Week 18

What’s in the garden?

We share twenty seven communal avocado trees on our multiple occupancy so we have lots of avocados at the moment.

Our neighbours, Kenrick and Maree, are the founders of our multiple occupancy.  They have cultivated an unbelievably beautiful organic herb farm on Wiccawood.  They’re very intelligent, generous people, always happy to share their knowledge about regeneration and organic farming, always giving us produce or seeds or something. Pictured below are the coriander seedlings that I grew from seeds that Maree gave me a few weeks ago when Etienne and I went to their place for lunch.

Love watching my coriander grow. #herbs #homegrown

The pigs, pictured below, have eaten every blade of grass in the pig pen.   The last couple of months have been wet so the pig pen turned into a mud bath.  They seemed to love it but I’m glad it has dried up because it’s starting to get colder in the evenings now.

Sweet little piggies eating custard apple #ethicalfarming #crueltyfree

What’s on the menu?

We all love SALAD!  We have salad for lunch every day.  Etienne and I could eat salad for lunch everyday and never tire of it.

Lettuce, avocado and macadamia nut salad, bean salad, buckwheat pancake, goat cheese and cucumber pickle. #organic #vegetables

Pictured below are two jars of fermented choko.  I love fermenting food.  Sometimes it takes great, like a good sauerkraut or japanese fermented cucumbers.  But other times, it doesn’t taste great and I eat it for the health benefits only. There are so many chokos at the moment so I decided to ferment them with garlic, bay leaf, chili and peppercorns.  I didn’t have high expectations in terms of taste.  After three days of fermenting on the cupboard (growing the first stage of the probiotic bactieria, lactobacillus) I cautiously opened the jar and was very excited to discover that, not only do they taste GREAT, but they are really crispy!

Dinner: Etienne made a simple pumpkin soup for dinner, using lots of pumpkin so that it was really thick.  He added other veggies and flavoured it with salt and pepper.  It was nice and nourishing. He made a lot so it lasted two nights.

This week we also enjoyed roast goat and veggies for dinner.  I stuffed the goat leg with slices of garlic and covered it with chopped rosemary.  The meat absorbed the flavours of the garlic and rosemary.  I surrounded the meat with chuncks of arrowroot and pumpkin which I sprinkled with salt and rosemary.  Mmmmmmm……… so good!

Pictured above is the lunch that cooked using slippery jack mushrooms that I harvested from under a friend’s pine trees.  The mushrooms were delicious, but I ate a huge plateful and had an upset stomach afterwards.

Chocolate balls #healthy

Etienne made chocolate balls with bunya nut, date, coconut and cocoa powder.  They are sugarless but really tasty.  Izzy takes them to school for her vegan friends.

Activities of the week

Splitting wood

We have a combustion heater.  It’s great.  Firstly, it heats our house at no cost because we have an abundance of fallen trees and branches in our woodlot that we can cut up for fire wood.  Secondly, we can cook on it rather than use the gas stove.  It’s particularly good for things that take hours to cook, like marmalade.

Etienne, stores the big pieces of wood over in the wood shed at the end of the driveway, pictured below.  At the start of winter, Etienne uses the log splitter to break the wood into pieces that fit in the combustion heater.  Then we put the smaller pieces in the ute and take them down to the garage where we stack them.  My job is to stack the wood.


Days off

Some days we don’t feel like doing much.  On these days, we stick to the necessary jobs: feeding, milking and watering.  We can get it all done in half an hour and then we have the rest of the day free.  What do we do on such glorious days as these?  There’s always something to do.  Usually, we go and visit our neighbours around the valley or we go into town and spend the day doing all the town jobs.

We did lots of socialising this week with cups of tea and bottles of red wine.  Good company, good conversation… good wine….

Shopping on Monday:

Bulk food: peanut butter, buckwheat, spelt flour $15.60

Farmer Charlies: original potato chips, soy milk, dishwashing liquid, white vinegar, onions  $23.05

Ladies underwear from Best and Less $10 for 3 pairs of cotton undies

Fuel and gas $82

Here is a funny story:  The reason that I bought potato chips this week is because, every Friday, Etienne puts on a games night at the hall and people bring food to share: lovely cheeses, dried fruit and nuts, sandwiches and chips.  We haven’t bought chips all year, so when a deliciously salty packet of chips is placed in front of me, I find it hard to control myself.  A couple of times, I guzzled more than my share!  How embarrassing!!?!  So, this week I was pleased to provide the packet of chips on Friday night.

