National Tree Day is next Sunday.

National Tree DayWe are so lucky to be surrounded by gorgeous bushland and big, healthy trees but without care, our environment won’t thrive for long.

That’s where National Tree Day comes in. National Tree Day was co-founded by Olivia Newton-John and Planet Ark in 1996, and since then more than 2.8 million people have planted over 17 million native trees and shrubs.

The event focuses on planting and caring for our local native trees and plants. It’s important to plant local species because they have adapted to our climate and soil.  Other species might not do so well here.  Local trees and plants also offer the best food and shelter for our local wildlife.  It’s all about balance in the world of nature.

In addition to the environmental benefits of National Tree Day, Planet Ark intends to reintroduce children to the outdoor world.  In 2012 Planet Ark and their sponsor Toyota Australia prepared a report on the “benefits of interaction with nature for children’s health, wellbeing and development.”  The report found that within the space of one generation here in Australia, our children have lost the freedom to explore and play outdoors.

Isn’t that sad?   Can you imagine having grown up without trees to climb or bushes to play hide-and-seek behind?  I can’t.

This year, National Tree Day will be held on Sunday 28 July 2013.  Around our local area there are many opportunities to get involved.  To find an event in your area head to the National Tree Day site and click on “find an event.”

If you have never planted a tree before and you’d like to learn how to do it well, head off to one of Bunning’s free ‘How To Plant A Tree’ workshops. Once again, check the “find an event” link to find the workshop closest to you.

The day is an important one but it’s a fun one, too.  Get out and get your hands (and knees) dirty for a good cause and show your kids what it’s like to play outdoors.

Annie’s in Winter

I just have to show you this photo.  If you follow us on Facebook you may already have seen it.

This is what I have woken up to for a few mornings over the last couple of weeks.  Isn’t it gorgeous?

anna1

 

In fact, it reminds me a little of autumn.  The mornings are quite cold, the grass is frosty and the air is still.  You just know that soon the sun will be shining and the day will be quite perfect.

Other mornings have been foggy.  We are quite high up on our hill so the fog is either below us on the flat ground closer to Wallan or on the hilltops above us like it is in this photo.

anna2

 

We have a fantastic view here no matter which way you look and the weather lays patterns all over it.  If you have a camera make sure you bring it with you when you come to stay with us.  You will love what you see.

Don’t worry about winter at Annie’s.  You’ll be snug as a bug in our comfy warm cottages and outside a gorgeous day will be waiting for you.

anna3

 

Give us a call and book yourself a fabulous stay with us.

Organic gardening.

Last week we talked about organic gardening and the effect soil has on vegies.  Today I want to look at seeds and pest prevention.

hydroponic

Seeds

Once you have prepared your soil, it’s important to know a bit about seeds before you start growing your own vegetables. There are usually different varieties of seeds for each type of plant, each with its own characteristics. For example, the common tomato plant has hundreds of varieties.

Some varieties will do better in different conditions, such as being sun hardy, shade tolerant or drought resistant. You can also divide seeds by type. There are heirloom seeds, which are really perfect to use in an organic garden as the seed from the plants that are grown can be used to plant your garden the following year. This is really the most sustainable and natural of all seed planting practices.

There are also hybrid plants that are the result of selective breeding practices. Hybrids may be more tolerant to certain poor conditions but the seed cannot be saved from the plants and planted the following year as each generation will be weaker than the one before it.

In some countries there are GMO or genetically modified seeds, that feature a seed that has been cloned with a different species to make it pest resistant, but these seeds are not “natural” and really defeat the purpose of organic gardening.

Pests

Organic gardening takes advantage of many strategies, such as companion gardening, to help deter pests in the garden. You can conduct a simple search about companion gardening online, and discover which plants “like” to be planted next to each other. For example, certain flowers planted in a border around your garden will deter certain bugs that might eat the vegetables, and certain plants fix certain nutrients or release other natural substances in the ground as they grow and can help an entirely different species of plant to grow better.

Common examples are the practice of planting varieties of squash with corn and beans or planting onions next to your potatoes, dill next to your tomatoes, garlic in your rose beds and carrots near your peas.  You will also want to learn about natural remedies for common ailments such as blight, mould or mildew and other natural solutions that can be made at home to help keep pests from attacking your vegies.

