Monday, 19 September 2016

LEARNING ABOUT CHICKENS







It has always been our intention to get some livestock on this property. And chickens were at the top of our list, mainly because they could ease us into our journey of keeping animals, and also provide us with regular eggs, which we consume at a great rate, especially on the weekends. But we had some clearing and cleaning to do beforehand. And there were some questions we had to ask.

While the benefits of having chickens are apparent. There were other factors to consider too, especially in the country. We had heard that they bring snakes, which come for the rodents that eat the scraps, and foxes.

Although we didn't want to encourage any more snakes - or the deadly kind, we decided to forge ahead. While this place has at least three chicken houses, we actually decided to convert some planting sheds into a chicken coup. The other areas required a lot more work to restore - timber was rotting and more land needed clearing around the sites. Basically they were more ripe for encouraging snakes and foxes. And some of them weren't easily accessible. To get to one of the chicken houses you have to make your way through a bamboo forest. Not an ideal pathway for little hands to collect breakable eggs.

Once the temporary house was ready, we had to find out where to get some chickens. We were told to attend a nearby poultry auction. It's held on the third Sunday of every month. Serious buyers arrive early in the morning to get the exotic birds but that you can turn up from about 11am to see the more common varieties.

It was quite an experience. While we took some cardboard boxes along with us, there was no need as all the birds (and ducks, rabbits, guinea pigs...) were already housed. Each one was also numbered and they moved along tables as the auction proceeded. 

We wrote down the numbers of the hens we were interested in but some of them went for more than $70 each. Apparently, some of the club birds are highly sought after by breeders. While we're not at that stage yet we did end up with a couple of them - Old English Game Wheaten Hens. They are not large birds and only lay small eggs - but they are quite beautiful, and a welcome addition to our home.

Afterwards we went to visit a permaculture farmer in a nearby valley. She breeds various chickens and we went to see what she had on offer. It turns out she had several varieties, although not all of them were ready to sell (as she has to wait until they're a certain age before determining their sex). While we found her through the school, she also advertises on Gumtree, which is a good way to buy chickens too.

We bought a laying Australorp (so slightly older than the rest), two pullet Barnavelder (dark feathers with a lace-like pattern on the tips) and a pullet Isa Brown crossed with a Barnavelder. The pullet chickens aren't baby chickens, and don't require that extra care, but they're not yet laying eggs. However, buying them at this stage means you will have them for a longer life, and are good for children as they can become a little more like pets as they watch them grow.

Before we started this process we also consulted what has become something of a bible for us, the book Practical Self Sufficiency by Dick and James Strawbridge. It has lots of advice and handy tips on all sorts of gardening - from inner-city courtyards to landholdings.

images the indigo crew




Monday, 12 September 2016

THE TIPPING POINT





All too often life can feel like a little bit of a blur. Especially when children are involved. The days roll one into another and with the regularity of schooling and other commitments, there's not always a great sense of time passing, until the week before school holidays when all of a sudden you are reminded that things are going to change up again. 

But there are bigger yardsticks. And these can catch you quite by surprise. We had one of those this past weekend. It was the school's Spring Fair, an event that played a big role in setting us on our journey.

After our European holiday in July 2015 we decided to investigate the idea of leaving the city, and living in a coastal or country area. The main idea was to be on a parcel of land, where we could change our lifestyle. But crucial to this whole scenario was the children's schooling. It was important that we could find a school that met many of our needs and ideals. 

Not long after we started to investigate different areas, we learnt that one of the schools we were considering was about to have a Spring Fair. We thought this was be a good opportunity to attend and learn more about the school, see what the other children and parents were like, and get a general sense of the school community. 

We were blown away. It more than surpassed every expectation. While the school was reasonably new, the grounds were beautiful - and thoughtfully designed. There were veggie gardens and landscaped paths and buildings made from straw bales. The children's work that we saw on display was impressive. And all of the fair activities were incredibly well thought out and executed with an eye to practicality and beauty. 

The children were able to make floral wreaths and build boats. We ate delicious homemade food and drank memorable chai tea. And after visiting the fair we decided that we would move to the area so the children could attend the school. 

A year has now passed and yesterday we attended the Spring Fair again. This time as parents of children who are enrolled. Our eldest son and daughter played with friends from their classes. We chatted to the familiar faces of other parents. And ate all that good food again.

But more than that we realised how much has changed in our lives since the fair last year. How it was a catalyst for our decision to make a tree change. And how many wonderful things that have happened since then. 

The photos above are from when the children attended the fair last year.

images the indigo crew


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Tuesday, 6 September 2016

FAIRY FIRES + WANDS



It is almost time for the school's big event of the year - the Spring Fair. Each child has been asked to contribute in some way and we were asked to make Fairy Fires and Fairy Wands. They were quite simple to make, and if you don't have the same resources you could easily adapt them - using cardboard or felt instead of the circular pieces of wood. And you could you make one of these fairy wands or a star wand too.



FAIRY WANDS
Sticks
Hooks
Drill
Ribbon

1. Cut sticks to the required length, using a saw. Drill a hole into the end and screw in a hook.
2. Tie a ribbon from the end.






FAIRY FIRES
Wood (or you could use cardboard - painted, coloured or plain - or felt) 
Small river stones
Felting wool (or you could use pieces of coloured cellophane)
Hot glue gun

1. Cut wood into discs - about 8mm thick - using a saw.
2. Using a hot-glue gun, attach river stones into a circle formation on the wooden disc, leaving enough room for the fire in the middle.
3. Pull three fine strands of felting wool (using red, yellow and orange) and fold in half. Glue into the centre of the disk.

images the indigo crew

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Friday, 2 September 2016

ROLE MODELS


One of the reasons we moved to the country was because we wanted to slow down our lives a little. And we both wanted to be more present in the children's lives. We had always made it a priority to not work long hours in our jobs but as we came to appreciate how fast time flies when they are little (and I'm sure at every other stage too!), we decided to rethink our living arrangements. 

