Do You Need a Treat or a Treatment?

Published in Eumundi Green Issue 175

I generally manage my physical and emotional stress levels quite well but my family has been building a house all year (insert copious amounts of rain here) and between that and what seemed like an eternal school holiday, I was feeling a bit tight and tense, so I thought I’d ‘treat myself’ to a bit of therapy.

I have been practising yoga weekly with Jodie Mudgway for the majority of this year and always come away from her sessions feeling warm and stretchy. I had hears other people in class talk about her Zen Thai Shiatsu massage/healing sessions so I thought I’d try for myself.

During the treatment I felt a sensation I have often experienced during the course of a yoga session and one which, up until now, I have only really been able to describe as ‘good pain’. In the nurturing environment Jodie has created however, it suddenly seemed wrong to refer to this sensation as pain – good, bad or otherwise. It was a signal from my body (that up until that point I have been trying hard to ignore) telling me that the coping mechanisms I was using were really not serving me well and I just was not ‘letting go’ enough in life.

As busy people with jobs, businesses or families, many of us don’t make time for ourselves. And if we do, we tend to refer to these experiences as I have done above, as some kind of treat.

The word treat really has a lot to answer for because if keeping yourself healthy and mobile is a treat, then what is normal? If normal means being tired, crank and in pain, then I sure don’t want to be ‘normal’!

So, lying on the mat of that positive, supportive space, I made a choice; a choice not to have ‘treats’ but ‘treatments’ and to have them when the need arose, not when I thought I deserved them or could fit them in. I also made the choice to use language that supported this. I would no longer feel ‘good pain’ but be aware of the sensations of stretching or pressure to take away the negative connotations and emotions that really only served to make my muscles tighter and my mind quietly aggravated.

Motherhood’s Multi-Tasking Mayhem

Published in Eumundi Green Issue 185

It turns out there is significant research to suggest that, contrary to what we believed in the nineties, multi-tasking is really only a good way to scatter a mother’s brain – not get more done.

Ok, so that might be a simplification of this research, but experts in this field do say that the act of switching between two tasks and getting them done takes a longer time than fully completing two individual tasks one after the other.

I bring this up because I am a mother, who happens to be building a house, catching up on a week’s worth of washing and housework, arranging playdates, meal times and writing articles. And most importantly, I bring it up because the topic of this article was going to be significantly different to how it has turned out. I had fully intended to write about Quantum Physics, however, after managing to half-complete four paragraphs in four hours, I did the only thing anyone wanting to keep their sanity does… I pressed save, made a cup of tea, hugged each of the kids and sat back down in front of a blank document to type whatever came out.

Unsurprisingly then, this article became all about multi-tasking!

The reason multi-tasking often backfires on busy people is that when they begin working on a certain project or chore, their brain has to make a decision on how each thing is to be done. When the tasks that need to be performed require very different thought or physical processes (such as in the life of a parent) the brain has to spend time switching between each mode. And if there are many “switches” back and forth throughout the day (such as in the life of a parent) it adds a significant amount of time to a job.

I’m not sure if any research has looked into the correlations between the extended time it takes to complete the day’s jobs and the level of frustration that is felt by the person completing these tasks, but I’m pretty sure we could do a quick survey at the school gate and find some concrete evidence to say that parents believe this is the case.

Drawing on this knowledge, I have reminded myself that if I let go of any attachment and preconceived expectations about the outcome of a task and just allow it to evolve in unison with each of the other important facets of the day, then when all is said and done I will have finished each individual job – and hopefully avoided building children and raising houses.

Urban Pop Up Patch

Published in Eumundi Green Issue 183

Urban Pop Up Patch

Last week in Melbourne, I stumbled upon a gorgeous community garden, smack bang in the middle of the city. Now when I say smack bang, I really mean smack bang, right in the centre – on the rooftop of the Federation Square car park.

Although the gardens weren’t open to the public at the time I was there I was lucky enough to be having a sticky beak through the fence when a lovely couple came along to water their patch and invited me in.

Not only did I delight in the plethora of photographic subjects but enjoyed learning how the city folk bring the outdoors, gardening and fresh produce into their lives.

