Summer’s Fiery Blast

Just when we thought the heat of summer was waning and that autumn was on its way…a final hot day for February and out of control bushfires to deal with!

Don’t you just hate the feeling when you are sitting at work in a neighbouring town and looking out the window to see huge amounts of smoke billowing into the sky from the nearby landscape…to hear the local firetrucks roar past – those AMAZING volunteers that don their heavy yellow jackets on 40 degree days to fight the fires and try to save our landscape, communities, houses and livestock.

What’s even worse is when you realise that the smoke is from a big bushfire and with the recent wind change, that it’s headed straight for your friend’s property where your llamas and horse are currently agisted!  What follows is a very quick exit from work, a very hurried drive to get home and grab halters, ropes, woollen blankets (in case I was caught out in the fire and needed to shelter in my car), hay and treats (getting 4 unruly llamas haltered in the middle of the paddock and onto a trailer alone was going to be interesting…) and my phone and then a very quick drive towards the towering plumes of smoke for Operation Animal Evac!

Mt Bolton Fire

Adrenalin had kicked in once I got to the gate of the property and raced up the driveway.  The llamas and horse were grazing in the front paddock, so I whistled and called them to follow the car up to the shed where the trailer was located.  Luckily, I have been visiting frequently and they are used to associating the car with copious amounts of carrots and treats and all came trotting up as I hurriedly put the trailer on the back of the car.  They were all still relatively calm as the hot wind hadn’t yet shifted in our direction.

Llamas to be rescued

Lilah, my friendliest llama was the first up for treats and I quickly managed to halter her and load her onto the open box trailer.  The others I knew would be more difficult, as they have been running wild across the 15 acres for a few months.  But, with surprising speed, I somehow managed to get both Brittany and Wildfire in halter and wedged them all on the trailer.  This was a fantastic reminder as to why I got Llamas instead of Alpacas.  Llamas will come up to you in the paddock, they will respond well to training, treats, commands and halter training.  They are much, much, much easier to catch and halter in an open environment than a skittish alpaca would be.  Their domestic evolution as a beast of burden certainly comes through with the right training and I was so grateful at that moment that I had invested in training them, for there was not a minute to lose.

Meanwhile, back at the fire front on the other side of the ridge, the blaze had made it into hillside bushland…

Mt Bolton fire AJeffree

Yuki, the final llama – who was incredibly difficult to trailer load in the past and the wildest of the lot was going to be an issue.  I couldn’t fit her on the trailer – I usually only trailer a maximum of 2 llamas at a time as they like their personal space, but today I had 3 squished in there, shoulder to shoulder.  I would have to come back for her.  And somehow get her on-board…

I made the dusty dash down the driveway with the llamas all jostling and bumping along in the trailer.  As I drove out the driveway, 8 more fire engines and CFA vehicles roared past me on their way to the fire front.  Teams were coming in from near and far to fight this blaze.  I couldn’t see the flames, just the huge billowing cloud coming up from the other side of the ridge.  I hoped that they were getting it under control. 48 trucks were there already and a number of large helicopters and water aircraft.

Mt bolton helicopters AJ

Back home at White Stone Farm (which was actually only 13kms from the blaze…but a damn sight further away than my friend’s property!), I quickly unloaded the llamas.  Wildfire, not used to being crushed between the two girls had spent much of the frantic ride home spitting at Lilah, whose face was now covered in green, rank stomach contents.  Poor thing, I had no time to wash her face, I just removed their halters and turned them loose.  I needed to race back for Yuki…and had no idea what I was going to do about Jess the horse.  I don’t have a horse trailer and my friends who do were pretty preoccupied evacuating their own animals at this stage.

By this time, Stace had made it home from work and met me at the front gate of the property.  The wind had shifted and yellow-grey smoke drifted menacingly across the landscape towards us.  Poor Yuki was in a bit of a panic with all of her llama herd suddenly disappearing, but we managed to coax her over and get the halter on her.  Now for the tricky part, getting her to step up onto the trailer! I don’t know if it was her desire to get out of there, our adrenaline or the urgency of the situation, but she stepped on with relatively little fuss (compared to last time where we had to practically LIFT her 100+kgs on!!). Ok, what about the horse?  Jess was up the back of the paddock hanging out with some neighbouring horses.  We drove up there to get her as she refused to come down.  I managed to get a halter on her with minimal fuss. I couldn’t put her on the box trailer, so I gave Stace the keys to drive Yuki home and had no option but to walk the 8 kilometres home with Jess in tow. I didn’t have a helmet, saddle or bridle with me and didn’t trust that I could be calm enough bareback to ride her home safely on the roads, so we had to leg it!

