field trips and farm tours

Hey readers,

We have had another gigantic week…that’s the only way they seem to be coming right now! Since making the decision 3 weeks ago, things have really been moving forward. With only 8 weeks until Michelle closes her Psychology practice and 10 weeks before we need to be packed, cleaned and out of this house – there’s a stack of stuff to organise. And we are squeezing in a trip to the gorgeous Hunter Valley to see Dolly Parton before we move out of Byron Bay.

Despite how much there is to do, we are managing to stay quite focused, and are making sure we take time out to relax, see friends, and spend time to normal activities. We want this process to feel good along the way; we continue to use each challenge as an opportunity to be closer and learn more about ourselves as each other. Having said that, we have been tired this last couple of days, so there’s been some grumpiness and silly miscommunications. This adventure is taking us to deeper and deeper levels of team-work, love, and faith. With such a short space of time, and so little resources at our finger tips, we really need everything to fall into place…and so far that’s exactly what has been happening.

One of these happy coincidences was meeting a man called Jhon – who we heard about through a good friend. On Saturday morning we spent four hours with Jhon talking about and visiting eco-built cabins. Jhon is a self-taught builder who lives on a community in the hills behind Mullumbimby. He has built his own amazing eco-home and helped to build several others on the community and on surrounding properties. His knowledge base was astounding and we felt truly blessed to spend time with him. We learned a whole lot about what is possible on a smallish budget ($5000-$40,000). We were kinda hoping he might be able to build us a little cabin sometime in the future, but he told us up front, the travel doesn’t suit him. However, he said that he is really happy to be our project advisor and that we can call him anytime for advice about our building project. He even invited us to watch him develop a new project he is working on so we can get some direct experience – because of course neither of us have ever done anything like this in our lives!

Rachel & Jhon approaching one of the houses built on his community; and (below) Rachel starting to get a little overwhelmed....

Bathroom with absolutely stunning view through the valley

Jhon invited us back to share in the adventure as he converts an old Banana shed (see below) into a new eco-guest house. This is how the shed looks now. It will be such a valuable learning experience if we have the time to get back and help out or watch it develop.

Looking forward to seeing how this Banana shed progresses

After this, overwhelmed, informed, inspired, we went for a bite to eat at a local cafe. The only topic of conversation over lunch was how blessed we are feeling right now…to have met such an amazing individual, who offered so much time free of charge, having never met us. There’s such generosity in people and it is really a moving thing to be the recipient of it! As our friends said last week, people will want to support this project – and that certainly seems to be coming true.

On Tuesday this week we had our last day at TAFE for this first term. We spent the morning practicing propagation through plant division (basically when you take an existing plant and pull it apart to create new plants). Some of the plants suitable for this kind of propagation are: Ginger; Potato; Mint; Native Violet; Apple Blossom (Hippeastrum); Peace Lily (Spathiphyllum); Society Garlic (Tulbaghia violacea); Dahlia’s and certain grasses.

Our Dog Safari dynamic duo, Julie & Peter, had asked us a few weeks back if we were learning anything at TAFE that might help them with a bare patch of lawn in their garden. We didn’t – but said we would look into it.  Upon enquiring, our teacher Mark said we just needed some shade tolerant grass varieties and that we would be propagating these in a future class. Well the day had arrived and so of course we decided to propagate some grass. When we saw Julie & Peter later that day and explained that we shall have some new grass for them in 2 weeks they were really happy. Julie especially would love to be doing this course with us, but time doesn’t allow for her that in her life right now, so she’s keen to learn everything she can vicariously through us! Every week we drop Harry off she asks us what we have been learning and we tell her all we can! Its cool when people are excited about learning.

After completing this project we headed out to the garden to harvest some Asian Greens which had exploded with growth, and were starting to ‘bolt’ (which means go to seed and the veggies lose their good taste). So we salvaged some as well as about 7 artichokes from the garden. The weather has been perfect growing weather – rain, followed by sun, followed by rain…and then the temperature just bolted this past week too – so we went from averages of 13-19 degrees to 28 degrees Celsius in one week!

The afternoon saw our class taking a field trip to non other than Summit Organics – ‘our’ beloved farm. It was exciting taking everyone there, as they have become part of our journey and we sort of felt like proud parents! Here are some photos from our tour with Rod Bruin, head honcho at Summit and one of our favourite peoples:

Oh yes! Everyone loves a tractor

Walking to the veggie gardenRod waxes lyrical about his crops

Rod, Mark & Wendy our classmate in amongst the greens 🙂

Our class taking in the views from the top garden

The food and the views impressed everyone. Rod spoke about the importance of building the organic matter in the soil, about keeping it creative as a farmer, as well as managing your risk. It was fantastic to listen to him speak, his passion for what he does is so authentic and captivating. Also it was awesome for us to be able to just wander around the farm, which we haven’t really done since we first started there 4 months ago – too busy weeding. Here is a youtube video of a Farm Walk which Rod & Tan hosted in May 2010 – this will give you a personal experience similar to the Farm Tour we had on Tuesday.

