Feeds:
Posts
Comments

The other day, Luke and I decided to go and explore the Yarra Valley to try and get a broader perspective on our surrounds, past the tourist guides. With all the rain, we have been sitting inside and watching Big Bang reruns for what feels like weeks now, and thought it was best to try and see more of what’s out there, and less of the main street. Our house is in a pretty special location, with both the Yarra Ranges National Park and the Maroondah Reserve being both just a five minute drive away. We decided to start at the Maroondah Reserve.

The Maroondah Reserve is absolutely stunning. It has kilometres of bushwalks, more picinic areas than I have ever seen in my life, a waterfall, a fern walk, and dozens of spots where you can overlook the reservoir. And best of all, you can bring dogs there (on leash). Looking out over the water, at the banks and penninsulas, it looks as though this could be a scene from Lord of the Rings as the early morning fog weaved it’s way in and out of the trees (poetic… but that’s how it was). We went on a four km walk, by the water, through the forest, had a cup of tea from our thermos, and then we were off again. We decided to just drive straight along the Maroondah Highway and out of town to see what was that way. One way was Melbourne, we knew that, but we had no idea what would happen if we turned right instead of left, and I was strictly forbidden from looking at Google maps. Slightly further along the road, there is a lookout that gives you a birdseye view of the lake we had just walked by. Again, stunning. We stood there for about 15 minutes, just taking in the scenery, while big family cars and Mercedes pulled up beside us, jumped out to take a photo, and then sped away. I hate the idea of living through a camera lense, but each to their own I suppose.

Further along the highway, and we finally discovered why Healesville roads are choc-a-block with motorbikes on the weekends. The Black Spur. If you are a rider, and you haven’t been here, get here, or stop calling yourself a rider. The Black Spur is a long, ridiculously windy drive, piercing through the heart of dense, national forest. Giant, completely vertical ghost gums line the roads, with ferns filling in any space in between. So much green. It is so lush, and it is hard to believe that just a few years ago, fire had tore through the very same place. Some of the corners are very sharp, some are long, smooth bends. You just know that the bikes would see it like a race track. A beautiful, amazing, breath-takingly beautiful race track.

When the trees start to pass and the corners start to straighten up, you are on your way to Alexandra. We didn’t end up going there though, and instead took a random turn that said led to Warburton. It was almost 30kms along a narrow, dirt road through the state forest, climbing mountains and overlooking cliffs. The whole drive, we passed one other car (who was speeding as he wasn’t expecting another car on the road. Almost ended badly), and a cyclist. More beautiful gums, more lush ferns that seem to climb cliff faces creating a kind of ‘fern wall.’ We were up really high at some stages, and the reservoir where we had started in the morning was a tiny spec on the horizon. The drive did seem to go forever though, but I was still banned from pulling out google maps (I hate feeling lost…). At the end of the drive there was a canopy walk, where you can walk along through the top of the trees and look down to the forest floor. The dogs were terrified of the height, and we were starving, so we didn’t do the whole thing though.

We did end up in Warburton. We are told that it is the ‘hippier’ version of Healesville, and about $70k cheaper to buy in (at least). Every cafe seemed to have some sort of garden out the back. When we went, it kind of felt like a ghost town; all the businesses on the main street were service businesses, but the street and roads were almost dead. Supposedly there used to be a huge paper mill there, and when it shut down, it left most of the town unemployed. To me, it kind of felt like that: that everything had been at a stand still for a while, and they were just waiting for the Sunday tourist for things to start again. Visually, Warburton is stunning. The main street backs onto a river (like Healesville), and huge mountains shelter you in in every direction. And, one thing they do have which I am ridiculously jealous of- they have a cinema!

On the way home, we passed through many of the towns that make up that part of the Yarra Valley. Yarra Junction, Launching Place, Wesburn, Millgrove, Woori Yallock, and a few more little towns, all in close proximity to each other. We were on the road back to Melbourne and couldn’t see any turn offs for Healesville, and I was finally allowed to bring out Google.

Something else we discovered, about 20 minutes from our house, is an archery field. For years, I have been telling everyone who would listen that I am a natural at archery. I did it on a school camp, and I remember getting all bulls eyes, and even getting the bonus moons and stars on the outside of the target. I remember being asked if I did it at home, and smugly stating that it was first time. I’ve done it a few times since, and was good at then as well. But I have’t done it since…. 2003? Year 8 camp? Can’t wait to go and see if I have a new calling, although I’m nervous that I’ve been talking myself up for so long. Oh well! Have to just wait and see.

