Noticing beauty

On a recent trip to the vet, I stopped to use the toilet at a national park lookout. I pass this tiny park in the rainforest on every trip to the vet. I have used the toilet there many times in the past, but today I noticed something I have never noticed before… beauty.

Of course I realise that the rainforest is beautiful, and appreciate the cool, damp depths of green I see there, but what I experienced and felt today was on a whole other level.

After using the toilet, I happened to glance up at the clear plastic skylight in the ceiling. I stood transfixed in awe for quite some time by what I saw there.

The photo above doesn’t do it justice, but the layers of leaves with the sun glowing through them just filled my soul with a quiet joy I had not realised was missing from my emotional diet.

I took a couple of photos to share here and to record that moment of utter peace and joy. I will be looking out for these moments more in future, it is a potent and addictive drug.

After the fire

It has been almost a year since the fires that roared through our area forced us to evacuate (and burned down many houses). Today I drove through the worst effected area on my way to the vet, I can see the bush is struggling to heal and grow strong again, but it is going to take more than a few years.

The green is trying to take over again, but the blackened skeletons of dead trees still poke through the green carpet and the sun beats down on paths that were previously shaded year round by those trees.

One of my friends attended the fire that burned all this land, she rang me the next day to share her grief. What she told me still brings me nightmares in the middle of the night; she had to drive a vehicle through burned and burning ground, watching animals stagger into the road edge and die. Everyone in this area is scarred from last year’s fires, especially those who lost their homes and those who no longer feel safe living here. Many have moved away.

Those fires can happen again; there is still fuel on the ground, despite the hot burn last year. The soil is twice as hot this year because the shade is gone now. The extended dry of a drought never really broken has baked the flush of growth that comes after a fire and all it needs is for someone to drop a match on one of the numerous hot, dry, windy days we have in Spring, Summer and Autumn, then we will be on fire again.

This whole rape culture thing

I don’t usually write about contemporary issues; I would rather let the world pass me by unnoticed most of the time. I decided to weigh in with an opinion on this one though. There has been a lot of articles, opinions and comments on social media lately about the rape culture we live in as modern humans. Some people seem to think that this is fair and ‘the way things have always been’ while others rail against the status quo. I can’t really decide which side I am on.

On one hand; I too have felt the fear of walking alone, of being uncomfortable with male company and unable to politely move away. I too have felt the need to check whether I was showing too much skin, to make sure I have a semi-sober girlfriend to make sure I get home after a night out (I have been the semi-sober girlfriend too…occasionally). All this is now a memory, in the past; fear of being attacked by a man has lessened over the years. I think because I am older and less attractive. I have been attacked by men, I have had unwanted attention from men, been physically attacked, verbally attacked and abused. Now my instincts are much better, I can usually sense a situation I will not be comfortable in and avoid it. Does that make it OK? Does my withdrawal from many activities in order to feel safe, make it acceptable to live in this culture? My daughters both phone me or each other while walking alone in the city, they say they want a witness to their death if someone attacks them (very reassuring for a mother who is thousands of kilometers away, I can tell you). Neither of them do that in the bush, they are happy to tramp about in nature all day by themselves, the difference? There is a much slimmer chance of running into a man in the bush. Why should my big, strong, confident daughters feel that they need to have someone on the phone when out night or day (even on a bus)? Why should they feel that they have to guard themselves always (clothes, actions, speech) in case they attract the unwanted attention of a man?

On the other hand; I am a farm girl, I know I am strong. I have had more than one physical fight. Although I am a gentle person who doesn’t go looking for a fight, if one finds me, I know I can defend myself. I have noticed over the years that I am at least as strong as most men I meet (sometimes considerably stronger). I am brave; I am the snake and spider remover, the big, scary animal facer (including men). Why do women feel the need to be frightened? Can’t we all just learn to not be frightened? In my twenties and thirties, I walked home from work in a city centre at 2am by myself, I spoke to dodgy looking men all the time (it’s a bit hard to avoid when you are a barmaid) and I had to woman-handle the odd bloke out of the bar a time or two. I learned that I am capable of these things and I gradually let go of my fear.

