Monday, February 28, 2011

Feb 28th

What did I do tonight?
Well, I had lovely plans all laid out.
Ben was out for the night, so it was just me, the cat, red wine and the file server.

There's about a billion movies on that thing.  Some of which I imagine Ben would rather pull individual leg hairs out over a 90 minutes period, rather sit though some of them... so I saw it as my womanly duty to tick them off the list.  So, movie, red wine, chocolate and pizza was all within reach.  First stop, check in on my virtual community before unplugging for the night.

10 minutes in and I saw this status update:
Lani: "Eating my protein"
There was already four posts before I entered the discussion.  Which went like this:
Pip: Ummmmmm....
Lani: Not my own if that's what you mean Pip
Pip: errrrr, ummmm, I don't wanna say it - it's wude!
Lani: Or Steve's.  I'm lost after that.
Of course, my imagination was already off on a wonderful adventure, when I added this:
Jo: Yeah, I have to admit, my filthy imagination went wandering too. ESPECIALLY when you admitted to it not being yours! *laugh*

And so the evening was set!
So much hilarity, that it's three hours later and the bantering has only just finished after 128 posts, with three main contributors - the other two perpetrators listed above.  I'm sure when Lani posted the simple, innocent post of 'eating my protein', she had no idea her two friends with too much time and filthy imaginations on their hands, would orchestrate such an elaborate dance of innuendo!  But oh, what fun we had.  At one point, I was crying so much from laughter that I could no longer see the screen.

A friend of Lani's illuminated her presence a few hours in and shared how she was grateful for the giggle after a long day at the office.  What a wonderful gift to give!  Laughter truly is medicine for the soul, don't you think?  

So today I am grateful once again for my friends.  For the lightness they bring into my life.  And for the gift of laughter created in others.  Feng Shui principles say laughter and loud music chase away the darkness from the corners of your house.  I believe they also chase away the darkness from the corners of your mind and soul.  So, laugh loudly and laugh with abandon.  And where possible, make it contagious!

(A little more from our mammoth conversation, but by no means the end of it! *laugh*)


Okay, I know I don't post comments, but this one really resonated and is quite topical, so I wanted to share.  Received today in response to this post:

"You can also be grateful for the fact that conversations like these will be just as easy when you move. Facebook doesn't have a postcode"
Thank you.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Feb 27th

She said yes.
Oh my goodness, the butterflies.  
All through breakfast and just driving out there today, never mind after hearing she'd accepted our offer!

We got an SMS from the agent this morning confirming our request for a second viewing today.  So after a leisurely breakfast, we headed back out to High Street (just off Chapel *laugh* - no really!) at 11am.  We were met at the gate by the agent - only to be rushed at by the vendor with a huge bag filled with pears from the neighbour's tree!  After seeing them safely tucked away in the car (preceded by many profuse thank yous on our part), the vendor quietly vanished and our attention turned back to the agent.

"The vendor indicated to me from the beginning and all the way through, that she wanted $XXXK(an amount $10K less than her asking but still $5K more than our offer).  But after meeting the three of you yesterday and seeing how much you loved and appreciated the gardens and trees, she's accepted your offer".

I was giddy.  I didn't quite know what to say.  I almost kissed the agent instead of Ben!
This is the first time my first offer on a property has been accepted.  And this is a pretty awesome first.  The real estate negotiation game can be tiresome at best, anxiety-inducing at worst.  There's a lot to be said for offering straight up the most you are prepared to pay for a property you love.  Nothing worse than losing a property to another buyer when you would have paid more.  Ouch.

So, where are we moving to?
A little hamlet called Fryerstown.  10kms out of Castlemaine, Victoria.
Awesome alternative culture.  Passionate eco-conscious residents.  Fabulous permaculture community.
This city also has a Steiner school and no wind.  Two pretty big drawcards for me.
Our settlement date is 20th of May.

I almost moved here just over a year ago.  The work transfer was approved.  Land was being surveyed for purchase and building.  This wee dream of mine was almost underway.  But then circumstances changed, specifically my relationship.  And all future plans were on hold while I picked up the pieces of my life.  So here I am again, with my perfect partner in all things life, love and future-related, to embark on take two *smile*.