All of the raised garden beds had quaint stencilled signs on them, indicating their owners, and I was thrilled to recognise the name of the restaurant I had just eaten in – no wonder their food had tasted so fresh! It sure limited the food miles I contributed to that day.

My hosts, Roy and Lisa (pictured) were retired school teachers living in the city centre; however, like many city dwellers, their high-rise balcony-less lifestyle didn’t allow for much more than a pot of herbs on a windowsill.

Although we hinterland folk would just about choke at the price, residents of the CBD pay $25 a week to use the facilities and become a part of the community gardens.

This cost raised quite a bit of discussion amongst us but was put neatly into perspective when the price differences between apartments with balconies or gardens were compared to those without, and the cost of buying fresh herbs and greens at the supermarket each week was factored in.

There were other benefits too, like getting an extra raised bed if you were prepared to water the communal gardens and other people’s plots, the sense of community that grows out of meeting those who share similar interests and ideals, not to mention the perfect positioning of the patch, practically on the banks of the Yarra, making it an ideal party location for fireworks and cultural celebrations.

You can find out more about the Pop Up Patch (run by the Little Veggie Co), on their website littleveggiepatchco.com.au, and also on Facebook, and see the other magnificent ways they are bringing like-minded members of the community together with healthy and life-affirming pastimes.

 

Vipassanā – An Introduction to Silence

Published in Eumundi Green Issue 181

I have a deep love of and curiosity for the world I inhabit and am fascinated with the nature of reality that each of us experiences. This drive led me recently to Vipassana.

Vipassana is a 10-day silent meditation retreat run at Dhamma Rasmi, a speciality meditation centre in Pomona, right here on our doorstep. So, you might be new to meditation (and possibly even to silence!) and the thought of spending ten days without speaking might seem daunting, but it was actually very achievable.

The silence essentially removes everyday distractions and allows you to turn your focus internally. And, you really only spend nine of your days in silence, The 10th day is dedicated to sharing your experiences with others and acts as a shock absorber before returning to the real world. You are also able to ask questions of the course instructor and at the end of each night you can sit in on a general Q&A session, where you can ask questions. You can also speak for practical reasons, like needing a blanket or to get help unblocking a toilet.

As to the meditation, although being one of India’s most ancient techniques of meditation (which was recently rediscovered by Gautama Buddha more than 2500 years ago), this course provides a non-sectarian method by which you fully experience the ever-changing nature of life, in all its forms.

It is easy to dismiss the effectiveness of this practice because it is essentially such a simple process. Throughout the ten days you progress from concentrating on your natural breath flowing in and out of your nose in its own rhythm, to feeling the subtlest of sensations on your body.

The course also delivers personal anecdotes that foster a deep understanding of the impermanent nature of existence and how this knowledge can be translated into all areas of your life. The literal translation of the word Vipassana means to see things as they are, and through participation, meditators are able to gain their own personal insight.

For those of us searching for simplicity, change or betterment, a Vipassana course offers opportunities for self-transformation through self-observation – no hype, no fuss, nothing but your breath and body.

The international Vipassana website (www.dhamma.org) states that it is this “observation-based, self-exploratory journey to the common root of mind and body that dissolves mental impurity, resulting in a balanced mind full of love and compassion”. And yes, that is the eventual aim. A balanced mind full of love and compassion, with the added bonus of full liberation and enlightenment, if that’s your life’s goal.

I would have to say that because of my exploration into quantum physics and alternative sciences, my experience of Vipassana was extremely deep and rewarding. I underwent journeys on both the physical and mental planes unlike anything I have ever known and my mind was opened to many, many “dot-joining” understandings of our universe and my experiences of it.

The Four Rs

Published in Eumundi Green Issue 179

Reduce, Reuse & Recycle are all concepts we are quite familiar with, and I have to say that, to my great delight, Repurposing is experiencing a great resurgence in popularity. Perhaps the old Depression mindset that came heavily in the era of ‘mend and make do’ has made way for a newer approach, one that comes from choice and consciousness, not circumstance and scarcity. Not only have vintage and shabby-chic become ‘on-trend’ but it also appears that giving something a new life is truly being embraced.