A while ago, while I was walking my dogs around the lake near my house, some women whose dogs we are friendly with kind of told me off for being silly enough to not have gum boots. And sure enough they were right; I had been there 5 minutes and my socks were already ruined. So I went down the main street and bought some little light weight, black, just above the ankle ones. My god, I am in love with my gum boots. I wear them every time I walk the dogs, and sometimes when I’m not. They’re certainly not a fashion statement; if I walk in a certain way, they make my pants ride up and kind of ‘tuck in’ to my socks, but they allow me to walk through puddles and mud without any repercussions whatsoever (and there is a lot of mud out here). And walking through puddles is strangely rewarding… The women at the park said they love they’re gum boots because they’re mother told them to always keep they’re feet dry, and now they’re embarking on some sort of late life rebellion. I thought it was just a joke at the time, but I’m now thinking otherwise. I don’t know what it is, but I’m finding myself intentionally walking towards that big bank of mud that doesn’t dry more often. They are such a practical shoe, The most practical shoe I have ever had. And when I’m in Healesville, they’re the only shoe I wear. I wore them on a sunny day yesterday to have lunch in a cafe. And wouldn’t you know it, the quickest route to the cafe was through a puddle. I was prepared.

I have the day off today- my first day off mid week for a while now. I know this kind of schedule is a rare luxury, and one that I cannot expect when I enter the working world ‘for real’, but 4 days of uni is an increase from the 3 days I generally had in my undergrad. Also, those four days are long and full and tiring. The four hour round trip to the city is starting to take a toll, and I am just far more exhausted than I ever remember being. On Monday, I have uni from 10-6:15 (just a fifteen minute break for lunch), I then tutor from 7-8, and only then can I begin to start the trek home. That means I am out of the house from 8am till 10pm. And I’m back into the city again Tuesday morning. When I’m sitting on the train late at night counting the stops, I start to think that this was a crazy decision. But as I lay on my couch this morning, pottering around, re-organising my book shelf by genre, planning a walk with my dogs through the National Park just around the corner, I know that the 6 months of commuting is well worth it.

This morning, I made laundry liquid. It is something that I have been planning to do for weeks now, but have just been putting it off under the impression that it would take me the entire day. But it doesn’t, it really takes no time at all! Here are the things you need:

1.5L water

½ cup borax

½ cup washing soda

1 cup soap flakes/grated soap

Buying the initial ingredients costs a bit of money, but in the long run it equates to about $3 for 8L of laundry liquid. And if you recycle your water, or want to free your liquid from environmentally harsh chemicals, you can emit the borax and add a little more washing soda (although supposedly the mixture is more effective with the borax. so I suppose you have to prioritise). All you do it add the water and the soap flakes in a pot, and on a medium heat, stir until the soap flakes have dissolved. Then add the other ingredients, as soon as it thickens up (this will happen quite quickly), transfer the mixture to a bucket, add 8 litres of water, and stir regularly to stop separation until the mixture cools. Very simple, although I have to admit that I left mine on the heat too long after adding the washing soda, so it is thinner that it should be. But I know for next time, and it honestly took no time at all. I’ve already done my first load of washing- seems to work fine as well!

I know… it has been the longest time since I have posted… It may have seemed like the blog was over before it began! I’ve just been very busy though, completing my three week block for my teacher’s degree. It was busy, and hectic, stressful at times, wonderful at others, although my last three weeks have been completely incongruent with simple living. Life was as complicated as it gets, so I just had nothing to post for a while. But it’s over now, and I’m back to my action plan.

Yesterday, I visited a new friend’s house to see her finished renovations. She added in second bedroom, knocked out walls and landscaped the entire garden. Her home has become somewhat of a haven that overlooks the entire valley of Healesville, with not a single other house visible through the dense treetops. It inspired me to do some changes to our humble little home. I don’t have the means or the capacity to do anything huge, but I absolutely HATE the curtains that this place came with. So that’s what I decided to change- the curtains. We spent $40 on some fabric, and I sewed them up this morning. And I have to say, I’m quite happy with the result. Disgusting rainbow, floral, bright red has been replaced by a colour called ‘latte’- plain light brown curtains. For something that took 5 hours out of my day, it certainly has made a huge difference to the living area.

Luke cleared and rebuilt the garden beds during the week. We then went and bought ourselves a spade, some fertilizers, and seeds to be sown in Autumn/Winter. We have a mix of flowers, herbs and vegetables, and are planning to try ‘marriage gardening’. I wish that meant talking about weddings over gardening, but it doesn’t. The best way to explain the concept is to give an example- the pests that eat pumpkin hate basil, so to protect your pumpkin, plant your basil and pumpkin next to each other. Strategic planting- ‘marrying’ plants for the results, and to avoid using harsh chemicals on the food you’re going to eat. Hopefully it works!

