Category Archives: restoration

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 They have now been replaced by Capeweed, which has bright yellow petals and a black centre.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.


Settling in at the Retreat

Summer has been long and hot and with the threat of bushfires, particularly as we are reasonably close to the Rushworth State Forest, trips to the retreat have been dependent on checking out weather conditions and deciding if we want to be there in the heat or stay home and have the option of a pool to slide into to cool down!
Being self employed gives a little more flexibility and we decided to add an extra day either side of the Labor Day public holiday to avoid traffic and have more time to do “stuff”.
Packing the car has become an art form as necessities (& luxuries) are taken up there and left….

Luxuries like 4 matching banana lounges….perfect for star gazing!
Sitting in a normal deck chair to watch the satellites and stars, results in a cricked neck if you do it for too long, so the banana lounges are ideal, even if they are a little low to the ground…..

The shed has become a cooking area, with gas camping stove, electric frypan, Dad’s old toaster and benchtop oven and even a donated microwave….
A comfy 3 seater lounge and chairs (also Dad’s old furniture) are also stored in the shed.
This last visit saw the installation of a roman blind over one of the shed windows to reduce the sun fading the fabric on the sofa  and there have been discussions about installing a roof vent and insulation to make it more pleasant to be in (hot in summer and no doubt it will be chilly in winter).

About 10 acres of the block is covered with a bush that is locally considered a nuisance, but not a noxious weed. It has grown too high to use the slasher, so the only other option was to attach a grader blade to the tractor.
Only problem was that the blade was seized stuck with rust from being in the open.
With a little work (& diesel and oil mix) and pushing up against a strong tree, the attachment loosened up and Michael and a friend, Rod, began the task of flattening the bushes by driving over them and dragging the blade behind. More comfortable than sitting for some time, twisting backwards as the tractor is reversed over the bushes.
Hot and dusty work and the aging tractor began to make some ominous noises from the gear box.
Most of the area treated this way has stayed flat over a two week  period and is dying off. The flattened bushes can be removed by hand and stacked up, ready to burn once the fire season is over, but this is labour intensive and I’m not so keen on having piles of flammable material, whereas if it is flat it may mulch down.
Another alternative is to find a fencing contractor who specializes in brush fencing and offer them the option to harvest it for free. That way they will get their fencing materials and we will get rid of the bushes!

The composting toilet is working well, using 20 litre buckets, recycled from the local (city) chicken & chip shop, sawdust from the hardware store and we picked up some mulch from a roadside heap that was created after the bushfires near Kilmore. The intent is to leave the sealed buckets for 12 months or more to get rid of any pathogens & then add them to a compost heap to break down further.
This will then be used on the planned fruit and nut tree grove.
I hope to install a second composting toilet in the cottage in the near future and the ceramic pan (which was not hooked up to anything and lacked a cistern) has been removed, leaving much more space in the shower room.
The previous owners left behind a chemical toilet, but that requires some nasty chemicals, water and a disposal pit,  although it has been suggested that a homebrand nappy soaker is more environmentally friendly.

On to more pleasant topics….
The visit at the end of February involved cleaning the lichen off the fibreglass dome. Washing it off also washed off the top gel coat of the fibreglass and we were left with a milky white liquid.
Fortunately, the camper trailer we have is fibreglass and the manufacturers included a bottle of fibreglass polish and wax…. only thing was that we didn’t have it with us on that trip. So Labor Day weekend saw the application of said wax early in the morning, before the heat and flies became a problem. Luckily the dome roof rotates, so I was able to move that around and work in the shade most of the time. The eastern walls had to be polished in the evening!

The idea behind having this place is create a retreat.. both for myself and my family but eventually having a space for practitioners who might need some time out to live simply for a few days.

This requires some preparation… energetically clearing the space, using Reiki and feng shui and adding some comforts.
Using the Autumn Equinox was perfect timing to start some serious energy work.

I brought up some Tibetan Prayer Flags on this trip and installed them around what will be a central gathering /fire pit area.

In this way, their energy will be working for the space even when I am not there.
Their vibrant colours will fade in time and the breeze over the weekend kept them active, adding to the energy.

The colours of the sunset on the night of the Equinox faded quickly, but I managed to capture them on the phone camera as I was having a wander around looking for a site to build the labyrinth.  Originally I had thought that a flattish area to the west would be ideal, but it is just a little too close to the neighbours. Then I thought down between the two dams….. but in winter that area will be quite boggy (if there are good rains).
Trusting that the right place would be revealed as I explored more, I continued to meditate.
Some time alone the next morning allowed me to do a really good energy cleansing of the cottage, which I finished off by cleaning the windows and adding Reiki symbols all around.
 Curiously the sliding door screen stuck fast when I opened it, and I couldn’t move it at all.
Michael returned from his expedition to the Aboriginal Waterhole at Whroo and inspected the damage. It was decided that a visit to the hardware store in Heathcote would be in order, to get new parts for the door.  That done, the door still refused to move freely on the tracks….. Too late for a return trip, it was decided to make a repeat trip the next day.
No part available …. so a road trip to Bendigo was in order to a larger hardware chain. A bit of a wander around and a late lunch eaten in a park, then back to the retreat.
The new parts (hangers) were fitted to the top of the door and just as the door was moved…… crack…. both parts broke.
We had been gone 4 hours on the return trip to get those parts…….
Luckily, Michael can think laterally, so he used screws we had bought from the Rushworth hardware store to install the roman blind, to connect the broken bits together and eventually we had a screen door that opens and closes as it should……. what a day!!