It is second nature that we now rinse our recyclables in the dirty dishwater at the end of the night and pop them in the yellow-lidded bin, we separate our food scraps and have a compost bin, a worm farm or hungry chooks to dispose of them, and the drought that encouraged our state government to want to dam our prime grazing land, has etched water consciousness into our psyches.

We are certainly doing all we can with the ‘new’ resources we have, but what about all that ‘stuff’ that already exists? The ‘stuff’ that our precious resources have already been burned to produce, transport, sell and build.

Our lives and environments are filled with things that can be reused, not just for their original purpose but also to be re-purposed into something altogether different. Often all that is required is a little thinking ‘out of the box’ to come up with a new use for something that has finished serving its original purpose. Once you start doing this, it becomes easier and easier.

Repurposing holds an exciting challenge; you find yourself looking at even the most mundane of objects in a whole new light. Some obvious choices are to use an old bathtub as a fish or frog pond and an upturned milk crate with a cushion on it for impromptu seating. How about using a laundry basket in a trolley as a stand-in dish drainer when you have too many dishes for the draining board? Your Christmas lights wrapped into a glowing wreath to brighten up the whole year? An old filing cabinet in your garden shed for tools or in your outdoor kitchen or BBQ area? Or how about a bedside lamp hung over a worktable in a dark corner? These are just a few of the ideas I have come up with, and I am always on the hunt for other ways to rescue another article from landfill and save myself money at the same time.

If we take the time to think about the amount of energy that has already been used to produce the goods around us, perhaps we can be reunited with the pleasure that is inherent in the creative process we undergo when we turn something old into something new?

I encourage you to start bringing this idea into your home and begin making your life more Re-purposeful.

 

 

Gratitude or Gratification?

 

Gratitude vs Gratification

Gratitude vs Gratification

Unlike our forebears we live with an enormous amount of very accessible resources. This accessibility has come about through generations of struggle & sacrifice and a great deal of ‘wanting to make it better for our children’.

But how far is far enough? We can now hear a song, reach into our pockets for the technology (that used to take the space of a building) and own that said same song in less than two minutes for fewer than two dollars. Now I’m not saying this isn’t a valuable resource to have access to, however it is one of an extraordinary number of ways in which our wants can be immediately gratified.

But what of our needs, can they be gratified as quickly? Water, food, clothing and shelter are in abundance around us. How we choose to eat, clothe and house ourselves really comes down to the level to which we are prepared to delay our gratification. Making money takes time and the types of sacrifices we make to secure our desired lifestyle depend upon (among many other factors) whether we actually know what is involved in achieving that goal, and how prepared we are to work and wait for it.

For me, both gardens and houses provide my family with a rich training ground in this area. Not only is the practical knowledge of planning, measuring, cutting, digging, planting, watering and harvesting being imparted but in the process my children are being taught the skills to successfully determine the difference between the needs and wants of life.

Gardens take time and effort to grow before their bounty can be consumed and in a world that offers much immediate gratification, these events offer real life experience in a gentle and supportive environment, to take a longer range approach to life and also to weigh up the realities of both delayed and immediate action.

There’s also a lot to be said for learning about the importance of gratitude in our daily lives through the lens of the longer term. If we take the time each day to be grateful for the everyday people, places and things in our lives we are much more able to bear the perceived sacrifices we make along the way to our less immediate goals.

 

Why Community Garden?

Community Garden Plot

Plots at the local Community Gardens

Although I’ve always had an interest in my local community garden, it was not until recently that I realized the benefits of becoming a member and renting my own plot there. ‘Why Claudette…’ I hear you ask ‘…when you live on an acreage property and have all that space, would you need to join the gardens? I thought they were just for people on tiny blocks of land or in rented apartments.’

Well, the reasons are many and varied. The first is evident in the name. It’s the “community” in community gardens that says the most for me. As someone who works from home it is easy to become a little insular and visitors can be rare when there are garden beds to dig over, compost to turn or buildings to erect. A monthly meeting, or better still a working bee at the gardens can be just what the doctor ordered. Some hearty physical activity doing what’s needed that month, a dose of good humour and gardening knowledge shared with others, some fresh herbs and greens to take home and a meal and a cuppa with like minded souls can well keep you going through the quiet days at home.