It is a common experience amongst our friends in the city that one parent is either the breadwinner and works long hours - leaving the house at 7am and not returning until after dinner - or both parents have to work and the children are in daycare and/or school and before and after school care. And that is not a judgement but an everyday reality for many people. It's often what is necessary to live in the city - mortgages and rents are high, and so is the cost of living.

A few years before we moved to the country my husband sold his manufacturing business and after working out his contract, he technically became the primary carer for the children. But, in reality, it is a responsibility that we both share. Some days I go to the city to do a photo shoot, or even travel interstate, and other days I have deadlines and need to write. But my work is mostly flexible. This means I can write in the evenings, or when the children are at school and preschool. And so once everyone is home, I close the laptop and focus on family activities - even if that's attending to the laundry or making dinner.

But my husband plays a big role in our day-to-day lives. He always has. Often he plans our weekly meals, does the grocery shopping, cooks dinner and vacuums the house. And even when he was working and running his own business with many employees, he still did a lot of these tasks. We both did. Because then I was working too - first at a publishing company in the city, and then as a freelance writer and stylist. As much as possible we share our familial responsibilities. And I wouldn't have it any other way.

I have always felt strongly that there are no "male" and "female" tasks. There are just tasks. Some people do some better than others due to experience and some natural ability. But we can all learn. And I have to admit that my husband is more adept at a range of tasks than I am. For example, he's better at cooking than I am at welding. He's an incredibly well-rounded person, and I have his parents to thank for that. And he's a wonderful role model for our children.

It has always been important to me to have a partner who is just that. Someone who works alongside me and we complement and help each other. And I am conscious that the type of relationship that my husband and I have will play a big role in the types of partners that our children may look for later in life. In particular, I want the girls to have a modern-day role model. I don't want them to think that they have to be the one who cooks, cleans, and is the primary carer for the children, if they don't want to. In fact, it's interesting that on our previous street in the city there were three stay-at-home dads (for want of a better word) within about 100m of our home. And as a side note, one was a writer and award-winning novelist who did the school runs, one had been a banker and the other was my husband, who had run his own business for 10 years. Times are a-changing.

I have always felt that a big component of our job as parents is two-fold. To open our children's eyes to the possibilities of the world. And to also teach them the necessary life skills so that when they become an adult they are able to go forth with confidence and ability. 

And so we have been teaching our son how to cook, knit and sew, and the girls both know how to use a drill and make a fire. We want them to be well-rounded individuals, and what they learn is what they see in the home.


image the indigo crew


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Monday, 29 August 2016

SMALL STEPS



One of the reasons I started the blog Daily Imprint almost 10 years ago was that I wanted to live a different life. I had been on a safe path up until then. I did well at school, graduated from university, completed a Masters degree, travelled a chunk of the world, got married and had a steady job. But it wasn't entirely the life I wanted to live. 

Instead, I wanted to be a writer. Not on a medical newspaper, as I was. And not as a copy editor, which was how I spent most of my days, hunting out adjectives with a red pen. But I had romantic ideas - of living as a writer in a foreign environment, ideally Paris or New York, Italy or France. I looked to the Modernist American writers in Paris at the turn of last century and of the Beat Generation in New York City fifty years later as my ideals. And Graham Greene and Gore Vidal living on the Amalfi Coast, and even the painter Picasso in the South of France. And while the image of these groups have become cliches, today I realised again that the most obvious truths on how to live these dream lives are often the easiest ones to forget. Perhaps because they are the hardest ones to live out.

In 2012 Leonie Barton had the opportunity to drive herself around the deserts of Namibia in Western Africa. "I had one of those cliche moments," she told me for today's interview on Daily Imprint. "I came back pretty determined to commit to a creative life because I could and because I lived in a country where the only thing holding myself back was me."

There were two ideas that struck me with this comment. The first was that we have to take responsibility for our lives - we can't lay the blame on others. Except in some dire situations, we are the ones who make the daily decisions that constitute our paths. I have known this before, but it's always a good reminder. But something that I hadn't considered in this context was our position of privilege.

There are many people in many parts of the world who live an impoverished life. They would do anything for the opportunities many of us are afforded every day. Not just the basic human needs - of water, food, clothing and shelter. And not even to speak of their rights - freedom, liberty and equality. But even if they were able to rise above all of that, Leonie's words make me think that to not live to our full potential was an insult to them. When we have everything that they don't, then is it not abhorrent to squander our opportunities? Whatever they may be - eating healthy foods, spending quality time with our children, caring for the planet, making a home. And then, perhaps the hardest one of all to do, commit to the life we really want to live - in another country, travelling the world, in a beautiful home, in creative pursuits, in the countryside, in a different job, in a different body...

Leonie's strategy was to take on a daily art practice. It was a simple idea - to create something every day from what she found, take a photo of it, and leave it for others to enjoy. After more than 18 months she has created a body of work, been interviewed by ABC Radio National, given a TED talk on "The Art of Saying Yes" and is now looking to exhibit her work and participate in artist residencies.

That decision on her part, and those small daily steps led to a creative life. And while many of us have wish lists that are big and long, it is worthwhile remembering that it is the small steps that make them happen.

portrait photography chris warnes