Ecoburbia – 10 years on . . . . .

I wrote this blog in 2013 when we first moved here. Tim and I had a bit of a vision setting session and this was my contribution. We have now been here for 7 years so I thought it might be interesting to revisit it.

As I open my eyes I remember that today is our anniversary, although I am actually not too sure how many years it has been I think it was 2002 and now we are 2024 so that would make it . . . . over 20 anyway. And I just celebrated my 55th birthday.

I suddenly laugh. When I first started “working” in 1990 that was the age that females were able to retire, access their super, slow down. Not sure there is any super in there . . .

My second thought is that it seems quiet. I have not used an alarm clock for years – our two goats usually make sure no one sleeps past 6am. But today it is quarter past and I have not heard anything.
Then I hear a scream “Hey Mum I did it! Five litres from Big Brown. All by myself!” I smile. Sophie lives next door and she has been wanting to milk the goats all on her own for weeks.

It makes me think about next door. The previous owners had taken down the fence about ten years ago. They loved gardening and their block was small. We met them outside with Whimsy and Little White (rest in peace) after their second visit to the house. After a chat they bought the house, despite the fact the real estate agent told me people didn’t buy houses based on the community or the neighbours. Eight years on and they sold the house with no back fence, praising the sense of community and sharing.

Tim awakes and reaches over for our morning cuddle and chat about the day. He lives so much in the moment these days that despite our weekly diary check I still have to remind him what is happening.

Despite our best attempts for a long time, and weekly talk about slowing down we still do too much. We have a rule that there will only be one workshop or tour a day, but today there are two.

Helen is helping me run a goat milking and cheese making workshop. I remember when we got the goats – we had the only legal goat stable in Fremantle, but now they seem to be dotted all over the place. This group is a bunch of mums from White Gum Valley who want to share a goat. Three live next to each other and their verge is perfect for daily grazing.

We don’t charge locals money for workshops anymore, but ask people to donate the equivalent in time or Freo Funnies. Although only formally introduced five years ago, Freo Funnies have been around as an alternative currency for a while, and there are more and more things you can trade them for. The mums will be busy this afternoon. They wanted to know the truth about goats so I will get them mucking out the pen, mixing the straw with rabbit and chook poo, making a new pile of compost, and turning over the old one. Trimming the goat’s hooves is my least favourite job, so it will be great to share that chore.

This afternoon Tim is “entertaining” a group of Western Suburbs families. This group really did not see anything different to “life as usual” coming so times have been tough for these folks – the mining boom is over, super and investments are worth nothing, and housing prices are a third of what they were since we bought here. There is a great deal of interest in converting their massive houses into units for either family, a passive income or for carers as people age.

When we tell people the planning laws didn’t allow this sort of development when we started here they can’t believe it. The population of Perth didn’t double like predicted, but it did in Freo without any new houses or subdivisions. I find it funny – seeing folk who once wore designer dresses painting and doing basic maintenance jobs makes me giggle. They still find the bartering system strange but since we won’t take their cash they don’t have any choice.

But first to breakfast – our oranges did well this year and I still have enough juice canned for a glass this morning. Eggs, spinach, tomatoes, toast on the solar cooker. After all these years I still can’t make bread. Thank god for trading. Evi still makes the best bread in town and she trades for most of her other food needs.
I grin. I can still remember the first meal I made that was totally from the garden. When would that have been? Probably back in Hulbert Street. . . . sometimes I still miss that place.

Before I sort out the equipment for the workshop I need to go down to the coop for some more hay for the goats. Once upon a time we had to go to City Farmers, but “Farmer Joe” from Wongan Hills has enough demand in Freo now that we buy directly from him. Everyone puts in an order, we store it in an old shop in town and Joe delivers once a month. I suddenly wonder – did I book the electric ute? Sometimes I forget and have to use one of the electric cargo bikes. No biggy – I will just have to do two trips.

Last week Freo declared another “triple use’ road in town. I am amazed how quickly that concept has caught on, given we trialled it for the first time in 2016. I remember the uproar. “How can cars, people and bikes all on one road be safe?” I suppose the stats – one accident in five years speak for itself. They are hoping it might reduce the 50% of people who still drive into town even more. To think families once had two or even three cars. Maybe there are some advantages to an economic “readjustment”

Tomorrow there is an Ecoburbia meal. There are ten of us living here now. Ang and Shane in boodjar (with Oscar upstairs when he is not away working). Matt and Helen live in warden. Lyndal and Phil’s Katie left a few months ago, but they still live in ngardak. And Henry is currently woofing in the moortung room, although he has been there for nearly three months now – good thing he is so handy.

I hope I get some time in the garden this afternoon. I need to remember to clear the grey water system, with all the people here and their laundry it needs to be done twice a week. Plus one of the owners of a verge bed has gone to live in Albany and we need to give it a bit of a clean-up before Tom and Sarah take over. When we moved here no one even measured the food people grew at home, but apparently Freo now leads the way – 10% of food grown locally. When you walk around, especially in White Gum Valley it feels like every spare inch of land has been taken up with food.

The council rubbish service to each house had to stop last week, there is just no money. I am so glad they kept resiliency and education services going, rather than non-essentials like rubbish removal. But there was such a big stink (haha) about it. Livingstone Street will be OK though. With our community worm farms and compost bays no one has had a green bin for years, and the two big recycle bins at the church will still be picked up by the council for sorting. It is now a popular job for those seeking employment.

My mum is getting old now and planning another move up to the city, to a great home she has found nearby. She has had to move so many times, but it is good to have her close enough that I can just drop in quickly when I got the beach.

Some mornings I wake up tired, my hands are a bit sore and I have to be careful what I do with my back. I am not old, but I feel secure growing old here. Ten years ago when we left Hulbert Street Fiona gave us the old quilt we still have on our bed. At the time I said I wanted to die under it. I hope they wrap me in it and stick me under the fig tree – it needs a bit of a boost.