One thing that I did do during my stressful three weeks was go op-shopping, as I quickly ran out of professional attire. Op-shopping is something that I have an ambivalent relationship with… I completely love the idea of recycling clothes for environmental and financial reasons. However, I become extremely annoyed when some op-shops charge through the nose for anything half decent, and I could buy it cheaper brand new. When we find an over-priced op-shop, Luke and I play a game of who can find the most over-priced item. I remember one time when I thought that I had won with a pair of Target jeans, frayed at the bottom, for $45. However, Luke took the prize with a $150 men’s suit with no buttons, a broken zip, and of no brand that we had ever heard of. Now that I’m in the suburbs though, op-shops are fantastic. I love when all ladies’ shirts are $6, regardless of whether they’re from Big W, Cue or Chloé. I got some great stuff, saved money, supported a charity and helped the environment at the same time. With the amount of perfectly good clothes that are thrown out, there is no reason to ever buy new again… And if you need to be told some good op-shops, let me know!

We have been living on an endless supply of cherry tomatoes lately, that seem to sprout up from no where just as the our supply from the last harvest is getting low. I didn’t plant these, they were already there when we moved in, along with a wild pumpkin patch that has wrapped around fences, edges, and even started climbing over the clothes dryer that we left outside for a day. It’s a quick mover, and I cannot wait for those pumpkins to come up. My Dad has a pumpkin patch in his house, which got out  of control and ended up taking over a third of the backyard when he wasn’t looking. He likes to tell a story about how he was attaching rubber snakes to the branches of a tree (he used to swear by rubber snakes, but has decided that the birds are pretty crafty and can figure it out after a while), and a pumpkin fell from the sky onto his foot. That’s right, a whole pumpkin had grown in the tree, like some sort of mutant apple. I don’t know if it makes me a sadist, but I love imagining that story.

Luke has been really active and passionate in our simple living challenge, and I am happy to say that since we moved here, we have not bought a single loaf of bread. About every second day, I get to come home from a long day of uni to the smell of fresh bread baking in the oven. Is there anything better than hot bread with big chunks of butter? We don’t think so. And because it’s fresh and not full of preservatives, and because it’s just a million times better when it’s straight out of the oven, we have been eating the most ridiculous amount of bread. I don’t care though, it is utter perfection. Luke has been experimenting with different shapes, sizes, kinds of bread and cuts on the top. He has settled on a white and wholemeal blend that’s big, tall and round. In our desire to not accumulate any unnecessary possessions,  he’s been using an antique glass milk bottle as a rolling pin. I think we might buy one though, because I’d be devastated if that bottle was broken.

We’ve also been eating a lot of vegetarian meals, reducing our meat intake for environmental reasons. When we do eat meat, it has been scraps that Luke has brought home from work instead of throwing in the bin (he’s a chef), and they’ve been cooked up into a stew or casserole. He’s also been bringing home leftover wine for cooking with (he’s a chef at a winery), and pig off cuts to use as treats for the boys, rather than buying expensive, packaged supermarket treats. The best thing that he has done? He brought home left over watercress and has planted it in the creek behind our house so that we could walk down and pick some whenever we wanted to use it. We’ve had quite heavy rain the last couple of days though, so hopefully it hasn’t washed away.

The dogs haven’t had a walk in a couple of days now because of the heavy rain. They don’t really like to be wet, and I don’t really like being wet either, so it’s a mutual decision. Our house has a fake, gas, pot belly stove that Iwe sometimes turn on at night, and they curl up right in front of it and sleep for hours. Usually they become very badly behaved without a walk, but maybe the sound of the rain on the roof, which sounds so much louder here that at our old house, tells them to curl up and hibernate. If I have time later, I’ll get a cup of tea, some of last night’s bread, and a book, and curl up with them. Best dogs ever.

 

Following the advice of Australian simple living guru Rhonda Hetzel, I have put together a list of my goals, ideals and values, and an action plan to assist me in realising these things in my everyday life. Having these things written down somewhere feels so positive and assertive, and I have been surprised at the amount of time that I have referred back to them for inspiration. A list like this is so useful for self reflection, because it allows you to identify things that you consider important but don’t make specific effort in persuing, or things that are lacking and you hadn’t realised that you’d let slip. For example, one of my ideals was to foster positive and meaningful relationships with family and friends. Only when I wrote that down, did I realise that I hadn’t return my Mum’s or my Dad’s call from Easter, and hadn’t been to visit my family home since Christmas 2010. Not acceptable.

