Category Archives: extraordinary life

Stories from the Outback

What a lot of memories flooded back on reading an article in the travel section of the weekend newspaper…

Apart from the retreat …..which is sort of bush……..but not really…….. it’s a 40acre residential block surrounded by some light forest and farms, I’ve seriously missed being “Outback”.  My love affair with the red dirt began at age 11 when my father took a position as shopkeeper at Tarcoola on the Transcontinental Railway, just two years after arriving in Australia as “Ten Pound Poms”. We exchanged the bright lights of Adelaide for the bright starlight nights of a village on the edge of the Nullabor Plain and we children exchanged our “posh” English accents for an Aussie drawl…. We experienced the shimmer of the heat above the railway line as it snaked into the distance,  learned to look both into the distance and close by, to spot any movement (snakes) and danced in the dust as the first fat raindrops fell in a long time.

The store, with adjoining house was one of the few stone buildings and we lived a few meters from the railway as the goods were unloaded directly from the train into the shop. We all pitched in on days that the Tea and Sugar arrived. Circular crates of tetra pack milk were taken to the coolroom. The butcher’s van attached to the train did a roaring trade in fresh meat and samples of clothes were inspected and orders put in with Dad to relay to the bigger Commonwealth store in Port Augusta and to arrive on the next goods train. The train also brought movies and eagerly looked forward to and I seem to remember that film nights were held in a hall next to the pub.

The families of the fettlers lived a little way back from the railway – neat weather board houses all in a row and further up the hill, built during the gold rush, was the stone/brick schoolhouse.  In those years it was just 2 rooms – one for the “bubs” and another for the bigger kids – all eight of us – with different work for the different year levels we were in and I was the only one in my year level. Once a week, the girls went into the “bubs room” to do needlework with the teacher’s wife who taught the little ones.  Some of the other  school work we did together, such as having to rote learn poems, which I never got the hang of….

There was one about Ozymandius….

I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them on the sand,
Half sunk, a shatter’d visage lies, whose frown
And wrinkled lip and sneer of cold command
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamp’d on these lifeless things,
The hand that mock’d them and the heart that fed.
And on the pedestal these words appear:
“My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!”
Nothing beside remains: round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,
The lone and level sands stretch far away.

Which probably summed up the despair of the teacher as he struggled in the heat and with having to teach such a diverse group of students.

Spare time was spent roaming on the bicycles… always with the caution to stay on the roads as there were old gold mines in the area and keep the railway line in sight. Swathes of Sturt Desert Peas brightened up the landscape …the red and black in start contrast to the greenish leaves. I don’t think they were supposed to, but the train drivers would often stop and pick some on their return towards Pt Augusta for their wives.  Most of the time we roamed westwards towards an ancient escarpment, which in later years I discovered has some of the oldest rocks in the world.  Curiously we hardly ever went in the direction of Kingoonya, the next village towards the south. The highlight of the year was the race day at Mulgathing Station which was about 40km away. No 4WD in those days, we piled into to the trusty Holden EJ and off we went.

Then it was time for me to leave…. The school only catered for primary education and I was to go to Port Augusta for high school. Dad, having previously worked at Woomera, which was closer was adamant that it wasn’t the place for me to be. So the day before school started, I boarded the Transcontinental train with Mum and we went down to Pt Augusta. I met the family I was to board with and then Mum returned on the next train back that evening. This began the longest school term of my life. I loved school, but I wasn’t fitting in and I was stuck there until the holidays in May when I could return home.

Then in the middle of Term 2, I got a message to say that Mum & Dad had decided to move on from Tarcoola and we were heading to Western Australia. They packed up their belongings and put the car on a flat bed  carriage and as soon as I returned from school we set off .. this time on the “Tea and Sugar”, stopping at all stations on it’s way to Kalgoorlie. We had a compartment pretty much to ourselves and ate and slept in that. No refrigeration and I had memories of being violently ill in the main street of Kalgoorlie after a bung sandwich. Dad looked around for work for a couple of days and I don’t think they realized how far or remote Kalgoorlie was from Perth …. we set off in the Holden and arrived late one evening in Perth. After our sojourn in the outback, we were now back in the “big smoke”!

