June 18: midwinter gathering

2016/06/18 deej 0

It’s not quite midwinter yet – the solstice is officially a few days off – but we’re very close to the longest night of the year. It’s dark in the morning when I get up, and the sun sets remarkably early. But winter isn’t quite the same here as it is in Europe; in WA, winter is the season of growth and fertility. Summer is when things die and hibernate to survive through the heat. So in spite of the cold nights, and the periodic rain (more than average so far this winter!), I like winter.

 

I like the cold, clear nights when the stars look like holes in the sky and the air smells of wood smoke. I like the cosy mornings cuddled under the covers. I like the way seedlings poke their baby leaves out of the ground in search of sunlight and rain. I like sitting beside a roaring bonfire (or at least a pleasantly warm and fierce campfire) with friends and family, toasting marshmallows and drinking wine and sharing stories. So tonight, I’m having some of my friends and family round for a bonfire night, to celebrate the middle of winter and the successes of the year so far. We’ve had a kangaroo tagine cooking all day, and we have potatoes (somewhat pre-cooked, since last time it took ages for them to cook properly) prepared to roast in the coals of the fire, and marshmallows ready to go. We have a spice and orange juice mix for mulled wine, and an enormous pile of dead wood to warm us through the evening.

 

The rest of the day has been busy – the silkie eggs in the incubator have started hatching, so we’re keeping an eye on them. There’s lots more wood to drag around to the wood pile, although we’ve dragged a LOT already today. All the jacaranda and wattle tree seedlings have been transplanted from paper seed cups to individual tree tubes (we did the wattles yesterday, today was the jacarandas). The pieces of tree for the cat climbing toys are varnished and dry, ready to come inside. We have another chicken coop to finish wiring up, for the last lot of chicks, my pretty gold laced and gold laced blue wyandottes (who are now getting too big for the baby run, and need some space of their own), and a vegetable garden to sort out. Farm tasks are never-ending. Still, tonight we rest, and celebrate. 🙂

if not you..

2016/01/18 deej 0

This weekend just passed, I attended an event called GenghisCon. It’s a small science fiction / speculative fantasy & gaming convention, which runs every year in Perth. It’s run every year for the last 15 years, which is a pretty impressive run for something which gets no funding or support from any corporate or government body. Every year the committee (elected at the previous convention) does fundraising to make sure there’s enough money to pay for the venue and insurance, and organises a program of events to run at the convention, including discussion panels (on anything and everything from how to be a better fiction writer yourself, to what the state of tech is on electric cars at the moment, discussions of the various iterations of Doctor Who to conversations about the future of love and marriage in a changing world), craft and art workshops (e.g. book binding), boardgames and table-top role playing games, and live action games and events (this year we had a water fight, a beginner parkour workshop, and a live action World of Darkness game, amongst other things).

I feel a particular connection with this convention, and the community of people who attend it, because 15 years ago I was the driving force in starting it. I wanted an event like it to exist, and so I gathered some friends together, did some crazy fundraising and networking, and ran the very first GenghisCon.

I did it because I didn’t know it should be hard to do, and people who probably did know and might have told me so instead encouraged me to try. And it really wasn’t that hard; I had the good luck to already know a lot of good people who provided a huge amount of support and help along the way, and there was probably an element of being in the right place at the right time, but the one real hurdle was that first decision, to try. Which makes me think that the same is probably true in any endeavour. Not everything you try will succeed and keep going for 15 years, but the most significant challenge we face is not the possibility of failure, it is the failure to start.

This is something that entrepreneurs and business coaches have been saying for years. But I think they don’t say it in a way that is universally accessible; what they should say is, you may not know exactly where you want to end up, but if you have an idea, often that’s enough. You might not know yet how you’re going to save the world, but – try anyway! Do it, because most people never do, and that means that most of those ideas never get tested, never turn into thriving communities or successful businesses or pieces of technology which improve people’s lives. Do it, because if you can see a thing that doesn’t exist yet, a gap which you want filled, you’re already ahead. Do it, because if not you, who?