Driving into and around town these last two days felt so familiar.
Lying on the grass at the botanical gardens (yes, I love these gardens, hence their very own link) and watching Lucy run around, it just felt like home.  I'm a country woman born and bred and having my own wee woman, it really makes me yearn for that slow pace of life again.  Castlemaine has this and so much more.

So!  Neither of us ever expected (really, even for us) to be owning the first house we viewed in our search for our tomorrow.  But here we are.  It's not perfect.  However, the things we have compromised on (land size, dam, firewood forest), we are exchanging for 30+ years of soil improvement and food forest growing.  Effectively reducing our estimated time frame of living from the land by 30 years.  And that's just brilliant.

I'm currently experiencing such mixed emotions.
But like most things in my life, when it's supposed to be, everything just falls into place, effortlessly.  And this is one of those times.  So I know we're on the right track for us.

So, now the question is - who's coming with us?

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Feb 26th

Coincidences.  Don't believe in them personally.
I was discussing the meaning of this word with Ben today on our drive out to the country.
See, he called me on using it in yesterday's blog post.  Which is fair enough, seeing as how I go on about not believing they exist (everything happens for a reason you see, nothing is 'by chance' *grin*).
I asked him to remind me of the context.

On discussing it further, I maintained that I had used it in its correct sense.  The correspondence in time of occurrence: our parents were due to be staying with us at the same time.  Rather than in the more commonly used reference - a remarkable concurrence of events without apparent causal connection.

Both are linguistically correct.  I just don't believe in the latter *wink*.

Speaking of coincidences, one may consider that one occurred today, if one believed in that sort of thing.  The two properties we were scheduled to view this afternoon were being shown to us by the same agent.  He asked us to meet him at the location of his appointment directly before ours, an open he was conducting on a wee acreage.

We turned up at 2pm on the dot, announced our arrival by introducing ourselves, then waited in the car until he was ready to go.  He asked casually as he was collecting his open sign, if we'd like to view this particularly property.  Ben looked at me, I glanced over the road towards the house and made a quick visual assessment of what I could see and thought "why not!?".  I do so adore perusing real estate.


On finding out the size of the parcel of land (less than 2 acres),  I was fairly sure this exercise was going to be purely academic, as we were seeking closer to five minimum.  But then I saw the lemon tree.  Every bough heavily laden with fruit!  I have a weakness for citrus.  I go through at least one lemon every day with my water.  

The savvy agent, seeing my delight swiftly detailed the myriad of other mature fruit trees on the property - mulberry, nectarine, peach, a variety of apple, pear - not to mention grapes and raspberry vines.  Then we saw the vegie plots.  Fewer now than there had been in the past, as the owner in her sixties, was slowing up - but evidence of the dark, rich, fertile soil remained.

My enthusiasm was growing.  The 100 year old house, with high ceilings, original fireplaces and original wooden flooring contained three tiny bedrooms and a tacked on kitchen.  Perfect for just now, with lots of materials to recycle for the energy efficient home we are planning.  

A semi-detached studio already in place for the home office, with two large paddocks unlandscaped and untouched (with the exception of 20 years of sheep pooing in them and turning notoriously barren and clay soil in this area into something useful!)

And the final "oh my heavens, how perfect is this spot" moment, was peering down towards the creek running along the eastern boundary.  Even dry, I could see the hours of delight and discovery that awaited small people (and their followers *smile*).  And we were told an old kangaroo often rested along this part of the creek whenever he was in the neighbourhood *melt*.

So how many boxes did this property tick?
Well, it ticked a fair few, but it created some new ones with ticks we hadn't considered before.
No existing firewood forest, but the food forest was already well underway.
Trees for wood take time to grow, as do trees for food.  But a little local discovery found that a wood collection permit would cost us $35 for enough wood to see us through a winter.  We currently spend on average, $70 per week on fruit and veg.... if we had to choose one over the other, this was a simple one.

There was no dam, spring or bore.  But some earth moving equipment would assist us with that and we know exactly where it would sit.  A large water tank is already in place, as is solar electricity.
The section is north facing and contains a gentle slope on the undeveloped half of the land.

