I was going to write something else…


“Good stories are like those noble wild animals that make their home in hidden spots, and you must often settle down at the entrance of the caves and woods and lie in wait for them a long time.” 

~ Hermann Hesse

This morning started as it always did. I meditated at 4am, and then rose with the first rays of streaky dawn to come sit and my desk and write a blog post.

But as I sat here at my desk with its view of the distant front paddock, our little home cradled by a circle of old trees whose leaves hang in fringes around every window, I became lost in the story of the morning.

Up in an ancient tree sat a powerful owl. He spotted me at my desk and nodded sleepily, before blinking his eyes shut again.

Over the parched grass under the teak tree Cedric the massive carpet python who usually lives in our roof came home from his nightly hunt. He wound himself up the teak and into the branchest closest to the house, which dipped and swayed under his weight. Then he slid across the frangipani and I watched as he disappeared from sight. A few minutes later I heard the rustle and thump as he settled in the roof above me.

Zebidee, the little water dragon, came and settled himself on the edge of the large ceramic pot we use as a bird bath. Can you see him here in one of our other pots, hiding among the leaves?

Bruce the baby Scrub Turkey ran dementedly in circles in the far corner of the yard before running into the tangle of leaves and long grass under the Bunya Pines. I was grateful to see him and know he was still alive. He’s starting to get wing feathers now. We’ve also seen one of his siblings recently too.

The Lewin’s Honeyeaters have been bathing in the water bowl I keep for them on the front verandah and have almost splashed it dry. So now I will go make a mug of tea and grab the garden hose and stroll around the garden, refilling the bird baths and watering my potted herbs and flowers before the heat of the day comes.

So, I intended to write something else, but I got lost in the world outside my window.

I hope you find some ordinary wonders and some time for yourself today too,

All my love, Nicole ❤ xx

A Small But Positive Sign In The Shape Of A Snail

“Forgiveness is giving up the hope that the past could have been any different.” 
~  Oprah Winfrey

When we holidayed with a friend and her family early this year, her small children asked me what I had done to earn pocket money when I was little.

We didn’t get pocket money when we were growing up, but sometimes we would get paid for chores, and the one chore both my mother and grandmother would pay for was snail collection. Both of them were avid gardeners, and there were always so many snails threatening their annuals, vegetables and flowers. I would wake early each morning to silvery trails along all the paths, and of course all of the soft plants and flowers would have been nibbled voraciously. I’d be sent out with an empty ice-cream bucket (the family size!) to gather snails so they could be disposed of. I’d easily fill that bucket with perhaps half an hour’s work. They were everywhere, especially if you knew where to look.

Fast forward to today, and I have barely seen a single snail in years, except for the giant rainforest snails that we sometimes see around the farm. I’ve grieved and ached for that loss, and for my role in contributing to the demise of so many creatures. Our modern garden is so different to the gardens of my childhood. Where have all the snails gone? The bees? The insects? As a child I would amuse myself for hours catching small green grasshoppers or odd-looking beetles. There was an abundance of wildlife in my own back yard. Birds, dragonflies, stick insects, praying mantis, butterflies, Christmas beetles by the battalion, moths, all kinds of grubs and crawly things. And so many bees, especially when the summer lawn was full of clover.

Forty or so years later the skies and gardens seem empty. And I hadn’t seen a snail in my garden for a decade.

Until today. A tiny snail on one of my roses. Ben pointed it out to me. ‘Look, honey’, he said. ‘A snail is eating your rose.’ ‘Good!’ I responded. ‘I’ll grow more!’ If that little snail likes roses I will make sure she has an endless supply.

I can’t tell you how happy this one little snail has made me. I am hoping to soon see more.

A garden snail – courtesy of the Breathe Easy Project

Here in our little corner of the world, at our farm and at our neighbours, we don’t use chemicals or bug spray or any kind of pesticide. I favour companion planting. If bugs destroy a certain plant I make a note of it and either don’t grow it again or I grow lots of it so we can share it with the bugs, or so they can eat it and spare the rest of my garden.

Birds like to eat snails and bugs. So do lots of other critters. They are all part of the cycle of life, and I want for that biodiversity to continue. To that end we’ve planted lots of native flowering trees that are food for birds and butterflies and possums. We’ve placed birdbaths strategically around the garden. We’ve replanted species around the denuded areas of our farm to encourage biodiversity and restorative ecology. We farm organically. We use worm farms to enrich our soil and to compost all our food scraps. We do what we can to make our home a home for all.

Perhaps that little snail is a sign that we are doing something right.

Today I’m intending for you some small positive sign that you’re moving in the right direction too. Much love, Nicole   xx

 

 

My Favourite Morning Job

“Have you also learned that secret from the river; that there is no such thing as time?” That the river is everywhere at the same time, at the source and at the mouth, at the waterfall, at the ferry, at the current, in the ocean and in the mountains, everywhere and that the present only exists for it, not the shadow of the past nor the shadow of the future.” 
~  Hermann Hesse

 

Here on the farm my favourite morning job is checking our water points. I slip on my gumboots (still usually dressed in my pyjamas!) and then go for a little walk to check the cattle troughs. They all fill by themselves with float valves except one up in the orchard, that we only need if the cattle are there.

