Jo and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Week

This is the view from my front window. usually there are hills, then distant mountains. This week we can see as far as the next block..

Alright, maybe it wasn't that bad, but a good, therapeutic whinge never hurt anyone. This week has been defined by smoke. A pall of it hangs over the state. 80 bushfires around Tasmania, mostly far out in the bush away from property and people, but hundreds of thousands of acres have burned, and the smoke shrouds the sun, which casts an eerie light, and we are breathing smoke, peering through smoke to drive, all our washing smells like smoke, and all of our houses, because you can't keep the windows closed forever. It is hot and dry, hotter and dryer than it has ever been, and it feels like we are living in the apocalypse. If there are zombies out there, we would never know, because they could sneak up under cover of the smoke screen and we would never see them..

Tasmanian dams are down to record lows all over the state and water restrictions have begun. Driving through farm country is so sad, because there is no grass. I don't know what the animals are eating. I mowed the 'lawn' the other day, and was enveloped in a cloud of dust because the 'lawn' now consists of bare dirt with a patchy dead grass thatch covering and an occasional persistent weed. This is all something I might expect were I living on the edge of the outback, eking out a living on marginal desert farmland, but I moved to Tasmania for the green and the rain and the pretty roses. This year, the mainland summer moved south. Ugh.

Living in the heat and the persistent smoke haze has made me rather depressed about the weather of the future. I told my children I was so very sorry that my generation had finished off the job of ruining the planet for them. No wonder Chinese tourists are so excited to come to Australia and see blue skies. They live in this kind of smog all the time, man-made, from the factories that churn out our 'stuff'. This just makes me so much more determined not to buy more stuff, because why should our need for cheap, pretty baubles mean that a very large slice of the world's population doesn't get to see the blue sky on a daily basis?

When I haven't been moping around suffering from SAD (Smoke Affective Disorder) or praying for rain, I have been assisting The Girl in the enormous task of packing up her entire life into cardboard cartons to send her off to university in a city far away from me. This has been sad and hilarious at once. The Girl has kept every piece of paper she ever wrote on since she learned to write at the age of four. Also every autumn leaf, feather, sewing and art project has been treasured. While I was busy filling the recycling bin she was reading me snippets from the dictionary of the new language she invented, age nine. There were only four words filed under 'N', one of which was the word for niche/alcove. Because that is one of the first words you would need to include in a new language..

So, all her things are donated, recycled, thrown away, or fitted into six cardboard cartons and two suitcases. I am very proud of her. It is hard to whittle away all those concrete reminders of her past. But today we had a party for her, and she was laughing away at all the memories she shares with one of her best buddies who has shared every life experience with her since they were two years old. The memories are all there in their heads and hearts, and can never be burnt up, flooded out, or eaten up by moth or rust..

It is rather melancholy imagining life here without her, as we count the days she has left with us. But she is heading to an exciting new life and is happy, so we will be happy too. We WILL be happy..

Friday morning I woke up and decided my house is too big, and I want to move. In a couple of weeks we will wake up and find ourselves as a family of three rattling around like peas in a giant house with five bedrooms, two living areas and a study. So I now I have another large logistical problem to obsess about. Because, why not? I accidentally got onto the internet and found a very tiny house which I am rather drawn to and the wee girls absolutely adore.. oops..


Treaders said…
Oh my goodness, I am so sorry for what you are going through. I hadn't realized that things were that bad in Tasmania. Wow. And you are so right of course, about that being the way so many people in China live on a daily basis because of our consumer-drive society. To be honest, it is a bit overwhelming to even think about it.

We, on the other hand, where we should have been getting snow have been getting glorious sunshine and above zero temperatures. Frankly I can live with that any time, although the lack of snow is dreadful for the local alpine economy. Of course winter (for us) is far from over, but nobody bothered to tell my crocuses and daffs that. Still, I'm not convinced that this "climate change" is not actually completely natural. By that I mean of course pollution is changing our climate but I personally feel climate change (not related to pollution) is probably completely natural - not sure if I am making sense there.

