Garden

Becoming a Farmer

January 10, 2015

I used to spend all my time and energy looking for perfect waves. Although I still love surfing, my young family and our small farm are constantly changing my life balance… for the better.

Becoming a farmer, not that I can lay claim to this by any means, is a strange path. It is a combination of romanticism, realism and hard work. I have never been great at hard work, especially physical. Farming requires a lot of this. There are commitments and routines, all of which I have had a particular phobia to. Yet I am transitioning. Maybe age is mellowing me but I like it. Hard work contrasts the ‘soft work’ of my day job. There is always something to learn.

It is nice to be able to have a concept and then pursuit it. Between my wife and I, we come up with ideas, like a biodynamic flower farm, then try and make it happen. Then the concept broadens; horses for manure, then to ride. Now cows, miniature cows, miniature cows to breed, miniature cows to breed and milk… and make cheese. The ideas consume us and our finances, like those people building boats in the middle of dry land that may one day get to the ocean, so too do we follow our ideas.

However, what starts as romantic thoughts of the naïve, soon become enlightened with the harsh daylight of reality. Take our plans to have cattle. First the fences needed to be done, then we needed water, then we realized we had weeds that needed clearing, then an area to handle the cattle, then electric fencing to rotationally graze, then a tractor. What starts out simple soon becomes monstrous. Somehow we make it happen, as an older farmer friend told me, “what I don’t do today, I do tomorrow.” In all honesty the significant driving force to get things done is cash- not derived from farming.

I like how cool farming is. You can wear a cowboy hat and drive a ute. Use a chainsaw, drive a digger. Have hay in your car and talk cows and horses. You can use a mattock- a very manly tool that makes you feel like a convict breaking rocks. You can even wear your gumboots to the beach for a surf check, (they make great après ski boots also). There are cool magazines about farming – Modern Farmer mag is for hipsters that actually do something. Horse magazines are mind blowing, so much gear- a six-horse float with kitchen and bedroom included.

One sad consequence of the enlightenment process is that I can no longer look at an open field and see it as a beautiful whole. I see it in parts- the weeds, the condition of the fences, the irrigation system, the pasture type.

After 15 years in the same profession it is very refreshing to learn new skills and do new tasks. I will never be a real farmer, but the insights I get with our small farm help me enjoy other, less obvious pleasures in life than chasing perfect waves. I like to sweat. I like to train a horse. I get gooey seeing a baby calf no bigger than a Labrador, and just as friendly. Plants growing. Rain falling. Rain stopping and sun shining. Simple pleasures.

Note to reader- give me a perfect wave anytime over pulling weeds.

 

 

Photography by And the Trees.

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Festivals and Celebrations

July 1, 2014

We need to celebrate life. We need spirituality. Yet celebrating can be hard, when there seems to be a chasm between what we are celebrating and how we are doing it. What goes on in our modern society at times like Christmas and Easter seemed devoid of any meaning, Santa’s face brands everything, but no pictures of the birthday boy, Jesus. Nauseating amounts of chocolate eggs but no question ‘why the egg?’

Having a family of our own, my wife and I really struggled to see how these manifestations captured the beauty of these distant celebrations. I had a wonderful childhood and I did not want to deny these celebrations for my children. The passion and devotion expressed in my wife’s home country, Mexico, on religious ceremonies is a stark contrast. Ecstatic believers crawling across city streets on bloodied knees or nailing themselves to wooden structures. Not to be outdone in our part of the world, I have seen equally passionate acts at the festive season, in my workplace – the emergency department, with stomachs rupturing from the over enthusiastic consumption of just one fork too much Christmas turkey.

How were we going to bring celebration to our young children’s lives when the beauty seemed to have been sold out or painfully incongruous with our beliefs?

Initially, we thought we could invent our own celebrations- Whale day was the first day we saw the whales swimming up the coast, Frangipani day, the first bloom on the tree. Still fabulous days, they did not gain much traction. Then we discovered the world of Steiner and Waldorf education. Luckily, this prolific gentleman saved us from our need to reinvent humanity or partake in the creation of plastic landfill from exchanging gifts. We now had a template and a full calendar of festivals and celebrations that resonated with our family. More importantly, we had an insight into the essence and meanings of our society’s sometimes incomprehensible festivals.

