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

My Friendship Garden

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“If I had a flower for every time I thought of you…I could walk through my garden forever.”
~ Alfred Tennyson

 

I cut some hydrangea flowers this week, and placed them in a glass by my kitchen sink. They’re Angela’s hydrangeas, or at least that’s how I think of them. They have grown from cuttings taken from her garden, and she helped me to press the woody cut stems into the pots where they now flourish. Angela passed away last year, but the plants she gifted me anchor her memory and energy at my home.

So much of my garden has come from friends. It’s something I learned from my Nana. She had a friendship garden and now I do too.

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I have hippeastrums from Shannon, who lives at the farm across the creek from us.

When the water is low we can walk across the creek at the shallowest part to share a cuppa at each other’s house. Hi, Shannon! 🙂

My herb garden has rosemary from a cutting I stole from a bush beside the butcher shop at Forest Hill back when I was a student. Cuttings of that rosemary have travelled everywhere with me, ever since.There’s also lemon-scented thyme from Sue, one of my students who knows I love cooking, and Thai basil from Tili the waitress at a favourite restaurant in Brisbane.

 

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I have a red rose from Agnes, an old lady at the CWA who couldn’t believe that I didn’t know roses would grow from cuttings.

They do!

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There are bromeliads – from Nana, from Vynette’s mum Leanna, and from my friend Lynda’s grandparents. They make wonderful homes for small frogs and I love their unusual flowers.

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And I have a gorgeous spreading soft-leaved groundcover with white flowers from my friend Marlene. I have no idea what it is called, but I am reminded of her every time I see it.

I’ll tell her how much I love it when I meet her for coffee this morning!

I can thoroughly recommend having a friendship garden. It’s one of the most meaningful blessings in my life. <3

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Riding Out The Heatwave

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“Dawn, then, was a time where things changed element for element. Air ran like hot spring waters nowhere, with no sound. The lake was a quantity of steam very still and deep over valleys of fish and sand held baking under its serene vapors. Tar was poured licorice in the streets, red bricks were
brass and gold, roof tops were paved with bronze. The high-tension wires were lightning held forever, blazing, a threat above the unslept houses.
The cicadas sang louder and yet louder.
The sun did not rise, it overflowed.”
~ Ray Bradbury, Dandelion Wine

 

We’re in the grip of a heatwave just now, down here in Australia. It’s our third straight day of wretched temperatures. It reached 44ºc yesterday (111ºF) and already this morning the air is thick and warm as soup.

So I’m keeping this short, because there are jobs to do. Everything is limp in the heat. The fruit trees all need water, to help them hold their budding fruit. My pots and vegetable beds are parched. All of the bird baths need filling too.

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We’ll drive around and check the cattle troughs. Not just for our cows. The local wildlife all rely on them in this heat too, so even in the paddocks which are pasturing (that means no cows while the grass grows back) we need to be sure that the watering points are all in working order.

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When we’re done we’ll go help a couple of elderly neighbours who themselves are struggling as the mercury rises. They have horses and cattle and orchards to attend to, and the only time in the day worth doing anything outside is now, in the early morning when the air still has some faint reckoning of cool.

Meanwhile, all my friends in America keep sending me photos of their snowfalls!

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At least I have this to send in return! Okay, gotta go.

Lots of love, Nicole <3 xoxo

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Restful Rambles

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“We need the tonic of wildness…  At the same time that we are earnest to explore and learn all things, we require that all things be mysterious and unexplorable, that land and sea be indefinitely wild, unsurveyed and unfathomed by us because unfathomable. We can never have enough of nature.”
~ Henry David Thoreau, Walden: Or, Life in the Woods

I have spent the past two days at the farm grounding myself back into my body, and giving myself some soul nourishment time. There have been naps, cups of tea and book reading, and rambles through nature with the dogs at my heels.

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I hugged the big Hoop Pine and pulled its healing magic into me. I meditated with its gracious company and felt my energy restored. (Learn how to do that here.)

