Tag Archives: retreat

Start of Autumn

There’s a sense of sadness as summer draws to a close although here in Melbourne the heat remains – the days grow shorter and there is a certain lassitude in the air. Yet, I find that work has been more productive than ever. There has been a lovely balance of Reiki treatments, Hypnotherapy and Supervision sessions, interspersed with some valuable networking.

The move to Body Balance Wellness Centre has worked out well so far and I’m enjoying being able to wander around the Mt Waverley shopping village. Today I treated myself to a scrumptious vegetarian bento box for lunch at the local (authentic) Japanese takeaway. An added bonus is  that I also get to brush up my very rusty Japanese – they are very patient with me!

The home office is now tidied up again and there is a temptation to open the door and spend a bit more time in the little garden outside it. There are still 7 or 8 pomegranate saplings that grew from the seeds I saved about 6 years ago and they will need thinning out so that they can grow taller.  I thinned the group out last year and took 4 up to the retreat, but one has succumbed to the high temperatures and lack of water, as have more than half the oak trees. Once the weather cools down and these ones lose their leaves, I will transplant them to the retreat as replacements. Hopefully because they are more advanced, they will survive the extremes better.

There are a couple of Casuarinias, some Japanese Maples and a Jacaranda  seedling that I have grown from seed, but will continue to nurture here in the city until they are a little bigger and more likely to survive if they are more established.  I’ve acquired a Robinia seed pod, but am unlikely to plant that as they can grow to be very big and they sucker readily.  I found some interesting seed pods on a council street tree the other evening and might try growing some of those as they look as if they would provide some good shade and good compostable leaf litter.

 

Wintry Weather

winter temperatureWinter has definitely set in up at the retreat.

The purpose of the trip was to make sure that there had been no storm damage or trees blown over in the last couple of weeks. We always seem to bring the rain with us – even in summertime – although it was mostly showers, which meant we could get out for walks.

This means mud inside the cottage and the next priority is to pave an area near the door and put a verandah up so that boots can be taken off and left outside.

Not being a huge cottage – it’s 6 metres by 6 metres – there is not a lot of floor space to have to wash, but after this trip I have decided to wash it on arrival instead of on departure;  as I’m wondering if leaving the damp floor to dry in our absence is what is causing the condensation overnight.

Friday night was a chilly 3’C outside and although there is a small wall heater in the cottage and we had a nice fire outside, it was bedtime by 8.15pm  as that was the warmest place! Saturday wasn’t too bad as the rain clouds kept the chill away, but Sunday morning was clear, bright  and brisk. Inside the cottage humidity rose to 90% and we opened up the doors and windows to air out the place…… equilibrium was reached just after midday with the temperature rising to 11.3!!

The pace of this visit was somewhat slower than before as I was finishing with a bout of the flu and the paddocks were too wet to take the tractor into. A little yabbie fishing – only small ones, which were returned – from the bottom dam…. which was surprising, although the neighbour did let us know that  he often saw people jumping the fence and putting nets in there.  A couple of larger  ones from the top dam provided an entree for Saturday night’s dinner. On a side trip to Echuca on Saturday, I saw a resin crocodile head that floats and thought that would make an interesting visual for the bottom dam – especially if it it didn’t float away down the overflow!!

Pinwheel hakeaA Pinwheel Hakea decided to turn up its toes on Saturday afternoon which was a shame as it was a good size tree. I have harvested a few seed pods and we already have 4 seedlings growing as an experiment. Pinwheel Hakea blossom

When it browns off, I will drag it to a small pile where 2 others are and burn it. Apparently the seeds only germinate with bushfire smoke and it will be interesting to see if this creates a small colony of hakea seedlings! Saturday also saw the planting of a passionfruit vine along the home paddock fence. The first of the composting toilet buckets was tipped into a very large hole and the vine duly planted on top. I think we may have to wait a bit longer for the other buckets to be used, although perhaps the holes can be dug for the proposed fruit trees whilst the soil is damp and easier to get through…. I’m also wondering if the composting process wouldn’t be quicker in the ground…..

On Sunday, a few of the wattles lining the driveway had branches broken off, presumably by some over excited kangaroos on their way through … I was fortunate to be standing quite still (I was checking my step tracker app) when 3 large roos bounded past within a metre of me. I don’t know who was more surprised ….!!  A walk around the perimeter of the retreat is about 2500 steps, not accurate as I got sidetracked going back to look at a couple of things and made a small detour here and there.

The main water tank retank leakmains a problem… there are several leaks which seem to be made worse by the increased pressure as it fills….The small tank next to the cottage only holds 500 litres and is filled quite quickly. To prevent damage from the overflow, it is regularly emptied into the big tank which would hold an estimated 40,000 litres when full. At present it is still only half full even though we have had some good rains.

The recent visitors helped to paint on a compound which is supposed to react witTank leakh the water and create crystals in the cracks to seal the leaks, but it is only partially successful so far.

At one stage there was a significant leak and a patch of tractor tube, wood and held in with a fencing post sufficed until underwater cement from mending the pool tiles at home was applied.

Fingers croOrb in labyrinthssed that the repairs can continue successfully – otherwise it will mean a new tank as this is the main water supply for the retreat.

The labyrinth was walked … the sage and the lavender continue to stay green and not nibbled by animals. The wattle trees inside the path are just about to bloom and will add to the ambiance…..

I didn’t have the energy this trip to re-define the pathway. Tiny toadstools

Just to the north of it lies what I call the “wild area”.. fenced off, it has a stand of tall gums, but mostly bush mallee and rocks.  I discovered a mossy “pathway” and thought immediately of faeries and the like….