Sunday 6th of May

I volunteered with Lock the Gate at the car boot market in Lismore on Sunday.  Lock the Gate is a grassroots organisation that formed in order to protect communities, land and water from the invasive gas mining industry in Australia.  Paul, an old friend, was rostered on with me so we spent time swapping stories and chatting with concerned citizens who wanted an update on the situation in the Northern Territory and in the Pilliga.

I love the Lock the Gate community.  Like so many other groups who are on a mission to save the planet, they are dedicated, resourceful, and compassionate people.  LTG have been supporting communities for years as they have struggled against companies and governments.  They find it very hard to understand how, with the wealth of knowledge we have about the destructive nature of fracking, so many Australians can be complacent about gas mining.  I’m afraid, it doesn’t surprise me that people are complacent.  We’ve all got Facebook! There are so many issues on the table, it’s hard to know how to prioritise them.   It’s easier to throw your hands in the air and ask, “what difference can I make?” Personally, I think it’s great if there is some little thing that you can do to create a good change in the world.  I’m money poor but time rich so I volunteer for Lock the Gate.

After finishing my shift at the market, Izzy and I raced out to Jiggi for the Sunday lunch.  The Sunday lunch is a shared lunch held is on the first Sunday of the month.  We have an annual roster so that a different set of people organise the food each time.  A lot of the people who attend the Sunday lunch have been in the valley and known each other for many, many years. I enjoy the atmosphere and I love the salads.  People make the most amazing salads for the Sunday lunch.  Colleen B makes a bean and almond salad that is incredible.  Max and Gisela always make something unique and delicious.  Pat, Roz and Kate made an amazing potato salad (I think Kate was responsible for the potato salad).  I could go on and on….

After the Sunday lunch, our neighbour Phil dropped around and we played a French card game called Belote.  Etienne won.

Some musings…

Many people around the world are really switched-on to what is happening to our planet and are making changes in their lives: using reusable bags instead of plastic bags, trying to be less wasteful, researching what they’re eating, etc.  Jiggites (people of the Jiggi valley) are really good at this.  In the valley people car pool, socialise together, make their own necessities, look after their land, build amazing alternative houses, grow their own food etc.  Etienne and I have learned so much from these amazing people.  Etienne listens to what people say so that he can learn about techniques and then he does his own experiment based on all the information he has compiled.

I’d like to relate two stories that typify Jiggi for me:

Story 1 

Tav:  Hey Etienne, I heard you were looking for a ride-on lawn mower.  I’m selling mine.  Do you want to buy it?

Etienne:  It’s a great mower. How much do you want for it?

Tav:   For you, mate $1000.

Etienne:  No way, Tav.  It’s worth at least $2000.  

Tav:  OK, how about $1200? It’s a few years old and I don’t want it anymore.

Etienne: Yeah but it’s in great condition.  It’s got to be worth at least $1700.

Tav: All right, Etienne.  I guess I could take $1500.

Etienne:  Are you sure, mate? 

Tav: $1500 that’s it!  Etienne: OK If you insist, I’ll take it.

I couldn’t stop laughing, listening to Jiggi’s brand of reverse bargaining.

Story 2

In Jiggi, you don’t ‘keep up with the Joneses’.  You keep down with the Joneses.  I was at a party years ago and we were talking about our toilets:

Person A: We’ve got a flush toilet and we’ve just invested in a reed bed to purify the water.

Person B: We’ve rigged our toilet so that it only has a half-flush.

Person C: We’ve got a compost toilet.

Person D: We’ve got a compost toilet that we made ourselves out of an old wheelie bin.  

Person E:  I don’t have a toilet at all.

Everyone was very impressed by the total lack of toilet.


Money, money, money…

At this point, I would to acknowledge that, by undertaking this semi self-sufficiency journey, we have given up the ability to financial help our out-of-home child.  Bee does not like to ask us for money, but like all young people, there are times when she needs some help.  This year, I can only offer her a loan! 😦  On the one hand, it makes me sad that I can’t help her the way I could before.  But on the other hand, it means that she has to learn to balance her budget more effectively.


Book review

I’ve finally finished reading The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists, written by Robert Tressell, which is an examination of early nineteenth century society through a socialist lens.  The novel focuses on the lives of a group of working class men and their families who struggle to survive in a society where they live in abject poverty with very few rights.  Whilst it can now be read as a historical novel, at the time it was written, Tressell was merely documenting the appalling poverty of the working classes of England. At the same time he details that corrupt and selfish actions of the town council and the wealthy ’employer’ class that essentially exploit the workers and at the same time manipulate the press to convince them that the capitalist system benefits all.

