Thursday, 10 April 2014

Making a difference

I've tried writing this post about five times and each time it's come out wrong.  So I left it alone for a few days to see if I could express myself better.  It's not happening so I'll just plug away regardless and hope I make some sense.  (Warning, long post.)

Perhaps it's a sign of getting older but as I look around I despair about all the things in the world that shouldn't happen like war, poverty, starvation, decimation of our planet and I wonder if there is anything I can do that will make a difference.  The things I've mentioned seem overwhelming at times and what can one person possibly do that can make a difference, it seem hopeless and I feel helpless.  Those things are out of my control but I do have a small measure of control and influence over my immediate environment, my home, my garden, my interactions with people on a daily basis.
I would like to make a difference and surely the best place to start would be in my own backyard so to speak.

How I interact and react to everyday situations can make a difference.  How so?  If I'm in traffic and it's frustrating, I can either choose to become impatient and annoyed at the car in front who seems to be holding me up or the car that came along side and then cut me off.  I can blast my horn to show my displeasure or I can keep my cool.  If I blast my horn I make someone else angry which does nothing for them or me.  Everyone is anxious to get somewhere whether it be to work, or dropping the kids at school or picking them up.  Everyone wants to get where they are going and if you just let that person on the side road get on the highway in front of you when traffic is at a crawl, you really make their day.  Your good turn might encourage them to do something nice for someone else in traffic and might cause a ripple effect.  One small act of kindness may in fact have a huge impact on others.  Of course we won't really know but it's worth trying anyway.
The fact that people are starving on our planet is a terrible thing.  I can't feed the world but I can make sure I do my best not to waste food.  It's easy to waste food when there is an abundance of either money to buy it and a bountiful supply of it.  I think it's easy to waste food when you don't have an intimate relationship with growing your own food.  If you grow it yourself, you work hard at it planting seeds and seedlings, watering, fertilising, weeding, mulching, watching out for pests and diseases and working at overcoming those problems.  In effect you know how hard it was to produce and you appreciate the effort that has gone into that production.  Who wants to waste food that has required hard work and effort to grow?  It's easy to be disassociated from that basic thing we all need and that's food.  (By the way I'm not criticising anyone who doesn't grow their own food, it's just not possible for most of us with our lifestyle and circumstances.)  It's easy to waste water, electricity and many other things but not necessary.  Just because we have doesn't mean we should waste.

 A number of years ago, the state of Victoria where I live had suffered a 10 year drought and our water reserves were at an all time low.  Severe water restrictions were put in place and it made us all mindful of how we can get by with less water than what we think.  I remember that even hand watering our gardens was severely restricted and as I have a large garden, that made keeping it alive in our very hot summer extremely difficult.  What kept my garden alive that summer was saving the rinse water from the laundry wash, decanting it from the laundry trough into a watering can and watering plants with that.  It was hard work as I live on a slope, it took a lot of time but I saved my garden.  A small tub was placed in the sink in the kitchen and whenever we rinsed our hands, that water was captured and used on the garden.  I placed a bucket in the shower recess while showering and that little bit of excess water that gets splashed around was saved too.  After this experience of water shortage we made the decision to install rain water tanks which enable us to water the garden in summer when it's needed without the need to use the mains water.  Not only does save valuable drinking water, it saves us money too.  I am ever so grateful to my husband who is not only brilliant in his I.T. paid work, he is a wonderful handyman too.  He can do most things he puts his hand to which has saved us thousands of dollars over the years.

Growing up on a farm I was use to seeing my Dad and brother fix things, repair things (especially machinery that continually broke down), make do, build, invent, salvage, save materials, recycle.  My husband does the same thing.  He saves screw, nuts, bolts, timber, anything he thinks may come in handy.  He has fixed Charlotte's older car a number of times although it's not possible for him to service our newer cars in the same way as they have too much electronic/computerised components for that.  But he does as much as he can.  He builds things.  He built a cubby house for the girls when they were little.  When they outgrew it, he converted it to a potting shed and built it in such a way that it could be dismantled and moved which is what he did when we built the studio.  He's built a chook shed, a garden room and fences and gates when I brought home a puppy 11 years ago.  He's also built a dark room under the house so he can pursue his black and white photography hobby.

So what is my point.  As much as we are able, it's good to do things for ourselves as it  makes us resourceful and saves money.  An abundance of money and access to goods and services has contributed to making us a wasteful and somewhat lazy society.  I stress here, some of us not all of us.   Does our consumer and throw away society contribute to our overly stressful busy lifestyle?  I think it does.  If we continue to want more, think we need more, desire more, then we have to work more to earn the money to buy more.  We have a far greater reliance on others in maintaining this lifestyle than if we did more for ourselves.