If the cattle are grazing in the orchard I will take the heavy farm hose and top up the trough for them before the heat of the day comes. While it fills I talk to the cows and watch the birds doing their early morning circuits. Our skies are always busy just after dawn.

 

I’ll flick the hose around the vegetable gardens and note anything that needs picking. And yes, a few stray strawberries or sweet little tomatoes usually find their way into my mouth.

Back down at the house again my last stop is the birdbaths. I fill them up, and the one on our front deck has new flowers placed in it from whatever I have gathered from my morning walk.

It’s a peaceful start to my day that never fails to put me in a good mood.

I’m wishing you a peaceful day and happiness too, much love, Nicole  xx

 

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

All Things Green In My Garden

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“A garden to walk in and immensity to dream in–what more could he ask? A few flowers at his feet and above him the stars.” 
~ Victor Hugo, Les Misérables

 

Yesterday I arrived home at my farm to find the gardens green and lush, and everything budding or already in flower. The air was sweetly fragranced with magnolia, lemon blossom and jasmine.

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I ate as many snowpeas and fresh peas as I put into my basket, and picked bunches of the delicate flowers from the coriander that has gone to seed.

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Harry kept me company as we wandered down to the front paddock, and over to check on the new calves who are fat and happy.

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Then I made a cup of tea and watched the late afternoon sun slanting through the trees. So good to be home!

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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 Winner of the Chlorite Phantom Quartz

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“Home is not where you live but where they understand you.”
~ Christian Morgenstern

 

I’m so happy to announce that the winner of this beautiful little Chlorite Phantom Quartz Crystal is:

Pauline Longdon 

Congratulations, Pauline! I know you’ll take good care of her, and I look forward to hearing all about your adventures together.

For those of you who entered but didn’t win, thank you for supporting my blog! It means so much to me that you are here, sharing the journey, and being part of my community.

Stay tuned over the next few months as I give away a few more special stones from my personal collection.

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In other news, Ben is feeling much better and so is Harry. My biggest issue will be keeping both of them quiet during their recoveries now that we are back at the farm.

Now I’m off to water my vegetable garden before the heat of the day, harvest my cherry tomato glut, and plan out some kitchen time. I feel the yearn to cook!

PS – It’s so good to be home!!!

Flowers with your Green Smoothie?

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“People from a planet without flowers would think we must be mad with joy the whole time to have such things about us.”
~ Iris Murdoch

 

Each morning when I venture out to the garden to pick a few herbs or some kale for my breakfast smoothie, I rejoice in the flowers which grow in the tumbling wilderness that is my vegetable garden.

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I have always grown flowers alongside my herbs and vegetables. Flowers attract bees, they cleverly lure away pests, and most importantly, they bring me joy.

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When did a food garden need to be so business-like that there was no room for whimsy, colour or self-expression?

Besides, fairies like flowers too.

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I finally tore myself away from flower appreciation long enough to pick a few leaves for breakfast.

This morning’s green smoothie?

Kale, pear, apple, broccoli and coconut. Delicious!

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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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Home, after Rain

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“There is nothing like staying at home for real comfort.”~ Jane Austen

I’m home. I slept last night in my own bed. After so long in the city it was good beyond measure to be here at my little farm, surrounded by a thick blanket of peace and the sounds of night; cattle lowing, croaking frogs, the grunts of the koalas and the cries of the owl.

I woke just before 4am, as is my wont, to meditate for a dear friend and her 99-year-old father who  is in his final days. The air was fresh and cool against my skin, and so quiet you could almost hear the earth breathing in and out. My wise owl sat just above me in the Jacaranda, and we communed together a while.

Now the sun is up, and there are the first stirrings of the day.  The world is waking to the sound of the Magpies, Black Cockatoos and Kookaburras, who seem especially joyful this morning.

There is heavy mist, and the air is moist and humid. All around me is lush greenery, and everything is bursting forth buds and new growth.

There’s more rain coming. The creeks and rivers are already turgid and brown.  It won’t take much for them to burst their banks. We’re keeping one eye on the weather, and our bags will stay packed, ready to leave so that we won’t be flooded in again.

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The cows and their calves are fat as butter from the flush of fresh feed, and Mama Possum and her baby banged around on the roof last night to let us know they were here so that I would leave fruit out for them this morning.

I was worried everything would have rotted in the vegetable garden, but I found a handful of heritage French Breakfast radishes to add to my morning juice, and my parsley, mint, passionfruit, citrus and guavas are all going mad.  Hooray!

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I can’t stop smiling, and neither can the dogs. We’re home. Free to ramble through the paddocks, to breathe in the good, clean country air, to say hello to all our friends and neighbours, and to just be.

There is something so comforting about being home.  I’m glad you got to share some of this good energy with me.

Sending you much love, Nicole. Bless ♥ xx

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