Friday, January 25, 2013

In Memory of “Blue”


This is the hardest and saddest blog entry to write for us. It has been five months now since our dear dog “Blue” passed away suddenly.

Blue was only six years old (not old for a Blue Heeler) when he developed bowel cancer. It all happened so quickly that we were all in total shock and heartfelt pain.  Even now we still feel overwhelming sadness with a huge hole of emptiness in our hearts. It seems he is still here and each morning and dozens of times each day we are expecting to see his smiley face or waggy tail, but of course we cannot.

Blue was our very first dog and in his short life he became a very special member of our family.  Each of our family members developed their own personal relationship with him. This dear dog gave so much to so many people who met him.  The adage that “a dog is man’s best friend” is so true.

Blue was handsome, loving, loyal, absolute fun, cheeky, obedient (except when sniffing out rabbits), “ratter” extraordinaire, watchdog, friend to children and adults alike, playful (especially with other dogs) and much, much more. Most of all though, he was a real character, so easy to love and he gave love back unconditionally.

We have asked ourselves how we can move on without a constant feeling of loss and the gnawing heartache that goes with it, but never forgetting the special place that Blue holds in our lives. Blue would have loved a puppy mate to play with, and we did contemplate another dog to grow up with him.

Your mate is coming Blue; a little red heeler pup called “Cobber”. He is your best mate and will continue to keep the essence of you alive in our hearts.
video

Our daughter Sally compiled the attached video clip to celebrate Blue’s life.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

We’ve hit a century!

Our first open day. The crowd "blew us away".
Not in age, but in the number of posts we have done on this blog! We actually passed this milestone without even realising it, but now we know, it is a good time to reflect over the four and half years of our history that is recorded in our blog. More detail about the events below can be found by clicking on the links or using the blog index on the right hand side.

What a beautiful day it was.

2008 posts started with a report about our first public open day on 21 September. It was held in conjunction with Permaculture Yarra Valley as part of a project to celebrate 30 years of permaculture in Australia. As it was an “open” event we had no idea of the number of people who would turn up and were blown away (stunned!) when over 500 people came to do a tour. Apart from the wonderful day, this event was the primary motivation for starting the blog.
The garden looking towards the dam

The next three posts went back in time and told about our background and how Tenderbreak Permaculture Farm came into existence (our vision and permaculture design, our owner builder experience and setting up our gardens. See building related posts.
The frame went up fairly quickly

2009 started off really well with posts about the start of our regular small group tours (which we still run from time to time) and about the wonderful wildlife that shares this property with us. Then things turned ugly with the devastating Black Saturday bushfires that burned much of Victoria as well as 90% of our bushland.
Our beautiful forest became a changed landscape

After several posts about our experience in the fires, we tried to get back to normal with posts about other topics. They included a post on our first “WOOFER” a lovely French girl named Emilie, several posts about the design and building of our passive solar mud brick house and how we turned our garage into a temporary art gallery for our photographer daughter.
The garden with burnt forest in the background

2010 was fairly light on for posts. One reason was because this was the year our experience with the fires caught up with us. We made a trip to Europe to catch up with family members that we hadn’t seen for many years, but when we returned to our still blackened landscape, many deep emotions came to the surface. For several months we were feeling low and it took quite some time before we could get on top of it. Even today the sight of wild fires on the news brings a lump to our throats. Amazingly, not long after that, we went through what we call “The big wet” where for weeks on end we were getting really good rains- so much so, there was flooding through much of the Yarra River including across our access road.
The "Big Wet"

2011 in retrospect was a really good year. There were lots of posts about our developing gardens, visiting helpers, new infrastructure and our future dreams (including our plans to use steam to generate electricity).
Our new verandah

2012 was largely summarised in the last post. As for 2013, well that is a story we cannot tell yet, but we will tell it as soon as it reveals itself to us. If the past is anything to go by, there will be surprises (some good and some bad), there will be many, many things to learn, much to do and many wonderful people to meet (in person and over the web). Life is certainly a rich tapestry!

Sunday, January 13, 2013

2012. Not the end of the world, but the start of a new journey

For us 2012 became the year we got fully into Helpx and started a new journey. The Helpx website links hosts with travellers who would like the opportunity to stay and work with local people and gain practical experience and cultural exchange in return for free board.
Alex & Karen

As Tenderbreak is a large rural property and as we are still building its key infrastructure, there is a list of jobs “a mile long”. We also try to grow as much of our own food as possible, so there are continual tasks associated with this process, from preparing and planting the crop, right through to harvesting and storage.
Sarah weeding the garlic
 
Now that we are in our sixties, sometimes our bodies have the odd objection to the ideas in our minds, so we end up with the occasional ache or pain to slow us down. The perfect solution is to welcome Helpers who have the energy, enthusiasm and interest to help us out. In return we provide free board, share our knowledge and skills and hopefully give them an enjoyable experience on their travels.
Jeff shifting mud bricks

This year we have had a total of 14 helpers from seven different countries. Every one of them are lovely people with whom it was a joy to share our lives. And they have all been instrumental in helping us do many important tasks that would have been much more difficult and slow-going, if we had to do them all by ourselves. We look forward to hosting many more Helpx visitors during 2013.

