Saturday, 28 February 2009

Small steps towards a new life

A couple of days a week, I work in a Neighbourhood Centre close to where I live. I’m the co-ordinator there so it gives me a lot of opportunities to help develop my community and to teach some of the things I’ve been fortunate enough to learn over my many years. The latest thing is a program that teaches how to reduce the cost of running a home. I wrote it about a month ago and delivered the first session this week. The first Frugal Home workshop was booked out, a second is booked out too and a third one planned for April.

It’s just a workshop that covers what many of us do here – live simple, green and frugal lives, but there were so many questions from the participants wanting to know more, more, more, I was surprised by it. They were very keen to learn, they saw possibilities and they wanted to know how they could fit those possibilities into their own lives. We discussed green cleaners, how to reduce the costs of services and utilities, reading electricity and water meters, budgeting, shopping and cooking from scratch. I also reminded them that even though they were trying to live on less money and pay off debt, they shouldn’t make themselves miserable doing it and to seek happiness and beauty in everyday life. When they left, they were eager to get started on their first small steps.

It occurred to me when I was driving home later in the day that we are dealing with a new currency here. There is a surprising amount of credibility now attached to those who are living a simple life. Much of what we do has been past down in our families, but somewhere along the way, we stopped listening. I find it strangely comforting to know that how I live now is very similar to how my grandmother lived her entire life. She was born in the 19th century, and when I was born halfway through the 20th, I grew to be a modern young woman, quick to move away from granny’s kind and generous example and more towards steel shapes, sliced bread in plastic bags and cold hearts.

I learnt my lesson. I’m back in the fold now.

Our times have taught us that a lot of what we had been doing was not kind to us or to the planet. People are interested in change now and many are actively seeking it. And while there is a lot of practical information out there, there is also a lot of hogwash. So be wary of who you listen to, change in small ways and grow into your new life slowly. Make sure what you change suits you, and is not a carbon copy of someone else’s life. Some elements are common to all of us. I believe we need to be independent within a community context; we need to learn skills that will help us thrive in our specific environment. We will all have failures and successes and we will all change our mindset to see many things in a different light.

This way of life is flexible enough to suit all comers and while we all start off at a particular point – usually learning new skills – what we do after that, and how we apply those skills to our lives, varies a lot. Don’t think you have to learn everything you read about, pick and choose what will fit in your life, don’t forget to look for the beauty in everyday life, collect all small fragments of joy as you find them and build your own unique version of this way of living.

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The photo above is a morning tea we had here last week - tea and pikelets. You will notice jam on three of the pikelets - two for Hanno, one for me and the one, without jam, for Alice, our Airedale Terrier. Pikelets are like little fat pancakes and are the easiest thing to make up if you have someone drop in for coffee and you have nothing on the cake stand.

3 cups self raising flour OR plain (all purpose) flour with 3 teaspoons of baking powder added.
1 tablespoon soft or melted butter
pinch salt
2 tablespoons sugar
1 egg
about a cup of buttermilk or plain milk - you'll need enough milk to make a thick batter.

Mix all the ingredients together in a mixing jug or bowl until you have a thick smooth batter. If you can, let the batter rest for 15 minutes. Pour small circles of the batter into a relatively hot, greased frying pan and cook until golden brown on both sides. Serve warm with butter, jam, honey or maple sryup.

For an apple version of these pikelets, add a grated apple and some cinnamon to the batter.

This will be my last post here for a while. I need time for other things in my life, so I’m stepping back from, but not leaving, the Co-op. I hope to be back posting here and there later in the year. I’m not leaving, I’m just not posting. Thank you for the comments you leave. All the comments add to this wonderful mix and show us who is reading.