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I gazed into the tangle of greenery and watched birds and koalas going about their daily business.

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I rejoiced in the orange trumpet flower that covers the old creamery turned log storage. After which I loaded a wheelbarrow full of wood for the evening’s fire.

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I plucked a bunch of fragrant erlicheer jonquils for my bedside table. Their fragrance always reminds me of my mum.

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I inspected the strawberries and sweet-peas, which are happily co-existing at my back door.

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The King Orchid is putting forth lots of lush new growth and I expect spectacular flowers come spring.

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A posy of camelia flowers for the kitchen table.

Then a tray of roasted root vegetables for dinner. After a big week in the channelling space, and spending most of my time in the higher chakras of my body – lots of walking, tree meditations, being in nature, and eating yellow and orange root vegetables draws my energy back down into my lower chakras, firming up my connection to the earth again. If you do a lot of energy work, ever feel spacy or have had a shock or trauma these simple measures will help bring you back into grounded alignment gently and naturally.

Sending much love to you <3 Nicole xoxo

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The Magic Of Momentum – How a garden can help you understand money, business and life

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“Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.”
~  Albert Einstein

There is no better way to explain that magical force of momentum than through the wonders of a spring garden. Whatever you want to understand, a garden is a fabulous teacher.

In winter we installed two new garden beds. I would have loved to plant them up right away, but we had frosts, and the weather was bleak. No matter my enthusiasm, it wasn’t the right timing, and my plants would have failed. Instead I filled the gardens with good dirt and compost, covered them with straw, and let them lay fallow.

Me? I had the pleasure of planning what I might grow. I poured over books and old garden journals to see what had worked well before, what plants had failed, and why they might not have thrived.

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Finally, in early spring I pulled back the straw and planted out my new beds. I fully expected that some of the plants would fail. I also knew that some would do better if I supported them with companions.

And I planted some flowers too. Because flowers attract bees, help lure away predators, and are simply good for my soul.

Then I watered and fertilised my garden and covered it back up with careful handfuls of mulch.

I worked it every day, doing little things, but at first progress was so slow. It didn’t look like anything was happening.

Then some of my seeds started to shoot forth little leaves, and a few of the seedlings I’d planted grew an inch or two. Nothing dramatic, but it was something. There was not a thing to feed me yet, nothing at all that I could use without harming the future growth of that garden. I couldn’t take from it so prematurely – when it was not yet ready to give.

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But now, with a few more weeks, some sunshine and water, miracles have happened in that garden. Everything has suddenly shot forth. My zucchini are already producing, my herbs are lush and vibrant. I have radishes, the first of the tomatoes, an abundance of herbs and leaves from which I can make a selection.

My garden now has momentum. If I tend it well, it will continue to thrive, grow and produce more and more food through the rest of spring, summer and into autumn.

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As my current garden matures plants may fail, a few will do okay but not brilliantly, some will thrive. I can keep changing the mix, and adapting to existing conditions. I’ll do more of what works, and stop doing the things that give me no or few results.

I’ve already done my risk management. When my old gardens were all on the ground they were beset by bandicoots, rabbits and bush rats. They got waterlogged during periods of extreme wet weather too, and many plants rotted. Sometimes they were trampled by cows. My old garden did well when the season was easy, but terribly at the first hint of trouble. Still, it was a cheap way to start out, and it gave me plenty of experience. It also meant I learned the hard way, with a number of spectacular failures. I’ve kept those beds, and I still use them, but I know what NOT to plant out in them now.

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When I first experienced garden disasters I talked to my neighbours who’d all been gardening here longer than me. It seems mine were common problems in these parts. Some fenced their beds, some lifted their produce up in old water tanks or bins. It got me thinking about how I could improve my own situation. There was also another factor to consider. I’ve been unwell. Raised beds would make it much easier and more pleasurable for me to tend.