Men apparently don’t feel fear of walking alone in the city at night, or fear being in a room full of other men (usually) or even a room full of women. Why? They don’t worry that the button-up shirt shows some chest hair which might be taken as an invitation for someone to run a finger over it. They apparently don’t worry about walking past a group of women standing on a corner in case there are cat-calls and lewd comments (there often are lewd comments boys, just not very loud).

I think men do face some of the same issues that women do, maybe not as an ingrained and expected part of life, but they do face them occasionally. Tell me men, have you ever hesitated to go into your bosses office with the door shut in case she/he made a move on you? Have you ever felt unsure about walking to your car because there are a lot of men standing around? Have you ever been the only person in a train carriage when a vaguely threatening man came in and sat near you? Have you ever been too drunk to drive home and worried that the taxi driver would attack you because you were not on the alert? I know the answer is “Yes”; almost every man I know has experienced this or something like it at some point in their life. The common factor here though, is ‘men’; would you be so worried by a bunch of women standing around your car? or a vaguely threatening woman sitting near you? What about the boss’s office? Are you worried that she will make a move on you? We are raised to see men as more dangerous than women, and so they become more dangerous than women.

There is no reason why a woman can’t be as dangerous and obnoxious as a man. Most (certainly not all) domestic violence is perpetrated by men, what if women took to beating their significant others with a bat if they were late home, didn’t do the washing or made meatloaf not steak for tea? Most inappropriate comments and cat-calls made in public are made by men, why can’t women shout out to men in the street about how we like their rear ends or shoulders? (I wonder if that would make job-site workmen put their shirts back on?). Most random acts of intimidation in public places is done by men, why can’t women stare at a man alone on the bus, move closer to them and whisper lewd comments in their ears? Why can’t women follow a man walking alone on the street ‘just to watch his behind jiggle’ and make him cross the street? Maybe it is time to show men what it feels like to live a life of constant vigilance, what it feels like to be always subtly under attack. If they won’t listen when we tell them, maybe they will believe when we show them.

I’m not sure whether women behaving like men would solve anything, maybe it would make things worse. I think I am just angry and venting. My world is safe and secure at the moment, I am happy and valued, but it wasn’t always so and my daughters have to live in the world outside my bubble, I would love to make it a better one for them.

Looking for like minds…


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Just a gratuitous macro shot of rosemary flowers to brighten up the post

I have just been trolling through the internet (well…WordPress) looking for other blogs written by people like me. I was looking for inspiration and amusement (this being my regularly scheduled half-day off from life), I didn’t find any blogs written by people living the bush life with little income and not much of a clue. I guess that makes me truly unique.

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Another gratuitous macro shot…but it’s lantana flower

So, I am officially asking for recommendations for new reading material in the specific area of bush living in Australia, with not much money. If you write or read a blog about;

Organic gardening

Using what you grow

Animal care

Simple living philosophy or practicality

Fibre arts (spinning, weaving, knitting, felting)


Making do on a tight budget

Upcycling/ recycling


let me know in the comment section so I can check it out.

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Yet another macro shot, this time it’s a seed sprouting.



This whole ban the burka thing is getting on my goat

Recently I was thinking about how loud and vehement people are when they are asked to take a side on the ‘Ban the burka’ debate; I’m beginning to think that Pauline Hanson’s voice is more the result of her choice of topic rather than a natural result of her genetics. I stand on the no side of the debate, a little closer to the centre than extreme though.

I can see the need to be able to identify people in security situations (like the oft quoted banks and schools situations) but I can also empathise with the wearers of burkas and hijabs, etc. Imagine yourself in a situation where you are asked to take off a piece of clothing and expose a part of your body you have been culturally indoctrinated to believe is sacred and private (your bra and top for instance) and to walk down the street without this piece of clothing, to expose your private parts to the world. I don’t know about you, but I would not be comfortable going to the bank topless, but that is exactly what we are telling women they must do if we ban the burka.

