“To every thing (turn, turn, turn), there is a season (turn, turn, turn) …”

Suddenly it’s autumn here in Bellingen, and at North Farm we’ve just finished our first harvest festival of fruit, after years of growing only vegetables.

When we created the permaculture orchard here four years ago, on a bare bit of weedy paddock, we dreamed of a place where people could wander round and pick fruit at any time of year … and this is the first season that we can glimpse that dream becoming a reality.

In this newsletter we outline some of the events coming up in our Autumn Term, after a brief focus on the orchard story – included because it is such a joy to be able to reap the benefits and enjoy the fruit of our labours – and also because it might perhaps inspire some of our readers to get started in preparing for fruit tree planting in winter and spring.

Dragon-fruit-north-farm-loving-nature-retreat-spaceFruit harvest

In our last newsletter, we mentioned the fragrant white peaches and nectarines. After them, came black grapes galore. We planted the grapevines four years ago and hadn’t had much fruit. Perhaps it was the biodynamic compost pile we made next to them that created such an abundance of sweet, juicy, plump grapes this year. We loved eating them by the handful each morning when gathering comfrey and sweet potato leaves for the goats, and there were plenty of bunches left for sharing with friends, as well as the goats and the chooks.

It was a special treat to share this season’s fruit with a couple of vegan guests, one of whom had a wheelchair. At breakfast time this guest was able to help himself to bananas straight from the bunch as it hung ripening in the barn.

That’s definitely on our list of ‘magic moments that make this North Farm thing worthwhile’.

Autumn’s main event was the fantastic figs. The three different varieties in the orchard – black, green and brown – gave us an abundance of fruit over a two month period.

The brown fig is a special favourite because the tree was a gift from Jen’s great aunt Doreen, whose visit with husband John Browning a couple of years back was a precious link to the original North Farm, in England, where Doreen’s family (including Jen’s mum and dad) had a herd of dairy cows in the 1950s.


The next fruit we’ll be harvesting will be dragon fruit – which are starting to turn shocking pink as they ripen. More on them in the Winter Newsletter!

“To every thing (turn, turn, turn), there is a season (turn, turn, turn) …”


Autumn timetable

We turn now to an outline of some of the events we’ll be hosting here in our Autumn Term.

Eco poets

The first event of our Autumn term was part of the Bellingen Readers and Writers Festival when a group of eco-poets came to North Farm to explore creative responses to environmental crisis. The group, Kangaloon, http://www.kangaloon.org/, writes:

‘Through our creative endeavours we ask: how are we to respond with vision, love and hope? How are we and other species to live and live well? How may we promote health, life and beauty in an era of unfathomable loss?’

Responding with love in a time of ecological crisis was a theme of the Kangaloon festival event, and is a theme we will definitely continue through future events at North Farm.

Gumbayngirr news

The eco-poets, or Kangalooners, were very happy to meet Gumbayngirr elder Aunty Bea Ballangary and to hear from her about indigenous relationships to place, including a poem from her book ‘Birth of my woman’.

If any women readers are interested in knowing more about Gumbayngirr culture, we highly recommend the Burwarrinyin Women’s Gathering2012-1. Gai went 2 years ago and learned so much. It was a fantastic mix of fun and creativity, moving stories and local history, deep knowing and beautiful connection.

Yoga of the Heart

Yoga of the Heart was a one-day Dru Yoga workshop on Sunday 1 April, hosted by wonderful Wendy Haynes. Wendy has been focussing on the heart chakra during her weekly classes (Thursdays from 6.00-7.30pm, Fridays 9.00 – 10.30am), and she put together some special sequences of movement and breathing for this workshop. It was a wonderful, nurturing day. Very peaceful and lots of fun. The next opportunity for an in-depth experience of Dru Yoga at North Farm will be a two-day retreat, on the weekend of 23-24 June.


North Farm’s fledgling weaving group will be re-starting later in the year, but first we’re going to learn how to make our own looms. We’re planning a trial loom-making workshop and once we’ve worked out what’s involved, we’ll send out invites to those interested. Please let us know if that means you!

Tai chi

On Saturday 26 May 2012, we welcome Simon Blow for a day of Qigong (chi gong) Qigong – Restoring Natural Harmony. Simon practices Guigen Qigong, a Chinese medical style of Qigong. Guigen means ‘returning to the source or root’, to the primordial energy from which everything emerges. Simon will provide some background to this ancient art and also teach simple, flowing sets of movements to stimulate different organ meridians of the body.

Biodynamics in the Home Orchard

In June, we are pleased to welcome back our friends from Biodynamic Agriculture Australia, who will be running a ‘BD in the Home Orchard’ workshop on Friday 6 June (which coincides with the Transit of Venus). Pruning is an art, and BAA’s Alan Johnstone is a master of that art. Last year, his pruning of the stone fruit trees seemed so hard we thought the trees would never recover! Yet in early summer we got our best-ever crop … Apart from pruning, workshop participants will also learn how and why to use tree paste, and how to make various biodynamic manure preparations that help fruit trees maintain their vigour and increase sweetness. Have a look at http://biodynamics.net.au/workshops/ for more info about upcoming workshops in the area.

The Australian College of Eastern Medicine

The Australian College of Eastern Medicine is running regular workshops at North Farm, including the following in our autumn term: Cupping, Sunday 29 April; Moxibustion, Sunday 20 May; Combined Cupping and Moxibustion, Sunday 17 June.

The main curriculum starts in July, postponed from the original idea of a February start to take advantage of new vocational education funding for participants.

Koala corridor project

Finally, a quick update on the koala corridor project: a group of us planted 40 koala feed trees here last month, an initiative of our local Hydes Creek Landcare group. When we cleared the area for planting, on our western boundary, we were delighted to discover a relatively mature tallowwood tree – which koalas wouldn’t have been able to get to for years because it was buried in a huge clump of lantana. So, even though it’ll take years for our baby trees to get established we do now know that local koalas will have somewhere to hang out as they move between the two well-established stands of tallowwoods on our southern and northern neighbours’ properties.

As we hope you can tell from this second newsletter, we are experimenting with lots of different types of events, in line with our vision of North Farm being ‘A gathering place for learning, healing and celebrating’. So, if you have an idea for an event, or are looking for a venue, do let us know.


Gai and Jen

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