The more I thought about the size of the land, in comparison to the other two properties we were booked to view (and another we investigated later in the day), the more I enjoyed the idea of small.  The larger sections overwhelmed me after seeing the acreage.  I've lived on a landscaped 2 acre property before, so I'm aware of the work required - it wasn't a naive or unthoughtful requirement.  Most was planned as a firewood forest and only a small amount as cleared for growing food and living.  So, it was an achievable goal for one family.

But seeing how this section was currently utilised - the intensive fruit tree planting and vegie plots all so close to the dwelling, to one half of the land.  The chook sheds and bare paddocks making up the remainder - it was all so well planned!

So, after sitting on it for the afternoon and doing our pros and cons whilst wandering around the public gardens for a couple of hours, we made an offer.
Our maximum limit.  And advised the agent as such.
$15K less than her asking.
But we did notice that the section 32 was signed in November last year and prior to that, it was listed with another agent for $5K more than she's asking now.  So perhaps she's flexible.
We also know she's paid up in town on another property and is ready to go.
We're offering a 45 day settlement, which tends to be very attractive for folks in a hurry.

Time will tell.
So no, I don't believe in coincidences in this sense of the word.
But I do believe in being in the right place at the right time and the universe working in alignment with you to help you achieve that which makes your heart sing.
In saying that - a little whisper of luck never went astray, so if you feel so moved.... we'd be mighty grateful *smile*.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Feb 25th

Today I feel grateful to live in the "lucky country".
Because today I found out my Dad is coming over for work.
Economy in 'lil ole NZ is not looking so flash at the moment and shameful as it is to admit, I'm kinda happy about that right now.  Cos it means I get to spend some time with my Pa.

He'll be here in a couple of weeks - work is lined up already (which flabbergastered the pants off me - it happened in the space of about an hour!).  Coincidentally, Ben's Mum will be joining us in a week!  So, we're about to get a houseful!  I'm really quite excited.

It's a good thing we have a tendency to purchase 'beds for two' over 'beds for one', and our sofa choices tend to include the option of a fold out bed.  So as far as sleeping spaces go - we're covered.  Linen is another thing altogether however.  But oh how I love online auctions *smile*.

This song is on continuous repeat in my head at the moment.
Most likely due to the fact it's being played in the car every time I'm in there.
I adore this song.  It so accurately describes how Ben's love makes me feel *blush*.
Ben Lee's entire album Ripe is magnificent actually.  It was gifted to me by my gorgeous woman Sazz, as payment in kind for a consultation I provided her.  She said to me, everytime she heard the song 'Hungry', she thought of Ben and me and as a result, finds it a little hard to hear the song now, without her imagination taking her to a place that kinda makes her more than a little uncomfortable *grin*.

 This album is so different to his previous albums.  I love how you can track the personal journey of a person based on their emotional (and in this case, artistic) expression.  He's so in love in this album - the early days, the infatuation days.  It's just lovely to listen to *smile*.

And just on a totally cute final note....
These are absolute staples in the family album, right?
Babe in mama's shoes? *smile*

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Feb 24th

Today I'm grateful for the simple things.

A car to take me to work when I sleep too late to catch the train.
A cafe downstairs from work to cook me lunch when I don't leave enough time to prepare myself food in the morning.


The delicate flavour of elderflower mixed in with bubbly water, to sweeten my palate and tickle my nose *smile*.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Feb 23rd

A trip to the country!
And what a magnificent day for it!

Actually, I must admit, as we were driving through the idyllic countryside, with blue skies above and green, green grass racing past, the smell of the sweet air filling the car, I did say to Ben "Jeez, I wish it was raining and overcast!  Then I might not be falling so much in love with this area"

We decided, if we really are serious about fulfilling our dream, we better see how it tastes and feels.  We had made an appointment with an agent to visit one of the properties we liked the look of online a few days ago, and today was the day to visit.  The agent was 35 minutes late, which gave us some wonderful time alone to wander the land and fantasize.  Our imagination ran wild.

The property and location ticked all boxes bar one:
Minimum land size of 5 acres.
Gentle slope.
Water source.
North facing.
Small dwelling.
Within our budget. 
Good available house position.
Mix of cleared land and wooded bush.
Within traveling distance to current paid employment.
Short distance to town.
Good rainfall.
 Soil - not clay or sand.
Access to immediate community (of our particular flavour).

