Four years ago I started my Masters in Social Change. I started studying this field seriously for a few reasons, first of all because I was living in a village in the middle of no where and around me I saw a world that was fraught with poverty, poor education and a lack of health care. I studied by correspondence with the worlds slowest internet connection and intermittent electricity. I studied in between surfing and slashing rice fields. I studied in between wandering the local Pasar and eating off banana leaves. About 12 months into my Masters I realised just how naive I had always been. I looked at the world I lived in differently. I looked at the wealth of the village I lived in. The wealth of community. A kind of wealth that it is hard to find by just looking at the surface of western societies. A wealth that is often overlooked and undervalued by the constant need to buy.

When I returned back to Australia I was determined to find community.

As I was completing my masters here in Australia, with a faster internet connection and all the access to resources I could possibly need – I realised that often development and privilege comes at a price that is far higher than we have ever truly discussed. The price of connected communities. Instead of working together, we work in competition of each other. We compete in every area of our lives. We don’t celebrate each other often enough. We don’t come together to share what we have. We work for our own glory, for our own satisfaction, for our own financial gain – not for the growth and the good of the ‘village’.

My masters was very economics heavy, and while I was doing the economics units I remember thinking to myself ‘I will never in a million years use any of this,’ economics and me have never been great mates. But then one day, not all that long ago, I realised that economics isn’t just about data and dollars it’s about the way that we structure our communities, it’s about the way that we go forward, it’s about the way that we consume.

The Nothing New Project was born from these realisations. It was born from the desire to do more outside of my own perceived need and to connect in a way that I had seen people connect in that beautiful village. It was born from a need to push back against materialism and consumer culture. It was born from my primal desire to truly connect with other human beings. To be a part of something much bigger than just myself.

When I started the project I never thought that I would have the opportunity to tell this story in front of 2,000 people. I never thought that I would find such incredible connections. But I did. In one of the most transformative, whirl wind weeks of my life, something changed. I was able to put into words what this project was and I was given the platform on which to present one small (but very large) angle of my project.

What if we prioritised people over things. What if we built an economy that was about sharing and giving and connecting. Not giving up purchasing, because we all know that economically that is not sustainable in the big picture, but thinking differently about the way that we go about it. What if we used every purchase as the opportunity to connect with another human being? How different would our world look.

With connections come relationships. With relationships come community.

We are all in this together after all.

x

  • January 30, 2015 - 9:19 am

    Sophie - Well done – how terrifying speaking in front of everyone. You must be really proud, of both the speech and breezing through your project. Inspirational.ReplyCancel

  • January 30, 2015 - 2:15 pm

    Jessica Smith - Sash, you speech was incredible. I just listened to it and felt so captured by what you had to say. Your words transported me to the places you told stories of. Wow, what a wonderful woman you are. Well done on articulating such a masterpiece up on that stage. XReplyCancel

  • January 30, 2015 - 3:17 pm

    Joanne P - HOORAY FOR SASH!
    I’ve been waiting for your talk to be posted – thank you for sharing it with us all here on your “online community”. That was brilliant. I know you were terrified of talking, but you did amazingly well – and you look like a seasoned pro! What you said and how you explained it was just fabulous. Congratulations!!! Joanne PReplyCancel

  • January 30, 2015 - 6:20 pm

    Jewels - Waving with hands in the air, Fantastic. Thank you
    I would like to learn more about the degree you studied the economy of human connection. I would like to find out more about living this way…as I agree totally. I rarely buy anything new & the items I buy create meaning in the exchange. I chat to stall holders at markets, I build connections. People remember this, because it gives meaning to what they are doing & really I need what they are doing through growing something I cannot etc & thus a connective exchange happens due to appreciation & acknowledgement.

