Night Time At My Farm

“The sky grew darker, painted blue on blue, one stroke at a time, into deeper and deeper shades of night.” 
Haruki Murakami

After a short holiday we arrived back at our little farm in the Byron Hills yesterday. It was so good to be home, so good to be in our own space, to find our dogs happy and content, to see our friend who housesat for us tanned and relaxed and well.

I’d thought I would tumble into bed early, but as all the lights turned out and night wrapped itself around us I found that I was wide awake. Leaving everyone sleeping I snuck outside and sat on the steps, looking up at the dark bowl of the sky above my head.

The air was alive with the call of frogs and crickets, the chitter of bats, the grunts of koalas, the flap of owl-wing. The soft night was tinged with chill, and fragrant with spring blossoms and that honest smell of cows and damp earth. The sky was bright with stars.

The trees breathed in rhythm with me. The world turned. And gently, gently something within me clicked back into place again. I was home!

I finally put my weary body back to bed, sliding between the cool clean sheets in the darkened room. I woke this morning not remembering having fallen asleep, but having slept deeply and well.

There is such comfort to be had in embracing the fullness of my life.
Today I’m wishing that heart-fulness for you too.
All my love, Nicole ❤ xoxo

 

 

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

 

When the Bully Becomes Bullied

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“Don’t turn your face away.
Once you’ve seen, you can no longer act like you don’t know.
Open your eyes to the truth. It’s all around you.
Don’t deny what the eyes to your soul have revealed to you.

Now that you know, you cannot feign ignorance.
Now that you’re aware of the problem, you cannot pretend you don’t care.
To be concerned is to be human.
To act is to care.”
~ Vashti Quiroz-Vega

 

Our farm is small and so our herd of cows is also small. At a previous organic farm we had hundreds of head of beef cattle. But here we have less than thirty animals. We know each one by name and nature.

And right now we have a problem.

There is a large red cow we call Snubby-Nose. She’s an older cow, and as she has become older she has become a bully. Herds of cattle have their own hierarchy, and we always leave them to sort out their own problems. Cows are peaceful by nature, and we usually have a tight-knit herd.

But for the last year, since we lost our old matriarch, Snubby-Nose has been badly behaved. The old matriarch was a cranky-as-hell, bossy old girl who kept everyone in line, bull included. Snubby-Nose never misbehaved while she was alive. But she has run amok ever since.

Snubby-Nose refuses to do nursery duty (where one cow looks after the young calves while the other mothers graze). She has penned in younger cows to keep them away from the bull. She has picked on small animals, or on those who are unwell or heavily in calf. She has been mean and bad-tempered. It made the herd flighty, and our young bull could not control her because she was bigger than him.

We had deliberated moving her on, but then the herd settled down again. So we thought all was well.

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A fortnight ago we noticed that Snubby-Nose was hanging back from the others when we fed out molasses (their favourite treat).

Then we saw that she was limping. We reasoned that the limp was keeping her from joining the herd as she stayed down on the river flats while the other animals came up to feed in the orchard on the hill behind our house.

When she didn’t rejoin the herd after two days we went looking for her. I thought we might have to call the vet. We drove our old farm ute down onto the most secluded part of the river flats and there we found her, grazing. She still had the limp, and she was wary of us. I began to think that perhaps we had a wild dog problem, because she was agitated and nervous.

Soon we heard a thundering of hooves. The rest of the herd had run down from the hill to follow us, in case we were handing out treats. They saw Snubby-Nose and all of them became noisy.

Then something happened that totally floored me. Our young bull and the three oldest cows attacked Snubby-Nose violently, moving her away from us. They pushed her right across the paddock with great force, until she stumbled and fell. While she was down the entire herd came over and all of the adults and larger calves knocked her with their heads. When she tried to get up they pushed her down again. So we jumped in the ute and drove away, drawing the herd with us and leaving Snubby-Nose down on the ground.

After locking the cattle in another paddock we went back. I was worried they might have killed her! She wasn’t badly hurt after all, but we are pretty sure about how she went lame.

The herd are tired of her aggression and bullying, and they have banded together to ostracise her. None of them could control her on their own. But together they could force her to submit.

On Wednesday a friend with a horse and some good dogs is coming over to help us yard her, and we are going to move Snubby-Nose on. I feel bad that she has been unable to find a place for herself here, but the herd has spoken and we can’t have this kind of behaviour in such a small group.

No society can endlessly submit to the behaviour of a tyrant.

Snubby-Nose, goodbye! We hope you find a better home on someone else's farm.

 

It’s The Little Things…

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“After all,” Anne had said to Marilla once, “I believe the nicest and sweetest days are not those on which anything very splendid or wonderful or exciting happens but just those that bring simple little pleasures, following one another softly, like pearls slipping off a string.”
~ L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Avonlea

 

Yesterday was my first full day at home on the farm. We went for an early morning beach adventure, and enjoyed a good coffee, and then came home to attack the overgrown vegetable garden, mow the lawn (so much mowing!) and do what seemed like a thousand loads of laundry.

In the afternoon we loaded Harry and Bert onto the back of the ute and drove down to the river paddocks to check the feed (in farmer speak that means length and quantity of grass) and see if we could spot any of the new baby calves.

Bert (our red dog) is feeling much better. You can still see the lump under his jaw, but it has shrunk right down and hopefully it will disappear altogether without the need for surgery. Fingers crossed!

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One of our Droughtmaster mums immediately brought her young calf over for us to take a look. In the background you can just see a Murray Grey mum (the white cow) racing up the hill towards us too. We wondered what her hurry was…

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In the next picture you can see a second little grey calf. She’d been hiding in the grass having a sleep and we almost walked on top of her.The white cow is her very protective mum.

