20 November 2014

An Owlet Permaculture Advent-ure

It's that time of year where we start thinking about the days leading up to the end of our year. We've been working ever so hard lately. Every spare minute is spent writing, wrapping, emailing, ordering and then doing all those other things we do with our Owlets. Our nest could do with some attention and we're not gardening nearly as much as we'd like. But, you know, time keeps rolling on and we're doing an ok job of things…

But, in the busy-ness of it all, at this time of year, we always love to make time to celebrate. We celebrate the year that's nearly finished and look forward to the year to come. We give a little extra attention to our animals and plants and take stock. We celebrate summer's arrival and the festivals that are important to us and our loved ones. We set aside a little time for adventure and we create an activity advent calendar to guide us through our days. It's a fab way to stop and have fun while getting things done and taking some of the emphasis off Christmas day. The whole month is exciting!


In recent years, we've enjoyed following our own loose interpretation of the Waldorf/Steiner advent celebration. We choose some activities that match the theme or element of the week:

The first light of Advent is the light of stones. 
Stones that live in crystals, seashells, and bones. 
The second light of Advent is the light of plants. 
Roots, stem, leaf, flower and fruit by whom we live and grow. 
The third light of Advent is the light of beasts. 
Animals of farm, field, forest, air and sea. 
All await the birth in greatest and in least. 
The fourth light of Advent is the light of humankind. 
The light of love, the light of thought, to give and to understand.

But this year, we're thinking we'd like to mix it up with a little permaculture-based thinking. Some of these may not be obvious, but they will make for good reminders or discussion for our little permaculturalist owlets. We'll be reflecting on the permaculture ethics (earth care, people care and fair share) and some of the principles we've covered with them so far in our Seedlings course.


So here's our plan for December:

 1. Paint everyone's toenails - that's totally stones, right? And the permaculture ethic of "people care" too! It's our favourite way to say "Yay! Summer!"
2. Paint stone garden markers - hmmm… maybe something like this
3. Make some clay ornaments for the Christmas tree. - Handmade all the way, and these are cute! 
4. Stargazing in the backyard - reminding us to pause and observe this wonderful universe we're part of.
5. Go on a shell/fossil/gemstone fossick - A day trip adventure for this one - observation and slowing down.
6. Compost! - move the compost heap, start a new one and nourish the soil around our plants for the season.
7. Go fruit picking - foraging or visit a fruit farm.
8. Make a wreath using plants or recycled materials. - in the past we've used fabric scraps and newspaper.
9. Make some jam - preferably using our foraged fruit. These will make great gifts. Here's one we made earlier.
10. Make some wrapping paper - hand printed or painted - maybe a plant theme this year?
11. Plant a tree - A little gratitude for the earth and it's bounty.
12. Collect a Christmas tree - we usually forage a weedy roadside pine tree that we can mulch for the garden later.
13. Have a picnic brunch under a tree - Yay! Nature!
14. Plant a herb and weed foraging garden for the chooks, full of all the things they'll love.
15. Decorate the Christmas tree - with all our handmade ornaments.
16. Make a bird feeder - sharing with our feathered friends while encouraging them away from the food forest.
17. Visit the Marine Discovery Centre or go rock pooling - A little animal observation and finding out what lives in our river.
18. Donate some food, money or time to the local animal shelter. - fair share for animals.
19. Donate a gift to the ABC Giving Tree - fair share for children less fortunate than our owlets.
20. Make a gift for someone you love - handmade secret squirrel stuff!
21. Go looking at Christmas lights - community spirit and sparkly statements of christmas cheer. Good times!
22. Celebrate Summer Solstice - a little gift and maybe a beach picnic?
23. Have a dance party in the lounge room - some crazy fun and lots of giggles. People care! 
24. Give some handmade gifts to the neighbours - a chance to share our surplus, say thanks, hello and Merry Christmas!


Maybe you'd like to join in with us? We'd really love that! Swap the days around or substitute activities for whatever works best for you and yours.

