Why I love Friday at the Farm!

calf, farm life byron bay

That’s our newest calf, Rosco (in the middle), named after Carly’s Dad!

“Its always difficult to keep Fridays confined within themselves..they tend to spill over..”
~ Parag Tipnis

 

Fridays at our farm are my perfect kind of day.

There was an early-morning walk to say hello to the cows and check the vegetable garden. After that I spent a little time finalising my Year of ME Planner for 2017, and playing with the crystals I’ve chosen to go with next year’s Planner.

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Then we headed off to Mullumbimby for the Farmers’ Markets. The annual Mullumbimby Agricultural Show is on this weekend, and the signs were up already.

Looks like it’s going to be fun!

Mullumbimby Show

Before we could even think about filling our baskets with produce we stopped for a local Myocum Coffee and pastry. It’s a hard job, but someone has to do quality control!

Scratch Patisserie’s market stall is one of our favourite stops on a Friday morning.

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After which we bought lovely things. Fresh things. Things grown or made with care and love by local farmers.

Cooper’s Shoot tomatoes are the best!

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We chose tiny carrots and crunchy sweet apples. We bought organic eggs and sourdough bread and all manner of tasty goodness.

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apples

I even found some wonderful hand-made soap, coloured with clays and scented with essential oils! They are crafted by the lovely people from Church Farm at Billinudgel. (Do pop over and visit their website – it totally captures the feel of our region!)

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Then it was home again to a happy day of writing and cups of tea, followed by the pleasure of a dear friend dropping by for dinner.

We taste-tested my new mango mousse recipe, and it was fab! Watch for the recipe on the blog next week. 🙂

What a wonderful day! I so love where I live. It’s good to be home.

Hugs and love, Nicole <3 xx

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Music, Smiles and All Good Things

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“Music produces a kind of pleasure which human nature cannot do without.” 
~ Confucius, The Book of Rites

 

Ben and I ventured to the Mullumbimby Farmers’ Markets yesterday morning. We got there a little later than usual, about 8.30am, because after my pre-dawn meditation I sat down at the computer and hammered out some more words for my memoir. The reward for all my toil? Breakfast at the markets – whatever I wanted, plus a good local coffee.

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Normally I’d race around first and grab the things I want that always run out – kale, certain kinds of bread, organic free range eggs, hibiscus and ginger kombucha drinks, but the weekly busker was so engaging, his music so mellow and warm and inviting that we grabbed a coffee, stopped at a table in the middle of the markets and sat down to listen.

So, it seems, did just about everyone else.

The tables were packed, and people found spaces on the grass to sit in the early morning sunshine and listen to the performance too. It was like being at our own private concert.

There was lots of smiling and clapping. Little toddlers danced blissfully, friends hugged, and strangers came together to share in the magic that is music.

Such simple pleasures, but oh so good!

The busker’s name is Mark Heazlett. He’s a local musician from Brunswick Heads here in the Northern Rivers. He sure did make the market a wonderful day out. If you’re ever round our way I can thoroughly recommend a trip to our Friday Farmers’ Markets. Maybe I’ll see you there! 🙂

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Hooray for friends!

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“A friend is someone who knows all about you and still loves you.” 
~ Elbert Hubbard

 

Isn’t this the most colossal bucket of flowers for ten dollars? They are grown and sold by two elderly brothers who live up the road from us. You can read more about that here.

I’ve had a lovely time finding vases for all of these luscious blooms.

Anyway, I’ll keep this post short and sweet. A friend has come to visit for a few days, and right now we’re doing ‘friend’ things, as much as my energy will allow. Tours of our farm, adventures in the local area. Farmers’ markets. Lots of cups of tea and chats.

I’m so glad for friendship. It truly is the most precious of gifts. And I consider you a friend too, although perhaps we have not yet met.

I also have another shout-out for a friend of mine this morning, currently living on the other side of the world. Kimmie, I love you, and I miss you heaps!

