21 December 2011

In search of land to rent

We're heading out today, with our newly created leaflet, in the hope of finding someone ready and willing to rent us land, to place our container house on... wish us luck!

Here's the leaflet on Scribd:

our house

Inspiring woman, living in elegant poverty

Watch "California DIY, shipping container tiny home and a cargo trailer bedroom" on YouTube

As found on: Fair Companies

Container at Thor's Hammer

The container and all it's contents arrived safely at Thor's Hammer today. It's a strategic placement actually, because I hope to use Thor's amazing selections of recycled timbers to modify the container and build the house - saving a little on transport and time.

16 December 2011

Packing up, moving on

I lost my job, ending 23 December (thanks UC). So, we bought a shipping container and filled it with our stuff. We'll store it and hit the road until we know where we are.

20 foot high cube empty

Amazing that it all fit!

09 December 2011

Visiting Blenheim Beach

I spent many happy days on this beach when I was a kid. From age 5 I'd go visit my Nannies and Pa, catching the train to Nowra with my sister, where we'd get picked up and taken to Vincentia. My Pa would wake us up at 6 every morning, to patrol the little beach for litter. We'd get back to the house by 7 or 8, where Nannies would be preparing a breakfast of muesli, toast and cut oranges. Yum, we loved these breakies. Then Pa would take us back to the beach where we'd swim and play cricket nearly all day. When I was a little older, Nannies taught me how to paint with oils.

So many more happy memories of this place, I'd almost forgotten them to a life of silly busy-ness.

Now, 30 years later, with baby Eve in tow, there's no more breakfasts by Nannies, and Pa rarely leaves the house. We get back there far too rarely, how did I let life get so busy? Now I'm missing this special place.

I realized on this trip, this place is the closest thing I have to a sense of home, a place with our history in it, with our early life memories, and happy ones too.. I so wish I could spend more time there, playing with Eve in the same place I played when I was a kid.

Eve's paintings

Sunshine has been working with Eve, creating Christmas gifts. Here are a couple of acrylics on canvas.

Handball after the BBQ

24 October 2011

Mount Townsend

A few weeks ago, Robbie, Thor and I camped out on Watson's Crags, and admired the view and long steep runs coming down off Mount Townsend to Albina Lake and Lady Northcoat Canyon. Yesterday, Thor and I walked and skinned out to Townsend, and easily found the long line down. A fantastic line it was too! And we're talking late October here! People are sweating it out on the beach, just 3 hours drive from here!

The night before we drove up the Charlottes Pass, and camped under the veranda of the chalet. Next morning we walked to Seamam's Hut, dropped down to the Snowy, climbed up to Townsend, Dropped down below Lake Albina, climbed into Little Austria, Dropped down next to Club Lake and back to the Snowy River up to Charlottes, and home by 730pm.


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19 September 2011

Outback Watsons

Thor, Robbie and I camped at Island Bend on Friday night, so we could get an early start from Guthega, up Mount Twynam. The walk to the suspension bridge over the Snowy River was almost completely without snow. Reliably the snow was all the way to the river on the other side though, and our climb to Twynam and then onto Watsons Crags was straight forward.

The winds on Saturday were to be very strong through the night, so we dug in up a north arm of Strzelecki Creek. With an outstanding view across Carruthers Peak to Mount Townsend, we sat drinking miso soup, discussing our next trip all the way to Townsend.

The skiing was beautiful spring corn, delivering us far down steep valleys, for punishingly hot climbs back out. A great weekend.

Here's a video I made of it.

Here's the map

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And the photos start here (click right).

22 August 2011

Outback Old Matt

Old mate Matt Jones, down from the Northern Territory, or more recently - Queensland, came with me into another type of Australian Outback, up Guthega Trig for a little walk, and a look, and a try at skiing. Can't say he enjoyed the skiing part, but I think he appreciated the views.

More photos

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14 August 2011

Guthega, Farm Creek, The Paralyser, back to Guthega

Thor and I headed out expecting powder, but were disapointed to find rain washed snow, breakable crust, and an all over ice sheet. Climbing up Farm Creek to the saddle and then around to The Paralyser was lovey though, easy going, through beautiful snow gums. Taking our time allowed the sun to soften the snow in time for a great fun cruise back down through the trees. We spotted some nice looking intermediate and accessible terrain for when the snow is good.

