Transformed from a gravel carpark into a sanctuary of curated natives, the gardens of Warburton venue Projekt 3488 are a masterclass in landscape design. Mark Fenech, a former designer and photographer, reflects on almost ten years of patient nurturing and the first flowering of his stunning Gymea lilies this summer.

Published in Yarra Valley and Dandenong Ranges Country Life magazine – Summer 21/22

Read the full article here.

 

By Lindy Schneider 2021

Summer issue of the Yarra Valley and Dandenong Range Country Life magazine is out now. I’ve done three pieces for the summer issue. Learn about where to find the best blueberries in the region, meet writer Lisa Joy author of Yes Chef! and immerse yourself in the gorgeous gardens of Project 3488 in Warburton. Read more in my portfolio.

Autumn Issue 2021 – Featuring Lindy Schneider

Yarra Valley and Ranges Country Life Magazine

Lindy Schneider is one of our well-known and much loved contributors who has been working with Yarra Valley and Ranges magazine for many, many years.

A highly respected and talented public speaker, Lindy is passionately involved with our regional community on many levels. Her words have been published widely; she’s a natural storyteller and intuitive creative, while having a background that informs her intelligence and understanding of the commercial needs of all her clients.

We love working with Lindy –  she’s hard-working, super reliable, unique in her style, and fun to be with. We are privileged to have her as part of the team. Elly Laughton asked her about her practice.

Read article here

Social media’s incitement to celebrate everyone and everything is not the way for me as a solo freelancer

A little while ago, I retired one of my major clients because I wanted to step away from writing work that I knew wasn’t truly satisfying my soul needs and embrace more fully the writing that could. To create the opportunity for this to happen, I needed to first create the space.

So here I sit full of anticipation and delight at what might be, aware that attracting the right type of work is as simple and as complex as showing up and being very clear about what I will and won’t do.

But there is this little voice calling me from afar saying ‘you need to market yourself’ and it is this voice that fills me with revulsion. I can honestly say I hate marketing.

I am a person, complex and wonderful like any other. That, in this phase of my life, now 50 plus and with the sum experience of a 30 plus-year career (ironically much of it in marketing), I need to reduce myself to some sort of commodity that can be marketed is something I am finding very unpalatable.

Social media has done something equally wonderful and terrifying. The way everyday people can build an online persona is a type of freedom I couldn’t have imagined when I first started earning my own living. But this is also the problem. The persona is often another mask designed with the often not so subtle message of ‘pick me, pick me.’ I just can’t go there.

Flowing through my feed are the constructed images of ‘successful’ people telling me how wonderful their method or product is, sharing their ‘secret tactic’, convincing me  their call to action is limited and life changing, and it makes me despair. I take in the dozens of people in my feed alone who promise to share their secret sauce’ if only I register for their webinar RIGHT NOW or who in all their supposed realness do a piece to camera about themselves that is little more than yet another call to action.

I‘m sure I am not the only one whose BS radar is hyperactive.

Self-revelation seems to be the latest marketing tactic (sharing your story is fine but what is the intent?) but it’s not real honesty– it’s designed, it has a goal (usually financial), an expectation attached to it and this I think is at the core of my discomfort. The desired outcome is nothing more than a manipulation.

Build your platform, increase your likes, make videos starring yourself – these are all things we are told we must do to establish or grow our profiles. But what for the people who simply do not wish to turn their life and living into a series of posts? What about women like me who don’t want to be viewed and judged or commented on in such a public space, women (or men for that matter) who simply want to live quietly, with some sense of privacy and dignity about how much of their own personal world is offered to the public arena.

I don’t want to reduce myself to a series of dot points and marketable key points of difference. I don’t want to wake up each morning and have to think about what impressive post I can come up with today to make you all like me, or seek out what I have to offer. I don’t need to feel the adoration of like traffic to let me know I am ok today. I don’t want to treat the people I will write for one day as though those things matter to them, because I honestly believe that beyond the mediated experience of the online environment there are still people like me who value authenticity, not as a marketing touchpoint, but as a way to live held deeply in the heart.