Jodie, Valencia & Tia
2012 was not all fun and games though. There were a few issues that caused us pain. Andrew was “out of action” for several weeks when he injured himself, and then there was some minor (but expensive) damage to the car. However the event that caused us the greatest pain (and still does) was the loss of our dear dog Blue (who starred in many photos in this blog). Although his passing happened in August, it has been too painful to do a post in memory of our friend. Perhaps we’ll do one in the new year when our hearts have healed a bit more.
Laura using human energy to clean the rugs

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Olivia and Bryant

Christmas lunch
As mentioned in our Christmas post, Olivia and Bryant arrived soon after Ortzi, just in time for Christmas Day, and we had a ball.

The first few days were largely spent preparing for the big day and getting to know each other, but both Bryant and Olivia were so enthusiastic about getting some work done, we did manage to squeeze in some jobs such as watering the gardens (our summer is starting to get very dry), weeding and wood splitting. In any spare moments, Olivia would be outside finding more places to weed and harvesting these for our compost.
Relaxing under the verandah
Olivia and Bryant turned out to be a good team on the wood splitter with Olivia operating the lever that drove the hydraulic blade and Bryant manhandling the logs, lining them up to be split in the right spot. Even though the weather was warming up, we managed to get about a month’s supply of firewood stacked away, so it will be completely dry by the time we need to use it.

Planting some more lettuces
Olivia with our crop of broad beans




Together we harvested the last of the broad beans. The stalks were cut off at ground level and left on the ground to be used as a mulch, until we are ready to plant brassicas (cabbages, broccoli and cauliflower) later in summer.

We gathered green pods to shuck for the beans to be used in a broad bean dip and the ones that had dried out were collected for further drying, so they will be ready to be used as seed for planting later in the year.

Bryant shifting mud bricks. Phew!
After we had recovered from our busy and joyful Christmas we spent two days working on our new mud brick cottage.

Bryant helped mix up the mortar in the concrete mixer and shifted a huge load of mud bricks close to the wall that we are building. With his help, we have now laid a total of around 100 bricks (only 800 to go).

Bryant mixing mortar
Bryant and Olivia were keen to show us some of their favourite recipes and we were happy to oblige. They took a turn in the kitchen and not only produced some delicious food, but gave us some great recipes too.

Yummy tortillas
The meal of Tortillos was not only beautiful but very, very yummy. It may have been the artichoke hearts that were added that made it SO tasty.
At work in the kitchen
 

For dessert they produced a “Dump” cake (a special recipe of Bryant’s mother), which was absolutely delicious with its filling of blueberries and pineapple. Then the next morning they made some delicious pancakes using, mashed bananas, eggs, cranberries and using no flour.

The delicious "Dump" cake
Apart from the great company, we really enjoyed Bryant’s and Olivia's visit because of their enthusiastic interest in learning about how permaculture principles can help people develop sustainable lifestyles. As they learn more, they are passing this information on through their blog and have plans to develop an online library of articles, informative video clips and other resources. Ultimately they would like to put all their knowledge into their own property.

Hmmm! I smell a tortilla coming up
Olivia and Bryant have now returned home to Wellington in New Zealand and are back at work, and Ortzi is staying for a few days in their flat. Hopefully one day we will catch up with our wonderful helpers again.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

An International Christmas with Ortzi, Bryant & Olivia

Ortzi &Andrew replacing the hothouse plastic  cover with shadecloth
Ortzi came to Australia from the Basque region of Spain as part of a study trip to investigate sustainable developments in Australia and New Zealand. He managed to include quite a number of interviews and visits into his short trip, including a few days at Tenderbreak. He has been teaching at a university at home and gained a small grant to fund the trip, so only had a limited amount of time to complete his research, which he intends to publish when he returns home.
Ortzi, Bryant and Olivia fetching our Christmas tree


Ortzi was a ball of energy and worked so fast and efficiently that sometimes we had trouble keeping up with him. Within a day we had cleared the over- grown sides of much of our long driveway- a job that would have taken us a week to do alone. 
Ortzi & Liss decorating the tree
A few days after he arrived here, two other helpers also joined us. Bryant and Olivia are originally from Florida, US, but have been living and working in New Zealand and were also interested in sustainable lifestyles.  
 
We all shared similar interests and passions and within a short time we had developed a close friendship. Everyone was blessed with a good sense of humour and our discussions and tales of the past were filled with plenty of fun and laughter. Ortzi, Bryant and Olivia enjoyed their time together so much that they have arranged to meet up again in New Zealand to catch up on their respective adventures. 


Liss, Sal & Ortzi preparing the feast
As their visit coincided with Christmas it was a very international affair for us this year. Our celebration actually started on Christmas Eve when we had a Christmas Eve supper supplied by our son Greg. It was a great evening of conversation, laughter and good cheer and continued well into the evening. Then it was all hands on board early on Christmas morning, to get ready for lunch. We had a total of 16 family and helpers coming for Christmas lunch so there was plenty to do. Ortzi, Bryant and Olivia helped shift the furniture, arranged a series of tables into a super long table, set up and decorated our very Australian Christmas tree (a young eucalypt sapling) and helped Heather prepare the food.
Enjoying Christmas dinner


After our sumptuous meal and a leisurely afternoon, we took Ortzi to the local station so he could travel to the airport to catch his late night plane to NZ for the final leg of his research trip. We continued on for a family gathering and more food, drink and conversation at Andrew’s brother’s place. The next morning we all had a much needed sleep in and then enjoyed a restful Boxing Day.
 
Ready for work!
 
 
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