The central character, Owen, spends the novel  trying to explain to his fellow workers how capitalism keeps them in poverty and concentrates wealth in the hands of a few men who, rather than work hard and earn their wealth, have inherited it. These wealthy, influential men sit on the town council conniving to use their political power to increase their wealth.  And of course they own the local newspaper so they can control how they are represented to the workers.

This is a time before unions were common. The conditions that the working classes endure in the novel are dramatic.  They are underfed, dressed in patched-up rags, poorly educated (because children worked for HOURS before and after school, doing odd jobs) and desperate to do whatever the boss wants to avoid being sacked.  There were no protections for workers so they could be sacked for any reason.  And, there were so many willing workers that they were constantly competing with each other to get the available jobs.  They agreed to work for very little money to ensure they remained employed and if they lost their job they found themselves quickly headed to the workhouse.  Throughout the novel, Owen, reminds his fellow workers that they were better off under the feudal system because the Lord had to ensure his serfs didn’t starve so that they could till his soil and make him money, as opposed to the capitalist system, where the employers can simply replace workers if they starve.

It is an important novel, but it’s looooong and repetitive.  I found the narrative voice to be too negative.  The narrator  sympathises with the plight of the workers, and constantly explains that it is their life conditions (lack of education and lack of any refinement) that make them easy to “decieve, bluff and rob.” But, the over excessive use of sarcasm (that is designed to highlight the ridiculousness of the situation) results in the narrator seeming to be angered and jaded by the stupidity of the workers, whom the narrator repeatedly describes in the harshest terms such as “savages” “brutes” “dull and stupid,”  “beasts of burden” or “intellectually like little children.”

Overall, I think it is a clever novel and an important political text.  Tressell was not an author, he was a tradesmen (like Owen the central character) and researchers have found that events in the novel accurately portray events in Tressells’ town of Hastings, in England.  As the novel’s full title proclaims The Ragged-Trousered Philanthropists: Being the Story of Twelve Months in Hell, Told by One of the Damned, and Written Down by Robert Tressell.”  The novel is an amazing achievement and a great socialist text.

Here is one of my favourite quotes where Owen attempts to explain the causes of poverty:

Poverty “is caused by Private Monopoly. That is the present system. They have monopolized everything that it is possible to monopolize; they have got the whole earth, the minerals in the earth and the streams that water the earth. The only reason they have not monopolized the daylight and the air is that it is not possible to do it. If it were possible to construct huge gasometers and to draw together and compress within them the whole of the atmosphere, it would have been done long ago, and we should have been compelled to work for them in order to get money to buy air to breathe. And if that seemingly impossible thing were accomplished tomorrow, you would see thousands of people dying for want of air – or of the money to buy it – even as now thousands are dying for want of the other necessities of life. You would see people going about gasping for breath, and telling each other that the likes of them could not expect to have air to breathe unless the had the money to pay for it. Most of you here, for instance, would think and say so. Even as you think at present that it’s right for so few people to own the Earth, the Minerals and the Water, which are all just as necessary as is the air. In exactly the same spirit as you now say: “It’s Their Land,” “It’s Their Water,” “It’s Their Coal,” “It’s Their Iron,” so you would say “It’s Their Air,” “These are their gasometers, and what right have the likes of us to expect them to allow us to breathe for nothing?” And even while he is doing this the air monopolist will be preaching sermons on the Brotherhood of Man; he will be dispensing advice on “Christian Duty” in the Sunday magazines; he will give utterance to numerous more or less moral maxims for the guidance of the young. And meantime, all around, people will be dying for want of some of the air that he will have bottled up in his gasometers. And when you are all dragging out a miserable existence, gasping for breath or dying for want of air, if one of your number suggests smashing a hole in the side of one of th gasometers, you will all fall upon him in the name of law and order, and after doing your best to tear him limb from limb, you’ll drag him, covered with blood, in triumph to the nearest Police Station and deliver him up to “justice” in the hope of being given a few half-pounds of air for your trouble.”

Robert Tressell.


Dear followers and visitors,

Thanks for reading.  Love to you all,

Cathie and Etienne


8 thoughts on “Week 18

  1. Hi Cathie! Week 18 already – wow, time is going quickly! Loved the 360 degree video clip you added in this time. 🙂 Loved reading your update as usual but particularly enjoyed and had a good giggle thanks to your anecdotes of the Jiggites. Props to Person E! They do say that squatting is best from an anatomical perspective anyway, no? 😄


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