Category Archives: a more natural life

A Christmas message from Whistling Kite Collective

Hello 🙂 As 2015 draws to an end, I would love to wish you a merry season and a happy new year.

This year has been very challenging for me, and all of my hats.

My hats are botanist, partner, mother, household manager, daughter, sister, volunteer, nature lover, plus more.

Once this year, I looked at my beautiful partner and said “happy hats darling”. Every part of me was happy. Truly.

Where were we? We were bush walking with our beautiful children in the Blue Mountains, Australia. We were skipping. There were so many flowers and magestic vistas. All of us were pure joy, engaged and in the moment.

I cried several times. I know it sounds silly, but we were together, loving each other with the wind in our hair and the sunshine on our faces.

My youngest had surgeries this year, with subsequent recoveries. Any mother knows that if you could take away your child’s distress, you would do it in a heart beat. Her beautiful sibling was worried,  and this time took it’s toll.

My father had difficult surgery and i looked after him the best that I could. He’s a good man with a simple outlook. Love and play.

I worked hard in a job that was challenging this year. I devoted a large amount of time to this role when my children really needed me. Oh, the eternal conflict of the working mother! After all of my efforts I am now free. My children are joyous 🙂

What i wish for in 2016 is:
– time
-connection
– love.

All is possible.  All is free. I commit that these three things will be my greatest achievement in 2016.

I hope that each of you all have peace, love and compassion.  May you all be blessed with challenges and successes. I hope that you are held. Loved. Enjoyed. Isn’t that what we all desire? Joy?

Merry Christmas, and a happy new year.  May nature, in all it’s beauty and majesty,  set you free.
Xxx

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Bonyee Walk – Mapleton National Park

This is an easy walk showcasing massive bunya pines, beautiful palm section and lovely mixed forest with a variety of large eucs. Very pretty and good for small children. Its only a 500m circuit. This is a nice morning out when combined with a cruise around the Yandina markets on a Saturday.

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Hello from me 🙂

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We are your tour guides 🙂

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A faery’s house!

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I’m gonna take a step outside, see what’s shakin’ in the real world 🙂

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Violas mean faeries live here 🙂

Hope you have a lovely weekend xx

The palaeontologist and the triceratops

My daughter told me last week that she going to go to university to study dinosaurs and their bones. I’ve had this gift in the cupboard for five months waiting for her. It’s a dinosaur bone excavation kit, where bones are chiselled away, dust brushed and skeleton cleaned then assembled to make a replica dinosaur. I pulled it out. She was absolutely delighted and kept gasping with surprise, exclaiming that this was so cool throughout the whole activity.

She loved working out what bone would belong to what part of the animal as we discovered them together. The excavation process is very dusty! So once the bones were washed and the cherubs showered, the assembly was finished.

What a fantastic activity. She has requested a Tyrannosaurus Rex for the next project. We are looking forward to it 🙂

This was a great learning experience, led by her interests and involved discussions of geography (where dinosaurs lived), ecology (how they lived, ate etc), geomorphology (laying of materials on top of bones to preserve them), word recognition (reading and listening), anatomy (what goes where) and safety (tools and materials palaeontologists use in the field).

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To the chicken, the rhino and brown huntsman spider

At the start of spring last year on a regular drive to collect my children of an afternoon, there was a little hen pecking in the grass on the road shoulder. She was an Isa Brown. The same time each afternoon, when the golden sun was sinking below the mountains and the afternoon had taken on an orange hue, she would be there. I drove past this lone hen for several weeks. My children would look out for her. She was a sweet girl who I witnessed defending herself against large crows, scratching the ground for treats, pecking at grass seeds, and running along her driveway chasing flying insects. It was all very entertaining and we all looked forward to seeing her antics.

Then one day, her characteristic feathers were there in the grass, but she had passed, obviously knocked by a passing car.

There is the rhino. What a beautiful animal, a herbivorous mammal that cares for their young, plays and communicates in little squeaks throughout the African night. Babies stay with their mothers for an extended period. I won’t discuss the scene I witnessed, but I will say this. The illegal wildlife trade is a tragedy unfolding before our eyes. It is like watching a car accident in slow motion, except there’s no suspense. We know what the outcomes are.

HUbert Reeves Quote

Then there is the brown huntsman spider in my toilet room. This is a very large spider spanning from almost my fingertips to my wrist. She is big and probably looking for somewhere to keep an egg sac. I am the resident spider catcher so I grab the usual container. Um, she’s too large for it. So I go back to the kitchen and collect my largest container for this catch and release program! After about 10 minutes of dancing around each other and my children commenting she’s as big as their arms, she is finally contained.

We get out our local wildlife identification book and identify her. She can live up to two years. She cares for her babies and they stay with her for several weeks until she escorts them out of her territory into the big, wide world. She is set free in our garden.