It was hot, windy, a little smoky and I realised that I hadn’t eaten nearly enough lunch for this amount of energy!  Jess moseyed along, it was her first big adventure outside the gates and other than a possible horse-eating old couch on the nature strip that she eyed suspiciously, she was absolutely fine. We made it into town where a friend saw me and offered Jess a paddock for the night, until I could float her the rest of the way home.  We reasoned that the blaze was getting under control and that the town wouldn’t be at risk now and could leave her there for the night.

Jess worried fires

With all my beasts safely relocated, we waited with bated breath to see if the firefighters could manage the blaze.  By now there were 93 vehicles attending.  With their amazing hard work, teamwork, talent, grit and determination they got the blaze under control.  We could see the fires still burning on the ridge that night from White Stone Farm. Ten days later it still burned, with teams managing the blazes as they reignited or smouldered.  Without any decent rain, these amazing crews are all we have to ensure that our homes and communities continue to be safe.

mt bolton landscape helicopter ajThe sad part is that this fire – and 2 more that were alight at the same time nearby, are believed to be the work of arsonists.  The Country Fire Authority do an amazing job, dropping everything to put their safety on the line in dangerous conditions to ensure that their communities are safe. Forget the Marvel Superheroes – these men and women are indeed real life Superheroes!

We donate to the CFA every year, as we are not able to volunteer for the brigade. It never feels like enough though when you see the tremendous work that they do. If you would also like to donate to this fantastic cause, go to the CFA Website.

My fingers are crossed that this is the last of the fire season for summer.

The amazing fire photos in this post were taken by the very talented Ann Jeffree. See more of Ann’s wonderful work at Ann’s Facebook page.

Mildly summer

Ahh…what a wonderful reprieve we have enjoyed from the fiery breath of summer! We braced ourselves for an onslaught of hot, windy, horrendous conditions for January…and yet heard whispers of ‘above average rainfall forecast for western Victoria for Jan and Feb..” Nah, not here, not for Clunes…we never get any rain…

But the skies opened and lovely, cool, wet rain dampened the earth.  9mm one day, 16 another, 30mm another time!  Happy Dances all round!  In a place like Clunes, where it is so dry that the tough conditions bond townsfolk together in a mutual hardship, there was literally dancing in the street to celebrate the downpour!  Giddy smiles at the thought of water tanks being topped up (many people were having to buy water in during December as we had such dismal rainfall in winter and spring), gardens soaked up the rain goodness and the landscape was flushed clean.

It was so wonderful to see puddles on the ground, to feel a cool breeze on your face, to get mud on your boots again…

Feather, Fez and puddles

My poor baby chickens didn’t know what to make of it – they had never seen rain before! It took a couple of minutes to coax them out from their house in the morning. But all of the wet, bedraggled chooks enjoyed the cooler conditions. The rain encouraged bugs out of hiding places and soaked the newly spread hay.  Yay for more soil creation with a bit of moisture!

What February will look like, who knows?  Maybe we’ll get more of the beautiful wet stuff and the weather forecasters prediction of ‘above average rainfall’ will come true or maybe it will dry up and we’ll receive that hot blast of summer again.  At least we enjoyed those magical days of milder weather and the green flush of growth that follows.

Stop! Hammock Time!

I’m a Planner.  I love to write To Do lists, make plans, set goals and tick things off those lists.  That feeling of accomplishment, of Getting Stuff Done.  Like many Planners, sometimes I think I like the planning and writing To Do lists more than I actually like doing the stuff on them!

But I’m also a Do-er. I like to be busy too.  Too busy, many of my friends and family would say. Following my redundancy from the environmental sector in 2013, the new time and space that was freed up allowed me to follow my passions here at White Stone Farm. To create my SAORI weaving studio and teaching business, Dyeing To Weave.  To immerse myself in permaculture and the workings of the farm here, attending to the chickens, llamas, cooking, learning and spending lots of time truly deciding what it was that I wanted to do. There are so many things that I am passionate about doing – sometimes the hardest part is working out where to put my energy at any given time!  And sometimes, I just try to do it all at once.

