Friday, June 5, 2009

Consent to proceed; a new house

2009 June 6
Dear Blog Friends,
Sorry for a too-long silence. There is much news to report.
Progress of village development: We had a moment of jubilation and relief last month when we finally heard that we had clear District Council consent to go ahead with the first stage of the village project – 11 houses. It has been a long and costly process. Now we need to find ways to help the neighbours who objected understand that they will live with more beauty around them, not less. Under difficult conditions they might benefit greatly from the basic food production that is part of the village, but I suspect that understanding will not be meaningful at present. There are a number of young families near to making a decision to join the village at this time. It’s especially good that these are energetic and enterprising young people with kids. One couple in Auckland had their first baby two weeks ago. They’ll be here in 6 weeks.
There are still difficult steps ahead, the next being to put in roading access to some of the lots, but I feel hopeful about the prospects for this community.
Our house. We had been reluctant to plan a house for ourselves, feeling that it would absorb a great deal of time. But there are reasons it would be good for the development of the village, so we are moving in this direction. We were right about the time it consumes. There are fairly detailed specifications for houses in this project – on-site materials where possible, relatively small houses (~150 square metres), solar aspect, concrete slab for thermal mass, composting toilets, solar hot water, wood stove with water heating to flow into pipes in the concrete floor, gas rings for quick cooking.
We have chosen a site, on a ridge with very beautiful views of mountains to the west, now snow-capped, Motueka River Valley to the north, and, once some of the plantation pines are cut, the sea to the east. Winds blow from the south-west (where the snow lies on the mountains in the winter), so the first thing to be done is to plant a wind-break. This was done a few weeks ago, with the help of many friends and WWOOFers (Willing Workers on Organic Farms). One thousand trees and grasses, mainly native species whose names I don’t recognise, planted for graded heights so the wind will sweep over them. Gil, the engineer working with us, has been using the digger to construct a path above the wind-break. One day I took thermoses of tea and peanut butter cookies in baskets over to the site mid-afternoon. We sat on the ridge top with the team then working on the wind-break, sipping tea and discussing the merits of a steady state economy. Some of the WOOFers are very well-read young people.
Our Learning: I’ve done workshops in recent months on solar ovens and dehydrators, methods of natural building and on composting. The latter two were particularly fun. Natural building involved dancing in a heap of mud to mix the building material. Composting involved leaping around on a metre high pile to tramp down the straw layer. (See photos) In April I went to the North Island to attend a conference on Community Currencies. Four of us went in a friend’s car. She got free passage on the Cook Strait Ferry as she did a singing gig in the ferry bar on the trip. I read a fair bit on the structure and reform of money before going to this. I’ve also read a fine book on organic gardening by our friend Adrian Myers – ‘Organic Futures’. I’ve just reviewed this book, as I liked it very much. Jack and I both read ‘Right Relationships: Building a Whole Earth Economy ‘ by Canadian economists Peter Brown and Geoffrey Garver. Jack reviewed this one. We both think highly of its framing economic activity in terms of our fundamental relationship with the Earth. (If you’d like either of these reviews, we’ll send them to you.)
I recently spent five days in Wellington staying with dear friends, Archie and Lynsie Kerr – retired physicians with a long history in IPPNW and much else. I had a teaching gig at the medical school. This coincided with back-to-back conferences on Pacific ways of reconciliation, and another on the nuclear weapons issue. Malcolm Fraser, a former Prime Minister of Australia was a keynote speaker at the latter conference. At 79, he’s one of the growing number of very senior statesmen who are deeply concerned about the unfinished messy business of the 20th century – getting rid of the abomination of nuclear weapons. He feels it’s very urgent. He pointed out that with the current financial crisis, any sitting government is unlikely to be granted a second term. This means that we may have just 3½ years to take advantage of the much more favourable climate created by Obama to achieve a Nuclear Weapons Convention.
Radio show I’ve continued my Transition Town Show every fortnight. Recent topics have been organic gardening, composting, intergenerational debt.
Village livelihoods We’ve been actively discussing how to create livelihoods from the productiveness of the Te Mara gardens (See photo). Jams, soups, juices, dried fruit and veges have all been suggested. Of course we produced pesto which won considerable approval in the summer. This morning, Jack, Jeff and I went to the Nelson Market to see how people organised their offerings and if there were any unfilled niches. It’s a delightful market, colourful and fun. We met two different friends at the coffee shop.
Jack and Jeff are well. Jack is far too busy with a myriad aspects of the project and has very little time for leisure. He does enjoy it if he can combine the very demanding intellectual work involved with physical work like tree-planting or tree-cutting. Jeff tried out the new road up the ridge cut by Gil, our engineer, on the bike this evening, carrying a box of beer. Unhappily the battery assist didn’t work and Jeff had to push the bike up the ridge – heavy work. This morning my two guys did their lumberjack thing again.
Music. The marimba group returned to its full complement of players and no longer needed a trainee, so my marimba career has been cut short. My friend, the wonderful elder jazz pianist, Emery, continues to try to teach me jazz. I’m a bad pupil. Next week I plan to begin with the Riverside (neighbouring community) choir. I love the music they select – world music with a bias to Maori.
We’ll visit Canada in August, staying with Jonah and Penny in our old home. We hope to see some of you then.