So it is
that spring has once again returned to little haven. The mornings are still
chilly with frost and the ground much too cold to plant spring or summer veg,
however the scent of blossoms have started to drift in the slightly warmer air
and it is no longer complete darkness when we get home each night.
ornamental pear & cherry plum trees have blossomed into life and are now
abuzz with bees, which is music to our ears.
Four days into the start of spring one of our little hens has laid their first ever eggs, and as first time chicken owners the level of excitement was very much over the top, most likely to the chargrin of co-workers and family. They spend their time free ranging around the property when we’re home, and they are in their chicken tractor during the week so they always have some fresh grass and bugs to peck at.
With spring comes a list of a million of things to do around the garden. The veggie garden is being shifted to a new spot, there is ground to level, fences to be built, pea gravel & soil to be ordered and spread, seeds to be planted, irrigation to be fixed and in other places installed, weeding to be done, trees to be mulched and check which plants made it through the frosts (the clary sage is looking wonderful!)
the large workload we are thrilled to be outside again, enjoying the longer
days and the sunshine when we get it. Sage, our puppy that has grown incredibly
fast and is now 13 weeks old is loving the activity outside and tries to do his
bit by collecting sticks, helping us dig holes for plantings, herding chickens,
and nibbling on anything that looks edible.
we have come to realise since living at little haven is that despite the fact
that there is always something else we could be doing, making time to literally
stop and smell the flowers and be mindful of the beauty around us is something
truly worthwhile and it is an act of gratitude and reciprocity.
in-between it all we are trying to plan walks up in the high country to see the
spring wildflowers, booking out time to visit all the upcoming farmers and bush
markets and making sure to have the last bonfire or two before the fire
restrictions come in.
you have it. Little haven in the full swing of the dance called Spring &
wherever you may be reading this from we wish you a fertile and abundant
I love reading at any time of the year, and usually have a few books on the go at any one time. However, I find that mid-winter is the most perfect time for catching up on all those books I wanted to get to through the busier seasons and nothing is better than a hot cup of tea, sitting in front of the fire with a good book while it rains outside.
When it comes to sustainability, environmental awareness and connecting with nature, despite coming from an academic background, I strongly believe that the best way to engage and connect people with these themes aren’t books that aim to scare you or present dry scientific data. I think the key is engaging through stories – having people remember where we come from and helping to re-establish our connections with the natural world. Stories that bring joy, enlightenment and shine a light on the wonders that come with engaging and forming relationships with the plants, animals and the very land itself that we are a part of. For once someone starts forming these relationships, earth stewardship and changing behaviours come naturally and is more likely to be sustainable over the long term.
Therefore, with that in mind, here are my winter picks and if you have read any book that has inspired you or brought you joy I’d love to hear your recommendations.
Braiding Sweetgrass – Robin Kimmerer
“Sometimes I wish I could photosynthesize so that just by being, just by shimmering at the meadow’s edge or floating lazily on a pond. I could be doing the work of the world while standing silent in the sun.” – Robin Kimmerer
When anyone asks for book recommendations this tops my list. This piece of literature completely changed how I viewed my relationship with the natural world and from everyone I have spoken to, after they read the book, it is clear I am not alone. Robin Kimmerer is a scientist and a professor of biology, whom came to the realisation that plants are not subjects of study, but instead are teachers to learn from. Drawing on her own heritage and viewing our relationship with plants through an indigenous lens she brings to light the importance of reciprocity and gratitude that is missing from current society when it comes to the relationship with the land, and one another. The book is amazing, however, I would highly recommend the audio book as the authors voice is so enchanting and soothing that the stories come to life in a special way. Get it! You won’t regret it.
Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life – Barbara Kingsolver
A highly entertaining and thought provoking memoir of a families journey, filled with highs and lows, on disconnecting from the industrial food pipe-line for one year and only consuming food that they either grew themselves or was raised in their own neighbourhood. Although based in America it has a lot of lessons for us here as well and will likely motivate you to examine your relationship with food, knowing where your food comes from and the importance of community. Thanks to this book I will never look at asparagus the same way again either, “(on asparagus) Europeans of the Renaissance swore by it as an aphrodisiac, and the church banned it from nunneries.”
