Pruning tips|Death Adders|Bird babies|Strategic goals|Events| Feb 2024 Network News

Making a racket to celebrate Chinese New Year, Narara Ecovillage, Feb 2024


Pruning essentials 

-Gillian Wellstead

With nearly six decades of pruning experience, starting when she decimated her mother’s rambling dog rose, Gillian is well qualified to teach pruning skills. (The rose recovered and put on a spectacular show the next season.) The essential points are: Know your goals, Use correct equipment, Choose the right time to prune, Study and cut the tree carefully, Follow the Rule of thirds. Read for more about each point…

The following are the essential points:

Goals for pruning

  • To maintain the shape and appearance of shrubs and trees
  • Stimulate growth
  • Allow sunlight into the center of the tree to ripen fruit and reduce insect and disease infestation
  • Reduce crowding or shading of neighbouring trees or buildings

Equipment needs

  • A sharp pair of secateurs
  • By-pass loppers
  • Pruning saw
  • For citrus and shrubs with sharp thorns, and those infested with stink bugs protective glasses and gloves

When to prune

  • In the dormant season, usually winter
  • After flowering
  • After fruiting
  • With newly planted trees and shrubs, take off up to a third to reduce transpiration while the roots get established
  • Anytime a tree needs a tidy up.
  • Not when there is a forecast heatwave or risk of frost.

Basic procedure

  • Study the tree to identify what needs to be done
  • Start by taking out any dead or diseased material. Cut this back to the where it joins another healthy branch of the main trunk
  • Take out crossovers where one branch can or will rub (e.g. when weighed down with fruit or flowers} Cut below the part where the rub might occur or take out the whole branch at the next larger, main or thicker stem.
  • Stand back and study the tree to see what is left.

Rule of thirds

To reduce shock of pruning, stimulate growth, especially in fruiting wood, and maintain optimal vitality of the tree, it is usually safe to remove up to one third of the tree. The rule of thirds includes:

  • 1/3 of the length of each branch
  • 1/3 branch of a group of three, usually the middle one


Death Adders: venomous snake status update

New alt text for death adder

         -Guy Dutson

When ecovillage resident Kate was gardening in her front yard this week, she came across a rarely-seen Death Adder (Acanthophis antarcticus) buried in leaf litter. Guy Dutson gives some background about these highly venomous snakes, explains what happened next, and adds a bit more about other dangerous animals.

Kate did well to spot this hidden snake. Death Adder’s bury themselves in the mulch/leaf litter and are very camouflaged, preferring not to move unless provoked. As our resident snake enthusiast, I moved it to the ridgetop high above the water tanks. Of course, you should never attempt to move a snake if you are not experienced. Instead, ring your local professional snake handler or a Wildlife Rescue service.

Unlike our inoffensive Red-bellied Black Snakes, Death Adder bites can be fatal if not treated (the last fatality in Australia was in 1975). The usual protocol of treating a snake bite is first, “Don’t touch and back-off!” IF you do get bitten, get someone to take you immediately to your nearest Emergency Departement of your local hospital.  Apply a tight pressure bandage to the area around and above the bite, and try not to move the bitten limb (i.e. minimise circulation of the venom). 

Death Adders rarely leave the forest and we are unlikely to find another one for a few years.  However,  we should always be aware of the possibility. In terms of objective risk, there is a very small risk of grabbing one when weeding or treading on one when walking (especially at night) but this is the first Death Adder I have seen out of maybe 100 snakes at NEV to date. In terms of comparative risk, I’ve been stung here by bees, and bees kill an average of 2 (non-bee-keeping) Australians a year. We are also more at risk of being bitten by venomous spiders than snakes. I know that most people don’t like snakes so let’s try to put this one into the far back of our minds! (And for those of us who do like snakes – how awesome!!)

Breeding Babies

willie wagtail feeding nestlings
Willie Wagtails nesting in the nursery. Photo: Patricia Meagher

-Lorraine Hawdon

Throughout Spring and Summer, birds have been breeding prolifically at the ecovillage. Swamp Hens, Kookaburras, Willie Wagtails and Blue Wrens have been delightful to have around! 

swamp hen feeding chick
Swamp Hen feeding time on the floodplain. Photo: Lincoln de Kalb.

