We were absolutely thrilled to happen upon orchid treasures scattered throughout the bush, sometimes growing in colonies, sometimes solitary.
We felt we’d stepped back in time and walked alongside Amy Mack as she wrote in A Bush Calendar, “Today I found a treasure trove. On the slope of a gentle hill, beneath the shade of young turpentines and sassafras trees, all starred amongst the soft green grass and maidenhair, stood dozens and dozens of the daintiest flowers imaginable, pale mauve and pure white orchids.”
“Their pale faces, lifted skyward on the end of their slender stems, gleamed like stars amongst the short fronds of fern, till a soft wind crept past and set them fluttering like fettered butterflies.”
“Every fairy-like blossom sang of spring, and the faintest sweet scent which came from them was like an odour from a past September.”
“Too lovely were they to touch, so I just sat and looked at them, and dreamed long dreams – the dreams that always stir and rise as sunny-haired September creeps into the year.” A Bush Calendar, pg 10. (1987 Edition).
It was a perfect spot to sit down and have a cup of tea while we pondered the cycles of the seasons; the rhythms we can depend on.
“As long as the earth endures, seed-time and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night will never cease.” Genesis 8:22
“There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature – the assurance that dawn comes after night, and spring after winter.” Rachel Carson
We read, Rock or King Orchid in Australian Bush Fairies by Jan Wade. Even though the orchids were not the same, it was a lovely poem to read outdoors next to a colony of Fairy Orchids.
The wildflower field guide was pulled out to make a confirmed identification. We observed that the orchid stems were between 20-30cm high. It had a solitary, narrow, green-yellow and hairy leaf. The flowers were pink and white with five spreading lobes.
They were growing in the shade beneath a gum tree inbetween two fallen logs which were protecting the colony. The soils were sandy and within this plant community were Tea-tree and Wattles which kept the soils moist.
I began my orchid nature journal entry while breathing in the wattle scents and watching the sunset in the background. I was reluctant to leave this magical spot and return home.
I stayed long enough to add a dash of pink to my page before I knew that I needed to return before I was caught in the dark as the sun is still setting early.
We continued our orchid study at home by reading the Story of the Tall Greenhood Fairy by Nuri Mass and paged through an old, precious wildflower book for orchid illustrations.
I noticed a few little smudges had occurred out in the bush on the Fairy Orchid and Purple Cockatoo orchid. I really didn’t mind as I wouldn’t have changed a thing about that moment.
I finished up with the Mosquito Orchid and that came out a little better.
I’ve started an orchid list at the back of my nature journal. I decided to include a painted picture of the flower head and leaf to help me remember their names. Otherwise, I may just look at the names and wonder what that orchid was again. Does that happen to you?
But perhaps you’re wondering what this Orchid Bushwalk was all about? I’ve begun a new study (while the others plod along in the background. We’re still working on the Desert Nature Study and some of the Ocean Nature Study too).
The new study is about exploring the outdoors (indoor or out) with living books, and since Amy Mack is an Aussie favourite, her book A Bush Calendar, was perfect to follow the seasons through a year.
To compliment the book, I’ve created a handbook to go along with it which will help us to identify wildflowers and nesting birds through the seasonal cycle. It’s a whole years nature study curriculum!
It’s about five weeks late, but better late than never. Right?!
In this guide, we walk alongside Amy as she identifies wildflowers and observes nesting birds. We choose to either investigate Amy’s nature finds with field guides indoors or explore a local park for wildflowers and wildlife while recording our own sightings in a year’s cycle.
We’ll listen to bird melodies while enjoying an outdoor breakfast and take a sunset walk to collect nature treasures to journal.
I’m so excited about learning to identify birds with song and field marks while bird stalking. I’ve not studied birds all that much, perhaps because there’s a lot I still don’t know, they’re tricky to identify and challenging to photograph or draw. But I’ve set myself this challenge and Lord willing, will persist.
While observing birds, we’ll become familiar with eucalypt trees, wildflowers in bud and blossom and watch them seed while examining their flower and leaf arrangements.
We’ll capture birds and wildflowers within a nature journal with sketches and paintings, or a nature scrapbook with photographs if preferred on a weekly basis.
Alternatively, the bush can be explored once a month while creating a Phenology Wheel to record sightings instead.
Explore the outdoors with living books by Amy Mack, Nuri Mass and our own Aussie poet, C.J. Dennis and others.
To sum up, A Handbook to Amy Mack’s A Bush Calendar is a year’s nature study curriculum which is flexible; explore indoors or out, weekly or monthly. It’s for primary aged children who are writing and drawing, however, a parent is encouraged to scribe for children who find it challenging. A list of story books is included in some lessons to include preschool and early primary children into the week’s theme.
It’s perfect for outdoor explorations with your child, teen or a friend. After all, experiencing nature in good company is comforting and healing as joys and treasures are shared together. If you’re interested, you can view the sample here.