I want pretty hens pecking on the roadside.

I want to know that rhinos can live in peace, even if I never meet one.

I want my children to know that even if some animals (like large spiders in the house) can give you the heebie jeebies, they have their own story.

I want magic and wonder.

For those simple reasons, I thank the chicken, the rhino and the brown huntsman spider, just because you make our world a better place.

Hope you have a lovely week

xxx

Don’t have a cow man, make him a home!

Its a blistering hot day at the beach. The sun is shining and the gentle breeze tempers the radiant heat from the pure white sand. Today we brought toys with us. In the bag are the usual buckets and spades, and a friendly plastic cow.

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The plastic cow that cost 20 cents from an second hand store was the central theme of play. This wonderful activity started with me asking “What does a cow need darling?” From there, the adventure to search for materials and build the cow a home was on!  The beach was scoured for branches to make a large tree, leaves to thread onto it, branches for a paddock fence and gate, grass for food, shrubs to rub his bottom on to scratch an itch, grass to eat etc… Holes were dug for a waterhole so he could drink. My eldest toddler even volunteered to be the cow’s friend and farmer so that he wouldn’t be lonely.

Integrated into this play were:
– lateral thinking
– resourcing
– design and construction
– connection to each other and the activity
– integration into physical environment.

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Benefits to development:
– fine motor skills
– gross motor skills
– problem solving
– a sense of belonging.

A simple question started this activity and brought wonderful results. Maybe give something similar a try with little people in your lives?

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Hope you have a beautiful day.

Upcycling a sun shelter for winter garden fun

A new play station under some trees in our garden
A new play station under some trees in our garden

I want to live more sustainably. What better way than maximizing the uses for items in our own homes? I am on a mission to make do or do without. So we upcycled an old sun shelter and now have a new play station in our garden. It was retrieved from the garage and refashioned into a house!

Plenty of room for a small party!
Plenty of room for a small party!

This sun shelter represents lots of typical items in the modern home. It has a specific purpose, used seldom, takes up lots of storage space and when it breaks it gets dumped because it’s more cost effective to replace it than repair it. Why not increase its usefulness?

An old curtain remnant was strung up for the door. What a hit (open, shut, open, shut)! We laid an old cloth down for flooring and various other items have now found a new home inside.

We enjoyed afternoon tea in the new little garden home
We enjoyed afternoon tea in the new little garden home

A quick set up, easily maintained and a great activity for a sunny winter’s day at home. Have you got any similar play-based upcycling projects at your place? I’d love to hear about them.

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How we rock the forest

You don't need to pack the kitchen sink when rockin' the forest with small children.
You don’t need to pack the kitchen sink when rockin’ the forest with small children.

We love bush walking as a family. We adventure almost weekly. It brings us together and provides for beautiful shared experiences. Our standard kit is shown below. Various items are added to subtracted depending on the conditions and duration of the walk.

Ergobaby soft carrier
What would I do without this carrier? It is by far my best ever baby purchase. Mine has a handy zip pocket that can carry a nappy, mobile phone, small camera and keys. Our infant is carried in this. She can breast feed, sleep, chat and admire the surroundings. Of course, she wears her Whistling Kite Collective bonnet for enhanced bushwalking comfort!
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Kathmandu framed carrier
Our lovely toddler can generally walk great distances for a little person, but sometimes she needs to be carried for a rest.  This carrier is good, but there are many on the market. This carrier also has a zipped storage area that can carry most items required for a half day walk. She is up high and can see over Dad’s shoulders.
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Insulated lunch box
Healthy snacks and more substantial lunch items.  For a half day walk we usually take sandwiches, fruit, crackers, natural yoghurt, crackers, assorted dried fruits and nuts; packed with an ice brick.
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Melobaby nappy change wallet.
There are lots of brands available, but I love this as it has removable microfibre change mats. I holds four disposable nappies, plastic bags for used nappies, small bottle of hand sanitiser, wet wipes and a spare flannel cloth. Now we have two children, we use disposable nappies for bushwalking.

Camera
We have a Sanyo video and still camera, plus the cameras on our phones. My Ergobaby carrier pouch holds this camera for quick access. I find that my Nikon DSLR is too large for on-the-go photography when we are with our children. It only comes on particularly scenic walks or when I know flowers are on display.
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One pair of spare pants for each child.
If we are beach or creek walking, then I pack a whole replacement outfit!

Water- two bottles

30 + Sunscreen
This is applied prior to our walk and we carry some with us. Its absolutely essential for young children in Queensland, Australia.
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Small microfiber travel towel.
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If I am taking the girls for a walk by myself our walks are shorter and our kit is very minimal! We always have suitable footwear for each adventure…

Green, glorious green (quiet please, I’m learning!)

