Coping Strategy #73

“The single greatest lesson the garden teaches is that our relationship to the planet need not be zero-sum, and that as long as the sun still shines and people still can plan and plant, think and do, we can, if we bother to try, find ways to provide for ourselves without diminishing the world.” 
~  Michael Pollan

 

Sometimes I get a little overwhelmed.

It might be a health problem, or a pain issue.

Sometimes it’s the state of the world, the environment, politics…

Or the suffering of a loved one, friend or client.

Occasionally I get sideswiped by a psychic happening.

Or maybe it’s a knot in my writing that won’t untangle.

But in my arsenal of coping strategies I have one that works magic each time I employ it. In my big book of Coping Strategies (I could write a doctorate on this one topic!) number seventy three is solid gold.

Let me share it with you:

#73 – Hose the garden

With my garden hose in hand I stand barefoot on the ground if the season allows it. My other choices are gumboots if it’s cold, or a worn-out pair of Birkenstocks if there are prickles in the lawn.

I point the stream of water at my vegetable beds, my tubs of herbs, my fruit trees and my flowers.

No matter how cranky, sad, fraught, disconnected or pained I am, within a few minutes I begin to unwind.

I watch the water falling on the leaves and soil. I note the progress of my plants. I might pop a small ripe tomato or snow pea into my mouth, or a sprig of herb. I allow the aromas of moisture and garden to nourish me. I open myself to the sky above my head and the earth beneath my feet. My ears take in the birdsong and hum of insects, the rustle of breeze in the trees, the sounds of the farm beyond my fence. I drink in the sun on my face, or the beginning or close of day.

As I stand with the hose in my hand I become reconnected to myself and to nature. Clouds ripple across the sky. The light changes as the world slowly spins. Each day there is something new, and a few old constants to reassure me of my place in the world. I am filled up with calm and all that other burdensome energy slips away.

What about you? What are your favourite coping strategies? I’d love to know.

Sending big love and hugs to you from all of us here at the farm, Nicole  xx

After Rest Comes Rejuvenation

“In a cool solitude of trees
Where leaves and birds a music spin,
Mind that was weary is at ease,
New rhythms in the soul begin.” 
~ William Kean Seymour

 

Are you taking some time for yourself this week?

As part of my be-gentle-with-myself healing process I spent the late afternoon in the garden yesterday, watching my dogs frolic, watering my vegetables and fruit trees, and inhaling the delectable fragrance of newly mown lawn.

Of course I couldn’t go anywhere without young Rufous following me. That dog is curious about everything!!!

When the air cooled and the sun began to dip behind the mountain we came inside, cooked dinner and curled up on the couch by the fire before an early night.

All that outside time made for a deep sleep!

Here are a few snaps of my soul medicine session.
Much love, Nicole xx

 

The Turn In The Road Where My Worries Fall Away

Image from www.stopthesethings.com

“Though a lifetime of listening to the music of the world has passed, even now the tone of the rain on the roof of my home is the sweetest sound I have ever heard.” 
~  Kensi Brianne Smith

 

We’ve been up in Brisbane this past week, and it’s been full on.

I’ve had doctors’ appointments and the sorts of things to attend to that can only be done in the city.

I’ve held space for friends and clients who have suffered tragedy and tempest.

And we’ve been elder caring.

Ben’s mum is old and increasingly frail, although stubbornly independent, bless her. She’s at the age where suddenly she needs help with everything: shopping, cooking, home maintenance, paying bills – all the things she has done so competently for the entirety of her life. But we don’t mind at all. We love her, and she is family.

Still, it’s stressful, and we worry constantly about her.

Yesterday finally we packed up to drive home to the farm.

There is a place we come to, just over the border between Queensland and New South Wales, where I unfailingly begin to unwind and feel better. City and suburbia fall away and at a turn in the road the highway is suddenly blanketed by cane fields and farms with a backdrop of dusky crags.

The tension leaves my body. I sigh audibly. A sense of relief creeps over me.

Many of our friends from the Byron Shire experience the same thing; that falling away of worries as we move into the encircling arms of the ancient volcanic rim that cradles our homes.

How about you? Do you have a place in the journey home where suddenly you feel better too? I’d love to know.

Hugs and love from all of us here at the farm, Nicole xx

Easy Orange Butter Cake Recipe

“Mma Ramotswe sighed. ‘We are all tempted, Mma. We are all tempted when it comes to cake.’
‘That is true,’ said Mma Potokwane sadly. ‘There are many temptations in this life, but cake is probably one of the biggest of them.”
~  Alexander McCall Smith

 

When you live on a farm it’s a different way of life to being in the city. When neighbours drop by it’s still a trek. If the tractor repair man comes he’s had a fair drive before he gets to us. The same for any kind of tradesperson. If friends are in the neighbourhood, having travelled to our part of the world for some other reason, they’ll often call ahead to see if we are home. And then all of them pop in for a cuppa.