With a million things that I am constantly doing, a myriad of different commitments, business ideas and success as I head in a soul-driven direction for my businesses, it’s important to not only plan for what I want to do and achieve…but to also plan for Doing Nothing.  When running a small business, it’s vital that you take some time out just for YOU. Too many times I have pushed and pushed, to wring every moment out of the day and then fallen in a heap at the end.

Recently, I’ve been working with Leonie Dawson’s beautiful Biz & Life Workbooks. I first used them last year and they were wonderful to help me clarify what I was going to achieve over the year and how I was going to do it. Plus they’re fun to use! They have been fantastic to help me set goals, recognise achievements and plan for the goodness that I will create in 2016.

Leonie Dawson workbook graphics

The year goes SO FAST, so I want to make sure that I am using all of my time available effectively, with balance and efficiency. But one of the important parts of planning is to plan for rest, relaxation, reward and recuperation. So when Stace built our fantastic front patio in December, it became a bit of a sacred space.  The shaded, breezy environment is perfect for taking time out.  With the addition of a hammock, a gift from our beautiful friends, I have started to put it to good use! When I need a break, it’s time to Stop! Hammock Time!

Stop Hammock Time

Hammock Time might be for a much-needed nap, a cool drink and a gentle swing whilst listening to the birds, snuggling down with a good book (or something completely non-fiction and educational…I can’t help myself!) or a chance to catch up with a family member or friend on the phone.  Aaahhh…bliss!

So for all you Planners and Do-ers out there…make lists, do lots of stuff, achieve and be busy…but always remember to set aside time for yourself.  Find your own Hammock Time.

Joy of the Festive Season

I love the festive season! A time when our family gets together to celebrate the year, of love, giving, laughter, great food and gorgeous local wines.  We are so lucky to live in a country where we want for nothing regarding food and drink, safety and comfort.  That being said we now try to use as much of our own produce, particularly meat, as we can.  Another celebration, of the life that we lovingly raised and nurtured and acknowledgement of their final sacrifice for our table and sustenance.

As it’s awfully difficult (and a bit of an ask!) to get someone to look after our chooks and lock them up on Christmas night, we encourage the family to come up to White Stone Farm for a good ol’ country Christmas instead!  It’s a small affair, just my folks from Melbourne and my sister, which is just wonderful.  The years have passed where we travel around the countryside visiting a myriad of relatives and now that our oldest matriarchs and patriarchs of the family are no longer with us, we rarely get together with extended family for Christmas. It’s just the 5 of us and it’s lovely. I rarely get to see my family, so I love having them stay.

Stace worked hard in the days leading up to Christmas to complete a patio out the front of the house.  In just 3 days, Stace finished the concreting, erected the wooden supports and on Christmas morning, added the laserlight roofing…just in time for us to enjoy our lunch in the shaded outdoors!

Front patio structure

Front patio people

With the new exterior of the house now complete (and looking amazing!), the front patio provides a shaded, breezy entertaining space in summer, an extra ‘room’ to enjoy and with the addition of café blinds, will also be a great way to capture extra warmth on that northern side of the house in winter.

My parents arrive from Melbourne for the festive season celebrations with their babies in tow – they are wildlife carers for orphaned Grey-headed flying foxes, also known as fruit bats and December is a busy time for looking after these babies.

Baby Amidala

Yoda baby bat

Baby bat feeding

The bats need constant care for about 4 months – including 4-hourly feeds, constant heat when they are tiny and motherly love (yes, they see their human mothers as such when they are tiny!), so my parents have to take them EVERYWHERE with them.

Flying foxes are the most amazing creature – particularly when you get to see and interact with them up close. They have an intelligence similar to monkeys, gorgeous little personalities and bond closely to their foster mum (or dad!).  Having them stay during the festive season wistfully reminds me of the days that I used to be a bat foster carer myself – you can read more about that journey here, so it’s nice to play with baby bats as well as celebrate the season!

Prue and baby bats

My sister comes up to White Stone Farm from her beautiful seaside home, with lots of goodies packed in her car. Food, gifts, decorations – she is super organised and always has that vital item that I have forgotten to procure for the festivities.

We celebrate, give thanks for the year and all it contained and excitedly plan for the year to come. Invariably, I always convince someone to do some gorgeous SAORI weaving with me – complete with wine and cheese…the BEST way to weave!

