The Alysium Dilemma

The following 800 word story is what I wrote for the Benalla Festival Writers Competition, the Open Division, which I won! A week later and I’m still ridiculously excited about it, doing little victory dances around the house and having my ‘mature’ almost 13 year old rolling his eyes. Still finding it hard to believe, but I have the ipad proof in my hot little hands 🙂

The topic was ‘We Are One’, celebrating and acknowledging Benalla’s multicultural diversity, a topic I had a lot of trouble coming to terms with. With only four days to the deadline the idea of how I could write it came to me. I honestly didn’t think I’d win because what I’d written was probably nothing like what they’d be hoping for. I thought about that, came to terms with the fact that I wouldn’t win, but I WAS extremely happy with what I’d written, and that was enough. An hour later they phoned to tell me I’d won and that it was a remarkable piece of writing! I was very, very, very excited 🙂 Anyway, here it is…


The Alyssium Dilemma

My name is Serrai Akbai Carnevali. My ancestors came from Old Earth. I am twenty New Earth years old, which makes me twenty-four in Old Earth years. I’m an Old Earth Historian, and right at this moment I’m deep in the bowels of the archival system, searching for any documentation I can find on how the people of Old Earth dealt with the problem of integrating different cultures.

I’d been sent down here to look for something called ‘multiculturalism’. Our World Leaders thought this multiculturalism could provide a way of integrating the massive influx of alien refugees, flooding in from the Alysium sector, with us New Earthers. Unfortunately, this section of the archival system was a mess. Historical documents, government policies, ancient texts, music scores, shopping lists, screen plays and telephone directories were all jumbled in together. It was as if they’d been thrown in just before the space ships had left for New Earth.

I picked up some of the papers scattered on the floor and a piece of sheet music fell out. I almost ignored it, but the title “I Am Australian” caught my eye. ‘Australia,’ I said. ‘That’s the nation on Old Earth my ancestors came from! Sarah Carnevali, who I was named for, and her brothers, were skilled Bovine Agriculturalists and had been on the first ships that came to New Earth.’ I searched for the rest of the song, but it wasn’t amongst the papers I’d picked up. Clearing some more papers off an old filing cabinet, I started a ‘keep’ pile.

‘Ha!’ I said, pulling a sheet of quotes from Old Earthers about multiculturalism out of the stack with a flourish. “Preservation of one’s own culture does not require contempt or disrespect for other cultures,” I read. ‘I wonder who Cesar Chavez was?’ I added it to the ‘keep’ pile.

Another page had four principles of Australian multiculturalism. Most of it was unreadable. It looked as if it had suffered some major coffee spillage. All I could read was “Respect for each person…all Australians…right to…own culture… reciprocal… respect…others…” Perhaps Utzo’s department could restore it. It was worth a try. But what really blew me away was a short piece by a twelve year old girl with the same name of my ancestor! It began

“We haven’t been in Benalla long,…”

‘Benalla! That was my ancestor’s home town!’

“…so I’m finding it difficult writing a piece celebrating the multicultural diversity of this town. There are lots of different cultures here. I know this because since arriving here we’ve eaten at Indian, Chinese and Vietnamese Restaurants. All very yummy.

The topic is ‘We Are One.’ So what does it mean to me? It reminds me of a song on one of mum’s old records called ‘I Am Australian’…”

‘No way!’ I said in amazement, ‘That’s the song I just found.’.

“…It’s a celebration of our history and all the different cultures that make up this great land.
My family is very multicultural, although Grandma says it wasn’t always that way. She grew up in a very Aussie family, descended from convicts and early white settlers. In her day Italians were ‘wogs’, the Chinese were ‘nips’ and the Aborigines were ‘abos’ and were seen as second class citizens, or a waste of space.

As a child the closest Grandma got to multiculturalism was spaghetti cooked way beyond al dente. Fortunately she broke the mould, marrying a Greek. All her kids married into other cultures too. My dad’s Italian and my cousins are half Japanese, half Indian and half Turkish. I love our family get-togethers, we always have such a wonderful range of food.

