Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The Beauty of the Forest at Eden

When we first came out to visit the property we have christened our eight acres of eden, we were smitten from the very first moment. One of the first thoughts that entered my mind as I cast my eyes toward the sky to gaze upon the towering gums was ' Imagine homeschooling the children here'! My excitement was building as I pictured the nature study we could undertake, the stories it would inspire, the imaginative play that would take place. The lady selling the property just happened to be a school teacher and when I told her that we homeschooled she remarked 'Oh this would be the perfect place to homeschool'. She was right and seven years on, each day, as I look out upon the forest or see a honeyeater flitting through the shrubbery, I never cease to be amazed and delighted at the wonders of God's creation.
It has been a wonderful setting to live and learn in.... the trees, the animal, bird and insect life have all been studied, the trees have been climbed, forts and shelters constructed in the woodland, koalas observed and sometimes rescued, carpet snakes relocated further into the forest, fruit trees and food gardens planted and harvested, chickens established in a sheltered setting under the trees, the home renovated, extended and beautified but there is little need for landscape paintings on the walls when you are living in a setting such as this and view the artistry of God every day from your dining room window!

I would love to take you on a tour of our forest and show you some of its delights... are you ready, let's go for a walk.......

This is the centre island on the driveway at the front of the property which forms a 'turning circle' for vehicles which both we and our visitors appreciate. It is planted with a variety of palms and cycads. A 'bandy, bandy' - a black and white striped snake lives in here. I'm always a little reluctant to weed in here during the hot summer months!

This is the front boundary circled by majestic eucalyptus trees with glimpses over the valley toward the river - when the river is in flood we are afforded a view. We cleared out many of the weeds on the front bank and have planted a small hedge of citrus on one side of the path. A hedge of coffee plants which are still establishing, borders the opposite side.

This is the view from the front of the house looking towards the neighbouring paddocks. Sometimes there are cows grazing in this field, other times, thoroughbred horses. The neighbour who lives opposite, owns this field but a strip of it is actually ours! - we found this out when we had the land surveyed and discovered that the boundary fence was not in the correct position. One day we would like to own this field and maybe establish a vineyard. It is just a dream at the moment. Beyond the trees in the distance is the dairy farm where my older children work. They take this route through the paddock on their way to work each morning. The neighbour does not mind and they always remember to close gates!

The colour which predominates at Eden is green but some of our trees are underplanted with shrubs with colourful flowers. The occasional glimpse of pink, red or purple in the foreground reminds me that God is the master designer. He used such restful colours for the mass expanses and backdrops... blue for the sky, green for the fields and forests. I always try to remember this when I am thinking about redecorating a room.

The front entrance is graced with two magnificent conifers. A Kashmiri Cypress on the left with its cascading green fronds and on the right a Himalayan Cedar. These trees have certainly grown in stature over the past few years and they provide welcome shade for the living and dining rooms at the front of the house. The green catbird likes to hop along the branches and the resident honeyeater darts under the beams to help himself to some tasty insects! During the Christmas season I trim some of the branches and use the greenery to decorate my home. I love to decorate in a natural style and I am blessed to have an abundance of fresh green cedar and cypress to create displays and use in arrangements. I'm looking forward to showing you how I decorate my home at Christmas time! I'm hoping to one day have a matching white arbour between these two trees leading the way to the front entrance of the house

We have just come around to the side of the house and the main feature of the planting which softens the brick patio outside the French doors and picture windows is this magnificent native grass tree. This was planted by the previous owner and specimens of this size cost a small fortune! Its spear-like seed head attracts the birds. We are landscaping at the moment and will be extending our patio and replacing the uneven brick pavers. We removed some of the adjacent exotic shrubbery which was encroaching on the grass tree and made it a stand alone feature which is what it surely deserves!

We have come around to the back of the house and you are looking at my kitchen and office windows. We still have lots of work to complete on this side of the house - more block walls to render and we hope to replace the dated brown aluminium windows with picture windows. Just outside the kitchen and office windows are flower beds edged with rocks. Flowering camellias and azaleas soften the edges and create a lovely outlook. Just tucked away to the left is a small water tank on a stand which is camouflaged by a native guava and a glossy leaved magnolia.... the variety which has pinkish flowers which smell of bubble gum! This area of planting also screens the washing line. I'm planning to devote a whole post to my washing line which is quite a unique garden feature!

Most of the camellias have finished flowering, this single, sumptuous specimen remains... they certainly brighten up a gloomy winter's day and uplift my mood too! When they are flowering in profusion I love to pick the blooms and bring them inside to place in a bowl surrounding floating candles - such a simple arrangement to grace the table and bring the beauty of the garden into the home.

