28 May 2012

Building our communities

When we first decided to become home bodies and to make and mend as much as we could, I thought we'd be leading a quiet life and the longer we did it, the fewer opportunities we'd have to go out and connect with others. At the very beginning it seemed like a solitary life, just Hanno and I, working away on our various projects, with visits from family and friends to add interest on occasional days. But as the years have crawled along, that is not how it panned out. We now have more friends than we ever had, we are taken up with this and that, and we fully understand now, that most important of details - we are a part of our community.

I didn't get that part of simple life when I started on my journey. We all know that the products we choose to buy are not those that are commonly sought after and so we'll never see them advertised on TV or hear about them on the radio. No, the things we deal in, the natural products of the region, we find out about them from our community. Now I know that without my community I don't know where the heirloom chooks are being sold at auction, I have no idea where to buy heirloom seeds and seedlings, I don't have a clue where the raw milk and honey is and I have no community to fall back on when things aren't going as well as they might. Our community is the human element of the place we live; it's the knowledge bank for all things local, it's the connection to the history of here and it's part of way forward to the future.

Community is important, not only to find what we need in our homes and backyards but in the sense of belonging to a place. We're lucky here. We live in an area where people barter, there are co-ops and primary producers, and a feeling that the community exists for and because of its people, not just because a town happens to be there.

Of course, there are online communities, and I am proud to be part of our community here and at the Down to Earth Forum. My online friends are a constant reminder to me and Hanno and that we might be working here in our small patch but we're also connected to people doing a similar thing in cities and towns all over the world. Some of us are here because we haven't found a local community where we live, and there are towns that have not developed their own communities.

Communities are a bit like children, they need someone to take the lead. They need that person to step up, wave their hankie and shout: Woohoo, we're over here, we need you to be here with us!

A couple of weeks ago I was contacted by a woman out west who waved her hankie wrote to ask if I would consider doing a workshop in her town. She and her friends have bought the old local hall and are using part as a vintage themed cafe. They want to use the back for workshops and a space for community bartering. I phoned her, we talked about it and I said that I'd happily come out and do a day-long workshop. I hope it will give them a good start on their business and the workshops they hope to run. It might also be the start of a community of like-minded souls who get together and discover each other and the interests they share. That's all it takes - the initial connection and the determination to keep the group working together.

This workshop will be at Bell in south west Queensland on Saturday 23 June. It will cost $40 each, which will include morning tea and lunch. The red and white sign above is on the flyer advertising the event - it's handmade, to reflect all that will happen on that day. We'll be talking about simple life, making and water-bathing jam and relish and making laundry liquid. Everyone who comes along will take some home, so if you're coming, bring jars with you and some things to barter. The women who own the hall will serve a delicious home made morning tea and lunch and I'm sure we will all have a great day out. I know there will be friendships made and a lot of talking, and not just by me. Let me know (rhondahetzel@gmail.com) if you're interested and I'll get back to you with the details and booking information.

I'd love to know about your local community. If it's a strong part of your local life, what makes it so special? Or are you in one of those places that hasn't developed a sense of community yet?  

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