geraldton through wilde eyes

Well it’s been nearly 3 weeks since the sprogs and I joined Bean here in Geraldton so I’d like to share some of my thoughts on the place (subject to change with time and experience of course!).

I’ll get the rants out of the way first so we can end on a happy note eh?

Geraldton does not do waste well at all. There is no council recycling collection which seems so last century. We can deliver our tin and aluminium cans and our cardboard/paper to a depot but plastic and glass can’t be recycled here. To that I say,

“WOW!”

We don’t seem to use products in cans (other than the occasional can of tuna which Bean takes to work and doesn’t cart home again) and our paper/card is added to our compost heap as the carbon component to balance out the nitrogen rich food scraps. Glass and plastic are the recyclable wastes we generate most of, and we can’t recycle them here! I suppose the positive of that is that it gives us an opportunity to further reduce the packaging waste we bring in to our house in the first place. It’s been rather a rude shock to be producing so much waste at all after our time in Albany where our milk bottles were returned for reuse, the mesh bags and paper bags our vegies came home from the farmer’s market in were returned for reuse and our honey jars were returned for reuse as well. We produced much less household waste then.

I suppose it might take time to get to know where to buy the food we’re used to eating, it did take time in Albany. The farmer’s market here is a fairy average affair, especially when compared to the Albany farmer’s market. They are really trying though, and I hope it takes off. There are likely a lot less fresh produce growers around here than there are around Albany, the climate here isn’t the greatest for growing thirsty crops, so I imagine it’d be tough to find the selection of growers there are on the south coast. Luckily I’ve already found a green grocer who sells a fabulous selection of organic fruit and veg. They have agreed to take a weekly order from us and pack it all loose into cardboard boxes since they otherwise individually wrap their organic produce so they can tell the difference between it and the conventional stuff at the check out. They also stock Margaret River Organic milk (pastuerised but not homogenised) which is a reasonable compromise when raw milk is not available. Short of having our own cow or living within cooee of my dairy farming sister nothing can ever come close to the milk supply we had in Albany. Really, how can you beat reusable glass bottles filled with fresh, unprocessed milk delivered with a smile and a genuine enquiry after your wellbeing? In short, you just can’t.

The weather has been quite lovely, real “holiday” weather. Yesterday it rained for the first time since we arrived and it was a really rather dismal effort at rain, more like a sprinkle really. We’ve been at the beach most days and at the playgrounds every day since getting here. Mornings and evenings call for long sleeves but during the day we’re wearing short sleeves very comfortably, and today is the first official day of Winter. I have a strong suspicion Summer here would melt me into Ms Cranky Pants because Autumn has been about as Summery as I can handle. Thankfully we’ll be out of here early Spring so I won’t get to test that hypothesis.

I’m really glad for the outdoor friendly weather though because the playgrounds here are AWESOME! The best I’ve seen anywhere.

At the town beach there is a fabulous playground with two main sections, one aimed at younger children and one aimed at older children. The equipment over both sections caters to children ranging in age from pre-walking to teenagers. Next to the playground is a water playground that can be turned on by anyone with the press of a button between 9am-6pm each day, yeah… even now that it’s officially Winter.

The sprogs have had hours of fun at the water playground already, it really is fantastic and unlike any other free playground I’ve seen.

And that’s just the town beach playground, the rest of the playgrounds we’ve seen around Geraldton have been fabulous too. The only thing that could make the parks here any better is a play in the park program like the one the wonderful Jamie (the Clown) and his YMCA crew ran in Albany.

Our house is not bad, not a place I’d want to settle for longer that the four months we plan to be here, but it’s not bad. We had some issues with dirty carpets to begin with and in honestly I can’t understand how on earth we’re paying so much for it because it just doesn’t seem worth it (totally foreign rental market up here) but it’s close to the beach which I’ve taken advantage of a few times when I’ve gone for a sunset walk by the ocean all alone once Bean has come home from work. It’s been nice to snatch those moments of solitude because we’re back to having no friends nearby and I’m feeling a bit overwhelmed by the task of parenting the sprogs on my own for such extended hours while Bean’s at work.

Thankfully a south coast friend has put us in touch with a mid west friend and I’ll have to make contact now we’ve landed and settled, so the lonely days can be over real soon…

So far I’m liking Geraldton enough, there’s a lot about it that is awesome and it’s nice to have a change of scenery after a really tough year in Albany.

