Adapting to Change

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“When asked if I am pessimistic or optimistic about the future, my answer is always the same: if you look at the science about what is happening on earth and aren’t pessimistic, you don’t understand the data. But if you meet the people who are working to restore this earth and the lives of the poor, and you aren’t optimistic, you haven’t got a pulse.”
― Martin Keogh, Hope Beneath Our Feet: Restoring Our Place in the Natural World


Yesterday at our farm we marked the end of an era.

When we bought this place there was an old overgrown orchard on the hill up behind the house. When we’d asked the previous owner what kind of trees they were he’d been offhand. Oranges, he said. Just old oranges. They cropped every year, he told us, and he let the fruit bats get most of them. How many oranges can you eat, he said, shrugging his shoulders.

We’re an organic farm. We don’t use chemicals. So by hand and by machine we cleared out all the privet and camphor, the lantana and other weeds, and were left with a host of ancient citrus trees. They were huge, some of them spindly and weak, and all of them in various stages of declining health after decades of neglect.

That first winter we were amazed. The trees fruited and we harvested  a range of different oranges, blood oranges, tangerines, several kinds of mandarin (clementine), grapefruits and lemons. Most of the varieties were so old that they were not able to be readily identified by the commercial horticulturalist at the nursery up the road.

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We pruned and fed and watered, and waited to see what might happen. Some of the elderly ladies at my CWA group remembered the orchard from their childhoods, when it had been a flourishing commercial affair that supplemented the dairy which used to be our farm. The orchard had been planted in the nineteen-thirties, and had remained in commercial operation until the late sixties.

It was exciting to think that the trees might still be viable. We hoped that we might be able to include them as part of our own organic farm produce plan. In Barcelona we’d seen trees that were well over one hundred and fifty years old and still in full production.

So we tried.

For five years.

And then yesterday we brought the excavator in and pulled almost all of them out.

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Why? The trees are disease-free, but most of them aren’t thriving. A few trees stand out, and produce bountiful, healthy fruit. But six out of sixty? Something wasn’t adding up. Some of our neighbours have had similar issues with their own tree crops so a few of us sent some samples off for testing to find out why our plants aren’t doing what they should, given the treatment we’ve been lavishing upon them.

It turns out our poor old citrus trees have suffered major damage from UV. The UV (ultra violet) radiation levels in Australia have increased dramatically in recent years, and the world is a much warmer place than when these trees were first planted. The winters in our region have become shorter, and less cold. Overall our seasons are more erratic. Effectively our environment is no longer conducive to the ongoing health of the fruit trees. The six old trees that are thriving? They all receive shade for a good portion of the day.

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Global warming is something we can’t ignore. It’s happening right here, right now. It’s the talk of our neighbourhood, and of farming communities everywhere.

So, what are we going to do? Our farm still has good soil, and reliable water. For now, anyway. We’ve decided to plant rows of lilly pilly (a bush tucker food with tart-sweet berries) for shade and wind breaks, and within the protection of those rows we’ll plant a variety of native bush-foods, and heritage (old varieties!) orchard trees which are more heat, drought and sun tolerant. That way we can protect bio-diversity and stay true to our personal philosophy of farming and living gently on the earth.

Our farm already produces plenty of bunya nuts – another fine bush tucker food. At first we’d harvested them for our own use, but now we sell the nuts to local restaurants and to a bush foods co-op which distribute them throughout Australia and overseas. A mix of Australian natives and conventional food crops for our farm seems a grand idea.

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We need to be adaptive to our changing environment, rather than continuing to struggle with old ways that no longer work with these new conditions.

I felt sad to watch the demise of the old citrus trees, but there is no use trying to persevere with something that can’t adapt and thrive. Better to pull them out and plant food trees that are better suited to our changed conditions. Better for us as farmers to be thinking about this warming planet, and what we can do to sustain food availability and quality.

It’s a good lesson for life too, don’t you think?

If you’ve tried, and tried, and something’s just not working, maybe it’s time to walk away and begin something new with a better chance of success.

The Wild Life!

Chillax and bubba

“Connecting with the wilderness allows us to live in the flow of a meaningful, joyful life. Embracing this state of connectedness or oneness with other living beings including animals, as opposed to feeling an “otherness” or “separateness” brings a sense of harmony and enables us to be at peace with oneself and the world.
~ Sylvia Dolson, Joy of Bears


We had a lovely lunch with our neighbours yesterday. The food was delicious, and the company was good too! 🙂

Conversation covered many areas, but ended on a delightful subject – wildlife.

