Tuesday, June 23, 2009


It was with fond memories in mind that we camped out in the yard with the boys a few weekends ago. We pitched the tent early in the morning wishfully thinking the boys would use it as their cubby and play in their all day. They played in there for a short time, just long enough to collapse the tent and learn a good lesson –when somersaulting in a tent ensure to not hit the sides so hard you collapse the tent on yourself. Later in the day we gathered wood for the fire, ensured we had a good supply of marshmallows, rugged up and gathered all the blankets we had – it was a cold night.
That night as I watched the boys and their excited and fascinated little faces with red cheeks staring at the flames of the fire, daring to poke a stick in there and get it alight, burning their tongues on toasted marshmallows, and sending smoke signals I started thinking about all the times I used to camp out with my brother and our friends in the backyard.
I have the best memories of camping out when I was a kid in our backyard. Not in the bush or by the lake or sea but in a 750sqm yard, surrounded by the noises of the neighbours, distant music from the pub around the corner and barking dogs. When we were allowed to camp out on our own and as we got older and our confidence grew the further the tent got moved away from the house and the further our nighttime adventures would go. Dressed in black, commando style we would scale the fence, army crawl along the neighbours lawn to the next fence being sure to stick to the shadows, climb their fence into our neighbours vegetable garden and grab fresh supplies for camp.
Thinking now about this yard and the man that lived there I realize he was doing what people used to do in their yards and what my mum and dad’s generation weren’t doing when I was younger and what so many of us are trying to do now– trying to be self sufficient in some way, growing fruit and vegetables, raising chickens and composting. His yard was always producing and I remember you always knew when he had just fertilized as the smell of fresh compost would linger in the air for days. Writing this now I remember another neighbour on the other side also grew his own food and about 5 years before he died he told me about the local market gardens that used to be around the corner, where an oval now sits with its high maintenance lawn and occasional use.
Anyway, with a good supply of fresh potatoes and onions - perfect to cook on the camp fire, we would scamper back, ensuring to cover our tracks and cook up a feast of onion and potatoes. Whilst the billy was on the boil we would climb up on the garage roof, lay there and look at the stars smoking eucalyptus leaves.
So as I lay there in the tent with the boys and Dan attempting to warm up on a freezing night and thinking how it really wasn’t the best time of year to camp I stopped and listened and all I could hear was frogs, a distant owl and the sleepy breathing of my three favourite boys.

Thursday, June 11, 2009


As a child, even though I lived on a typical suburban block with the hills hoist, concrete driveway, garage, picket fence, pool and maintained lawn I think I was always a natural observer of nature. From watching ants tediously build and then rebuild their houses after a storm and intimately knowing the snails and their secret hideouts in our front fence, the best tree to find caterpillars in and rescuing snails from storms, I always had an innate curiosity of the natural world.
I always loved digging up sections of the yard, pretending I was a landscaper and designing new garden beds for mum and dad; and my little brother and I always fancied ourselves as archaeologists and would climb through our bedroom window, set up our dig sites down the side of the house (where nobody ever ventured) and pretend we were explores on a great excavation dig. A couple of time we actually did find some rather unique things like old glass bottles, a beautiful blue and white bowl- all remnants from a past civilization, centuries old and from a time long before us - or so we colorfully imagined. We would hoist our finds in a basket tied to a rope back through the bedroom window and carefully clean them before we presented them to our museum’s audience - mum and dad.
Now as an adult and particularly as a parent I’m still a natural nature observer, constantly pointing little things out to the kids that fascinate me, and looking for the beauty in all things. Even as I work I find myself distracted on a site visit to a beautiful old house built in the 1800's by a tiny tea set sitting on a window sill in a bathroom and I can’t stop thinking how beautiful it looks, the contrasts between colour and texture.
But most of all these days the farm is my place of constant inspiration. With the onset of winter and the picking season about to begin I have been enjoying walking through the farm in the mornings, with the heavy fog of the evening just lifting, leaving behind its mark on the morning like a snail leaving a shining trail. As the sun slowly warms the icy air, abandoned spiders webs look like tiny strands of pearls intricately laced from leaf to leaf, small shinny jewels of morning dew gather on the tips of leaves and steam appears to come from the trunks of the iron barks as the sun hits them and thaws their skin.
As I walked through the Macadamia nut field last week with Myles and Fynn I was filled with a quiet delight after pointing out to them how beautiful the yellow flowers on the grass were that spread between the rows of the orchard when Myles agreed and told me it looked as if a carpet of flowers had been laid down just in this field. And I couldn't help but feel blessed as Fynn pointed out a "Kite Hawk" circling above how lucky we are to have such a beautiful place to raise our kids. I hoped that they end up having beautiful memories of this place as I had from mine when I was a child and that they also grow with a deeper knowledge, understanding and appreciation for the beauty of our natural world.