    I felt you may be interested in this very sacred book, of Sienna’s true story.
    Here is a link for it.
    http://www.blurb.com/b/5969691-love-is-all-there-is?fb_action_ids=10203488158861197&fb_action_types=og.shares

    Here is the link to the facebook page for this book I have written, as a promise to my daughter, Sienna, before dying in my arms, that I would write her story into her very own book for sharing and reading with the community. This awareness will create greater sense of inclusion and humanness.
    https://www.facebook.com/LoveisallthereisSiennastory

    I share a link here an invite to this book launch for this book to be welcomed to the community:
    https://www.facebook.com/events/1540566292891454/?ref=22

    I welcome you to share & read this very sacred book, come along to the book launch to meet.
    Kind regards
    Jewels SmithReplyCancel

  • January 30, 2015 - 6:24 pm

    Cath - You, lovely lady, are still as captivating on stage as you ever were. Still love the project (I’ve recently adapted it for me and my ‘fur-baby’ ;) ), wish the media wasn’t twisting it all up but it’s still awesome that you got the message out so widely. Love xxReplyCancel

  • January 30, 2015 - 6:54 pm

    Helen McGeoch - Congratulations Sash! You did a brilliant job. Keep it coming.ReplyCancel

There are few things more satisfying in the world than the simple art of preserving food. It’s a process that reconnects us with the roots of a time far simpler than the world in which we live now. It reconnects us with what it truly means to work for what we eat. We live in a world now where we can have almost anything we want any time we want it. We can have stone fruit in the winter, we can eat broccoli all year round… gone are the days that mangoes become solely a special treat reserved for a few short weeks in summer (if you’re even that lucky)… we can of course buy them all year around now, if we dare pay the out season prices. My mother grew up in Canada and she often tells stories of having little mandarins in her stocking on christmas morning, it was a most coveted treat.

But now, we are spoilt. Whilst many of us try to live a life that is pared back and much simpler than the world around us seems to demand… a life where we live by the seasons and eat locally grown as much as possible… there is still a lot of the art that has been lost. There is something very special about cracking open a home preserved jar of summer peaches in the middle of winter, or enjoying the satisfying crunch of perfectly preserved pickles, long after the last cucumber has been pared off the vine. Summer is a spectacular time for fruit and veg, and whilst we are pretty lucky here in South West Australia, with lots of produce being grown locally year round, there are some particular things that we miss when the wet winter rolls in. So we preserve. I try to reconnect with the spirit of my grandmother, a woman who I’ve been told had a cellar full of home canned goodies ready for the long canadian winter. I try to reconnect a bit with my own history and the history of all of us, known or not. A history where good food came to the middle class through patience, and work, and commitment to the produce… not just to a late night drive to Coles. Where food came in seasons.

I’ve always been a pickle lover. That vinegary crunch is totally self satisfying. Whilst we have also been dabbling in the world of lacto-fermentation, I still can’t go past that vinegary taste of a pickle. The best thing about developing a perfect brine is that, I’ve discovered, one can pickle just about anything (think crunchy, carrots, zucchini, okra, tomatillo, gem squash…). Jars of sweet and sour crunchy vegetables ready for adding to winter dishes and eating out of the jar in front of the fire in a few months to come.

A little work. A little patience. And an honest commitment to the tradition of food.

PICKLE ANYTHING BRINE

Ingredients (makes 6 cups)

3 cups distilled white vinegar (or apple cider vinegar)
3 cups water
3 Tbsp good quality sea salt
2 Tbsp raw sugar

Method:

Combine all ingredients in a saucepan on a medium heat, bring to a boil and stir until salt and sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat and use as per the basic pickles guide below. (Yes, it really is just that easy)

BASIC PICKLES GUIDE

1. Wash and prepare your veggies: Hard veggies like carrots, okra, green beans do well with a quick blanch in hot water. Other veggies (usually with a higher water content) are good to go just as they are. Slice into appropriate shapes – disks or ‘sticks’ seem to work particularly well – or whole if you are dealing with mini veg.

2. Pack your jar: Carefully pack your jars so they are nice and full, ensure you are using heat proof canning jars if you are going to follow up with a water bath method for long pantry storage. All pickles CAN be made and refrigerated and will last for about a month if you would like to avoid the canning stage.

3. Add some flavours: This one is up to you. I like about 1 tsp of mustard seed, a little fresh dill, some thinly sliced red onion or a clove of garlic – but coriander seeds, bay leaves turmeric, cumin seed, etc. all work well too… go easy on the spices – 1 /2-1 tsp of any spice is more than enough.