Excellent. Hugs all round!

Okay, we’re off to the Mullumbimby Farmers’ Markets for some breakfast and to fill my basket with fresh produce for the week ahead. Excitingly, I shall be wearing my gumboots because we’ve had RAIN! After such a long dry summer, a little mud has to be a good thing. 🙂

We’ll stop in at the Chocolate Shop on our way back from the markets, because what kind of friend would I be if I didn’t take our guest to such a fabulous place? Then we shall come home, drink chai tea, eat a few sweets and talk some more, as friends do.

Lots of love,

Nicole

xx

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Quick Apple and Blueberry Tart

fresh apple and blackberry tart

“Cut my pie into four pieces, I don’t think I could eat eight.”
~ Yogi Berra

This simple berry and apple tart is quick to make and tastes fruity and delicious. I use variations of this recipe all the time to whip up a speedy afternoon tea or dinner-time treat. Shop-bought pastry means all you need to do is a little chopping and mixing and then pop the tart into the oven. Five minutes preparation, 30 minutes cooking and you’re done.

Both the apples and blueberries were grown locally. The lemon is from the Meyer Lemon tree in my backyard.

Here’s the farmer whose family grew these delectable blueberries. His name is Otto Saeck and you can find out more about their farm here: Blueberry Fields

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Maybe when you’re next visiting the Byron Shire you could call in at one of our fabulous Farmers’ Markets and buy some of Otto’s blueberries to take home. (If they get that far!)

Anyway, back to tart baking…

Ingredients:

1 and 1/2 sheets of frozen ready-rolled shortcrust pastry (or your own favourite pastry recipe), 2 cups of fresh blueberries (frozen are fine too), 2 cooking apples, 1/2 cup of sugar, zest and juice of one lemon, one heaped tablespoon of cornflour (cornstarch), 1 heaped teaspoon of cinnamon, teaspoon of milk, a little extra sugar.

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Method:

Preheat your oven to moderate heat (160 degree celcius fan-forced or 180 degree oven – 350 degrees fahrenheit).

Find a suitable tin to bake your tart. I used a 36cm x 12 cm (14 inch x 5 inch) non-stick rectangular quiche tin with removable base, but you could use any small spring form or quiche dish. A removable base makes removing the tart easier, but it will still work in a conventional pie tin. Just grease it well!

*Hint – If you’re in a hurry you can use a pre-baked sweet pastry case.

2014-01-30 15.54.02Now take your partially defrosted pastry. Don’t let it get too warm or it becomes difficult to handle. Lay the pastry into the tin pressing an overlap of about a centimetre (half inch) at any joins. If you are using a conventional pie dish grease it lightly first to prevent the pastry sticking.

Use a sharp knife to trim away any overhanging pastry, and neaten the edges with your fingers. Reserve the pastry scraps for later. And be okay about your tart looking a little rustic. I promise it will still taste awesome.

Return the pie crust to the fridge while you prepare the filling.

Peel and core your apples and cut them into small pieces. Combine with the washed blueberries, lemon juice and zest, cinnamon, sugar and cornflour and stir well.

2014-01-30 15.59.52Dump the fruit into your tart case.

Now to pretty things up… Take the remaining scraps of pastry, cut into lengths and roll some thin dough sausages between your hands. Lay them diagonally across the tart, and then go back in the other direction. Feel free to make or cut out any other pastry shapes from the leftover scraps and use them to further decorate your tart. As you can see, I made a quite dodgy-looking flower. Did I say RUSTIC? Yes I did!!!

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Dip your finger in a little bit of milk and rub it over the pastry. Sprinkle sugar on your decorations. Then place into hot oven and bake for 30 minutes.

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Serve warm or cold. It goes smashingly well with fresh cream or ice-cream too. 🙂

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Down at the River

Australia_Rainforest_Rain

“Earth and sky, woods and fields, lakes and rivers, the mountain and the sea, are excellent schoolmasters, and teach some of us more than we can ever learn from books.”~ John Lubbock 

 

There’s a place I go, here at my farm, when I need to think or meditate or to ease my worries.

