Tag Archives: environment

Autumn Planting

first of the home grown oaksProbably not the best time of year to start planting, but on advice from a friend that is wise about these matters, I put in the first of the home grown oak trees just after the first Autumn Full Moon.

The soil was just a shade softer than concrete. It’s a heavy clay and as the summer sun has dried out the moisture and the grass has died back and gone crispy and crunchy underfoot, a pick was required to loosen the soil.  After digging just four holes, I was dreaming of a mechanical auger to do the holes for the next 10 or so trees that are waiting to be planted out, until I read the reviews on several sites and forums.

The first of the composted toilet bins has gone beyond 12 months of “cooking” in the sun, so once a deepish hole (around 500mm) was dug,  half a bucket was tipped into each oak tree hole and mixed with the soil to help with drainage and feed the trees. Surprisingly, there was very little odour, so I assume that the composting has been successful.

the first of the pomegranate treesStakes and tree guards were put around the two Oak trees and the two Pomegranate trees that were planted and watered in well. Another acorn was planted directly into the ground next to the passionfruit vine which on this visit was looking decidedly unwell. I had planned to move it to a less sunny spot as “full sun” up here is equivalent to baking and crisping!

Having discovered that a reasonably liberal sprinkling of gypsum throughout the labyrinth has made the soil there a little easier to dig, I will take up a couple of bags on the next visit to apply before putting in the next trees and see if it works it magic again.

The driveway has a collection or avenue of native trees such as wattles, eucalyptus and pinwheel hakeas as one heads up from the roadway towards the cottage and shed. Most of the property was pasture at some stage, with a remnant stand of Bull Mallee trees at the high point and some tall eucalyptus trees on the lower slopes, which I usually refer to as the  “wild area”.  One can choose to continue driving along the fence line or turn east along the edge of the “wild area” towards the astronomy dome which sits like a lonely Dalek in the paddock.  It is along this area that I will create (if nature and the wildlife allow) a deciduous avenue of oak trees -perhaps in the future they will become the backdrop to a garden of a house yet to be dreamed of, let alone built. Planning the future plantings and ensuring a good water supply for the cottage, the labyrinth and the trees changes as the land reveals itself takes time and careful consideration.

Orbs like the oak tree plantingEach trip has different highlights. Often it is to note the changes of season, or to walk the labyrinth or to roam the property and catch the energy of the land. Nights are interesting, even though I have vivid dreams in the city, the dreams here are lucid and have characters who seem to have stepped out of a time long gone. Another friend who is a gifted psychic, has suggested I’m picking up on the energy of the goldrush days and the colourful characters that roamed this area back then.  Whatever it is, I’m quite happy to go with the flow and enjoy the peaceful environment and work on restoring the land gradually and along permaculture principles.


On a  recent visit to the retreat, I was enchanted with the spectre of a double rainbow over the labyrinth.  It was at the end of a hot and humid day and just as the sun was getting ready to slip over the horizon, the clouds parted and there was a most amazing light dancing on the tree tops. A shower in the distance provided the catalyst for a most amazing rainbow.

Did I manage to capture the image? Sadly no…. one of the rare occasions when I had neither camera or smartphone with me.

Earlier in the day, I had shrugged off the lethargy and done a New Moon meditation and vision book page. The next step was to take the vision book into the labyrinth and meditate further on what had come to me.

As I came out of the labyrinth, I was reminded of the benefit of journalling the experiences, many abridged versions appear here in this blog. I remembered a comment from a reader some time ago who suggested that I include video. With that in mind, I walked slowly back to the centre recording the journey, which I would share, except that it seems that the iphone video is not compatible with this platform. The act of mindfulness in walking slowly and holding the camera steadily made for a different experience. The focus was not on myself, but how could I best film the pathway so that viewers would not feel dizzy or sick and that they could really get a “feel” for the rustic nature of this labyrinth.

It cannot be compared to the  pictures of the labyrinths in North America and Europe that are either beautifully paved or have lush green turf….  This is country Victoria coming into summer.. the weeds and the grass have turned to straw brown, the soil is drying and cracking and the patches of gravel are rust red and need to be stepped on carefully.  The mounded soil of the rings allows some long grass and other small hardy plants to grow, but there is no sign of life in the outer ring where the garlic was planted, except for 2 sage plants and a lavender plant that has just flowered. As each step is taken, there is a crunching sound… the dried up plants…. the opposite to the Northern Hemisphere which had record snowfalls on that same weekend.

So whilst the intent has been to share the New Moon experience with you, I can only do so with words and not pictures…. perhaps some enchanted things are not to share……

Postscript….. If you would like to do a virtual walk of the labyrinth, click HERE


Busy as a Bee

Busy  beeSpring has arrived, even though most of the wattles have finished flowering and various seeds are sprouting.