But multiculturalism isn’t just about race, religion or food. It’s about people – black, white, male, female, able bodied or not. Multiculturalism is respecting each others’ differences and making sure everyone has access to the opportunities and freedoms meant for all people.

Nobody bats an eyelid about me being half Italian, but my twin brothers both have High Functioning Autism.

‘We call it Sagacious Perceptiveness now and it’s highly valued on New Earth.’

They view the world from a different place, so they don’t respond to the world like ‘normal’ people. I’ve seen first-hand the ‘racism’ of others towards my brothers and it makes me sad. My brothers might seem a bit strange, but they’re people too.

Multiculturalism is about accepting and respecting all people, so I’m hoping Benalla’s embrace of cultural diversity will extend to my brothers’ and others like them, whose differences are not so much in how they look or where they come from, but how they think and view the world. I hope their differences can be accepted, appreciated and even celebrated.”

‘Woohoo! I’m sure this will help with the Alysium dilemma, and it’s written by my ancestor! What a find!’

Tatong Tattler Post – July 2013 – Permaculture Adventures in Molyullah

This month’s been a busy one, especially with preparing for a Minecraft themed birthday party. Should have started making the props months ago! So between the usual running around and preparing for the party, not much else got done.  However, I’m happy to say, the party was a great success, running for two days over the Queen’s Birthday weekend. ‘It’s the best themed party we’ve ever done,’ said our eldest. He’s now planning his superhero and villain themed party. It’s a good six months away, so I guess we’d better start preparing now!

Despite being swamped with party preparations we still had Cary from ‘Smarter Green’ come and quote us on solar. He was great. Friendly and efficient. He checked out where the shadows were coming from, got up on the roof, checked in the roof, asked us what we were after, chatted about other ways we can reduce our energy consumption…

Turns out he’s a former* Benalla boy and after visiting us, is thinking about moving to Molyullah. Totally understand why. J He has fond memories of Molyullah having won his first blue ribbon at the Easter Sports on his pony Cinders! Thoroughly recommend him if you’re looking into solar. Jeff also put in a fence pole and gate between our place and our neighbours so we’ll be able to access their chook shed without me clambering over the fences, catching my foot in the wire and falling on my face, which is bound to happen at some point.

Capeweed is popping up everywhere! But as we’ll be doing everything organically here, I won’t be using poison. That said, I don’t plan on letting it run rampant either. One of the many things I have learnt over the last four years is that you can learn a lot from weeds; they can tell you a lot about the health of your soil.

The presence of capeweed tells me that my soil is not healthy and balanced. A quick scan through Pat Colby’s book ‘Natural Farming, A Practical Guide’ reveals that among other things, the presence of capeweed in my pasture is an indication of a soil low in magnesium and probably also low in calcium. Pat Colby says, ‘It is the norm in tired, exhausted soils, which usually have a low pH to match.’ Natural Farming, p.172. Dolomite should help, but to be sure, the next step is to take a whole lot of soil samples and send them off for testing.

And now, back to the chooks. Last Tattler I made it known that I was interested in rare/heritage breeds of chooks and that I thought I might start my flock off with Australorps and Wyandottes. I’ve since met with two passionate chook ladies and now have a stack of resources to work my way through. There are so many different wonderful breeds to choose from! So which chook to choose? So far I’ve come up with a list of about twenty different possibilities!!!

We’ve decided on a mixed flock which will give us the chance to experience a variety of chooks and discover which ones are best. We definitely want dual purpose birds so we get eggs and meat, with a few layers thrown in to up the egg production. On the list are the Barnevelder, Langshan, Australorp, Welsummer, Araucana, Minorca, Campine, Dorking, Wyandotte, Rhode Island Red, Light Sussex, New Hampshire, Leghorn, Ancona, Hamburgh, Andalusian, Faverolle, Legbar, Indian Game and Transylvanian Naked Neck. I can get day old chicks from a local breeder and through her I could get me ten of the different breeds I’m after. But what to choose?