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30 July 2011

Guthega Trig, Consett Stephen Pass, Mount Tate

I got up at 5 this morning, and rode to Thor's, from where we drove to Thor's mate Billy, and we all headed up to Guthega for a windy day on the Trig to Consett Stephen Pass, and onto Mount Tate. I was on some borrowed leathers and skinnies, and had a bit of a bad time on them, wishing for my solid fatties and plastics, with trusty skins to get me up there. Billy was impressive though, his skills in leather ankle boots and skinnies, better than most new-school skiers I've seen. Check out the reo he pulls on the cornice, first time without the camera was even better. Finding these perfect snow slopes off Gill's Nob made the day. Video was shot and edited all on the phone!

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23 July 2011

Eve goes ice skating

Canberra City Centre has an ice skating rink set up. Sunshine had free tickets, so we took Eve. She barely fit into the strap ons, but loved it all the same. She's very attached to mum these days. Won't let her out of her sight!

26 April 2011

Baybay, Leyte. Philippines

Sunshine, Fem, Eve and I just finished a last minute trip to Baybay in Leyte, Philippines to see Lola - Fem's mum, and all the family. We had to take a bank loan to get there, but it was a great trip thanks to the wonderful hospitality of Mary and Titing, helped tirelessly by Celia and Tintin, and made fun and easier by all the family.

Lola was very old, and restricted to a bed, unable to move, mostly sleeping. It was very sad for Fem and Sunshine to see their Lola this way, knowing that death was not far away, but at least they were able to be with her, if only for a few days. While we were there she had managed to open her eyes and smile at them. Lola died the night we arrived back in Australia, leaving her 7 daughters and 1 son.

Eve the monster
The journey from Sydney to Baybay was a nightmare, and the whole time in Leyte was dreading the return trip. Thankfully the return trip was overnight, so Eve slept at least half of it. Once awake however, she became the monster, very restless in the confined space.

At 14 months, Eve seems to be entering a hyperactive and unsettled phase, coupled with clinginess to her mum. Sunshine endured a total 30 hours of Eve's restlessness going to Baybay, starting from Canberra and a 4 hour drive to Sydney, then a 9 hour flight from Sydney to Hong Kong. Connecting to a 2.5 hour flight to Cebu City where we were met and helped by Santos, Mary, and Fely (Sunshine's uncle and aunties). We all taxi'd to Cebu port where we boarded a ship for the 5 hour night cruise to Ormoc, then a 1 hour bus to Baybay, and finally a putput (cycle rickshaw) to Mary and Titing's house - arriving at 4am local time (6am our time).

We slept the first day away - except for Eve, who went wild playing with all the other kids. It was great to not have to worry for her any longer, and just trust all the family to pass her around. Apart from the journeying, Eve was great to have around, and the family really helped make it much easier.

Mary and Titing's house
Mary and Titing's house was packed wall to wall with family all week, and while Sunshine, Eve and I were given a comfortable room with a bathroom, everyone else slept on all other available floor and couch space. The joyful, family spirit was just awesome to be around, something I think many Australian families have lost...

Baybay is a charming little town in Leyte Province, with its own port, market, shops, schools and a nearby university. Flanked by mountains to the East, and relatively far from Cebu City, tourism does not appear to be adversely affecting Baybay.

A new shopping mall has been established, and while it's footprint is large, it seems to cater mainly for the more wealthy, and doesn't appear to be having too much of an impact on the older, more complex trading areas.

In the Baybay central area buildings appear to be influenced by old Chinese terrace house designs with ground story shop fronts and second story living. Larger 2 story concrete, brick and timber warehouses exist on larger properties. Outside the central areas, formed and reinforced concrete (prepared onsite) post and beam, infilled by brick, is the preferred building material and method. A large number of interesting and intricate timber, bamboo and thatch buildings still exist, but appear to have slowed in use. Termites trouble unprotected timber where it is used at ground level.

Low pressure water is piped to permitted buildings, but is not potable before boiling. Water heating is not common and though it is not used, simple solar heating could save time and fuel for boiling and washing. Low voltage electricity is also wired, but again, simple photovoltaic could be used to supplement the generally low power usage. Gas is bottled and delivered for those who can afford it, otherwise solid fuel such as wood is used for fuel. Rocket stoves would greatly improve fuel efficiency, reduce emissions and improve health for those using solid fuels. I didn't see any use of biogas, and while I heard that pig farming was too costly, I saw no evidence of methane gas generation from pig farms. Sewage is piped, and grey water is allowed to drain into normal water ways. Again, composting toilets and grey water treatment could help I think. Land line telephones and internet is available, but it seems most prefer to go without. Mobile telephone use is common.

