a lightbulb in my head that won't switch off

Discussion in 'Introduce Yourself Here' started by dannyboy, Dec 5, 2009.

  1. dannyboy

    dannyboy Junior Member

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    hello folks, i've been tuning into this forum for a little while now and learning about many great ideas. after living in london for the past 9 years or so my wife and i have settled back in melbourne with a wee baby boy to raise. we grew up in the eastern suburbs of melbourne and have been renting near the city for the last year while we work out what it is we're gunna do for the next stage of our lives.

    I came across permaculture about 6 months ago when i was researching cheesemaking, strawbale houses and other sustainable building techniques. my wife borrowed some books from the library for me which i devoured including 'introduction to permaculture'. She has since bought me 'a designers manual' which i am currently getting through along with an assortment of magazines, books and info off the web on all manner of subjects - organic farming, animals, fruit, veggies, nuts, wood stoves, etc - i can't get enough! i've grown a few veggie gardens in my life and have even tried a bit of sheet mulching in my latest attempt with some success.

    Anyway with all of this research and knowledge gained i feel somewhat enlightened and my head is now filled with dreams of moving my family to the country, buying a few cheap acres, building a strawbale house and slowly building a small farm based on permaculture principles then selling produce for an income. my wife is open to the idea though i know i still have a lot to learn. but it just feels so right! i mean working endless hours in a job i chose when i was about 16-17 (a sparky) to pay off a mortgage on an overpriced, poorly designed, energy guzzling house that's miles away from a job i don't even want to do is surely a form of madness!? i know we all need money, we can't necessarily grow or make everything but i think we can all live on a lot less and live a lot better if we focus on what it is we really need and want. anyway, ahem, i'll just step down from my soapbox now. okay. in the mean time, i'll keep researching and putting away what money i can so that one day (soon hopefully) i'll be able to turn this dream into a reality.

    Anyway, enough about me, I'd like to hear from people who have made the move from the 'burbs or city to the country and how it went. any advice people could give would be greatly appreciated. and thanks to all who run, contribute and moderate the site, it's a fantastic information source!

    Regards,

    Dan
     
  2. Grahame

    Grahame Senior Member

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    Re: a lightbulb in my head that won't switch off

    Dan my man!, so good to see you here.

    Hey, come and live in Katamatite, I need some more like-minded folks around here. Actually what I really need is another me. I tell my wife she needs an extra husband, but secretly I think I need a husband (just for the handy-man aspects mind you :wink: ). Sometimes there are jobs that require two people.

    2 and a half years ago my wife and I and then 1 child packed in the public service job in Canberra where I was earning ridiculous amounts of money for, well, for being subversive really, but in the end I was just like Peter Garrett! I'll leave that to your own interpretations. Now we have almost nothing, the oven has just carked it and we are seriously considering a life without an oven. I will make a cob oven one of these days as the one we had in Canberra was awesome and I'll get around to thinking about a solar oven soon. But realistically who needs an oven inside!? especially in summer?

    The upshot is that we have less and as things breakdown, we realise less is best. My wife says I am always one extremeness ahead of her - she feels like she has moved a long way and then the next thing she knows I have moved the bar. I spend most of my days with my kids (now two), my 4 year old daughter has her own vegie patch, and grows better broccoli than I do! She says she's never going to school and I don't blame her.

    There is always work for sparky's out this way, and if your like me you could just do bits and pieces (I do gardening myself), there are heaps of solar panel initiatives around here at the moment that you could get involved in I'm sure.

    Get up on that soap-box my friend and shout the house down!

    And most of all I would like to agree with you on the great site this is and how awesome the hosts, moderators and contributors are! Especially Purple Pear! :p he is always a crowd favourite.

    And last of all I would say to you, just do it my friend, it is the best thing we have ever done. My wife said to me the other day something along the lines of. "You know, I have never felt so at home, so like I am where I am meant to be, so happy with my life!"

    She still would love to travel more (she was almost obsessed by it before, but it is a different thing that drives her). For me it is like this...

    Chapter 80 of the Tao Te Ching...

    If a country is governed wisely,
    its inhabitants will be content.
    They enjoy the labor of their hands
    and don't waste time inventing
    labor-saving machines.
    Since they dearly love their homes,
    they aren't interested in travel.
    There may be a few wagons and boats,
    but these don't go anywhere.
    There may be an arsenal of weapons,
    but nobody ever uses them.
    People enjoy their food,
    take pleasure in being with their families,
    spend weekends working in their gardens,
    delight in the doings of the neighborhood.
    And even though the next country is so close
    that people can hear its roosters crowing and its dogs barking,
    they are content to die of old age
    without ever having gone to see it.

