Highlights from Girls’ Trip, helping girls connect, have fun and grow

Highlights from Girls’ Trip, helping girls connect, have fun and grow

[Girls Trip] helps encourage creativity, and a broader range of thinking for parents and daughters. It raises confidence in both as well. – Linda Russell, mother

What do you long for, for a girl you care about?  That she has confidence to speak up, and show up, in whatever way is true for her? That she discovers, expresses, and hones her special gifts? That she’ll be ‘ok’, as we live into the global ‘whole health’ crisis we’re experiencing?

On Girls’ Trip, using the fruits of five years Placemaking efforts, we brought together mentors, teachers and artists for girls as they enter that transformational time into early adolescence.

Girls Trip introduced my daughter to new ideas and positive role models. Coming together with like-minded people with … the positive intention of girls flourishing helped increase her sense of being connected, supported and cared for. – Melissa North, mother

Fervor Fever | Pop Up Truffle Degustation in a secret garden

Fervor Fever | Pop Up Truffle Degustation in a secret garden

Truffle season in Manjimup has begun as the last colours of autumn fall to the ground. There’s a kindness in sporadic winter sunlight, relief in the rain. A fire in the corner crackles and pops. Our wheelbarrow is full of promised wood, and us? We’re sweeping the hearth in preparation for an 8-course Truffle Degustation with a special guest chef at the end of this month: Paul Iskov, and Fervor.

There’s a lot of talk about “WA’s hottest chef” at the moment, and I’m glad. Paul’s a lovely, down to earth guy, who happens to be doing extraordinary things with foods most people haven’t heard of. Paul forages for ingredients that our very land has been offering up for thousands of years. We met last year at a Fervor pop-up dinner in Busselton, where I had a chance to speak, and also, bring some apples to the menu. The smell of saltbush recalled summer time running through dunes to the beach. With Fervor and fire, saltbush scented memories became dainty crisps, paired with a native lime spliced gin aperitif. Nothing less than of my whole childhood in a moment (minus the gin!).

The Fervor experience is unlike any other long table. Why? Paul Iskov’s an artist, attuned to his craft, going after what moves him. That’s why Fervor is so special, and inimitable. For our first pop-up dining event at Stellar Violets, this will be an intimate event. A gathering for a few, in a special setting we’re yet to share with the world. It’s hard to think of better people to work with than Paul, Steph and team.

Our story began in 2012 here in hometown Manjimup, when I brought together a few friends to found Stellar Violets. Our vision is to create an arts & cultural hub, a place where people to connect to food provenance and the land. Working alongside my Dad in his apple orchard business, I saw how little was commonly understood about apples. Few people who called really knew what time of year we picked fruit.

Journalists would ask to photograph apples on trees in the Spring – blossom time!

I saw this as a symptom of a larger problem. People are too far from their food. It’s not enough to buy food in a local store, or even to follow the catch-cry “know your farmer”. If we’re going to sort out our imbalanced environment, we need to walk again where the trees grow, sit by the vegetables, harvest by hand, and taste it all fresh-picked. The way we used to…

As we grow closer to understanding the impact of what we’re choosing to eat, so we begin to explore our modern relationship to the land. The more I learn, the more I care. I want to look after the land for future generations. I want people to taste what we taste, the real deal. Listen to the land, please.

And when the land says, dig truffles… we heartily heed the call, of course!

Last Spring, Paul called in to Stellar Violets with Jess Shaver to forage in our garden. We found garlic scapes a-plenty. “Scapes” are the emergent flower bud, traditionally cut off to direct energy back toward the maturing bulb. Scapes to harvest, young broad beans, warrigal greens (native spinach), and some lovely edible blooms. We chatted about the ins and outs of growing food; he has a number of edible native crops on his Busselton property. I seeded the idea for a pop up that day, and here we are.

Paul’s returning to Stellar Violets as part of 2016’s Truffle Kerfuffle Festival, to serve an 8-course truffle degustation lunch, fused with native flavours, locals foods and fresh bits from our garden. Wine is sponsored by Ferngrove with cool climate whites and reds sourced from their nearby Frankland vineyard.

The Inaugural Right to Food Coalition

We attended the inaugural Right to Food Coalition in Casula, NSW, this week, and met a bunch of passionate people who are very aware of the need for access to food for everyone in Australia.

The latest Australian Council of Social Services (ACOSS) report quoted at the conference indicates that:

13% of Australians do not have sufficient access to food.

It was encouraging to be with so many people who are working on enabling access to food for all.

One of the main lessons from the conference was that while a lot is being done to enable access to food for all, the problem is actually worsening, and, unless a combined whole of government, private, and NGO approach takes place we will see even more people missing out on the basics.

One of the many organisations helping to redistribute good food is Ozharvest who are commencing operations in Western Australia this month. Keep an eye out for their yellow vans.

While this problem can feel, and appear to be, overwhelming, we know that the focused work of many can overcome apparently insurmountable challenges. We don’t have “The Be All & End All Solution” but we do encourage everyone to do what they can.

In our mind some levels of self-sufficiency are a start, but your contribution could be anything. But, it is clear that we all have to do something to contribute towards greater access to food for all. 

