How to Downsize Quickly

What can you do if you have lost your job, had your hours cut, missed out on getting work or unable to work?

Peppermint Tea
Home Made Peppermint Tea

How can we adapt and build a new lifestyle?

Many people talk about their work as a major part of their life and their identity.  Our work consumes most of our day-time thoughts (and sometimes nightmares).  To have a high paid job may mean you are locked into a lifestyle some people call  “golden handcuffs”.  Your whole life can be regulated by how much you earn.  Yet some of the richest people in the world have only the same consumption as the average person.

We have two choices when we are faced with a major pay cut, we can go into debt further and hope that all will come good. This is what many people are doing.  Borrowing on the hope of future earnings is a form of gambling and can risk your health and well being.  The safest move is to downsize.

How You Can Downsize:

  • If you have a car, get rid of it, or at least leave it at home and lock the keys away from easy access. If the family has more than one car, get rid of all of them but one car: either sell it or lend them to someone else. By removing the car you automatically stop buying petrol and parking fees and start investing in public transport which means you are investing in your community’s future. By selling the car you cut registration, insurance and interest on repayments.
  • Look for cheaper housing. If you are no longer working consider moving to a small country town that is connected by public transport. Many country towns are in desperate need of work-age residents and will welcome you. Some people work all their lives to be able to move out of the city when they retire, now could be your opportunity. If you want or need to stay in your home you can take on boarders to help pay. These people might be friends, relatives or students. It will make life more interesting and you can easily go back to living alone later.bringing in sun-dried washing and little home grown tomatoes
  • Start cooking more. Share meals with friends instead of meeting them at restaurants. When you cook from basics you will have many of these basic items left over to make another meal. Don’t waste money on pre-made or expensive additives but search for fresh local produce. It is harder to use processed leftovers, they cost a lot more and they are often less nutritious. The risk for people on low-incomes is malnutrition. More often this is the result of poor food choices not a lack of food.Many people in the so-called developed world are feeling worried, overweight, sickly and lacking energy. Look after your health by eating healthy foods, walking to the shops, to work, or to public transport.
  • Support live local entertainment ideas in your neighborhood. Start a garden-club, a book-club, a small singing group, a drumming group (you can make your own drums). Have local parties outside with a fire in a drum (unless you are in the inner city and living with fire bans).
  • Sell items you haven’t used for years but be careful not to sell items that could be used to earn money.
  • Produce more at home. Get out your hobbies and do them, make items that you can trade and put up a sign out the front to sell these items. You might be good at fixing bikes or machines, sewing, growing plants, cooking items for sale. Most residential areas allow you to sell to the public once in a while (like once a month) if it is called a ‘garage sale’. Otherwise, services can be advertised year round: these include home-cleaning, painting, pet grooming and walking, tutoring kids, cooking, baby sitting, massage, organising and promoting events, sports coaching etc. Trade and swap locally. Join LETs or simply trade with friends. The only way to oppose a consumer driven society is to become a producer.
  • Grow food, it is very easy to grow tomatoes (simply save the seed from those you buy to eat). Start composting and don’t throw away so much food.April and David at one of our pizza parties
  • Cut your energy use. Cut your hot water heating hours, e.g. move to off peak, or if you have solar power hot water with a booster, turn the booster off and shower when the water is warmest. Reduce heating and cooling in the house by actively stopping excessive sun entering the house in summer (use shade covers) and preventing warmth from leaving the house in winter (use heavy curtains). Use less rooms and put up dividers (large heavy curtains can be made with blankets or secondhand curtains) in open spaces. Make sure you have all drafts and windows sealed and covered.
  • Reduce consumption of items such as new clothes (buy recycled), haircuts (grow it long), beauty products, gadgets, and have just the occassional treat. E.g. if you walk to town, you can buy something special that would have cost the amount of the petrol for the car.
  • Give more. The more we all give, the more costs will stay low and the more we will value each other. Some people have their houses full of items so it would be physically difficult to downsize. Become active in Freecycle.  What is the true cost of keeping your items? Most houses have only a few people but lots of stuff.  Be free of your posessions, not driven by a requirement to house them.

Goose Work

What Do The Geese Do All Day?

Geese clearing the paths - if only!

Geese clearing the paths – if only!

Geese are not pets.  They are great security animals. Sure, a gosling will let you pet it as it grows.  Ours have even put their wings around me and rubbed my neck, followed me around the garden and posed for pictures – so sweet! but later they make a special effort to show me how good there are at being a goose by honking, hissing, biting and shaking just to scare me off.  Only when a gander or goose is injured will she let me touch her again.