    Welcome to the forum, welcome home and welcome to the family.

    Grahame
     
  3. dannyboy

    dannyboy Junior Member

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    Re: a lightbulb in my head that won't switch off

    wow! what a welcome! thanks grahame! i read it last night and got a real buzz! it sounds like you've built a wonderful life for yourselves and its really encouraging. i'm sure it has its moments but i like what your wife had to say about her happy life. and that you're around your kids a lot. that's the good stuff. i'm really keen for my little man to grow up in a garden - not in front of a tv and to spend as much time with my family as possible. that's something i realised once he was born. Tao Te Ching looks like quality reading, i'll have to check out a bit more. and also look into doing a solar panel install course, it'd be another string to the bow that would help with the transition to the country i reckon plus i could do and sign off my own home install.

    well thanks again,

    Dan
     
  4. teela

    teela Junior Member

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    Re: a lightbulb in my head that won't switch off

    Onya guys........we need more of you in the world. There are too many people living their lives behind closed doors watching their flat screen TV's in their McMansions.
    Do it.......you only live once!
     
  5. ecodharmamark

    ecodharmamark Junior Member

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    G'day dannyboy

    Welcome to the PRI Forum.

    Thank you for your very descriptive introduction, and please allow me to add my sentiments to those already expressed above in wishing you and your family all the best on your chosen path.

    A comment about 'moving to the country and buying a few cheap acres': While the initial decision may be (very understandably) based purely on economic factors, there are wider issues to consider. Generally speaking, these issues can be (but not limited to) described as follows:

    1) The cheaper the land, the further it is from essential services - i.e. education, health and welfare, daily/weekly needs (mail, groceries, fuel, etc.). This can result in an increased eco-footprint in terms of commuting to-and-fro.
    2) Social isolation. As Grahame has so rightly pointed out, it can be hard going on your own.
    3) Because of the above, it can often be difficult to obtain planning/building permission to develop permaculture projects in rural (non-metropolitan) areas.

    Of course, I do not mention the above in an effort to discourage you. I am extremely excited for you and wish you all the best in your endeavours. However, I wonder if you have given any consideration to the following options:

    a) Co-housing
    b) Urban eco-village
    c) Other forms of urban-based, IC (intentional community) living

    Cheerio, Marko.
     
  6. greenfarmers

    greenfarmers Junior Member

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    Hi Dan,

    We "quit jonesing" almost two years ago and have never looked back. We moved from a house in the inner suburbs of Brisbane to 160 acres, about an hour from the city. We're in the process of owner-building, nice and slow, saving for each bit so we don't need a mortgage. It's an awesome journey - custom designed passive solar building, limited solar power, collecting our own water, coomposting toilet, no services (yay, who needs them), a growing mandala garden ... and a life with lots of challenges, especially when it's cold and windy and you're tired and you need to boil water for a bucket shower ... bloody freezing some nights - lots of swearing!

    But we would not change it for the world -- working for a guy at the mo who went and bought himself a ferrari today, as you do for christmas, to add to his stable of five other cars. They have just done a couple of 100-thousand dollars worth of landscaping and spent as much to "pretty-up" a bank as we will spend on our whole "house". Who is happier - WE ARE!!!

    We are really living and would say passionately and loudly, if it's in you and it excites you, just do it. You only get one life.

    Heidi
     
  7. ecodharmamark

    ecodharmamark Junior Member

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    G'day Heidi

    Concerning sustainable access to 'services' (education, health, communications, public transport, etc.): If you can do without them, that's great, because many find it difficult. In fact, many start to lobby government in order to turn their (our) 'country dream' back into a suburban nightmare, all because they expect the same level of service in the bush as they are previously accustomed to from living in the city. Glad you have it worked out though.

    Keep up the great work, Marko.
     
