Thursday, May 27, 2010

Sir Ken Robinson: Bring on the learning revolution! | Video on

Sir Ken Robinson: Bring on the learning revolution! | Video on

This is the second of Sir Ken Robinson's stunningly thought-provoking TED talks on education and human creativity. He challenges mainstream thinking with wisdom, experience and humour: a very convincing combination. I'm very impressed with what he's got to say.

Here are some salient quotes from this 18-minute talk, that really moved me:

In challenging rigid, linear thinking, he says "Life is organic. We create our lives symbiotically as we explore our talents in relationship to the circumstances they help create for us."

About diversity: "Human communities depend upon a diversity of talent, not a singular conception of ability."

About approaching people as individuals: "A three-year-old is not half a six-year-old."

And what really touched me (partially I guess because yesterday we had a meeting at uni about the 'new' measuring model (ERA = Excellence in Research Australia) which attempts - once more, same same but different - to quantitatively measure the quality of research at universities), the following:
"We have sold ourselves into a fast food model of education and it is impoverishing our spirits as much as it is depleting our physical bodies."

He gets a standing ovation at the end.

Thanks to my colleague Kurt at SCU who brought this new clip to my attention. Sir Ken's previous talk, equally interesting and persuasive, can be viewed here.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

The top paddocks

Seeing as we're into some before & after shots, below left is a photo of the top paddocks as they are now in May. John mowed them in February just before the equinox (see previous post's link). The mowing has certainly done them good! They're now lush and verdant, ready for winter grazing.

I walked through them this afternoon and found many varieties of pasture grasses: some of them I recognise, such as rhodes grass, pangola (some call it digit grass), paspalum, green panic, bahia grass, ryegrass, and the rather unwelcome setaria for example. There are others I don't recognise, despite the fact that they all have quite distinctive seed heads and leaves. I gathered some seed heads this morning and photographed them (13 different ones, above). Someday I might be able to learn all their names. If you recognise any of them, please leave a comment!

1. setaria 2. ? don't know 3. ? like pangola but with four sprigs on the panicle 4. ? like paspalum but taller 5. ? like pangola but with six sprigs on the panicle 6. ? don't know 7. looks like green panic but different :-) 8. paspalum 9. ? don't know 10. ? maybe ryegrass? 11. pangola 12. green panic 13. rhodes grass

A small herb garden

Last February I constructed a small circular stone wall, covering the rough dips and holes and root system of a tree the previous owner had ripped out: you can see the early construction photo on this earlier post.

When the little circular wall was finished, John kindly organised a trailerload of good soil. Then we planted some herbs ... and lo, now we have a little herb garden.

It contains
• thyme (struggling a bit, maybe a bit too damp?)
• marjoram (looking a bit thin)
• basil (italian and thai, looking great)
• coriander (looking great)
• chives (coming along OK)
• curry plant (looking a bit sad, shadowed by tall Basil)
• chili pepper (verrrrry hot!!! The tiniest bit goes a loooong way!)
• rocket (oodles of it, lovely ... starting to bolt now)
• curry plant (looking ok, bit small)
• (new) oregano
• (new) sage

Elsewhere in the garden we have a young kaffir lime tree (looking fine), (new) french sorrel, (new) tatsoi, (new) mizuma and (new) lemongrass.

It's never seemed much effort: I made the little wall on a whim anyway, but it is quite rewarding.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

A bit of history of the Grange

Cec and Val Battistuzzi and their six children lived at the Grange for 30 years, moving in only a very short time before the birth of their youngest son Stephen in the early 1970's. Just after John and I bought the farm, I plucked up courage and rang Val (who I had never met), because I figured that if you've lived in a place for 30 years and tended it with such care, you probably loved it and would like to know it's being loved again. Val was wonderful on the phone and told me a little of its history (the little we know, for much is yet a mystery: such as when the house was built, by who, and for whom). Val told me of this photo which is kept in the Lismore Museum. I then asked the museum staff for a photocopy which I have scanned (so the resolution isn't great), but you can see the Grange behind the marching Orangemen (I'm not going to go into the history of religious politics here). The photo shows the house taken from Walker St, where the school bus stop is now near the tennis courts. From this position the house can today no longer be seen due to newer buildings and trees.

