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Lessons from living in the hinterland

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[PS. If you are having difficulty reading the extended post on your mobile device, please click on “view desktop site” and it should load. Can’t seem to fix this, other posts seem to work on mobiles though]

So the house is finally sold and my boyfriend, Dan, has decided to move closer to Sydney till the end of the year, before his mom looks at buying another property in the Northern Rivers. Sorry for the blurry photo – it was a screen capture from realestate.com.au, the lovely photo was taken by Elders Real Estate. For now, my journey of rainforest/remote living will be put on hold. Fingers crossed that he will move to Sydney for a short stint so that I can do more self sufficiency courses with Milkwood, since there are none in Byron Bay for the rest of the year. Of late, I’ve been extremely keen on fermentation, in particular – water kefir, but I will talk about that another time.

In these last 3 and a half plus years of jetting between Singapore and the subtropical Byron Hinterland, specifically Upper Coopers Creek, I’ve learned a lot about simple living and about the beauty of living with the seasons of nature, something that I didn’t pay attention to much when living in Perth for 7 years, and even less so in Singapore. It’s an experience I love and treasure greatly, being in sync with nature is beneficial to our health and well being, and being a gardener reminds me of this.

Living in the rainforest and off the land is often romanticised but it can be costly and involve more effort than what many people think. Selling Houses Australia – one of my favourite Australian television programmes, shared a surprising statistic about how 50% of city dwellers who buy into country towns change their minds and move back. It’s certainly not for everyone.

Natural Beekeeping Course at Milkwood

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I recently attended a two-day natural beekeeping course organised by Milkwood at The Farm in Byron Bay. As you might recall, I already have a hive in my backyard, and I did this course to become more comfortable with managing the bees. I wish to eventually have a hive in Australia, now is not the time as I’m mostly away and the hives will require inspection every two weeks or so.

How this differs to conventional beekeeping is that it refers to the Warre hive instead of the commonly used Langstroth hive, which has different dimensions and style of set up, and our trainer Tim Malfroy also favours as little intervention as possible. This means no antibiotics, chemicals and sugar syrup in the hives.

Tim shared that from his experience, bees seemed happier in Warre hives, meaning they weren’t aggressive and the hives smelt better. Warre hives boxes are smaller, and contains a bag of sawdust to help regulate heat and humidity. Honey bees prefer a temperature of 35 degrees celsius within the hive, and will either generate heat to raise the temperature, or help fan heat out to cool it. I’ve seen the latter situation with my own hive, the bees mainly gather on the outside of the hive and seem quite busy in the evenings.

One appalling thing I’d learnt is that lots of commercial beekeepers use antibiotics to counter American Foulbrood (AFB) disease, and its residues can end up in the honey. Also, just because honey is certified organic doesn’t mean that it hasn’t been exposed to GM crops, as bee boxes are moved around to catch the “honey flow”. This made me think of how the use of antibiotics could also affect beeswax and how it’s commonly used in skincare products.

Learning to Build a Natural Home

While it's a hot summer in Singapore, I'm experiencing a cool winter in Byron Bay, which I'm visiting for a few days to learn about building natural homes. I normally live 45 minutes inland from Byron Bay whenever I visit my boyfriend in northern New South Wales, and we decided it was best to live in Byron Bay itself at an Airbnb abode. For a long time now, I've been wanting to live a self sufficient existence and have building knowledge, including carpentry, and in recent months, I've been obsessing over earth homes and homesteading skills. This is the year I'm immersing myself in workshops of various kinds, and delving into small DIY projects. It's day 3 so far and I'm enjoying the class although...

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Crystal Castle’s organic food gardens

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Crystal Castle has an incredible cluster of gardens which Dan and I love to visit, and recently they began growing their own organic produce, and created the Shambhala Organic Food Gardens. In the above photo, part of the food gardens can be seen on the left, and towards the middle of the photo is their banana plantation. Yes, that’s Dan admiring the colossal clear quartz crystal.

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These inspiring food gardens have plants which include herbs, vegetables, fruits and beneficial flowers. The gardens are attractive and well designed, and inspired me to put more effort into Dan’s edible garden. Some vegetables that I’d spotted here include potatoes, tomatoes, kale, lettuce, collard greens, zucchini.

Music of the Plants!

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So much evidence around us show that plants are sentient beings with an awareness of its surroundings, and this is further proof that this is so. Crystal Castle has brought in technology from Damanhur, an eco and spiritual community in northern Italy, able to convert plant vibrations to music, and today it was demonstrated during a sharing session how different plants can make different beautiful sounds and interact with its surroundings.

It was a very popular talk, and lots of children came along for the experience.

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The synthesizer above, is rigged to plants, and as the speaker shared, plants hear themselves for the first time and are surprised at their own “voice”. During the session, she also mentioned research that suggests plants react to birds chirping in the morning, rather than the sunshine, which I thought was quite interesting.