The belief that our breasts are private is not present in every culture; many tribal societies cultural norms do not include covering the breasts (I can hear people saying “Yes, but they are primitive”, which leads me to conclude that cultures who require their women to cover more body parts are less primitive, but that’s a slippery slope). In our Australian culture we cover our breasts, in the Muslim culture they cover their hair and sometimes their faces, is there actually a difference?

Many people argue that being forced to cover up is repression of women, an opinion I agree with. However I also believe that being forced to expose yourself is also repression. If we truly want to free Muslim women from repression shouldn’t we just give them the choice about whether they wear their traditional clothing or not?

Musings about our lifestyle- Rambling post with gratuitous photos warning

A gratuitous photo of the bush around our humpy

This morning I was searching the internet for a tutorial about making wall lining out of newspaper (I’m on holidays…that’s what you do on holidays isn’t it?) and the closest I could get was a post or two on ‘brown bagging‘; which is basically using brown paper as wallpaper over existing wall lining. Being unable to find anything about making actual wall lining, I extended my search to cover building in slum conditions and alternate wall linings, all to no avail. This search started me thinking about my position in the blogging world….

Another gratuitous photo of my dogs watching me spin

I know of many people living as we do here in our humpy; living in knocked together shacks made from scrounged materials and making improvements slowly as low incomes allow. This cannot be a phenomenon indigenous to our area alone, surely there are humpy dwellers all over the world, so why is there so little information about it on the internet? My musings came up with a few possible reasons;

People who live in humpies tend to not be computer literate; While I can’t speak for other areas, where we live this tends to be true. People living in the bush are mostly older, perennially low income earners who have never had the opportunity to use computers for recreation and have no desire to do so. This has led to a situation where really clever and useful ideas are not shared among humpy dwellers as we tend to be anti-social beings who don’t talk to others or have people over much. It also leads to non-humpy dwellers viewing us as lazy or incompetent, when in fact it requires  huge amount of work, ingenuity and determination to maintain any semblance of social acceptability living in a humpy (showering outdoors at mid winter comes to mind).

People are ashamed to be seen as ‘living rough’; While I haven’t found this to be the case here (as humpy dwellers are a large minority there is no shame in it), the reactions of a few people visiting my place for the first time has led me to believe that they expect me to be ashamed. I casually mentioned the fact that we still take all our waste water out of the house in buckets at a social event recently and had a lady goggle at me (until that point I had only imagined what a goggle looked like but now I know it is quite a comical facial expression). She avoided me for the rest of the evening (obviously fearing that low standards are communicable). Reactions generally range from outright wonder to shock and pity, but most people come to the enjoy their visits to the madness that is my home. I don’t believe I need to be ashamed of my home….yes it’s a mess….yes it’s open to nature (which is often smelly)…but it’s warm and dry and it provides me so much entertainment I rarely want to be  anywhere else.

People want to keep their lifestyle private; This is a very valid reason, people in my area tend to be private (we move here to be hermits) and enjoy being unseen and forgotten in the bush. Being private is perfectly acceptable and should be respected. It is a shame not to share all the amazing things we contrive to make life more comfortable in our humpies, but privacy is a right we need to respect.

It didn’t occur to them that others may benefit from the information; This is a common reason, I often see some system or contraption at someone’s humpy and rave over how clever the idea is (e.g. using old bathtubs as a reed bed system which produces mulch for an orchard) only to have the inventor say “but..everyone knows how to do that..” or words to that effect. We need to realize that our little niche lifestyle is highly specialized and we have skills not shared by the rest of humanity. People new to the lifestyle could benefit greatly from learning the simple skills we possess (like learning to shop once a month and managing time in town so everything gets done).

