Late last year we made a big decision. I had just completed my Permaculture Design Certificate and it, quite frankly, blew my mind. We decided as a family to sell our ridiculously expensive inner city home and replace it with a simple house in the country on a small amount of land. We would be mortgage free and time rich. We dreamed of time outside, free range kids, re-connecting with the land, growing food and living a simpler, less material life.
Our lifestyle at the time was by no means obscene. We worked reasonable hours, spent time with our kids on the weekend, paid our mortgage and bills and had enough left over to buy the stuff we needed. We ate well, avoided processed food, grew some veggies in the back yard and did our best to recycle. We lived an extremely normal, western, middle-class-Australian kind of life. Yet after 6 months of learning about Permaculture it felt obscene. Obscenely wasteful. Obscenely self indulgent. Obscenely thoughtless. And above all, dangerously disconnected from land, food and community. I no longer felt we could continue living the way we did.
Permaculture is often misconstrued as a kind of hippy version of industrial agriculture, best suited to self-sufficiency nuts and communes.. And, to be fair, there’s a bit of that in it! But when you delve a little deeper you discover a reasonable, achievable alternative lifestyle that offers a genuinely sustainable way of life for ordinary people. By ordinary, I mean you and me; people living in an urban environment; people who couldn’t grow a tomato to save themselves.
During my course I learned about growth and why our economy relies on constant growth. I looked at growth charts and observed the way they all eventually peak and decline. I began to fully appreciate that the nature of growth is that it cannot go on forever. I discovered where we sit on the chart that illustrates demand for our planet’s remaining fossil fuel reserves, and I learned that the point at which demand exceeds supply is called Peak Oil. I heard about the global movement to prepare communities for peak oil, which may only be a few years away. I also learned about vegetable gardening, urban agriculture, composting, soils, renewable energy, bees, food forests, trees, harvesting water, passive solar house design, reading a landscape and so, so much more that my head is still buzzing.
By the end of the course I had already made fundamental lifestyle changes. You can’t un-know this stuff. And although the Ceres PDC that I undertook focussed on urban systems, I found myself itching for land. The tree change was eminently achievable. I already worked independently from home and although Mr Slow worked in a corporate job, he was open to change. We only needed enough to pay the bills, as the switch from urban to rural would easily be covered by selling our city home. We gave ourselves 12 months. I enrolled in an Urban Farming course to pick up some practical skills in actually growing food. Mr Slow signed up for a Diploma of Shiatsu and in a stroke of synchronicity was offered a part time corporate job that suited his skills and gave him time to study. We spent our weekends driving to the country to look at towns and houses that would suit our dream.
Then the real world happened. As a blended family there are always complexities. Raising kids across two homes is never straightforward, even when all the parents involved have the kids’ best interests at heart. The closer we got to our goal, the bigger the problems became until eventually we hit crisis and it became obvious that this blended family needed to pull together. Mr Slow’s boys needed both their families close by. Their security, stability and overall wellbeing called for more time at home and more time with both parents (or all three, if you count their step mum!). After talking through all the options with everyone involved we had to concede it was absolutely the wrong time for us to move one or two hours away from the boys. As Term 3 draws to a close we prepare to say goodbye to the school that precipitated the crisis. We found a great new school for the boys, although their places won’t be available until next year.
While grieving the loss of the new life we had planned and struggling with the new decisions we faced, a wonderful solution presented itself. We needed to get the kids out of an unhappy school environment. We needed space to figure out what to do next. We needed time together as a family. We knew just the thing! Why not jump in a rattly 1970s caravan and drive it up the East Coast for 6 weeks?? Blow off school, ditch work and just go.
So that’s it. We’re taking off mid November. The summer of ’13 is gonna be a good one. As for 2014, we’ll figure that out later.