And I hear you on your house being too big. Now my last son has moved out I am rattling around in what was originally a five-bedroomed house. At some point I will think about moving but for the time being I am staying put as I love where I live, and in any case, if I move nearer to town I will probably pay almost the same for a two-three bedroomed apartment. I'll worry about that for another day. Good luck to your daughter - I bet she will have a blast! Anna
Jo said…
Anna, I can happily agree to disagree with you about anthropogenic climate change, but it's not like our generation has a better record on so many other indicators for a good life for our grand children - we've used up most of the oil, wrecked a large swathe of the planet so that we can have cheap pretty baubles, arranged our economy so that income is more unequal than ever.. I am trying to think of something we have done well - eradicated smallpox. That was a plus. Birth control. I really appreciate that. Hmm, I will get back to you if I can think of anything else..
Heather F said…
Hi Jo! I'm sorry to hear about all the fires. Every couple of summers it seems as if wild fires run rampant all over California, and we all live surrounded by thick brown air and snowing ash. I dread those seasons, yearning for the clear blue sky is and feeling the pain for all those who lose their homes. I fear we are headed that way again soon with the drought being so severe. We have mandatory water rationing in Southern California right now, so not only is the natural landscape brown and dry, but so are everyone's lawns. It's all very depressing.

I feel for you, having another child leaving the nest soon. Why must they go and leave us? It's all so bittersweet.
narf7 said…
Go for it. Downsize and find a perfect tiny house for you and your girls that is all yours, that you picked and that you love. Life is about embracing positive change and that's one very positive change right there. The smoke has been thick and depressing. It kept Stevie-boy indoors when he needed to be outdoors and logging as we need to buy our next 2 loads to see us through winter, that is, IF we get winter this year. This weather is predicted to be with us till autumn 2017. We are taking out all of our inground gardens at the end of this harvest season ("Fool me once!") FAR too much water goes into them and it isn't justified by the end result. We have a brilliant new cheap idea to water wick the whole of Sanctuary. I am terribly excited by it all and the fact it is sustainable AND helps reduce landfill makes me chuffed to bits. Sanctuary will be incredibly water wise come next summer and also, if I can get Stevie-boy to help with my idea (pinched from Milkwood) to erect a "structure" (for structure read "in my head, not yet on paper") that will collect rainwater (rain, what is that?) at the top of Sanctuary's steep slope and direct it into a line of guttering and into water collection tubs/barrels etc. at the top of Sanctuary so that I can direct the flow of water into my new bedding idea using gravity alone. The answers are all out there, you just need to go and find them. Have you ever heard of a Thai water jar? Awesome things! Not what I am going to make but I might make one just for the experience and potential. Sorry your daughter is leaving home but you have the right idea. We moved out on our kids, if you do that, you don't get empty nest syndrome! Happy house hunting :)
Debbie said…
I am so sorry to hear of your awful fires and the debilitating smoke. We had that here this past Summer up in the Pacific Northwest in the has left huge swaths of land barren. My son was out fighting some of the fires and he said he has never seen a fire season that bad.

It is bittersweet to see our children launch out into the world on their own. They have so many neat adventures in front of them and I promise, as hard as it is, you will marvel in the things your daughter does.

Be blessed!

jj said…
Hi Jo, love the blog, I found you via John Michael Greer's blog, BLOG, what a strange word! Anyway, difficult times around the world, & examples of living differently for the future are so very important, & I value reading about yours :) Now just a small thought....instead of downsizing, which of course is an excellent idea, but inherently stressful & resource hungry, have you thought about sharing your wonderful home with others? You & your family are a wonderful example of living simply & respectfully in the world, so your extra rooms could be for short stays, or for younger folks needing to get started in life or some other version that might work for you & your I said, just a thought :)
Anonymous said…
Hi Jo

I used to sometimes post on Simple Savings (on Mimi's blog) under the Nom de Plume, Mrs Tiggywinkle. It was there that I found your blog which I read for inspiration, laughs and good book tips (those gorgeous Alan Bradley books, for example..Flavia - such a gorgeous character). Anyway, to get to my point, I just wanted to ask about your food dehydeator. I just bought a Sunbeam one and can't seem to get anything except apples to work well. Do you kind of half dry the fruit? Do you keep it for long? Any tips on using the dehydrator would be welcome. Maybe I just need encourage,ent though because the dried fruit is so different from what I am used to buying. Thanks:)

Mrs Tiggywinkle/Lizzie
Anonymous said…
Now I feel a bit silly as I think your dehydrator might just be of the one you put together with the tray and domed good cover - not an electrical one?
Meg said…
Hi Jo,

I've been telling my husband for years that I want to move to Tasmania because it's Summers are milder. When I mentioned this during our own recent hot spell, he reminded me of the heat and bushfires you're currently experiencing. Obviously, I need to rethink and have decided that Antarctica might be the place for me now that Tassy is too hot!

Fernglade Farm said…
Hi Jo,

Keep your fingers crossed (as I am) as there may be some solid rain for both of our spots on this planet over the next few days. Yes, the climate has drifted south this year and I've heard quite a few people now saying that this year. Welcome to my summer, it is not good.

