Tea Parties and Crystal Grids

“Thank God for tea! What would the world do without tea! How did it exist? I am glad I was not born before tea.” 
Sydney Smith

A few days ago my team and I undertook a massive photo shoot for our new website. This involved multiple locations over a number of days – our favourite Byron Bay cafes and hangouts (think bookstores and farmers markets!), the beach, the lighthouse and of course our farm.

The favourite part of the shoot for me was a tea party we held under big old trees in our front yard.

It was a proper tea party with finger sandwiches, egg rolls, little cakes and big cakes and chocolates and macarons. And three types of tea served in teapots with cute knitted cosies.

Not far from where we sat was a beautiful crystal grid of stones and flowers, nestled in the grass. It helped the energy of our afternoon to be relaxed, happy and joyous.

Here’s a sneak peak at some of the loveliness,

Hugs, Nicole ❤ xx

Tasty treats and garden-fresh flowers for the table

Setting the table ready for afternoon tea, and there is still so much food to bring down, and we need the teapots filled!

PS – I can’t wait to show you the rest of our photos!

 

 

Hay, Hay, Hay – it’s a drought!

“Without water, life would just be rock.” 
Anthony T. Hincks

 

It’s been a strange winter. I can count the number of really cold days on my fingers. Mostly it has been as warm as spring, and sometimes warm as summer. No-one jokes about global warming anymore. It’s here, and the evidence is all around us.

In 2015, in response to rising baseline temperatures at our farm we pulled out an entire heritage citrus orchard that could no longer tolerate the increased UV radiation and heat that has become the new normal in Byron Shire. We’ve slowly replanted with native food trees and tropical varieties of traditional fruit trees. But it’s all a glorious experiment.

The plants on our farm this winter don’t seem to know what to do – some are flowering, some dropped a few leaves, some have leaves dropping and new leaves growing and flowers trying to bud all at once. Birds have nested early or haven’t started yet. Some of our trees have produced two fruiting cycles instead of one, and both of them out of season. Nature can’t seem to settle into any kind of normal rhythm.

The deep frosts that were once a normal part of our winter have become occasional, and not enough to kill the weeds, ticks and other pests that would normally be decimated and controlled by a period of intense cold. Lyme and other tick-borne diseases are rampant, affecting humans and animals alike. It’s worrying. Meanwhile the rising ocean temperatures mean that sea creatures like the Irukandji jellyfish with its deadly sting – once known only in tropical waters – are slowly drifting south and may end up here within a few years too.

Our farm a few months ago, when there was abundant rain and feed.

Around us the neighbours’ farms are already flogged. Winter is our hardest season – dry and cold enough that the grass grows slowly if at all. Feed for livestock always runs low in our district by winter’s end.

Here at our organic farm we have paddocks locked off and we cell graze, rotating our herd through each paddock one by one to give the pasture time to rest and for the grasses to set seed and rejuvenate and the native wildlife to have their habitat too. Looking after our soil and the grasses, plants and animals that create biodiversity and habit is important to us. We still have feed, and we maintain a smaller herd than we could carry for the size of the land, but we don’t want to use the paddocks that are closed off for rejuvenation. When you graze everything down to nothing it can take years to regain that natural biodiversity of species. We’re fortunate to still have that luxury of pasture management. Many farmers have not a blade of grass left and have been feeding out for months or even years.

Looking after our herd is important. They will be used by other farmers to restock their own land and to breed from. These are good bloodlines that we carefully nurtured over years and preserved at great effort during that last big drought.

We’re worried about the summer ahead. Already we have a bushfire plan, and we’re thinking about what we can do to keep our farm green, well watered and fire hazards to a minimum. We’re thinking about how we can help the trees, the bees and native wildlife. We’re planning for hardship if our district ends up going back into drought as much of the rest of Australia already has.

Yesterday we bought a truckload of hay from a farmer we know an hour south of us. They’ll be delivered later this week but we hauled one bale home with us straight away to feed out to our girls – big round bales of dried bluegrass that can nourish the cows and spring calves if rain doesn’t come soon. Our plan is to still try and keep some of our pasture locked off until summer to protect that seedbank and nurture the revegetation we’ve worked so hard to create.

The hay might end up being mulch for our orchard and vegetable gardens too. Everything suffers in a drought. Having endured eight straight years of severe drought back on our old farm we are keen to be prepared, and if necessary to rethink everything. We can’t do another stint like that again.

We’re doing our best to strategise, to think ahead, to plant and grow food that works with the prevailing conditions. Here’s hoping we get at least some of these adaptations right. We also bought hay yesterday to gift to struggling farmers and do our bit to help keep them on their farms. We’ve been in their shoes, and we know how soul-crushing it can be and how isolated and desperate you can come to feel.