We are privileged to live where we do – Possum Creek, in the Byron Bay hinterland. Both our neighbours and ourselves are committed to conservation, biodiversity and growing things organically. And we have come to know and love the many critters that share our space. Some of them we have even named, and their interactions with us have become a meaningful part of our lives.

A while ago, a young female possum whom our neighbours had been feeding, and who lived in a nesting box on their property, disappeared. They’d named her ‘Chillax’ because of the possum’s laid-back disposition.

She turned up a few months later in our machinery shed – a new mother, with a small baby. That’s her and her baby in the picture at the top of the page, and in the one below. She still lives in the shed, and her son is grown now. I’m sure there will be a new baby this spring.


We also share a community of koalas who move between our two properties, and that are slowly breeding up and inviting more of their friends to come live in our cosy safe haven.

Koalas vege garden

The neighbours inquired yesterday whether we had any new brush turkeys on our farm. Brush Turkeys (also called scrub turkeys or bush turkeys) are an odd-looking Australia bird. The males build large mounds of leaves in which the females lay eggs. In small suburban gardens they are quite destructive, but on our farm there’s plenty of room, and we don’t mind at all when they begin constructing these huge nests.

Early this year, a new Brush Turkey did turn up, and began building a mound near the bunya pines along one of our fences. He is a very friendly turkey, and has no fear of us at all.


Daisy Mae, one of our young calves, kept climbing up onto the top of the mound with Red Bull, another of our younger cattle. Their weight was squashing the mound as fast as the poor turkey could repair it.

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Eventually he gave up in disgust and moved to a new location to build his nest.


Did he have one white claw, this brush turkey, our neighbours asked? Maybe it was the turkey who had previously lived near them. They’d been worried about him, wondering what may have become of him.

I have never paid much attention to turkey feet, so this week I’ll go spend some time hanging out near this turkey’s new nest, and take him some turkey-friendly snacks. Hopefully he’ll let me get close enough to see if he does indeed have a white claw.

Whether he does, or not, he’ll always be welcome here on our farm.


Koalas in My Backyard! or What is Biodiversity?

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We must be the change we wish to see in the world       ~ Mahatma Gandhi

One of the hats I wear in this lifetime is ‘Organic Farmer’. My husband and I have a strong commitment to food production that nurtures and values the land, and that uses no chemicals or harmful practices. We believe that protecting and restoring the land’s biodiversity results in healthy farms, healthy plants and animals, healthy humans and a healthy planet.

Apart from that, living like this just sits well with me.  Being on this farm, surrounded by a rich diversity of species is good for my soul. And we’re blessed to live in the Byron Shire, where many of our friends and neighbours share this view and have a commitment to the Earth.

So, what does biodiversity look like? I’d love to show you.

Grab a cup of tea and we’ll go for a stroll through the paddocks to see what we might discover.

Let’s go!  Tramp, tramp, tramp…



Look up.  You may need to squint. Sun, sorry.  Tawny Frogmouth and her chicks.



Butterfly on the lantana.


Grass, trees and sky.


Sleeping koala.  This one keeps us awake at night with his gruntiness.


Platypus, busy in the creek.


Black cockatoo, singing a mournful cry.


Green frog that lives in the stone wall under my kitchen window. Cute, huh?


Heritage citrus from the orchard – lemons, mandarins, oranges, tangellos, grapefruit.  Shall we pick some to take back and make a fresh juice?



Cedric the carpet snake who lives in the roof, right above my writing desk!


Chillax the possum, (named by a neighbour) and her bub.  She quite likes living in the shed.  Nice and dry, and warm on those cold nights.


More koalas. They’re breeding like rabbits.  Rabbits? Yes, we have those too, although the wedgetail eagle has cleaned up quite a few!



Owls – lots of owls…



Wallabies. They like to graze the orchard in the morning, and the river flats in the afternoons.

Pademelons – also known as garden thieves!

Gus, the water dragon.  He ate all my goldfish, but how can you stay mad at something so… Yeah, I’m still mad at him.

I could go on, but you’re probably getting tired from all this walking. No doubt you’ll need a restorative cup of tea and a tasty snack, back on my veranda.

Dogs? Yes.  We have those too.  These are the domesticated variety. Sadly, I still haven’t taught them to vacuum or do dishes yet.

You’ll have to come back again.  There’s still so much left to show you.  Now, how about that cuppa? The chocolate brownies are delicious aren’t they. Do you want the recipe?

Heavenly Chocolate Brownie Recipe

I’m so glad you came to visit ♥  xx