The nursery shade house at Narara Ecovillage is proving to be a good place for nesting birds.

Of course, the village doesn’t use any chemicals and there is always water available, which in turn attracts small insects for birds to feed on. This makes the nursery an ideal breeding ground for Willie Wagtails (Rhipidura leucophrys) and Blue Wrens (Malurus cyaneus). They love to build their nests high up on the frame of the shade house and do not mind the human company; especially if we don’t make too much noise! 

The adult Willie Wagtails have also been observed harassing our population of Kookaburras, who have their own young to protect.

Kookaburras nest in nearby Eucalyptus tree hollows of. Quite suddenly one day, there was a mob of young ones practising their calls across the floodplain. They perch on structures or in trees and warble quite hilariously for most of the day. Eventually, they will learn their Kookaburra laugh, which only takes place amongst groups of Kookaburras. 

A young Kookaburra resting on the triple span structure. Photo: Lincoln de Kalb

Our most delightful babies this year are the Purple Swamp Hens (Porphyrio porphyrio). They visit most years, and this year the adult pair have had five healthy babies. They are growing steadily and it won’t be long until they leave mum and dad. When it is safe, the adults venture out (with their young) from the sheltered waterways onto the floodplain, foraging and feeding as they go. They don’t let humans come too close: if they do, the adults quietly lead their family away.

swamp hen
Adult Swamp Hen. Photo: Lincoln de Kalb

The birds here continue to spread joy amongst residents and visitors. More importantly, they are an important element of increasing the biodiversity of Narara Ecovillage.

For more information:

Village News

NEV’s 6-point Strategic Plan 2022-2030 now available online

village on hill

            -Dave Burrows

In a collaborative process lasting several months, members of Narara Ecovillage developed 6 objectives for 2030 in the areas of biodiversity, food growing, collaboration, regenerative business and carbon emissions.

propagating and triple span garden

The Plan has six objectives which the Ecovillage will seek to achieve by 2030. For each Objective, a Circle or Working Group has been designated to develop strategies, implement or encourage activities and measure progress towards the objectives’ targets.

You can find the full plan online here.

The objectives are:

  • 1 That the Ecovillage increases biodiversity on its lands by 2% every 4 years, and by working with others, has a demonstrable impact on preservation and regeneration of biodiversity both locally and globally.
  • 2 That by 2030 15,000kg of food is provided from the Ecovillage and our partners each year.
  • 3 That the Ecovillage’s ratings improve for cultural indicators which reflect our Aim; and for individual members’ ratings for social capital: trust, collaboration, commitment and satisfaction.
  • 4 That Narara Ecovillage households on average achieve a 75% reduction in net annual operational carbon emissions by 2030 when compared to the average for residences in Central Coast Council area in CY2020 (embodied carbon to be offset in 30 years of joining, as per our Community Management Statement).
  • 5 That by 2030 the Ecovillage has a worldwide outreach for its work as a demonstration ecovillage, hosting 10,000 people at face to face events; 100,000 paid online interactions and reaching 1 million people through virtual and online means.
  • 6 That by 2030 30% of the Ecovillage’s annual operating costs are derived from contributions by regenerative businesses owned by and/or based at the Ecovillage.

The Strategic Plan contains details of the strategies to be used to address each objective as well as the measurement methods to be used. Results from the first year of reporting against these objectives – the 2022/23 financial year – have now been received. 

In future issues of Network News, we will look at the performance against the objective in the first year and plans for the second (current) year. The Strategic Plan will undergo a Mid Term Review in 2026.

Euhnee in coffee cart
Euhnee staffing the Coffee Cart

Strategic plan development process 2021-22  

Phase 1 (Sept-Oct 2021)

Input needed to be sought from all members about strategic priorities for the ecovillage.

To save time, it was proposed to seek the results of interviews carried out by village member Rafaele Joudry two years earlier: specifically the results of questions about who people joined the ecovillage and what they think it can or should achieve.

However, a separate process began in mid-2021 to re-examine the Aim of the Ecovillage. After initial results of these discussions were seen, it was realised that the themes emerging from the Aims discussions would be suitable for a first step in assembling inputs about strategic directions from the members. 

