It was surprising to find mushrooms growing on one of the nearby paddocks this week, albeit a happy surprise. The paddock has a history of cropping, with artificial fertilizers and the usual modern-raping cultivation methods. This ceased nearly ten years ago, and since then has been used to graze sheep, still not an ideal situation on light fragile soils in low rainfall. Yet, after some autumn rains, there they were, little white caps peeking through the dirt and stones.

Then, a couple of days later, I noticed a mushroom had sprung up next to one of my compost bins. As I watched, the resident sleepy lizard wandered over, and with great gusto, proceeded to eat the mushroom! He ate nearly three quarters of it, before moving elsewhere. Never before had I seen a lizard consume fungi…..

This particular lizard during summer liked the flowers of the cucurbits, particularly the cucumbers, and also the flowers on the lucerne and the lippia, and eating a soft juicy tomato absorbed its attention for some time. In other gardens I’ve had to share strawberries with lizards, although this time they are not touched. Perhaps the lizards have individual preferences also.

Another surprise occurred recently when moving a timber sleeper as part of the process of creating a fire-pit for winter evening star-gazing. The sleeper had probably been in the spot for a few years, and as I carefully levered it out of position, a burrowing frog was disturbed from beneath it. I’d expected something to appear, but not a frog! With an apology I moved it to another area where it would not be disturbed again. It is always with a feeling of relief and joy when I find a frog, as they are such a gauge on the health of an area, being so sensitive to poisons. Often I will hear a frog calling from the vicinity of the herb bed and it is a lovely sound to hear. They offer me comfort and joy in an often confronting world, where so much destructive behavior exists in the human species.

Sometimes I am surprised by a fellow human being’s generosity, as occurred this week when a visitor left a unexpected donation to the Hermitage Fund.

Now what was it that C.S. Lewis said, about being “Surprised by Joy”?

Dancing in the Dawn

Standing on top of a hill, a cold wind blowing in our faces.
Standing in the pale dawn light while we wait patiently for the sun to rise.
Standing in the centre of a ‘fairy’ ring of mushrooms.
Standing with a friend who had never before stood and watched the sun rise.
Standing with my dog, who thought the humans so strange.

There is much to commend those
Who break a habit of a lifetime
And rise to the challenge
To experience
A moment

There is something very special
To witness another in that moment
And to feel their wonder as they experience
That which has held humans in wonder over eons.
There is something very special
To witness an event that happens every day
Yet happens only once.

The sun has risen.
It’s light casts long shadows
And we play with the shadows,
Dancing in the fairy ring of mushrooms
On top of a hill, with a cold wind blowing.

A Marvellous Misty Morn

Two days ago the rain came, and to date nearly 40mls has been gratefully received. This morning at dawn, I was met with a drizzly mist covering all. A sight for sore eyes. A mist softens the air, the land; it provides another perspective. And now thankfully, an end to the dust, for a while at least….

Mornings such as this remind me of the times I would be galloping cross-country on a horse, with other like-minded riders. The horse’s hot steamy breaths, contrasting with the damp wind on my cheeks, bringing a tingle of exhilaration like no other.

Or, as a child, of mushrooming in the paddocks with my father, gathering the field mushrooms, some as large as dinner plates. The excitement of seeking and finding their snowy white caps was as good as actually eating them. Their rich earthy aroma, so unlike the soul-less supermarket ones of today.

Mushrooms like those may not ever be seen again. The use of superphosphate has killed off the micro-organisms in the ground, leaving it lifeless. The so-called was in fact, the biggest con let loose on an unsuspecting public. Simply a ploy by the chemical giants to suck as much money from farmers as possible. does a wonderful job of informing people of what is taking place in this fading world, this Earth.

How many children in the future will be privileged as I was, to go out mushrooming; to enjoy the freshness of nature and gather their own food for the table? Very few unless action is taken to cease this exploitation of the land, and to reconnect the people with their origins.

“We are creatures of the Earth, created out of stardust, energized by the sun, carrying with us fragments of the first life-forms – evidence of our kinship with every other creature on the planet.”

David Suzuki – ‘The Sacred Balance’

Reserves of Strength

“Those who contemplate the beauty of the Earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts. There is symbolic as well as actual beauty in the migration of birds, the ebb and flow of tides, the folded bud ready for spring. There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature – the assurance that dawn comes after the night and spring after the winter.”

Rachel Carson – Silent Spring

Fruits of labour

I have begun to harvest the pumpkins and Jerusalem artichokes which grew this summer, and it is such a rewarding activity. It is tangible evidence of the time well spent nurturing them through my first growing season at this location. In fact, the artichokes are testament to my feeling of trust, as when I saved the pieces to plant in the garden, I didn’t know where I would be living, or how I would be able to grow them. At the time I was house-sitting, and had no idea of where I would be living next. But I stayed with the feeling of trust, and was rewarded with this marvellous property.

The harvest also is satisfying in the knowledge that I have food set by, for eating during the winter. It is a little like having money in the bank, only better.