The next time I was “Outback” was as teenager, riding my 450cc Honda east across the unsealed Nullabor Plain road, a trip I was to make another 15 times over the years as I visited my parents who had settled in Western Australia.

Life, children, teaching all happened for many years and while we were discussing the purchase of a new car, I expressed that I would like to get a vehicle that I could go “off road” in from time to time. We ended up with a Nissan Patrol and the first trip was to Cape York. Quite a different adventure to Central Australia. Other trips were planned & taken…. Fraser Island (where to the amusement of teenage children, I got “air” under the wheels as I misjudged a creek crossing along the beach),  the old Ghan Railway line and Central Australia and back to the Cape. Another trip to Central Australia and a detour back to Tarcoola. We had to get special permits to travel through Commonwealth land – part of the Woomera rocket range and found the town closed down. The old house was boarded up with warning signs of asbestos and the pub was shut. The school had been extended to cope with the expansion when the Ghan Railway was re-routed through because of frequent flooding on the old track. They had even built a swimming pool! And I recalled the lines of the poem that I had found so difficult to remember…..

Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!”
Nothing beside remains: round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,
The lone and level sands stretch far away.

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Magic

greenhood-orchids With good winter and spring rains and some sunshine, Mother Nature has woven her magic and produced some beautiful plants to admire now that the land has lain fallow for several seasons and mulched with last season’s grasses and biddy bush.

Swathes of greenhood orchids, just gently nodding their heads in the breeze. I did chuckle when reading the gardening notes for them as these have sprung up out of heavy clay and have had no attention whatsoever.

Billy ButtonsSpring brings a colour palette of yellow….. first the wattles… with different varieties blooming over a period of time.  The longest lasting blooms are the pale, almost white wattles that have spikey branches.  This year has brought forward thesedrosera-3 tiny button like flowers that have carpeted the anthills and have started to die back.  Walking about, not only keeping an eye out for reptiles that may be stirring from their winter hiatus, the eye catches other small plants such as Droseras. Starting off as a small rosette of leaves, these grow into delicate plants that gently sway in the breeze, topped by a small pinkish white flower. They are carnivorous, but have yet to make any inroads into the thriving mosquito population.

CapeweedThe rains have also meant a bumper crop this year throughout the district of Capeweed. The yellow daisy like flowers with a dark centre are particularly attractive to the bees and I’m hoping that the local apiarist is getting some good quality honey. wildflower-2

In the afternoon light, there appears to be a patch of feathers in a stony area. Closer inspection reveals it not to be feathers, but tiny delicate irises, no more than four to five centimetres high.  The habit of carrying a camera on any expedition pays off, as the flowers have gone by the morning. Initially, I thought that the wildlife may have eaten them, but on a subsequent visit, noticed that by early evening the flowers had wilted and shriveled and later that night, by the light of a torch and with no wildlife in sight all that was left was the thin strappy leaves.

New Acquisitions

WattleI love the way the wattle just seems to explode with exuberance from the tight buds into fluffy, exquisitely scented pom poms after a drab and chilly winter.

The yellow stands out against the green paddocks which also yield a secret not seen before…..a combination, I have concluded, that is a mixture of more than adequate rains and the paddocks lying fallow for the past two and a half years. natural insect control

From a distance it looks as if the grass in places is starting to yellow, but on closer inspection the grass is found to be swathes of sundews – a carnivorous plant! Starting off as tiny, delicate roundels, the plant matures and has a small almost insignificant flower that tops it. They are growing in and around the large labyrinth – so it may be that the rings of the labyrinth are acting as swales to hold the New but old.... seating in the labyrinthmoisture in the soil.

A perfect place to observe these plants is from the first of the new additions to the retreat.