4. Pour in the brine: Pour in the hot brine straight off the stove. Leave half an inch or so at the top of the jar and be sure the vegetables are covered entirely. You’ll want to make sure all of the air bubbles are out by giving the jar a good poke with a wooden stick or the like.

You can pop the lid on know and refrigerate for up to one month or…

5. Canning: Water bath canning is the method we use. We use an old valcoa water bath these days but we have done it very successfully in a big old pot too. Follow these directions for Water Bath Canning (or any other reputable resource online) to ensure you’re preparing the bath correctly for food safety.

Store water bath preserves in the pantry until opened and then fridge those bad boys – if they make it that far.

 

  • January 27, 2015 - 1:00 pm

    Life With The Crew - I love the photos, but am not a big pickle eater. However, I have recently discovered the joy of making jam and am loving having strawberry orange jam in January! My daughter and I picked the berries back in June and I froze them, knowing that in mid-Winter, we would appreciate the fruit and I wouldn’t want to buy non-local berries in the grocery store.ReplyCancel

It was a few weeks ago now that I sat on the front porch of a friends home with the sun in my face and a book on my knees. I was sitting with Bo, a bowl of orange segments balanced between her knees. I was reading, feeling the warm burn of the summer sun against my bare feet. There was little breeze… just hot summer air pulled over us like a winter sweater, prickling our skin. I had read a whole chapter before I realised that I hadn’t been interrupted at all.

I was lost in the world of a story, worlds away from my own, escaping in the fantasy of another life.

When I looked up, I saw something rather curious. I saw my little girl, head cocked to one side, staring off into the garden. Focussed, but not focussed at all. I watched her and I realised quite simply how complicated we make things. It was a moment or two before my staring got her attention. She looked over at me and grinned and laughed and shoved another orange wedge into her cheesey grin. I asked her, ‘what were you thinking,’ she just shrugged, ‘nothing,’ she said. So I asked, ‘what were you watching,’ and she looked at me like I was crazy, ‘everything,’ she said, ‘everything.’

The thing about mindfulness and meditation is as an adult we are trying to undo all the mess and bullshit and self doubt that life has crammed into our heads. When I meditate I drive myself crazy with self doubt and inner monologues and convoluted arguments about who-knows-what. But the thing is, it still helps. Afterwards, I always feel better. Calmer. Clearer.  It always helps. To take the time. To just sit. To be everything and nothing all at once. To take the time to notice that amongst all the mess and the tears, there are not only beautiful things outside of us, but there are little beautiful things inside us too… even if we feel broken. Even if we feel vulnerable. Even when we are scared. Even when we feel like we are cracked right down the middle.

I’ve got a serious case of writing block at the moment. I have so many words but none of them seem to be able to make it to the page. So instead of write, I just live the moments. The good and the bad. The joyful and the sad. I’m just in them.

To take a moment to remember what really matters. In a sea of so much noise and things that we are told matter (that really don’t, at all), there are a few things that truly do. Like love. Like peace. Like making change. Little moments of kindness and learning to just let the rest go. I’ll be taking a few lessons from my toddler again this week… and I’ll try a little harder to forget about getting it perfect, I’ll do what I can with what I have, and I’ll find a little joy in it… Because if we can’t do that… What are we doing at all?

Ring the bells that can still ring,
Forget your perfect offering,
There is a crack in everything,
That’s how the light gets in.
~Leonard Cohen

  • January 20, 2015 - 5:19 am

    Dad - Thanks L CohenReplyCancel

    • January 20, 2015 - 7:12 am

      Sash - Thanks Dad :) ReplyCancel

  • January 20, 2015 - 5:46 am

    Erin - You seem to write when I need it most! Thanks for being an inspiration to many and a reminder that the light still will shine even in the darkest moments!ReplyCancel

    • January 20, 2015 - 7:12 am

      Sash - Thanks Erin. Sometimes it’s the hardest thing to remember, for all of us. There is no dark without the light. xReplyCancel

  • January 21, 2015 - 2:12 am

    Elisa {With Grace & Eve} - Love this so much. Beautifully beautifully expressed. Meditation calms me also. I keep getting lost in my girls and moments this summer; little writing done too but trusting this is exactly where I need to be xxReplyCancel

  • January 21, 2015 - 1:03 pm

    Renee - Beautifully written.ReplyCancel