Review of 2014

As I sat at the beach on the first day of 2015 I felt real peace. As soon as I became aware of this unique feeling I tried to identify why. I had just been for a swim in the ocean followed by a walk with Archie the dog, and I was waiting for my husband to return from his run. The sea was calm but the sky was overcast and grey. No jet skis or boats were out yet. A slight breeze blew the sand dune grasses making the little cottontail grass heads flick back and forth happily. Archie sat quietly near me watching other people and their dogs. I felt happy but tired from dancing the night before until after midnight greeting the New Year at a local venue with some friends. 2014 had been a difficult year and many of the difficult hurdles were now behind me; completed with mixed results.

Last year I was inspired by the ladies on the Up For A Chat podcast to do some forward planning after listening to their episode #40 Manifesting Matisse. I followed their idea to write out a “wish-list” of 32 items on a single piece of paper that is divided into 32 squares (by folding the sheet of paper).

Here are my 32 items with the results at the end of the year – with only four actions that I did not start:

Activity Result
1 Get a new job Found a great job
2 Design a new house House design completed
3 Sell parent’s house Parent’s house sold and settled
4 Execute the Will Will execution finalised
5 Drink no alcohol Alcohol free period for 6 months
6 Paleo diet Consistently trying
7 Eat no wheat Ate less wheat
8 Photo archive Started
9 Exercise regularly Regularly but not enough
10 Write my blog 20 blog posts
11 Create a new blog Did not do
12 Build new house Still waiting for planning approval to begin
13 Learn digital SLR photography Started
14 Start writing a book Did not do
15 Do yoga Weekly sessions with gap mid-year
16 Meditate Regular but not daily
17 Walk Regular but not daily
18 Walk the Peninsula trails Walked many of the Peninsula trails
19 Visit Peninsula art galleries Visited some art galleries
20 Cycle every week Cycled most fortnightly Saturday mornings
21 Read 20 books Read 38 books
22 Garden new block Obtained formal landscape plan for block
23 Learn French Did not do
24 Paint Did a few water colour sketches
25 Start sketch book Started a sketch book
26 Whole 30 Did the Whole 30 eating program
27 Be positive Consistently moved towards positive thoughts
28 Be kind Consistently tried to be kind to everyone I met
29 Learn online Did not undertake an online learning course
30 Go to ALIA conference Yes
31 Write letters to friends Yes
32 Family dinners Yes

 Here is what didn’t go well:

  • We continue to jump through hoops trying to comply with the ridiculously convoluted and slow planning process of the local Council in order to obtain permission to begin to build a new house.
  • Our family relationships have deteriorated in the aftermath of my parent’s departure from this earthly plane; despite honourable intentions and repeated and prolonged efforts to make amends and be kind and positive.
  • Dealing with the possessions of my parents was a huge undertaking that took time, energy, help from my brother and husband, and a respectful attitude.

Here is what went well:

  • My parent’s house sold extremely quickly, making it easy to move on with our own lives.
  • We moved into a new townhouse near the beach in a place we love.
  • I have a perfect new job with great colleagues.
  • Being involved with reading lists for book clubs.
  • Our new house design is brilliant.
  • Regular yoga and cycling.
  • Time spent with some great friends – new and old.
  • I continue to enjoy listening to some great podcasts here, and elsewhere that provides me with some important information and inspires me to keep on track with my efforts.
  • My favourite movie of the year was Inter Stellar – a rare masterpiece in my opinion.
  • I read some interesting books (here are the two I rated 5-star):

So I have once again taken a sheet of paper and folded it into 32 squares, then listed my 32 things, and pasted it into the back of my journal. So come what may 2015…

Off the grid

The first time I heard about “earth ships” was while watching an episode of Grand Designs where a couple built an alternative style house in Brittany France. Whilst passive solar house design, water catchment and recycling, and thermal mass walls were not new ideas to me, this particular construction method using car tyres rammed with earth and aluminium cans and bottles was something I hadn’t seen before.

Not long after that I was searching the web and inadvertently came across the DVD Garbage Warrior. It sounded interesting so I ordered it for the library collection. I was enthralled by this documentary. It is about architect Michael Reynolds and the story of his quest to build fully sustainable dwellings. He has been doing this since the 1970’s. The rammed earth tyre thermal walls, and aluminium can and plastic and glass bottle walls are his ideas.

I can’t believe I’d never heard about Michael Reynolds and his Earth ships. I have been interested in sustainable housing construction and development since the late 1970’s. One of my final year projects for Industrial Design was about “energy’’. I investigated the history and evolution of energy supplies to industry and society. Back then it was forecast that our oil reserves would run out in 2010!!. I soon realised the saving potential of passive solar house construction.

Garbage Warriors traces the story of Michael Reynolds and his work in New Mexico. He experiments with his ideas and invites others to join him there. He soon builds a crew and a community. This community is totally off the grid. The houses are fully sustainable providing the residents with power, heating, water, and food.

One crew member and resident, Phil, says when referring to his young daughter who has grown up in their house there:

“She doesn’t know the difference between this house and a normal house like I grew up in. It’s just part of her, that the house takes care of her and supplies power and heats itself and has plants that provide food and the water comes from the roof. She knows all that and she thinks that’s the way it is and that’s the way everyone needs to think.”

After many years of this development Michael Reynolds was stopped by local authorities and lost his architectural licence. He laments:

 “I had lost the freedom to fail.”

 And this is his point. Phil explains further:

 “You’ve got to be able to make mistakes otherwise you never evolve housing type…Everyone’s so stressed about getting sued that they can’t make a single mistake so there is no evolution in design.” Michael goes on to say, “New Mexico is the state where [we] tested the atomic bomb. They designated several thousand acres of land to be just absolutely destroyed with something they just didn’t even know if it would keep on exploding or not. They took extreme risks in the interests of national security. So what I’m saying is, can’t we make a few hundred acres test sites with no holds barred to test methods of living for the future? It’s a test site. They allow it for bombs. They test automobiles. They test airplanes. They should allow it for housing.”

The buildings in this documentary are interesting and inspiring. The work these people take on is amazing. If you are at all interested in sustainable living, self-sufficiency, saving the world, or even self-preservation, you must watch this documentary. You will come to admire the determination and tenacity of Michael Reynolds – Garbage Warrior.

“Hubba hubba hubba.”

Be sure to watch the Special Features to see their biodiesel production and Denis Weaver’s earthship.

Here are some more links: Earthships 101 Part 1 and Earthships 101 Part 2.