Wine and cheese weaving NYE

We hope that you have all enjoyed a safe and happy festive season, filled with love and laughter!

The Boring Stuff

I yearn for rain. Where has all the wet stuff gone? Our winter here at White Stone Farm has been very mild.  Our heavy clay soil that usually gets so inundated in winter is barely moist. Every rain shower that we do have brings on a happy dance, with the tap tap tap of rain on the roof mimicked by my tap tap tap of happy feet on the floor boards.

You see, here at White Stone Farm, we have found that we sit in an unfortunate rain shadow.  Clunes doesn’t get much rainfall to begin with.  But up on the plateau, just 5kms out of town, we get even less.  We will watch rain falling on the township and not get a drop as the clouds change direction and part ways before getting to our parched landscape.  Our beautiful view of Mt Beckworth to the south-west, that I absolutely love for its changing colours, diversity of landscape and forested beauty also has the ability to alter the course of the weather on a very local scale.

In the end, we made a big decision to invest in a bore last Summer.  Just before Christmas, we pooled all of the cash that we had from our wedding gifts and instead of spending it on a luxury holiday, white goods or home furnishings, we put it towards an investment in water. I had a few issues with tapping into artesian water.  If too much is drawn up it can cause problems with rising ground water and salinity.  But then we put it in perspective for ourselves.  We’re not the local potato farmers putting in hundreds of bores to draw out gazillions of litres. We aren’t going to be drawing huge megalitres of water from the earth, it’s a little extra assistance to help us keep the water troughs topped up and water some trees. The investment in consistent water as these trees get established will allow us to create microclimates as the trees grow, which will slow the wind and desiccation and enable us to use less water in some areas.  Once the trees are established, they will require less water.  It’s more of a jump start on a property where water is our biggest restriction, particularly when rainfall is low. It will also help to keep a large pond topped up for the local endangered species, the Growling Grass Frog (Litoria raniformis).  We are so fortunate to have these frogs present in this one waterbody on the property, but they need water all year round, so the bore will assist in keeping water in that pond and provide important habitat for our native residents.

Above all, it’s our safety net, for when rainfall is non-existent. We haven’t lived through a drought here yet.  I’m not looking forward to when we do.

So we called in the Murray family – the local bore diggers and they dug and dug and dug. And dug and dug, through layers of clay, bluestone, redstone, yellow, quartz, grey, red-brown and the eons of Earth’s creation were brought to the surface for display.

Murrays Bore drilling truck

Bore through fence

Earth Layer colours

At about 74 metres of digging, they found water. And the dirt became an amazing slurry of gorgeous clay, rock, quartz and water. It looked like melted neapolitan icecream…Bore drilling mudslide

Bore drilling slush

 

Neopolitan mud

It was fascinating watching the process and realising that I was seeing and touching clay and rock that had not seen the light of day for millions of years.

I also considered just how much this sort of mineral rich clay would be if I was at a Day Spa…so I did my own White Stone Farm Day Spa there in the paddock (after the drilling boys had gone home of course!)…

White Stone Farm Day Spa

Although we’ve had issues with the solar pump that we connected and have since had to switch to AC to get the pressure and oomph that we require to get the water from deep underground, we are only using it sparingly and are grateful for every single drop.  Particularly after such a dry winter and hot summer to come.

Find your Square…

Einstein worked for months on E = MC

But it wasn’t quite right – he knew there was something more, something missing. Do you ever feel like you are on the brink of something…that there is an epiphany just out of reach, that you start thinking a certain way, but there’s something more just hovering on the outskirts of your consciousness waiting to be discovered?

Sometimes giving yourself the space – the time, energy or silence to contemplate is important to finding that elusive part of the equation. In today’s society we’re all so rushed, so busy, so switched on and distracted by what’s happening outside of our thoughts. But finding some moments to contemplate the world within is important to answer elusive questions, ideas or future plans. To understand what drives us, where our passions lie, where we want to go with this one precious life. To be alone with our thoughts, mull over ideas that are gently brewing in the back recesses of our minds. The switch off, check out and enjoy some stillness to allow the pieces to fall into place.