The Art of Frugal Hedonism: A Guide to Spending Less While Enjoying Everything More– Annie Raser-Rowland & Adam Grubb
In our society all to often success and happiness are promoted to be a result of wealth and consumption so it is no wonder that despite living in one of the richest countries in the world so many of us are unhappy and struggle to find a sense of purpose and fulfillment. This is not some pious, self righteous book about living on the cheap – its quirky, fun and a very easy read. This book is about finding joy in things that matter, reevaluating our lives and finding what brings us genuine happiness – and surprisingly (or not) those things are not tied with wealth. It’s something that my partner and I have discovered slowly over time, moving from a high paying jobs to a life out in the country, and finding the pleasure of recognising we don’t care if all our dinnerware matches or not, or what model of car we own as we know that the money could be spent on experiences or items that bring us actual joy. It’s about taking pleasure in things like a brilliant op shop find, the taste of a sweet peach on a summers day and the satisfaction of a good day’s work in the garden. Have you ever thought about what truly makes you happy? Well this book will and it will bring more mindfulness to your spending choices so that instead of that hollow feeling you get after buying yet another item that you don’t really need you start choosing to spend money where it bring you pleasure and joy.
The Hidden World of Trees – Peter Wohlleben
“If a tree falls in the forest there are other trees listening.” – Peter Wohlleben
This is one I have recently started and am half way through at the moment but did not want to delay in recommending it. I challenge anyone to go into a forest or sit by a tree and not see them with completely new eyes after reading this book that explores the magic that transpires within and around these stoic guardians. Peter discusses scientific discoveries of ways in which trees communicate, form communities, share nutrients and warn one another of impending dangers. There is such a warmth to his writing, although this book and Robin’s Braiding Sweetgrass overlap somewhat in subject matter they look at it through very different eyes and the tone of each book reflects this. A very interesting read.
The Lost Words – Robert Macfarlane & Jackie Morris
This book originated after in 2007 when the Oxford Junior Dictionary dropped 40 nature-centric words such as acorn, bluebell, dandelion, magpie, willow, weasel and wren to make room for technological words such as, broadband, blog or cut-and-paste. This inspired the British authors to create a stunning book of 20 words that each have beautiful water-color inspirations and instead of definitions enchanting poems. This is not a kids book nor an adults book. It’s a book adults could read to kids, but a book that adults can enjoy completely on their own as the poems can be quite complex and layered with meaning. It is a beautiful, large coffee-table style book that is a wonderful discussion starter and quite simply a work of art (see below).
That’s my list for the time being, and remember if you have any books of a similar theme that you would recommend we would love to hear your suggestions in the comments below!
Winter has arrived at little haven and the wheel has turned once more, having crossing the threshold of the Winter Solstice. The temperature has dropped below -2 more than once (-4 scheduled for tonight brrr), and the frost in the morning has given the property a beautiful and stark appearance. The birds greet us in the morning, reminding us to throw out some seed and their little bird bath has a thick layer of ice that we need to break for them.
The alpacas appear to be loving the cooler weather thanks to their thick, warm fleece. They are together in the paddock now and luckily Voodoo has ceased trying to show the younglings who’s boss, and instead has become protective and is on constant guard duty. He even likes to keep an eye on me in the mornings when I go to let the chickens out of their coop, which I find adorable as he is terrible at hiding.
Winter has never been my favourite season but I admit there is something magical about it when it becomes a frosty ,white wonderland, when your breath steams in the morning air and at night you can snuggle up by the fire with a good book or podcast and cups of hot coco. The spider webs outside become dazzling displays of sparkling water droplets and frost and the hit of icy cold air in the mornings is more invigorating than any cup of strong coffee.
