Appreciating remote living
It’s been a while between posts. With less then 3 weeks to go until we leave Kupungarri for Tassie, we’ve been busy packing, cleaning and tidying the property for the next tenants. All of which has made us reflect on our time at Kupungarri (Mount Barnett).
Whilst living and working remotely has had its challenges it’s also provided the opportunity to learn things we wouldn’t have experienced living anywhere else. And for that we are both thankful. This post is a tribute to all we’ve learnt in our two and a half years here.
Quiet is quite good
Neither of us have lived at a place as quiet as Mount Barnett. And we mean really quiet, all of the time. There’s no passing foot traffic, sirens, or street noise. Every passing car is watched and wondered at. Are they local or non-local? Where are they going? What are they doing? The most startling noise (especially at the beginning) is the noise of cows bellowing during the night. Of an evening we will sit outside to eat our dinner. Often the only noise (outside of ourselves) is the sound of crickets, cicadas and night animals. When family have visited us they have always noted the quietness and had difficulty at first sleeping because of this.
Until living here, I never realized how much external or background noise contributes to my levels of stress. I used to think a very quiet environment would invoke anxiety, but I would now say the opposite. The quietness of the environment leads to a grounding and slowing down within myself, and my actions. It’s surprising how easy it has been for us to adjust to this slowing down in pace and how we don’t want to go back to a faster paced life.
Living quietly has also made us learn to focus on what’s important. When you have to wait for something, or don’t have easy access to something, you quickly learn what’s important to you and what’s not. What you can do without and what substitutes you can make. You learn to do the things that make you happy.
Lively remotely is often a lesson in patience. Everything takes a bit longer. When Deirdre first arrived, the phone lines were out for 3 weeks. It was the beginning of the wet and the phone repair people couldn’t get in for several weeks.
Similarly, it took 3 months to get satellite internet connected. We could handle no phone, but no internet was really hard. There were so many times we got angry and frustrated, only to realize there was nothing that could be done but wait and be patient.
Change is subtle and its nice when you can observe it
As you can guess, for better or worse, not a lot happens or changes in Mt Barnett. When the environment and you are quiet and slow in pace, you notice the subtle changes and it’s exciting when you feel more connected to the surrounding environment. For example, the first dragons flies marking the beginning of the end of the wet season; seed heads fallen from the spear grass after the ‘knock-em down rain’, the last big storm of the wet; the migration of different bird species; and changes in sun angle and wind direction throughout the different seasons.
None of this is anything new. The arrival of animals has defined changed in weather and seasons for many Indigenous people around the world. But for us living remotely really made us understand and appreciate this age-old practice.
Mail has never been so exciting
The mail comes once a week on Fridays. It’s exciting when you hear the mail plane fly over and get excited about what awaits you in the mailbag. There was a period of 6 months last year when mail dropped to 3 deliveries out of every 4. Whilst frustrating, it did make mail days even more exciting.
Before living here both of us always saw living more sustainably as something for the future. In particular Deirdre realized that she would make a lot of excuses for not being ethical. We all do it. It’s good to be aware of it. Living here has made us realize though how easy it is to be more conscious around the ways we live our day-to-day life.
Eat what you’ve got in the fridge/cupboard
How often do you throw moldy and rotten food out of your fridge, or lament at the lentils you’ve had sitting on the cupboard shelf for the past year? It’s been surprisingly easy to learn to eat what you’ve got when you don’t have the option of just popping down to the shop. You learn to think about what needs eating first, what lasts a long time, how to stretch food out and how to make something interesting with what appears to be nothing in the fridge. With 3 weeks to go, we’re making our way through our supplies and we are happy to say that we think there will be very little wastage at the end.
It’s also been great learning how to make things from scratch when you can’t easily get them from the shop. For example, paneer, yoghurt, soft cheese, bread, bagels, roti and baked goods.
It’s good to not have a mobile phone
Mt Barnett has no mobile phone reception. When you tell people this, it’s funny how many of them can’t comprehend that there’s a place in the world with no mobile phone reception. I can definitely say that Deirdre loves it. In particularly she loves that I’m not constantly sitting there reading the Guardian on my phone.
But in saying all this, it is a life line for many and a happy medium between actual use and aimless use will need to be found once we reach Tassie.
We are both people who need hands on things
This became really apparent this term. With the decision made to leave, our weekends normally spent gardening and doing odds and ends around the yard have stopped. Instead we are now waiting. Whilst it’s been frustrating these past 7 weeks that time is coming to an end and we are moving to a place where we potentially will never run out of projects. Who knows maybe a year from now we will be looking back fondly on this period of inactivity.
Let nature take its course
This lesson has been learnt over a number of holidays, especially Christmas holidays. Leaving the community and garden for 6 weeks it was interesting to come and back and see how much had survived and thrived (and what hadn’t).
Since then we’ve learnt to be more relaxed in the garden. If something isn’t thriving, or some bug is around, we’ll give it a few more weeks to see if it will sort itself out. If it hasn’t then we have to do it ourselves. We not perfect at it. We still forget this at times but it’s been a valuable lesson to keep in mind when walking around the garden.
There’s a living forgotten history
Living and teaching on a station in the Kimberley has given both of us the opportunity to learn about and understand the significance of the cattle industry in remote Australia. In particular we have had the privilege to hear stories from Alec, an 85 year old, former stockman who comes to the school to teach the students Ngarajin (the local language).
Alec has told us many amazing stories of a time gone by, one that is so far from my level of contemporary experience. He tells of Japanese planes flying over Derby bombing the coast when he was boy. How his mother was concerned for his safety and sent him out to the stations along the Gibb River Road and for 50 years he worked along the road as a stockman. By the sounds of things, a very well respected stockman.
The best story we have heard him tell is of him escorting a mother and baby from one station to another. The Aboriginal mother was sent by the station owner with her baby to another station to save it from Welfare. Alec was the escort. The way he tells the story of riding 50 miles (80 km), over several days, with a baby in his arms and a bottle in his shirt pocket is quite poignant. It’s a sad but beautiful image that sticks in our minds and one that we will often think about.