The box it didn't tick was:
No train access within a 10 minute drive.  To get to the train traveling into Melbourne, is a 35 minute drive.  And no, that doesn't seem *that* much - but when your five year old child has already spent nearly 2 hours on a train to reach her second home....  You know when you get to the end of the train ride, you just wanna be there!  Not spend another half an hour in the car.  You know?

The other reason the train is so important, is because train traveling time can be quality time together.  We can chat, read, play.  I can focus on her - rather than on the road.  And the train ride in to pick her up will be a fabulous time to read or work.  Then, when she's older (if still living with her Dad), she will be able to make the trip on her own.  Yes, I've thought a lot about this *smile*.

Lucy is the number one reason I haven't made this move happen before now.  I couldn't get my head around the shared care logistics, living so far away.  It seemed like a choice between living the lifestyle I have dreamed of for many years or regular time with my child.

I have spent quite a few hours recently, talking and talking and talking about this very issue.  As the way it goes, talking has helped clarify and delineate the problem and as a result, yielded solutions to consider.  The one thing all this talking has done, is shown me the impact my heart feels when I spend time pondering these plans.  Gosh.  If I were in any doubt the place my heart yearns for, I don't any longer.

There is of course, more than just easy visits with Lucy I will be relinquishing.  It's easy visits with my women here that I will also be sacrificing - and that hurts like a bastard.  The community I am a part of here is so wonderful.  The sisterhood is so strong.  Leaving this circle was the other very large prohibiting factor in making this decision.

But if there is one thing I know, that is there is no guarantee the people around you will forever stay around you.  Jobs are offered, relationships change, opportunities arise.  And if you ignore your heart's calling, you may find one day you will live to regret taking the risk.  The risk of the heart is the hardest of all.

So, we decided to kiss this property goodbye and will be meeting two new properties this Saturday.
At first glimpse, they do not appear to tick all the boxes listed above, but they are within 10 minutes drive of the train line and that's a good start *smile*.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Feb 22nd

Today was such a rollercoaster of emotions.
Another day at home, so as not to potentially infect any co-workers.
With thoughts of my 2pm engagement quietly surfacing every few minutes, as if I needed the reminder

Bidding Damian farewell in a formalised ritual was very nourishing for me.
To gather in the presence of people he loved and who clearly adored him, was heart warming.
The tear-stained cheeks, the red eyes, the brave smiles.  The long embraces, the hands held tight, the gentle, aching sounds of mourning.  I felt privileged to be present, to be a part of his circle of loved ones, in saying my own farewell.

There was a wonderfully large presence of work colleagues.  I felt so thankful for that.  For his mother to see the number of people in his daily life that cared for him.  And if helpful at all, to also see how many people in his daily life that cared for him, who also had no indication of the heartache Damian was experiencing.  I couldn't even begin to imagine how she was feeling, what she was experiencing, how she remained so together.  I sent prayer after prayer to her throughout the service.

On my way home from the funeral, I received notification of the earthquake that had struck Christchurch.  It was turning out to be quite a surreal day.  My heart was relieved to discover my brother was safe - thrown around like a rag doll - but safe.  A phone call to another family member revealed the other five members of my family living in Christchurch were also alive, but not so well.  Their home and their business were destroyed.  As was a little of their spirit.  

(pics courtesy of the NZ herald)

Such devastation.

But then it was time to replace one bag -

for another.  *deep exhale*

Dinner with my friend Georgia has become a bit of a thing.  A fabulous, soul-singing, fill-your-cup-up kinda thing.  I have mentioned before how much I adore this woman's company.  She is fantastically spontaneous and she makes me laugh uproariously (much, to my most recent discovery, her husband's bafflement and hysterical amusement!).  I can bare my soul with this woman and feel as safe as houses.  And as a result of course, I do.  Our conversations are without boundaries, authentically raw, never elusive and tremendously full of love, laughter, respect and kindness.  I wish for everyone to have a Georgia in their life.  

Thank you sweet woman.  For your friendship, I am eternally grateful *kiss*

Monday, February 21, 2011

Feb 21st

When you quarantine yourself due to a suspected viral infection, to avoid a chance meet up with any pregnant women, life tends to be a little less exciting.
A day spent in bed, at the doctors or on the sofa constitutes a day not incredibly noteworthy.