Sorry to read that your girl is flying the coup this week. That is hard and you have my sympathies.

Downsizing is a very rational decision. The editor and I live in a small house and I know people living in very large houses whose children have long since flown the coup and I reckon they struggle with that choice and space. Plus maintenance on the place - even new houses require maintenance - and rates, energy bills etc. are all heaps more in a bigger house. I once travelled around Australia for six months (a month in Tasmania, by the way) living out of the back of a small hatchback and I reckon you don't really need a lot of stuff to live day to day.

PS: Watch out for those pesky zombies... :-)!


Pam in Virginia said…
Hi, Jo!

Your situation (at the moment) is certainly a"pall"ing! Don't be depressed about the future climate; it could take many turns - some of them good! You are one hugely adaptable family, too, and you have each other - that's a lot in your favor.


Pam in Virginia said…

And as for The Girl going away, for awhile, I'm with you there. I never cried so much in my entire life after I had dropped off my oldest son at university (over 13 years ago), which was all of 1 hour's drive away. Since then, he has come and gone (as has our younger son), lived in Europe for 3 years, lived across the U.S., now he's back and happy as a clam. You know you haven't "lost" her, as well as you know that young birds must fly.

Judy said…
Oh no! You are letting another one go. Feels really sad as they grow up, (though sometimes they come back again and you end up wishing you had more space). Don't listen to Abba's song "Slipping through my fingers" unless you are prepared to sit and cry for a while. Love that song but it makes me so sad.

I am shocked by all the smoke and fires. Hope more people wake up to climate change as it seems only extreme events prompt any action. Maybe the zombies threat will persuade people to act.
gretchenjoanna said…
Ugh - I am so sorry to hear this. It seems like only last month that we had so many fires going just in California, and I drove through the blackened towns in the next county over. But no, that was way back during our own hot and dry summer. Now friends are rebuilding their house that burned down then. I pray you get through with minimal suffering and have a nice wet winter. But it's so depressing....
Jo said…
Hello lovelies, spent two days madly cleaning, weeding and stuffing possessions into cupboards to have agents through this afternoon. Such a wonderful pick me up to get back here to your lovely messages:)

Heather, I think I will move to a house with no lawn.. that will fix that problem. Blue sky I do not have such influence with..

Fran, rain!! The rain dancing worked! Well done you! I can feel the garden gratefully slurping it up. I watch with much interest as always, as you experiment madly in your garden. You have no fear, and are willing to try anything - I love that, carry on the good work:)

Debbie, children leaving home, what can you do? I want to keep them home under my mama hen wings, but they want to leave home and fly and have adventures, and I want that too, but eek!

jj, how wonderful to see you here! I often read your comments on ADR and wish you had a blog, because I find your ideas and lifestyle so interesting. Now we can really talk:)

Now, funny you should mention turning my home into a community house, a friend suggested that the other day. I have another friend whose suburban permaculture garden and house is regularly full of international woofers.. I have considered this idea as generally a Good Thing. If only I liked people.. Don't get me wrong, I am totally in favour of humanity and love nearly everyone I meet, but only for a maximum of two hours, and then I want them to go away.. I really am an incurable introvert. The world's extroverts have my unqualified support to start and thrive in communities, and this house would be perfect for that, but I would descend into a nervous breakdown after about three days. It is a good thing to be older and to know myself. I will have to find some other way to do good in the world. I could write about other people's communities:)

Mrs Tiggywinkle/Lizzie, of course I remember you, lovely to hear from you again, glad you enjoyed Flavia:) I have the Sunbeam dehydrator too - small, round, with several trays? Are you having trouble getting the fruit dry enough, or is it too dry? I find I have to keep moving the trays around because the bottom tray dries better. I don't think you will ever get fruit to look like supermarket dried fruit because they add preservatives, and often oil as well. I add nothing, don't even dip in lemon juice as per instuction booklet, just bung in raw fruit and dry it, for about a day and a half, depending on the fruit (I turn it off at night in case I burn the house down). My favourite whole food shop has a section of organic dried fruit which looks just like the fruit I dry, so I figure I am doing it right. My apple and pear I dry till crispy, like chips, and my apricots are brown and chewy, but delicious. Hope this helps, feel free to keep asking questions until you get the answer you were looking for:)

Meg, yes, next stop Macquarie Island for the perfect summer:)

Chris, it is raining! Real, actual, heavy rain! So exciting!

re downsizing - I have always been inspired by holiday cabins. So small, no wasted space, yet we always have a great time in them and don't feel cooped up. I love the photos of your small house on your blog - it's perfect. I think we are tricked into believing that we need all this space..