A raised bed puts my most vulnerable plants out of the way of the munchy critters, and gives much better drainage. It’s also a lot easier on my back! I had to save a little longer to get the raised beds, and for years I made do with what I had, but now I have upgraded to a better system, which is already returning outstanding results. My technology and position is enhancing my garden’s productivity. And I’ve hedged my bets, with convention garden beds on the ground, and some raised beds too.

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This same understanding can be applied to investing your money, or starting a new business. It’s okay for things to start in humble ways – ways that won’t yet sustain you. A little diversification is also a good thing.

While my spring vegetable garden has been in its infancy much of my produce has come from the farmers’ markets. If you are starting a new business, or putting money into investments you may still need a regular job or another income stream to sustain you.

My garden is doing so well, but it can’t yet feed me and my family, or give me the variety of produce I enjoy. That’s some months away yet. And yet, unless there is some unforseen catastrophe (for which insurance might be useful), given time it will meet and exceed our needs, and there will be surplus to bottle, freeze or store away for the winter months.

And the fruits of my labour?

Last night a salad made entirely from herbs, leaves and vegetables I’ve grown myself. At least twenty different kinds.

And it was delicious!

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A Moment of Perfect Peace

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“Spirituality is not to be learned by flight from the world, or by running away from things, or by turning solitary and going apart from the world. Rather, we must learn an inner solitude wherever or with whomsoever we may be. We must learn to penetrate things and find God there.”
― Meister Eckhart

Very late yesterday afternoon I had a sudden urge to go and water my vegetable garden.

It had been a difficult day, after a series of difficult days. I’ve been in tremendous pain from my current lyme medications, and doing my best to just simply sit with that pain. I’m not fighting my pain. I’m merely breathing and being aware of the pain within my body. The pain is so intense that normal functioning is a challenge. Instead I have given in to what is. I am riding each wave until I am thrown up onto the shore once more.

It’s been an enlightening journey, and when I have the words I’ll share some of that journey with you.

But for now I am tired, after so many days of so little sleep. So let me instead tell you about watering the garden.

It was late afternoon. You know, that soft afternoon light, just before dusk comes creeping over the horizon. I uncoiled the garden hose, turned on the tap and walked down the hill to my raised vegetable beds. My feet were on the bare earth, and the grass beneath them was soft and cool. The air was filled with the song of frogs and cicadas, and the last of the birds. Mr Grunty, our resident male koala, was grunting and barking and being noisy from his spot high in the gum tree just outside the home paddock fence.

A bat flipped past, so low that I could hear the flap of its leathery wings.

All this time I am wracked with pain. My face is contorted and I can’t see out of one eye. My ears pound, and my bones are on fire. Every so often my nerves jangle as though I have been tasered.

I am standing in the garden in agony, tears streaming down my face, trying to hold the hose steady on my young plants. I wonder for a moment why I have bothered to drag myself out here at all.

The air becomes scented with mint and nasturtium. I can smell the fragrant sun-warmed tomato foliage as the water hits it, scattering cool drops onto the mulch beneath.

Image from Goodness Is

Image from Goodness Is

Above me, a crescent moon has risen. Almost directly above the old hoop pine that shelters our little farmhouse.

In that moment, hose in my hands, feet in the grass, sounds of the close of day, moon above my head, body on fire, ragged breath, head full of pain, a great peace descends upon me.

A peace so profound, a connection so complete, that more tears spill. The pain is still there. Nothing about my physicality has changed at all. But beyond that, encompassing all of that – all of me, is a wonder and awe at the beauty and grace of this universe, and of my place within it.

My pain doesn’t matter. My illness becomes irrelevant. They are merely what’s happening to me at this moment. My soul, connected to everything and everyone, is always at peace. Even in great pain. Even when it feels like my world is undone.

The knowledge fills me up. The truth seeps into my very cells.

I carry that peace back into the house, and it quietens my mind. The pain is still there. But now there is also this other presence. This great comfort.