Admiring the view in Japan

To ruminate – to thoughtfully chew over something. It’s one of my favourite words. Llamas ruminate. They spend the early part of the day busily eating, heads down, hoovering up grass as quickly as they can, getting their fill. Then as the afternoon wears on, they stop, sit in the sun or under the shade of a tree and chew their cud. They ruminate. Busy, busy, busy and then time to sit, ponder, regurgitate and relax. They sit in silence, watch the world go by and finish their meal slowly. They are still. A study on antelope on the savannah a couple of years ago showed that their brain waves change when they ruminate, from ultra alert to meditative, sleep-like waves. Who knew that antelope, llamas and cows could meditate?!

Llamas ruminating

As always, nature is an excellent teacher. So take a leaf out of the llama handbook. When you open yourself up to gazing within, you never know what you might discover.

E = MC doesn’t do anything, until Einstein discovered the Square. A little tweak, a tiny addition to the equation and BOOM – everything changes. A huge breakthrough. A complete change in how people view things.  And, in some cases, a huge explosion of energy.

Find some stillness and find your Square.

One door closes and another opens…

After an amazing year, the time has come to shut the doors at Sketched, Spun & Warped studio in the main street of Clunes.  We were granted the wonderful opportunity to have this creative space in the township as part of the Empty Spaces Initiative and have enjoyed the last year in the space.  Empty Spaces aims to revitalise vacant buildings that are for lease or for sale, to give them a new vibrancy and hopefully help them sell or at least, maintain a dynamic energy for the town.

The space has been a wonderful place for creativity, workshops, community learning and interaction, social engagement and skills sharing.  It was a place to highlight the many amazing artists that inhabit this town but don’t have an outlet to display and sell their work, a chance for people to learn new creative skills and for the resident artists to promote our work through sales and workshops.  Hundreds of people learned about Saori weaving by visiting the studio and I am happy that I was able to be the driving force behind this creative community space.

Saori studio class

But all good things must evolve.  New owners have purchased the building and it is destined to become a restaurant in town.  Our gorgeous little creative space has had its day.

Losing the space will open up my time and ability at the farm more.  A chance to properly combine my Saori weaving with my llama fibre, wrapped up in the sustainability at White Stone Farm. A chance for me to put all my energy and intention into Dyeing To Weave as a stand-alone business.

Sometimes change seems like a bad thing, a source of disappointment. But often these changes are just a new evolution unfolding, towards a bigger or better direction. Losing my job in 2013 was shattering, but after the initial shock and loss, I realised that it actually was the push I needed and opened up a myriad of other doors and opportunity for me to follow my passions of Saori weaving and sustainability.

Closing the doors at Sketched, Spun & Warped studio is now giving me a chance to open my doors at my new studio in the Big Shed at White Stone Farm.  Exciting times ahead!

Prue Simmons, Saori artist

Look out for my Saori weaving and natural dye workshops coming up at the farm and through mobile classes throughout Melbourne and regional Victoria. And if you’re keen on finding out more, head on over to the Dyeing To Weave website: www.dyeingtoweave.com.au for more details about upcoming classes, gorgeous handwoven items and equipment available.

Hope to see you at the farm studio soon!

A Cool Reprieve

Oh, how wonderful this summer has become.  While we steeled ourselves for the baking heat, oven-like conditions, lack of water, dry and dust…Mother Nature instead has given us a beautiful reprieve of cool temperatures and rain.  Blessed be this unusual summer where every day feels like spring!

Sunflower artichoke

December and January both had their share of showers, rain to penetrate and soak into the ground, to still the dust, sustain the plants and seep into our water tanks. To replenish and renew the landscape when everything was getting ready to die.

Our usual plan of Operation Lock Down, to go into Survival Mode, hide away and conserve our energy from the heat outside has been unnecessary.  Beautiful cooler days have allowed us to continue working outside on the house.  Our newest project, now that Stacy has some days free from work, is to finish cladding our ramshackle weatherboard home.  Long gone is the ideal of building our passive solar dream home at the back of the block.  That dream faded after the first year when we realised just how windy and difficult that part of our property can be. Instead, we have decided that this little weatherboard house can indeed be our home and can be retrofitted to increase its thermal mass, jazzed up, insulated, clad and lime rendered to look like one of those gorgeous lil’ houses on the Greek islands.  Our Greek island house to go with our inland Mediterranean climate.  We;ve already painted the windowsills in Mykonos Blue (yes, that’s a real paint colour!)