Meanwhile here’s a little happy news – our latest addition, a baby male calf that a friend’s son has named Li’l Onion (Eli’s four and thinks of impossibly crazy names for things!).

Sending much love your way, Nicole ❤ xx

PS – Australian farmers are doing it tough right now. Whether they are growing crops, managing dairy herds or raising livestock many of them are struggling from prolonged drought and extreme weather events – and their struggle is relentless. If you’d like to help here are some ways that you can:

Drought Angels

Aussie Helpers

Lions Need for Feed

Salvation Army

 

 

 

 

A Posy Of Weeds For My Friend

“Friendship is the hardest thing in the world to explain. It’s not something you learn in school. But if you haven’t learned the meaning of friendship, you really haven’t learned anything.”

~ Muhammad Ali

 

I have a friend who waits for me every day.

Our big tough bull – or Red Bull, as we call him.

Each day he walks along the fence until he catches a glimpse of me. He might wait until I am out in the vegetable garden or hanging out the washing. Sometimes he comes and stands on the other side of the fence level opposite my kitchen window.

When he sees me and catches my eye he makes a little noise, a tiny little ‘ooof’ – a cross between a sigh and a grunt of acknowledgement – loud enough that I can hear him but soft enough that he doesn’t attract the attention of the herd.

As soon as I can I go and gather a posy for him. I pluck comfrey and dandelion leaves from where they grow wild in the lawn. I pick tender weeds. Sometimes I will add a few herbs. And then I walk across to the fence and he comes to greet me and I pass him his tasty posy.

He always tries to be discrete but sometimes the greedy older cows cotton on to what is happening and rush over, pushing him out of the way so that they can have a share as well. He never complains and stands aside to let them in like a true gentleman.

That’s Daisy Mae’s nose you can see in the picture below. She barged in on us and ruined our date. I love her too, but gee she’s bossy and, of course, she brought all her friends!

Tomorrow at the Farmers Markets I’ll buy a bunch of carrots so I can keep the tops for Red Bull as a special treat. He loves those.

I never thought I’d count a one-tonne gentle giant as a dear friend, but I do, and I look forward to our daily meet-ups as much as he does.

Wishing you a day blessed with friendship too.

Much love from all of us here at the farm, Nicole ❤  xx

 

Trapped by Dog!

“Winter is the time for comfort, for good food and warmth, for the touch of a friendly hand and for a talk beside the fire: it is the time for home.” 
Edith Sitwell

Winter arrived overnight at our farm. Brrrr! So cold this morning.

And this morning after my meditation I popped back into bed to warm up and a small dog jumped up on the bed and snuggled down right on top of my legs. He was warm so I left him there and went back to sleep. But when I woke up and was ready to get out of bed he refused to move. ‘Too cold, Mum,’ he protested, grizzling at me for disturbing him. Too cold even though he is dressed in his winter coat, and should be toasty warm. Poor Rufous isn’t much of a tough farm dog. He’s a cuddle sook!

I managed to ease my legs out from under him and he stayed put. He’d still be there now except for Ben yelling the magic word…

Breakfast!

In a flurry of fur young Rufous was at the back door, ready for the happiest part of the day – food.

So I’m late blogging today because of puppies, comfort and life.

Now for me a day of acupuncture and self-care, friends sitting around the fireplace writing with me over cups of tea, and cauldrons of soup on the stove. I’m still recovering from this wretched flu but I’m making progress back to being well thankfully. I’m sure puppy cuddles have helped immensely.

Wishing you a day of cosiness too! Much love, Nicole ❤ xoxo

Meet Our Latest Edition – Calvin the Calf!

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“The apple does not fall far from the tree.” ~ Proverb

 

Here’s our cheeky heifer Daisy Mae with her young bull calf – her first ever baby! We’ve named him Calvin, after Joelle’s suggestion.

When Daisy Mae was a young ‘un she’d crawl under the fence, romp through my vegetable garden, and play with my dogs, Harry and Bert, as though she too were a mad pup. She developed quite a taste for my herbs and flowers, and I was forever chasing her out of the house yard.

Now her son is just the same. He’s only four days old, and already we’ve chased him out of the yard more than twenty times. Right now he’s still so little that he can easily wiggle under the fence wires. He never seems to mind that he’s in trouble. To him it’s one big game.

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He has been devouring my parsley and garlic chives, and is particularly partial to petunias. Naughty Calvin!

But he’s so cute we can’t stay mad at him long. 🙂

Our dogs just love it when Calvin comes to visit. Let’s just hope he doesn’t eat all of my herbs before he is too big to squeeze under the fence.

