how to create your own edible garden…
Posted in australia, creative ventures, food, nature June 24th, 2015 by pia

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Earlier this year on a drizzly and rather misty Saturday morning in February, I drove down to the very beautiful Glenbernie Orchard in Darkes Forest, in the Northern Illawarra of New South Wales. I had signed up to talented baker Tara Mills of Mill Lane’s workshop on “how to create your own edible garden”, encouraged by my dear friend Jenni who was also attending and lives in the area (I’ll be showcasing Jenni’s gorgeous home here in the (blog)house very soon, in the meantime you can have a little sneak peek here).

I love turning off the highway upon entering the Royal National Park, like other times I’ve traveled in that direction, I wind down all the windows in the car and take deep belly breaths to absorb the gorgeous air. On this occassion, I was playing the latest album of Tenzin Cheogyal called Heart Strings, and so by the time I arrived at Glenbernie, I was well and truly at ease and ready to enjoy the full day workshop ahead. It’s an incredibly rare treat to have an entire Saturday to myself, and to spend it with like-minded people learning all about permaculture and enjoying a glorious home made lunch by Tara made it very special…

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These seasonal workshops, hosted by Tara, take place in a large shed on the Glenbernie Orchard property, looking out over the apple orchard. It is taught by Narelle Happ, horticulturalist and garden designer, who has over ten years experience in permaculture, and is filled with knowledge which she passionately shares throughout the day. She’s a great teacher, very patient and willing to share everything she knows about creating beautiful edible gardens.

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Throughout the day Tara served a delicious array of dishes for morning tea, lunch and afternoon tea. At lunchtime we sampled the orchards own apple cider, as well as indulged in a glass of sparkling wine, which relaxed us into the afternoon. In the morning we talked about the principles and ethics of permaculture, designing our individual gardens, and creating health soil, while in the afternoon we learnt about specific seasonal and perennial plants, propogation, and seed saving and raising. Narelle incorporated a lot of hands on activity, so we were able to learn through experience which I have always found the best way to soak in information, especially for those of us who are visual learners.

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At the end of the day we each came home with an armful of gardening goodies including our propogated plants, seeds, companion guides, notes, a wooden handled trowel, and some of Tara’s delicious recipes.

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It was a wonderful experience, and to be able to come home to my own garden and see it afresh, implementing Narelle’s advice and teachings over time spent in my own little borrowed patch of earth. I have more confidence now with things I wasn’t sure about like my compost system and soil, as well as the needs of certain vegetables. And I’m inspired to keep trying, keep planting and experimenting, and then to cook as Tara does, with pickings straight from the garden.

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Thank you everyone who attended that day for the wonderful conversations and a big thank you to Tara, Narelle and Jo who owns the farm, for having me along. I am keen to get back down there for Tara’s baking workshop now, called “the art of making French breads” ah oui!

xx

 

……….

all photographs by Pia Jane Bijkerk

mother. nature.
Posted in australia, mini trips, nature June 8th, 2015 by pia

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A few weekends ago we flew up to Northern NSW  to spend some time out in a beautiful cottage nestled within a macadamia farm, offered to us by a wonderful friend. One morning I walked down to the creek at the bottom of the hill,  alone, and with gum boots on I stood in the middle of the gentle flow of icy water…

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I breathed. I watched. I tried to let go of my thoughts to connect more deeply with the surroundings. In my effort I heard the loudness within. My body and mind throbbing with busyness that I recognise comes from the city we live in and the people that inhabit it, and the intensity of events of the past few months. Years. Instead of feeling at peace to be in natural surroundings, I became more aware of the battle within. And I know for me that open awareness is the first step to healing.

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I’ve been craving nature – to be surrounded by wild nature – and although this craving has always existed within me as a low hum, it is louder and feels more intense and insistent of late. When I explore this craving, my mind is cast back to my childhood, and how being in nature, playing with nature, always felt like my true sanctuary and was often the place I’d run to when I felt the urgent need to escape.

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Today I understand with more clarity why I love being surrounded by nature. It’s where I connect. To myself, and to the world and universe. It’s where I feel freedom. Of spirit. Thought. And emotion…

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As I gain clarity, I continue to observe. And remain open. The winter darkness allows me to rest more. And to be.

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And I write. And write. And write. I know I am in the midst of making another book. I can feel the energy of it. In time, it will take form. For now, I write.

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bird by bird…

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Yes that does happen to be the title of one of my favourite books by Anne Lamott, recommended to me by sweet Kylie some years ago while I was writing My Heart Wanders. It helped tremendously as I had spent many days sitting looking at a blank screen, wondering how to start the mammoth task of writing a memoir of that time of my life.