I go to the river.

It’s a peaceful place, but not empty. In fact it’s brimful with life, and the quieter I am the more I am likely to see.

Emerald Dove

Sometimes I go on my own. There’s a rock I use as a meditation chair, looking out over the platypus pond. Or I might find a quiet spot and sit on the grassy bank.

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Sometimes I take the dogs. They’ll go charging into the shallows no matter how cold it is, and we’ll watch the turtles and the flying fish, or laugh at the water dragons dropping off the banks into the river with a gigantic splash.

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There’s always a friendly face, and some wisdom to be had.

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Come sit with me a while. And when we’re done we’ll walk back up the hill together and have a cup of tea. 🙂 Much love to you, Nicole xx

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Favourite Things

sunday

“Sunday is the golden clasp that binds together the volume of the week.” 
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

It’s Sunday, and for me it’s a day of favourite things.

Meditation first, before the sun comes up, with my Mala beads and Tibetan Bowl.

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A short walk around the farm with Harry while we wait for the rest of the household to wake up. We’ll pick some flowers and say hello to the cows.

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Fresh juice with produce from our garden (followed by a fistful of lyme meds – but we’ll ignore that bit…).

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A trip to the monthly Bangalow Markets, held in the quaint old Showgrounds of our little town. We always go in very early to avoid the crowds. There are lots of places to sit and have a chat and a cuppa, lots of friends to hug, and I’m usually home by mid-morning, ready for a nap on the veranda. The markets means Byron Bay Organic Donuts, lots of crafty things, a chance to stock up on some new jam and a few seedlings for the vegetable patch.

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Saying hello to my lovely neighbour Richard Jones, who’ll be selling his gorgeous earthy pottery at those same markets.

richard jones wildling

Afternoon naps. Best invention ever for that sleepy after-lunch lull!

sleepy calf

Sitting with my writing, and adding to my word count. And perhaps some time to curl up with a good book. A nourishing bowl of chai, some spiritual communing and a little dreaming. I love Sundays!

Chai 3m

Rain is better than drought…

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I love a sunburnt country,
A land of sweeping plains,
Of ragged mountain ranges,
Of droughts and flooding rains.

~ From ‘My Country by Dorothea Mackellar

We endured eight hard years of drought at our old farm –  a cattle property in the Lockyer Valley. Slowly the grass turned brittle as straw and the dams dried up as we looked to the empty skies for rain. The cattle ate the grass down to nubs and we trucked in feed, and sold down stock.

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Water was rationed so carefully. A bucket of water for a shower, a quarter of a mug to clean your teeth. The grass powdered away to dust, and then the trees began to die.  The wildlife disappeared, and there were no insects left to bite us, no birds to wake us with their morning call.  Everything was drab, barren, baked brown and devoid of life.

All we talked about was the possibility or lack of rain, the cost of feed and who might still have some, and our great worry for neighbours and friends we knew who were doing it tough – financially or emotionally.  Anxiety, depression, suicide – they became regular visitors in our part of the world. Families broke apart, or walked off land held by generations before them.

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Big kangaroos moved in towards the coast from out west and ended up at our place, competing for what little food was left, and feral pigs rooted up our paddocks looking for roots and moisture.

It was miserable, and it nearly broke us.

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So we moved to Possum Creek in the Byron Bay hinterland; a farm tiny by comparison, but so much more fertile.

The locals call it a drought here if we go a month without rain. Right now, rain seems to be all we have.  We’ve been flooded in three times in the past few months, lost power, lost fences and one cow, and had multiple trees and branches down.  Many of my vegetables have rotted in the ground. We’ll be lucky to get a crop from the organic citrus orchard this year.

Luckily our old farm house was built nestled into the side of a hill, so the buildings won’t flood – we just have to put up with a little damp and mold.