Recently our council had it's annual hard rubbish collection of unwanted household goods.  This is a service that is greatly appreciated because it is very difficult to get rid of old mattresses, fridges, washing machines and other large items that have broken and are unrepairable.  But seeing the manner of things out on the footpath to be collected had me in some cases grieving.  I saw perfectly good items of furniture ready to be collected, to be compacted in the rubbish truck and put into land fill.  Thankfully we do have some very enterprising people who come around with their utes and trailers to pick up the scrap metal and other things they have a use for.  But on the whole, it is an example of a throw away society, a society that is wasteful, a society that makes poor quality items that cannot be repaired or fall apart.  There is of course always the money to buy a new one and this is what our consumer riddled society relies on, what big business and corporations rely on.  It seems to me to be a sad thing when the existence and survival of the economies of the world are reliant on consumer growth.  Surely there must be a saturation point.  I'm not an economist so perhaps my perceptions and thinking are naive.  I do know it's just not that simple.

I seemed to have got off the beaten track here so will try to get back to my point which is how can we do more for ourselves and become less reliant on others?  How can we make a difference in a world that seems to be out of control in so many ways?  If everyone does just one or two things differently, reduces their reliance on using more than they need, whether that is less water, less electricity, not wasting food, perhaps grow some of their own food, all of those small steps can and will make a difference collectively.

So may I encourage us to try changing one small thing for a week.  It doesn't matter what it is.  If we are time poor we can still smile at the stranger walking down the street and say hello and wish them a good day.  All it takes is for us to be aware, to be thinking outwardly, to be thinking community.

I would like to say that in writing this post I am mindful of my own waste and excesses over the years.  I am guilty of having far too many clothes and shoes, a studio stuffed with craft items.  But I do remember when we were first married and buying our own home, when the interest rates were at 17.5% plus, our furniture was all second hand.  Hubby made me side tables from chipboard and they were covered with a cloth, perfectly acceptable.  My clothes were mostly from charity shops and many of our babies toys and some of their clothes were from there too.  We were most appreciative of the gifts of clothes, books and toys we received when our girls were born.  Hubby made their cradle and change table and the pram we bought second hand from a good friend.  I made bunny rugs, washed nappies and when they were older made little dresses and trackies.  I was so very grateful to my sister who bought some gorgeous clothes for my girls when they were little.  Am I looking for sympathy, definitely not.  It's an explanation of how we can manage with less than what we think and still be very happy.  And may I stress that my family has never ever gone without.  We have always had enough and in more recent years more than enough for which I am very grateful.  Despite having more than enough, I want to remind myself not to be wasteful, to be grateful, to try and make a difference where I can.

For those of you who have laboured reading through to the end of this post, I thank you.  And thank you for allowing me the indulgence of putting into words things that mean much too me.

I'll leave you with a few photos of what I've been working hard on for the last few weeks.  My apologies for the poor quality, they were taken on my phone.

The vege patch planted a couple of weeks ago has grown quite well.  I've added nasturtiums and there's a rhubarb further down the end behind the larger pots.

Chinese cabbage, parsnip, Savoy cabbage.



  1. I hear you Anne, It's worrying to think of all the waste. One plus side to the recession is that it makes people think a bit more when they don't have as much disposable income. Petrol is expensive, but surely that helps reduce congestion and pollution a bit as people make less unnecessary journeys. Food is expensive, but hopefully that encourages people to waste less and grow their own a little too.
    Your garden is looking very pretty and productive....I'm off to plant some potatoes :0)
    Jacquie x

  2. Hey Anne, I've read from start to finish and it's been a very interesting read. I agree whole heartedly with your sentiments.
    Have to say if I lived in Melbourne, I'd be out with my trailer when there was a hard rubbish collection on. Hate seeing good things being thrown away. As they say 'one man's trash......' Well done to your hubby for putting his handy man skills to good use over the years. Wouldn't mind a bit of DIY knowledge myself....:)
    I did my good deed today and helped an elderly citizen with her walker through the door of the bank and out of the rain.....Not hard at all and of course it feels good to help. Maybe it's a country or small town thing, but saying 'hello' to people locals or otherwise is something that just comes naturally to me.....Well, thanks for the reminder to do my bit, to be more careful with what I have and to do that small deed that means so much to someone else......

    Garden looks great, gotta love Parsnips.....ooops, looks like I've gone on a bit here....x

  3. I think you expressed yourself very well. It's not always easy and sometimes the bigger things make it seem like the smaller things we can do won't make any difference. I'm by no means perfect but I am always mindful of waste and small things I can do, so I do what little I can. If everyone did the small things, we'd seen an impact on the greater ones I'm sure.

  4. Great post - I hear you too Anne. It's difficult to watch so much wastage going on all the time. I guess if everyone took all this on board, we would all be better off. Little steps by everyone is what will make a difference. Tiny steps forward by one person such as yourself, saving water and making a self sufficient supply of veggies is great and what we should all be doing. I think all I'm saying is that I totally agree with your post and just hope that lots of others read it too and agree. cheers Wendy

  5. Working in the Charity shop I see so much waste but we do try to recycle most things.

    I remember my dad rigging up all kinds of ways to reuse water during heat waves in the 70's

    I think people are becoming more aware of waste. If we all make a little more effort we could save so much x

  6. oh Anne, what a wonderful post. It's great when you realise that you can overcome your struggles. Your garden is already looking fruitful. Best of luck lovely!
    claire - hearthandmadeuk

  7. I've read it all. Well said.
    Love from Mum

  8. Hi Anne! I'm sure you can guess that it's a resounding YEP from me to all this. Every little decision we make CAN make a difference :)


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