While it’s a bit more involved than gardening with man-made chemicals, it is really much easier than it sounds. Once you set down to enjoy the different, delicious taste and texture provided by organic vegies, and know that you are putting something into your body that you helped to create, that is free of dangerous chemicals and was grown in such a way as to help improve the Earth, you will realize it was well worth your time and efforts.

Balancing earth and technology

All small business owners will tell you that it’s difficult to balance work and family life.  When you run a farm it is even more difficult, but luckily we like a challenge.

I would never say that I was on top of technology.  (Isn’t that what kids are for?)  Some days, though, technology is definitely on top of me.

Website security and upgrades, updating information, adding new information, sending out email newsletters, battling the email inbox…  Last week my phone decided to stop working and I lost some information that I needed.  These are just some of the things we work on as small business owners.

For us, there is the ongoing work with the farm and our gorgeous animal family.  Feeding, cleaning out their “bedrooms”, keeping them healthy, taking those that need it for their ‘haircuts and manicures” all soak up time but animals also love some company, even if they tell you otherwise.  They enjoy it when we spend time just talking to them.

Annie's Cedar Farm Cottages

We also have the cabins to maintain and keep spotless.  We like everything to be as perfect as we can make it for our guests so the gardens are weeded and trimmed, and the interiors of the cabins cleaned until they are immaculate.

Now, should I mention housework?  Hmm, perhaps not…

There are days when the computer crashes, the cows decide to calve and the kids need to be picked up from school all at the same time, but that’s life, isn’t it?

Why do we do what we do?

We love it.

There is nothing better than waking up here in peace and serenity, and starting the day off with a visit to the animals for a morning chat over their brekkie.  We love welcoming our fabulous guests and getting to know them.  It’s wonderful to watch the pleasure on their faces as they walk around the farm.

Living and working on a farm is a busy way to live but it’s a great place to bring up your children and let them learn about life from the grassroots up.

On the days when technology seems to be out to get me I remember that I have a good backup system and support team and built-in tech gurus called teenagers.

On the days when the animals seem to be more difficult than those teenagers I remember that they are all “human” too and we all have bad days.  A little extra TLC does wonders.

Above all, running a small business from home means that I can enjoy more time with my family in this wonderful place, and can create a home-away-from-home environment for you.

Come on over and meet the farm family.

 

All about Alpaca

Recently we had our alpaca shorn so we thought it a great opportunity to give you an overview of these great animals.  Even though alpaca come from South America including countries such as Peru, Argentina, Chile and the highlands of the Andes, they are suited to many climates and countries such as Australia.  Alpaca are related to llamas but are much smaller as llamas can be around twice their size. 

Alpaca are also relatively easy to manage and maintain which is one of the reasons why the popularity of owning alpacas has grown very steadily over the years in Australia.  Furthermore, the growth in Australia of alpaca farming is primarily due to breeding as well as for the fleece.  The fleece produced by alpaca is similar to cashmere in texture, silkiness and softness which makes it ideal for use in making a range of clothes, blankets and quilts.

Another interesting fact about alpaca is that they have soft pad type feet which means they don’t damage the terrain as much as other livestock which have solid hooves.  If alpaca are well looked after and cared for they will live for approximately 20 years.

Alpaca are also known for their spitting but try not to hold that against them!  They are usually calm and defenceless animals and the main reason they spit is that they are showing their displeasure.  It is their way of saying “no” and asking you to back off just a bit.

Alpaca are gentle by nature and can make good pets.  The next time you visit us come and meet our alpaca.

 

Alpaca at Annie's

Wild and woolly

 

alpaca at annie's

No, I’m shy.

alpaca at annie's

Don’t we look fabulous now?

All about Chooks

Having chooks (chickens) can be great fun and there is nothing better than heading out to the coop in the morning to grab some freshly laid eggs to make into an omelette or maybe to poach for breakfast.

As strange as it may sound, chickens make great pets.  Just like a pet dog, cat or even a rabbit, once you get to know them you will find they have different personalities and characteristics.  This may be how they parade and strut around the yard, the different coloured feathers they have or even their quirky habits.  The added benefit of keeping chickens is the eggs.  Whereas the ones you probably have had from a supermarket may be several days or weeks old, the fresh organic eggs from your own backyard may only be minutes or hours old when you use them.  The difference in flavour will mean you are unlikely to ever buy another egg from a supermarket again.