At the same time that Aims discussions were being held, a message was sent out seeking volunteers to be involved in drafting the Strategic Plan. These volunteers became the drafting group and included three men and three women with both Stage 1 and Stage 2 members and a range of ages.

Phase 2 (November- December 2021)

All Aims discussion records were examined by all members of the drafting group to determine whether broad themes were present. There were natural groupings under the six broad headings of community, food, biodiversity, education, business and carbon reduction. Each member of the drafting group was then tasked with looking through all the Aims discussion records to find specific statements about strategies or activities under one of these headings.

After these were swapped with each other and commented on by the full group, each drafting group member (either alone or with others) developed a draft SMAART (specific, measurable, ambitious yet achievable, relevant, time-constrained) strategic objective, strategies and some examples of activities that could be carried out towards the strategic objective – these activities were drawn mostly from comments in the Aims discussions.

The draft objectives, strategies and sample activities were presented at a Members Meeting and publicised on Slack and the Wiki, seeking comments.

Phase 3 (January-March 2022)

The draft of objectives, strategies and activities was exhibited on the Wiki for this whole period, together with Slack reminders to comment. At the same time, members of the drafters group met with all relevant Circles to discuss refinements and modifications of strategic objectives and strategies.

Once all relevant circles and working groups had agreed on the objective and strategies related to their work, the full set of objectives and management arrangements – which circle or working ghroup would lead on work for each objective – was presented to and achieved consent at the Steering Circle.

Phase 4 (March – May 2022)

The full draft Strategic Plan together with measurement processes (where known) and management arrangements, but without sample activities, was placed on the Wiki with Slack messages inviting final comments. The draft plan was presented to the April Members Meeting and sent to the Board for adoption. In May, the Board adopted the Strategic Plan.

The draft Strategic Plan is being used by the Land Use Masterplan review group to ensure harmony of objectives. Annual action plans are being developed by the relevant circles and teams leading work towards each objective, to both enable us to measure progress towards strategic objectives and to provide greater detail for each year’s activities.

Narara Ecovillage Now

picnic under oaks

          -Lyndall Parris

After 28 years of dreaming, progressing and living the Narara Ecovillage Dream, Lyndall Parris reflects on some of the aspects of Narara Ecovillage that she loves. 

It is fun living at Narara Ecovillage (NEV):

  • when the NEV band plays gigs in the Village Hall and I dance with people my height and kids up to my belly button
  • when I walk the incredible arboretum and forest tracks
  • the easy and optional social gatherings
  • regular ‘Dancing in the Dark like Nobody is Watching’ sessions, because they’re not!
community dinner in village hall

The ecovillage healthy ethos rubs off on me:

  • increasing organic food production for a healthier microbiome
  • the price reductions available at our Village Pantry for organic dry goods
  • we live in a healthier house than ever before
  • I am part of a Health & Wellbeing interest group who influence and inform each other
  • easy access to nearby ‘forest bathing’
  • our three-generation family can easily help each other but not be ‘in each other’s face’
  • living in an intergenerational ecovillage has subtle health benefits

Things are easier at Narara Ecovillage:

  • facilities are developed and developing. For example, sauna and gym facilities, yoga, qigong, Village Pantry, organic veggies.
  • practitioners offer services. For example,, massage therapist, osteopath and chiropractic, wound healing advice, tech support, electrical, plumbing, building and maintenance support and garden expertise
  • conversations
  • play dates for children and adults
  • easy to access nature easy location for access to broader services, local shops, city linked rail transport, freeways and Sydney city friends and adventures
fresh vegies

Sustainability is increasingly becoming more my way of life :

  • my hemp house feels clever, noble and healthy
  • I have learnt simpler systems of how to recycle and be more mindful of my rubbish footprint
  • I am learning how to sustainably pace myself in a more hectic world
  • more personal financial sustainability with fun and living costs more tempered

There are cost savings living at Narara Ecovillage:

  • the lower price of food from the Village Pantry and the community garden – benefits from Nararians generous volunteering 
  • the running costs of a more sustainable house are less
  • we are still car owners but there are cost savings available through sharing our cars 
village pantry laughing people

We are becoming more resilient:

  • increasing our fresh, food production on our land
  • energy production more that we need
  • combined intelligence, experience and know how
  • mutual help and caring is increasing in the community

Contribution gives me purpose, achievement and satisfaction and demonstrates an alternative to life generally experienced ‘in the burbs’. Being part of Narara Ecovillage makes me feel that I am doing a little bit to better our world.