If you've signed up for our Spiral Garden Seedlings permaculture course, this will be a good introduction before our mid-january start. It'll give you some lovely things to share with the Seedlings community and some fun times and happy memories too! Tag us @spiralgarden and #spiralgardenseedlings if you feel like sharing as we go! xx 

30 October 2014

People doing ace things :: Noisy Ritual

Photos via  Tajette O'Halloran Photography

I was having a little chat with a friend last night about supporting things. I was thanking her for supporting a crowd funding campaign I'd recommended and she said that she liked supporting goers. People who get stuff done. It got me thinking about all the goers I know out there. Following their dreams, bringing things together, and making the world a little more sparkly. I've always liked those sorts of people too. I've been fortunate to have many of them around me and to have grown up in a family where no-one ever suggested that we shouldn't just have a go. So I thought I might start a little sometimes series, featuring some of those goers. People doing ace things. And why not start with family….

About a year ago now, my sister and her partner and Cousin Owlet moved into a new house. They discovered that there was a cellar under the house with a strange tub thing in it… and after a little research, discovered it was a fermenter. Whoever lived there before had lovingly built a place to ferment and store wine. So being the goers they are, the new tenants decided to buy a load of grapes and invite over some wine-making pals and a whole bunch of friends and throw a party! They discovered messy, noisy fun and a sense of community in the process and a whole new idea emerged. It's permaculture in action, creativity and fun in all the best kinds of ways. It's involving people in the process of making their own wine - what better way to learn about it and understand it? 

So they're in the process of setting up an urban winery in Melbourne. There they'll be aiming to share the fun, messy, noisy winemaking process with the broader community and introduce a whole bunch of people to the joys of the process of wine and winemaking, in a non-wine-snobby sort of way. I love it, and were I living nearby, I'd be in there stomping those grapes and labelling those bottles… Gladly, I'll get to drink a drop from those bottles, at least. I'm so looking forward to tasting the result of this really ace thing that they're doing. 

You can find out more about the Noisy Ritual project here. If you like the concept to, why not get involved? Stomp some grapes! Or order a bottle and toast some lovely people doing ace things. 

Do you know any goers? 
Any people doing ace things? 
Are you one maybe? 
Or maybe you have a little quiet thing you've been thinking about? Go do it! It'll be ace! xx

27 October 2014

Unschool Monday :: The best and worst bits


Recently, I was interviewed by Rachael from Mogantosh for an article on the Mamabake blog, about homeschooling. There are some lovely interviews with other home educating parents there too, so go have a read. The interview was slightly edited to fit with Mamabake's Curiosity without Judgment series… I admit I may have been slightly snarky about the socialisation question, but from what I can gather, most of us were. Oh that question! Ha!

Anyway, a really lovely exercise we were asked to do (which didn't make the cut), was to ask the owlets what the best and worst bits of home/unschooling were. And then reflect on it myself. I found the owlets answers interesting, reflecting on their experiences of being out in the world, or their perceptions of school based on what they see in the media or hear from friends who've been there… so I thought I might share their answers here... 

Big Owlet:

The best thing: Being with our family.
The worst thing: Sometimes people can tease you because they don't understand it.

Little Owlet: 

The best thing: You don't get bossed around.
The worst thing: Nothing.

Tiny Owlet:

The best thing: Co-op!
The worst thing: Poo! (Her 3yo go-to answer when there's nothing to say - ha!)


The best thing: Can't pick just one, but my top two might be… Flexibility/freedom and witnessing the moment the owlets grasp a new concept.
The worst thing: Saying goodbye to Huz each morning. The 9-5 routine wears thin after a while when there's so much going on where we are! It's difficult juggling a relatively unstructured way of living with a structured one, but hardest of all for him, I expect.*  

What are the best and worst bits of your family rhythm? Whether you choose to home educate/ unschool/ school your childen, what works (or doesn't) about it for you? 