On Wednesday afternoon, Uncle Boy picked us up in his 4WD Suzuki mini ute (now on my Christmas wishlist) for a beautiful drive up the Makinhas River Valley, to Fem's home town, Villa (pronounced Vilya). We ate the most delicious feast at Manang Soring and Manoy Badoy's house, again with all the family, and then we walked up to see the progress on Boy and Naty's house (one of Fem's 7 sisters).

Boy (64yo) then challenged me to a mountain walk, and we were both outdone by the Leyson sisters, who led us to survey their 6 acres of coconut farm in a steep mountain re entrant just over Villa.

Hot, sweaty and itchy, we climbed down to Domingo's house (son of Uncle Santos, Fem's only brother) who generously refreshed us with coconut wine, cola and bread. Domingo keeps a spectacular pet bird, native to the Philippines, called a Kalaw.

When the Japanese were repelled from Leyte, people living in provincial towns such as Villa squatted and farmed coconut, banana, yams and bamboo. At some stage after the war, the Philippines government issued titles for the land to the squatters, charging an annual tax from then on. Today that tax is about 2000 Philippine Peso (PhP) per year for 5 acres of land (Au$47).

Today, land central to Baybay township is of highest value and seems to sell at around PhP1000 per square metre with 1000m2 being a large section. A designed and quality building seems to cost about 20 000PhP per square metre.

Politically, Leyte seems stable and content, with provincial towns governed and administered by committees called Barangays. I did hear of one remote southern provincial mountain town called Monterico, that defends an autonomy from central governance however. Police and security were visible in Baybay, but low key. Their primary role seemed to be in the town central, defending businesses, and the port.

Socio economics
An extreme difference in income exists side by side in Baybay. A general labourer's income sits at around PhP120 per day, and a teacher around PhP500. A common meal costs PhP40. Poverty seems to affect at least two thirds of Baybay's population, but food such as yams, coconut, banana's and of course rice grow everywhere, and building materials such as bamboo and coconut seem readily available. Access to these foods and resources is negotiated with land owners, who usually expect a share of the harvest. The skills and techniques for using these resources seem to be commonly held by the poor. Coconut oil seems to be a significant secondary industry. Coconut that is roasted ready for oil production, fetches around PhP35 per Kg, and fibre for rope about PhP45 per Kg. Bananas, about PhP1 per banana.

On Wednesday, Sunshine and I had some basic dental work done by a lady easily as skilled and resourced as any Australian dentist I've visited, but affordable, gentle and pleasant! Sunshine had a back tooth seen to, that had chipped away during her pregnancy. I had a clean, and general check up with surprisingly nothing found that I need to worry about. My Australian dentist injected fear and lifelong worry about a toothless old age plagued with deformity, so mine was a PhP1500 well spent!

We caught the fast cat back to Cebu on Thursday, as there were no boats on Good Friday. On Friday we saw a small passion play of Christ's trail and parade, and decided to take a taxi tour south to the St Catherine Church of Alexandra in Carcar City, where devotional crucifixions take place every Easter. Unfortunately this year, they couldn't secure a sponsor for the event! No matter, the tour out to the church and back was worth a look.

Final thoughts
After seeing the quality of in-home nursing care that Lola received from Celia and the family, thanks in part to Fem sending money each month; and thinking about the many problems with the Australian aged care sector, not least that most Australian never really see death as part of life, I've been thinking a lot about the comparison in our ways of life.

Also, the opportunities that our two country's dollar value disparity presents. It is common in many countries in Asia - Hong Kong, Singapore, Taiwan for examples, to hire Filipinos into care roles. I wouldn't hesitate hiring someone like Celia to assist with our family's care needs and preferences, if it were permissible in Australia.

But I also get to wondering if more and more Australians might consider retirement in places like Baybay - where Au$s can go so much further, and the quality and extent of services being so much more...

An inspiring visit, staying with an extremely welcoming and hospitable family, gave us such valuable incite into the life and culture of people living in and around Baybay, and pause to reflect on our own conditions for living in Australia. For one, our family units are relatively broken down compared to what I saw in Baybay and Villa. We don't have the level of interdependence in our families that people in the Philippines seem to have, and I think we are poorer for it. There's more to this than meets the eye of course, and I'm looking at things through the eyes of Illich as usual, where he would say of Australia, all industrialised societies, and as a warning to regions undergoing industrialisation:
[e]lite professional groups . . . have come to exert a 'radical monopoly' on such basic human activities as health, agriculture, home-building, and learning, leading to a 'war on subsistence' that robs peasant societies of their vital skills and know-how. The result of much economic development is very often not human flourishing but 'modernized poverty,' dependency, and an out-of-control system in which the humans become worn-down mechanical parts.
 The rest of our photos are here, and videos here.

