Monday, 15 August 2016

In Praise of Mrs O'Halloran

"School days, school days, dear old golden rule days." ~ School days, Cobb & Edwards 

I did learn the golden rule at school thanks to my Grade 4 teacher Mr Clancy. He also taught me the old gem, "Thirty days hath September, April, June, and November, all the rest have thirty-one except February alone which has twenty-eight and in a leap year twenty-nine.", which I still recite to myself today when trying to remember whether a month has thirty or thirty-one days.

I am also deeply grateful for the persistence shown by my Grade 11 and 12 ancient history teacher Mr Butner, in teaching his students critical thinking. I remember how stunned we students were when he asked us a question and one of the students gave the correct answer and Mr Butner said "How do you know". The student I think her name was Louise said "Because it is in the text book." And he said "Yes, but how do you know that's correct?" And many of us called out "Because it is in the text book," And round and round the conversation went in circles as he slowly brought us to see that just because something is written in a text book it doesn't mean it is correct. We discovered in those conversations that people write from opinions and sometimes ignore fact. Or an author could be writing from one angle when there are many angles to consider. Or subsequent facts might come to light that change the current version of the truth. Now when I observe people accepting what they are told or what they read without evaluating the information and asking themselves how much truth if any is contained in the information, I smile inwardly and thank Mr Butner for teaching me how to think.

But this post is in praise of my grade three teacher Mrs O' Halloran. My favourite teacher. I went to Humpybong state school on the Redcliffe Peninsula. How many of you were lucky enough to attend a primary school that was situated on the beachfront? I used to spend some recesses just staring out across the sea. Not a popular activity with my friends unfortunately, but is seemed to fill me with such a feeling of contentment and at the same time yearning.

I am not the first to  write about Mrs O'Halloran. Australian actor William McInnes also attended Humpybong primary school. He wrote about Mrs O'Halloran in his book "A man's got to have a hobby".  On page 124 of his book he describes her: "She was a tiny, round woman who wore dark glasses, and had purple- and grey-streaked hair coiffed into an immense balloon. She also had a whip for a tongue and her voice could cut through concrete". Hang on a minute, her hair was not like an immense balloon. But the rest of the description was pretty spot on. His description continues:  "Her tiny feet in her tiny high-heeled leather shoes" (I wonder how he knew they were leather?) "crackled on the floor as she strutted back and forth." Well I don't know about strutting, but she did walk about the room a lot, for an older women she had an air of vigour.  He also described her as "such a ferocious figure" and "her wail was so piercing it made quite afraid". Now before you go thinking the young William was a bit of a wuss, she did appear ferocious and yes she certainly could wail. He only had her as a substitute teacher for one day, so had no time to form any other opinion of her.

My memories of Mrs O'Halloran include the occasions when she was sitting at her desk and one of the students, usually a boy named Michael made her laugh. She would throw back her head and laugh heartily and her hands would slap her desk in delight. I also remember her showing us a place on the map called Vietnam and saying quietly and quickly that her son was over there, before moving off onto another subject. This was in the early 70's. I remember her saying Saturday was baking day, which impressed me because she worked all week and then baked on the weekend. My mother didn't work outside the home and she didn't have a baking day. I remember Mrs O'Halloran always wore a tussie mussie posy holder filled with what looked like violets. She often wore lavender hued dresses.  Perhaps she thought the colour complemented her blue eyes, or perhaps her hair colour.

After I moved on to grade 4 I discovered that some past students would during the lunch hour sneak back to their old grade three class room to visit with Mrs O'Halloran. I joined that group of students. She wasn't always in her room, but when she was we would circle her desk and chat away to her. She shushed us if we got too noisy as we were not supposed to be there. I cannot remember what we talked about. I do not know why she was so special for many of her past students. However I do know she could have been spending time with her colleagues but instead she made herself available to we children. I am grateful for her interest in us, and she seemed to sincerely enjoy spending time chatting with us.

A few years later when I was in grade 7 my teacher took a long period of leave. It was announced that for many weeks we would have Mrs O'Halloran take over the teaching of our class. Such consternation amongst my class mates who had not had her for a teacher in grade three. I felt no concern. I knew she would not tolerate bad behaviour, and that she had a sense of humour and delighted in having a good laugh. I knew she was fair. I had already learned the difference between those times she was giving and instruction that she expected to be obeyed and when she was merely expressing an opinion, though often vehemently. I respected Mrs O'Halloran very much and I am glad I was a member of her class.