Stacy house cladding

Not only has the weather helped our struggling plants, but also our mental well being. It’s so nice not to be hot and bothered. To have enough energy and enthusiasm to get outside and get lots of projects done.

I’ve watched friends lament the rain and weather of this inclement summer in Melbourne. For ruining their picnic or curtailing their trip to the beach.  For us it’s a blessing, the loveliest summer that we’ve had here yet.  A wonderful chance to squeeze more into our busy year when we would usually have to down tools and hide.

Our water saving measures are still working well however.  Our grey water system – a series of two IBC tanks that filter the water through sawdust and then charcoal, is working beautifully.  The reed beds that have been planted around it and the pumpkin planted on top has erupted in growth!  And clear, nice smelling water comes out the bottom. Tada!

Grey water system

Who knows how long this reprieve will last.  All we know is that we are very much appreciating it, the animals are definitely enjoying it and we are making the most of it while we can!  Now, time to get back out there…

The Drying of Summer

Golden Brown, golden brown

The landscape’s wearing its golden gown

Makes me frown, gets me down

I miss the green in this golden brown.

Summer landscape

As Summer descends, the landscape colour and demeanour is changing. The greenery is disappearing quickly as the weather heats up and the air dries out.  The rolling hills and pastures of the ancient volcanic landscape take on a golden hue; a yellow descends over the landscape until the only faint smudge of subdued greenery shows amongst the eucalyptus leaves.  From the verdant green of spring, we move into a dry, hot, dusty, yellow landscape of summer.

It happened even earlier than I expected this year.  Our Big Event of the Year – our long awaited DIY Country Wedding here in the volcanic landscape was supposed to be awash with verdant green rolling hills.  I had planned for early November to take advantage of that greenery and the nicer weather…but they evaded us.  But, it still made for dramatic pictures and a stark contrast with the golden grass instead.

Prue & Stace wedding

Summer in our new landscape often brings with it a certain depression for Stace and I. We’re forest people – we originally hail from the tree fern abundance of cool temperate rainforest.  Our property is starved of greenery in the summer months, the baking heat and high winds evaporate moisture until you feel like you are in the desert.  As temperatures soar into the mid-40’s, we go into survival mode at White Stone Farm.  Our aim in summer goes from abundance in spring to SURVIVAL… to keep things ticking over, keep things alive and hydrated.  Plants, chooks, llamas. Just keep everything from expiring in the heat!

When we encountered our first summer, it was a big struggle. We didn’t realise how hot and dry it got out here.  We had planted 50 tomato plants and not only was I working full time nearly an hour away, I was trying so hard to keep all these plants alive on a scarce water supply and had limited time to keep things going on the hot dry days.  It was hard, but we persevered and to be honest after all that effort, the tomatoes were absolutely amazing, but it was a huge struggle to keep things ticking over when we were barely here.  We just didn’t understand the challenges summer sets here.

The second summer was perhaps even harder because we knew the heat and hardships that awaited us. I would look with envy at other places in Victoria (or the world!) that have milder summers, microclimates, shade, cooler temperatures, less wind and we’d question why we were in this place.  A hot, dry depression hit us again.  Our water situation was a little better because we had installed more water tanks, but it was a very dry summer.  The rains had stopped well into early-mid Spring and the land was volatile.  That summer was pretty tough.  Our dams dried up completely, the silver perch we tried to establish died. The fear of bushfires crept into our psyche, particularly mine as I was alone at the farm a lot during that time as Stace worked in Melbourne.  We questioned ourselves again…were we in the right place?  Was this all too hard?  Did we bite off more than we could chew?

The summer of 2014 was another hot and dry one.  But we were no longer surprised and steeled ourselves to mentally and physically cope.  It is what it is.  The heat saps you of strength, willingness and enthusiasm.  But, we rise to the challenge, we overcome the obstacles and we managed to keep everyone alive and happy in the heat!

One of the biggest lessons these summers have taught us is that as the seasons change and go through these big extremes, our understanding of the landscape and this environment is also changing as we continue to experience it.  The first principle of permaculture is Observe & Interact – to take the time to really understanding what goes on in the landscape, across a number of seasons.  How do they differ?  What does each season present as challenges and rewards?  Our dawning realisation is that we have wild extremes here.  Winter is very cold and frosty and summer is incredibly dry and hot.  The soil goes from waterlogged in winter to massive open cracks in summer.  It presents challenges but it also encourages adapatability and understanding.  Appreciating each season for what it does present.  With the hot dry environment, we managed to dry a heap of waste barley mash from the local boutique brewery to use as chook food.