Pam, one thing, if I move somewhere small the kids won't be able to move back in..

Judy, yes, family of three soon.. the dynamic changes again. It is so good to see them grow and change. Promise not to listen to any sad songs, that would be fatal, I don't need any excuse to burst into tears at the moment..

Gretchen Joanna, the fires are hopefully out with today's rain, but I have never seen smoke like we have experienced this week.It is something many mainland communities experience most summers; it really does feel as if the climate is moving south.. I feel for your friends rebuilding. That would be very hard.

Anonymous said…
Thank you Jo! I'm encouraged that you find the Sunbeam good as I really wondered if it actually worked. I left it on overnight and the plums and bananas still weren't dried. Hubbie managed to dry banana chips but they didn't look very appetizing. I'm beginning to think that home dried fruit is absolutely nothing like the dried fruit which you can buy in Coles. Mind you, that stuff is full of sulphuides which is I wanted to learn to do it myself. Maybe I just need to experiment and not give up after one failed attempt!

Has the rain helped with the fires and smoke down there?
jj said…
Hi Jo, although I would love to smile demurely & take credit for the other jj's comments on JMG's blog, I can't as it's not me! I've been reading & lurking there for some considerable time & on the few occasions I considered commenting, you had written exactly what I was feeling, & so much better than I could have expressed in written words, so there was no need. Hence why I decided to follow you to your blog & there you were in beautiful Tasmania. There are a number of Australian's reading & commenting on Greer's bog, it gives me HOPE, not the silly sort that JMG warns us about, but good old roll up your sleeves & get stuck in sort of hope :)
Jo said…
Lizzie, have you ever seen organic dried bananas? They look vile - all brown and shrivelled. I know commercial banana chips are dipped in sugar syrup and who knows what else to make them yellow and crunchy. I like drying apples until they are crispy, apple chips, you CAN buy these in little packets at the supermarket and they are very expensive, more so than 'normal' dried apples! So I think it is a matter of accepting a new 'normal' and selling them to your family as 'gourmet':) Sometimes they do take up to two days to dry though, so persevere xx

An Australian jj! Now that is truly splendid:) Yes, I absolutely agree that rolling up our sleeves and getting stuck in is one of the best ways to keep hoping and not despairing about the future. We really can make all the difference in our own lives; we won't necessarily change the world, but changing ourselves is aspiration enough most days, working out to be fair and kind and sustainable..
Anonymous said…
The fires and dryness are truely horrible. I have a friend in Hobart at the moment. She sent me a photo of the smoke there and pointed out the trees on the hills were burnt. We had a massive storm here today. Hope you get down consistent wet stuff.

As to selling. Nooooo. Your kids will come and go and come again. And you can walk to work. And your house is gorgeous and has such a high quality finish. And all the work in the garden. And the cubby-slash-coop awaiting chooks. And the view. And the double glazed windows. And I found your place even though I forgot the address.

PS my phone died on way home. A week without it. Until my son fixed it. Will send photo soon.

PPS. Keep the beautiful house. Or sell it to me!
Fernglade Farm said…
Hi Jo,

Exactly, that is the classic definition of an introvert. I love people too, I love catching up with them and have a great old time. In fact, at Christmas a lovely person said that I was so entertaining that I could be part of a rent-a-crowd. Lovely. But then they must go elsewhere for a while, whilst my batteries happily recharge.

More than you would believe! Magic is the art and science of changing consciousness in accordance with will. And this world stinks of magic to me as it has been taken a little bit too far, for the world will not run on magic. The dark arts of marketing is one good example of that use.

Oooo! How did we slip into philosophy? Nice to hear that you received some rain. I piked up 17mm yesterday much to my relief. I do hope the dams are filling up in your beautiful state.


Jo said…
Lucinda, don't worry, I have everything in hand. Trust me on this:) Plus, if I move into a tiny house, the children will only come back home to live in a real emergency! And why yes, you may buy my house xx

Chris, yes, that 'magical' thinking that encourages us to believe that we 'need' all the stuff and the personal space and a home theatre, and a pool..
a great post about the current summer and fire conditions, jo - you have captured it so well. I really think this is the way it's going to be for many years to come, sadly!
sad and wonderful to read about your daughter going to uni. what a big life change - for you all. it's a cliché, but it all sounds like a new chapter is unfurling before you, somehow!

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