 

 

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farmer’s market – an invitation

This morning we were at the farmer’s market early enough to get the pick of the produce. A lot of the stalls sell out early, especially the organic stalls, so it’s good to get there as its opening.

We’re passioate about sourcing organic food, and prefer it to be local, so the farmer’s market is our best chance of finding great food in this town. Winter at the markets was a bit slow and disappointing, meaning we had to shop at the (too) expensive organic store or the (awful, awful!) supermarket to supplement what we could compensate for what we couldn’t get at the farmer’s market.

Today though, we had such a brilliant haul that we won’t need to shop anywhere else for fresh produce all week. Hurrah!

We got some more of the delicious local macadamias. I actually had a dream nightmare last night that we got to the market too late and missed out on them! We also got some lovely new season Norland potatoes, 3 bunches of carrots, some cabbage, some baby spinnach, and some broccolini from the lovely Bathgate Farm stall. From the Payneham Vale Organics stall we got delicious jumbo eggs, some sausages, gravy beef, and olive oil. From Gilgie Farm we got some leaks to make potato and leak soup with. Altogether now… YUUUUUUUMMM!

While at the market we ran in to a woman I knew in the years before we both became mothers. Her sprogs are the same age as our sprogs. We were quite pleased to find each other, both living here now, and she’s invited us to their place for a Moroccan dinner tonight.I love the farmer’s market. It’s a place to get delicious fresh food, with very low carbon miles but it’s more than just that. The farmer’s market is a place with soul, a place for the community to gather and be together. It’s so enriching to buy the food we’re currently unable to produce for ourselves from the wonderful people who produce it for us. Shopping at the supermarket is a chore, and shopping at the farmer’s market is a joy.

As the inspiring (and sadly, no longer blogging) Farmama says,

“Communities that support farms have farms that support communities!”

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falling into place

Since I’ve been back from Perth, this whole living on the south coast thing has felt like it’s falling into place. Finally.

The first few days back here were a bit of an emotional blow. I was feeling isolated and cynical.

It rained that Monday, so we stayed indoors and spoke to no one outside our mother-children triad all day.

It also rained Tuesday, so we had a repeat of Monday but with slightly more resentment because Tuesday is a “play in the park” day and we were missing out because it was too wet. Cabin fever had set in. The sprogs were cranky and I was too.

Wednesday saw our spirits pick up though and we’ve been on a high since…

The sprogs and I went to the museum for the monthly mini muses program Wednesday morning. There we met an old friend who has one extra child than the last time I saw him but otherwise hasn’t changed much. I knew he lived down this way, I just didn’t know how to find him and I’d hoped we’d just run into each other eventually… we did, yay. He introduced me to his partner and we had a little chat while our sprogs ran about (excepting their littlest sprog who is just a wee baby). Knowing they’d understand my plight, I complained to these friends about my poor luck sourcing good food down here. I told them I was shopping at stupormarkets down here, and that it was destroying my soul to be doing it after so many years of doing all my food shopping at small, locally owned businesses back in Perth. They understood, like I knew they would, and they had some solutions to suggest. Hurrah! They told me about a little bulk food store down here and they told me about a biodynamic farmer that sells his meat from big chest freezers in a park! I told them about my friends who deliver fresh milk in reusable glass bottles, and we all smiled. Wednesday afternoon we went home feeling happier than we’d felt when we’d left home that morning, so we’ll call it a successful outing.

Wednesday night was my first night back at college since my trip to Perth and it was really nice to be back among lovely people and playing with nurturing essential oils. I got home to sleeping children and a clean home, how wonderful.

Thursday morning the sprogs and I decided to check out the food store our friends had recommended and it certainly impressed me. It’s small, it’s really a little too small to contain all the loveliness within, but it was still great. There were bulk dry goods and there were completed quilts hanging up too, they were for sale. It made my heart sing to see good food and beautiful quilts in such a visually appealing store. It smelled yummy and it looked unique. We bought some biodynamic flour, some organic rolled oats and a small lot of banana chips for the sprogs to munch on the walk back to the car. The woman who served us was warm and friendly, and she was interested to hear about my delight at finding the store. So much nicer than a large stupormarket!

Come Friday morning we were back at boobie club (Australian Breastfeeding Association meeting) for some good company and sunshine, our week had well and truly turned around. Friday night I got to go to a one off night time booby club, and I got to go without sprogs too. I owe Bean for that, it was nice to have a chat without having to entertain the sprogs too.