I am however, looking forward to more exciting plans later in the week.
 I have a dinner date tomorrow night, a welcome lightness after the funeral I will be attending during the day.
And Wednesday will see a day in the country perusing dreams of property, followed by an evening of hands-on craftin' goodness.

But for now, more re-runs of Alias.  Season three.  Yippee!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Feb 20th

So, the wide open spaces are calling me once again.
I have dreamed for years now, of living as much "off grid" as possible.
Energy efficient home, solar heating, passive cooling, catching our own water, growing our own food.  Not a particularly original dream I know.  But one very deeply ingrained in my heart. 

One bedroom cottage on 12 acres, with bore and well.  20 minutes to town.

I want it both for the footprint minimisation ideal and also for the sustainability angle.  Basics such as food, electricity, water, fuel, gas are all becoming more expensive.  The current centralisation of our services is not supportive of us choosing options to take care of ourselves - to reduce our footprint, reduce our costs.  We use less of the utilities, which generates less income for centralised services, therefore they charge more to be able to continue providing the service.  This will only continue spiraling upwards.  Oh and of course, there is the whole "living surrounded by beauty" bonus too *smile*.

Inside outside space of cottage above.  Yes, that's a stone bath *sigh*

 My desire has always been, to find good, fertile land, with a small or run down dwelling on site.  Something that is liveable now, but something we won't be too heart broken to pull down (or allocate to guest quarters, if not currently resting on the most prime house position), while we build our house of straw and mud.

But most properties that I see available on good parcels of land, already contain a sprawling, lavish 5 bedroom property, complete with 6 car garaging, a pool and spa and 7 huge sheds (machinery included if you like).  Undesirable, because 10 times out of 10, the house is constructed without thought for the environment in which it has been built, nor the principles we want to employ in the construction of a home suitable for the erratic Australian climate.  And there's not much point in paying for something that isn't what you need or want and won't be anything that you'll use.

 2 bedroom house on 5 acres.  Mix of cleared pasture, mature fruit trees and bush.  2 dams and a shed.  10 minutes to town.

Yesterday we committed to a change in our lives that we have been umming and ahhhing over for more than a year now.  And with these new thoughts in mind for our future, the idea of land bubbling to the surface again is unsurprising.  We both wanted the plan of living sustainably off grid independently, before we joined our lives.  So it's an easy and very exciting next step *smile*.

One of the two dams of house above.  How magic is this space?!

The very first postcode search bought up these two properties.  Both meeting the criteria of land with small dwelling.  I couldn't quite believe my eyes!  Both within commuting distance for me for work (a change of office, but the same company, as my employer is Australian-wide).  For Ben, more thought is needed.  Either the option to work from home as he has done before, or a complete change of scenery perhaps.  A few things to consider.  And yes, there is Lucy.  Thoughts are in place, a few options to propose.  But that's the thing with life - you never know what's going to happen tomorrow...

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Feb 19th

We spent a wonderful afternoon with a gorgeous family today!
A barbecue lunch, followed by delish cheesecake then a wild and windy walk along the beach.  It was just wonderful.

O and Lu, whilst the same age, possess very different temperaments.
Lu is very standoffish and protective of her space.  O is extremely affectionate and playful.  The mix can be volatile! 

But with some careful management (like half a picture to paint each), his mother and I were utterly surprised to see them hand in hand, walking to the beach *smile*.  In fact, it must just be the energy of this family, as Lu found herself very much at home and comfortable walking hand in hand, while Ben and I trailed behind.

The bay was the most ferocious I had seen it today!  The water looked incredible in those few moments when the sun peeked out from behind the storm clouds, sending sparkles for miles.

I love a good storm!  I love the energy of the wind when it whips around me and watching a low tide crashing and smashing so close is so invigorating.  I grew up right next to the ocean, it was a part of my daily life throughout childhood.  I find it calms my mind and brings me clarity when answers to big decisions are just out of reach.  The combination today of enlightening conversation, blustery winds and water splashing around my ankles helped relieve my mind of a flip-flop decision, one that had been bouncing around in my head for more than a year.

I've decided to make a decision and stick with it.  Good thoughts or bad.  I'm done with indecisiveness.  I'm done with life on hold.  Feel the fear and do it anyway.
Now, to get the man back on board *smile*.  What do you think my chances are?


