My Permaculture Design: An Overview – Transport

I don’t have a drivers licence. I have never driven a car. And I’m okay with that.

I really don’t know the reason why I didn’t get a drivers licence when I was 16, like everybody else. I guess I have never had the need for one. In my late-teens, when I entered the workforce, I lived in the outer suburbs and commuted vast distances to work and to socialise. I quite enjoyed the hour-long bus journey. I was studying at the time so it proved to be a good opportunity to chew my way through  my dense textbooks. This was long before distractions like smartphones. Sometimes I would just listen to music and stare out the window. Other times I would fall asleep. I even missed my stop on a few occasions.

Eventually, the trip became burdensome and I wanted to move out of home. I quickly realised that by moving closer to work the rent would be more expensive but I would pay less for transportation–the cab fares on those big nights out were a killer. So I rented a small flat within walking and cycling distance from work and saved myself a lot of time and money on bus and taxi fares. What’s more, everything was so close–shops, pubs, , cafes, clinics; everything. For the past 7 or so years I have lived in or very near to the CBD.

It’s all good and well to get around without a car in the city or urban areas, but the country? This is a criticism I have heard many times. In fact, it’s probably the one I hear most. “Surely now’s time to get your licence and a car” I’m told. Nope. Not at all. I can move to the country without a car.

During The Build

Probably the trickiest part of the project without a car will be during the build. I want to build a shed first and then a house and I want to do it quite gradually–as the money and time becomes available. I want to use as many salvaged materials as possible. The likes of Gumtree are a tremendous source of free and cheap secondhand building materials. These things are strewn all over the metropolitan area. Many are large so I can’t exactly carry them on a bus. Also, I don’t have a yard in which to store them. So how will I gather all this stuff? I reached out.

With the advent of the car has come an inalienable sense of independence. I know people that drive to work–suffering from the congestion, fuel and carparking costs–simply because they want to be alone; they don’t want to have to sit next to a smelly obese man. You would think in accepting this these people wouldn’t complain about the predicament they opt into. This isn’t true–their social media profiles are always abuzz with complaints and rants about how shocking the roads and traffic are–even though they are the traffic–and how exorbitant fuel and car parking prices are. I was willing to ask for help from the community.

First, I needed a place to store building materials. I went to Twitter and a nice greenie from the eastern suburbs has offered me storage space in exchange for some materials for free to build a new chicken coop. I offered to provide her with materials and free labour. Second, I need a way of gathering materials locally and delivering them to my storage place. I could pay couriers and whatnot but that would become very expensive. So I asked around. Turns out my mother’s next door neighbour has a trailer and a ute, and would love some extra cash in his pocket for a little weekend work. It’s amazing what you can achieve if you just ask.

To get my stuff from Adelaide to Murraylands will probably require much of the same. Trusting the goodwill of your fellow man. I am not asking for gifts at all–this is a value exchange. They provide me with a service, I provide them with money or something of value. Like the ‘True Blue’ Aussie currency: a six-pack or slab of beer. In failing that, I will pay for a truck–as most people do when moving vast amounts of stuff from one place to another. My dad will also be helping with the build so will have a vehicle that can be used for incidentals.

Other than that, I will make several weekend trips to the block as I build and I will probably catch the coach for that.

Day-To-Day Commuting

When I am based at the block–temporarily or permanently–I will make use of the very suitable coach service to get around. When I was searching for land, one of the key criteria was access to public transport. Just like when you’re looking for a house in the city really–you check what buses or trams or trains are nearby and whether they are going to get you where you need to go on time. The Murraylands bus service operates seven days a week, twice a day in each direction on week days. So, handily, I could bus it into Adelaide in the morning–get there about 10:30am–have a few hours to do what I need to do, and bus it home at 1:30pm. When I make Adelaide trips I will probably stay for a few days at a time, to make the trip worthwhile.

As I mentioned in yesterdays post, Food, there is a supermarket in both directions from my town. With two buses each weekend travelling in each direction–so a morning and an afternoon bus each day, essentially–I can do my shopping, and run my errands, in either Tailem Bend (or Murray Bridge) or Lameroo. Both of these towns cater my day-to-day needs. Specialist services can be sought in Mt Barker or Adelaide and special trips can be made to visit them.

For shorter (or lighter) trips I can cycle. There are small towns with basic facilities within an hour cycle in each direction. Could make for a pleasant weekend trip.

“But what if you need to collect timber or other bulky items?” Well, what does the person with the Hyundai Getz do? Usually, they will have things delivered or ask a mate. That’s what I will do. I wrote on my previous blog:

“From my experience with the Australian character, a note on the bulletin board outside the village store or pub, with an offer of a crisp-fifty and perhaps a dozen farm fresh eggs, is unlikely to go ignored. And, will be a lot cheaper than running a car in the long term. Or why not ask the chap at the store if he’ll deliver for a fee? We drive cars as a matter of independence as though we’re afraid to ask for assistance. I’m happy to ask for help. But for the most part I wish to be independent – of a petrol engine especially.”

There’s a permaculture that applies so aptly to my choice not to drive: Use Small and Slow Solutions. Permaculture Principles explains it:

“Small and slow systems are easier to maintain than big ones, making better use of local resources and produce more sustainable outcomes.

The snail is both small and slow, it carries its home on its back and can withdraw to defend itself when threatened. The proverb “the bigger they are, the harder they fall” reminds us of the disadvantages of excessive size and growth while “slow and steady wins the race” encourages patience while reflecting on a common truth in nature and society.”

I think this is tremendously true of driving and owning a car. It’s a lot of responsibility–they cost money to run and repair. If your car falls, it’s a hard fall that’s likely to cost you a lot of money and / or inconvenience. Sure, coaches aren’t exactly small or slow, but they are not my ongoing concern. I pay my fare, allow the experienced operator to do what he or she does, as I enjoy the journey. Bikes are the epitome of slow and small. The mechanics are simple to understand and cheap and easy to maintain and repair. Bikes convey you at a speed that isn’t vastly inhuman like that of a car. The wind is in your face, you can be forgiven for taking in the scenery to the sides of you. In fact, the cycling experience is very human–your body is the engine, without you, it doesn’t move.

Tomorrow, Work.

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2 thoughts on “My Permaculture Design: An Overview – Transport

    • It’s very valuable. But it’s surprising the number of small (some, “ghost”) towns in Australia that have decent public transport connections. They are usually the towns in between larger service centres. I had almost settled on a town called Apsley in the Wimmera region of Victoria. The town was basically nothing–though the hotel and store are soon to reopen–but there was a daily bus service in each direction, five days a week. It was the bus that connects Naracoorte and Horsham, two large regional towns.

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