Still, I’ll take rain over drought any day. My water tanks are overflowing, and I can enjoy long hot soaks in the bath every day.

When I walk out my door there is an abundance of fresh blooms for my table. Everything seems to be flowering. Green is a colour that is lush and easy on the eye.  There is no hardship in looking out over emerald fields.

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The cattle might have wet feet, and they huddle under trees as the rain belts down, but their bellies are full, and there is water enough for them to drink out of seasonal streams as well as the dams, creeks and river.

ducks on the dam

Everywhere I look there is something to appreciate. Glossy leaves, flowers, new life.

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The local wildlife are soggy, but well fed. During breaks in the rain they pop out to forage, hoping for a small patch of sun to dry themselves out. Then they scoot back under cover as the rain pours down again.

pademelonThe waterways are washed clean, silt is deposited on the flats to renew the soil, and replenishment is everywhere.

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This morning I’m sitting with a mug of tea cradled in my hands, listening to torrential rain on the roof and the mad croak of frogs, and watching the blur of micro-bats gobbling up all the mosquitoes on the side veranda. I’m wondering if it’s nearly time to go.

Lyme and my meds are giving me a twitchy right eye and a stabby, burny left eye, headaches, joint pain and my big fat heart is twinging a little too much for my liking. Not a great look for getting trapped on the wrong side of a wall of water.  The weather radar shows rain, rain and more rain today, and predicts the same for the rest of the week. At sun up Ben will go check the causeway and sad as it will make me, it looks like we’ll be heading back to the city.

Maybe I’ll go buy some new gumboots while I’m there.  When Bert was a puppy his needle-like teeth put pinholes all through my left gumboot.  It would be nice to have two warm dry feet instead of one warm dry foot and one cold soggy one!

gumboots

This gorgeous gumboot image by Julia Wright

We Has The Depression

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“Into each life some rain must fall.”
~ Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Bert: Rain, rain, rain. I’m sick of all this rain. It’s horrible being stuck inside a house in the city.  Why can’t we go home to the farm? What if all my tennis balls float away? I can’t bear it. I has the Depression.

Harry: I’ll ask Mum.  Maybe it’s not raining any more. Maybe we can go home.

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Harry: Can we go yet?  Can we go home?  Can we? Can we? Is it still raining? My brother needs his farm.

Me: Maybe, but there’s more raining coming.  We might have to go home and get a few things, and then come back to the city again so we don’t get flooded in.

2013-02-26 11.56.57Harry: Oh no. I has the Depression too…

What the Frack?

Image from www.northernriversguardians.org

Image from www.northernriversguardians.org

As we watch the sun go down, evening after evening, through the smog across the poisoned waters of our native earth, we must ask ourselves seriously whether we really wish some future universal historian on another planet to say about us:  “With all their genius and with all their skill, they ran out of foresight and air and food and water and ideas,” or, “They went on playing politics until their world collapsed around them.”  ~ U Thant, speech, 1970

If you read my blog, you’ll know how often my farm and the surrounding area feature in my writing. That’s because I love this place – the land, the people, the community, the values and lifestyle.

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I came home to my beautiful Byron Bay hinterland farm today, after a holiday in Thailand. But there’s not much peace to be had around here right now. Coal Seam Gas companies have applied for an exploration licence for the farmland in our area. To ‘explore’ they will need to sink test wells, injecting a cocktail of chemicals (some of which are known carcinogens) to fracture the shale below our feet, releasing the coal seam gas. The chemicals stay in the ground, they leach into the groundwater, and there is no way to control where they go, or what havoc they may wreak upon the surrounding environment and ecology.

Would you want those chemicals in the food you eat, the rivers you swim in, the water you drink?

I know I don’t! We have until December 5 to submit our objections, and yes, I will be objecting.

