Let the Essential Oil Distilling Begin!

Fox Hill Hollow Eucalyptus Oil

We had to trim a termite infested branch of one of our Blakelyi Red Gum trees the other day and rather than waste the leaves by using them as kindling I really wanted to make essential oil. Being a cosmetic chemist whose been keen on making their own ingredients since I was about 19 this day has been a long time coming but finally I got to cook up some oils!

I wrote all about the experience on my Realize Beauty blog here and am now inspired to try more and learn more about the distillation process as I think it would bring a great new dimension to the lessons I plan to teach out at Fox Hill Hollow.  I’m sure that everyone will appreciate the chance to go home with their own little piece of aromatic heaven, fresh from the farm and I know I’ll enjoy cooking it!


Watching grass grow

All of a sudden that old idiom ‘it’s like watching grass grow’  seems like a really silly thing to say.  Grass just isn’t boring at all!

Grasses from Blue Mountains Garden


February’s farm planning course covered many things but the segment on ‘Grasses of the NSW tablelands’ captured my imagination the most.  It only took five minutes of standing outside of our classroom in Bathurst to spot three, four, five maybe six different species of grass – that’s up to six different stories, opportunities, histories and futures right there beneath my feet!   And to think that all I’ve done previously is trampled on it, sat on it, sneezed because of it  or tried to remember to mow it.  Value it?  Not really, not deeply.  Not until now.

My attitude to grass ‘it all looks the same, it’s boring, show me the pretty stuff,  most of them are just weeds’ demonstrated to me the power of ignorance and how my ignorance had shaped my values and directed my actions.   We purchased Fox Hill Hollow at the end of winter and then went travelling so it wasn’t until summer that we really got to spend some time there getting to know our piece of land.  I remember feeling worried and somewhat disappointed at the fact that the land was covered with bushy tufty dried out grass that was in turn covered by crickets and other ‘inconvenient’ and unattractive insects.  My ignorance of the value of grass led me to believe that our land was in bad shape, that the soil was probably pretty worthless and that we would have an up-hill battle on our hands to make the land good again.  Thank goodness for our local Land Care group and our farm planning course!

So it turns out that our land is not over run by grasses that are worthless, weedy and ugly at all, in fact many of those grasses are native, some are excellent feed for animals and others will help to slow down or even prevent erosion. Of course this isn’t rocket science and I’m sure that deep down inside my head if I had thought about it I would have realised that grasslands, like every other form of habitat has its place and value but it wasn’t until I’d taken some time out to learn more and listen to the stories that the grasses told that I began to really see its beauty and potential.

Isn’t that true with everything in life?

Here are some books that are helping me to identify my grasses and learn their stories.

Grassland books


Farm Planning Course with Landcare

farm course

Starting something new is hard, especially when you are already at the busiest part of your busy life – teenage kids, business, pets, two mortgages etc.  But sometimes, just sometimes you have to squeeze that new thing in because it will enrich your whole life.  That is how I feel about the farm planning course that Aub and I are doing at the moment.  Spread over six months of day-long workshops we are learning how to put together a plan for our land.  How to assess our soil, water, vegetation, topography and wider environment.  How to work together, to keep ourselves safe, to comply to regulations that previously, we didn’t even know existed and most importantly how to thrive on the land.  This week we were also lucky enough to be a talk on native bees which I’m always fascinated by plus an introduction to Aboriginal scar trees and sacred sites, something that I’m really interested in exploring further.  It’s all just so fascinating.

While I wish I had even more time to immerse myself into this new world of ours I know that I have to be patient and for now, just do what we can do to make Fox Hill Hollow a better place.

Landcare are awesome. I thoroughly recommend getting involved with them if you have land in Australia.