Seven months have swiftly passed since the G.O. and I moved to Taylors Arm at the beginning of summer. Now it’s winter and the dry season in northern Australia, the optimum time for setting off on our “big trip”, the one we’ve been planning for about ten years, so we’re packing away the house and packing up our caravan & ute with necessities for three, four or maybe five months on the road, and all weathers & environments.
In 2007 we managed a taster trip: a fortnight holiday flying from Sydney to Broome to Darwin to Sydney, exploring driving a hire car -as much as you can in two weeks- The Kimberley and Top End. For this upcoming trip we have given ourselves the time we envied those travellers in vans and campers we saw in caravan parks and campgrounds as we whizzed by or made overnight stops.
Our aim is to travel -as much as possible along the coast- from Taylors Arm, north up into tropical Queensland across to the Northern Territory, over to northern Western Australia, south to the bottom of Western Australia, across South Australia via the Nullabor to Portland – the most south-westerly location we got to during our Victoria roadtrip in March this year.
After which we’ll figure out how to get home… route TBA dependent on time, money and travel ennui-enthusiasm.
I’ll be in touch… posting updates and visiting the blogging community as much as possible. For glimpses of our travels you can see my Instagram snapshots on the right and if you are an Instagrammer, you can find me at daleleelife101, and the G.O. at welshy055.
A journey is a person in itself; no two are alike. And all plans, safeguards, policing, and coercion are fruitless. We find that after years of struggle that we do not take a trip; a trip takes us.
~ John Steinbeck
Our planet is a mess. Our world is a mess. Our economies are a mess. Our politics are a mess. Our food culture is a mess. Too often I feel just one person -me- can’t do enough about saving the planet, changing the world, fixing the economy or persuading politicians… other than making my vote count at the next election by choosing as best I can from the options available.
Choosing as best I can from the options available is how I decide what to eat. And just maybe it will create positive change for the planet, world, economy and even politics.
What I choose to eat depends on my circumstances, time, budget, location, preferences… and principles. Food matters to me. I need to eat. What do I eat? Where do I spend my money? I was trying to care about good food without much information to guide me, relying on what the supermarkets sold me, and the right choices never seemed to come easily.
I’ve always played music in my kitchen -for me, it goes hand in hand with cooking. One day I was playing The John Butler Trio album Three, and a line from lyrics of the song Money stuck in my head… “So tell me man can you eat your money…” It clarified the confusion I had been feeling. So many places I was paying money to for food didn’t care about the food the way I did. It was just a Thneed they wanted to sell me to get my money.
I prefer to hand over cash in exchange for food to people I’m familiar and can have a conversation with; this from going to farmers markets when we were living in the city and learning about food direct from producers who travelled from the country. Now living in the country I’m exploring our new food neighbourhood and continuing have conversations… some are easier than others.
I asked, and learned from Dangerous Dan’s butcher they don’t stock feedlot meat. Their product labelling and conversational butcher told me their beef is grass-fed, pastured from the Manning Valley (200 kilometres). He said the lamb is from western NSW and the pigs are from local small holdings. But their chickens are Red Lea, have Free Range Accreditation but are not pasture reared. They don’t stock beef cheeks because they have to buy 20 kilogram lots. Macksville Quality Meats stock the local Burrawong Gaian chickens I buy which are pasture reared. Conversations with these guys are more prosaic. Their beef comes from Wingham (200 kilometres), and the story’s the same for lamb, pork and beef cheeks.*
We like to buy meat from our local Pub with No Beer, whose beef & pork is locally pasture reared (by the G.O.’s cousin who I can chat to and order beef cheeks from) and Kinloch Quality Meats at nearby Scotts Head butcher who grow their beef and pigs just up the road from us. We’re fans of Eungai Creek Buffalo who I first met many years ago at Eveleigh-Carriageworks Farmers Market when they had a farm west of Sydney. They moved to the Nambucca Valley, and now have a café on their farm adjacent to buffalo in the paddocks as well as a product range of meat, cheese, yoghurt and icecream.