According to the researchers of the Richmond River Historical society, this photo was taken by W.S. Read of Lismore. The company emboss is just visible on the bottom left of the large photo, actually. Since then I've found out that William Read started his photographic studio in Lismore in 1882. In 1908 the company changed its name. From combining narrated history of the Orange Day marches in Clunes, with discussions with members of the Historical society as well as the time of Read's photographic work, the photo is gauged to have been taken either in 1885, 1890 or 1895. As you can see the Grange was at that time a well-established house.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Beware what lurks beneath the grass...

In the comments section for the post about the python (below), I mentioned how the hens are laying their eggs in the stockyard.

Although the stockyard looked quite innocuous, with tall lovely grass ... (so tempting for the horses) ... on closer inspection you can see that the grass is dangerously laced everywhere with barbed wire, which would rip and tear fragile horses' legs if they ever got in.

The wire is terribly entangled in the tall grasses and pulling it out by hand is impossible. John and I considered a few options to remove it: we debated using roundup to kill the grass (rejected as the stockyard would become a barren wasteland); or burning the grass off in the winter as it dries (rejected as probably the entire stockyard would burn down). We tried using a brushcutter to cut the grass to a sensible height, but that didn't work as the brushcutter just kept hitting wire and getting tangled in it. We tried cutting the wire into shorter manageable pieces and pulling it out, but after about an hour of that it soon appeared that it would take approximately 17.6 years of hard and prickly labour to get it out using that method.

It was clear we had to devise more drastic measures to deal with the problem.

To be continued ...


Monday, May 17, 2010

Flexibility and resourcefulness

After the too-early death of the companion cat Nori, my sister Anna at long last has a new rescue kitten, called Tolkin. I'm really glad for her that she's got him, and I know Tolkin is going to be one of the best-cared-for cats in existence. Prior to getting him, though, Anna had a bonny photo of a racoon on her facebook page (now of course she has an excellent series of Tolkin pics), and accompanying the raccoon photo she wrote this comment, which I really, really like:

"Whatever it is that raccoon needs, she is going to try to get it in a variety of ways, instead of insisting it come from one direction in exactly a certain way. When you practice flexibility and resourcefulness, there are less limitations in life."

Hear, hear!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

A morning guest

As the rising sun hit the house and sheds, warming the cool earth, a sleepy visitor came out of its bed to see what the chook pen had to offer.

Luckily for our hens it chose one of the pens which is vacant at the moment (though the hens do sneak in and lay their eggs there).

I'm always a bit undecided when it comes to pythons in the chook pens ... Should we remove them in case they swallow a bantam or two (as has happened before)? Or should we leave them be so that they can do their excellent job of keeping down the resident rodent population (who come to feed on the chook food and scraps).

I took the close-up photo 'specially for Kevin who, I am fairly sure, will like it. As with all photos on this blog, click to enlarge!

Anyway, we left the python be and hopefully it found a nice rat or two to eat.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Nova's back!

Nova's back from running with the stallion in Billinudgel.
And *my, my*, she sure looks like she's in foal!
We're expecting the new foal will be born in about six to eight weeks.

Foal's sire: Chabra Hotshot (bay, Australian Stock Horse)
Foal's grandsire (Nova's sire): A Little Touch of Salt, (Buckskin, Qu'arab)
Foal's granddam: our (previously) own Moreton's Duchess (Buckskin, now residing at the Myth).

Barry Stanford of Chabra stud in Billinudgel has done a fantastic job of looking after Nova while she was away. Thanks Barry! She's in fantastic condition!

As Nova carries a double dose of the dilute gene - i.e., a rare double dilute (often called Cremello - but in her case actually Perlino), any foal of hers will be given one of the cream dilution gene. Being thus homozygous, when crossed with a horse of solid colour, Nova's ensuing foals will be a dilute version of the father. So if the father is bay, the foal will be buckskin. If the father is chestnut, the foal will most likely turn out palomino. If you'd like to read more about the genetics, please see this excellent site. It also helps dispel some silly myths about Cremellos & Perlinos - such as 'they're weak and unhealthy', 'they're albinos', or that they are more prone to skin cancer.

Nova's a lovely, healthy, strong and very kind horse with a super temperament, and so is the Dad. Let's hope the foal inherits some good genes!