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While the mums hovered over their babies, Daisy Mae popped over to say hello and to check if we had any hay or other cow-type tasty treats. Isn’t she looking big and beautiful? She has all the curiosity of a young teenager, and she still likes to play with Harry and Bert out in the paddock. We caught the three of them chasing magpies yesterday morning. Crazy things!

All of these new calves were fathered by Red Bull, who has been doing a terrific job. It’s hard to believe he’s a dad already. It seems like only yesterday that he was just a little calf himself.

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We finished the day by taking the dogs for a quick dip in the river. We didn’t see any platypus but there were tiny blue dragonflies everywhere, lending the afternoon a very magical feel.

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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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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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What Real Food Looks Like…

On Saturday morning at the crack of dawn my husband and I went into Lismore, a small country town about 25 minutes drive from our farm.  We needed to buy some hay for our weaner calves, and there was a truckload of bales for sale at the showgrounds, which is also home to the Lismore Organic Farmers’ Market each Saturday. Ben reminded me that we couldn’t stay long – we had a house full of visitors and a full day of farm work to be done!

So we only went to buy hay…

but of course I was no help loading it all with two perfectly capable, strong men at the ready, so I snuck over the market for a little bit of a look-see.  The first thing I spied was just-picked broccoli, and of course I had to put a little bit of that in my basket.

Then I helped myself to some plump red beetroot and a big bunch of rhubarb.

The ute was still only half loaded, so I crammed some assorted greens and herbs into my basket as well!

And what’s the point of greens without a tomato or two?

The ute was finally loaded but then we had to stay a little longer to have a coffee and a chat with some friends we’d bumped into. In the process I acquired a bag of  limes, an armful of pink lady apples, and some excellent lady finger bananas.

On the drive home I planned out a menu for Saturday night’s dinner, based on my haul, and here it is:

Vegan Broccoli, Cashew and Lime Soup with crusty fresh bread. (I’ll be blogging this recipe for the Vegan Virtual Potluck on November 1!)

Red Wine and Garlic Marinated Steaks with a Rustic Salad – our own organic beef, grilled and served with the simplest of salads.  (The cheese is local too – Newrybar semi-hard from the Bangalow Cheese Company.)

Rhubarb Cream Puffs – squares of puff pastry stuffed with an apple-and-rhubarb compote and fresh cream from the farm down the road.

Twenty minutes of preparation when we got home (we were home by 8.30am!) and I had a delicious three course meal ready for the finishing touches that night.  Food miles – negligable. The only ingredient that wasn’t local was the pastry. And almost every ingredient had been harvested within the last 24 hours or less.

Off we went to work…

Come dinner time we were all starving after a full but satisfying day working in the river paddock, clearing regrowth and rebuilding an old rock wall.  Thank goodness meal prep was nearly done. While Ben lit the barbeque I heated soup and threw dessert together. Easy! Let me know if you want me to blog any of the recipes; this food is so simple, and it tasted like heaven. Good fresh food never takes much fancy-ing up.

Luckily we had a little rhubarb compote and cream left over, which I used on top of home-made date and ginger scones for afternoon tea the next day.  Farm life is such a chore – but my willing workers just seem to keep coming back.  Maybe it’s the good clean air, maybe it’s Ben’s singing, or maybe, just maybe, it’s the food…

Everybody needs a place to call home, or, my little farm and what it means to me

One’s home is like a delicious piece of pie you order in a restaurant on a country road one cozy evening – the best piece of pie you have ever eaten in your life – and can never find again.  After you leave home, you may find yourself feeling homesick, even if you have a new home that has nicer wallpaper and a more efficient dishwasher than the home in which you grew up.  ~Lemony Snicket

I had rather be on my farm than be emperor of the world.  ~George Washington

Everyone needs somewhere to call home – a safe place that makes their heart sing, and their soul fill with peace and joy. I searched for this place for a long time, and finally, it found me.

My farm, in the Byron Hinterland, is no mansion. It’s the original timber getter’s cottage, built around 1860, when the area was still all magnifient cedar, teak, beech and rainforest scrub.

It’s tiny, and humble, and although it has been modified by the few people who’ve owned it between the timber getter and me, it still has that pioneer energy.

The house is nestled against a hill, with an old organic citrus orchard and my vegetable gardens  up behind us.

All around are lush green pastures and patches of remnant rainforest.

To one side is the river, and to the other is a creek, filled with platypus, eels and turtles. We have a rain-filled dam that is home to many water birds and a spring-fed dam that gives us year round clean water.

There is an incredible energy here.  There are huge old trees surrounding the front and sides of the house like a protective arc, and the property sits on a songline. Here I feel safe, connected and deeply peaceful.

There’s no TV, no radio.  I have computer access when I need to connect with the world, but much of my time is spent writing, listening to music or the sounds of nature, reading books and meditating, or working on the farm and gardens.

There’s a big kitchen table so I can share meals with friends and neighbours, and a double-doored oven for cooking up tasty treats. A spare bed and a comfy couch for guests.

I have a wonderful herd of cows – Droughtmasters and Murray Greys. I spend a lot of time in their company – they are such gentle and inoffensive animals, and they infuse me with calm.  Wallabies graze the paddocks, wedgetail eagles soar above me, and at night we have a host of owls keeping watch.

From every window I see greenery.  And up every road is a caring neighbour.

My little home is my sanctuary – the place that fills me up and lets me keep doing what I do.  A refuge in stormy seas, and a wonderful place for spiritual connection any time.

I’m glad to be able to share a little of its energy with you.  Welcome, friends! ♥