  8. kimbo.parker

    kimbo.parker Junior Member

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    g'day g,
    pretend i'm a hermit in the sticks, and have no familiarity with 'the book' tao te ching...
    what can you tell me ?

    the bit from chapter 80 (80! its a big booK),,,sounded, felt right....
    a tad more bait, and i might grab it and run.

    ps. db, better get that light in your head to turn off,,,we don't want you wasting your energy man.
    ....seriously inspiring talk though, the world needs people like you.
    nod and wink to marko
    cheers,
    kimbo
     
  9. Grahame

    Grahame Senior Member

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    Kimbo, OK, lets just pretend for a moment that you are a hermit living in the sticks - I'll humor you.

    The Tao Te Ching is said to have been written by Lao Tzu, considered by some a contemporary of Confucius. Others believe Lao Tzu to be a 'collection' of Eastern Masters. While it sounds like a big book, I actually posted the whole of chapter 80 as translated by Stephen Mitchell. His translation is the one that I get the most out of.

    There is a web page with his translation here https://academic.brooklyn.cuny.edu/core9/phalsall/texts/taote-v3.html

    It pretty much says everything for me in beautiful succinct prose. My understanding is that Tao Te Ching (dow de jing) can be translated a number of ways but the one that fits for me is "The way of things" or something similar

    I trust you will enjoy it, I find great clarity and strength within its words

    Grahame
     
  10. greenfarmers

    greenfarmers Junior Member

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    An inspiring read Grahame,

    Thankyou for the link,

    Heidi
     
  11. mischief

    mischief Senior Member

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    I moved from the city to a small rural town and while I didnt know about permaculture then I did have a yearning for a simpler lifestyle.
    We moved from a small section to a quarter acre with an old 30's house.Its not eco friendly and was down right cold with its high ceilings, and yet we absolutely loved the change.
    Job wise, you will probably be in demand as a sparky when you make the change, which is a good thing, dont desparage skills you have.
    Your particular trade is always in demand so you have a step ahead on alot of us in that respect and it is one you can 'double hat'....you can do both, work on your land when you are not sparking the countryside.

    If Aus is similar to nz and I think for the most part it is, you will find that the locals will want to check you out,lay back and take it.
    I found it disconcerting that people would come up to me and start talking about my front yard and my neighbour or my kids and I had NO idea who the hell they were and in some cases still dont.
    You put your head down and do your thing and slowly intergrate without splashing water outta the trough so to speak.

    I do odd things like growing potatoes or pumpkins in my front yard but people dont really make a fuss about that because I have shown them that I am a hard working honest up front maybe not normal but harmless inoffensive creature that treats everyone the same(which is basically treating everyone how I wantto be treated)
    One person thold me I was real.
    I dont put on airs and graces rub peoples noses in the fact that I might have things they dont.(I bought the kids their own computer which at the time wasnt common around here, but they had one before and we couldnt bring it cos my ex needed it for his work), or that I came from the big city and know better ways of doing things, that goes down like a lead balloon.
    Feed the kids friends when they bring them home at dinner time after you made sure they called their parents to let them know where they were and drive them home after.

    Country people like to take time to talk, city people are conditioned to get in get the job done, get paid and get onto the next one.
    It pays to spend alittle time to just talk especially if you are dealing with farmers who may not get to socialise on a day to day basis.

    On the gardening front, every area has differences and your nieghbours might know what does well in their area and will be very willing to tell you how and what they do especially if you are sincere about it.

    Budget wise get the garden in any way you can, get the chooks in anyway you can, they dont have to look pretty so long as they do the job and if you need to you can always move or change it later.

    Dont immediately start making changes to your house even if it is not how you want it.( If you are building new then.... you lucky dog)
    Priorities are the roof doesnt leak or fix it, the wiring is sound or updated, the plumbing is sound or updated.
    Then wait a year before you do anything other than a really good clean.
     
  12. dannyboy

    dannyboy Junior Member

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    thanks for the replies folks. Marko, I may have come across as a little naive. i realise there are some big differences between city and country life and the points you raised are ones my wife and i have discussed at length. finding that right balance of services/ammenities/community not too far from the perfect block will surely be a challenge but we're both on the same page (or close enough) as for what we're after. as far as cohousing, ic's, urban eco villages go, i think they're a good idea but perhaps not for me. the reading i've done on them doesn't lead to appeal - perhaps they feel a little forced or crowded? and i have no desire to live in a city any more. london was great. melbourne looks great - but i've barely seen it since we've had a baby. that used to bother me slightly but i couldn't care less for the city now. i just want to be a bit closer to nature now, grow and eat healthy food and live a simple low impact lifestyle with my family.

    we went on a short holiday over the break to Mt Beauty (in Victoria's Alpine Region) where my mum grew up and we visited as kids. we stayed at my aunties small farm which was a great opportunity to find out a good deal about living in the country and managing a piece of land. it's incredible there (shame about all the tobacco spraying in the past - apparently the poisons are still in the soils). last easter we were at halls gap in the grampians, another beautiful place i used to visit as a kid. it's these places that i feel at home and i try to imagine the everyday life there. i find myself talking to people now about their experiences living in the country and i find what they say encouraging. i don't know if moving to the country will work but i know there's only one way to find out. i'm sure it'll be fine.

