God be Gracious and Bless Us…

August 15, 2013 | Reflections from some of the nuns

The Farm

This week I would like to take you up into our rainforest to see both its beauty and challenges. The Jamberoo Abbey site is in a conservation management zone within the Kiama Municipal Area. We live on the edge of a sub tropical rainforest and are surrounded by bush land. We all know how very blessed we are to live in such a beautiful and sacred place.

The bird and animal life is plentiful and the forest trees, over this winter, have blossomed with an abundance of flower and fruit. This little echidna has just discovered a very exciting dinner of ants!

In June, I came upon this majestic stand of trees reaching for the heavens and so very proud of its flourishing offspring seen below nestled around its feet.

I am trying to learn the names to identify each tree but it’s a difficult task because there are so many native species in this forest.

Before I discovered this absolutely awesome part of God’s creation, I had been daunted by this mass of lantana and tobacco weed tree. Standing before it, it seemed impassable and impossible to control.

In the 1990s we were given the opportunity to purchase the land directly above our property and as it meant protecting our enclosure boundaries from future development crowding in on us, we bought it. The land has been cleared and left unused and unfortunately, that’s the perfect environment for lantana and weed growth. We have four places on this uphill stretch of the property where lantana is in charge.


It has taken me years to work up the energy to deal with this. In December 2012 we were able to secure a grant of $3000 and the assistance of Conservation Volunteers. If you have ever had the help of volunteers to do a job you will understand the gratitude we feel. Over five months they did over 400 hours of work – slowly, silently and reverently cutting into the thick blanket of lantana by hand. On the occasions when I went up to thank them, I felt so humbled by their gratitude to us for allowing them to work on our beautiful property.  With the grant, we employed Helen Plowman for 20 hours to continue the work.  She cut one path through the lantana to the top and then I cut another. This is when I discovered another stretch of rainforest just above the lantana and the view back over towards Kiama was breathtaking.

By June we had enough clearing for 130 native seedlings to be planted. Many thanks to Landcare for providing us with the seedlings.

But the hard yakka is yet to come as the grant comes to an end!  The help of volunteers is over and the re-growth of spring is just weeks away. Each Saturday afternoon I have been plugging away doing a little bit more, cutting into the lantana, tending to the new trees, clearing away any regrowth of weed around them.  Let’s hope that one day this first part of the regeneration project will be a flourishing bush land. I will keep you posted.

This isn’t our first work on regenerating the rainforest and surrounding bush land. In the late 1980s and early 1990s Sr Elizabeth went through the forest collecting native seeds and then propagated many seedlings. This area of bush land is now well established and very happily generating its own offspring. Sr Veronica also propagated many Red Cedar and forest trees and has planted them in clearings throughout the forest.

You might remember I did some poultry house-keeping a few weeks ago getting ready for the nesting season. Well check out these photos. The very next day, a certain Miss Duck began setting up house and now she has a tidy little nest of about 15 eggs. Beside her in the mulch her sister thought it was a good act to follow.

Her next step is to create a doona to keep her brood warm.  She does this by pulling the soft feathers from underneath her outer feathers. These come mostly from her chest area.

These are the eggs of the Muscovy duck.  She will sit on them for 5 weeks until they hatch. This is longer than a 30 day retreat! Such devotedness, single-mindedness and patience!  She will come off the nest once during the day to attend to the necessities of life and watch out anyone who gets in her way. She will be on a mission. You know the saying ‘Don’t count your chickens until they hatch.’ Well the same applies to ducklings.

We humans mostly focus on farm birds and animals with production outcomes in mind. This is sad really. There is so much to learn from these little creatures not to mention the sheer delight they bring!

Every now and then here at the Abbey, we experience a taste of spring in the air but winter hasn’t finished with us yet. The Navel orange trees are almost done but the Valencia trees are well loaded and will be ready for picking in a week.  If you call in at the Abbey Shop you will find the Abbey Marmalade in stock.

Have a good week, rug up and enjoy these last days of winter.

God bless you and your families in the week ahead .

Sr Mechtild of Jamberoo Abbey

…and let your face shed its light upon us.