Finally, we are all part of a T.E.A.M. – Together Everybody Achieves More: fun, health, ease, sustainability, cost savings, resilience.

Caring, connections & natural wonders: reactions to a Deep Ecology experience

-Dave Burrows

Following a Deep Ecology weekend in December, several participants wrote to thank host John Seed for the experience, and said kind words about Narara Ecovillage as well. Read on for some inspiring excerpts …

“I can’t thank you all enough for the generosity in sharing your space with us for a transformative weekend of deepening connection to nature, to community, to our eco-selves. The spaces of the village were perfect for the workshop. The kitchen and meal spaces created room for connections from the get-go, the forest meeting space was a welcoming glade for reflection, sharing, meeting, connecting.” – Meredith

“It seemed so appropriate to have such a workshop in the Ecovillage, as an obvious beacon of Earth-centredness in the region. Apart from the actual workshop activities, I was elated and inspired by to see the tangible and material ways in which a community of like minded people could live (and thrive) together with a vision to tread lightly, in tandem with this living planet of ours.” – Kiran

“I believe the Ecovillage to be the perfect place for this to be experienced, surrounded by fertile soils, healing breezes and soothing waters. It has everything the soul needs on this incredible journey.” – Sarah

“A huge thank you to Narara Ecovillage for their trust, use of the facilities and having glorious examples of the natural wonders we are striving to hold as equals once more. There aren’t many places where all the qualities required for such a workshop can be found in one spot. The Ecovillage is a perfect host. Since my first visit I’ve been recommending friends to go and check out an open day and to view an alternative to the status quo.” – Mike

“I brought 10 of my master’s students from UNSW to the retreat — one, who works in biodiversity and carbon sequestration, was so taken that she volunteered to help co-facilitate the next retreat. At the same time, the inspiring setting of Narara Ecovillage helped bring to life many of the ideas and feelings that emerge from a Deep Ecology retreat, which feels like the perfect marriage. My students left simultaneously inspired by the retreat and the ecovillage and left with an expanded sense of what is possible.” – Tema

“Thank you for opening up and sharing the eco village space. The direct connection to nature and feeling country around me helped me to immediately drop into a sense of returning ‘home’, a sense of peace and wholeness. It’s the first time I’ve been exposed to an ecovillage, so my thanks extends to you and your village neighbours for welcoming me and my husband.” – Erica

“This is my second Deep Ecology weekend at the Narara Ecovillage – what a perfectly aligned venue for this work.  I had no idea the ecovillage existed so deep ecology has introduced me to this model of living and I really enjoy hearing about how the village operates.  I also get to experience first-hand the community values and generosity of those that live here and also participate. Thank you so much for hosting us.” – Louise

“Having the opportunity to briefly experience the spaces and structures of the ecovillage gave me a strong sense of its values and showed me how alternative, sustainable and community focused organisations can exist in the real world. I got to stay in a sustainable ecovillage home, walk around the beautiful and diverse permaculture gardens, eat locally grown food and experience community in halls and spaces that have been designed specifically for the purpose of holding people and nature together.” – Tanya

“Thank you to Narara Ecovillage for hosting us, and to John, Julian and Dave for such a warm welcome and each individual kindness over the course of the weekend. It was inspiring to see homes and community built around ecological care, and wonderful to be so close to Strickland Forest (and a rope bridge!). An opportunity to take a breath amongst the trees between activities made an enormous difference. The village itself remained a grounding reminder of the practical work of deep ecology and caring for Country throughout the weekend.” – Karen

“Thank you so much for let all welcome and staying at Narara Eco Villegas. I felt so relaxing and comfortable full filled my heart and soul. I felt like home and back to “LIFE”. I would like to come back again and want to more feel warm community.” – Naoko

“Being in Narara Ecovillage was just the perfect setting for such a transformative experience. The natural beauty of the land & forest, the energy of a community that shares the value of caring for each other and our Earth, the opportunity to see this in action is unique. I would love to continue to attend (and co-facilitate) Deep Ecology weekends here.” – Seth

village hall and looking towards wedding area


Sat 24 Feb: Narara Ecovillage Open Day

Geoff leading open day tour
  • The Open Day (talk and tour) shows what Narara Ecovillage is all about, and demonstrates how we are activating a resilient community with ecological, social and economic potential by:
  • shared food growing, natural retreats and Permaculture spaces
  • shared community and workplaces
  • examples of highly efficient low-carbon homes now and in the next stage

All are welcome.