Another positive is the celebration of the Winter Solstice, resulting in the days becoming noticeably longer from the next moon cycle. Inside, candles have been regularly lit as a nod to our ancestors, music played, fires burned and rooms decorated to give it that festive feel. A bottle of vodka that we had mixed with sour cherries that had been infusing for many weeks was ready to be opened and the warmth that it spread through our bodies kept away any winter blues.
Of course with the dark season that is Mid-Winter, it wouldn’t be complete without mention of the stag who is the symbol for this time of year from old European traditions. Ancients believed the stag carries the sun in his antlers and is a symbol of rebirth and rejuvenation. So with that in mind we visited a nearby deer farm on a beautiful, sunny winters day and saw the majestic stags and were also fortunate to make a new friend – an adorable little miniature goat that would follow us everywhere. As a result we now are considering goats at little haven…
So the cold and sickness aside, Winter definitely has its perks and I hope if you are in our hemisphere that you are keeping warm and if in the north you are not taking that sunshine for granted!
Summer has well and truly arrived at little haven with the bird bath proving to be very popular with the local bird life, heat waves that has seen temperatures soar to as high as 44.c, summer storms with massive downpours, and the paddocks looking so bare it is hard to believe they will ever return to their previous green, flourishing state. (But they do and they will).
Luckily around the house its still quite green thanks, in part, to the shade of large trees. The alpacas are clearly thankful their fleece has been sheared, though some days it is still too warm and they have been seen dipping their heads into the drink troughs. It is making us contemplate purchasing them a kiddy pool to cool down in.
The vegetable garden needs to be watered once daily to cope with the heat and we already are planning ideas for shade structures for next year. On the plus side, the mixture of hot weather and heavy downpours has seen the garden flourish and we see new growth every day.
We also painted our old rocking chairs that we found at an op shop and one from Facebook marketplace and they look as good as new with their bright white new coat.
Also we upgraded the compost into a large two bay system out of recycled wooden pallets which makes me excited about the wonderful compost we will be able to produce. If only 16 year old me could see me now – excited over compost!
In many ways summer, like winter, is a time of rest. Except instead of cold days with tea by the fire we have lazy hot afternoons, cooling off at local swimming holes, reading books under the fan or planning out next season’s garden activities. However you like to spend your summers remember not to push yourself too hard during this season and always find some time for rest and rejuvenation.
Wishing you a very happy new year, Eve & Tom and all the animals
from little haven.
The weather has warmed considerably and the paddocks are starting to turn golden, so it was time for our 4 alpacas to be sheared so they would be much more comfortable throughout summer. As new alpaca owners we called a professional to do the job, and at 8am Rob & his lovely wife Pat arrived to give them the much needed haircut.
It could have been done much quicker, but it was so wonderful to see him caring for their welfare and ensuring they didn’t get too stressed out. We all pitched in helping steady them on the ground and they had a blindfold to ensure they were as calm as possible. We were told they remarkably calm, especially the two young ones who had not been sheared before which was a testament to how well they are being looked & handled. This was a compliment we both cherished as we do our best to give them a nice home here at little haven and Tom spends time trying to get them use to human contact.
Tom was also given a quick lesson and an opportunity to try shearing and while he did very well for his first ever attempt, we both agreed it was still one for the experts as its not worth accidentally hurting them or prolonging the experience for them.
Each alpaca had such a different coat, Spartacus was the hardest to shear, Voodoo was more silky and very luxuriously thick, Merlin had his unusual Suri coat and Odin’s was praised due to its richness and how it had a marbled sheen in the sunlight. The below picture is the fleece from just two alpacas, Spartacus and Voodoo. We now have 6 large black garbage bags of alpaca fleece sitting in our kitchen and we are trying to figure out what to do with it and how to store it in the meantime.