Have a gorgeous week. xx

*The exciting thing is we're now, finally, after much deliberation, shifting the balance for Huz a bit (and me!), by letting go one day of his paid employment per week so I can work a little bit more and he gets more time with owlets and nature. More on that soon. xx

26 October 2014


catch and store

Last night, very late (perhaps because we're a little nervous and excited about it and wanted to start with a whisper…) Huz pressed post and we shared something pretty big that we've been working on. We moved from that excited limbo state where your project is still an idea, onto that OMG moment where your work is out there for all the world to see. Within an hour we had our first participant sign up (a gorgeous, supportive friend who we're ever so grateful for) and we headed off to bed. This is real now. It's a thing. This morning we were joking that we might have to make up a bunch of fake Facebook identities to follow through with the whole online community we're aiming to create for our lovely participant - oh we're going to be busy alright! Haha! I hope she's not the only one. I hope… 

After Huz's Permaculture Design Certificate finished, we found ourselves to be a pair of passionate, optimistic permaculturalists, looking for ways to get our hands dirty, and not just in our own backyards. Big Owlet saw us gardening and talking and planning and wanted in on it. She wanted to know what we knew. So she asked us to teach her. This unschooled kid, who's never really asked to be taught much at all, wanted to know all about permaculture too. A seed was planted and so we began. 


Over a number of weeks, we picnicked and talked and began with the permaculture principles, using some fun activities to back up our discussion. All the owlets took to it like ducks to water. We heard phrases and words entering their vocabulary and saw their confidence and understanding of our own permaculture design begin to make sense to them… So we wanted to share our experience with others and the Spiral Garden Seedlings program was born. 

Looking at the experience and backgrounds we have combined, I know we've come up with something that draws on all our strengths and knowledge to date. We're hoping to share a little of our experience as home educators, an ecologist, a designer, gardeners, parents and custodians of the earth. And we're hoping to inspire some connection and nurturing experiences for others. To help pass on some important life skills and welcome a whole new generation of earth custodians to the fray. 


We discovered that in the process of passing on information to our owlets, we were revising our own permaculture learning and reinforcing it. We realised that by reaching out to families, we can not only pass this information onto children, but to their parents too. And as my mum just called to tell us, their grandparents as well! Three generations of wonderful humans working to look at the world and nurture it in a way that can only be good. I'm looking forward to getting to know them and work with them too.  It's a big job, so let's begin… xx

You can find the Spiral Garden Seedlings website and more information here.


7 October 2014

The Great Owlet Zine Swap


We've been having fun re-discovering making zines this week. Collecting things we like, drawings and funny little things and cutting and pasting and giggling as we read. Zines are so much fun! But we got to thinking how we'd like to read zines from families all over the place. Share some creativity and ideas and have a little fun with snail mail!

So we'd like to invite you to join us in a mini-zine swap…

A mini-zine is an eight page, A6 sized booklet made from a single A4 sized sheet of paper. You can make it in colour or black and white and make as many copies as you like, using a photocopier or scanner and printer. We made ours in an afternoon! Would you like to give it a go?

Here's how it works:

1. Let us know via email that you'd like to be involved. Include your mailing address so we can match you up with other zine makers in interesting places.
2. Make a mini zine. You might make one per child or one per family, whatever works for you.
3. Make 10 copies of your zine.
4. You'll receive 10 mailing addresses for recipients of your zine. Post your copies to these addresses!
5. Wait for the postie to bring you 10 different zines to read!

Things you might include in your zine:

Something about you… Anything that you feel like doing or writing or drawing will be great!


If this turns out to be fun for everyone, we might make it a more regular thing, but for now, we're just hoping to share and read some great zines!

Join in by emailing your snail mail address to owletmama@gmail.com

Find some great tutorials for making mini zines here and here.

6 October 2014

Unschool Monday :: Privilege


It's one of those tricky questions that comes up… Education is, to some, a privilege that many over the world go without. Especially girls. Shouldn't we feel grateful for it? Without formalised education, how will they find their place in society as adults?