When life gets hectic (as it has been lately) it can be easy to fall behind in some of the necessities of life on The Ridge. For instance, we like to ‘make’ our own soil for small garden beds and pots using dirt from the property or the bottom of the dam and adding things like cow, goat, alpaca and/or chicken manures, fire ash, vermiculite, blood and bone, dynamic lifter, worm castings, compost or whatever other organic goodies happen to be on hand at the time. This system not only takes time to collect and put together, but if it happens to be a ‘no dig’ style garden we’re making, layering these types of materials with old newspapers, cardboard and garden clippings, there can be a bit of a waiting period while the contents breaks down enough to plant into. Add to this situation the spoils of previous enthusiasm, where every seed I lovingly soaked and planted has sprouted and is fast outgrowing its seedling tray, desperately needing to spread its roots, and you have just the recipe for a ready made, previously dug and manured garden bed in town.

Community gardens in our area can be found in Pomona, Cooroy, Tewantin, Perigian, Yandina and Nambour.

Sustainable Summer

Umbrella shading plants

Shading plants from the hot summer sun

Although we often think of spring as a great time of growth in our gardens, summer is where things really race ahead. Given the right nourishment and protection, your garden should reward you with bountiful produce. Failure to put in place a few basic essentials however and you’ll be left with hard dry soil and crops that bolt to seed. Of course, there’s always plenty of things you can do to keep your garden flourishing over summer but the three most important factors for success are hydration, protection and competition. When acted on, these three simple concepts will ensure that your garden is well prepared to survive the harshest days.

  1. Hydration: If your soil has become hydrophobic (water repellant) or is very sandy you could add a wetting agent or water crystals, which will increase the soil’s water holding capacity and help keep the soil moist for longer. Water crystals are especially helpful in pot plants, which often dry out quickly in the sun or with hot winds. If you don’t have a dedicated irrigation system it is best to push your hose slightly into the garden, around 50-75mm deep, so the water is much closer to the roots of the plants and less is lost to wind and evaporation. Watering this way also eliminates sunburn on the foliage caused when droplets of water act somewhat like a magnifying glass in the harsh sunlight. Water early in the morning or late in the afternoon to mimimise water loss through evaporation, dig through as much compost and organic matter you can get your hands on and mulch well and you’ll have a healthy, robust garden that will bounce back after even the hottest days.

 

  1. Protection: Protecting your garden over summer takes many forms. The most obvious being the provision of shade. Our baking sun can wreak all sorts of damage on our plants, especially on the young seedlings you hope will provide you with sustenance for the next few months. If you have the option of raising seeds in a green house during the hottest months then this is certainly optimal, just remember to harden them off in the sun for a few hours a day before planting them out into full sun. Planting seeds directly into the ground however can be just as successful (and will reduce the amount of time you have to spend tending to the seedlings) as long as you provide shelter from the sun and also the wind. Branches stuck into the ground, with their leaves still attached, are a quick and easy way to ensure dappled sunlight gets to the plants, an umbrella will provide light shade but not much beats good old shade cloth for strong protection. If you are caught short or a heatwave looms, draping an old sheet over plants will afford some protection and may just save next weeks salads. If your garden beds are particularly exposed you could consider planting essential herbs and greens in pots that you can position in a shady location, ideally near the kitchen for easy harvesting and watering. Or if you are in the exciting phase of planning your garden, make sure to group plants according to their water requirements. This will not only ensure they flourish but will limit the amount of time you need to spend tending to them.

 

  1. Competition: There is one job you can do at all times of the year that will benefit what you are trying to grow, which is especially important during summer, that is weeding. Weeds are plants too and they are very good at seeking out water. Generally, weeds are much hardier than the food species we plant. Their roots are often deeper in the soil, their leaves more robust and more resistant to pests. This gives the weeds a definite head start, so removing them altogether will ensure that competition for resources is limited. Competition can also come from overloading your vege patch. Planting crops too closely or not thinning out direct-sown seedlings as they get bigger can result in spindly growth from overcrowding and not enough sunlight.

