10 February 2015

humans

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Unsurprisingly, things have been very busy at ours these past few months. As much as I try not to be busy always, I'm most definitely one of those people who finds it difficult to just stop. Even when I stop, I'm doing something. It's something I'm working on and it always surprises me how much the act of stopping can help change direction and set everything right again.

A few weeks ago, the Owlets and I were in town, running a few errands, on a mission to find bathers and a few other things. It was warm and busy - post Christmas sales and still school holidays… There were people about. The Owlets were excited to be out amongst it. They'd brought their pocket money and they were after some stuff. Not sure what yet. Just something. Days like this seldom go well.

I brought along snacks and water, hoping desperately to stave off multiple cafe visits. It seems just stepping outside our front door accrues a $50 minimum fee in food and transport, so I was keen to keep cafe stops to a minimum. This didn't go down well with the cosmopolitan owlet cafe set. There was mutiny afoot. Things got ugly.

Big Owlet's at an age now where she can see a little humanity in situations like this. She's starting to see cracks and that I make mistakes and feel overwhelm and all sorts of things too. She's a wise owlet, that one. An old soul… But even Big Owlet was seeing where this day was heading. She was in the middle of delivering one of her own rants on consumerism, while simultaneously eyeing off some sort of plastic toy in a gaming shop, while Tiny was crying that we didn't stay a full half hour with Peppa Pig in the ABC shop and Little Owlet wanted a sweetie… Ugh.

I felt exhausted and angry and overwhelmed and like having a shouty-cry about it all too. I make sure the Owlets see that I'm not superwoman - well not all the time. So I told them. I let them see how I felt and that I understood how they felt too. I threw my hands up in the air and exclaimed "I need a hug! Lets go and sit down over there and have a hug".

And so three owlets and I melted into a hug puddle in the middle of Hobart on a hot Tuesday afternoon. There was giggling and owlets saying "Oh Mum!" and cuddling and we all breathed for a bit. Time slowed down and we all felt much better. Then the crowds parted and Huz came along to find four smiling faces, rescued from what might have been one of those days, had we not chosen to stop.

Have you had one of those days lately? 
How did you get through it? 
Do your let your owlets see you being human sometimes? 
Do you find time to stop? Or are you a bit like me, always doing more than one thing? 

Happy Tuesday, lovely ones. I hope you find time to stop and have a cuddle this week. xo

3 February 2015

That time we tried school...



A few weeks ago, Little Owlet hit that stage… The one where an Owlet gets curious about what most other kids her age are up to. We've been here before, but all the same it surprised us. All the cartoons and kids shows she watches online begin talking about how awesome school is, to prepare the back to school crew, and an Owlet who is Little Owlets's age wonders what it means to fit in.

She began by asking Huz and I what it was like to go to school. And then she said she'd like to know what it feels like. She wanted to try it. Just for a day. So we asked her what it was she wanted to find out about… and together, we hatched a plan. Little Owlet has a rather vivid imagination, so pretending our home was a school was an easy compromise.

We ordered a uniform in her colour of choice, knee-hi socks and black shoes to match. We worked out all the things an Owlet her age might learn in a schoolish kind of setting. And then we tweaked it a bit. We picked out a day, marked in the calendar, and woke up to a whole new schoolish world that day.

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Lunches and backpacks at the ready, three Owlets assembled at our dining table at 9am one Monday to attend Mrs Carter's School for Particularly Wise Owlets. We structured our day around the school bell (thanks iPhone), and set to work with me as the teacher, my students eager to learn. Hands were raised when questions needed answering, a toilet pass was given when the toilet was needed. Recess and lunch were taken outside and playing with friends had to wait until the bell. Although, apparently, I wasn't as strict as they'd have like,  and it was a fairly simplistic representation of a school situation, I'd say they were fairly convinced.

The Owlets found the day interesting and hilarious, boring and exhausting. As did I. We didn't work at their usual pace and it was odd for them to have to persist with some things and give others up before they were finished. We covered maths, LOTE (French and Japanese all at once!), music, geography, english and art… and I'm fairly sure we approached them in more uschooly ways than we first intended, but old habits are heard to break!

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By the end of the day, we had a story to share with Huz and Little Owlet had determined that school was no longer something she was curious about. She did still like the uniform though… with a few minor alterations - daisy leggings for climbing trees, long sleeves for keeping the sun off and bare feet for feeling comfortable and free. And so we began with our year accordingly.

Happy new school year to our pals getting back to it and happy rambly days to our unschooly-type friends. Here's to finding what works, trying new things and learning together. xo

19 January 2015

Nourish

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These past few months, I've been living in some sort of busy little hive world of my own creation. Spiral Garden clocked its busiest Christmas period ever, not pausing for breath until Christmas Eve. Full time work whilst home with three unschooled children is less than ideal. Each morning would begin with a leap out of bed and a sprint to the finish line. Of course, we also decided to write and present an e-course this summer. So I added another part-time job to my days. It's been hectic.