After the farm tour, everyone went back to school on the bus and we drove home with a box of veggies for Jhon to say thank you for helping us, and 2 boxes of sweet potatoes for Santos Wholefoods Store in Byron Bay.

Wednesday was a massive day at the farm – a weed killing frenzy! It’s such fun killing weeds. So meditative, so grounding. Brings you into your body in a big way. We pretty much got all the weeds under control, only leaving some in the strawberry patch for the Permie students from the Permaculture College Australia who are visiting later this week to get some practical experience. On the way home from the farm we went to pick up Harry our pooch from Dog Safari and helped show Julie and Pete how to prune their Citrus trees properly – its great having skills to share. We receved a yummy bakery treat for our drive home as thanks :.

In other news this week, Rachel has been researching shipping containers for us to store some personal items in when we shift to the farm. We are planning to use it as a large pantry/art shed with a few household items in storage at the rear. Rachel is working on feel – this means if it feels good talking to the person, and they are helpful and have the product we need then we will probably choose them. Looks like we can rent one at under $100 a month, which will mean less initial outlay up front, and that we are not stuck with it if we don’t need it in future.

We heard from Tania that our recipes have been going down really well at the markets. Carrot & Coriander sales went up when people caught wind of the Carrot Top & Coriander Pesto and the Sweet Potato Pudding has got some devoted fans. For us its all about making good organic food more accessible to people and helping them to utilise more of what they buy at the market stall. Twelve months ago we didn’t know what to do with Beetroot leaves or Carrot tops, but now we do and its fun sharing that knowing with others. We have to thank Stephanie Alexander for being the inspiration behind much of our cooking and seasonal recipes….although we really enjoy being creative in the kitchen and are trying to adapt and improve on everything.

Our goal this weekend it to gather all our smaller possessions into a pile to sort and take to the local Car Boot sale. We need to do some fairly serious downsizing if we are going to fit ourselves into a caravan and a shipping container! We are both quite excited about clearing out ‘stuff’ and Rachel calls it her Thoreau moment (aka Walden). We are also working out which of our bigger items to keep or sell. Fridge is coming, fold out futons are going etc…

Whew! Reckon that’s enough from us for one week…Have a great week wherever you are in the world 🙂

Rachel, Michelle & Harry

Adventures in Growing


6 thoughts on “field trips and farm tours

  1. Incredible – that scenery is incredible. You know I never knew Oz had scenery like this. I’d always thought it was quite barren and dusty (sorry folks). It wasn’t until I was watching some Australian TV show about some search and rescue team recently that I realised you have vast swathes of forest like this (or is it considered jungle?). You must be tremendously excited at the moment… I’m looking forward to seeing how it comes along! 🙂

    • hi Charles, we do have some spectacular scenery in Australia – but it’s our deserts and beaches that receive the most attention worldwide, so you shouldn’t apologise for having a skewed perspective. We call these areas ‘bush’ or ‘rainforest’ rather than ‘jungle’ or ‘forest’. There are some patches of rainforest on the farm, but mostly its bushland. Just found this youtube of a farm walk done last year which is similar to the farm tour we had on Tuesday with our class: …thought you and others might enjoy seeing it and meeting Rod and Tania…P.S. You bet we are excited!!

  2. Wowsers, you gals are inspirational!! I’m hanging to eat some more of your sweet potato pie from your friends house – wowsers – the view from the bathtub is amazing!! BOOK ME IN!! Remember, there is always space in our shed if you wanna come create some space there….Keep up the positive vibes gals xoxox

    • Hey Chris, we can’t wait to have you visit us at the farm!!! Unfortunately the bathtub lives somewhere else – but its not a bad view hey!! It sure gave us some ideas…thanks for the offer re a place to live, we might take you up on that one day! Or maybe you’ll come live with us and have your own outdoor bathroom 🙂

    • Hi Susan, thanks for dropping by and saying hello. Have added a video of a Farm Walk that Rod & Tan held at the farm last year ( and this morning I have fleshed out some of the story above a little more. There’s been so much happening, and I am finding its quite a task to relate the ‘stuff’ that happens, and then drop deeper to relate the ‘growing, learning, feeling’ level of our life right now. Anyway, great to have your support and equinox blessings dear one 🙂

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