Guest meat fund

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The resis have been thinking about how we can be more connected to the rural areas and people who supply our food. This partly came about from conversations with our guest Michael last year, who was a farmer in Shepparton. He talked about how hard it is to make a living from farming, and that as a farmer he couldn’t afford to eat fresh local stuff, and had no time to grow his own, so he had to go for what was cheapest from the supermarket. That seems really unfair!

In response to this, we are looking into buying meat in bulk from a local farmer. We think this might help us to be more aware of where the meat we cook and share comes from, and support farmers who can feel under-appreciated by folks in the city. It’s more expensive than the big supermarkets, but if we can pass that money directly on to the farmers, especially if they know they have regular customers who care about how the animals and the land are being treated, then we hope we are contributing to a more integrated relationship between land, food and people.

With this in mind, in our wish list we are asking for cash donations to go towards a guest meat fund and will use this to order directly from a farmer who is set up to receive orders in this way (such as Cherry Tree Organics which supplies beef, chicken, pork and lamb, and Yarra Valley Game meats which supplies kangaroo). If you know of any other suppliers, feel free to let us know! And if you want to contribute to this fund, please indicate this when you donate.

- Samara

Power and Vulnerability

I’ve been thinking a bit lately, about power and vulnerability. Sometimes, at the house I forget how much power we residents have. Power to choose who can stay with us, for how long and when. I forget and feel disempowered, squeezed out, pushed to the edges of my own home. My natural tendency is to give preference to our guests. To try and accommodate them as much as possible. I usually find I can do things this way in the short-term, but in the long-term it means I end up feeling resentful. If I am not able to take back some of the power I have given to guests, this resentment can build and impact negatively on my ability to host. It can then cause me to resent myself because I am not hosting well, which means I feel further disempowered in my situation.

Some of our most recent guests were grandparents of a premature baby boy. They stayed with us for just under a month while the baby was in hospital and then, while a maternal health nurse from VAHS came to see how the baby was doing. Like most grandparents, they doted on their grandson. Showing him off and tending to him so naturally. They had quite a bit going on, including housing pressures, and so DHS was also involved. While this family showed so much resilience and strength in dealing with their circumstances, it was revealing to see their whole attitude and confidence level drop when both DHS and VAHS were visiting. They seemed to become unsure of themselves and their abilities.

A friend came to visit last week. He lives just outside of Brisbane, and often hitchhikes in order to travel long distances. I was asking him about his choice to travel this way and mentioned that while I thought it was a great way to get around, I wouldn’t — as a short, young-looking woman —  feel confident hitchhiking on my own. He told me that he had not had any negative experiences, and knew of some women who traveled in pairs, and some older women who traveled independently this way.

Sometimes, at the house it can feel like we’re not doing enough. We justify our time off by maintaining that we are volunteers, and that we need our home to ourselves some of the time. This argument can fall down though when confronted with continuing unmet need. It seems selfish to be looking forward to having a break, when our guest’s hospital business continues and they have to find alternative accommodation. However without these short-term breaks, the long-term work could not continue.

My friend who hitchhikes has had trouble finding work. So, maybe what I see as an act of adventurous independence is — for him — a practical solution to the real problem of not having enough money to get around. Or maybe he sees not just the risks but also the benefits of catching a ride with others; providing company for people who are often traveling long distances alone, creating safer communities by encouraging generosity and finding new friends, all while getting where he needs to go. Maybe strangers aren’t so very dangerous after all?

Surprisingly at the end of last week the grandma who had been staying with us made a choice. She made the choice to leave our house of hospitality and put herself and her family in a more precarious living situation. She told me, 'I’m going to do it my way now.' She had understood that while she and her family were staying with us they were not perceived as vulnerable enough to need immediate attention. She understood that in order to get what she and her family needed in the long-term she had to act counter-intuitively in the short-term. She had to put her family at greater risk in order to become more secure. 

Perhaps it is our broader systems of power that need some work…

- Mehrin


Conversations with a Four-year-old

Recently we had some old friends from Dareton come and stay with us. On this trip they brought their spritely four-year-old daughter and niece with them. The first few of days were spent quietly playing with the toys in the toy corner but by day three or four her mum sat down with me at the kitchen table as we had breakfast.

The young girl's mum and I chatted over our cereal while the little one was engrossed in her iPad game. Then across the table she began explaining what she was doing to me. 'See, this is what you do, this is how you play! See, do you like that one? Do you like that one?'

As her mum went to have a shower and I drank my cup of tea the four year old kept talking and talking. Slowly she moved closer to where I was sitting, until she was right next to me. She even let me have a turn playing with her iPad, explaining how to play and encouraging me when I did well 'That's it cuz, you got it!'

As we played she noticed a man climbing a ladder in front of the house next door. 'What's 'e doin'?' she asked. 'I think he might be looking for a bee hive.' I replied, as we had noticed a small swarm of bees had been gathering there over the last few days. 

'They gunna get 'oney?'

'Well, yes, they might get honey, if they keep the bees. They might just need to put them somewhere else.'

'They like 'oney? I like 'oney.'

'I'm not sure, they may like honey, I like honey too.'

Later the next day as I was reading outside the inquisitive four year old came to join me. 

'Whatcha doin'?'

'I'm reading.'

I was by the outside fire pit, trying to keep my distance as I had developed a bad cold. She was not deterred. 

'Can I come over there.'

'Yeah, you can.'

As she looked around the backyard she wondered,

'You got 'ens?'

'No, we don't have hens, but we have thought about getting some.'

''Ens are good for eggs.'

'Yes they are, you're right.'

'I like 'em 'ens.'

'Yeah I like them too.'

Seeing that young girl, talking to her, being welcomed in to her world was a real experience for me. It is one of many precious experiences I have had while living at the IHH. These small, everyday things add up to create a great deal of difference over time. Most especially in me.

- Mehrin