Spring not only brings the wildflower season, but a hard rubbish collection in the city.  So the first of the new acquisitions was a swing chair found in a pile for kerbside collection. Permission was sought from the owner and it was dismantled and re- assembled to be a labyrinth viewing and meditation seat. Newer cushions were discovered on a different pile and replaced!

green hood orchidsI was excited to discover a single green hood orchid on my walk down to the lower dam a few weeks back and even more so to green hood orchidsfind them growing in abundance in the back paddock. I had to chuckle at the growing notes on several sites… not grown in soil, water and fertilize frequently – these are in heavy clay and exist on whatever rainfall has come this way and are fertilized by kangaroos and hares (which have left them alone).

new chairsThe newest acquisition came about from a conversation about the first. A colleague’s neighbour was downsizing and had just put out a set of 4 garden chairs for her hard rubbish collection. I followed my colleague home and stacked them in the back of the 4WD and here they are! Perfect for sitting around the fire pit and much more civilized than camping chairs!

 

 

 

 

 

5 steps to overcoming overwhelm

  1. When you are in overwhelm, it is helpful to think about what it is that you can do right now. By looking at the task as a whole and believebreaking it down into smaller, achievable tasks and thinking small for a moment, you will accomplish more. If there is a lack of movement in your life, consider how you can best use this time to move forward. When you have done that, look at today as the beginning of something new and positive, whilst letting go of the past.
  2. Declutter… you know the old adage…..” a tidy desk equals a tidy mind”…. But it’s more than that.. as you declutter; not only your desk, but your life… you free yourself to see a clear horizon and perhaps to answer your life purpose… Acknowledge that the journey is difficult at times. What skills, abilities do you already possess that will enable you to accomplish the tasks ahead? Look at what is positive in your life already……and try to go one day without any complaints….
  3. Believe in abundance. Trust that you can contribute to the Universe … to feel fear and lack is human…. Go into that feeling and learn from it and trust in the process of life…. map out on paper – or a white board – all the good things in your life already… we learn through the hard work that we do. Use your logic, your intuition and your spirituality to infuse your feelings so you become stronger and clearer.
  4. Consider your strengths…..see the light in others and see it reflected in you…..Use your experiences to make yourself stronger and more resilient. Be aware of self deception, we all make good and bad choices, but what is important is to be aware that they are yours…..
  5. Rest and relaxation. Are you getting enough rest or downtime? To do your best you need to have some time out. As written in the Four Agreements, “ You are alive , so take your life and enjoy it…” Set an intention to be in a state of joy and happiness, tune out anxiety and the daily worries to allow a space for enthusiasm and balance to be a part of every aspect of your life.

Personal Power

change from a bud to blossomIt’s curious how the mind works… we can overthink a situation or a problem and tie ourselves up in emotional knots, getting stressed or overwrought …. yet when we finally allow ourselves to feel the rhythm of life and go with the flow of nature’s wisdom, we can blossom.

Perhaps it would be wise to take note of the wisdom of nature and connect with the subconscious mind and begin to acknowledge our innermost dreams. A flower doesn’t evade its life purpose or procrastinate when the time comes to blossom.  It doesn’t seek approval from outside itself…. it takes time to form a bud and then opens up and flowers.  Occasionally there are adverse conditions which may cause it to be vulnerable, but this is a strength…..

Be the gentle gardener of your soul and connect to the universal energy that surrounds us, acknowledge your journey thus far, recognise your self worth, knowledge and open to amazing opportunities as  you blossom……..

Re-arranging the Labyrinth

hole for rose bush in centre of labyrinthA family of rabbits has moved into the area and have been engaged in some major earthworks in and around the labyrinth, the last few months.

No warren sighted yet, but I’m keeping a look out.

However the earthworks in the photo are of my doing!

The Oak tree which showed great promise before being munched down a couple of times was moved over the weekend to stand at the entrance to the labyrinth and a rose bush has been installed in the centre.  Hopefully the thorns will deter the animals, but next trip I will put up some wire to keep it safe.

With the recent rains and the previous application of gypsum, the soil is much easier to dig now and two large holes were preparouter ring and centre redefineded with compost for the plants.

I also took the opportunity to redefine the outlines, removing all traces of the holes that the rabbits made digging out the sage and the garlic plants.

Eventually, there will be something that is not palatable for them. Perhaps they enjoy something a little more exotic than the lush green grass that is starting to sprout!