Saturday night we went to our milkman’s birthday party which was nice. Our milkman is also a carpenter and he just happened to knock up a patio to party under that day. Fabulous! The food was nice and, as always, the company was lovely. Sprout and Moe had a lovely time cruising around with other kids, getting thoroughly filthy in a big pile of black sand, and generally loving every minute of the party!

photo by www.liamwilde.com

Then, after I had a Sunday of study while Bean took the sprogs fishing, I got an email late last night from my aromatherapy lecturer. I’ve been sending her some raw food recipes and generally talking up the awesomeness of young coconuts so she invited the sprogs and I around for a play date today, so we could make some raw goodies and the sprogs could play. Her son is the same age as Sprout and they got along so well! Moe was a bit out of sorts after a rough, sleepless night, so he needed a bit of extra help today. Thankfully I was able to give it to him when he needed it because Sprout was so beautifully preoccupied playing with her new friend. Even when meeting Moe’s needs was taken into account, my friend and I still managed a remarkable amount of adult conversation, fresh juice, herbal tea, young coconut smoothie, roast veg & salad wraps, and a bit more adult conversation. It was a fabulous day and I’m feeling really great after it!

photo by www.liamwilde.com

Yes. This south coast thing is starting to work out ok.

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loyalty & thanks

I am a loyal customer.

I shop at small stores for the more personal shopping experience they provide, rather than the large, anonymous “stupormarkets” that make my head & my heart ache.

We used to buy our fresh produce in Fremantle from Mr Organic, a small business run by a beautiful family who we miss so much. We followed them when they left the Fremantle Markets, eventually moving to the E-shed Markets. Every week we’d go to buy our fresh organic produce & they’d greet us warmly. They’d ask about our week. They’d give The Bubble something fresh & yummy to eat while we shopped (a cut up apple, a small cluster of grapes) & always a cuddle as well. Shopping for our weekly supply of fresh produce was a delight. It was a task we looked forward to. Especially once Mr Organic moved to the E-shed, their stall was opposite the Fremantle Harbour. In Summer it was cool when everywhere else was hot. All year ’round the view was better than any view you’d find in a shopping mall. The air was fresh & salty. It was just… nice.

When we first moved to Albany, before I discovered a small organic shop down here I shopped a couple of times at a big supermarket. It was so, so, very stressful. Finding a parking bay in the carpark was difficult, we ended up parking quite far from the entrance. We found a dicky trolley. Is there a such thing as a not-dicky trolley?! I strapped Babyman in to the seat of the trolley & went in. My first supermarket shopping experience in a very, very long time…

The food available there was not anywhere near my standard of food (call me a snob, I don’t care! Good food makes my world go ’round!). The same amount of conventionally farmed produce from the supermarket ended up costing more than we ever paid for organic & biodynamic produce at Mr Organic anyway! Iwas totally out of my comfort zone. My heart rate increased. My breathing shallowed. My shoulders tensed. My gut churned. I spoke tersely to my children through gritted teeth,

“Don’t touch that. Put that back. Leave that alone. Come here with me. Don’t walk too far that way. We’re not going that way. Watch where you’re going, there’s someone with a trolley right behind you…”

The sproggets were overwhelmed. The supermarket was big. It was over-stimulating. It was busy. So, so busy. Trolleys everywhere. People rushing to beat other people to the checkout. People scowling. People snatching for the “specials”.

I missed our friends at the markets. I missed being served by people who know my name, who know my children’s names, whose names we know. People who smile when they see us. People who are familiar. People who came to learn what our absolute favourite produce was & put a little aside for us if we asked. You know? People who just care a little more than the underpaid, overworked folk at the large supermarkets.

Thankfully, within a week or so I found a small organic store here in Albany where we could be loyal customers.

When we shop there we speak to the same people, they greet us warmly, they are familiar. The Bubble has found a playmate in the daughter of one of the women who runs the store. We are learning to remember each others names. We’re learning to remember small details about each other.

I am so grateful to the families who run small businesses like Mr Organic & the organic store in Albany. I’m grateful for the very hard work they put in to running their businesses. I’m grateful to them for running their businesses in the face of overwhelming competition from supermarket giants. I’m grateful for the warm customer service. I’m grateful for the provision of such amazingly good food. I’m grateful for the opportunity they provide to learn about locally grown fresh produce. I’m grateful for the beautiful people they are. More than anything though, I’m just so grateful I don’t have to shop at supermarkets. I’m grateful for the chance to be a loyal customer.