What if we didn’t participate in all this constructed madness and the incessant need to up the ante? I have always said a real product doesn’t need to be marketed.

And I don’t think a real person needs to be either.

 

In the Yarra Ranges today, we reap the benefits of the women before us – from artists and activists to sport stars, these inspiring women have made a difference to our community. The Yarra Ranges Regional Museum is celebrating some of these local champions and agents of change in an exhibition called Trailblazers: Women of the Yarra Ranges.

Trailblazers: Women of the Yarra Ranges, tells the remarkable stories of women, their achievements and their lasting impacts on the region and beyond. From Edna Walling and Dame Nellie Melba to Mandy Nicholson and Rebecca Barnard, learn how these women have shaped our culture and community in the past, present and future.

The exhibition has been locally produced and will feature the work of local writer and researcher Lindy Schneider, designer Lisa Cain and artist Cat MacInnes.

A series of programs will be released in line with the exhibition, including curator talks, seminars with artists, writers, historians, singers and songwriters. The April school holiday program will feature workshops with local makers and performers – some of whom are represented in the exhibition.

Location: Yarra Ranges Regional Museum, 35 Castella St, Lilydale
From: Saturday 6 March 2021
MORE INFO

A movie made me pack my bags.

La vita e bella, January 1999. I finished one life and started another in less than a month.

I packed two pair of pants, one single breasted black jacket, one broken heart, one pair of black Italian leather boots, one red shirt, three spiral bound notebooks, and one Cesare Pavese poetry book. I barely said goodbye.

I first saw snow on that plane flight – my face pressed against the tiny oval window, the Apennines stretched out below, a wonderland in miniature.

There are two things I remember – I walked everywhere, and I wrote. More than 80,000 words of scratchy lines, blue pen against the brilliant lined white paper, page after page of exploring my inner world, while the outer world filled my heart with beauty.

On the second day in this foreign country, a man approached me. ‘Boungiorno,’ I said hesitantly. He looked familiar to me, a visceral memory from a dream a few nights earlier.

‘Piccola mia,’ he replied and suddenly my broken heart was mended and ready for new adventures.

For the next three months, I was shown la bella vita by Andrea. Quiet tucked away dinners on the foreshore of Lago di Bracciano, motorbike trips through the cobbled laneways of Rome. Secret trips to the top of the cupola at St Peters, snow covered getaways in Umbria. He cooked spaghetti and laughed at the small portions I ate as he urged me to manga. He greeted me in the morning with cornetti and baci chocolates, and covered me in kisses at the traffic lights. I studied Italian in Florence and promised myself I would never speak a word of English again. I was in love, and Italy returned my affection. At the age of 29, I was home.

When I was alone I had my notebook, and I wrote of the way Italy was showing me how to live. Every day, I recorded the tiny moments. I came to know Italy and I came to know myself, each word a tiny postcard of the soul. Andrea was a thread that bound the experience to my heart, a man who showed me deep inside the Romani way, to places the tourists don’t see. And I am grateful.

And then it was time for the story to end.

I sobbed my goodbyes on that train journey from Stazione Termini to Fiumicino airport. A kindly nonno passed me some fazzoletti and carmello (tissues and a lolly). I sobbed when I landed back in Melbourne. My Italian sojourn, the love and the lovers, a brief interlude in a life that was forever changed by Italy and her grace. I will return this year. I have been homesick for twenty years. Like Romulus and Remus, Rome is my mother. I have adopted her, and she has cradled me in memories.

I returned with three filled journals in my suitcase. My writings still await my shaping – a twenty-year love story that has no ending, and is always beginning.

Here is a collation of my every-so-often observations of life in lock down.

25 March

1. Today I cracked out the hoodie. I own two, both are hand me downs from Tex, and both needed a wash after floating around the boot of the car for the past 2 years. Possibly one of the most flattering garments I have ever worn…not. One says “Nerd Power” on it. Im owning it.

