In December last year, we had just arrived to live on the farm. We were excited about the change, but nervous about how we would cope with all we were about to face. We had the support of Rod & Tania, experienced organic farmers, yet still it felt like a huge leap into an unknown way of life. Would we cope with the physical labour 5 days a week? Would we make good farmers? Would we be able to establish deep and honest relationships with the others on the farm? Could we manage and enjoy life in a 16-foot caravan? What about the extremes of weather that we would experience out here, living so exposed to nature – would we survive those?
We had no idea what was in store for us. We just had hopes and dreams and fears. And ultimately we had no choice. People say it took courage to make the change we did, but in fact, we had just arrived at a place in our lives where no other choice made any sense. The old life had come to the end of its journey. It was time to make way for the new! It was time to be radical.
Like any journey, it has been a year of ups and downs. There have been successes and failures. For both of us, we have fallen comfortably into some aspects of farm life, and really struggled with others. Our relationships with others have gone through many seasons, and at times we have both had to dig very deep inside ourselves, face our stuff and grow through it. Of course, our own relationship has been put through the wringer too! I’d like to say, we’ve come out on top – and most days that’s true – but it’s a living thing, so our love for each other continues to be tried and tested. I will say however, that we both feel like we have found a life that makes sense to us, and we have both found that the more closely we live to our deep principles, the stronger and happier is our relationship space.
We commented in a recent post that we have realized that we don’t want to be full time farm-hands; that we are not even sure we will continue our life on this farm. And that’s still true. There is a great degree of uncertainty right now about what the coming year will bring. Our relationships here are solid, so the door is open for us to stay as long as we want. We know we want to continue growing food and living off the land, if anything we want to go deeper into that relationship. Part of our itch is to step aside from the commercial aspect of farming and make a go of just sustaining ourselves (and maybe a few others). It’s an issue of scale and of intention. Harvesting 200 bunches of kale in a couple of hours has a different quality than harvesting as much kale as you need to make a meal, or feed your friends. A sense of time pressure imbues the first, a sense of expansion and timelessness saturates the latter.
We also want more time for the other things that bring fulfillment to us – yoga, meditation, surfing, art….oh and more time for cooking and eating. Life is to be savoured like a good meal or a fine wine. We’re ready to move forward from the intense learning of 2012 to dive into savouring all that this lifestyle has to give. We want time to prepare wonderful, fresh food, harvested by us. We want to share the joy of food & cooking with others. Neither of us have any training in cooking, but we both adore food and flavours. We want to grow foods that we want to eat and enjoy – not just foods that sell well, that bring a profit.
We’d even like to step into new farming projects, like chooks and perhaps even pigs and goats. Small-scale fish farming or Aquaponics also interests us. Although we are both primarily vegetarian, we have seen the joy that can come from food when it has been hand reared, treated with respect and given a good life. Eating some meat when it is sustainable and wholesome is something we are interested in exploring.
The next phase of our journey has to integrate yoga, meditation, surfing and art. These are more than just hobbies for us. They are the answer to the question: What does it mean to live sustainably? For us, living in tune with nature is about more than how we treat the planet; it’s first & foremost about how we treat ourselves. If we take seriously the idea that we are connected to the world, the universe and everything in it – then caring for one is automatically caring for the other.
Over this past 12 months we have gotten really clear that tuning into our body deeply every day is essential. But our lives on the farm mean that we are still too busy many days to really care for our physical home! Where possible, we don’t want to have to get sick in order to stop and tune in. That’s where yoga fits in for us.
We believe that tuning in to deeper consciousness is essential for the well-being of the planet and humanity – but we are not getting sufficient sacred time and stillness through meditation in which to dive into this well. We both really suffer when we don’t get stillness, time to tune in deeply to God/Universe/Oneness/Gaia (whatever you like to call it).
How can I explain the importance of surfing for us? That’s simple. It’s pure joy! And what life is complete without pure joy? I think that’s all I need to say on this matter :)
Another aspect of life that has clarified and risen to the surface since moving here is the importance of art and creativity. Through living modern lives, we have both felt our creative muscle weakened by lack of use. We want to learn to flex that muscle, to keep seeing the world in new ways, that’s why we draw, that’s why we photograph, and that’s why we write. Living in harmony with nature is also a deeply creative process, and I know we are both enjoying the challenges and creative solutions of our new lifestyle.
Well, this is our vision. How on earth it will become a reality, as yet we have no clear idea. A few nibbles on the line perhaps – but nothing concrete in our net. Our experience has taught us to trust that getting clear in our intention is the first thing we can do to invite change into our lives.
Whatever we do from here, we want to continue doing it in community. Farming, living off the land, living sustainably – none of these things can be done well on your own. It takes a community to make us whole, to grow amazing food, and to take care of the planet. A conscious community is what we are yearning for – to share our lives with other people who want to live with awareness.
That’s all. But I will leave you with some images from our first year and some of our little creative projects around the place since we arrived. There’s nothing earth shattering, just simple projects that we have had to tackle in order to make daily life around here sustainable and enjoyable.
Our site before it was cleared. A piece of land that was covered in lantana and weeds and unused by Rod & Tania.
The earth moving guy was here making a new road after heavy floods in 2010. He cleared a pad for us in no time at all…
Our site as viewed from below the pad. Lots of potential!
The little caravan, on loan from Michelle’s folks, which has been our home, our shelter, our sanctuary for the past 12 months.
The shipping container arrives on the site. We use it for storage, for yoga and for our books and art stuff.
This is how it looked when we first got set up! Basic, but functional. When it rained we were inundated.
Our roof went up by the 21st December, just before the really big rains started. The rain didn’t stop for months, so we were glad for more dry living space.
Right from day one, we were racing against time to stabilize every aspect of our site against the heavy rains. Our river stone border keeps our crusher dust from washing over the embankment.
It’s been my personal project to manage the storm water run-off, and waste water overflow around our site. This drain was dug by the earth mover, but each stone has been carried down by me in buckets from the top paddock and loving placed on top of weedmat, all to help maintain this big drain during wet season. It’s about to be tested!!
Here is the early stage of the run off drain on the down side of the slope, just beside the flame tree. We have positioned stones and planted Verdeva grass all around the drain to reduce erosion. It’s now working really well, and has become a little ecosystem, with dragonflies, bugs, and happy plants.
The overflow drain as it looks today. Still keen to extend the rocks down the waterway further, and eventually direct the flow into a small holding pond, to support frogs and other wildlife.
The walkway alongside the shipping container was once just clay. It was also another place where erosion was a real concern.
The same walkway today, with crusher dust, rock border, organic hay mulch and a variety of plants to keep the bank intact, and to attract wildlife.
Our Humanure Compost System is working brilliantly. We go through about 1-2 20 litre buckets each week. We usually compost every week or two, using poo-buckets plus vege scraps from the farm. The micro-organisms have been prolific, and we have two full bays. We expect to be harvesting compost from the first bay early in the New Year, after letting it sit for 6-12 months.
We are gradually extending terraces down the front slope. Not only do these provide protection from erosion, but also enable us to plant all the veges we can grow right outside our kitchen, on our little North facing slope.
Okay, final shot – our site as it is today. There’s been a lot of love, hard work and a few arguments along the way, but it’s all been worth it. If we leave the farm, then we are leaving a legacy, a perfect home site for one of the boys, or an intern or WWOOFer.