Check this out! Stop.
Check this out! Stop.

Welcome to the “A more natural life” series. In this series of posts I explore how I am attempting to have a wonderful life based on my appreciation of nature. So let’s see how nature will set you (and I) free!

What a wonderful thing, to be able to go outside and be surrounded by the Australian bush. Today I packed the children up and we went exploring with a beautiful friend in a Eucalyptus forest. As we walked up the path, there were so many plants to see that I had to hold back from starting a science lesson! Being a botanist by trade I find it difficult to refrain from naming all the plants I recognise (in latin).

The thing is though, when I watch my children in the bush, their quiet joy tells me to hold my tongue.

Children have a special way with nature if they are allowed to explore it at their leisure. I find my children’s’ experience is diminished when adults try to interpret nature for them. They really don’t need to be told to “feel this bark, it’s rough”, or “smell that flower”. Phrases like “stay on the track” or “keep on walking” really take away from their experience. My toddler spent 5 minutes today looking for the spider that belonged to a delicate web we found. She spent another 5 minutes following an ant along a fallen log. Another stint was spent walking back and forth across a timber bridge over a dry creek bed. I started to feel a bit unsure as the group was waiting for her to do her thing, but she loved it. On the way home in the car she told me “I love bushwalking with you Mummy”. How lucky I am.

So here is my plan to let my children and learn what they need to, when they need to each time they are exploring nature:

  1. If I point out something cool, like a web/beetle/bird/flower, stop it there. I will take a step back and allow their natural curiosity to take over. I will let them learn what they wish in that moment and not describe something for them. I will shut my mouth!
  2. My children will stop and burst into song at the trees. Let it happen. There is no need to sing along. Let it be their moment in the sun.
  3. If my children take what I think to be an excessively long time doing one thing, I will remember that they are making memories. These memories form connections that help them find their place in the world.
  4. Enjoy the moment. It will never be repeated.
  5. Plan the time, so I have the time. There is no need to rush a walk if we have no other plans.

I’m sure this approach can apply to other parts of my life too.

A treechange in the city

I have a wonderful life. Unlike most of the worlds’ population, I have secure housing and food at every meal time. My children are healthy and well cared for. My problems are first world problems. Some days though, I catch myself feeling like a caged animal and all the good stuff seems to disappear from my mind. I start to care about inconsequential crap. So as a long term solution to some short term “problems” I am in the process of enriching our habitat. Yes I am attempting a treechange in the city.

Granted, I am extremely lucky to live in the suburban outskirts of a well-placed city, Brisbane. There are plentiful options for day trips and weekends away to beautiful locations that are very low cost (more on this soon). So, how does one attempt a tree change in the city I hear you ask? I am incorporating the following steps into our life. So far it’s been really fun.

  1. Enrich the indoors by incorporating natural elements for play. We have a treasure branch. On our journeys into the world we collect little “treasures”. When we are home we string them onto the treasure branch. I believe it links my toddler’s little world at home with the bigger world. I approach it as a way of being grateful for our little adventures and my toddler gets to remember and link places together.
  2. Enrich the outdoors at home. There is no need to install an animal sanctuary in the back garden for a space to feel engaging and natural. I have so far avoided plastic play equipment. We have just installed some new logs for balancing acts and tactile engagement. I suspect these will soon be painted!
  3. Get tree planting! This can easily be herbs in a plant pot that are brought inside to live if you have no outside space. Our current plantings are edible herbs and cat grass. My toddler has her own garden of herbs and flowers in pots that she waters and tends to. This is a wonderful time for all involved, especially if you like playing with water…
  4. Tell joyful stories at bedtime. I incorporate a made up story each bed time along with her usual favourites. My toddler is the main character and she has wonderful adventures through the bush and beach. Last time a cockatoo taught her how to fly after she’d made wings of branches and discarded bird feathers. You get the picture.
  5. Make time for gentle reflection. I like this in the afternoon. If I’m a bit pressed for time this also has been known to occur in the bath or shower!
  6. Incorporate a visit to a natural area once a week if possible. The benefits to children and adults are widely published. Our family enjoys getting getting out and about together. It builds and reinforces connection with each other and establishes gratitude towards the natural world.
  7. I guess this last item is the one that has helped me reduce my everyday stress levels and contribute towards the “feeling” of having a treechange. I just do one thing a day. I get in and out of the car once with the children. I don’t run around town anymore. Sure I compensate by doing more online when they are asleep but the difference to our lives has been profound. Of course, this is not always achievable, but a nice goal!
    Bringing the natural world home
    Bringing the natural world home
    Playing in nature forsters gratitude and a sense of belonging.
    Playing in nature fosters gratitude and a sense of belonging.