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Wilde’s in Wonderland

We have named our new home “Wonderland”. The whole property is named something else, yet we have decided to dub our part of it Wonderland because of a white rabbit that led us up the path to our home a couple of weeks ago, just after we’d signed the lease, when we brought the outlaws around to have a look.

We were driving up the bumpy, gravel driveway when we had to stop for a very white (obviously escaped domestic, not wild) rabbit in the path. The rabbit hopped off rather slowly, but we knew we were turning off the main driveway onto the track leading to our new place soon & thought it would continue along the main driveway. Just as we thought we’d be able to get past the rabbit it dashed across the front of the car & hopped up the path to our place. WONDERLAND!

So Wonderland is an owner built place on 12 acres about 15km from Albany and 40km from Denmark. A very beautiful spot. The part of the property that Wonderland is on is native bush, surrounding properties have paddocks which make good firebreaks so I feel more comfortable about having bush so close to the house. There’s 3 other houses on the same property. So far I’ve only met the caretaker, who lives closest to us, and Bean has met one of the people who live in the other house. The owners now live closer to Perth, and come to stay at the property for a few days each month. Wonderland used to be their family home. I’m told there’s quite a community aspect here. There is a shared vegie patch & there is a sweat lodge not far from the house we’re in. I’m hoping to see evidence of that soon, I’m craving a bit of community.

The house is pretty amazing. There’s a lot of little (& not so little) bits about it that I don’t like so much. There are a lot of energy guzzling downlights which can’t be changed to a lower energy light very cheaply & heaps of single glazed glass making the place cold which make it quite unsustainable, I find this challenging because we’re really keen to limit our environmental impact & I worry that we may actually use more electricity here than we did in Perth!

It’s also not as “safe” as I’d like, though we just have to learn the hazards and behave accordingly (children included). There’s decks on 2 sides of the house which get slippery when wet (which is often!) and Babyman fell backward off the lower deck into a bush yesterday morning & again off another part of the deck trying to navigate some outside stairs today. Inside, there’s stairs to a loft (baby gate already in place so that’s less of a concern now), there’s a tile fire, the kitchen is wide open which we’re not used to (getting cupboard locks for the glass containing cupboards tomorrow). I feel like I’m spending all my time at the moment saying “no” and “not safe”, or nursing an injured child. The Bubble split her lip open last evening, that was a production, she went as white as a sheet Last night she woke up in hysterics 4 times, taking at least 30 minutes to console each time, she was in a lot of pain. She was trying to ride the wheely bug from the kitchen into the sunken lounge. I’d told her so many times yesterday that the wheely bug isn’t to be at the top of steps in case it falls down the steps while someone is riding it, it always has to be on the low side because that’s safest. Each time she’d snarl at me & I’d tell her I’d take the toy away if she kept playing with it dangerously because I didn’t want to see her hurt. I put it in the lounge but last evening she got it up into the kitchen again while we were sorting out dry nappies for Babyman & she rode the it off the step at a fast pace and hurt herself. There was a lot of blood & she was clearly in shock. I suppose she had to learn the hard way though, she’s that kind of person, she often hurts herself doing things I’ve suggested she not do. I gave her a lot of homoeopathic arnica (after years of studying & practicing herbal medicine I still don’t know how much I believe in homoeopathics to be honest, but the pillules give an injured or sick child something else to think about for a short time so they’re effective as distractions if nothing else), & she eventually settled for the night with Bean in her bed cuddling & consoling her. This morning her lip looked much better already & she didn’t seem bothered by it.

Anyway, back to Wonderland… There are other things about the house that are amazing. I love the tile fire for being beautiful in the same breath that I don’t like it for its inefficiency & dangerousness! The bush surrounding the house make it a beautiful environment for a home. The loft looks out into the tree tops, which is simply beautiful and it has a window in the roof which is nice for star gazing, I will certainly do this when I build my own place although I’ll use double glazed glass. There is some beautiful stained glass about the place too. I’ll take some pictures another time & upload them to the blog, for now there’s no use because it’s night time & there is no sun streaming through the stained glass. The toilet is separate from the rest of the house (combined bathroom, laundry, toilet area) which I have wanted for ever so long because Bean is smelly! The water supply is from a spring fed dam, and is amazing to bathe in, I’ve noticed we all have softer skin & hair since being here. Dave loves it here too. There are other dogs for him to play with & with all those unsustainable windows he can see into the house well so he doesn’t feel so isolated from us when we’re inside. He needs a kennel though, he’s currently got a cardboard box with a sheepskin in it for a bed, which is warm enough now but it’ll get colder. He’s also slowly chewing the edges of it, so he’ll end up without a home soon enough at the rate he’s going!