    Mark I know what you mean about the turning country to suburbia situation, some friends of ours who bought a bush block on the outer eastern fringes of melbourne couldn't understand why the locals kept rejecting the opportunity to have their dirt road sealed. i was wondering if you could tell me a bit more about the difficulties in getting building permission/permaculture farm setups in rural areas?

    Marko, Teela and Kimbo, thank you for your kind words and Mischief for your thoughtful detailed response. Heidi it sounds like your living the dream. nice work, all good stuff.

    I'm looking forward now to moving back into the in-laws house while they travel australia for the year. only a few months to go then we'll be saving cash and they've got a decent size backyard for me to get stuck into. they don't mind if i get some chickens either which is very exciting!
    laters,
    dan
     
  13. UpCycleQueen

    UpCycleQueen Junior Member

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    Just phone the local council whereever you are looking at a block. All the councils here have different rules (or apply the same rules differently). Find out the zoning "Rural" or "Residential" or "Protected" etc, and if there are a few grey areas because of boundaries, proximity to a quarry or anything strange like that, make the sale subject to planning permit so that you know you haven't bought a block you can't build on (which would be worth a lot less). Doing permaculture on a block shouldn't be a problem in rural areas. Again, check with council, get acquainted with the planning person. They should also be able to tell you any problems with any particular peice of land, flooding, history, general soil type, etc. Good luck !!
     
  14. ecodharmamark

    ecodharmamark Junior Member

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    G'day Dan

    Sorry for the late reply. I have been soaking it up, out in the desert.

    Sure. Most (if not nearly all) Local Government Areas (LGAs) right across Australia have adopted 'right to farm' policies with regards to their planning legislative frameworks. Essentially this means 'commercially viable farmland' must be protected from the encroachment of urban development. The theory is that if urban sprawl continues to roll out into the peri-urban belts, all available farmland ('commercially viable' or not) will be fractured into suburbian-esque 0.5, 1, 5 or 20 ha lots. Some Councils are even taking climate change seriously, with all the attending issues surrounding food security.

    In a nutshell, if people really want to adopt a permacultural lifestyle on a few acres outside of the 'city limits', then the only way you are going to convince your local planning authority that you are fair dinkum about it ('it' meaning you are not trying to turn rural land into suburbia), is to come up with a really good plan/design that meets all of your LGAs rural living planning requirements. The difficulty in achieving this rates from bloddy hard, to damn near impossible. In fact, some LGA's flatly refuse any form of residential development outside of their UGB (urban growth boundary). 'Traditional farmers' might still manage to build a dwelling on their land, but only if that lot is of an agreable size (which may even have a minimum set at 200-ha).

    The battle for permies who wish to live the life of a 'rural dweller', starts and ends with their planning application - no planning permit, no hope of the dream coming true. Sorry if I sound harsh, but I have seen hundreds of dreams shattered over the counter of our local planning department. Of course, I do not mean to dishearten anyone who has a dream of living more lightly on the Earth. For this very reason my offer of free statutory planning advice still stands for any permie wishing to go down this path.

    Some time ago I penned a little story. I retell it (the full version with working links is available here) with the hope that it encourages and inspires people to have a go:

    Let’s just say that ‘Patricia the Permaculturalist’ has purchased a 6 (six) hectare (ha) plot of land zoned Rural Living (RLZ) in the Shire of West Wimmera. For the sake of the exercise, Pat has ensured that the title to her property is ‘clear’; that is, that she actually owns the land (or at least has the permission from the land owner), and that there are no restrictions on the title that may exclude her from carrying out her dream.

    Pat plans to use and develop the land for the purpose of creating a permaculture teaching and learning centre. Pat will live on-site throughout the process, and from time-to-time will have WWOOFers accommodated on-site to help her in the process.