But I digress! Do you recall this bird mobile I made for Laly’s room, which I featured in Little Treasures: Made by Hand? It’s on pages 208-211, with reference to Spool sewing who released the pattern some years ago. I made the birds using the pattern then attached them to some twigs with ribbon, and embellished the mobile with vines and dried fern fronds. It hung above Laly’s cot for many months, but once she began to be able to stand – and reach up to the birds – I took the mobile down. The birds were added to her toy basket until a few months ago when I found an abandoned birdcage. I gave it a good clean and then Laly and I painted it in an array of her favourite colours. I let her paint it in her way (mixing colours together, with big dollops of dripping paint). We added a couple of twigs inside the cage et voilà, the birds have come out again to play…

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I’m thrilled to have found a way for the birds to be played with again, relevant to Laly’s new skills: She’s right into inventing her own games and role play. To decorate the cage we went out to forage for some vines and ferns. Of course I had plans for her to be part of the photoshoot for this blog post, but she didn’t want to and I’m doing well now to let her make her own decisions when it comes to play. So while she was out with her Papa I took the opportunity to play with the birds and cage in my own way…

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Happy weekend mes amis!

xx

PS new music on the way, I hope you’re enjoying my growing collection so far. Thanks for your downloads and encouraging comments thus far, so appreciated.

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music time: Spirit & Flight part 2…
Posted in nature, pia's music, pia's photos, piano May 14th, 2014 by pia

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So I’ve been playing a series of notes on the piano over and over again since I shared my last composition with you, Spirit & Flight.  I didn’t think it was ready to be recorded as I hadn’t really been able to move it, shift it, expand it. I finally let go of thinking I needed to make it into something it wasn’t, yet continued to play it over and over again this past month because there was something in it that spoke to me…

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…something in it that I needed to hear. Then last Saturday morning, while Romain took Laly to the park, I sat down at the piano, pressed record, and played.

This is my rawest, published piece yet, so full of little “oh I could have played that better”, “hmm that’s not quite right” notes  – however it captured how I was feeling so completely that I felt it was worth sharing with you…

 

 

If you listen carefully, you will hear me take a deep breath towards the end of the first part of the piece. Then I play on, higher, quieter…

 

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After I played, I understood what it was that I needed to hear: my anger. I have always pushed it away, bottled it up, kept it locked deep inside. But I’m learning that by doing so it doesn’t go away, it just grows then screams out in pain in various parts of my body. When I sat down to play this time, I felt it well up in me, echoing the frustrating morning I’d had with my little warrior girl Laly, so defiant, not afraid to protest or go against her mother. She’s not like me and when I’m not in awareness, I can hear my quiet, bottled up voice within screaming out “I don’t understand you, why aren’t you like me! Why can’t you listen to me!”.  Of course I don’t want her to be like me, I just want her to do as I say.

So this piece, Spirit & Flight Part 2, is a storytelling of my battle with motherhood, my struggle to adapt, to surrender to how I was mothered and how I mother and want to mother.

In the second part of the piece (at 2 minutes 40 sec), I relinquish.

These photos are from our few days in Byron last month. “Spirit” and “Flight” are two words that resonate with my time there, and the energy of our little Laly.

Thanks for listening again dear friends, I hope you enjoy this piece. Don’t forget you can download all my pieces to listen on your music devices for free.

With Love,

Pia x

 

garden party for our little valentine who turned two…
Posted in child's play, DIY, handmade, nature February 27th, 2014 by pia

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The humid air and persistent drizzle last Saturday (actually the Saturday before last… it’s taken me quite some time to compose this post) did not deter us from having an intimate garden party to celebrate Laly’s second birthday. I have not hosted a party since we lived on the houseboat in Amsterdam, so I was feeling a bit daunted about the idea and wondered if I could do it without getting completely overwhelmed and stressed (the main reason why I don’t host parties – dinner ones or otherwise). I worked hard for the two weeks leading up to the event to be really present with my time and to let things go if they weren’t working out the way I intended, or if things happened that stopped me from being able to create exactly what I had envisioned. My intention was to try my best to have fun with each part of the process – painting the bunting, gathering the flora, cooking, setting up… I still got stressed, and we still had a family meltdown the day of the party. BUT. I do feel like I was more present, more aware than I have been in similar situations in the past. And I have to say, I absolutely enjoyed the making and doing, and I really enjoyed the party, which was my true goal. I was so rapt to see everyone enjoying themselves, there was such a great vibe, everyone got on and Laly and her friends were fantastic, not a tantrum in sight. Before the party I was saying to Romain with complete conviction, “We are never doing this again”and 3 hours later after the party, with as much conviction I declared, “I can’t wait to do this again!”.

Anyway, I’m sure you’re much more interested to know about the decorations, food and finery, non? I adorned our small back garden with jasmine vines, frangipanis and fern fronds, handmade watercolour bunting and fabric garlands. My aim, as always, was to set the scene without buying anything new,  using objects found around my home and neighborhood, along with making decorations by hand with materials on hand.

