Dreaming the good life

I have collapsed into a post-exhibition slump which explains my blog absense for the last week. At times like this it is far easier to not blog than it is to blog. So I am forcing myself to get back into the swing by telling you about the book I am reading.

Living the Good Life” by Linda Cockburn is a diary kept by an Australian woman about her family’s experiment with self-sufficient living on a (largish) suburban block for a period of six months in 2004. Their aims (full list here) were to go for the six months without spending a dollar (bar unavoidable expenses such as rates, mortgage, insurances and medical expenses), to see how much difference they could make to their personal lives (health, relationships etc) and to see how much difference they could make to the environmental impact that one family creates in daily life. And it’s great! While I slob about, heat up ready made ravioli, munch on a packet of biscuits, listen to the (too much) bath water gurgle away down the drain, and partake in numerous other unsustainable habits, I am reading about Linda struggling to keep her garden watered through the dry Summer, keep her young son well fed and happy, and experiment with creating delicious little treats to make the six months more bearable. I have only read as far as February (they started in January) but I can’t tell you how much this stuff is already getting into my head.

The family follow the principles of Permaculture, which is not a just a gardening practice, but a principle for life – the idea of attempting to leave the smallest footprint on the Earth as possible while we are here:

* care of the earth
* care of people
* the sharing of resources to help others achieve their needs
* and reduce consumption.

What they can’t grow or make they barter for – swapping wheels of feta cheese for flour, sugar and so on. But just look at this list of what they do grow, and this panoramic photograph of their garden. Just incredible.

Although it sounds like incredibly hard work and I am not sure if I would be up to it (certainly not while I am 6 months pregnant), it certainly is a reminder of how much more simple (pure? functional? what is the word I am looking for?) life can be and how little happiness is actually attached to the amount of money we make or spend.

Rather than making me feel guilty for our over-indulgent lifestyle, this book makes me feel inspired – not to go out and live out of our garden necessarily (which would be impossible given the amount of space we have) but to make small changes to our life and our habits so that we too can tiptoe lightly.

The Cockburn family have a great web site, and are undertaking a second adventure in Strawbale House making. What they really need is a blog! How great would that be?