    The site is located an easy ten-minute cycle from the nearest place of essential services (postal, banking, light provisions, elementary education, etc), a town of approximately 500 people. The site does not have any services (power, water, gas, etc.) connected, but does miraculously fall within an area that is serviced by high-speed wireless broadband. The site is accessed by an all-weather, unsealed road (which forms the boundary to the immediate south of the site), and is neighboured by human-inhabited properties to the immediate east and west of similar size. The northern boundary to Pat’s property is formed by an ephemeral waterway locally known as Brown Creek. The land slopes gently to the creek which is home to remnant (federally listed as endangered) flora and fauna. Pat’s a bit of a greenie, so she has plans to retain and enhance all existing areas of high conservation significance, but at the same time make the property self-sufficient in terms of human habitation.

    Pat fronts up to the planning counter of the nearest regional centre that exists within the in the Shire and presents the following:

    A current copy of Title

    A design layout for the property which Pat previously completed as part of her PDC

    Pat was lucky in that she found the planner on duty was familiar with the concepts of permaculture, and he listened intently as Pat outlined her plans for the property.

    The planner then identified Pat’s property via the Shire’s GIS, and then checked Pat’s proposal against the Shire’s Local Planning Scheme (LPS). This is what he and Pat found...

    ...Pat did eventually present an application to Council for a planning permit. The application was assessed against the LPS by a planner, and subsequently Pat was advised to provide ‘further information’ to some areas of her plan that did not provide enough detail for the planner to make an informed decision. Throughout the entire process, Pat was treated with courtesy by the planner and all other Shire staff that she came into contact with. In return, Pat responded to all questions asked of her in a truthful manner, and to the best of her ability. Where Pat was unable to provide responses to the questions asked of her by the planner, Pat either accessed the information pathways provided by the planner that enabled her to make informed responses, or she located a reputable and professional local planning consultant who was able to advise her on some of the more complicated issues pertaining to her application.

    After about 3-months of information-sharing between Pat and her local planning authority, Pat was eventually granted a planning permit to create her ‘permaculture paradise’. But very soon after, a neighbouring property owner ‘objected’ to the issuing of Pat’s planning permit, and the whole process had to be ‘heard’ at VCAT (Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal).
    Because the ‘wheels of justice’ can sometimes turn very slowly, Pat’s application was eventually (after about 12-months) reviewed by VCAT, with the objector subsequently claiming that Pat was ‘a hippie’, and that her plan was to ‘subvert traditional farming practices, indeed, the entire social order of this close-knit farming community’ by implementing a whole-farm plan that recognised and was guided by the principles of permaculture.

    Of course the panel members of VCAT were able to quickly ascertain that Pat’s plan was in fact very well equipped at implementing the objectives of planning in Victoria, and as a result the objectors claims were found to have ‘no merit’. The case was dismissed and Pat’s costs of representing herself at the Tribunal were awarded against the plaintiff (objector). In the final summation, VCAT member, the Right Honourable Former High Court Justice Sir Planalot stated: ‘this is a case which will go down in the annuls of planning history. The defender, (applicant) has shown that the principles of good planning in Victoria, indeed the chief principle that planning will produce a net community gain, is inextricably aligned with that of the base principles of permaculture; that is one must care for the land, and at the same time care for the people, and all the while redistribute the surplus’.

    Pat did go on to eventually create a permacultural paradise. Many hundreds of WWOOFers have come and gone, and Pat’s Place (as the property came to be known by) is now renowned as one of the finest permaculture demonstration sites in the world.

    Pat has a framed copy of Sir Planalot’s ‘red dot’ decision on the wall of her straw-baled dwelling, right next door to the ‘truth window’, because in Pat’s eyes the truth of the matter is, if one persists with a dream that is based on the principles of permaculture, then nothing (least of all the local planning scheme, and any objectors to the implementation of plans that align themselves with this scheme) can stand in the way of good design.


    Hope that helps. Follow your dream (and the advice of your friendly planner) :D

    Cheerio, Marko.
     
  15. dannyboy

    dannyboy Junior Member

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    Fantastic post Marko! a wealth of information and what an incredible offer?! I'll be keen to take you up on it when the time comes, thank you. it sounds like you've been busy in some pretty harsh country - i read about it in Grahame's post. And thanks Grahame for the Tao Te Ching link, quality brain food. UpCycleQueen thanks for your post, getting acquainted with the local planning officer is sound advice.
    cheers dan
     

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