An old yabbie net had turned up on our explorations, so some left over meat was put into an onion bag and tied securely, and the net tossed into the top dam. A couple of hours later, there was a yabbie having a feast…. disentangled and it scarpered back into the muddy water. Later that evening, when we checked with Peter who had come over from his place at Redcastle, all the meat had gone .. & so had the yabbies!!
We had another go on Sunday morning and caught 2 more. One with half a claw missing…. and both back into the water…
Apparently they have to be purged in fresh water for about a week before eating… so the net from home will go up and the yabbies may become an Easter feast……
As I went for a last minute wander on Sunday after packing up, I came across a space that somehow I have missed before.
Towards the Eastern boundary, yet quite private.

 A bit more of a slope than I would prefer, but that could add to the sensory experience…
It feels as if it is the right place for a labyrinth….

 And just a little further to the East ….
…….a small clearing, almost circled perfectly by some trees….

I can see the potential to put benches in the spaces between the trees and a small fire pit to do some circle work……..

Australia Day working bee

The Friday before dawned cool and damp. Heavy rain in the metropolitan area and some forecast for the bush, but unless you are there, it’s difficult to know how much will actually fall.
We set off just before lunchtime, this time taking a packed lunch as we didn’t want to sample either the delights of fast food (ugh!!) or the local bakery in Heathcote. Traffic was a little heavier than expected for the time of day and it was bothersome to realize that we had left the keys to the shed and dome behind. Luckily we weren’t yet on the tollway, so we took the next exit and returned home to fetch the keys.
A couple of projects had been planned, so we had the ladder, some pavers and a water pump loaded.

First project to tackle was sorting out the gas bottle.

With a decided lean on it, the regulator had started to come away from its fastening on the wall.

The paver supporting it was not only a little too small but had subsided since the original installation.

A larger paver had been purchased and this one was going to be re-purposed for the next project.

The bullants generously donated some of their ant sand/gravel to seat the new, larger paver & in return got some food scraps later.

The next project was a little larger.

We had been generously gifted a tank stand by a friend, whose copper tank once graced it…..until some unfriendly passers by “liberated” it.
It was the perfect size to relocate the 500litre tank next to the cottage.
The tank had been installed with no room to add pipes to take the overflow away, so any excess water flowed directly onto the wall of the cottage and onto the ground.
A half brick held the downpipe in place at the top of the tank.

In order to move the tank, the water needed to be drained.
Rather than wasting it, some was pumped into clean 20litre drums and the remainder pumped into the main concrete tank.
The residual was tipped out and allowed the silt that had build up to clear from the bottom of the tank.

Gingerly, we rolled the tank away from its base……

The bottom of the tank was rounded from the weight of the water once the original wooden stand had rotted away.

Also resident was a large redback spider and a family of fat huntsman spiders lurking in the holes of the bricks……

The redback was dispatched to its maker and the huntsman spiders scuttled off to find other accommodation.

Gloves on, the rocks and bricks were carefully removed to reveal how badly rotted the timber supports were.

Lifted off with a shovel and put aside they will eventually form part of the environment or be used once the firebans are lifted as small kindle for the evening fire.

The tankstand was set in place and the pavers lined up.

A little work to level them all out, then the empty tank was lifted up onto it, and some work done to shorten the down pipe.

The overflow was placed away from the house and will have pipe plumbed in to divert the water away from the cottage.

The tap was located (to the right in this photo) so as to make it easier for hand washing and shelf will be added later.
A small retaining wall was built to divert the natural runoff away from the pavers and eventually garden drains will be added as part of the plans to have paved areas around the cottage.
 The leftover bricks were used to form a platform for the rubbish bin which is currently used to collect greywater from the kitchenette and also form part of a temporary splashback for any overflow if the tank fills.
Water from the 20litre containers was pumped back into the tank to provide weight, so that any strong winds don’t catch the tank and blow it away.

Another project that was underway on Saturday was the restoration of the futon mattress.
A distinct “parfum le chat”  assailed the nostrils on awakening and the mattress was removed out into the central area and washed with a mixture of laundry detergent and PineOClean.  A parting gift from the mad cat that lives downstairs……
Perhaps the cleanse and a couple of days of strong UV would restore it to almost new….

Sunday’s projects were a little less obvious, but still industrious.

With plenty of sunscreen on, the dirt and lichen was removed from half of the Observatory.
From a distance the lichen looks like holes and can’t be good for the fibreglass.
Two buckets – one of soapy water and alternating between the use of a scrubbing brush and a tea towel, the dirt was cleaned off.  The other bucket was for rinsing off the grime.
 It was easier at times to pick/peel the lichen off once it was moistened.  
Heat and flies got the better of us and we retired for lunch.

More projects are planned over the coming months, such as creating either a paved area around the cottage or constructing a verandah.

Sunday afternoon saw the temporary placement of “pegs” to mark out the proposed area.

This is something to contemplate for a while as drainage needs to be considered.

Later in the afternoon, an amble down to the front boundary fence to check out what needs to be mowed, slashed or fixed.
Apart from the gate posts, there are a number of posts that have rotted or been damaged by falling trees, so there is no possibility of having any animals on the property for agistment.
The local kangaroos have well worn pathways where the fallen branches have flattened the fences.
Again, another job to be put on hold for when we can safely use the chainsaw.