I simplify my choices and exercise my principles by shopping local, choosing independents over big supermarket chains. The nearby Macksville Foodworks Co-op supermarket meets most of my needs for basic grocery items and importantly stocks a reasonable selection of local products as does the other local independent, Richies IGA at Nambucca Heads.
Supermarket milk wars have recently shone a much-needed spotlight on Australian’s consumer choices for dairy products. Both these independent supermarkets stock my preferred local Norco (i.e. “North Coast” 100% Farmer Owned Co-Op) and Devondale (The Aussie Farmer Co-Op) dairy products as well as other small producers’. Foodworks hadn’t been stocking the G.O.’s favourite Norco spreadable butter, so I asked them if they could. A few weeks later, it appeared on the shelf.
Recently at Woolworths Nambucca Heads searching for Australian company Republica’s organic fair trade coffee -our compromise on price, taste, ethics & availability- I noted local brands on the shelves were slim pickings… no local Norco dairy products. There were Nowra (650 kilometres) cheeses, prominently labelled local. I bought one… Hello, my name is Dale, I’m a cheese addict!
Eggs were the first food choices I made from an ethical standpoint. Oh, the joy and satisfaction when I get my hands on good eggs from friends, neighbours, friends & family of neighbours, the Pub with No Beer, farmers markets and if necessary the supermarket… I advocate consumer free ranging to find good eggs preferably from pasture ranging chickens. Pastured chooks, being natural creatures don’t lay all the time, so the more sources the better. I’ve been a fan for a while of Flavour Crusader which lists directories for local, free range and organic produce – eggs as well as milk, pork, garlic, chicken, fruit and vegetables, and was excited to discover the newly launched CluckAR – The Free Range Egg Detector App with which “you can simply point your smartphone camera at a carton in the supermarket, and get a clear picture of which brands are selling eggs from the most chilled-out, happy hens”.
Some food conversations are really awkward…. Mrs Well-Meaning Neighbour asked me if we liked corned beef (silverside). Sensing more to the question, I replied “yeeeesss” cautiously. She went on… would we like a frozen corned beef courtesy of their prodigious meat raffle wins? Knowing the raffle meat source was the local supermarket, I politely declined explaining we don’t buy or eat supermarket meat as it doesn’t agree with us. Several hours later the G.O. showed up at the back door, his face wearing a hunted expression and clutching a large frozen corned beef with which Mrs Neighbour had presented him at the gate. Upon seeing this I announced “we’re taking it back”. His expression became more woeful, so I agreed to look into its provenance. I Googled the name on the packaging, Thomas Farms… “innovative and value added-meat products” part of Thomas Foods, “Australia’s largest 100% family owned… third largest meat processor” and found several interesting articles which swayed the G.O. who said “we’ll take it back”. And we did, once again politely explaining we don’t buy or eat supermarket meat as it doesn’t agree with us and this product was likely via a feedlot i.e. AFO/CAFO (Concentrated/Animal Farming Operation). To which Mrs Neighbour responded “we don’t know anything about that, but my daughter will be happy to have it”. The experience left the G.O. and I feeling need-a-glass-of-wine-to-recover stressed. But a few days later, Mrs Neighbour triumphantly reported the corned beef had been well-received.
I care about my food and my money. Food shopping involves far more considering of choices and circumstance, time, budget, location, preferences than I believe it should but it’s my money and principles which give me power to influence food culture. When I can’t find what suits me I walk away without buying anything, often remarking
“I want what I want not what you’ve got. It’s my money”.
* Correct at time of publishing.
Dearth of sombreros and painted mules notwithstanding, in Australia people resident in a more southerly state location are often collectively & somewhat cheekily referred to as “Mexicans”. There’s longstanding rivalries between the states, one of the keenest being between my home state of NSW and the state adjoining its southern border, Victoria, where the elder of my younger sisters now resides.