If it’s morning, we’ll have morning tea. If it’s midday I can always rustle up extra food for lunch. Afternoon tea is a chance to stop on the veranda for a while to escape the heat of the day, or to pop inside by the wood fire to warm up before heading back out to the paddocks again. Any time’s a good time for a smoko break when friends drop by. (Smoko is not Australian slang for a cigarette break – smoko is a break from work, where hot tea is served, and something to eat.)

This orange cake is a smoko favourite. If we are working down at the cattle yards or heading out bush I will leave the cake un-iced so that it travels better. But at home, especially with visitors coming, the icing makes the cake just that little bit fancier.

Our orange trees are full of fruit right now, so it’s only a short walk for us to grab a couple sun-warmed and fresh from the tree.

This is a lovely, moist buttery cake with good flavour. I hope you enjoy it as much as our family do! It cooks up beautifully with gluten-free flour too. 🙂

Lots of love, Nicole xx

Cake Ingredients:

  • 250g butter, softened (If it’s cold, let it come to room temperature or you’ll be mixng it forever to get it to cream with the sugar. If it’s very hot – like Australia in summer – just remove from butter from fridge, cut into cubes and place into mixer. It will soon warm up on its own.)
  • 1 rounded cup of castor sugar (rounded means a little bit heaped rather than flat)
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 tblspn finely grated orange zest
  • 2 cups of sifted self-raising flour (it’s fine to use your favourite gluten-free flour if you want)
  • 1/2 cup of fresh orange juice

For the icing (frosting):

  • 2 cups icing sugar
  • 1 tblspn softened butter
  • 3 tablespoons orange juice

Tip: For an extra flavour boost you can also use a good food-grade orange essential oil, 3 drops for the cake and 3 for the icing. I use Young Living essential oils, and I just love them!

Method:

  1. Preheat your oven to moderate (160 degree celcius fan-forced or 180 degree oven – 350 degrees fahrenheit).
  2. Line a 22cm springform cake tin with baking paper.
  3. Beat the butter until soft in an electric mixer and then gradually add the sugar. Cream the butter and sugar until pale and thick. This takes a few minutes on medium speed.
  4. Add eggs one at a time on low speed, beating well after each one.
  5. Add orange zest and a couple of drops of food grade orange essential oil if you are using it.
  6. Stop the mixer and dump the sifted flour into the bowl. Mix on slow speed until well combined. Use a scraper to push the mixture on the sides of the bowl down into the batter if necessary and then mix again.
  7. With the mixer still on slow speed pour the orange juice in little by little until all combined.
  8. Spread the batter into your cake tin and smooth the surface, making the centre of the cake just slightly lower than the sides. This stops it rising too high when it bakes.
  9. Bake for 40 minutes and then check. Cake is baked if it springs back when touched in the middle, or if a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean. Leave a little longer if not quite done.
  10. Remove cake from oven. Cool in tin for five to ten minutes and then place onto a rack to cool completely.
  11. Place cake on serving plate.
  12. Add the orange juice, essential oil (if using) and softened butter to the sifted icing sugar, stirring well until the mixture is stiff and glossy. Spread onto the cooled cake. Dipping your knife in hot water will help give a smooth and shiny finish as you spread the icing (frosting) mixture.
  13. If you want to be fancy you can add some extra grated zest, candied peel or orange slices, sprinkles, coconut or white chocolate curls to decorate the top of the cake (I usually don’t bother.)
  14. Serve with a good cup of coffee or a pot of tea. I especially enjoy Earl Grey or French Earl Grey with this cake, but Irish Breakfast is also fabulous.

A Tale Of Two Dogs…

“After years of having a dog, you know him. You know the meaning of his snuffs and grunts and barks. Every twitch of the ears is a question or statement, every wag of the tail is an exclamation.” 
~  Robert McCammon

 

Once upon a time there was a naughty young pup called Harry. He chewed everything. He was constantly underfoot. He’d bark in your ear and jump on your head to wake you up, just because it was morning and he didn’t want to waste a moment of another Very Good Day.

But then Harry grew up. Now he’s a calm and considerate dog, with great cattle handling skills and excellent manners, especially at the beach or when dining out at cafes.

Enter the new young brother. Rufous. Undeniably cute, but a total ratbag.

A hole-digging, slipper-destroying, house-chewing food devotee.

He’s chewed through an entire chair, eaten a hole in the side of my bed, destroyed three pairs of slippers – all mine, and has now taken to biting the heads off my daisies and flinging them around like snow, just as they are all coming into flower.