Another refurbishment of sorts happened with the toilet system.

A “wee diverterWee diverter” arrived and a new toilet was built for me, with the wee now diverted into a pit filled with rocks and ant sand.

As with all projects, nothing is simple although the finished toilet is practical and “throne like”.  Lucky we are tall and there isNew toilet installed a small platform or step being built for shorter people who might visit.  The kit came with the diverter and a polystyrene seat and lid – a little different to the standard toilet seat, but nice for winter!

compostingBuckets are sourced from the local takeaway shop in the city and the sawdust from the local sawmill in Rushworth. Permanent marker is not so permanent in the hot summer sunshine and tags made from aluminum cans with the dates scratched in are attached to the handles. The buckets are sealed for a minimum of 12 months before being used as a soil improver for the ornamental (deciduous) trees that I have been planting.

Collecting seeds is now one of my interests and there’s a shed full of empty pots to start another forest. Currently I’m waiting to see if another 3 oaks have germinated, and have some seed trays with Japanese Maple seeds in them.

Just recently, I gathered some Sheoak seeds and they are ready to plant.  Peppercorns have been sown directly into the soil along a fence line and it will be interesting to see what happens with them. I have asked for some nuts from a friend whose mother has a small orchard, but am thinking that the cockatoos will decimate them.

Next major project is to mend the horizontal fence.  More than a dozen of the old wooden posts have either rotted or been knocked down by kangaroos on their travels and along the length of the the fence is the local phone line. With more than half a kilometre of fence to repair, at this stage ….while the ground is soft… I’m going to get a dozen or so star pickets and put them alongside the fallen posts and wire the fencing to them. At least that will give the illusion of an upright fence!

 

Setting up for New Year

Within youThis time of year can be filled with frantic activity to finish off chores, projects and to socialize, eat, drink and be merry.

It’s important to look after yourself and part of doing the best you can is to make sure that you don’t “burn the candle at both ends” and end up exhausted. Depleting your energy will leave you open to various ills, chills  and mental lethargy that seems to abound at this time of year. Not only that,  both your body and mind need to take a rest so that you can accomplish your future goals. This is particularly important with the round of New Year’s resolutions about to be made. Start your planning now to make realistic and achievable goals.

Firstly, taking time out to rest and rejuvenate is a way of showing love and respect for yourself. Sometimes others may not understand the need for this, but to be able to construct effective goals for the coming year, it is vitally important for you to identify what stressed you out in 2014 and ask yourself a couple of questions,  “What do I really want?”  and ” Why do I want it?”
Once you have the answers to these, write them down. This is the start to an effective goal setting strategy.

Meditation is a great way to have a fresh and rested mind and by setting the intent to do so you can release the worries from this last year with some simple visualization techniques, such as letting go of balloons that have your worries written on them, or clouds scudding across a sky and disappearing over the horizon.

What obstacles are in your way to creating a better year for yourself in 2015? Are they procrastination, being “busy”? Name the obstacles, in order to better plan around them or circumvent them popping up again. Awareness is the key to removing or resolving obstacles.

Who can help you achieve your goals? Or perhaps there are things that you need to put in place……  Be clear about what you want and communicate your needs with courage.

And finally you need a plan of action steps to take ……  there is no point in having goals if you are not going to DO anything.   You can dream all you like, but deep down you know that a goal is a dream with a deadline.

When are you going to implement your goals? Be specific. Take baby steps so you don’t get overwhelmed….. break it down so each step is achievable and moves you closer to your end goal.

Remember to plan for yourself, not what you think others would like you to do…. it means that you are stepping out of your integrity. Embrace the goals you have set for yourself, take a risk, acknowledge yourself and take action and let the universe reward you with abundance and transform your life…..

Feeling seedy

Overgrown labyrinthThe good winter rains meant that there is a variety of grasses that sprung up to replace some of the weeds that also popped up in the labyrinth. These have now all seeded and the labyrinth has taken on an unkempt appearance.  A trial of sawdust as a pathway covering has mixed success. It feels lovely to walk on and the tannins in the wood have begun to leach out of the damp, underlayer, but a couple of hardy plants have poked their heads through and flowered.