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On the invitation I asked our guests to enter the garden via the side path which I decorated with rope, vines, paper bunting, and pretty painted cardboard arrows showing the way. I wanted to make it feel a bit like entering a secret garden. On the morning of the party I found two large branches I’d discarded in a back corner (I have piles of branches, rope, and twigs dotted around my garden in case inspiration strikes to make something). These particular branches curved at one end which, when attached to either side of the gate, formed a beautiful arch. Through the arch, our little guests were greeted with fresh drinking coconuts (made festive with party umbrellas and straws) while grown up guests were offered a glass of bubbles. I filled glass jugs for water with orange slices, strawberries, grapes and mint picked from the garden, and there was watermelon, rockmelon and strawberries on a long small table for the kids.

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I created a few play areas around the garden for Laly’s friends to explore, hoping to ignite their imaginations. There was a flower crown making area under a tree where I had various sized crown bases I made by simply twisting vines into a circle shape, with frangipanis and other gathered flowers at the ready to add to the vine base for the children (and grown ups) to create their own special headpiece…

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Olive (above right photo) who is my friend and fellow author Kelly Doust’s gorgeous daughter showed my little Laly how to make a crown. Isn’t Olive’s crown beautiful?

Another play area was a sandpit which I had made a couple of weeks earlier using only found and free material – I’m really thrilled with it and will post about it next.

The other play area outside was “Laly’s Flower Market” – a little stall I set up with cut flowers and foliage, paper bags and string for the kids to make their own bouquets to take home. The weather was a little too wet for this but it looked lovely and set the scene, and everyone could take flowers home at the end of the party. Although I had planned to bring Laly’s wooden kitchen outside, and set up a dolls picnic on the lawn, I left these things inside and let the kids roam freely in and out of the rain.

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Do you remember my great aunty Joyce who we explored Paris with a few years ago? Here she is, 93 years old and ready to greet the guests. Laly adores her great great aunty Joyce, they laugh so much together, it’s really wonderful to see.

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My beautiful friend Kaspia and her boy Romeo, enjoying fresh coconut.

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Adorable Freya holding a balloon, and Laly’s best friend Alexander with his incredibly sweet and cheeky smile.

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Beautiful friends and family.

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A few quirky decorations including a flower and feather mask I was inspired to make the night before, and a very old umbrella handed down in my family, hanging upside down.

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From top left, clockwise: watercoloured paper bunting; Laly with a pink frangipani; the end of the day flower crown area; Laly’s beautiful friend Daisy.

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I fashioned a few giant paper flowers made from old tissue paper I had lying around and some dried up moss, using this tutorial.

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The chickens were a hit with the little ones! Here is Romeo itching to get into the hen run (which he did many times, and right into the nesting box of the coop). Right: even the coop got dressed up with vines and frangipanis thanks to my friend Jen, co-parent to our chooks.

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I had dreamt up the idea of having a simple but elegant cake sprinkled with garden flowers, and my aunty Kathy made it – I could not have wanted for anything more beautiful. She made a double layered carrot cake, smothered in butter icing which we topped with pretty blossoms picked straight from her own garden. She also made the cutest little banana muffins. There were no lollies (candy) or chocolate in sight… I can’t quite believe I hosted a party without chocolate – my every day weakness. But I did, and it was not lacking (unless it was and our friends didn’t want to say so).

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Stunner.

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Laly and her papa.

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Clockwise from top left: Laly playing with her hat made by Kaspia; Paloma sampling a banana cupcake; Romeo getting into the fruit; Tilda in her red boots playing in Laly’s kitchen.

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My dear friend Sasha and her daughter Tilda.

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Beautiful Edith sitting down to her own little tea party at the end of the party.

My fab cousin Louis came up from Canberra, took hold of my camera and snapped most of the photos you see here as you know I’m hopeless at taking photos of my work or events. Isn’t he talented? I’m glad I’ve finally learnt to ask others to take photos for me to share with you. So what you see in this post is a combination of Louis’ photos, a few of my quick phone snaps before and after, and loads of lovely shots by my sweet friend Kaspia.

Some other aspects of the party you might like…

The invitation:

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At the bottom of the invitation I wrote: please do not feel obliged to bring gifts for Laly, your company alone will be very special. However if you’d like to bring something, pre-loved would be wonderful thank you.

I was delighted that guests did just that, it felt less wasteful and fulfilled my desire to consume less. And I love that the gifts have stories attached to them.

I made party bags by painting brown paper lunch bags with dots and stripes, and only filled them with things I already had in my craft drawers – paper umbrellas, colourful feathers, a little book I made from left over packing paper and ribbon, and some popcorn.

I’m so grateful to everyone who joined us to celebrate with Laly. I hope you enjoyed this post and maybe find some inspiration in here for your next gathering.

Here’s to our little valentine turning two, our beautiful girl who teaches me so much about life and love every single day…

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KASPIA_laly2ndbirthday_IMG_2526 photo by Kaspia

xx

PS the aftermath…

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