If you were to visit me today and walk down the narrow path to enter the back garden, an intoxicating perfume would pervade your senses. It is the blossom on the Tahitian lime tree and the scent is just heavenly. This is one of three established fruit trees bordering our only area of flat ground. We also have a bush lemon and a mandarin. I hope one day to re establish the small area of lawn which has been worn down by children playing and liberated chickens pecking! The trampoline will need to be relocated too! This area is bordered by a rock wall lovingly hand built by my husband. Against a backdrop of a purple flowering tibouchinas , I planted a hedge of lavender which spills over the wall but many succumbed to the very wet winter. I will take cuttings from the surviving bushes and replant. Behind the lavender was a rhubarb patch which was flourishing until the chickens escaped and ravaged it!

Wide steps edged with old timber railway sleepers lead you further up the hill towards the rear of the property. This is where my husband's large workshop is located, we chose a dark green steel shed which blends into the background of forest. If you walk across the path from the workshop you are greeted by this vista of our stunning green valley through the trees which continue right up the hill, the bush becomes denser the further you walk. The eucalyptus trees on this side of the property are where we often spot koalas sleeping in the forks of branches.

You are welcome to take a walk up the back track which leads you to the top of the property where you will meet a trail. Follow this for a short distance past some more private properties and you will soon arrive in the National Park. We have cycled this trail but you reach a point where you have to haul your bike up steep inclines. There are many ruts, hollows and overhanging branches to watch out for, it really is more suited to mountain biking than a leisurely family bike ride!

I have come back down the hill to show you the other side of the property. This aspect is towards the paddocks rather than the forest. The little tin shed you are looking down upon is the chicken's residence. They have a lovely sheltered run where we are establishing a small orchard. There are apple trees, plums, tropical pears, a peacharine, paw paws, a kiwi fruit vine and mangoes. The trees which are really flourishing are the native Davidson plums, we have both New South Wales and Queensland varieties. I'm looking forward to making preserves with its tangy, purple fruit This whole area was once a dense, tangled mass of lantana. A previous owner had cleared out trees creating clearings, the light that this allowed in, enabled the lantana to take over. We hope to plant more rainforest species and 'bush tucker' plants on this side of the property. Beyond the chickens' enclosure and orchard, the bush thickens and there are pockets of rainforest. I would love to take you further in but be prepared to come across prickly 'lawyer vines'. The rustling you hear might be a goanna who will race up the nearest tree and tread carefully, it is breeding season for snakes. We have both red bellied black snakes and the more formidable eastern brown snake - a very dangerous snake indeed. You are welcome to hug some of the trees that encircle the dam at the bottom of the property but you will need very long arms!

As the weather has warmed up with the early arrival of spring and summer-like temperatures, I am returning to the house for a cool drink. I have only mentioned a few of the creatures we share this beautiful forest with. I have recently commenced a unit study with my younger children. I want to develop their creative writing skills by using their spontaneous observations of the nature that surrounds us. They spend a lot of time outdoors in our 'natural classroom' and they are very familiar with the birds, insects and animals that also call Eden home. Some of these powers of identification I am grateful for - they know their snakes and how to respond appropriately should they meet one on a path. Thankfully most of our encounters with the wildlife are ones that evoke delight rather than fear.

We have started our unit by spending time studying the setting and as I've told the children on numerous occasions, every good story has a setting which needs to be described. As I gathered together our resources together I realized it was turning into much more than a creative writing unit. It is nature study, science, ecology, literature and language all combining... why study subjects in isolation? This is why I love the unit study approach so much! I will share what do as our unit progresses in a future post and open up our family nature journal once again to hopefully inspire you to look for the beauty in your own backyard, whether you live in the town or the country there is always a lesson from nature to enrich your world of living and learning!

Until next time,
With love and joy,


Farming On Faith said...

I so enjoyed my tour this morning! You are blessed my dear!
What a beautiful forest and home you have. Your children are lovely too!
Have a wonderful day!

A Bite of Country Cupcakes said...

You truly live in a Glorious Location!
It sounds like you foster it and really take pleasure from it all.
We too get eastern Browns and On the first day of spring had 2 copper heads.
This worries me alittle.
I hope I can teach the kids safety too.
Our acerage is great but finding fun things the kids to keep occupied.

Chookie said...

It's a lovely part of the world! I think I'll be holidaying down your way next month, going by the views and species mentioned. If you are where I think you are, you might have to reconsider those lavenders as they don't like your rainfall.

Fruitful Harvest said...

Hi Ann~
Very nice! Your description of the Lime tree....makes me want to smell it! I love camillias I want to plant one!
What a great place for the kiddos to play and learn!
I hope to visit you one day! (maybe I will have the time and money when I'm old?)



Anonymous said...

You are most fortunate, Ann. THankyou for the tour, it's a lovely, lovely spot where you live. I'm also looking forward to seeing how you decorate for Christmas!

Lady Kara said...

So aptly named!! Eden, indeed. God bless you.

Anonymous said...

Your Eden is very beautiful! The Lord is the Artist of all artists, I always say. He blesses us with His gorgeous creation. I'm glad you have a piece of it to enjoy and bring your children up in it.
jean @ the cottageonpilgrimsfarm


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