Monday, May 17, 2004

back from the organic experience

And boy, where to begin..

Well, for starters I'm in Hobart again, this time at The Pickled Frog, a hostel and pub. (I'm liking these hostel/pub hybrids, I stayed in The Stork in Melbourne, Molly Malone's in Devonport and now here, there's something funkier and cooler and more homey --and hey, more alcoholic-- than a regular old BP's)...

I think the stories that came out of Lorinna for me will take a long time in telling. I miss it with that ache in the belly that you get when something really enchanted you and now is no longer with you. But, when I think about the times I also feel a thick welling up inside of me of real happiness, and a mix of wonderful feelings that make it impossible to regret leaving.

Paul de Burgh-Day picked me up from Gowrie Park (pronounced Gary Park) around 4 in the afternoon, Thursday before last. We drove into Sheffield quickly to get the mail, then headed back to Lorinna. The road there quickly turned to gravel, then started to wind along the side of a valley, quite steep on both sides, and not a human trace anywhere save for the road, the rock retaining walls of which were built a hundred years previous. Huge eucalyptus towered on the left, which was the upward side. Soon we could see through the trees Lake Cethana, which was created by a hydroelectric project in the sixties and which has 'quills' of naked trees sticking up out of it.

Lorinna is a little tucked-away community that isn't on the main power grid, so all houses have to have thier own energy supply. The de Burgh-Day home has two big rotating solar panels that track the sun, and a diesel generator for when things get low. We pulled in to the main house first, a sumptuous and grand strawbale house, the insides made of eucalyptus timbers and absolutely stunning. Here I met Sven and Jan, the first of the WWOOFers, two young men from Germany, my age (20). They took me across the road and the cow paddock to the little house where the WWOOFers live, the oldest building in Lorinna, used to be the Post Office. Later on the in the afternoon, when they came down from fence-building, I met Soren and Daniel (and you'll have to imagine the two dots over the 'O' in Soren's name, and it's pronounced "Zuren")..they were mechanical engineers aged 26, who were building a fence on the acreage up the hill.

For two days, while Geraldine (mum) and Catherine (daughter) were at AgFest (a big agricultutal festival held nearby) promoting the Tasmanian Organic Certifiers group (and while Soren and Daniel went along to check it out) it was rather quiet at Mingari (the name of the farm and Aboriginal for 'quiet place'). I did quiet kitchen things, and went next door to Olga and Lantz's to help them render on their strawbale house that they're building, and got good and muddy for the effort. (They told me afterwards that the baby-poop colored clay stains the clothes, this was after we'd made handprints with it on both the front and back of my shirt..)

Then Geraldine and C got back and things moved into work mode. I washed all the windows in the house (and it's a big house, it took me a whole day) and then became C's understudy, which meant harvesting the apples in the orchard up the hill, cooking a lot, doing a lot of dishes, gardening, and general other housework. C is a lovely, vibrant young woman of 15, but she has the maturity of someone 5 years older, and we got along like a house on fire.

Lorinna taught me a lot of things, mostly by getting me away from emails and mobile phones (no reception there) and everything outside of the valley. And yet it didn't feel isolated, there was radio and newspapers and everyone there is an activist, by necessity (big forestry company called Gunns wants to raze the trees and burn whatever's left) ... nobody there is ignorant in any way. 75% of the food we ate was grown or raised there (and yes I ate the meat).. I learned to milk a cow, I learned to cook for 8 all day, every day, I learned that 'sensation is just a feeling' due to the amount of hot hot water I did dishes with and the cold cold mornings I woke to, and Daniel's teaching me how to properly stack a fire in the woodstove, which included his grabbing hot logs with his bare hands...

My time there also showed me more possibilities about people and ways to live a life. My last morning in Lorinna I was leaning against a post in the barn, looking out at the mists on the opposite mountainside, moving slowly across and up into the atmosphere. C and I had just milked Holly, and then poured the hot, frothy milk into the other container, and she was putting some hay out for the cows. The only sounds were the swishswish of hay hitting the floor and her skirt, and the cows munchmunch. I said, "I think I could happily live for the rest of my days on a farm." She gave me one of her characteristic vibrant grins, flashing her dark eyes, showing she understood exactly what I meant.

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