According to the chicken coop and run size I could comfortably fit 12 birds and a rooster, giving them about 1m square per chook (not that we’ll be getting a rooster any time soon). Apparently I could squeeze more in, maybe even double it, but twelve girls should give us ample eggs,. We were going to raise them all from day old chicks, but as they won’t lay for 5 to 6 months, we’re now thinking of doing a combination of point of lay pullets and day old chicks. That way we’ll get some eggs sooner and have the joys of raising chicks. However we’ll have to get more chicks than we need as half of them will probably turn out to be cockerels. They’ll be good pure breeds though, so although a couple might end up in the pot, there’s a good chance we’d be able to sell off the boys to people looking for good purebred roosters. Dilemmas, dilemmas.

* Note: I changed this article slightly to the Tattler version with the addition of the word ‘former’ in an attempt to make what I was saying a little clearer 🙂

Tatong Tattler Post – June 2013 – Permaculture Adventures in Molyullah

Permaculture Adventures in Molyullah

We are about to enter our ninth week of our new life in Molyullah! Finally we are living in our own home on a couple of acres and can begin working to make our dream of a sustainable, permaculture lifestyle a reality! Now we can dig holes and plant trees, or hammer nails, get extra power points, paint walls and put in skylights all without asking the landlord for permission. It’s a wonderful feeling!

While still unpacking boxes and customising our new house our first major step is to measure up the property and everything on it giving us an accurate plan to work off. Tim’s in charge of this bit – he’s good at systems, mapping and stuff. I’m his assistant as we systematically work our way around the property with measuring tape, graph pad and pencil,  marking in every tree, rock, tap, building… Once we’ve done that he’ll put it all on the computer and we’ll have our property plan to build our permaculture dream.

‘What is permaculture?’ I hear some of you ask. Very simply put, it is a blend of the two words, ‘permanent’ and ‘agriculture’. It was coined by a couple of Aussies – Bill Mollison and David Holmgren – to describe a system that mimics nature, a system where everything works together, and all things in the system have more than one purpose. For example, the chooks not only provide eggs, meat and feathers, but their henhouse can be positioned next to the greenhouse thus providing extra warmth for greenhouse plants, their manure is fertiliser and the chooks themselves are ploughs digging up the ground and scratching it over removing all those bad bugs, preparing the ground for planting.

Before spring we hope to have planted the twenty plus fruit trees we brought with us and have at least one circle garden started, so we need to finish all our measuring and plotting first! So while we’re doing that we’ll also be making compost, pruning all the winter pruning plants (I’ve got a basic idea now after trying to read a book on pruning – too technical for me!) and getting some chooks of our own.

The compost is easy! We’ve got piles of autumn leaves everywhere, and that alone is a magnificent source of compost. Combine that with the bunny bedding, kitchen scraps and bull manure from out the back and we’re well on the way. Should have some good stuff by spring.

We don’t have a chook shed as yet, but our neighbour’s do, and it’s empty, so we’re embarking on a joint venture – their chook shed, our chooks and we share the eggs. So now I’m researching chooks. We’re not going to have Isa Browns. I’d already decided that before reading White Gate Woof in the last Tattler. Isa Browns are boring and ‘everybody’ has them.

I met a farmer at the Tavern recently and when I asked him why he had shorthorns while everyone else has Angus and Herefords, he said, ‘because everyone else has them.’ It made me laugh. That is us in a nutshell. So no Isa Browns for us! I’m looking into rare breeds that are decent layers. But maybe we’ll start with Wyandottes and Australorps and expand into rare breeds later. I started the same way with growing our own food.

Tatong Tattler Post – April 2013 – The Molyullah Easter Sports Day Poem

Molyullah Easter Sports Day,
what a fabulous affair.
People came from far and wide
to see Molyullah’s wares.
At 8 o’clock the horn did sound
to welcome one and all
and give the Gardner family
their morning wake-up call!
Tractor engines throbbed and thrummed
and very soon, the smell of diesel engines
wafted through our door.