I had just about given up on this one…. when I took a closer look at a different shade of green in the centre of the labyrinth.  The outer ring is punctuated by garlic shoots spearing up through the heavy clods of clay – although one or two have been pruned by some hungry creature….. hmmm!! Me-thinks there might be a  pre-seasoned rabbit or two?

The labyrinth construction started on Good Friday this year and we took some time off to enjoy the Rushworth Easter Parade on  the Saturday.  The dogs accompanied us and didn’t enjoy the experience as they were unused to crowds, so I sat out with one of them in a grassy area at the top of town.

Nearby are Oak trees that must have been planted in the Gold Rush days of the 19th century.  They stand guard over the memories of better days for the little town. It is said that it takes around 120 years for an Oak tree to mature and produce a good crop of acorns – these have tolerated drought, heat, cold, frost…. and the ground around them was blanketed with them.

I pocketed a few and took the time to plant 5 in and around the labyrinth. No sign of any growth for many months, except for a variety of plants classed as weeds. A month or so before Easter, I had also gathered some acorns from an Oak tree that was overhanging the fence at my son’s first house out of home. He and his young family were moving out and I thought it would be nice to have some trees as a memento of where they first brought the baby home. Acorns duly potted up, 2 sprouted almost straight away. Not having any use for the pots and thinking I would use the soil for compost later, I left them where they were. To my surprise, just a few weeks ago, I counted another 10 Oak tree seedlings emerging….

Now if only the sage seeds would start doing something!!!! I’m waiting on the Grass Tree seeds to germinate as well. They grow wild in the forest just a couple of kilometers down the track, and many have been vandalized. I bought the seeds, but now I know what they look like, may stop and have a look for some next time I’m down that way.

A single Jacaranda seed, saved from a school excursion my daughter went on years ago, has been potted up and I’ve noticed that the city neighbors Jacaranda trees have some seed pods on them…. time to ask if I can harvest them! Some of the towns to the east of Rushworth have Jacarandas planted in the main streets and look spectacular in flower. I can envision a stand of them along the driveway, perhaps interspersed with the glorious yellow of Kowhai trees competing with the wattles for colour. I still have some Kowhai seeds saved from the house where the children were first raised.

The Oak trees will be planted out closer to where ever the planned retreat building goes, to partly act as shade and being deciduous, as a fire break – but also to offset my carbon footprint. I also see it as building an inheritance for whoever is custodian of the land long after I have gone.

labyrinth12Half a dozen Pomegranate trees are thriving in pots and another 10 or so continue to live in crowded conditions in a corner of the city garden. These are now about 4 or 5 years old and as I thin them out they are growing much stronger and taller.  Having read of the health benefits of pomegranate, i’m sure that I will have a veritable forest of them shortly! As the trunks are rather “leggy”, I’m thinking of using them as a screen in front of the labyrinth.

A pot bound Avocado  that is about 8 years old is destined to make the road trip once I have a couple more seeds sprouting.

mowed area3Visitors are arriving in early October for “A Back to Basics” camping weekend. In preparation an area has been mowed – partly to remove the unwanted Biddy Bush – but mostly to discourage snakes which are likely to be starting to stir after their winter hibernation.  That’s it in the foreground…. 12 months regrowth. It doesn’t have much of a smell to it, but it must contain some volatile oils, because you can pull it up out of the ground (only after a good rain) and put it on the fire – green and wet – and it burns like crazy.

mowing2Driving the tractor is a great time to meditate – you have to be mindful not to mow rocks and to keep fairly straight lines – although I had fun going in circles mowing around the labyrinth.

Another bonus is that a lot of the capeweed flowers were lopped off, and although they might look pretty and the bees seem to love them, I would rather not have them there. It seems that the only natural solution to get rid of them is to mow  before the flowers set seed and mulch, oversow with other grasses and top dress the lot with dolomite.  All the other advice is to spray with roundup or similar…..I don’t really want to become a Monsanto customer. From what I can ascertain, capeweed grows in over tilled soil and where there is little topsoil enriched with humus. It is also a hazard to horses, causing a magnesium deficiency – not that I have any stock at all – except the itinerant kangaroos, who seemed somewhat unhappy that their feed had been mowed and a couple of displaced hares who seem to have moved into next door’s thicket of Biddy Bush.

In between all of this, my city business is also starting to grow with the arrival of Spring. I’m coaching, seeing hypnotherapy clients and this past week has been full of networking activities and late nights. All about that in another post……..

The Labyrinth

LabyrinthI still haven’t managed to get a full picture of the labyrinth, my son suggested putting a card in his remote control helicopter and taking a photo with that, but that’s for another day!

This is after I dug out the lines to redefine the path and added some garden gypsum to the mounds created. The idea behind this is that the channels created will hold the moisture and keep the soil nearby easier to work with. Most of the area is heavy clay, so the gypsum will help break that down.

