26 April 2008

Why Simple Living?

Rhonda Jean over at Down to Earth has asked everyone to post about their simple lives, so that we might learn and be inspired by each other's stories, so I thought now might be a good time to give a bit of an overview of what we are trying to do here.

I grew up with a simple life. When I was about 7, we moved from an apartment at Kedron, Brisbane, to a 24 acre property at Dakabin.

We had chooks and ducks everywhere, and even an incubator for a while. My sister and I ran and explored and climbed trees. Until the council resumed the property, put the council rubbish dump next to it, and turned it into the local pound. No, I'm not bitter, really.

We then moved to an even more remote place, 50 acres on the Burrum River, surrounded by national park, a 7km sandy 'fire break' track our only link to the outside world. Being so far from civilisation, my sister and I qualified for distance education (homeschooling). My mum, being a teacher, embraced the lifestyle with no qualms. You can see the giant mango trees in this picture, overshadowing the house.

My mother was a huge influence on my desire for simple living. She read Grass Roots, had a vegie garden, grew pot plants to sell at the local market, and convinced my dad that we should get goats. Dad was the one who built my dollhouse, helped make the pen for said goats, and helped make our old drawer goat cart, and took us down the river (about 20 metres from our front door!) to catch tiny fish, which he would grow and sell.

From there, we moved to the property where my parents still live. My mum still had her vegie gardens and our goats, until my sister and I went to an actual school in Hervey Bay nearby.

Eventually, I finished school, and moved to Brisbane to continue my education. It was in my third year of my Psychology degree that I met DH. We were friends for many years until we fell in love and were married on the beach at Broadbeach on the Gold Coast on the 11th of January 2001.

I guess DH and I were caught up in the consumerist culture. DH had a good wage, due to 24/7 shift work, and we bought all those things that society thinks you need. Big TV, nice car... well, that's about it actually. Our favourite entertainment was driving around at night, enjoying the music and lights of the city.

We lived in a couple of different apartments in Brisbane, until we finally bought the one we were living in when it came on the market just as our lease was up. Our daughter was born there 6 months later.

And I guess that is when I began the return to simple life. Both DH and I have allergies and asthma, so I knew that to avoid this for our daughter I was going to have to work at it. I have breastfed her long term, in fact she still breastfeeds to sleep at night. We introduced solids very slowly, especially given that DH had been diagnosed as gluten intolerant a year or so earlier. I had to learn to cook everything from scratch, as most of what we were used to eating had gluten in some form in. We used cloth nappies, as I never had liked the idea of disposables.

When DD was about 1 I started a vegie garden in our small courtyard. I was totally surprised to find that I loved it. Pottering around in the garden, seeing what had grown today, and planting new seeds brought me a satisfaction and joy I hadn't expected. DH and I began to think about a house and spent hours pouring over the real estate pages. But there was very little in our price range and due to several issues I don't want to rehash, selling our unit was difficult.

But I have to admit that though I'm not religious, I do believe that things happen for a reason. If we had sold when we had first tried, we probably would have bought some little house on the outskirts of the Brisbane, or even tried renting for a few years (which could have been disastrous given the current rental market here in Brisbane). Instead, by the time our unit finally did sell, we had settled on buying a block of land on the far north outskirts of Brisbane- we were lucky enough to find this block just as our unit sold.

So here we are. Every day is a learning experience, from building a chook yard, to growing a real sized vegie garden. DH, who was born and raised in the one house in the city, is surprised to find he is really enjoying this life, even with the hard work it involves. DD is flourishing in the outdoors and dirt, and showing no sign of the allergies and asthma that plague DH and I.

We read and hear about peak oil and though we don't follow it religiously we are aware that the resources on this planet are finite and one day, be it in our lifetime or that of our children or grandchildren, they will run out. Already we are starting to feel the pinch with rising petrol prices and, I believe, soon to follow rising food prices. Growing our own food, raising our own chickens for eggs, and learning to make many of our cleaning products, household items and clothing simply makes sense. Hopefully we will be able to use the money we save (once we stop having to spend so much of it on the initial setup costs!), to pay off our mortgage faster. Eventually, we hope that I will be able to make enough with my photography to support us (without a mortgage), so that DH will either be able to quit work, or at least find a job he enjoys, rather than one that just pays the bills.

I am loving getting into crafty things again. I have always sewn and made things, but once DH and I were together, and we had plenty of money, it seemed so pointless to make things, when I could buy them for the same price, often cheaper. It was only once I discovered some wonderful forums and blogs where people talked about doing these things for the good of the world, that I began to be interested in them again. I am very fortunate to have a background in these things, so that attempting this life isn't quite so scary as it might have been. Instead, I am loving every day, and have a To Do List a mile long, because there are so many things that I want to do.


libby said...

Hi Rinelle,

I've enjoyed reading about your journey to simple living. I would love to have more land - but unlike you didn't realize this until after we had built our new home (just 2.5 years ago).


Rinelle said...

Hi Libby.

Yes, we were very fortunate to realise it before buying/building. You can do an awful lot with smaller areas of land though. I was growing some veiges in my unit courtyard, and I know some people do a lot more with small areas.