So I have been slowly trying to realise my goals through the implementation of this action plan, and although ‘slow’ was the key word in that sentence (I have been busier than I know how to express), it feels like I am getting somewhere. One of the things on my list was to reduce spending and consumerism. This is probably the goal that I have followed up the most so far. I have been repairing and altering clothes to save myself buying new ones. I’ve started a whole drawer in my cupboard of ‘things to fix’, so that when I’m feeling that I desperately need a new outfit, I can dip into that pile, sew on a few buttons, repair a hem, and feel fab. Reducing consumerism and being environmentally conscious obviously go hand in hand as well, another goal being tackled on ‘the list.’ I’ve bought the ingredients to make my own laundry liquid, and have been saving old mineral water bottles to store it in (10 litres cost around $2. Cheap!). I’ve been scouring through the catalogues to stockpile food staples that will last (10kg bags of the good basmati rice were half price at Coles last week). I’ve installed plugs that automatically switch off all appliances at the wall when they haven’t been used for an hour, and I rearranged my desk so that it is closer to the window i.e. natural lighting. Next thing on the plan: learn to service my own car (to a certain extent).

I am terrified of doing this, because… Well, just because. I don’t like the idea of going into a car and fiddling around. I could break something, I could burn myself, a number of things could happen. The hood could fall on my head, decapitating me and leaving the boys inherently without a mother. But my oil needs changing. And the manual has instructions for changing your own oil. Which implies that it is something that the owner of the car should do. Becoming more car savvy saves me money, makes me more self reliant, and I just know that my own sense of accomplishment is going to keep me beaming for days (I have never done anything like this before. I bought an electric lawn mower because someone said something about mixing petrol, and that freaked me out). So, I plan to systematically work my way through the servicing tasks that came with the manual, and to try and learn how to ensure that everything is ‘good in the hood.’ Wish me luck! I’m going to go and call my Mum now, for our newly scheduled weekly chat🙂

My decision to move from Melbourne CBD to the country was a controversial one, at best. My father said, ‘My god, what have you done?’ My mother said, ‘I suppose you can move back soon, when you get sick of it.’ My friends exclaimed that they would never find the time to visit me, and therefore my social life would be over. My sister told me that I am going to become fat, and forget how to dress well. But as I drove through the tree-lined roads with no footpaths, my gut told me that I was going to be happy.

It has been two weeks since my boyfriend, Luke, and my two dogs Spencer and Winston (affectionately referred to as “the boys”) and I moved from Melbourne to Badger Creek, a small suburb in the Yarra Valley. Badger Creek came onto the radar in slow steps… I have had a fascination with simple living for years now, and for my 22nd birthday, I received a long desired sewing machine. I had been saying for years, “If I had a sewing machine, I would make cushions. I would make curtains. I would make all my own clothes.” I got the sewing machine, loved it, but forgot the little detail that I didn’t know how to sew. But I practised sewing straight lines, and maintained that I would do everything I had intended in time. For Christmas the same year, I received an old wooden cantilever sewing box, filled with cottons, dress making scissors, a seam ripper, those kind of things (stay with me, this is going somewhere). Stamped on the side was, “Healesville Furniture Production Company.” Healesville… I fell in love with the place just from Google Maps. By January 15th, we had put a deposit on a house in Badger Creek, a neighbouring suburb to Healesville.

I had a list of reasons as to why we should move there.

  1. Healesville is a rural centre, rather than an isolated town. It has a library, a bus service, and local schools. This will make the transition much easier.
  2. It is on the doorstep of the Yarra Ranges National Park and the Yarra River. My family live on the Murray, and therefore Victorian, inland scenery has always had a special place in my heart. Give me a river over a beach any day.
  3. It is a mecca for food and wine, which is good for Luke as he is a chef. The food industry is about local and sustainable produce, which he may find inspiring after working 70, 80, 90 hours  a week in the egocentric Melbournian fine dining scene.
  4. Real estate is affordable, and it is commuting distance to Melbourne.

The last point was pretty important for me, as I am still studying in the city at Melbourne Uni. That’s right, four days a week I do the four hour round trip to Uni. I told myself I could get lots of work done, lots of reading, all my emails and busy work. I finish my postgrad degree in secondary teaching at the end of this year (should I tell you all that I’m going to be teaching English? I hope you don’t begin to pick on my grammar/syntax etc.), and I suppose that I could have waited to move until after I finished… Maybe I should have waited, but the call of valley was too strong. So I did it, and things seem to be going well so far.

This blog is to document my shift to the simple life, a twenty two year old city slicker who has spent years dreaming of growing tomatoes and having chickens, but has never really known how to go about it. I suppose I really want to know if the dream is viable, if it’s actually what I want or if I was sucked in to my own romanticisations, and if it’s even possible to live this way when you’re used to buying supermarket bread and living amongst concrete stacks. Well I’m here now, the boxes are unpacked, I’ve met the neighbours and I’ve found the shops, and so the journey begins!