's surplus, while its hot?

Fireman outside my Balmain House
Blokey, isn't he. Actually, rather hot.

Please share with me your good advice on how I could use Twitter, with purpose and dignity in my tweets xxx