And did I mention how much he loves digging massive holes in the new lawn, or taking one shoe for a walk out into the middle of a paddock and then leaving it there?

Here he is, hiding, after eating the meat I’d put out on the bench for Ben to barbeque for our dinner. We ate eggs on toast instead!

Look at those eyes. It’s impossible to stay mad at him! I’m sure that Rufous will grow into a good boy one day too, and probably too soon. For all his naughtiness we adore him, and gee he makes us laugh.

Most of all, I love watching Rufous and Harry play. These two brothers are having the best adventures here at the farm.

Life is good, and filled with love.

I’m sending some of that love your way today. Hugs a million, Nicole <3 xoxo

A Morning Dose Of Happiness!

“Morning is an important time of day, because how you spend your morning can often tell you what kind of day you are going to have.”
~ Lemony Snicket

 

Something wonderful happened to me yesterday morning!

I woke up with energy. After months of being unwell it was a precious gift. So we did something with all of that feel-good. We took an early morning drive down to the beach for a walk and then some breakfast.

Byron was golden with the early morning light. The sun was warm, the water too, and Ben and I walked hand in hand as Cafe Dog frolicked in the shallows. Meanwhile young Rufous was home having a big puppy sleep-in. He is still so excitable on beach walks, and seeing it was my first in a very long time, and being still weak as I recover from my recent illness, we left him napping – and he didn’t mind at all!

As we walked I found just the right beach rock. It felt good in my hand so I asked permission of the beach, and the Elders and the nature spirits, and I brought it home with me. I have a lovely little collection of Byron Bay beach rocks here that I have gathered over the past twenty years, just waiting for a special project I have in mind for them. I’ll tell you more about that tomorrow.

After our sunshiney walk we headed into a favourite haunt – Dip Cafe at Byron Bay. If you get a chance, do pop in! They have a fabulous $15 French Specials menu right now, as well as their regular delicious repast. I can highly recommend the savoury crepes, which I had for breakfast. So good. 🙂

How about you, dear friend? What acts of self-nurture and care are you taking for yourself this week? Please be good to yourself and live from kindness. For yourself and for others.

I’m slowly recovering, and grateful to be back to my regular morning meditations and blog writing sessions.

Sending so much love your way, Nicole <3 xoxo

Rufous, napping on the day bed. And yes, he’s managed to thoroughly coat himself and the day bed in mud!!!

Ben and Harry racing ahead while I stop to admire every shell and rock strewn before me…

Follow the paw prints!

A lovely beach rock, just waiting for me…

This one felt so good in my hand – a perfect meditation stone.

Delicious savoury crepes from Dip Cafe, Byron Bay

Cafe Dog, just waiting for a bite of something to fall from the sky…

Extra Links for You!

I’ve been singing the praises of Dip Cafe for a while now. Want to know more about the magic? This post pretty much sums it up: Magic – Byron Bay Style

Have you met Rufous yet? Find out more about our latest pup here: Meet Rufous – Brother to Harry Dog

And details on Harry, our Cafe Dog here: Harry – Cafe Dog!

Meet Rufous – Brother to Harry Dog!

“ Sometimes being a brother is even better than being a superhero.” ~  Marc Brown

A little over a week ago I mentioned in a blog post that we had just begun to think about getting a new baby brother or sister for Harry Dog, who has been mourning the loss of Bert.

Only a few hours later my friend Monique posted some pictures to my Facebook page of a young red cattle dog pup who had just been rescued that very day and who was in need of a forever home. It wasn’t the kind of thing that Monique would normally do, but she felt compelled to share.

I took one look at that puppy’s face and knew we had to try to bring him home. I immediately contacted Janine who was fostering the pup and who had posted the pictures, and then Sharon who runs Australian Cattle Dog Rescue. Many messages and phone calls later and it all looked like this dog could be ours. Just as soon as he had been vet checked and desexed.

On Monday we finally brought him home. I’m still not well, currently treating the tummy bug we picked up from our last overseas trip and now dealing with a resurgence of the nasty antibiotic-resistant superbug urinary tract infection I’d hoped that I’d actually beaten. I was too unwell to travel, so our friend Carly went with Harry and Ben on a nearly five-hour drive (and then back again in the same day!) to meet this rescue pup and see if he could be a good fit for our family. Of course he was! So now we have Rufous at home with us, and he is just a delight.

He loves cuddles and being close to everyone, and he’s simply the best of mates with Harry. They run around like mad things and then collapse in a heap together and nap.

Rufous even went on his very first cafe outing yesterday morning and was very well-behaved and happy!

It’s wonderful to have a puppy at home, and even better is the smile on Harry’s face. He hasn’t stopped smiling since we found him a new brother. <3