Planning our year off, the G.O. and I pencilled in a visit to my south of the border sister for March 2016 to give us a break from moving and settling into our home at Taylors Arm.
When the opportunity arose to join a blogger meet up in Melbourne we shuffled schedules and set off in late February. It also let us try out ourselves & our caravan on a shorter trip before embarking on a longer trip scheduled for mid-year.
Having not done so before I accomplished packing the van remarkably efficiently without the G.O.’s belated advice to distribute the contents and thus the weight evenly.
We took away a few lessons from the trip: turn the fridge on early… ours came good about the time we arrived at my sister’s 5 days into the trip; fellow caravanners are great sources of information from where to stay, the mysteries of awnings, optimum tyre pressures, accessories necessary & not, and introduced us to that unique caravan park spectator sport – watching new arrivals reverse into a camping space.
We set off with a route in mind but thanks to many wonderful travel tips, abundant attractions throughout the state of Victoria and learning to balance distance & duration, our itinerary evolved as did our conversance with caravan lifestyle.
My mantra as the trip progressed became “I can do this”. Since our December 2015 move from city to country & employed to unemployed, the complexion of my life had changed from city skyscraper office dweller to… flux. Much of what I had been good at professionally was irrelevant.
About two-thirds the way through our travels, late on a warm night under starry skies camped at Wentworth next to the Darling River I had an epiphany while wandering along the track in the direction of the shower block, carrying my towel & toiletry bag… Life is good.
During the trip I experienced a real sense of accomplishment & enjoyment from adapting and stretching my literal & figurative comfort zones -physical activities to communal amenities- necessary for full participation in Australian travel on the road.
With that first trip and some essential maintenance work on our house behind us we’re now packing and preparing to set off shortly on our next, more challenging travel adventure, caravanning around the northern and western states of Australia.
Our Victoria trip route, 22 February to 22 March 2016 (late summer into unusually warm early autumn):
“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?’
‘That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,’
said the Cat.
‘I don’t much care where -‘
‘Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,’
said the Cat.
‘- so long as I get SOMEWHERE’…”
Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland
Copyright Dale Newling 2016. All content on https://elladeewords.wordpress.com is copyright. Apart from any use permitted under the Copyright Act 1968, no part may be reproduced by any process, nor may any other exclusive right be exercised, without the permission of the owner who can be contacted via email dln011 [at] yahoo [dot] com [dot] au.
Work on our new life continues… on many levels.
Practically, our 1930’s house made it clear she hung on as long as she could in our absence. Once she had our attention, it became apparent we couldn’t ignore the few cracks that were appearing. When the G.O. looked at her underside, the bearers were holding her up without much support from the stumps.
This was the G.O.’s cue to bring forward beginning the restumping work he had planned for 2017. This involves the 6 foot + tall G.O. digging tunnels under the house, pulling out timber stumps, inserting temporary jacks, pouring concrete pads, bricking up new stumps.
Over the past several weeks as well as attending to other ongoing repairs and work he’s completed replacing a dozen of the worst stumps, with only about 38 to go…
Unable to assist sub-floor, as well as everyday domestic goddess cooking & cleaning I embarked upon the stages of sorting and spring cleaning I had thought to park until we returned from our travels, in doing so discovered the warm Autumn we were enjoying had created the perfect environment for seasonal sub-tropic climate mould-mildew we experience every so often.
This was my cue to twice wash every curtain, wipe all surfaces I could reach -climbing up & down a step ladder- with clove oil & hot water, wash windows and pull contents from cupboards and shelves to get into their nooks and crannies.
That done, on a roll, I revisited the shed’s storage shelves and cleared another load destined for a charity op-shop in town.
I’d like to say we are thankful and philosophical about this opportunity to embrace our new lifestyle but honestly, it’s not quite what we planned for this part of our holiday year. However, we are grateful we have the time, money, health and pleasant space in which we’re doing what we need to do in a home, place and among people we love.