Waldorf celebrates the major Christian festivals; the focus however is not on excess consumption of food, alcohol or plastic ware. The celebrations are times to reflect on nature, family, religious belief and self. The rituals are quite austere yet beautiful. They require much more fore thought and preparation and in turn seem more rewarding. They seem to tap into the nostalgia of my childhood and into a forgotten spirituality that comforts me, washing away the cynicism of adulthood and feeding a part of myself long neglected. They bring joy and mystery to our young children’s’ lives. It gives us a duality to be able to move within the modern interpretations of age old traditions yet stay true to our own way of being.

Significantly or not, I am writing this at 2am on the longest, darkest night of the year, the winter solstice. Lantern festival season is in full swing. The chance to walk well after dark through piles of dried leaves with an open flame and our children, singing songs about gnomes, has a slight risqué feel, like all the things I was allowed to do in my childhood that I feel now are far too unsafe for my children.

You may be reading this thinking “what mid 90’s drivel”. Try it I say. You might be the one with the mid 90’s concepts…

 

Photography by And the Trees

Garden

Organic Farm Takes Bloom

May 31, 2014

After years of trial and error our little farm has found herself. We are now an organic petal farm growing flowers for the natural dyeing and Eco dyeing process. Experimental as it is we hope to be part of a cleaner, Earth friendly movement to use natural products to colour our clothes. Currently we are working on a range of ‘urban farm wear’ for those who play in dirt. We hope you can join us on our little journey.

Check out our Etsy shop https://www.etsy.com/au/shop/MargariteandRosaCo

Garden

Our Garden

December 1, 2013

Our vegetable garden is our friend. Four years ago we dug our first beds and planted our first seeds. The soil was clay and the predators fierce, but with sweat, patience and time it now nourishes us. It is not only about the food it provides, which is wonderful. It is more about what our garden teaches us.

Our garden connects us with the seasons. We wait for the first sweat pea flowers, the strawberries to ripen, the heavy drops of summer rain. The garden seems to heighten the elements by adding significance to them. No longer is rain an inconvenience but a blessing enjoyed on many levels after a long dry spell. The sun shines both on our plants, and us and both are rewarded.

The soil connects us. Gandhi once said something like when man stops digging the earth he forgets who he is. The soil is a tough mistress, requiring constant attention and gifts. However, if treated well she is very giving and really isn’t that hard to please; a little compost, a gentle turning and sprinkle of water.

Our garden is a great teacher. She taught me patience and the joy that comes with watching plants grow- a delayed gratitude that makes food taste better when you have nurtured it from seed. She has taught my children how to work at things and rewarded them with the same simple pleasures that reward me.

Our garden is a great chef. Through the seasons we are held to keep our meals true to what is available. Simplicity is perfection, fresh is perfect and requires little added. Food from elsewhere never has that same taste.

As a family we owe a lot to our garden. It connects us, provides for us, entertains and delights us. For this we are grateful.

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Rhythms

July 16, 2013

The earth works to a rhythm. The sun sets and rises. Weather cycles through seasons which plants and animals follow. Our family follows a rhythm. We follow daily and seasonal rhythms and seem better for it.

We did not always follow rhythms, we were scarcely aware that they existed. Often we resisted them, insisting that our children just did not need them. Children love rhythms; they love the predictability, as it seems to give them understanding of a chaotic day.

Our journey towards rhythm started when we joined a Steiner playgroup. We observed how the teacher wove rhythm into the day through songs and stories. We extended these ideas of Steiner into our family life.

Rhythms seem to focus us on the natural world. Rather than automate us, it gives us awareness of the alchemy of life. We permit time to notice the changing colours of the seasons, the changing hues when the temperature drops and when it gets warm again. We eat in rhythms, sleep and clean in a rhythm. Even daily tasks take on a slightly meditative quality when they are part of a pattern and part of the education of your children.

Rhythms take time and effort to create. They help shape the way you approach life, often simplifying it. As parents we have needed to adjust to the song of parenthood and those strong currents of individual wants are swept up in the flow. Rhythms can be freeing. They give us time for our children, time for the garden and time for the beach. They help us become children again.

The rhythm takes many forms; we dress and eat seasonally. Toys and songs change with the seasons. Our vegetable garden keeps us in step with the seasons.

Rhythms help us celebrate. Prior, our cynicism made it difficult to see through the mire of commercialism that soils most major festivals. Now we cherish the simplicity of the seasonal celebrations; Christmas, Easter, Winter and Summer Solstices, all celebrated with simplicity and thought.

This blog will reflect the seasons, so the subject matter has a rhythm that matches ours. Hopeful we will be able to share the rhythm of our life, on a small farm, at the end of the rainbow bridge.