“Travel and change of place impart new vigour to the mind.” – Seneca
November was a month of firsts:
My first trip to Australia. Meeting Andy’s first niece. Sleeping in a tent for the first time since we lived in one full-time. Harvesting our first vegetables from this year’s garden. Preparing to host our first official WWOOFers.
We spent two weeks of November in Australia – mostly visiting with Andy’s brother and sister-in-law in Brisbane and getting to know their beautiful new baby, Lily. She is an absolute wonder and we loved spending quiet afternoons just being around her.
Time spent with the Brisbane Pedleys included all sorts of highlights: Richard’s incredible home-made chai, morning walks in the nearby bush block, excellent rounds of Dutch Blitz, a trip to the botanic gardens, evening kayaking and BBQs – and plenty of good conversation in good company. And a night-time outing to find dessert in a big electrical storm. That’s not one to forget!
From Brisbane, Andy and I took a couple of side trips too. First, we headed south for a few days in the Byron Bay area. That included a visit to Geoff Lawton’s Zaytuna Farm – home of the Permaculture Research Institute of Australia. This was our first time seeing well-developed permaculture-style food forests and features like swales in action. An excellent glimpse of some of the elements we’ll be looking to develop at Toi Toi Manawa – minus the banana trees maybe! We visited a fascinating little village called Nimbin too – where everything is rainbow-coloured and the words “sustainable”, “local” and “organic” appear in nearly every store front. I’d never been anywhere like it. To cap off our time in New South Wales, we spent some time hiking and camping in Nightcap National Park. We were highly impressed with the park, its camping facilities, and the upkeep of the trails. On our hike to Minyon Falls we spotted all sorts of creatures – including a goanna. Which I initially thought was the biggest snake I had ever seen! But I was wrong, it was the biggest lizard I’d ever seen!
On another trip, we headed north to Noosa – a particularly popular holiday destination – and something quite out of the ordinary for us! Beautiful white sand beaches, a river full of storks and stingrays and outdoor activities a plenty. On the way up, we stopped to visit the ginger factory and some of the most fabulous organic supermarkets I’ve ever seen. Once in Noosa we camped, kayaked, swam at the beaches, and enjoyed a total lack of itinerary. A short way from Noosa is Steve Irwin’s Australia Zoo. We spent one day there and were thoroughly impressed with the conservation emphasis of the place. Of course, I also got to pat a koala.
Our short time in Australia was a welcome break and good change of pace for us. And a nice balance of time out and exploring and time in and relaxing.
After we left Brisbane, we found great comfort in realizing our excitement to get back to the farm. Leaving the garden for two weeks at the height of spring took quite a bit of extra preparation – and favours from friends who watered the seedlings and cared for the chickens while we were away. We were ready to get back and find weeds up to our hips but were very pleasantly surprised to find very few weeds and some very well advanced vegetables!
Even though we found the garden in great shape when we got back, we’ve been playing lots of catch up too. Part of that has been getting ready for all of our December events! We hosted a soap making workshop here last weekend and yesterday we had a display at the Wine and Food Festival in Christchurch. At the Festival, we had backyard chicken and worm farming demonstrations. It was a blast chatting with folks and sharing ideas about what they can do themselves at home. The festival was huge, so it was also a great bit of publicity for Toi Toi Manawa and an opportunity to tell people about what we’re doing out in Whitecliffs.
Both before and after our trip away, we were hugely fortunate to have the help of some really excellent volunteers on the farm. At the moment, we have four WWOOFers with us – two American and two Swedish. All fabulous people and such an immense help for us here. It makes a big difference just to have the fresh faces and enthusiasm around, with new perspectives, new ideas. And tonight, we’ve been making some traditional Swedish saffron buns together. So it’s a great cultural exchange for us too!
Now we’re getting ready to wrap up the year at Toi Toi Manawa. Next weekend, friends of TTM are invited to join us for our end of year celebration – to share memories of the past year and hopes for the year ahead. Soon after, Andy and I will be heading up to the North Island to spend Christmas with his parents – a wonderful way for us to wrap up 2012.
So here’s to a month – and a whole year- of firsts. And many more to come!