Stay tuned… before we leave on our next trip mid June, I’ll share details of where we’re headed, some highlights of our travels through Victoria last March, and how we plan to link the two.
For glimpses of our new life you can see my Instagram snapshots on the right and if you are an Instagrammer, you can find me at dalelee011.
Once again I wasn’t sure if I’d manage it but once again I’ve scraped in before the 10th of the month IMK cut-off which makes me very happy because via this post I wanted to highlight the loveliness & friendship of our blogging community, and thank some special people.
First, thank you all for your generosity popping in and commenting even though while the G.O. and I are becoming accustomed to our new everyday my blogging presence has been sporadic.
Since my last IMK post in January, we were fortunate during February-March to take a trip to Victoria during which we met up with several blogger-friends. If you are ever going to be in a blog-buddy’s neighbourhood, all I can say is, the experience of sitting with, chatting and extending the connection is gratifying.
Fortuitously Francesca & Meeks live near my sister so we were able to catch up with them on their home turfs. Not just putting faces to names but places. A few days later Kate, Ardys & I shared a lovely lunch in Melbourne CBD with Celi of thekitchensgarden and her cousin Maria. Before the G.O & I continued on our travels, along with Kate we met up with the delightful and talented Anne Lawson.
The Victoria locals shared some wonderful and useful travel tips which added highlights to our trip we’d have missed otherwise. And beautiful & thoughtful gifts left us with tangible mementos of our meetings to take home.
Travelling with us to Victoria in our caravan fridge was a jar of my sourdough starter Polly, daughter of Celia’s Priscilla. Revived in my sister’s kitchen she was cloned as Holly. And has gone on to be very successful via my sister’s bread baking efforts.
Upon our arrival home I was greeted by another beautiful & thoughtful housewarming gift sent from the UK by Mary, who although living far away feels very close.
When I started blogging four years ago, it was to keep a bit of sanity in my life. The G.O. and I were living in a tiny city apartment and working hard towards making our dreams of a life in the country come true. At the time I had no idea the impact the interaction of the blog world would have. Connecting me with interesting & likeminded people worldwide it has fleshed out our dreams via their inspiration and companionship, distance notwithstanding. I’m truly grateful.
Thanks to Maureen at The Orgasmic Chef for hosting the monthly In My Kitchen, and the blogging community for the inspiration & virtual company they provide. Special thanks to Francesca, Anne & Mary for the lovely cards & housewarming gifts.
I was thinking of changing the tag for my blog from there is an art to the everyday to got the life I wanted… now what the hell do I do?
Since moving to the country and taking a long holiday from having a day job my everyday is unlike that of my city life when I created the blog. Another kind of art needed to manage it.
Yesterday – 4 loads of washing. Bottled 7 jars of choko pickles. Made yoghurt. Made pumpkin soup for dinner-freezer-MiL. Made lasagne for dinner & freezer. Made frittata for lunch & leftovers. Baked sourdough bread. Made pots of tea. Cleaned up kitchen. Made beds after swapping mattresses. Vacuumed floors. Watered vege garden pots. Took photo of rose in the front garden. Fed Soossie-the-share-cat [who has now been desexed] at least 6 times. Gave myself much needed mani & pedicure.
I’ve taken today off… after ticking off a few jobs. Council final inspection of the shed. Create bespoke moisturisers by adding essential oils, and decant. Transfer birthday funds to the G.O.’s granddaughter. Clean coffee machine. Wash up. Collaborate with the G.O. to hang pictures. Rearrange shelves and cupboards. Make pots of tea…
Mid morning I found a quiet sunny-shady spot on the verandah to attempt to catch up on blogging life. And made a start – compiling 10 of the better photos from our Victoria trip. Watch this space.
Tomorrow – Thursday, is town day. A repeat of last Thursday… car services, errands and grocery shopping. Hearing test for G.O. Visit MiL. Maybe a birthday lunch with my aunt & uncle.