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07 February 2011

Eve turns 1

Eve had her first birthday party yesterday. About 30 people came baring gifts for her "time capsule" - a box of gifts and symbolics for her to open on her 18th birthday. Sunshine weaved her usual magic with nibbles, sweats and decorations. We cooked hamburgers on the BBQ.

18 January 2011

Chris breaks his foot rock jumping, waits 27hrs in emergency.

Waiting to be transfered to Canberra Hospital

Very strange. Chris has jumped here before, and there were 8 people jumping the afternoon we arrived. Chris jumped holding a camera on his head, which might have meant he went deeper, and it might have been he didn't jump out, either way he clipped a rock, compound fracture in the foot.

I carried him out of there (100m climb over 1km) - he was in a lot of pain. Here's a video of the carry and a look an early look at his foot.

The carry

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Took him to emergency (7:30pm), then took Sunshine and Eve home. I uploaded all the photos and videos and fell asleep. Woke at 1:30am and went in to find him sitting in the waiting room, wound not cleaned, needing stitches, still in pain, with a basic bandage compressing on his swelling (no ice), foot not elevated.

I hit the roof! In no time he was in getting xrayed, given stronger pain killers, and the whole waiting room (about 15 people) were put through in the 30 minutes Chris was being seen to. Someone there at reception had completely fucked up. Everyone was very apologetic, explaining that their triage system wasn't working... I will get to the bottom of that story.

Chris arriving at Calvary

Because he'd gone 7 hours with an uncleaned wound over a fracture, they checked him in on an antibiotic drip for the risk of infection. Next morning we went in to see him at 7:30. They had just decided to transfer him to another hospital because they couldn't deal with compound fractures. He waited until 11:30 before being transfered to Canberra Hospital, and waited there until 2:30pm before being wheeled into a room... he still awaits specialist consultation, his wound is not stitched or cleaned.

Update: 6pm, almost 24hrs since checking in at Calvary, 8 hours since being transfered to Canberra, and Chris has still not been seen by a specialist at Canberra. I have spoken to the manager of Emergency Department Canberra Hospital who seemed to be initially unaware of Chris' ordeal at Calvary the night before. He assured me that a specialist would see Chris tonight and that he would go into surgery to clean and stitch the wound. Unfortunately this means another 48hrs stay over at Canberra, after surgery. He made no offer to keep me updated.

I also spoke to the Coordinator at Calvary, June Mo and made her aware of the saga, and to see if there was anything she could do to make Canberra more aware of Chris' history at Calvary, and to speed up the consultation. All June could do is look into the Calvary notes, and shared concern at the 7 hour wait before xray or adequate primary care. She couldn't comment on the 8 hour wait so far at Canberra, or why Chris was transfered to Canberra so late.

Update: 11:30am, Wednesday 19 January. Chris is out of surgery, wound has been cleaned but he will be held for at least 48hours while they test swabs for bacteria and infection.

After the operation

Update: 9:20am, Saturday 22 January. Chris came home last night, with a bag of antibiotics and pain killers. Got a call last night however, to go back to the hospital and get a different set of antibiotics of something.

17 January 2011

Eve gets lost looking for Gorilla Mountain

James and I took Eve looking for Gorilla Mountain yesterday afternoon. Off track walking and difficulties with magnetic rock affecting our compass saw us all climb the wrong spur, putting us 1km short of reaching the mountain. Our little climb was hard and thick, resulting is obscured views, mozzies and scratches. I could be dreaming, but I heard a new cry for Eve.. one that seemed to be apprehensive, nervous, even a little scared. She came good when we found our way off our mistake, and was back to her gurgling self when we found the track again.

On the way back we saw a snake. Not sure if its a Red Belly or a Copperhead...?

We did get to see Gorilla Mountain at a distance, and saw where we went wrong. The GPS tracker on the phone reveals exactly where we lost it.

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05 January 2011

Eve visits Booroomba Rocks

Sunshine works very hard at mothering, and does a great job. But it leaves her tired most of the time. I've taken a back seat in the parenting so far, helping any way I can. Now Eve is a little older, she can go 4 hours or more without her mum. This means adventures with daddy start. 2011 is the year we get out and about more. Yesterday, I packed little one in the car, drove an hour south to Namadgi National Park, to walk up to Booroomba Rocks. Its a place I've wanted to see since arriving in Canberra, a can't believe it took me so long to get there! Eve was a champ, so happy and well behaved. Thanks Eve. Photos

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