A new trellis for passion fruit made from an old industrial window shade

Our combined pavers and cement floor

A gratuitous guinea fowl

Book Book one of our yard chooks

If you are a humpy dweller (or have been a humpy dweller), please feel free to share your wisdom here in the comments section, or on your own blog, or even by talking to the neighbors. We have valuable skills…it’s time we started valuing them and sharing them with others.

The anything-but-simple country life.

Recently I read a post on a friend’s blog about ‘simple country living’, as I typed my comment it occurred to me that this was a great subject for a post.

What is a simple country life? Is it living on a bush block, keeping chooks and a cow? Making your own preserves and cooking from scratch? Is it watching the sun rise over an unsullied tree line every morning? or is it hauling endless buckets of water to trees and garden and learning to do basic veterinary repairs yourself because the vet’s travel fees are more than you earn in a week?

For me it is all these things and more.

So why do some people stay and others leave? Is it because the realities of life are just too…well…real?

I thought I would put together a little list of some of the realities I have noticed in my thirty plus years as a bush dweller and my six years as a humpy dweller, feel free to add your own realities in a comment;

Things are not convenient; you will run out of gas on Saturday night and all the local shops are shut on Sundays.

Other beings live here too, most of whom want to eat your vegetable garden and/or your chooks.

Everyone knows your business, even if you only see them every few months.

When there is a crisis you are expected to contribute, turn up for fire fighting, donate to families who have lost homes, go to funerals, pick up car parts in town, etc. Next time it might be your crisis.

Nobody cares what you have, only what you can do…unless you have an operational tractor, then everyone will care.

Relax and be yourself; everyone knows if you are ‘bunging it on’ anyway.

The most interesting people in the world live near you; the woman who worked for the World Bank and brokered loans between countries (and makes great yoghurt), the man who taught mathematics and astronomy in a Melbourne university (and has a semi-rigid truck licence for the fire truck), the woman who trained animals for TV shows (and knows the easy way to tan skins). Get to know them.

Death is inevitable, chooks are eaten by snakes and quolls, dogs are bitten by snakes, sheep and cattle go down with paralysis tick and wallabies are hit on the road by cars. This is the biggest life lesson the bush has to teach you, accept it and make good use of every minute.

Can you add to my list?

What we do to reduce our carbon footprint

We all want to reduce our carbon footprint…right?
Well when you live like we do here in our little humpy, the usual advice doesn’t always apply.
There are thousands of ‘Reduce your carbon footprint’ sites on the internet, mostly giving the same advice. Have a look at just a few;
Australian Museum
Green Wiki

In general the advice seems to be;
Reuse and Recycle what you can (already doing that)
Eat less red meat (I think once a week qualifies as less)
Drink tap water rather than bottled water (check)
Buy less and buy to last (That’s us all over)
Use less heating and cooling (no air conditioners here)
Use less electricity (ours is solar so it doesn’t apply)
Wash in cold water (There’s a hot water option?)
Don’t fly as much (We can’t reduce this; we don’t fly)
Don’t drive as much and use public transport (I don’t drive and go everywhere on the school bus)
Shop locally, especially fresh foods (Yep)
Grow some vegetables at home (Yep)

What do we do to reduce our carbon footprint?

We use solar power only, no grid electricity. We do use a generator once a week though.

We collect all our own water via a roof and tank system, we use very little fuel to pump the water up to a header tank to supply the house via gravity feed.

We don’t buy anything we don’t need and all our groceries come from the local Co- Op.

We have a vegetable garden, which could be better but I’m working on it.

I don’t drive, I go everywhere on the local school buses or car pool. My partner does have a car for work though.

We sort our rubbish carefully and reuse everything we can and recycle everything we can. Making eco bricks with soft drink bottles and plastic rubbish has been a big step forward in this area. So has our use of old tyres for construction materials.