My absolute favourite bit about Wonderland though, and this is very daggy, is that our street runs off a road called “Old School Road” – there’s a place for sale on Old School Road and if I was rich & frivolous I’d buy it just for the address (and the fact that it’s an alpaca stud & alpacas are quite awesome).

We’ve not connected with any homeschoolers down here yet, I have sent countless emails to the Albany group co-ordinator but had no response, and Bean’s spoken with her on the phone but she was pretty non-committal, & just told him to email her! I think the homeschool network in Albany is largely made up of curriculum homeschoolers, & the fact that we’re natural learners/unschoolers/life learners/whatever makes us not really fit the mould for that particular group. No matter, we’ve got a plan to write a little homeschooling “personals” note out & put it on noticeboards around Albany & Denmark calling for people to network with. If there’s a natural learning network down here I’ll find them & if there isn’t already a regular natural learners meet up in the Great Southern I’ll do my very best to get one happening!

I did run into an old friend at the petrol station last week, and she’s given me her phone number so I’d like to tee up a catch up with her. She homebirthed her children, co-slept, full term breastfed, & carried them in slings (except when performing her whip-cracking show) & though I have no idea of her approach to education (bearing in mind I’m looking for playdates during the weekdays), I always felt comfortable with the way she treated her first daughter when we hung out before I had children so I’m excited to have seen her so soon after we moved her. I knew she was living in Albany, & had hoped I’d run into her sooner or later.

It’s taking time to find our feet, and I feel like I started with my cup already empty after our stressful 2 week stay with the outlaws, so with no way of filling my cup down here yet I’m finding myself feeling pretty low and questioning the sanity of this whole move.

The children aren’t coping so well. Babyman is ok really, although he’s feeding VERY often, every time he comes near me he pokes my chest and says “more”, he’s very insistent. It’s doing my head in actually, it’s no secret how much I hate breastfeeding, and without exaggeration he’d be feeding every 20-30 minutes during the day with the longest night time breaks being about 2 hours. The Bubble is really struggling, she needs kids to play with. She’s such a social child, and she hasn’t been to a playgroup for over a month now! She’s been doing attention seeking things like drawing on the furniture & the floors after Babyman drew on the walls. She tells me she doesn’t like me, she snarls at me, she tells me her Daddy does everything better than me & that she doesn’t want me to live with her anymore, she yells & rages and then she cries, tells me she does like me and asks for a cuddle. She’s needing Bean in her bed most nights. Her bedroom is lovely, I’ve made a point of creating a safe space for her to play & relax, hers was the first room to be unpacked and set up when we moved in. She’s gradually telling me she likes her new house so I just need to organise some playtime for her.

My sister and her 2 children came to stay for a couple of nights last week, which was wonderful, the children had playmates & I had a likeminded & beautiful person to chat with, although it wasn’t really for long enough unfortunately. They have recently moved from Perth to the Margaret River region (they have lived there before) so she understands the stress of a long distance move. We ate such amazing food, my sister is a fantastic wholefoods cook & I think it’s such a treat to eat meals prepared by her. She has such a flair with flavours & she’s not afraid to try something bold, where I’m much more conservative with my cooking. It was quite inspiring.

Speaking of food, we’ve found a gorgeous little organic food store in Albany, organic fresh produce is more expensive here than we were getting it for in Perth, the prices for certified organic at the farmers markets are outright ridiculous & the other stalls don’t sell organic so it’s good to find the store which is open 6 days/week. The bulk produce is often cheaper there than in Perth. Rice is $8/kg there & it’s $10/kg minimum in Perth. The people who run it are lovely, they used to run an organic orchard in Perth & were involved with the City Farm farmer’s market from its inception. They sell Jersey bath milk that is at least 1/3 cream, some weeks it’s been 1/2 cream, it’s just divine!

Bean was officially signed up for his apprenticeship again today. No idea where he stands with Tafe stuff & how long until he’ll have his licence sorted out, but he’s getting closer to it every day obviously.

That’s about all the updating I have energy for tonight, it’s already getting late again.

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