Goslings are tricky to raise on a small site because the geese are clumsy parents.  Goslings die very easily.  Hawks and crows find them very yummy.  Hand raised goslings need a very careful diet including fish oils, no dairy and definitely no chocolate cake at Christmas.

Geese can sneak up on you when you are out in the garden picking herbs and give you a bit of surprise attack in sensitive areas.  Geese don’t harm humans as viciously as dogs, simply because they don’t have teeth.  They can still traumatise, scratch and bruise you.  They can kill small creatures such as chickens, rats, snakes and lizards.

Goose and GoslingsWhen they attack they often attack in a pack.  Once Ryan, our son was attacked when he went to feed them. All five of our geese flew up on to his head, grabbed his hair in their beaks, planted their webbed and nailed feet on his shoulders and beat him with their wings. He reported the attack as feeling like it was a flock of Pterodactyls at his head.

Geese don’t eat meat so they are not inclined to hunt. They are more fond of parading and attacking in defense. Our hand raised geese are great company in the garden except in late winter, spring, and summer.  So, the cuddly days are very short.

Geese can be poor mothers if the house is small because they often tread on the goslings.  Geese are not suitable in areas where you plant herbs and vegies in your permaculture garden because they are clever and will carefully pull at a plant until they find the tuber (as with waterchestnuts) or the berry or corn on the stalk.

Our Geese Are The Doormen

The Geese have red mulberry-stained beaksGeese keep away dogs and foxes during the day but have poor eyesight at night.  We have the geese patrol the outer boundaries to protect our chickens.  The other challenge with keeping geese is the noise they generate at night.   When they hear a noise – they like to honk about it.  They hate rodents so they will honk at any noises to keep them at bay.  Before we had the geese we had a lot of mowing, then the geese ate most of the grass.  Now we have planted the area with a food forest.

If you work at home, have good hearing and can handle large birds, sure, we would love to recommend geese, but if you work off-site or have small children – don’t risk it.

How A Weed Succeeds

Weeds venture where other plants fail to go.

They quickly colonise places where something has changed the landscape. The landscape change is usually done by conventional farming methods sucvegies growing in old chook run with composted lawn clippings as mulchh as digging but it could be from a catastrophe such as flood 0r landslip.  The weeds are well adapted to a short life and are highly re-productive with little dependence on the quality of the soil or water supply. Before you remove the weeds have a succession plan. Permaculture deals in modelling systems and seeing what the surrounding landscape has as a plan.  In a rainforest the succession plan involves plants that are happy to start in deep shade and will suddenly rise to the occasion when a mature tree falls.

What Weeds Are Good At

Weeds are excellent adapters. They can mine the on-site resources better than most other plants.  Weeds will mine minerals, sop up excess nutrients on a site and cover bare ground which builds organic matter in the soil.  If you remove a weed, you need to plant something almost just as strong or have a plan to nurture the next plant. There are easy ways to nurture plants, dig swales to bring water to them, cover the surrounding soil with mulch and build a tent of leafless branches to protect plants from too much sun, frost or animal damage and keep a regularly watch on young plantings.

Plan For A Time After The Weeds

When we remove a weed and send it away we are losing minerals and fertility from our site.  If we slash a weed before it goes to seed we get the benefit of the mineral rich organic matter as mulch.  When we do nothing and let weeds and non-edibles rule our site we miss out on the opportunity of having a balanced diet of fresh food and herbs.  Enjoy outsmarting a weed and implement a natural succession plan for a fruitful forest.  Living mulch is ideal to stop future weed invasion especially if it is edible.


Work/Life and Depression-Proof Employment

In 2030 there will be 30% less jobs. What will the new jobs be?

Depression-proof employment inspired by a lecture at the last permaculture convergence delivered by Nicole Foss:

  • Organising other people: mediators, facilitators, teachers of practical skills
  • Organising resources: eg. police, lawyers, control
  • Supply goods and services and investing in others.
  • Develop practical skills
  • Health care
  • escapism such as authors, entertainers

Minimise debt, hold cash and cash equivalents, be careful not to over spend on building your education and hang on to your hard goods.

Hard goods include

  • your bike
  • reference books
  • spare parts
  • land
  • water infrastructure
  • cooking equipment
  • provisions
  • Energy making sources (when you own your own energy, you own a lot of opportunity)
  • trading goods
  • radios
  • filters
  • tools
  • clothes