Chooks also have an environmental benefit in they will eat many garden pests such as beetles, earwigs and grubs.  So not only will your plants be looked after, there will also be the added benefit of fertiliser to help them grow as well.

If this information has got you interested in caring for chickens at home, then pop over to Living Greener and you will find a bucket load of information about looking after your chooks.

These are some of our girls, scratching around happily and munching on fresh greens.  We love to hear them clucking away happily every day.  Come and see them when you stay at Annie’s Cedar Farm Cottages.  You can even help feed them.

 

 

Annie’s New Events Calendar

We are really excited about our new Events Calendar which we recently set up.  This calendar lists details of local event s for each month and when you click on the listing you can see relevant details.  In addition, you can also click on the Event List tab that lists the upcoming events.

There is always something happening in the Upper Plenty, Wallan or Whittlesea areas. For example during September we already have listings for the Step back in time at La Page Homestead, the opening of Funfields as well as for Alisa’s Family Restaurant who are currently taking bookings for Father’s Day.

We think this calendar will be great for our visitors.  If you are thinking of coming to stay at Annie’s Cedar Farm Cottages, it will be good to know what is happening in the area around the time of your stay.

We think it will be great for our local businesses and event organisers, too.  We would like to encourage businesses, organisations or individuals who would like to list details of their upcoming event to contact us.  There is no cost for your listing.  We love to promote our beautiful area.

If you have an event that you would like to have listed on our calendar simply send details to our email address:  annie@annies-cedar-farm-cottages.com.au

 

Get away from it all

Are you looking for a place to get away from it all?  We are located in Upper Plenty and only under an hour north of Melbourne’s CBD.  Annie’s farm is just far enough away from home so you can really enjoy a fantastic and relaxing environment. Sometimes the day to day distractions and hustle and bustle of our regular life can get in the way, can’t they?

Artists paletteIf you are an artist then we are surrounded by some spectacular scenery, landscapes and mountain ranges making it perfect for painting or sketching.  Bring your canvas or sketch pad and draw in complete serenity.

As a writer you may need some peace and quiet to finish your latest story.  It’s an ideal location to really get the creativity flowing. With only the sounds of nature around you, you’ll have no problem with concentration.

We are a great place to stay if you are doing research into Australia’s history. Annie’s Cedar Farm is perfectly located as we are close to where Ned Kelly was born in Beveridge.  Follow the trail of Ned Kelly and the Gang. The Hume and Hovell expedition passed through the area also.  We are at the gateway of many other historic sites ranging from old homesteads, gold fields and other historic Victorian features.    Annie’s Cedar Farm Cottages is also close to some great restaurants and wineries as well as many other attractions.  You can do as little or as much as you like during your stay but we guarantee to make the time away as enjoyable as possible.

 

 

How pretty is it at Annie’s Cedar Farm Cottages?

These photos were taken by Diane, one of our lovely guests who kindly sent us a copy. How pretty is it at Annie’s Cedar Farm Cottages? Let the photos speak for themselves.

The Marysville Cookbook

You might be wondering what Marysville has to do with Annie’s Cedar Farm Cottages so let me tell you about it.

Back in February of 2009 much of Victoria was battered with bushfires fanned by gale force winds and incredibly high temperatures.  That day is now known as Black Saturday.

The fires that threatened Upper Plenty, Wallan and surrounding areas was the same fire that ran up and over the mountains and to Narbethong and through Marysville.  Our side of the range was saved due to a wind change but that cost Marysville dearly.  The town was virtually wiped out.

The Marysville Cookbook was created by Heather Samsa, whose parents were burnt out in Marysville.  Originally the book was a gift to the residents of the town, most of whom had lost everything.  Heather said “The township needed something that was theirs and theirs alone. So I created the “Cookbook for Marysville.”

The book was so popular that people began asking to buy a copy so now it has become a fundraising tool, sending $10 from each copy back to the town through various community ventures.

It could so easily have been any of us and any of our little towns that was wiped out.  This is such a simple way of helping Marysville to rebuild that we want to encourage you to buy a copy of the book.

You can read more about the book here and order your copy here.

It’s just over three years since that horrible day but there is still a lot of rebuilding to be done.  You can’t replace a lifetime in a few years but we can make a difference.