2. Incoming children are more annoying than incoming phone calls.

3. I am mostly heard to say ‘Stop, don’t throw out that jar.’

4. Old University habits die hard. In a world of changes, it’s so reassuring that The Bold and the Beautiful stays the same.

5. Jonahism of the day: Life is a mind game.

26 March

1. It will take 56 minutes and 38 seconds to get your Analog parents hooked up for a family zoom call. (Thanks to our family IT department Lisa Schneider)

2. No the dog does not want another walk today.

3. Googles most searched term today is ‘two minute noodle hacks’. Seriously my mum used to make us this dish that was two minute noodles+tomato sauce+mayonnaise+a can of tuna and grated Kraft cheese.If we were lucky she added optional corn kernels. Dinner sorted for you.

4. Why is everyone posting pics of them home schooling when it’s school holidays in VIc?

27 March

1. It’s impossible to do 5:2 when you’re home 7:0 and can see the fridge from your workstation.

2. I will need to be in lockdown until 2024 to complete all the webinars and free online courses I have registered for.

3. My SCOBY died today. However I’ve kept it alive longer than any houseplant I’ve ever owned so I guess that’s a win.

4. Dining room chairs are shit office chairs.

2 April

1. It is impossible for four people on a Zoom call to sing Happy Birthday in sync. Im not buying that 500 strong choirs can do it.

2. The most common grammatical error on FB is spelling aloud instead of allowed. Nutters!

3. I predict the return of the kaftan (ok, I would like to buy a kaftan)

4. I got emotional when I saw the Aussie Post guy pull up outside the house. He is a new form of God.

7 April

1. Without outside influences, my natural diet appears to be 99% Italian.

2. I’ve almost completed Netflix. Is there a prize?

3. Nev-be – is a new word that summarises the things I said I would never let my kids do and how quickly they are becoming maybes.

4. My daily wardrobe is being styled by the bedroom chair. It’s a real LIFO approach to fashion.

5. Pell is so fucking guilty.

9 April

1. Handy social distancing measure. 1.5 metres is the same as 5 wine bottles end to end.

2. We are now effectively barricaded in our home by all the bags of clothes we will be sending to the op shop after this is over.

3. Several times this week I have mistaken my ugg boot for the cat or hmmm…was that my cat for an ugg boot?

4. My contribution to glass recycling has increased significantly(see pt1)

12 April

1. My post covid19 super power will be yawning.

2. I am now taking life instructions from my cat

3. Pissed posting on Facebook is up 56% but there appears to be no strategies to flatten the curve.4. Red wine is my kind of Easter egg.

15 April

1. Yesterday I had an up close and intimate conversation with my dad’s ear hole. Thanks FaceTime.

2. Today’s most googled phrase – ‘when does term 2 end?’

3. You can type ‘Pew pew’ into a text message and send to the friends you want to impress most. (But not your 12 year old son who will think it’s super lame). You’re welcome.

4. You can read the state of the nation by how many times the word ‘fuck’ is used in posts on Facebook.

20 April

1. Found my generally oppositional kids in deep conversation. So happy they were getting on…until I realised they were complaining about me. (Apparently I am only nice when I drink wine)

2. You know it’s time to take a break from the socials when you actually start rehearsing a Tik Tok of your own

3. Bin isolation outing posts outnumber any other subject matter on Facebook.

4. The dog is hiding from me and the cat is not taking kindly to lead training.

5. Pondering if Lake Eildon is the Victorian equivalent of the Ozarks.

30 April

  1. Tex and I invented a cocktail in commemoration of Covid19 – it’s called the “Yeah-Nah”

2. In order to control alcohol consumption try starting early say 8am and finish drinking at lunch time. Sober by dinner. Yeah good luck with that. (Thanks G for the tip)

3. My pedometers favourite colour is red. My best day yet is 8 steps.

4. Cleaned out the pantry. Best find was arrowroot circa 2006 making it older than my firstborn. What the fuck do you even use it for?