I guess it’s basically an existentialist approach to life. I believe that you can change the world, if you’re prepared to put the effort in to do so. I believe that meaning is something we create, not something that exists apart from us, and that happiness is something you do, not something that happens to you. So I create meaning by working out what’s important to me and doing that, and (hopefully) making opportunities for other like-minded people to do the same.

Sometimes that means playing games like ‘statues’ and ‘spotlight’ (‘sneaking parctice’ and ‘advanced sneaking practice’) at GenghisCon, giving other adults the opportunity to play and run around and be silly like we all did as kids. Or attending the Less is More festival and running a talk or workshop there, or going to the movie nights at Ecoburbia. Building and participating in community, because that makes me happy. Sometimes it means trying to build a working permaculture farm / orchard / forest, learning how to produce food in an ecologically sustainable manner and trying to share that knowledge with other people. And sometimes it means sitting at home and playing with my cats and reading, or writing stories. Because that, too, is part of my meaning, and makes me happy.

TL;DR: I love that I’ve helped create such a vibrant and fun community. I want to do it more. I may have to think up some plans.

supper club

2015/08/04 deej 0

the aptly named 'Dinner', roastedI haven’t posted much about plants or animals recently, which is mostly because it’s winter and cold and nothing much is growing. And most of my attention is on the house-building project.

The chickens are moulting, and so laying fairly sporadically. The quail are still laying, although one of them got sick and we had to euthanise her. We ate her afterwards because (a) I feel that eating the carcase shows respect tot he animal, and not eating it is wasteful and disrespectful, and (b) the illness was a beak disorder, so there was no health risk to us. We also killed and roasted one of mum’s chickens, which had stopped laying. She was a little tough, but very tasty.

The garden is green and happy, and the citrus are fruiting massively, but that’s about it. The olives I put up in autumn are fermenting away (the quick processed ones are ready for eating, and we’ve eaten some of them). We made some calamondin and raspberry jam (which is delicious) and also a calamondin and blackberry variant (also delicious). And there’s been more use of limes and lime juice in our cooking (I made lime jelly on the weekend, to top a lime and blueberry cheesecake), and a certain amount of grapefruit juice consumed.

Which brings me to my point, actually. It’s winter; it’s cold and wet, and when the weather is cold and wet the eye turns to food. Pies and puddings and jam and cocktail syrups (we have a lot of citrus, and I don’t really care for marmalade) and overly fancy dishes inspired by watching Masterchef.

things I want to try making: passionfruit sphere and coconut granita with pineapple

Normally I don’t watch TV. I have so many things in my life that any time I have spare I either read a book or watch something without adverts in it (hello internet! Have I mentioned how much I love you?), or put some time into one of my hobbies, or play with my cats. But there was a lazy dinner evening of buying fish & chips, and in the fish & chips shop there was a TV playing an episode of Masterchef, and then we had to watch the rest of the episode later for closure, and then we were hooked. Also, the show (and most of the recipes used on it) are available free online from channel ten.

things I want to try making: liquid butternut gnocchiPartly as a result of the show, I’ve started a little supper club. A group of us have agreed that we’ll have shared multi-course dinner parties every couple’ve months – we’ll do a degustation style meal with lots of smallish courses and each member of the club will make one of the courses for each dinner. We’ll rotate who does which course so we all have a chance to do appetisers and mains and desserts and everything in between. The idea is to make fancy dinner parties a bit more affordable to hold, and more fun because the effort is shared, and also to put some time aside to catch up with people more often and maintain those social networks which are so essential to us. I’m really looking forward to the first dinner party (scheduled for October, after we’re completely moved into the new house). (Which, by the way, is almost finished! It’s on site, the electrics are connected, verandahs are being built this week, and it looks amazing.)