A leisurely stroll up to the gate
we wandered in, a little late
only three hours after the starters call.
We sauntered in, checked out the rides and food
– those most important things!
The jumping castle, that was the ride for our middle son
(‘twas the only reason that he’d come)
while our youngest one
tried his hand at Crash the Rat
and bounced that little ball.
We looked at the pole, the sheep
and the large hay bale
but to guess the height of one
and the weight of two,
we were sadly without a clue.

By now it was time to eat,
you can’t put hungry boys off for long,
so chips and meat it was,
with cans of soft drink too.
The meat was very yummy and scrummy,
but it was the chips that won our hearts –
whoever did cook those carvery chips,
the job they did it was superb
their chips a lovely golden brown
crisp and crunchy on the outside
but on the inside soft and fluffy –
the perfect chip to feed our family!

We watched the old tractors pull and pull
that heavy weight along the sandy track;
we saw the men chopping wood,
heard piggies squeal in the petting farm,
and children shout and scream
as we watched them ride that twisting, bucking bull.
The horse events went on all day
with showjumping and novelty events.
The bending, flag and barrel races
brought back memories
as I watched ‘Strike’ and ‘Invaders Girl’
battle it out head to head,
as they weaved their way through the poles
as fast as they could without knocking them down
then galloped down the straight so fast
it looked like they might miss.

And all the while
engines throbbed and thrummed –
spinning, churning,
clanking, whirring;
blue clouds of smoke and diesel fumes
strong upon the air.
The spinning wheel and jumble sale
were popular indeed,
and as I passed on through the crowd
I heard an older lady say
to an older gent,
‘I remember this when I was a girl,’
and his response,
‘And back then it was on the back of a truck.’

And now the day is over,
we’ve all gone home footsore and pleasantly tired;
the grounds are all empty and quiet
as everything’s packed up.
All that is left, the only evidence of
the Molyullah Easter Sports Day
are the 31 bins out the front!

Carla G.
April 2013

Tatong Tattler Post – April 2013 – Easter Sports

This was our very first Molyullah Easter Sports Day ever, having just bought a nearby property and moved in two weeks earlier. We had a great day. The only downside, in our opinion, were the European wasps buzzing around while we tried to eat our food which means there’s a nest somewhere nearby. Although we have to say we are happy that the Molyullah Easter Sports day is only on once a year as we moved here for the peace and quiet, serenity and mountain views, and with the Molyullah Easter Sports Day running there was not much peace, quiet or serenity, although we still had the mountain views. 🙂

A big thank you goes out to all who put in the hard work to make this day a reality – we noticed that for some dedicated people the Molyullah Easter Sports Day is a whole Easter affair, with people arriving from Good Friday onwards, camping out and preparing the grounds for the big day.

We hope to meet a few fellow Molyullah-ites at the next Molyullah dinner at the Tavern in May. Which we did – it was a great night meeting some local people and eating great food. Thoroughly recommend the Tatong Tavern for a meal if you’re in the area.

Tatong Tattler Posts

Since moving to Molyullah I have been writing articles for the Tatong Tattler, a small newsletter publication that goes out to the people of Tatong and surrounding areas.

Generally what I’ve been writing for the Tattler is a summary of what’s been going on in our permaculture adventures, although my first article was a poem about the Easter Sports. Anyway, I’ve decided to add these articles to my posts too. 🙂

Blogging Again

All right, I’m gonna start blogging again! Maybe this time I’ll keep at it. At least there’ll be no moving house again for a while now that we’ve bought our own little piece of paradise. I will be moving all my ‘Eve’s Daughter’ posts and poetry onto ‘A Twist Of Lemon’ some time in the future, but for now I’ll just blog away and see what happens. I’m hoping to do this about once a week, maybe only once a fortnight – I’m not planning on becoming a slave to our blog. Life, the universe and everything should just about cover all the possible topics I’ll write about 🙂 But mostly this is a blog about living and learning with a chronically ill husband and boys on the Autism Spectrum while we turn our almost 2 acres into a permaculture delight! With lotsa other bits and bobs thrown in for good measure. To begin with, I’ve got a few posts to add – they’ve been sitting in my word doc and now I’ve finally got a few moments to pop them in, so although they’ll have today’s date on them, they were actually written in May.