It was amusing to see how different they looked after the shearing, it was like two thirds of them had disappeared and they had turned into a different animal. Suddenly they also look more vulnerable and I feel much more protective over them again, even the big ones like Spartacus in the photo below who now, isn’t so big. Overall it was a fantastic day of firsts and learning, for the young alpacas and for us, and Rob & his wife were so amazing and shared so much useful knowledge. Living in the country can be challenging when you are from the city and have a lot to learn but there are people in the community that are wonderful and generous in knowledge sharing, and overall it was a wonderful way to start our long weekend. Tomorrow we are heading off to the famous King Valley’s La Dolce Vita wine festival so stay tuned for that blog entry in the coming days! (once we have recovered)
Some Saturday’s you want to just relax and keep it low key and not venture far from the homestead, and with spring in gorgeous full bloom – who would want to! So I took the bike out for a test ride around the property to make sure its ready to go for a longer trip we have planned in the coming weeks.We are very eager to explore a bit more of the region by bike with the wonderful Murray to Mountains Rail Trail bike path so close at hand, however, currently its magpie swooping season so we have to wait. The wind was blowing the ornamental pear petals onto the driveway like spring confetti and its times like these I have to pinch myself to believe this is our driveway. Such a difference from the capital cities we both grew up in.
After I had my fun we decided to have a picnic on the lawn under the shady ash tree, sometimes its nice celebrating where you are, there’s privacy and since I have a tendency to nearly always forget something crucial when I pack a picnic – at least I can simply run inside to get another plate or more ice-cubes.
We dug into some of the treats we bought at the spring producers market the other week and really loved the fig salami by Homemade by Annie, filled with figs, kahlua, irish cream & other delicious things which went great along with the Ash Brie, & the pork rillettes and duck pate were as tasty as we remembered. I also made sure to purchase some strawberries, as not only are they the perfect picnic food, with all the producers have been through lately I think its very important to support them as much as we can.
We also finished off some Pagan Cider we had purchased on our recent Tasmanian holiday and enjoyed, rather demolished, the many other picnic goodies. Then we just laid back and talked and brainstormed new ideas for the garden, and all the things we would like to do like install some rainwater tanks and have some solar panels, as trying to make little haven more self sufficient and minimise our resource footprint is important to both of us. Finally when we ran out of food, cider & talked through as much planning as we could in one sitting it was time to clean up and move onto other things around little haven.
Overall it was the perfect lazy afternoon and with beautiful weather, each other for company and delicious food why venture far from home? Hope wherever you are that you’re also taking time to enjoy spring and spending some time outside.
Spring is a time of new beginnings and creative ventures, a perfect time to launch this little blog of ours. While winter has its stark beauty & promises of cosy fires and hot chocolate indulgences I have to admit that I was longing for the warmth of spring more fiercely than normal. Spring is my favourite season, I always feel revitalised, full of energy ready to go with all those projects we have been planning during cold winter nights. I struggle to restrain from planting my seedlings too early, as I know the spring’s frost are still to come so I plant seeds in trays instead and spend time enjoying the spring flowers & the buzzing of bees that have appeared in great numbers all around the garden.
Our two latest alpaca additions, Odin & Merlin, are doing well while their older brothers Voodoo & Spartacus alternate between being fiercely protective of them to asserting their dominance in their special alpaca way. Even though they have enough grass now, we still occasionally treat them to some lucerne & pellets that they love.
The brassica flowers from last season add colour to a rather bare veggie patch however the heirloom spring onion with its crimson bulb is still going strong. Simply having the veggie patch ready to go, after a lot of hard work over the winter of creating the beds, shovelling soil & compost and layering with straw and newspaper, is such an exciting prospect and I promise myself, ‘soon’ I’ll fill it with tasty things for summer.
The rest of the day is spent mulching & pruning quite a bit of rosemary that would be used for dinner and decorating the house and after such a rewarding, yet tiring, day what a better way to end it then with a cup of herbal tea and reminding myself to enjoy every moment of this wonderful season.
Welcome to our little blog about ‘little haven’, our 3 little acres in the north-east Victorian countryside. Once city dwellers we have made the escape to the country and have found it a wonderful, fulfilling experience. We are learning new things each day and enjoy exploring the area so this little blog is to document our adventures, ramblings, and anything else that we feel inspired to share with the world. Hope that you will join us and feel free to reach out to us on firstname.lastname@example.org or in the comments on the posts.