Co-operation not Confrontation

The idea for this post was originally to be about land rights, worked around the recent Diggers 2012 issue as blogged by George Monbiot in The Promised Land, but I got to thinking about co-operation not confrontation, although I am sure there will be more of the latter in the arena of land rights battles.  This led me to think on the subject of Co-operatives, so that will now be the emphasis of the post.  I will save land rights for another time.

This year (2012) is the UN International Year of Co-operatives.  As part of that , Co-operatives have formulated an ethical plan for 2012-2014 and are promoting it with a call to ‘Join the Revolution’.

This is the sort of revolution that we are most in need of, or at least will be the most productive in the long run.

In Australia, this year will also hopefully and finally see the introduction of a new Co-operatives National Law, replacing the current, varied and incompatible State laws:   Co-operatives National Law

I have been following the progress of this legislation for a while now, since becoming interested in it as possibly the best framework for Eco-villages, which a couple of years ago I thought was something that I might want to be part of.  I still think that the co-operative model is the best framework for such groups but I have mostly given up on the idea now, having found that most groups in formation are made up of well-intentioned, middle-class, well-off individuals who are too ingrained in the consumer-industrial system to take serious steps to effectively get such projects off the ground.  Less than 10% of such ventures ever get anywhere in a practical way.

Here is a video of the Co-operative led Green Schools Revolution, preparing kids for the future in the United Kingdom:

And here is one of a successful Co-op from the county where I grew up in the UK:

The message there is to think local product, from local sources, for a local market. This is something that will assume huge importance in future years as the capability to move huge amounts of produce around the world, as is currently the vogue, becomes increasingly difficult and eventually impossible, except perhaps at other than nineteenth century levels.

Sadly, Co-operatives do not form a large part of the community scene here in Australia but perhaps, with a new national legal framework in the pipeline, that will soon change.

Co-operatives, owned by the people for the benefit of the people.  A very different business model, emphasising community and local influence.  Right on!

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Obituary For A Lost Son – Regrets, I Have A Few…

How do I start this?

Yesterday I came across the following quote from George Bernard Shaw and posted it to my Facebook favourite quotes list:  “Life wasn’t meant to be easy, my child, but take courage: it can be delightful!”.  I had not previously seen the full quote as it is normally rendered as “Life wasn’t meant to be easy”.  Seeing the quote in full for the first time, my thoughts immediately went to my first child, Steven Paul, who I had not seen or had contact with for around 25 years.  Life certainly presented Steven with more difficulties than most of us are required to deal with.  I can only hope that he also found some of that delight which life can bring.

We can never know what life has in store for us and especially when we participate in bringing another fragile human life into this world.  We can also never, with any clarity, foresee the results of decisions that we make throughout our lives.

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Here are some of my memories.

When Steven was 2 or 3 years old, my memory will not permit me to be more precise, Steven suffered quite a severe febrile convulsion and I remember cradling him in my arms trying to unclench his jaw and keep him from completely passing out.  He spent several days in hospital wrapped in ice to bring his temperature back to normal.

During his first 12 years of life, the family had no really settled home.  I think we moved house at least eight times in that period, through most of which I was serving in the Royal Air Force.  One of the final home moves was a biggy.  We emigrated to Melbourne, Australia. For me, these years were a time of adventure and it did not occur to me, as far as I remember, that the children were not being given the opportunity to form lasting friendships or to put down secure roots.  The fact that these things have never played an important role for me personally, may have played a part in that.  I can only hope that their subsequent lives have not been detrimentally affected by that.

In his early teens, Steven was struck with what has become in recent years a growing modern scourge, Type 2 Diabetes and was facing for the rest of his life the prospect of daily insulin injections and rigorous self-monitoring of his food intake and health outlook.  I cannot even begin to understand just what that would do to any young person suddenly thrown into the same circumstances.