  • When: Sat Feb 24 10.00am – 1pm
  • Where: Narara Ecovillage Hall, 33 Gugandi Road Narara
  • Cost: $15 includes talk & walking tour around village, kids & NELN members free!
  • More Details and Registration

If this is your first visit to Narara Ecovillage, you may find this interesting: the Open Day Preview introduces the ecovillage and its unfolding story.

Sat 24 Feb: Paint & Sip for the Planet – Monet workshop

monet paint and si[

-Hosted by Aiyana Schwarz

This is a fun workshop where you’ll relax with a glass of wine, have a laugh and learn the basic skills of painting using nature and our planet as inspiration. Monet’s paintings expressed the atmosphere and the way light, weather and seasons changed the landscape. 

No experience necessary. Including all painting materials and a complimentary glass of wine. 

Guidance from tertiary qualified art teacher Aiyana Schwarz

Sun 3 Mar: Harnessing the power of the Inner Development Goals to Transform our World

card game

The Inner Development Goals (IDGs) is a not-for-profit, open source initiative. Watch the 5-min video here on how the IDGs framework can help accelerate the work towards the UN’s Global Goals or SDGs.

  • When: Sunday 3rd March, 08.30 for 09.00-4.30pm
  • Where: Narara Ecovillage, 33 Gugandi Rd Narara NSW
  • Cost: $125 half day includes the 2030 SDGs game & IDG intro; $220 full day with deep dive IDGs
  • More info & Registration:

Fri 22- Sun 24 Mar: Deep Ecology Immersion at Narara Ecovillage

deep ecology circle

-Hosted by John Seed

Deep Ecology is a philosophy which understands that the illusion of separation between humans and the rest of the natural world is the engine driving the 6th mass extinction currently underway. This workshop allows us to become aware of our rootedness in the living Earth and the renewal, empowerment and vision that invariably ensue. 

Sat 30 Mar: Miracle Choice Game

card game

Feeling stuck? Want some clarity and direction? Play the Miracle Choice Game. Based on A Course in Miracles and guided by Findhorn facilitators, this game helps close the gap between where you are and where you want to be, as you move away from limited thinking towards new perspectives & choices. 

  • When: Sat 30th March: 1-3pm & 3.30-5.30pm
  • Where: Narara Ecovillage Hall, 33 Gugandi Road Narara
  • Cost: $40 (10% discount for NELN members)
  • More info & Registration

Sun 31 Mar: Introduction to Facilitator Training of Miracle Choice Game

card game

The Miracle Choice Game was born in Findhorn and is based on A Course in Miracles. Join us for an introduction to facilitation of this simple but powerful tool  for individual wisdom, community building or coaching. Training covers: Purpose and context of the game, how to prepare, and playing solo or group games.

  • When: Sun 31st March, 9.30am-4.30pm
  • Where: Narara Ecovillage Hall, 33 Gugandi Road Narara
  • Cost: $100 (10% discount for NELN members)
  • More info & Registration

Fri 5 – Sun 7 Apr: Interspecies Communication workshop

2 doggies

-Hosted by Jacqueline Buckingham

Animal or Interspecies Communication is a direct two-way information exchange between human and animal, or human and plant. 

Engaging with how to hear these subtle messages is a pathway to connection with the natural world and the wild ones who live alongside us, restoring a deep relationship with all of life.

Wed 10 Apr – Scott Cook & Pamela Mae


Scott Cook, Canadian balladeer, singer and songwriter, is touring Australia this year with partner Pamela Mae and will be at Narara Ecovillage on April 10th. It should be a fun night. Come join us. Coffee cart will be open for coffee and cake.

Land or houses for sale in the village

Please check out this page on the village website: “AVAILABLE NOW” at NEV