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Simple Pleasures

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“I’d rather have roses on my table than diamonds on my neck.”
~ Emma Goldman

 

Here we are, home at the farm. Such a healing space for me. While I’m soaking up the magic before we head back to the city again to support our beloved family, here’s a taste of our last few days.

 

A tin full of baby fruit cakes, some to keep for us and some to share.

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Some mixed lettuce and snow peas to plant out into the vegetable garden.

punet

A drink of sweet fresh water down at the dam. There are ten new calves, and all of them are healthy and happy.

2015-05-15 10.21.16A visit with some good friends, our neighbours Princess Lil the Farm Dog and Monty the Horse..

2015-05-18 11.41.39The camelias around the house are all in bloom, and carpeting the lawn with their pretty petals.

2014-03-31 17.21.32The mandarins are ripening nicely in the orchard. We picked a few to munch on while we were burning the pile, and we’ll pick more today to take back to the city.

2012-07-15 08.31.15We got to burn a pile of windfallen timber up in the orchard, as well as the frames of the old fruit trees we’d removed late last year. The fragrant smoke lingered on our clothes and hair. I can still smell the pile smouldering this morning.

2012-07-31 17.18.42And our table has been filled with food, friends and blessings. I love my little farm. It’s so good being home.

Sending much love to you, Nicole <3 xoxo

 

 

 

Afternoon Magic at the Farm

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“Eventually, all things merge into one, and a river runs through it. The river was cut by the world’s great flood and runs over rocks from the basement of time. On some of the rocks are timeless raindrops. Under the rocks are the words, and some of the words are theirs.
I am haunted by waters.”
~ Norman Maclean, A River Runs Through It and Other Stories

 

Yesterday we came home. It’s a flying visit to the farm – a quick overnight to pick up some clothes, some paperwork and other things left behind in a hurry.

We still need to be back in Brisbane right now so that Ben can be close to doctors and hospitals while he heals. We head to the city later today.

But yesterday we came home.

The first thing we did was pile into the old farm ute and drive down to the river flats to check the cattle. They were fat and happy, there was plenty of feed, and all the water and fences (the things that farmers worry about) were in order.

So we strolled over to the river to look for the platypus, and we threw sticks for the dogs. A good time was had by all.

On the way back to the car we stopped at the site of an old bottle dump, from when the scrub was first cleared and a few woodcutter’s humpies were built back in the 1860’s. Each year more old glass and china fragments work their way to the surface. We gathered a few handfuls and came home to sit on the veranda as the sun set, being serenaded by frogs and cicadas, and the wind-chimes slowly tinkling in the light breeze.

Such simple, heartfelt magic! We can’t wait to be home again properly. We miss this place so much, but we are lucky to have fabulous neighbours watering our vegetable gardens and orchard, picking our harvest, and keeping an eye on our herd. Our treasured patch of land is in safe hands til we return. 🙂

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A Gentle Morning at the Farm

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“Every morning was a cheerful invitation to make my life of equal simplicity, and I may say innocence, with Nature herself.” 
Henry David ThoreauWalden

 

Autumn is a magical time at our farm. Gentle showers soak the ground during the night, and in the morning thick mist wraps itself around the mountains.

As the sun burns the mist away to reveal the wide blue sky, fragile spiderwebs sparkle with dewdrops bright as diamonds.

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Everything feels fresh, and lush with promise.

I fill myself up on the kindness and verdant energy of nature.

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Up in the orchard, I hear a commotion. It’s Eric, the very shy Echidna. Every morning he comes out to nuzzle through the soft soil, and the cattle egrets wait for the worms he disturbs.

echidna too

Today he’s been joined by a girlfriend. Love is in the air…

echidna

Hay, Hay, Hay! (because lame jokes & Nicole go so well together)

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“Nic, step away from that computer. Sometimes you just have to get going!” ~ Ben Phillips, husband.

 

We got up so early this morning there was no time to blog. We were in the ute and rolling out the door just on dawn.

Why?

To buy hay at the Saturday Markets of course!

The farm looked so pretty in its sparkly covering of dew and sunlight.

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No blog? No, we had to get started so we wouldn’t miss out! I took pictures anyway, so I might still have something to share with you.

So now it’s 6.30am and I am blogging on my iphone. That’s how much I love you.

Here’s the morning’s outcome – a beautiful load of hay for my new organic vegetable garden, and some for the cows, of course, who – like everyone here at our farm – are spoiled rotten!

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As soon as Ben has tied the load down on the back of our old ute I’m making him take me for coffee at one of the local market stalls and I’ll fill my basket with fresh fruit and vegetables.

Truth be told, an early morning adventure is a very satisfying way to start your day!