Friday – I’m hoping for another day off, and maybe another blog post and blog visiting.
We arrived home from our travels a fortnight ago, hit the ground running to clean, garden, shop and generally catch up. Even during our self-governed Easter break there were little jobs.
Life outside 9-5 and accustomed infrastructure, I now realise after 4 months, is equal parts rewarding and wearying. Not worse, just different, and requires more adaptation than I imagined during the city-office bound incubation stages of the plan.
Travel, I now realise after our month away, is equal parts stimulating and wearying. I will get around to writing travel (we took about a thousand photos between us) & other blog posts, visiting and commenting on blog posts, also to reading books (only 2 short books so far this year) and articles… and all the online people & things that are an important part of my life that I miss and think about.
In the midst of being busier than I ever expected via the throes of changing from one life to another I encountered a form of mental inertia that leaves me often unable to convert thoughts to keyboard strokes. Sigh. I was somewhat stressed about this for a while. After all, it is what I planned to do but I attempt to release the self-imposed pressure and console myself that for a while I’m simply being and doing.
The grass is greener on the other side of our city to country-coast tree-sea change fence but it hasn’t quite panned out the way we expected.
We love our new life at Taylors Arm, and not given the city life we left second thoughts. A few days short of two months along, much has been accomplished; some planned, some figured out as we go. We haven’t had a proper break yet… in hindsight we realised even thinking it possible to combine holidays with a move was kidding ourselves. We’re settling into a home that’s been marking time for a decade, and fielding new challenges & opportunities including preparing for our caravanning travel adventures. Most things take longer and more effort than we think. More often than not our days leave us feeling exhausted. The effects of our previous life of 5 am starts 6 days a week has collided with the new and caught up with us. I keep repeating the words Relax – Patience – Process – Journey like a mantra. I have a multitude of blog post narratives running around my head and a miscellany of photos on my phone which I
will need to share.
However, in the midst of it all we garden, which is a good place to begin catching up. I started taking photos and planned this blog post weeks ago. Ah well, these things take time…
Our situation is sub-tropical, coastal hinterland. We use little water on the garden as it only comes from the sky, the house rainwater tanks and grey water run-off (we use eco-friendly green household products). Over the years we’ve supplemented the original hardy garden -the house was built in the 1930’s- adding native & flowering shrubs & vines, cottage plants, herbs and odd little garden ornaments. We’re starting off simply with a vege garden in containers using those we had on our city apartment balcony and others cached from footpath discard piles because for much of this year we plan to be away travelling. We don’t use chemicals or sprays. No matter how much effort we put in, the garden will never be orderly… or finished. Having such a garden is a blessing.
Ever since I read Anne Lawson’s inaugural In My Studio post I could hardly wait to shift furniture and unpack the contents of our new-old third bedroom at Taylors Arm so I could join in, and share my embryonic dreams of creative space. The reality is it was the last room to be sorted.
But in time for Anne’s January 2016 In My Studio post I can unveil… the Backroom.
It’s early days yet, and other than blogging & Instagram artistic creativity remains in chrysalis stage. But for now it’s enough that I created the Backroom. For 10 years I’ve been dreaming of occupying this room that opens onto the verandah where the G.O. and I could share space on our big old table made from floorboards and fence posts topped with pots of pens, photos, notebooks and… stuff. A room that fits our books and collected knickknacks, where the old night & day sofa that reminds me of one at my grandparents’ old house sits below paintings done by my Great-Aunt Emma in 1911. Tall drawers and a repurposed drinks trolley hold other stationery and creative bibs & bobs, some untouched for more than a decade since I last did art courses, and recent gifts of sketchbooks & pencils.
It’s a beginning and a space where inspired by Anne’s artistic life and Ardys’ creative life & mindfulness I can play with the seeds of possibilities and creativity that have so wonderfully come my way.