When we were talking with Big Owlet about Malala Yousafzai,  she asked us "But why would she fight so hard for something that we don't need?" And so began a lengthy discussion of the privileges of living in a small, peaceful island at the bottom of the world, with access to clean air and water and food and education. Of two parents who have spent long enough within the education system to pass on a large portion of our own formal learnings, should they be required. And with the freedom to give the owlets the kind of education and childhood they desire. And how so many don't have what we have. We are SO lucky.


But then we spend time talking about permaculture and then traditional or lost ways of doing things. About survival and living in the real world and what that might mean. About nature and what we can learn from just observing it… The irony that we're rejecting mainstream schooling and embracing life learning through permaculture, while less commercially developed nations reach for formal education with open arms,  isn't lost on us. And I can understand Big Owlet's confusion. The truth is, we're conflicted about the concept of formal education for everyone too, when we don't choose it for ourselves, and explaining the complexity of it to our owlets feels confusing, even for us adults.

Last week I finally sat down to watch the film Schooling the World: The White Man's Last Burden. I re-watched it with Huz yesterday morning and I may watch it with Big Owlet when I think she'll fully grasp it. I was a little gobsmacked watching it the first time. It cleared up a few conflicts for me and tapped away a little more at that deschooling process we've been going through for over 5 years now.

The film raised questions around the mass loss of culture and language across the world, brought on by the western education movement of the last 200 years. The fate of people educated in the school system worldwide. The ushering of people towards a consumer society and away from a sustainable one. Westernised education has moved quickly and with a defined purpose. Are people better off with it, or without? Lots of food for thought and although we don't have answers for Big Owlet yet, it does make us question our position on the supposed privilege we choose to opt out of. And the privilege we have to ponder such things.

If you have a chance to watch it, do. And let me know what you think, won't you?

Have a gorgeous week. xx

30 September 2014

Why we love the farmers' market

We're getting into a little rhythm in our nest. Having sworn off big supermarkets a couple of months ago, we've started to notice we're managing to pick something from the garden for most meals. Finally! We get a delivery from a local shop roughly once a fortnight, with ethical meats and staples we need, which has been brilliant. Next we're working on a food and essentials co-op with our homeschool co-op buddies so we can order organic, awesome staples at a price our mostly-single-income families can afford.

The final piece of the puzzle for us has been going semi-regularly to the farmers' market. Here's how it works:

1. Arrive and secure donuts or bagels or freshly shucked oysters or something equally amazing for breakfast. Scoff at leisure.
2. Flag down some seasonal veg that we don't have growing in our garden just yet - this will diminish over time, all going well.
3. Find some ethical meat from happy animals. Right now we're loving goat.
4. Pick up a pot of local raw honey and locally roasted coffee.
5. Check out plants, seeds or spuds to take home and grow our own. Or just to admire and get excited about.

Here's why it's so great:

1. The food is so fresh! The veggies we buy last much longer (like, weeks longer) than any supermarket bought produce.
2. We know the people we buy all the produce from. We can ask them about how they grow their food and we see the care and pride they take in it.
3. Sometimes we bump into friends we haven't caught up with in a while, or just share a wave and a hallo across the crowd. That's a bit nice!
4. The donuts and bagels and oysters and… well, you get the picture.

Best of all, the owlets see the transaction of money passing hands and each item being directly paid for, rather than just a big credit card bill at the end, paid for by plastic. It's more real for them and for us. And they like to be involved in buying things too. Unlike the supermarket, which is usually a place we'd rather leave as soon as we've stepped inside, the farmers' market is like a regular community-building experience each time. And one we talk about after the event. It's like we haven't been out to do the shopping at all! See you there next week? xx

Some beautiful resources for talking more about farmers' markets with your owlets:

To Market, To Market, by Nikki McClure.

Alternating between story and fact, this lovingly-crafted picture book follows a mother and son to the weekly market. As they check off items on their shopping list, the reader learns how each particular food was grown or produced - from its earliest stages to how it ended up at the market.  Find it here

Let's Go to the Farmer's Market Kit.

This kit contains everything kids need to have tons of fun at the farmers' market: a strawberry tote bag, 20 activity cards, an informative booklet about farms and the farmers' market, plus a shopping list pad. Find it here. 


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