Workshops fire up passion for this solitary life

12 June 2013
I've been thinking a lot about the recent workshops I've presented along with Hanno and Tricia and if I had to come up with one word to describe my feelings about the workshops, it's motivating. After both the Lockyer Valley workshop and the Blackheath workshop, I came away motivated and sure that what we're doing here it right for us, right for our community and a small step in the right direction towards repairing some of the environmental damage we've done in the past. I doubt we'll ever make up for our share of the damage our indiscriminate shopping has done but I swear I'll never stop trying to. I also felt a recommitment to the way we live after both workshops because of the people I spoke with and knowing that we'll all working in a similar way towards shared goals.


The two workshops were very different. Lockyer Valley was organised by a strong community group, originally formed to help oppose a gas pipeline snaking through the small communities in their valley. I'm very pleased to report that the pipeline didn't go ahead. The Lockyer Valley is a beautiful area just west of Brisbane that has a strong tradition of fresh food production. But now many of the primary producers are going out of business or moving to other work when it's available. Often it isn't. The workshop brought those people together to share ideas that may be beneficial for all of them and encouraged talks about a way forward. The group applied to the local council for a grant to pay for the workshops.

We held a community forum at the end of the workshop to create a list of actions to take into the future. There is a possibility they'll form a small simple living group and share ideas and skills. Carol Stephens, who leads the group, told me that many farmers are frugal by necessity rather than choice and they're in that situation when the general cost of living is rising. It makes life difficult. Carol said the pressures of falling commodity prices despite the rising cost of food in the supermarkets, rising production costs and increasingly unpredictable weather patterns all contribute to make primary production dangerously unsustainable. Farmers and family farms have always been the backbone of Australia and now that network of farmers is fragile.

One thing we can all do to help our farmers is to insist on buying Australian fruit, vegetables and meat. If you can travel out into these small rural communities on a weekend, stay, buy fresh produce there and that money will stay in the community. It's a small gesture but our farmers need our support and it is worth doing. We should also be asking our local members of parliament to address the problem of unclear food labelling in Australia. I want to see food labels that clearly indicate what has been produced in Australia and what is Australian owned. What is so difficult about that? A label that tells me a product has been processed in Australia from imported ingredients doesn't tell me anything. The government must do something about labelling now that benefits our farmers and the consumer, not the multi-national corporations that are filling more and more of our food shelves.


The more recent Blackheath workshop was full of people who were committed to living simply and who wanted to meet like-minded people. I organised that one and participants paid a fee to attend. I talked about various aspects of simple living, how Hanno and I work to save water, electricity and money, how we pay our bills and try to cut down on what we can. All of us want to live well on less and this little hall was a good place to talk about how we all try to do that. There was a calm and friendly atmosphere at Blackheath - similar to friends at a picnic. When I sat with those knitters, there was no other place I would have preferred to be. We shared recipes, stories and our hopes and, I think, we all thoroughly enjoyed the contact with others who share a similar outlook on life. I know I certainly did.

So when I drove back home from those workshops - both of them a long way from home, I had a chance to think about that time I spent out in those communities. And I have to tell you I came home feeling really motivated and inspired to keep going, keep blogging about what we're doing and keep writing about what this simple life is all about. Because it's different for each of us, there is no must-use recipe, there is no right way. These workshops are important and I must try to do more of them. They show me, as well as everyone who comes along to them, just how diverse, empowering and enriching simple life can be. And when we're all working alone in our homes far away from anyone who understands what we're doing and why we're doing it, the fond memory of those connections we made with like-minded people will see us through.

I'm going to start writing a new book soon and so I'm hoping to fit a few workshops in before that. There has been interest in Lismore and Brisbane so they may be possibilities. I also think Orange, Wagga, Canberra or Mudgee, as well as Dalby and Warwick in south-west Queensland might also be possible. If you're interested in attending a workshop, and you think others in your region may be interested, please let me know.

Below is the program of talks I'll be giving at the Sunshine Coast Libraries soon. The talks are free but you have to book. You can do that here.


Title
Date
Time
End Time
Library
Registered
Max
Living simply
living smart
9/07/2013
10:00 AM
11:30 AM
Coolum Library
14
25
Living simply
living smart
10/07/2013
10:00 AM
11:30 AM
Nambour Library
25
35
Living simply
living smart
11/07/2013
10:00 AM
11:30 AM
Maleny Library
14
40
Living simply
living smart
17/07/2013
10:00 AM
11:30 AM
Cooroy Library
15
40
Living simply
living smart
26/07/2013
10:00 AM
11:30 AM
Kawana Library
13
25
Living simply
living smart
31/07/2013
2:00 PM
3:30 PM
Beerwah Library
12
30
Living simply
living smart
2/08/2013
10:00 AM
11:30 AM
Maroochydore Library
19
40
Living simply
living smart
6/08/2013
10:00 AM
11:30 AM
Caloundra Library
32
40
Living simply
living smart
15/08/2013
1:00 PM
2:30 PM
Noosa Library
20
55

Additional Reading
Report on food labelling law and policy (Australia).