I feel like I have touched the face of God.

Or perhaps, God touched my face.

Or it was all the same thing…

And that presence is still here with me.

All of it, every breath, every moment, is love.

The Golden Light  by bnilesh

The Golden Light by bnilesh

 

Rebirth of a Tenacious Tree

Skeleton Tree by DeFemme

Skeleton Tree by DeFemme

“Often it is tenacity, not talent, that rules the day.” 
~ Julia Cameron, Finding Water: The Art of Perseverance

When we moved to this farm there was a hulking squat skeleton of a tree near the clothes line in the back yard. From its furthermost branch clung a few twisted and misshapen leaves. Piece by piece the tree gave in to decay, and first twigs and then limbs fell to the ground.

Ben was determined to rip the tree out, but I insisted we try and save it, although I did not know what kind of tree it was. I pruned it, watered it, fertilised it. Still, nothing much ever happened.

I even used it as scaffolding for a passionfruit vine, refusing to admit defeat.

But one day a storm blew through and the old tree toppled. Ben cut the stump level with the ground and that, we thought, was the end of it.

But this was one tenacious tree.

After the frosts of winter had finished one twiggy tendril shot forth from the ground.

Ben thought it was a weed and mowed over it.

Two weeks later there were several shoots, and we realised that the tree was doing its best to make a come-back. We decided to let it have its best shot, and put a tree guard around the tiny new growth.

A few years later we have a small, droopy fruit-bearing guava tree where the skeleton trunk once stood.

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Its growth is lush, and it is home to a large blue-tongue lizard. A few times a year we find remnant snake-skins clinging to its branches. It is a well-loved community tree.

Best of all though are the many sweet fruit it bears, which fragrance the afternoons with their heady perfume.

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I picked a basket full yesterday afternoon, some of which I immediately devoured, letting the pink sticky juice drip down my chin.

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This weekend I will turn this basket of fruit into some kind of chutney. Perhaps also some jam. And definitely a cobbler or crumble.

Tenacity has its own rewards. Maybe this tree has a message for you too right now about not giving up, and about re-birthing a better, healthier version of yourself. Believe that second chances and new beginnings are possible.

The fruit will be ever the more sweet!

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Afternoon Walk on the Farm

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“For [Jane Austen and the readers of Pride and Prejudice], as for Mr. Darcy, [Elizabeth Bennett’s] solitary walks express the independence that literally takes the heroine out of the social sphere of the houses and their inhabitants, into a larger, lonelier world where she is free to think: walking articulates both physical and mental freedom.” 
~ Rebecca Solnit, Wanderlust: A History of Walking

I’m home. I celebrated that fact by taking myself for a walk through the paddocks yesterday afternoon. Of course the dogs came with me, and we ambled about in the late afternoon sunshine, enjoying the drop in temperature and all the busy-ness of springtime on the farm.

The jacaranda is starting to bloom and already there is a fine carpet of purple blossoms on the lawn.

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We could do with a good shower or rain, but the rainforesty bits of our property are still lush and green and full of critters.

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The calves are looking fat and are quite happy to come up and say hello. The dogs and I sat down in the soft grass and waited. Up came the curious calves to sniff and investigate. I was very impressed that Harry and Bert managed to remain sitting, even if they did make a few squeaks of frustration that we let the calves come so close with no chasing involved!

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We had a quick dip in the river, which was FREEZING COLD. Bert and I were straight in and out, but Harry raced around in the water like a mad thing. I’m sure he’s part seal. I would have loved to have taken a photo of him but water, phones and mad dogs just don’t mix. 🙂 I left my phone back up in the fork of a tree at the top of the bank.

On the way home we pushed the cows into the front paddock so they could munch down the sweet spring grass. There is a noisy male koala high in the branches of a gum near the gate. We’ve got quite a colony here, and it’s lovely to see them looking so healthy.