The Byron Shire is a natural sanctuary and place of rich biodiversity. Native plants and animals here provide  breeding stock for diminished and threatened species.  Our local community work hard to replant and revitalise woodlands, rainforests, dunes and waterways. Much is done here in this little pocket of Australia, protecting our flora and fauna. This has led to a strong domestic and international tourism market, and there is an emphasis on eco-tourism, health and healing, and spiritual tourism, such as yoga and meditation retreats. We’re well known globally for our ‘Byron Vibe’.

Another great image from Byron Bay Today

Another great image from www.inByronBayToday.com

It’s also home to a farming community who care about their produce, their animals, their land, and the environment around them. We have a host of brilliant Farmers’ Markets in our area, and all manner of organic and biodynamic produce.   Byron Shire’s reputation for clean and green food is well deserved.

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Despite what the Coal Seam Gas companies tell us – that CSG Mining is safe and harmless – I’m not buying it. In 2011 my husband and I went into Lismore to watch a documentary called Gasland that was being put on by an organisation called Lock the Gate. Perhaps you know it?  If not, I recommend a viewing.

We were so profoundly disturbed by the film that we came home and sat in silence on our verandah on a dark and bitterly cold night, rendered speechless by the enormity of what we’d just witnessed.

And now it’s on our doorstep…

Sometimes you have to stand up and be counted. Sometimes you have to be a voice for those who have none.

So, not just for me, but for the breeding pairs of Wedgetail Eagles on our property, and the Powerful Owls, and the Platypus, and the Echidnas, and the many Koalas, and all the other animals who call this place home I say ENOUGH!

Koalas vege garden

This planet matters to me. This small piece of the earth matters. I can’t save the world, but I can work in my own little corner to make a difference.

How about you?

Image from www.imgfave.com

Image from www.imgfave.com

Farmers’ Markets – Nom Nom Nom!

“Don’t eat anything your great-grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food.” ~ Michael Pollan

Have I told you how much I love food?

I do, you know.  Food is one of life’s great joys for me.  There is nothing better than fresh food – from produce grown with love and care. Good food is medicine for the body and nourishment for the soul.

Byron Shire, where my little farm is situated, is plush with Farmers’ Markets. I rarely need to buy anything but toilet paper and dried staples from the big grocery stores. Instead I get my food seasonal, local and freshly harvested. Thursday, I can head to the Byron Bay Farmers’ Market, Friday I can visit the markets at Mullumbimby, and Saturday there’s a market behind the pub in Bangalow.

This morning I’m heading out to Mullum (Mullumbimby!). We’ll stock up, have a fresh juice and a really good local coffee from beans grown right here in the Shire, and then we’ll consider our breakfast options… There’s always entertainment, and lots of friendly faces. And I’ll come home laden with hand crafted breads and cheeses, eggs, fruit and vegetables and a few extra goodies. I always seem to gather lots of hugs too, which is the pleasure of shopping in your local community (emphasis on community!).

Here’s a taste of some of my previous market forays…

The Mullum Food Court – LOL – not a fast food in sight. That’s my kind of dining experience!

Food for the Soul.

Seedlings for my garden.

Potatoes!  Dutch Creams and Nicolas. Mmmmm….

Delicious hand crafted cheeses and cultured butter from the Bangalow Cheese Company.

Red Dragon Fruit – a breakfast favourite with a squeeze of lime.

 

Better get some lime to go with that Dragon Fruit.

Eggs and lavender, so I can do a spot of baking, and make a little meditation tea.

 

Juicy Coopers Shoot tomatoes – famous throughout the Shire.  Once you’ve eaten one of these you’ll never want a shop-bought tomato again!

And a little ‘nom nom nom’ to take home…

Maybe there’s a local Farmers’ Market near you. Why not go for a visit?  There’s nothing like the taste of fresh food, and I think it’s important to support our farmers who put so much care into looking after their land and feeding us from the efforts of their devotion.

Good fresh food raises your vibration too – perfect for sensitive souls and those of you wishing to develop or strengthen your spiritual and psychic ability. Enjoy! ♥

 

And finally, a song to nom along to! LOL