2014 WAVE Electric Vehicle Festival, Stuttgart

2014 WAVE Electric Vehicle Festival, Stuttgart

Coming face to face with a stuffed horse was not what I had expected at Europe’s biggest gathering of electric vehicle enthusiasts. We were in Germany, and likely to see a world record broken, when over 500 electric vehicles gathered together in Stuttgart.

Having just converted the Stellar Violets ute to 100% Electric, it was exciting to see so many unique custom electric vehicles,  as well as the latest offerings from car companies like Tesla and Mercedes.

But it was weird seeing that horse. Its empty black eyes and elegant form, ghostly proud. I eye-balled it for a while, then got the creeps and walked on into the exhibition. It was the Mercedes Museum, and we were there because our host, Jenny, was wildly enthusiastic about it.

We soon understood why. The exhibition was a world-class look at the history of transport, as much as the history of one car company. If we pause and think about human history, it wasn’t so long ago that we depended on the horse, and sail boats, to get ourselves around, and literal horse-power. For thousands of years, that was how it was.

How will it be in another 100 years? Another 1000?

What I liked most about the exhibition was the feeling I was left with. Like at the end of a great film, when it says, “to be continued”.

The last exhibit was a hydrogen fuel cell electric car. It’s obviously not the final answer. The story isn’t over because we’re living it. We’re creating it. What will transport look like in ten, 20, or 100 years? Horses? Hydrogen fuel cells? Or something that hasn’t even been invented, or discovered yet?

With the historical context for the event well and truly under our belt, we hit the parade ground in front of the museum early the next day.

Our Couchsurfing hosts, Jenny and Stephen, were pretty excited about it too. Stephen and his university mates had built an electric beach buggy to go into the parade. No beaches around to test it on that day, but they took me for a spin anyway. We tore around the carpark at mach 3!

Just a few of the 500+ vehicles and their proud pilots, from all over Europe.

Thanks a million to Jenny and Stephen, you were wonderful hosts. Kudos to the fantastic travellers’ network, Couchsurfing, for connecting us.

Ecological gardens of France ~ Terre Vivante

Ecological gardens of France ~ Terre Vivante

To celebrate their 20th Anniversary, Terre Vivante, an educational garden farm in France held a special open day. Terre Vivante means “living earth”, and I’d wanted to visit ever since one of their lovely little preserving books fell into my hands. There was no public transport to the closest village. Simon and I thumbed a ride from a young couple, who went 15 minutes out of their way to drop us off to quiet, quaint little Mens, and our awaiting Couchsurfing host, Myriam.

It was going to be a blistering hot day. We hitched another ride from the village to Terre Vivante early on, with a lovely older couple who confessed they’d never picked up hitchhikers before.

They chatted with us on the way in, pointing out things to see, and insisting on going out of their way to show us where the restaurant was. It was very important, they stressed, to get there early. The lines would be very, very long from 12pm, they said gravely. They were right. We ate early, and oversaw the long lines smugly for hours thereafter.

The gardens were made all the more impressive by panoramic snow-capped mountains, which did seem all too far away under the hot sun. Huge crowds of eager punters listened to various talks, taking tours, punctuating the schedule with icecreams, beers, wine, du café, and a delicious home-made buffet lunch.

Terre Vivante turned out to be a different model to what we’d been envisioning with Stellar Violets to date. There was no way to visit anymore on a daily basis: it was only open to group bookings. The main revenue seemed to be generated by the publishing arm of the organisation. It all provided food for thought.

Experiencing the beautiful gardens, educational talks and workshops, and the people enjoying it all confirmed our own vision to create a beautiful, inspiring place for people to visit and enjoy.

We’re excited to be creating a place with similar values in our part of the world. Check out Stellar Violets Placemaking to read more about our current aspirations.

Making Mothers’ Day meaningful planting Trees For Mums on Stellar Violets verge in 2013

Making Mothers’ Day meaningful planting Trees For Mums on Stellar Violets verge in 2013

On Sunday, Stellar Violets and friends celebrated and honoured mums, planting persimmons and walnuts alongside Middlesex road. Best Mothers’ Day I’ve had in a long time. A beautiful morning brought a wonderful turnout of friends and families, some coming and going as the planting took place between 9 and 11am, with a few notables turning up just as the apple pie was served – nice one Dad.

The whole thing warmed my heart, as I’ve wanted to do something like this for years. It was especially cool being asked by a little girl if she could come back and pick some fruit from her tree one day.

“Yes, and not just from the one you planted, you can gather fruits and nuts from all these trees!”

Can’t wait until they all come into leaf, and begin blossoming one day. That we may wander amongst them, admiring their beauty, and plucking fruit from low slung branches. We decided over morning tea that a new local tradition has been born – tree planting on Mothers’ Day. Anyone else inspired?

Trees for Mum is a series of Mothers’ Day memorial tree-planting events, originally created for members of the community whose mothers had passed away. The events have since evolved into celebratory tree planting events for all mothers and take place annually on the second Sunday in May – Mother’s Day in Australia. 

Like the sound of this? Read about Trees for Mum with Stellar Violets in 2014, and again in 2015. Both blogs feature a beautiful little video taken by Pete Bowdidge. Going forward, we’d like to revive planting Trees for Mum, on our nine acres. Interested to learn more? Hop over to Stellar Violets Placemaking.