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When we came back from our wanderings I spent a relaxing hour watering the gardens around the house and filling up the bird baths so our feathered friends can have an easy swim too. It’s so good to be home! Thanks for coming on my walk with me.

Much love to you, Nicole xx

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The wisdom of planting trees

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“Trees are the best monuments that a man can erect to his own memory. They speak his praises without flattery, and they are blessings to children yet unborn.”

~ Lord Orrery, 1749

 

Our humble little farmhouse was built firstly as a two room cottage in 1860 by the original timber-cutter in our area. The walls and ceilings are cedar, the floors are pine. Later, at the turn of last century, the house was added to again, with stone and teak and other found and reclaimed bits of timber.

The land all around was cleared of trees, and the rocks in the paddocks were piled up into stone fences. All was bare and orderly.

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But then someone planted trees again. Trees that they would never live to see grow to maturity.

Now our farm is graced with majestic Fig and Teak trees, enormous Hoop Pines, Bunya Pines, Sydney Blue Gums and a grove of ancient and delicious citrus trees.

There’s a beautiful Magnolia, a giant Jacaranda and some ancient palms.

Trees have turned this bare earth back into a home, and they cradle us in their energy.

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That’s the thing about planting trees. You need to hold a longer-term vision for yourself, and for the world. You need to have faith in a future you may never see.

The gifts of that farmer’s long-term vision are that we are surrounded by enormous old trees that provide shade and protection for us, and countless critters.

And now we’ve added to this vision by planting apples and pears, peaches and nectarines, mulberries, loquats and avocado trees.

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Don’t be afraid to take on big projects. Don’t be afraid to create things, plant things, or start things for which you may never see an end result.

Good things often take time – gardens, quilts, novels, gigantic lego projects, renovations, study, building things…

Your faith in a brighter future is what changes the world, and makes it more meaningful and more beautiful for the rest of us.

What seeds can you plant today? What dreams can you give birth to?

I dare you!

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Easy Barbecued Corn on the Cob Recipe

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We came home to our now flood-free farm last night. Of course I didn’t think to plan dinner, and there were slim pickings when we got here.  Luckily it’s sweet corn season right now in Australia and some had survived the rain and the critters to become a simple meal. Simple is highly under-rated, in my humble opinion…

Cooking your corn on the barbecue is a tasty way to serve it – as a meal on its own, or as a side.

If your corn isn’t fresh picked you may want to soak the whole cob in cold water for an hour or so to stop the husks burning, but if the husks are still moist and tender then omit this step.  Our corn is straight from the garden, so I’m not bothering.

Note: If possible please choose organic non-GMO corn or grow your own. GMO corn is not something I’d be happy feeding to my family, or eating myself. The corn in our vegetable patch is an old heritage variety called True Gold. Easy to grow and the flavour is fantastic. 🙂

Ingredients for four servings:

4 x fresh ears of corn in the husk, 4 x fat cloves of garlic, 2 x tablespoons of butter. If you’re eating dairy-free or are a vegan, substitute olive oil for the butter. You can also omit garlic, or throw in a handful of chopped fresh herbs if you prefer.

Melt the butter and allow to cool a little.

Gently pull the husks back and remove the silk from each ear.

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Crush your garlic and add to the butter.  Then brush each ear of corn liberally and pull the husks back over the cob.

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Place on a hot grill, and turn occasionally.  Cooking should take about ten minutes. You’ll find that some of the corn gets a little charred, imparting a smoky sweetness. Trust me – that’s the most delicious bit!

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We had a little whoosh-ka moment at the end here, with a bright flash of flames as the now dried husks lit up momentarily when I lifted the lid on my barbecue. Don’t panic if that happens. It will last second or two, and you’ll end up with less husk to pull away.

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Carefully pull back or rip off the husks, brush off any remaining husk, add extra garlic butter and salt and pepper if you like, and then devour!

Nom nom nom 🙂

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