Monday, May 10, 2010

From Anam Cara: a book of Celtic wisdom

May you be blessed with good friends
May you learn to be a good friend to yourself.
May you be able to journey to that place in your soul
Where there is great love, warmth .feeling and forgiveness
May this change you
May it transfigure that which is negative, distant or cold in you
May you be brought into, the real passion, kinship and affinity of belonging.
May you treasure your friends
May you be good to them
And may you be there for them
May they bring you all the blessings, challenges, truth and light
That you need for your journey
May you never be isolated
But may you always be in the gentle nest of belonging with your “soul friend”

Photo: Tess' cat Jeremy safe in the paws of his good friend, Anna's dog Finn, in 2003. Both sadly deceased now ... Finn lost a battle with bone cancer; Jeremy lost his life to a speeding car on a country lane. But while they lived, they loved, and were happy.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Raise your aspirations and reach for your dreams

We all have our 'internal voice', the self-talk that goes on inside our heads. Given that our brains are quite plastic (see post, below), we're quite susceptible to auto-suggestion and we modify our behaviours accordingly. The potentiality for behavioural modification as a result of suggestion is quite astounding - see, for example, the extreme and negative (destructive!) behaviours that resulted from the 'self-fulfilling prophecy' situation engendered by the Stanford Prison experiment, or the Milgram experiment, which looked at conformism, among other things.

Given that the voice one would probably listen to most frequently and with much attention is our own internal voice, it makes sense then to try and ensure that the way this voice 'speaks' to us is as healthy and constructive as possible. So often, we internally and unconsciously talk ourselves down, disempower our own selves!

But given that we've got quite plastic brains, capable of modification, we can actually tackle this and do something about it.

This simple exercise helps move one from using disempowering speech to more empowered speech.

Instead of saying to yourself:
  • "I'll try to..." (lacks commitment), you can say "I will..." (takes responsibility)
  • "I should ..." (plays the victim), you can say "I'm choosing to..." (takes responsibility)
  • "If only..." (avoids problem solving), you can say "Next time..." (problem solving)
  • "I can't do ..." (blocks growth), you can say "I'm learning to ..." (encourages growth)
The photo above shows Tess reaching for the rising sun at dawn on Bald Rock. As you can see, she can do it. Good on you, Tess my beloved daughter.

Reach for the sun!

Friday, May 7, 2010

I love getting comments!

I really like it when I get a comment on a posting ... So please don't feel shy, and click on the "comments" button below the posting of your choice. It'll ask you to type in a word verification: this is so that this site doesn't get peppererd with companies offering us viagra :-)

Then you can choose whether you'd like to post with your name, or as 'anonymous' (not as much fun) or link your comment to your own blog or site if you have one.

It might take a day or so for your post to appear.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Playing music is very good for you

Here is a gorgeous photo of my friend Mariette’s son, Leon, aged three, playing music with his Dad, Onno, at their home in Amsterdam. Mariette tells me Leon’s been playing, with great delight and without pressure, since he was one. She says he was drawn to the instrument from this early age, and even slept with his tiny violin in his bed!

A nurturing and rich cultural environment like the one Mariette and Onno offer their children is excellent for a young child. Neuroplasticity refers to the ability of our brain to adapt and reorganize itself by forming new neural connections throughout life. Research shows conclusively that learning and playing music is of extraordinary benefit to developing minds. Studies by Taub and others (1995) of musicians who play stringed instruments have shown that the more these musicians practice and play, the larger the brain maps for their active left hands become. Brain imaging shows that musicians have several areas of their brains – including the motor cortex and the cerebellum – that are different from those of non-musicians. Imaging studies (by Pantev et al, 2001) also show that musicians who begin playing before the age of seven have larger brain areas connecting the two hemispheres. Increased and improved language skills are also related to the playing of music.

For more on this fascinating topic, I recommend the books “The Brain that Changes Itself” by Dr Norman Doidge; and “Musicophilia” by Dr Oliver Sacks.

For now, though, I’d like to add that playing music not only makes you smarter, it can make you happier. I’m sure Leon already knows that, though...

P.S: Go on, click on the photo to enlarge ... You *know* you want to see that gorgeous impish smile ... those merry eyes... You know you do! :-)