Not too much later, without going into details, Steven’s Mum and I split up.  She moved out of the family home taking our youngest child and leaving me with the two teenagers.  It is to my everlasting shame and regret that I was not in any way at that stage either psychologically or experientially ready to take on that responsibility.  Hell, I didn’t even know how to cook properly.  There was also at that time a great deal of anger and resentment at my situation, to the extent that I came to want that woman completely out of my life.  I decided to sell the house, moved into a 2 bedroom unit and packed off my two teenage children to live with their mother.  This is something that I will always regret.  I don’t beat myself up about it now like I used to but it is always there reminding me that I could have played things so very differently.

As far as I can remember, I never saw Steven again after that and eventually lost touch with all my children entirely for many years especially after they all moved back to the United Kingdom several years ago.  I did get the message that Steven had returned to UK six months before the others left Australia and that he had lost some toes through amputation as a result of the diabetes but that he was doing better over there.

Today, out of the blue, I received a message on Facebook from Steven’s mother saying that she had some bad news for me.  She had been trying to find me for about a year.  Of course, I had moved home just before that time.  The message came not entirely with surprise as I had some months ago got the feeling that something was not quite right.  It seems that Steven passed on about 15 months ago.  I have no details at this stage but that would put it around April 2011.  Apparently the whole family had returned to Melbourne some years earlier.  I am told that Steven had spent some time living and working up in Queensland but his kidneys started to fail and he came back to Melbourne for treatment.

At Monash hospital he needed to have the lower half of one leg amputated and also lost a thumb and several fingers to the disease.  With the aid of a prosthesis he was able to be mobile and even overcame diabetes through a kidney and pancreas transplant.  He was said to be a happy, positive person, helpful, with a great attitude throughout all of his troubles.  He settled into a unit by himself and was in the process of having a vehicle specially fitted for him to drive.  His body was found in his unit when he did not appear one day.  He had apparently suffered death through large blood clots to the lungs while by himself at home.  That is all I know at this time.

I have lost a son.  Though a long time estranged son, one who was always loved and who will live forever in my heart.  A life cut far too short at 40 years of age.  I am sorry that I was not there to be with you through your troubles Steven but I hope you found some of that ‘delight’ which life can bring, my child.

Rest In Peace

Steven Paul Edwards

—:o{}o:—

Repost: Cold, wet, rainy day

This is a repost of something I first published on my Meanderings blog on 25 May 2012.

It has been a cold, wet day here today up here in North Central Victoria.  Seems like we have had a month’s worth of rain.  Not much can be done on days like this.

I did take the opportunity to go outside though to check how my new swale, which was finished last week,  was coping with its job of harvesting rainwater run-off.  I wasn’t disappointed.

Above is the new swale as it was filling with rainwater streaming downhill as can be seen in the up-hill view to the right.

Below is what it looked like just after completion of the ground work and before it was seeded with a cover crop and mulch.


And further below is a view of both old and new swales.  They are about five metres apart and on different levels of the hill that runs down to the creek at the bottom of the picture.  The older swale was done about nine months ago now and it is planted with a number of fruit trees and shrubs.  Ok, it looks just like a bunch of sticks stuck in the ground now, and it mostly is that, but come Spring it will come back to life again.  The leaves have just finished falling.   Except for my poor Yacon, whose leaves were killed off a few days ago by an early frost.  Fortunately there are lots of new tubers shooting up from underground.  I am keeping fingers crossed that it, or at least its tubers, will survive the winter.  It was a bit of a gamble up here in the mountains but I am hopeful of good results.

I also had another enjoyable first today.  Friday is the one day of the week that I go down to the General Store to see if I have any mail.  I was hoping for something special and again I wasn’t disappointed.

A week or so ago I shopped online for a manual grain mill.  In my journey to be as self-sufficient as I can, or at least as non-reliant on the current and potentially soon-to-be defunct industrial system as I can, I am learning to do my own baking, among other things.  I normally buy organic/biodynamic bread flour in 12.5kg bags for this purpose but not only does this take up a lot of space, by the time I get to the end of a batch of flour it is getting quite old.  I have recently learned that flour starts to deteriorate as soon as it is ground from the seed used to make it.  Also, a cup of wheat grain, for instance, makes 1.5 cups of flour.  So it makes sense from a freshness and from a storage point of view to only grind flour as it is needed.