 

As always, gardens grown in healthy, organic-rich soil will fare the best whatever the weather, so before it gets too hot it’s a great idea to give your garden a bit of a nutrient boost. These vital minerals, along with the pointers mentioned above should help to keep you in firm, fresh fruit, veg and flowers all summer long.

 

A Natural Celebration

Harvested Vegetables

Raw Materials Ready to Be Made into Christmas Treats

Christmas on The Ridge will be celebrated the way nature does it. We’ll make a showy display of all the things that make us who we are. We’ll decorate to attract beneficial passers by and we’ll delight in nourishing them with our sweet nectar.

All year we have been preparing the gifts we will give over the festive season. Just as you have written your Christmas wish lists, we’ve spent many hours planning and choosing what to give. Just as you’ve bought presents throughout the year and stowed them away to be wrapped at a later date, we’ve stored ours safely within the soils.

Each gift we give will be a celebration of our year; carefully planted, nourished, grown and lovingly shared. These gifts are infused with the same energy that went into their creation. Within each twist of vine in a basket or juicy burst of flavour in a jar of relish is the relief that came with the rain that finally fell after a long hot week, the gratitude for the warmth of the sun on a cold winter’s morning and the positive intentions for strong healthy growth that accompanied the moisture in every hand-drawn bucket of recycled water.

As the year draws to a close and we slip into a somewhat slower pace, the gifts we create serve to remind us of each of the major events of 2014.  Each different ingredient of the final product helps to affirm the choices we make and provides us with the opportunity to share ourselves in a meaningful way with the ones we love.

Of all the traditions we participate in, this natural, homegrown one is by far my favourite. From our Ridge to yours, I wish you a Christmas filled with the peace and reverence that nature encourages us to share.

The Most Soothing Succulent

Flowering Aloe Vera

Aloe Vera in Flower

Aloe Vera (Aloe barbadensis) is one of the most valuable plants we have on the Ridge and is one of the simplest to grow and look after. A succulent, it will grow equally well in pots, rockeries or garden beds and as long as it has sufficient light and water, will serve you well with very little ongoing maintenance.  It’s not just its simplicity of care that endears the saw-toothed aloe plant but also the multiplicity of health-giving properties it possesses that really make it a great all-rounder.

While now commonly used in commercial beauty products, cosmetics and nutritional supplements, aloe has always been one of Grandma’s standby remedies. With a recorded medicinal history of at least 6,000 years, the ancient Egyptians knew Aloe Vera as the “plant of immortality.” If I do live forever, I’ll be sure to let you know whether this herbal succulent was responsible, but for now I’m just grateful for it’s extremely effective first aid properties.

Applied quickly to burns, cuts and stings, the thick gel inside the plump leaves immediately lessens irritation. And if applied continuously it will reduce (if not altogether eliminate) any scarring that would have otherwise have resulted from minor injuries.

It is best to use an outer leaf of the plant as these are the oldest and will have the most potent amount of beneficial properties. Cut the leaf off with a sharp knife and then make a thin slice along each side to remove the small spines. Although you don’t need to do this to use the leaf, it does make it a little easier to handle. Once the spines are removed, slice one side of the green skin off and discard. Holding the remaining green side will give you more purchase on the slippery gel and you can then lay the whole piece (gel side down) over the area to be treated.

This is an easy way to apply aloe, especially if using for sunburn or treating a larger area of the body (i.e.: a rash). If you can get a handle on it, you can also cut away a small amount of the gel and place it on a small cut or sting and hold it in place with a sticking plaster. If left undisturbed (e.g.: overnight), the body will absorb the moisture (along with it’s constituent nutrients) and on removal, all you will find is a thin, dried piece of aloe flesh.

Not only are Aloe Vera’s rapid-healing and pain-reducing properties extremely effective, the plant produces at least six natural antiseptics; which have been shown to kill mold, bacteria, funguses and viruses. Aloe is quite a handy plant to have dotted around the property for easy access and provides a very gentle way to administer first aid to children. The cool, soothing gooeyness of the gel inside the leaves can be an interesting distraction from their pain. While I would administer first aid with aloe in a blink, it is still necessary to seek medical advice for serious or ongoing issues.