Originally, I wanted to put some coarse grade gypsum, used for driveways or around cattle troughs on the path, but there are some persistent weeds that would simply grow through the gravel.  The metaphysical properties of gypsum are interesting and it  works on the Heart & Base Chakras as well as bringing clarity to the person using it. Ideal for a labyrinth walk! I will enquire more about the coarse grade gypsum at the Elmore Field Day coming up in October.

You can see in the photo where I started to take a fine layer of soil off the path, but still the onion grass came up.  A bonus was that the five pointed purple flowers  were pretty to look at as I walked the circuit! They have now been replaced by Capeweed, which has bright yellow petals and a black centre.  Ideas for the future development of the path range from sowing lawn seed and getting a mower to maintain it or waiting until the soil softens again and hiring a mechanical tiller and digging it up to weed it more vigorously.

The plinth in the centre has a small depression in it, which I fill with water for the birds. There is a nest of Blue Wrens nearby and lots of fast moving little birds that I have yet to identify. It is offset slightly and one corner is orientated North.

After the gypsum was applied, it was loosely worked into the soil mounds and I set about peeling 6 bulbs of Australian Garlic. Some of the cloves had already started to sprout and as they lay on the tray in the sunlight, seemed to grow a little more each time I glanced at them. Once peeled, they went into a bucket of water and I planted them in most of the outer ring of the labyrinth. It’s just an experiment – if they grow – they grow and should provide yet another purple flower to look at around New Year. The bonus will be a crop of garlic with the labyrinth energy. Rain was forecast for the next day and if the weather report was correct, the area got some 13mm of rain after we left – just enough to water in the gypsum and the garlic.



The reality of a classroom is that it is often a most dysfunctional environment.

Consider the disparate personalities that are confined in a relatively small space for long periods of time combined with environmental triggers and topped off by utilitarian and uncomfortable furniture. All in all, a recipe for chaos and not an effective learning environment.

Take a moment to think about one of those bags of party balloons.

All shapes and sizes.

Ever tried to blow some of them up?

Some are easy to fill with air and others are particularly difficult.

No matter how hard you huff and puff, they will just not inflate until – just as you are about to give up – they start to stretch a little and …..finally…… when you are exhausted and give one more puff….they fill out to the most magnificent shaped balloon you have seen.

Just like a classroom of students – some are easy to fill with knowledge and are dependable shapes, whilst others present challenges in many ways. It is knowing how to persevere to get an end result that often astonishes all that observe.

Some balloons will resist even the most determined efforts to inflate and need to be put aside to enjoy the others in the packet.

Environmental triggers can also affect a learning environment.

Dust and mould are two common allergens found in most classrooms. School cleaning is often contracted out and a quick vacuum around the floor is often all that is done. Dust settles around the windows and window furnishings and on tops of cupboards and bookshelves.

Mould is a hidden problem and often will manifest with students and teachers having unexplained headaches or coughs in some rooms. It can be found under the floor, in the ceiling or wall cavities.

Another environmental concern is light. Too little natural light and too many fluorescent lights. The fluorescent lights contain mercury (a neurotoxin), and some lights are known to emit an odour which is quite unpleasant. Other odours contributing to a poor learning environment are the excessive use of deodorant sprays and then every so often there is the eye watering, choking SBDF (silent but deadly fart).

How the learning environment is heated or cooled is also important, both from the local and global perspective. Many of the older schools still have gas-fired heating, effective and affordable, but the gas flues need to be regularly checked. Other electrical devices such as computers and wi-fi which are a necessary part of the learning programs need regular safety checks. There is anecdotal evidence to suggest that there may be long-term effects that we are not fully aware of with wi-fi networks.

What the students are eating is another environmental issue, particularly if the school has a canteen. Are they supplying healthy, nutritious food or selling high profit, high fat & sugar products? Is the waste from student lunches and snacks recycled? Students at one school I taught at, had very little regard for either their environment or the local environment and at the end of each day, the school yard looked like a garbage truck had emptied its contents outside the classrooms. Yet another school I have taught at, has a pro-active recycling program and even the food scraps are recycled for the worm farm and the chickens.

Finally, furniture for the learning environment. There are some schools that take this seriously, but most are confined by budgets and the necessity to have utilitarian and long-lasting furniture. The furniture is frequently very uncomfortable although some Primary schools will have a reading area furnished with a comfortable lounge chair or two.  Generally the seats are hard, the wrong size for rapidly growing bodies and ergonomically unsound. Would you tolerate the same in your workplace? Then there is the expectation that students will sit still in class, so little wonder that those students who are kinesthetic learners squirm and wriggle when having to sit for a long period of time.  How about those students who need movement to learn ? Teachers the world over have encountered the “chair tipper”. It may surprise you to discover that these chair tipping students are innately aware of their need to stimulate their vestibular system and the movement actually helps them to concentrate. More of that in another article or you can contact BrightLight Specialized Education for a list of school workshops for 2011.