Of this list there are one or two things we could do better;

My partner has a four wheel drive for work, it uses a LOT of fuel in the course of his working week; we do need to invest in a more fuel efficient vehicle so he can go about the countryside saving carbon (he installs solar electricity systems) AND producing less carbon. I wish there was a work horse type vehicle available in an electric option with a range greater than 200 km.

At the moment we use gas for refrigeration, I would like to change this to an electric fridge (and I dream of a freezer) but that will require double the solar panels we have now, a new set of batteries and maybe a new inverter (the thing that changes 12 Volt power to 240 Volt power).

We run our generator on petrol; it is used once a week for four hours to charge the batteries (just an extra boost) while I do the washing as the washing machine uses too much power to run on solar (although a bigger inverter would fix that problem). To get away from this fuel use we would need to either upgrade our inverter or build/buy a hand operated washing machine. I am swayed towards building a hand operated machine myself, but like all hand operated things it needs more time to do things that way. Maybe when I am finished studying….

What do you do to reduce your carbon footprint?
What else can we do to reduce ours? Ideas welcome.

Burning off; we don’t, do you?

Well it’s bushfire season again. spring would be my favourite time of year if not for bushfires. In this area most people burn around their homes before summer to protect them from bushfire, unfortunately the vast majority of bushfires start from these ‘controlled burns’ when the wind changes and the fire becomes ‘uncontrolled’. The whole argument for and against burning can get very ‘heated’, we don’t burn but we do take some steps to protect our home from fire, now and in the future.
The CSIRO is of the opinion that fire is an essential part of our ecosystem and that we need to continue the practice to maintain the bush. Most people seem to agree with the notion that the Aboriginal peoples used fire to change the landscape so we should too, but they seem to forget that fire was used as a hunting tool and to clear migration paths not as an ecological aid. Aboriginal peoples gradually changed the ecology by using fire; species that survive and even need fire gradually became more common and the ecosystem became more and more fire friendly.
 Many Australian species rely on hot fires to germinate seedlings, these same plants are usually the ones who drop lots of leaves in the spring, have very flammable bark and catch fire very quickly. Plants that have evolved to need fire for germination do everything in their power to produce the right conditions for fire (makes sense doesn’t it). Species that do not use fire to germinate tend to have more water stored in their leaves and stems, have smooth, non flammable (to a degree) trunks and stems and do not catch fire easily.

My reasoning for not burning is that species who don’t use fire and are not so flammable can find a haven here, around our humpy (at a distance of about 30 metres), and will slow the speed of fires advancing on our home simply by being less flammable. We don’t need to plant them, we just provide the right conditions for them to germinate (I hope). Instead of burning I choose to graze the area immediately around the humpy with sheep. The sheep clear the long, dry grass, the smaller eucalypt saplings and the lantana (slowly) and keep the area fairly bare. We also have a huge clean up every fire season to get rid of any rubbish we have lying on the ground that may provide a place for sparks to ignite. By rubbish I mean household rubbish not tree heads and such. We are gradually working to clear several piles of tree heads within the 30 metre radius of the humpy, we use them as hugelkultur material and firewood, we clear slowly so as to not kill or immediately dehome the little animals that have taken up residence in them since they were pushed up about ten years ago.

You can see how bare the ground is around the humpy

Our humpy is in a terrible position when it comes to fire danger; in a saddle at the top of a hill, a fire can come at us from any direction and be traveling uphill (and therefore faster) and the humpy itself has lots of nooks and crannies that would be spark friendly. Still we are working to correct these things and we haven’t had a fire here in the six years of our residence. We may be lucky enough to make our home fire proof enough to survive the next big fire season; as long as it’s not this year.
Do you burn off around your property? Do you feel safe from fires?

Its Spring, get outside

I love being outside; the sound of life busily happening all around me, the smell of flowers, hot earth and animals (even poop), watching animals and plants doing what they do and the feel of the sun and wind on my skin. At this time of year, if you live in a humpy, there is a lot to do outside which apparently keeps me healthy and will prolong my life.

This clip just confirms what I knew all along. I bet you did too.