The Only Way Is Forward

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tomato

Tomatoes are late this year. But it’s still Autumn.

So it’s March. March. How did this happen?

Anyway, I am pleased to report that my resolve to not spend another year treading water and being miserable has held and I am Getting Shit Done and Making Progress as fast as our dodgy wireless NBN will let me.

Although I have been slowed down by scheduling clashes with pay day, I have begun taking art classes every second Wednesday. This has been great fun, and rewarding. I have bought some paints and I’ll soon be receiving my grandfather’s pastels (he is going back to focusing on oils), so I’ll be able to do some art at home, but in the classes I have been learning all sorts of tricks and techniques, so I’ll stick with them for a while.

I’ve stuck to my bike riding so far, going out at least four times a week and now doing a 9km circuit. Winter is going to be hard, and fitting in around all the after school stuff is already a challenge, but I hope to keep going and keep improving my fitness. I’ve recently added a weekly yoga class back into the mix, which takes away a bike riding night but definitely has its own benefits that make it worthwhile.

I’m almost half way through the Permaculture Design Course, and so far this has been a real emotional rollercoaster and massive learning experience. Permaculture is a way of life, a sound theory of all things, that aims to create efficient, sustainable ways to satisfy the needs of people, animals and the Earth. Not only have I encountered a hundred tips and ideas for things to do in my home and garden, I have also learned philosophies for a more constructive and authentic inner life and better relationships with others. As a process it has been devastating and enlightening. A restructuring of my priorities and the way I see things. Not to mention an amazing connection with people on a similar journey with similar goals. It has pushed me beyond my comfort zone and along a path that will hopefully take me to a more prominent place with my activism and allow me to do more good both at home and in the world at large.

A course like this was the logical next step in Getting Out Of The House. I have also been doing a few social things and actually looking forward to them and enjoying them. I am generally feeling more grounded, more stable, more supported and better able to cope with the swings and roundabouts of life. I’ve been eating better, sleeping better, drinking more water. As a family we are better organised, sharing the load, and somewhat more relaxed. I might go weeks on end without half an unscheduled day, but I pace myself and take care of the details and it is mostly going pretty well.

So from here I intend to make more regular posts, not random stuff like this but posts with a topic. About the garden and the goats, about the things I learn and try, and how it all fits into the permaculture principles. I have many ideas of things to experiment with, ways to make the garden more productive, ways to make more of an impact on the world around me, and ways to enrich my life and further broaden my horizons.

I’m even actually setting goals. I’ve written down a few goals for the garden and farm for the next six months and I’m in the early stages of planning a particular challenge for the rest of this year and into 2018, which I should be able to announce in a few weeks. In the meantime I am gently ramping up my social media communication and profile in the hope that I can get all of you on board in some small way to support my efforts.

I’ve had a few moments where everything looks scary and like an awful lot of work and I wonder if I really have what it takes to push through that fear and face the experience head-on. Sometimes all that keeps me going is the thought that I would never forgive myself for giving up. Sometimes I just want to stay in bed where everything is safe and familiar and there are no risks. But I know that the only way is forward. So that is where I am going.

 

I’m Not Dead

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I haven’t made a post in nearly three months, I think the pressure of my 100th post bearing down on me (this is #99) made me feel like nothing was worthy or significant enough to write about so I just… didn’t.

So now it is January 1, 2017 and I’m going to come out and say that it feels like last year I achieved absolutely nothing.

Perhaps things were quietly processing in my mind, perhaps I was just healing and living and feeling, and to be honest a lot of the time just doing that was hugely taxing.

First we had the big dry, where the paddock was reduced to nothing but dust and crumbs and the grain feeder became a literal lifesaver, allowing my goats to eat enough to keep their body condition, milk and get in kid without any grain-induced illness.

Then came the big wet, which progressed into the wettest September ever. Rain, rain and more rain. Everything waterlogged, it was horrendous in its own way. Then came a horror kidding season, characterised by vet visits, dead kids, sick does and more rain.

Come October it felt like the whole year had been one big stressy mess, I went through a few cycles of depression and felt like I just couldn’t get my feet under me. At work I had some issues that just went on and on and drove me to despair in spite of all my efforts to resolve them.

I tried to get my shit together by attempting to lock down my feelings, shut them off, be cold and dead inside. I spent as much time alone as possible, did as little as possible, but the problem with trying to tie down what is going on inside you is that it fights back even stronger the second it gets an opportunity.

There were times when I raged and howled, times when I thought I could not go on, times when I thought this was all life had in store for me until the end, and I wasn’t sure I could push through it.

And then at some point the noise stopped. I took my hands off my ears and realised it had been coming from inside my self. And the force behind it seemed to have finally run out of energy.

There was, for the first time in a long time, a faint fragment of peace inside me.

It wasn’t all uphill from there. It never is. As a ‘do something, do anything!’ kind of person, who is unable to do nothing, sometimes I charged ahead in the wrong direction. But gradually I have got somewhere, found something to aim for. I have started putting one foot in front of the other in a meaningful fashion.

So what does this mean for 2017?