When ever I look at pumpkins, I am reminded of a friend of mine who was passionate about growing her pumpkins, and would go out each morning and count the ‘babies’. One day we found a pumpkin dangling from the orange tree, having grown up through the branches, determined to grow despite the situation.

The artichokes remind me of my father, who loved to grow his vegetables, and in particular the artichokes. Their sunflower-like characteristics, their toughness to survive, and their usefulness as a food all endeared them to Dad. And to me.

Have you noticed how certain plants remind you of particular people? One lady I knew, Joan, would walk around her wonderful garden, and say “There’s Mary, and there’s Eleanor, and over there is Bill….” as those plants had come to her garden from those people. Never mind the botanical name, that had no association for her with the plant. If it was “Mary” then it meant it came from a cutting taken from Mary’s garden, and Mary was then always in the garden, her memory always present. Joan’s garden then, was full of her friends. Maybe that was why it was always such a satisfying place to visit. Not like those soul-less designer gardens, where everything is “just so”,and which do not encourage one to linger a while.

When I visit other’s gardens, I love to hear their stories of how that plant came to be there…and that one…..and so on….it is really hearing the story of their life.


There is a particular section of my local roadside that has been of concern to me, due to the erosion taking place. It is on the last steep drop down to the river, and so when it rains, the soil races down and adds to the environmental damage to the river. At times, people riding motor bikes or driving off-road vehicles use this section to “test their skills”, and this further adds to the damage.

Not much indigenous roadside vegetation exists, anywhere around here, but occasionally there will be a patch of Eremophila alternatifolia, or Acacia victoriae. Tough survivors.
An Acacia just happens to be growing on the edge of this eroded section, and two small seedlings have grown right in the middle of the path taken by the vehicles – thus lessening their chances of survival.

So one day I placed small and larger rocks around the plants, and used branches from a nearby felled dead tree to further impede the removal of the precious soil from around the plants. It is a windy area, and the branches will catch debris which all helps to build the soil back up again. I also intended it as discouragement to the vehicle users.

Only a small action, but one which may aid the survival of this Earth – as the Paul Kelly song goes – “From Little Things, Big Things Grow”

Now this act of mine could be classified as Ecotage as defined by Earth First! Journal, as I have sabotaged the movements of those off-road vehicles. And according to an article by SteveLendman, – Centre for Research on Globalization, April 28, 2008, many people in the US are being convicted for similar offenses under the Anti-terrorist Laws introduced since 9/11 and not forgetting the October 2001 USA Patriot Act (written well before 9/11) which created the federal crime of “domestic terrorism” that broadened the definition and applied it to US citizens as well as aliens.

Yes, it seems a long bow to draw, but think about it. In effect, I am protecting the trees using the means available to me. I have not hurt any persons by my actions, yet many people are serving sentences commited under the same terms.

As Stephen says

“Post-9/11, future prospects look grim with fear prevailing over reason, a bipartisan effort exploiting it, and convictions more important than justice. If friends of the earth and animal rights champions are targeted, so can anyone.”


“It means hard times ahead when the law won’t protect us, dissent is a crime, and the greater good is sacrificed to benefit the privileged.”

When should one commit a ‘crime’ that is in fact, an ethical act?
Rushworth Kidder the founder of the Institute for Global Ethics offers guidance in his book “How Good People Make Tough Choices”.

I believe that more and more we are being called upon to consider our values and act on them in the face of what is taking place in this troubled world.

I am glad I do not live in a US state – or do I? Many people believe that Australia is the 51st US state. The signs are there….

A satisfying day

A week ago the rain fell onto the thirsty soil, and now there is a brilliant tinge of green rising from the ground. Rain can activate the soil as no amount of irrigation can, and miracles unfold each moment.

My time has been taken up by other matters lately, and so yesterday I was pleased to spend time in the vegetable garden. At midday, I decided to pack a bite to eat and take myself and the horse down to the river, where she could graze while I ate and rested. The horse has been kept in a smaller paddock since the rain, to enable the grasses in the paddock to grow undisturbed for a while, and had not been exercised for about three weeks. She was eager to be out and about. After only half an hour though, she was back to where I was resting, and nudged me to get going. Oh well, so be it, I thought, as we headed back to the house.

But instead of shutting her away back in her paddock, I let her roam about the house block while I was outside in the garden, and able to monitor her movements. Well she poked about here and there, investigated this and that, and generally behaved in a manner that said “I’m bored, let’s go and do something interesting” until finally I had to put her away before she did too much mischief. I needed to get things done. She would just have to wait.

This morning though was a different matter, and off we went for a ride. She was on her toes, alert to the slightest change on the track since our last journey. When we got to the section that is perfect for a gallop, I didn’t have to ask twice, she was off! There is such a great buzz from galloping along, wind in the face, feeling alive and in the moment. Nothing else does it quite the same for me. Or for her, it seems….

Later on, I was again in the garden, this time planting out not only vegetable seeds, but the plants I had grown from cuttings taken last November. Their roots were well formed, and the ground was finally ready to receive them. How nice it was to plant them out, instantly the area seemed more alive, more like a garden. It is still a work in progress of course, but now the earlier efforts are paying off.

It has been a satisfying day of simple pleasures.