Sunday, 14 August 2016

In My Garden - August 2016

"Edna turned the fiat into the driveway of Cruden Farm and was delighted by the landscape; it was a lovely pastoral setting"  ~ The Unusual Life of Edna Walling by Sara Hardy

Keyhole garden bed with composting basket in the middle, growing strawberries, lettuce, beetroot, spring onion, and hidden from sight a volunteer cherry tomato.

July turned out to be a month of contrasts. Some cold winter days and some beautiful warm days. The rain kept me indoors when I wanted to be in the garden, but I managed to get quite a bit done anyway. Don pruned all the dead leaves off the banana trees and mulched the dead leaves. This mulch is now sitting in one of my mulch/compost bays. I topped up the soil in my keyhole garden and I now have growing there spring onion, strawberries, lettuce, beetroot and a volunteer cherry tomato growing up from inside one of the blocks.  I divided one of my gerberas, so if all divided plants grow I will have three more gerberas than before. I also re-potted a lot of my potted plants into larger pots.

August began cold and wintery, but has warmed up in the last few days. Don has already this month pruned a grapefruit tree that was very much overdue for some attention. The mulberry tree is already coming into fruit. The crows discovered the lemon tree and ate the last of the lemons. I wasn't aware that birds would eat lemons.  The cumquat tree I have growing in a pot is bearing more tiny fruit while the larger fruit is still ripening.

This month I would like to plant some Cosmos in the garden if I can find seedlings of a colour I like. I really need to prune my hibiscus to allow the shoots to harden off before enrose mites emerge. Native plants that have finished flowering will also receive a haircut.

I want to do lots of mulching this month in preparation for the hotter months when I find it harder to spend lots of time in the garden. 

One of our composting systems

Tool maintenance is also on my to do list for this month.

What are you planning on doing in the garden this month?

Sunday, 7 August 2016

Bringing home the bacon and the journey to home

"The little road says go, the little house says stay: And O, it's bonny here at home…. "  ~The House and the Road by Josephine Preston Peabody

I feel my whole life has been a journey to home. From the time I started attending school the only place I really wanted to be was at home. Home is my sanctuary. It's my place of belonging, and my place of spirit and creativity.  Life's circumstances has meant for me, as it has for the vast majority that I need to earn an income. To bring home the bacon.

This is the first in a new series of posts that I will add to from time to time. I have called the series 'Bringing Home the Bacon'. I started this series as a way to comfort myself, because working outside the home I have less time to  spend following my 'soul purpose'. I will explain what I mean by soul purpose.

Do you have dreams? Something that you have yearned for, but seems to take you along a different path from everyone else in your life? Do you feel unfulfilled and have a strong intuition that if that thing you yearned for showed up in your life then you would be living your life as it was meant to be lived? That your day to day life would be an expression of yourself? That your outward life would match your inner ideals, values and vision? Soul purpose is living true to yourself,  knowing what it is that you were born to do.

An average day at home is better than a terrific day at work.

I am so grateful for the skills and gifts I have developed throughout my working life. My work over the years has shaped my perspectives and in part made me the person I am today. And the person I am today is someone I like very much.

I have been  lucky to have worked over the years in very good jobs with some good mentors. I currently work in a job that would be the ideal job of many. I have helped many, many, people and worked on interesting community projects.  However a core truth of my being is that an average day at home is better than a terrific day at work.  I want to be home working on things there but circumstances being what they are I need to be at work doing something else. This sometimes leads to me feeling that my life is fragmented.

Sometimes I can make things harder for myself than they need to be and my feeling of living a fragmented life is a perception of mind. It might be a perception shared by many, but it is still a perception.  As Shakespeare wrote "things are neither good or bad it is just our thinking makes it so."  So I am going to stop (as much as possible,) being a Mrs Complaineypants and start viewing my life as richly multifaceted rather than fragmented.

Making Haven

Before I started my blog I thought long and deeply about naming my blog "Making Haven". I knew that it wasn't a name that was exactly self-explanatory. So here is what "Making Haven" means to me.

It is firstly about my efforts to make my home a haven. So in that aspects it is about the changes we make here to create our little farmlet; how we make it a self-supporting home.

Secondly and just as importantly to me is the feeling that I am on the journey toward making a safe harbour, or reaching haven.

Thirdly as I work toward becoming more of a producer and less of a consumer in my life my home increasingly becomes a haven of making.

I don't know if the foregoing makes any real sense for others, or even grammatically but that is what it means to me.