Having made the decision to obtain a mill I also wanted one that would:

  • Fill more than one need ( a good permaculture principle)
  • Not rely on what may become an unreliable electricity supply
  • Be simple to operate and maintain
The mill I chose meets all of those desirable criteria.  It came in the post I picked up today and having unpacked it, it would seem to exceed all my expectations.  A more solid, robust yet elegant specimen you would be hard put to dream of.  Here is a picture.
Of course I have yet to use it, but all the reviews are good.  It comes with two sets of burrs, both stone and stainless steel for the widest range of uses.  As well as flours from most grains and beans it will produce nut butters and even grind my favourite coffee beans.  Can’t wait.
Just another small step along the way to a secure future.
Not such an eventless day after all.

Why?

I studiously avoided any connection with social networking until just a few months before I started this blog but once I started a Facebook page, it became irresistible to record my views, thoughts and opinions as status updates.  I found this practice both rewarding and internally liberating.  I finally had an outlet for my unresolved need to self-express, which is something that I had not been able to explore since retiring from the workforce towards the end of 2010.  Facebook, the world of one-line messages, may not be the best place to vent ones inner person but, having very few ‘friends’, it didn’t really matter who, if anybody, read or took any notice of my musings.  That may well also prove to be the case here, and again it doesn’t really matter, but the possibilities of reaching a wider audience, I find quite intriguing.

Why use a blog title of ‘Not Something Else’?  Well, for the entire 67 years of my life so far, I have been aware that I do not fit into, at least in my own self-perception and (as far as I can tell) other people’s perception of me, any of the general ‘categories’ that most other people seem to regard as being ‘normal’.  I do not feel, and never have felt, at all comfortable in thinking of myself as being ‘one of the crowd’ or of ticking all the boxes in any of the lists of generally accepted social attributes.  I am comfortable and have grown ever more comfortable as time has passed, with being ‘different’, or an ‘odd-ball’.  This is not to say that I am bereft of social graces, or that I am a social outcast.  I have for example achieved some academic success, been married twice and successfully raised, to the extent that I was able (and by that I mean that none of them have become axe-murderers or the like), six children.   I have achieved reasonable success in my various chosen careers and have always been sought after for my integrity, knowledge and reliability.  So how am I different to anyone else?  My answer to that is that I have never had nor sought to have anyone that I could consider to be a close friend.  Someone that I could call on for advice or comfort.  Nor has anyone, that I am aware of, ever sought to be my close friend.  This is not a complaint, whinge or expression of self-pity.  It is who I am.  Me.  Or, as the blog title says, ‘Not Something Else’.  I have long ago accepted who I am and, in many ways, I am very grateful and happy with my condition and situation.  How many people can say that?  I have of course in earlier days tried to be different.  That is all part of growing up.  But none of those attempts lasted for very long.  It is too much hard work, not being yourself.   I have always been very big on watching, observing, listening, analysing, integrating the good, discarding the not so good, building the inner self, nourishing the need for self-reliance.  I am known for not doing a lot of talking and I avoid social occasions whenever possible because I can only tolerate a social chit-chat situation for a few (5-10)minutes, after which every fibre of my being starts screaming to get me out of there.  Not the greatest conversationalist, me.  But put me in front of a keyboard, alone, or in a place where I can shut out the noise of the world around me, and the words simply flow from my two fore-fingers.  Yes, even after 30+ years in the computer profession I still type the two-fingered way.  It will ever be the same.  I don’t have a brain that can co-ordinate more than two things at the same time.  I have never excelled at playing musical instruments, dancing, sport or any other spatially oriented activity that necessitates a degree of physical co-ordination, for the same reason.

So, I plan to record the contents of my complex wandering mind here from time to time about such things as my increasingly simple life and how my observations and readings tell me the future can be expected to unfold and whatever advice I can give in that regard plus anything else that appears to me to be potentially beneficial to others.