Well, I’ve enrolled in a permaculture design course, being run over several weekends. My hope is that this will give me some direction in how to make my garden more productive and more organised and reinvigorate my environmental and sustainability interests. I also hope it will reconnect me with fellow permaculture enthusiasts in my local area in a social sense and make me feel like part of a community.

I got a bike for Christmas. Actually, being a grown-up I got it on December 21st. I’ve set the goal of riding at least four times a week (so far I have managed five times) for as long as I can. I’ve got a bit addicted to Google Fit, tracking my ‘workouts’ and constantly trying for new personal bests. I’ve finally found a form of exercise that is quick and cheap and doesn’t cause me injuries or push my heart rate to risky levels. I kind of enjoy it too.

Soon there will be some major changes in the goat paddocks, with the goal of eradicating the CLA bacteria (cheesy gland/infectious abscesses) that has plagued my herd for the past few years. Some goats will be put down. Some will be put into permanent quarantine. But my goal is to have my main herd CLA free within the next few weeks. This will alter the way I select which stock to keep for breeding and which to sell. It will mean losing some old favourites, but will hopefully save my future milkers and their offspring.

So those are a few things that I’ll be getting up to. I still don’t have any long-term goals and for the most part I don’t know where this year will take me. But I’ve made myself a few personal promises and I don’t want to waste another year tormenting myself and going around in circles. I intend to embrace my spiritual side again, to meditate and get back into yoga. I won’t be spending my whole time running around after others to the point where I have no time scheduled for myself. I may get into painting, like I have been wanting to for ages, but I would like to take lessons first rather than just jumping in. I just want to try some things and see where it takes me.

I intend to be kinder to myself, to do things I enjoy. Maybe I’ll take this year to consolidate the healing process and set myself up for the future. Maybe something big will come up to challenge me. But the worst is behind me. I must step forward with confidence.

Resolution

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Things haven’t been easy for me over the years, and it feels strange to say that. In a lot of ways I have been very lucky, but in other ways not so much.

So as I step forward out of 2015 and into 2016 feeling like I have finally stepped up off the bottom rung of the great long ladder that is Getting My Shit Together, I am well aware that things are as good for me now as they have ever been. It has been a year of struggling to make sense of things, coming to terms with my past, and discovering myself. Of trying on ideas and questioning my beliefs. Of finding my niche and gathering the crumbs of my confidence.

I’m still a cynic deep down, and pessimism is the scar left by too many unpleasant surprises. I believe that if you don’t set your own challenges, life will come up with challenges for you and you might not like them. With that in mind, I decided not to choose between a self-improvement goal and a social awareness project in 2016, but to do both.

For various reasons, exercise is a trial for many of us. Some find it hard to make time. Some find it difficult or unpleasant on a physical level. But deep down I think we all wish we did a bit more of it. I know that exercise is a big part of the healthy mind, healthy body equation, but actually doing it has been a bit of a stumbling block.

The way I see it, I find time to do all sorts of things other people don’t do that I don’t consider to be ‘optional’. Getting up and milking every morning takes an hour and is not optional. Doing the bread at least every week and a half, even though I could just buy bread, is not optional – the sourdough starter dies if you leave it too long. Making cheese when the milk jar fills up is not optional, and that can take hours. Feeding the family is not optional and takes planning and time. So what I need to do is make exercise essential, rather than optional.

Just 15 minutes a day, even if it is a brisk walk to the end of the road and back. But it has to be every day, unless I am sick or injured. And it is no longer optional. If I can find time for everything else, I can find time to exercise.

I’ve set exercise goals before, many times. I hope that this time I have found a mind trick to head off the old ‘I’ll do it tomorrow’ attitude that turns into not doing it for four months because it’s cold outside and I can’t be bothered. It will take some discipline, but hopefully it will also be good for me. I guess we will find out.

My other goal is to reduce the amount of rubbish our household produces, specifically food packaging. I cringe every time I put a meat tray or muesli packet in the bin. I see all the bits of plastic that come off an average dinner, and I know it needs to change. Recycling and composting can only go so far.

Members of the local permaculture group have put me onto some great resources for buying in bulk and making re-usable produce bags, but the main thing is going to be getting organised. Relying as much as possible on home-grown food with no packaging and no food miles will be part of the challenge, but a big factor will be not falling into the trap of one-stop shopping at the supermarket. It’s kind of a nuisance that my preferred butcher is closed for making smallgoods on my day off, but I can still drop in there any other afternoon on my way home from work. There are a few local food co-ops and outlets that sell in bulk, as well as farmers markets and food swaps.

Being organised, planning ahead and knowing that I can’t just duck out and pick up the thing I forgot for tonight’s quick dinner will be the key. Along with reducing waste, the whole project should lead to the family eating more locally produced and unprocessed foods. There will be some things we might need to give up, but these are things we don’t really need.

We don’t know what the future holds, and every year brings its own surprises and challenges. What we can do is set our intention and focus on something positive. This may end up being the thing that centres us through difficult times, or it may be what guides us to something amazing we hadn’t thought of.

Step boldly into 2016, my dear readers, and whatever you plan to do, believe in your goal, set yourself up to succeed and make it count.