There have not been nearly enough moments to pause. Too many days waving my owlets and Huz goodbye as they wandered off on adventures without me. Mind you there was the odd adventure I couldn't resist… And no time to record it.

I've been looking through old photos and blog posts for the e-course material and feeling jealous of those free people through the screen. The ones with the three small owlets and the nice nest and all the fun times in the Tasmanian countryside. I want to live like those people! Haha!

It's been brilliant to have efforts pay off. The Seedlings permaculture e-course seems to be going along swimmingly. Spiral Garden continues to hum along at a far more relaxed pace, helping to fund Christmas and birthdays and the odd pile of mulch for the garden. But in amongst it all there were too many take away meals, too many catch-ups with friends missed, too many weeds left to grow and veggies left un-harvested… Too many moments to connect with my owlets and Huz, missed. There was overwhelm.

I can see the light at the end of the tunnel just now, and it looks wonderful. A reawakening of sorts. Phew! It's going to be ok.

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Each year, I'm in the habit of choosing a word that encompasses what I'm hoping to bring to my year. A couple of years ago, I chose abundance and wound up doing a Permaculture Design Certificate which helped deliver abundance in spades. Last year I chose balance, and well… That didn't work out so well. Ha! Balance seemed out of my hands as things steamrolled along.

This year, I've chosen nourish. It's a lovely word that reminds me to pause, to eat what feels good, to move my body in ways that feel good. To spend time doing things that nourish me. Like gardening and creating things and being useful with my hands.

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This morning we spent time at Exxopolis at MOFO. As I suspected, the colour worked it's magic on me beautifully. A little colour therapy and time locating a nourishing colour. Blue felt calming. Green was a rainforest and yellow was hot and uncomfortable.  Huz felt anxious, no matter the colour. Tiny wanted to keep moving. I sat in a red, womb-like pod for almost ten minutes before we left, and floated out. A great reminder that what nourishes each of us is so different. A reminder to seek what nourishes me.

It was also a great reminder to come back here and post about our adventures. To have them and record them so I can remember that feeling a little longer. Remember the fun we've had. That family with the owlets, through the screen. I'd like to be them again.

Hello blog. Happy new year. Let's begin, shall we? xx


27 November 2014

Then and now...

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When we first saw our nest, we fell in love with three things; the location, the well-lit, quaint 50's interior and the flat backyard. Here in Hobart, so many of the blocks are steep, so a flat backyard is a rare find. We overlooked the lack of a climbing tree and the vast quantity of lawn and we moved right in…

Since then, our garden has seen much transformation. We've always had the odd raised bed veggie patch which has raised a neighbour's eyebrow or two. We've put chickens to work and planted a few trees (and placentas and beloved pets) up the back. We've added a trampoline. And we've generally lamented the whole day it took to mow the huge expanse.

We've deduced that the previous owners - as would have been the case for many families of their era - would have been happy to work five days a week, spend Saturdays mowing the lawn and Sundays at the local church and pottering... For us, life is just too full and our lifestyle couldn't be much more removed from that rhythm. We'd so much rather grow food to nourish our bodies than buy all of it in and spend all the energy made tending a flat expanse of lawn. So we trained ourselves up in permaculture and, in the last 12 months, we did this.

This is one corner of the garden. There's a food forest, a chook/orchard system and a spiral-shaped vegetable garden there. The soil is improving with each season and rather than water running down to a puddle in one corner, we keep most of it on-site to nurture the trees we've planted. There are lots of fruit trees. About 6 months of apples and then nectarine, pear, plum, quince, cherries and apricot. There are all sorts of berries and currants, rhubarb to feed the neighbourhood and more artichokes than we know what to do with. There's a pond with frogs in it! There are herbs for every meal and for medicine. And there's that calming, grounding space to wander through and tend at the end of the day.

It is FAR from perfect. Full of weeds we've come to find useful and twitch we'd rather live without. There are things planted too close together or not on time. There are mistakes. And there are wins. But most of all, there is life and slowing down. There is shade and abundance. And there's a garden to tend that nourishes and teaches us everyday.

Don't forget to sign up and join us for our Spiral Garden Seedlings Permaculture e-course, starting mid-January. We'll be sharing some knowledge and loads of activities we've had fun sharing with our owlets while we explain the ethics and principles of permaculture to them. There's even a minecraft component too! Hope you can join us! xx


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!

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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.

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So here's our plan for December:

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 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.
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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!
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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.
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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!

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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

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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!)

Me: 

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

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