A month and a day has passed since my previous IMK post; the boxes have been packed, shifted to Taylors Arm, stacked in the shed, sorted, unpacked into the house, some re-packed & re-stacked in the shed for another day.
Four years ago we shifted between similar city apartments but last month’s packing up and moving to our holiday-furnished house in the Nambucca Valley was quite a different experience, one we hadn’t fully considered the extent of. We had pre-shifted and cleared furniture in the house to make room for our city apartment furniture but hadn’t given enough thought to the contents of cupboards and drawers. On day 2 after making less progress than I’d hoped and realising I was simply moving things from one place to another, creating piles & avalanches, resorting to crying while doing so, I emptied out into the shed what we weren’t immediately using and unpacked only what we would.
While I was doing this, the G.O. -whose heretofore hidden talents courtesy of a stint packing up deceased estates for a second-hand dealer wrapping crockery also were a marvel- was working his handyman magic on the kitchen boxes, installing components to make the kitchen everyday functional. Despite his progress being impeded by missing or questionable quality bits n’ pieces, and every job taking longer than it should’ve he would not be beaten. The kitchen is now complete with shelves, drawers, useful hooks, magnetic knife rack, hanging racks, smoke alarm and the long-awaited tap. The practical expertise behind my creative ideas, the G.O. also lined my very old Newling’s cordial boxes with lino, and created a new kitchen stool seat from a cheeseboard.
But the kitchen is what saved me. In the midst of the chaos I found myself at the bench chopping several bagsful of tomatoes from my step-FiL along with onions & garlic from the neighbours and basil from the garden for slow cooker sauce, as well as making pineapple icy-poles, ginger biccies, icecream and Christmas food. Familiar tasks which centred me.
I managed to hook up our wi-fi internet on the first Sunday while the G.O. was having a well deserved snooze but the combined influence of an unfortunately timed Windows 10 upgrade-familiarisation along with ongoing homemaking, gardening, an impromptu 4 day visit from my youngest sister & 8 month old niece delayed our return to real day-to-day life.
I wasn’t sure if I’d manage but I’ve just scraped in before the 10th of the month IMK cut-off for my first post from Taylors Arm. Thanks to Maureen at The Orgasmic Chef for taking over hosting of the monthly In My Kitchen and the blogging community for the inspiration & virtual company they provide. Special thanks to Mary, Kate & Celia for the lovely cards & housewarming gifts.
I’m looking forward to upcoming weeks of more holidaying & less house-work, and catching up with the blog world which during the past month I’ve missed and popped into far less than I’d have liked, in far too few spare moments.
For glimpses of our new life you can see my Instagram snapshots on the right and if you are an Instagrammer, you can find me at dalelee011, and the G.O. at welshy055.
In My Kitchen at Sydney are 25 packing boxes and numerous other receptacles waiting to be filled, collected by the removalist and shifted to our house at Taylors Arm in 6 days time.
In My Kitchen at Taylors Arm are boxes containing the final supplementary pieces that will render our old kitchen user-friendly, a ten year work in progress. As well as shuffling furniture on the weekend to make enough space to fit in the contents of a one bedroom Sydney apartment last weekend the G.O. worked his handyman magic on the new stainless steel prep-bench under shelf with vintage Newling’s cordial boxes for storage. After the move, he’ll tackle smoke alarm, mixer-spray tap, glass shelves, towel/utensil racks, useful hooks and magnetic knife strip.
“Instead of thinking outside of the box, get rid of the box” ~ Deepak Chopra
Thanks to Celia of Fig Jam and Lime Cordial for hosting In My Kitchen and the In My Kitchen community for foodie inspiration & the virtual company they provide. If you’d like to join in, link back to Celia’s blog until December 10 only. December 2015 is the last IMK hosted by Celia. Thanks so much Celia, I’ve enjoyed your IMK tenure. As of January 2016, IMK will be hosted by Maureen at The Orgasmic Chef.