The lawnmower will be packed for the next trip, but before it can be mowed, I will have to remove any rocks from the pathway.

The wildlife has taken a fancy to the garlic planted in the outer marking ring.  It took off really well and in the two weeks since the last visit,  has been munched, so my vision of having a nice summer crop of organic garlic to share has evaporated.  I guess there are a few garlic flavoured kangaroos and rabbits hopping about……as the chap over the back with the shotgun may well find out. I’m sure that’s why they all hang out at my place!!

oak remnantUnfortunately the wildlife also took a fancy to the Oak tree seedling in the centre of the labyrinth. Fortunately there was a strong green stem with a tiny bud to one side remaining.

Having planned to plant out the other dozen Oak tree seedlings over the weekend,  I had brought up tomato stakes and tree guards to protect them, so one was immediately seconded for this little tree.

Oak within a tree guardI’m hoping that this will give it a second chance.  It’s all a learning experience…..! There’s a possibility of returning to an original idea of building a fence around the labyrinth, but I do like the wide open spaces around it.  As yet the wildlife hasn’t got hungry enough to eat the sage or the lavender, so fingers crossed they won’t!!

I’ve found a flat, well flattish, area to build the next labyrinth. Out in the middle of the paddock…. but it will have to wait until the little thistle patch is under control.

I’m often asked what I’m growing on the block and I think people expect a response like “Wheat/barley/grapes or sheep/goats/cows”…  so far it’s weeds……. lots of weeds……

Biddy bush, Capeweed, onion weed, little thistles, mistletoe, dodder laurel, rabbits, roos and I’m sure there are more that I haven’t learnt the names of yet….

I needed to dig a dozen holes to put the city Oak tree seedlings in, so it was decided that they would form an outer ring to a Chartres style labyrinth in another spot. Firstly I had to find the spot and then mark out the compass points for the labyrinth. Using a compass, I marked out the cardinal points. It’s too early to decide whether to enter from the East or West, that will come later. The stakes were a little hard to hammer in as the soil is a heavy clay that has contracted and is starting to crack. Being a novice, I managed to hit my hand a few times!

Just measuring out the cardinal points was hot work! The temperature in the shade up near the cottage was in the low 30’s C, and I didn’t really want to know how warm it would be out in the open paddock.

Next, I needed to measure out where the Oaks would go….. so another circle was measured – allowing at least a  10 meter space for the Oaks to grow and not interfere with the labyrinth or each other. It was in marking this out, I realized that I wouldn’t have enough stakes to protect the Oak seedlings.

Sunday morning presented a different problem. The stakes that I had used for the outer ring (and were to be used for tree guards) were too flimsy and the travelling kangaroos had snapped some off near the base….so  the decision was made to take the Oak seedlings back to the city,  chance re-potting them into bigger pots until they became dormant again. The thinking behind this is to give them a better chance of surviving a hot, waterless summer and the roaming roos, whilst also giving me time to get the holes dug and the stakes in place (without the trees inside) to test how they will stand up to the traffic!

 

 

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……..

Gardening for the Soul

change from a bud to blossom

Well, I’m thinking that time has come….

This site will undergo a relaunch in the next few weeks (Spring/Autumn  – it doesn’t really matter where you are) … if the branch isn’t growing, then it’s time to prune it, to allow for new growth and the flowers to bloom….

For too long I have defined myself by the studies I’ve done, partly as a need for recognition.

I’m ditching the courses – they will go online for people to download if they are interested – just a matter of finding the right platform to deliver them automatically ( & at a reasonable price).

Most of my clients are seeking solutions to their stress and with that in mind, I have been taking some training lately that I feel will be most beneficial to both clients and their workplaces.

In between, there is still the development of the retreat – especially the labyrinth and sowing the seeds of various herbs to plant out when they reach a more robust stage – very much how the business is growing! It doesn’t work to plant a seed and continue to watch and wait for it to emerge for more than one season – you replant with a hardier variety!!

So watch this space….