Chooks and barley

The hot and dry environment means that we can dry food really easily such as tomatoes, herbs to enjoy in months to come.

Where once I used to lament the lack of grass and bare, dusty paddocks that surround our house, I now rejoice in seeing the sparse paddocks, because our grass fire risk is minimised.

Llamas in summer

Sure, it takes some different ways of working and make sustainability more of a challenge.  Additional hay needs to be procured from the farmer next door to keep the herbivores fed if all the grass has dried and died,we need to scrounge the local supermarket to get green scraps for the chickens each day, we pick our battles on what we will and won’t grow and our normally outdoor working hours mean that we hide away in the seclusion of our house in the middle of the day.  We like to think of it as a Spanish siesta (which usually involves close association with a pedestal fan and Scrabble!).

And we appreciate each season for what it brings.  We have stopped asking ourselves if we are in the right place.  We KNOW we’re in the right place for a myriad of reasons and we rise up to the challenge of overcoming these tough seasons and showing how others can do so too.  Let’s face it, our world will continue to dry.  Temperate areas will become increasingly drier and we need to know how to adapt to those changing situations. Growing food doesn’t just occur in the wet tropics or on perfect properties and landscapes of abundance – it happens right here, during punishing summers, droughts and harsh landscapes.

We’ll just forge a path through the dust, heat and haze and then show people how it can be done!  Watch this space…

Something summery this way comes…

From our lovely days of spring, the weather has now starting to warm up as summer gets into full swing and give us a hint of increasing summer heat to come.  The temperature climbs higher – mid 20’s, 30 degrees…mid 30’s…in the heat of summer (around now) the mercury will reach into the 40’s again and scorch our landscape.

The landscape held on to its last vestiges of verdant finery for quite a while.  The greenery. Oh how I love the greenery before the scenery changes to golden yellow and browns.  I love the rolling green hills of the volcanic landscape, the freshness of the growth, the flowers and abundant water.

Rose at White Stone Farm

I hold onto the wonderful memories of these mild spring time days, of longer light and activity, before heat of summer saps our strength and makes things too hot and horrible to do much. Before we switch into overheated survival mode!  Lots of opportunity to train llamas, spend time working with Jess, get stuck into weeding, watch the plants grow vigorously, harvest garlic, bask in the sunshine whilst out and about among the veggies and watch chickens grow. Often it means that we don’t sit down to dinner until the sun has gone to bed, eating at 10pm (very Spanish of us!), with little time left to do much after that but put ourselves to bed…but it certainly makes us appreciate all those daylight hours to get stuff done!  The animals and plants seem to enjoy this last bit of productivity too, with the horse and llamas relishing the extra grazing period and lazy days in the sun before the grass turns completely dry.

Wildfire and the girls

With the arrival of good friends over summer, comes the opportunity to get the llamas out and about on a trek through the landscape as we prepare for our Llama Luncheon treks in the near future. As the llama girls grow and learn, it’s really good to get them used to walking with a number of different people as we go on these walks – and it’s getting much too difficult to walk them all together by myself these days!

A trek through the landscape is always fun! Owen and Karen, our regular visitors and wonderful friends from Sydney enjoy spending time at the farm and helping us with the llamas.  Owen and Brittany have a very special connection and she absolutely loves it when he comes to stay.

Owen Brit Prue & Lilah

Wandering through the volcanic scenery with the llamas is a quiet and relaxing way to appreciate the scenery, keep fit and enjoy the peace and solitude of the country.

Heading out on a llama trek

As we wander along the llamas are inquisitive and enjoy the experience, the new sights and smells, the wildlife, the sunshine and the company.  Often Brittany will start humming happily in her llama way as she walks along.

Llama trekking with Owen and Karen

And Yuki tries to stop to eat every step of the way…with so much hay around, it’s a wonder we actually get anywhere at times!!

Yuki and balesAfter a lovely amble with the llamas there is always time for llama kisses at the end!

Llama kisses with Yuki and Karen

A big thank you for Owen and Karen for spending time with us this summer and helping us out on the farm!

So, who wants to come along next and join us for a llama trek??