Thursday, 4 August 2016

Let's talk resilience - Your Bioregion Part 4

"The end of the age of cheap and easy energy, the vast mountains of both private and public debt that we have incurred, and the snowballing costs of climate change impacts are all forcing us into an as-yet-undefined post-growth economic system…whether we are ready for it or not." ~ Six Foundations 

Goodbye sustainability, hello resilience.  The sustainability mantra was held together by the idea that by following the right mix of community leadership, social change and green tech solutions we could stop the effects of a changing climate and resource depletion before we crossed a certain threshold. Well there are good indications that we missed the boat on that one.

So now resilience is the idea of the moment. The resilience mantra is about reducing vulnerability whether that be to natural disasters, financial shocks, increasing wages disparity/low wage growth, supply price increases (e.g. electricity), or breakdowns in supply chains.

Consider, now, your own bio-region in terms of resilience. What is its  culture? For instance in my bio-region our present culture is dominated by a low socioeconomic demographic, as we have a significant number of aged persons and younger persons living on welfare. Additionally, wages are lower when compared to capital cities. These factors increase the vulnerability of our population.  Our educational levels attained across the population are lower than that of the capital cities. Degree educated young women head off to the cities or larger regional areas for career opportunities resulting in a young adult male population who find it harder to find partners. The area is also known for obesity, and poverty and educational levels are no doubt a contributing factor.

Like many other regions throughout Australia our manufacturing sector has lost major manufacturers over the last few decades. Like many areas without much of manufacturing sector we have high levels of unemployment.

Though we are known as a food bowl due to our large and diverse agricultural sector I was interested to see how quickly our stores ran out of supplies like bread and milk during major flood events earlier this decade. This happens too when cyclones start travelling down the coast as people rush to prepare themselves for a possible disaster.

During one of the aforementioned floods there was widespread concern throughout the community that fuel supplies would be cut off due to the Bruce Highway being cut a few hours north of us. This led to long queues at petrol stations. On one occasion during this period my husband filled up the petrol tank on one of our vehicles and filled a jerry can because he was going to mow the grass. When he went in to pay the lady at the console had a dig at him about panic buying. I wonder how many other people with acreage to mow were treated with the same suspicion? It just shows how edgy people become in extreme situations. In actuality our  fuel supplies come from down south, so the panic buying was unnecessary anyway.

Our local public transport system is basically non-existent. What about yours? If you had to, could you use public transport to travel from home to work? What about grocery shopping - how easily could you take your groceries home using public transport?

Organisations and members of the community have tried over the last decade to start a community garden in our local area but the initiatives did not take off.  There are no LETS, Time Banks, or Community Exchange Nets, operating in the region. The only cooperative is the local fruit and vegetable growers co-operative. What about where you live? Does your community have any of these types of initiatives operating?

On a more positive note we do have some good markets run throughout the region.  Markets can help build a sense of community connection and could, with the necessary support, be utilised in times of supply chain breakdowns to provide the community with food and other items.

In my opinion the people within our bioregion are very vulnerable to changes in climate, economic shocks and supply interruptions and our community is definitely not ready to transition to a post-growth economy. How resilient do you think your bio-region is? 

Tuesday, 2 August 2016

What Sherri Did - In July 2016

"Winter is the time for comfort, for good food and warmth, for the touch of a friendly hand, and for a talk beside the fire: it is the time for home." - Edith Sitwell

In General

I have been enjoying the lovely weather and the results of our winter rain. It is truly a wonderful blessing to have lovely green grass through what is normally our dry period.  I also enjoyed a lovely visit from my sister and her daughter during the month. Amongst the endless chatter we also managed to practice some algebra. This was for my niece's benefit.

What I have been reading

Aside from a novel that I managed to read during the month I have been slowly making my way through 'Hot chocolate for the Mystical Soul' by Arielle Ford. I will continue reading it through August.

What I have been watching

I have been watching  the bears at Brooks Falls. Thanks to Rhonda from Down to Earth blog for the link. If you missed it on Rhonda's blog this is the link

I enjoyed the short video on this site filming the transformation of an derelict shed to a writers nook/den 

Beyond (un)economic growth -  'How on Earth' is the title of an upcoming book from the Post Growth Institute. On their website, they have a short video  about the book. 

Best of the web

Climate catastrophe to hit the tropics sooner - and according to this article it wont' be that far away 

David Holmgren has a book release due next March. You can read about it at here

I thought these crochet button flowers were simply delightful. 

Have you seen photos of Moss Graffiti on the web? It can be a really effective outdoor element. Here is a link giving instructions on how to get it established. 

I hope July was a good month for you.