 

Observing the environment

 

Prejudices, it is well known,are most difficult to eradicate from the heart whose soil has never been loosened or fertilized by education; they grow firm there, firm as weeds among stones.

Charlotte Bronte
Another all too brief sojourn up at the retreat, with some more clearing of bushes, tending to the labyrinth and the beginnings of a walking track (fire break) around the perimeter.
Mound of Biddy Bush alight in the overflowClearing the Biddy Bush or Chinese Bush has just about been completed and the debris was pushed into a large pile in the damp area of the dam overflow to minimize the fire spreading.
Whilst it was sad to see so many tiny Blue Wrens and other little bush birds displaced and homeless, the ongoing fire risk is too great to let the bushes stay. They kept busy collecting twigs from previously slashed bushes and rebuilt during the day.
Just one small section of the debris was lit and within seconds, this inferno took off. Some 5 hours later – after burning red-hot, the pile was reduced to ashes, which will be added to a composting area.
AshesEventually deemed safe to leave, we made periodic trips to check on it during the evening (& the Yabbie nets). On one of these trips, not only kangaroos were sighted in the headlights, but a large hare. This is the third time I’ve caught a glimpse of it!
The evenings are spent thinking about building projects. Now the proud owner of a metal bath, which originally was sourced to have as an outdoor bath heated by a small fire under it, it will most probably reside (still outside) on a verandah to built at the front of the cottage.
A bath with a view!
The first of the fruit trees has gone in  – a lemon tree and although kangaroos and wallabies have inspected it, so far it seems to be off their menu.
A passionfruit vine was gifted to me and it will possibly be installed as part of a green fence around the labyrinth.
Other trees in pots are waiting to make the trip up to the retreat.  There are half a dozen pomegranate trees – a result of planting out the spent seeds from a pomegranate feast 3 years ago. Quite small still, but hardy as they have been in a crowded spot, they should take off now they have been potted up. They should do quite well  and I’m intending to hedge them in front of the labyrinth, which should also offer a little more privacy as people walk.
There is also a 7 year old Avocado tree that has been on the deck for some time and is calling to have its roots set free and the half dozen or so Oak seedlings are progressing well.
Just yesterday, a small almond tree was given to me and that will be planted out on the next trip.
As with all projects, enthusiasm needs to be balanced with practicality… but there is the trap of over intellectualizing and doing nothing…

Progress at the Retreat

The Paddock December 2013 The Paddock May 2014 Paddock viewed from North boundary Dec 2013 Paddock viewed from North Boundary May 2014Visible changes are taking place, and whilst the photos aren’t taken in the same spot, this gives a sense of the work that has been done.

It was too hot from December to March to do any slashing of the scrub without creating a fire hazard.

The scrub, commonly called Chinese bush is self seeded and is a fire hazard even when it is wet and green.

It seeds prolifically, and just one plant can produce over a million seeds in a season.

What it does tell us; is that the soil here has either been overgrazed in the past or is depleted in nutrients.

One method of controlling the bush is to overplant the area once it is slashed with a green crop, such as clover – which will smother the emerging seedlings and provide green manure for the soil.

The difficulty in removing this scrub, is that there are also young saplings of gum trees and a couple of varieties of wattle, including Golden Wattle to avoid.

Poison is not an option as we want to develop the property as organically as possible. What has been made apparent, now that the scrub has gone, are the contours of the property.  It slopes gently down to the centre of the property, revealing the natural flow of water that feeds the two dams.

Plans for the future include developing much of the area using Permaculture principles.

Labyrinth site Easter Labyrinth outline 13 Centre of the Labyrinth 14 Centre of the labyrinthAnother problem is Guildford Grass or Onion Grass and this is prolific in the area of the labyrinth.

Single blades of grass that come up from a bulb and toxic to stock in large quantities.

Not even the kangaroos seem to have a taste for this.

Again, chemical removal is not really an option as it will leave residual poison in the ground for several seasons. Apparently use of a rotary hoe on a regular basis helps to keep it in check and reduce the incidence of re-infestation.

At present, I’m in the process of removing the top layer of soil, with the intention of getting rid of weeds so that I can put a topping on the path.

However the Onion Grass is very resilient and just bends with the shovel, so after reading the agricultural notes about it, am thinking of using a small tilling machine in the area.

This will most likely save time and my back!

In the meantime, work continues and mapping the progress with photos makes for a welcome break from digging.

We want to observe a full year of seasons before commencing any building projects. The first project is to restore the soil and then we can start to plan what plants to put in and where.

Already I am growing some oak seedlings and whilst the trees would not be used or harvested in my lifetime, future generations will have access to them.

 

 

Time flies when you are having fun…

I thought it was just a few weeks since the last update and was surprised to find that it has been a couple of months….

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThere have been a number of projects on the go, the largest being the preparation of a country retreat.

It is being developed as an eco-friendly place and will be very much “back to basics” with an organic/permaculture overlay. With quite a lot of work to do, including fencing and weed removal, it is anticipated that it will take a little while longer before it is officially open to guests.

The scrub being cleared is highly flammable, so not a desirable feature and hopefully it will break down into good mulch.

A labyrinth is under construction in a previously cleared area and should be completed for day visitors to walk in time for the Winter Solstice.

Additional projects underway are:

  • some collaborations with other Hypnotherapists and we hope to see some exciting new therapy options to come out of these discussions
  • the revival of the Melbourne Chapter of IACT, (International Association of Counsellors and Therapists) with meetings scheduled to be held on the 2nd Monday of each month (unless there is a public holiday).