Friday, February 18, 2011

Feb 18th

 Fridays see me finishing work at 2pm, to be home in time for my button's arrival at 3pm.  One of the highlights of my week *smile*.  I miss her so desperately much.  We spend the first few minutes just wrapped in each other's arms kissing, giggling and snuggling.  And then we play!

I'm not great with creativity, imagination games.  I try where possible, to get her to take the lead and inform me of my role (which she's getting rather good at, all that bossing most certainly comes from her maternal side).  But I do so enjoy creating the props for her play.  These were pulled out today...

They were made a wee while ago and I enjoy playing with them as much as Lu does *smile*.
I have a book on knitting a farmyard and I'm slowly working my way through it.  I hope to have a whole paddock full of geese, chickens, pigs, dogs, sheep, cows and donkeys made by the time the grandbabies are old enough to be playing with them *laugh*.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Feb 17th

Gosh, I was absent today!
Arrived at work 20 minutes early, but didn't log into my phone until ten minutes after I was supposed to.  And I didn't even realise I had the timing wrong, until I heard people taking calls when I had just commenced start up.  And I was actually confused for about 10 seconds!

I used the incorrect phone mode at least twice.  
Received a death notification from a customer's wife - a man who passed away today.  As she was barely containing her tears, I was barely containing my own.  Then spent 30 minutes in aftercall work, taking time out with a colleague, officially annihilating my statistics for the settlement period in one swoop.

I was yawning throughout calls and just feeling out and out vague.  Most likely due to the lack of sleep the last week.  And, yes, while wine helps me to get to a place where I can eventually fall asleep, it does make it ten times harder dragging my arse out of bed come six am.

So tonight, I wanted a change of scenery.
Time out of the house and buried in escapism.

The only film on after 6pm and before 9pm was 'No Strings Attached'.
As a rule, I tend to avoid these kinds of films.  Connection without commitment.  Intimacy emptiness masquerading as the ultimate in modern day relationships.  Like it's something to aspire to.  The solution to meeting physical needs while protecting emotional vulnerability.  Pfft.  As if *that's* the way to soul-tingling fulfillment and giddying emotional authenticity!

So, it wasn't actually bad.  The film.
I laughed, a lot.  Which was very much needed.
I enjoyed the injection of current dayisms... carbon footprint references, 'friending' someone without actually mentioning fb (because it is so part of our vernacular, even unspoken it's still understood).  Quite a bit of smut talk, which I always enjoy.  I particularly like the mix tape he made her.  Very sweet.

So, gratuity kudos today?
~ Immediate funds at the push of five buttons, availing $150 to forget the world for a few hours
~ Inane Hollywood entertainment that you can't help but laugh at
~ Unconditionally lovin' company that still sits next to you, holding your hand, even when you're in a mood that makes a cyclone look like a gentle breeze.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Feb 16th

I woke up at 8am this morning (have I mentioned I love my Wednesdays?) after a 2.30am bedtime the night/morning before.  It's not that I'm having trouble sleeping, but I'm avoiding going to bed for some reason.  

I was trawling through old photos and talking to colleagues online.
Still so many unanswered questions, so much talking to do and much listening, supporting still needed.
This morning involved much of the same, conversation-wise.  Some questions answered - information shared that is never pleasant to learn, but helpful in the healing process nonetheless.
And then it was time to close the lid and make contact, flesh to flesh.

I visited a wonderful woman today.  A woman I met online more than a year ago and have caught up with in person on a few occasions since then.  I thoroughly enjoy this woman's company.  Easy, relaxing, funny and stimulating.  Her wee button is two months off two and has the most raucous giggle I've ever heard from a child - I find her very delightful!  After two and a half hours of conversation, three baskets of folded washing, lunch eaten, dinner prepared and a sleeping button, I was off home again with thoughts of yarn on my mind and Ben Lee crooning in my ear (absolutely LOVIN' his album Ripe - more on that another time).

I finished the second arm and then it was time for stuffin'.

The pattern recommends attaching the arms after the face and hair have been completed, as they tend to get in the way.  So, here we are.  The doll, as at today:

Oh - have you seen this book (please forgive the yarn, it's everywhere)?

Little snippets of self discovery and self lovin'.
Highly recommend.