5. A reduction in my obs would appear to mean this whole lockdown thing is somehow approaching normal…Yikes

1 May

  1. The phrase ‘I’m flattening the curve’ is a useful expression that will get you out of just about anything. Try these:
    Are you still in bed at 2 pm in the afternoon? 🛌Yes I’m flattening the curve.
    Do you really need that second piece of chocolate fudge cake? 👏Yes I’m committed to flattening the curve.
    Is that your second bottle of wine? 🍷Just doing my bit to flatten the curve darl.
    See it works.

2. I don’t actually know anyone who has had Covid 19.

3. I have mastered the 3-pair-of-tracky-pants rotation in wardrobe planning. It’s going to be like I have a whole new wardrobe when we get proper dressed again…if anything still fits.

4. For a small town that doesn’t even have an Uber let alone Ubereats, the level of home delivery service now available is miraculous.

5. I’ve been slightly obsessed with home hair cutting videos but no one in this house will give me scissors.

9 May

Today’s obs

  1. Because I talk too much (allegedly), my children have asked the local IGA to continue their ‘no loitering and chatting to people’ policy for me indefinitely.
  2. If COVID-19 was a theme park ride,  it would be the Graviton.
  3. The biggest challenge has been the short-term memory loss.. hang on what was I saying?
  4. Tex spilt my wine just now and Jonah said ‘don’t worry mum we can lick it up off the bench.’ This is proof that iso gets to everyone eventually.

(C) Lindy Schneider

 

I come from a long line of letter writers. Well my dad, anyway.

He is a supreme letter writer but not in a correspondence sense. 

My dad, to this day, writes letters of complaint, letters of advocacy, truth-biting letters that demand action, or at least a response.

He passed this on to me, partly through osmosis and mostly through involving me from a young age.

Tap, tap, tap his slender pointer fingers would punch out drafts on our beige hard cased typewriter. Always in duplicate, two impossibly thin pieces of typing paper with a sheet of blackest carbon in between.

Then he’d pass it to me for comment. 

I can still  remember the first time he asked me to read one of his letters.

I was twelve years old.

Our Breville Jaffle maker had delivered many a toasted cheese (Sunday night dinners with tomato soup without fail). But it started flaking black pieces of Teflon onto the bread as it cooked. It was 1982. Teflon was the new ‘wonder surface’ but was it safe to eat? My dad was justifiably concerned for our fate…and a little ahead of the times too.

Tap, tap tap, the power of words his mighty weapon. 

Because it was right. 

Because we had rights.

Because what if he was right? 

We loved the Choice program on TV, and hold an enduring value of ‘keeping the bastards honest’.

He got answers, he still does, spending his retirement drafting his concerns to MPs, financial institutions and car companies about the things he finds not quite right. He’s a voice for the people. The one who will actually take the time to sit down and diplomatically state a case – one that cannot be ignored.

There was never any hidden agenda. We weren’t a family that suddenly received a lifetime supply of some flawed product he had  bought to the attention of the maker. He just cared. Enough. For all people.

And the Jaffle maker? We got a letter assuring us all was ok.

He threw it in the bin, followed closely by the Jaffle maker.

In 2006 Teflon was identified as releasing a cancer causing agent at high temperature. 

I am so grateful he encouraged me to have a voice in this way.

Bet he is writing now?

There is something humbling about floating more than one kilometre above the earth. The world stretches out, shifting endlessly as the colours of dawn throw new light on the horizon. Captive (and captivated) in a basket, there is simply the moment.  The sound of silence is interrupted only by the occasional blast of the furnace as it opens to send hot air into the balloon and lift you further away from the world as you know it. Without fanfare, the basket has soundlessly departed from the ground and you find yourself peering out at a 360-degree view of the Yarra Valley that is postcard picture perfect in every direction.

Suddenly the 3am alarm doesn’t matter as you realise that this – this glorious vista at dawn on a cool Tuesday morning – is all that matters. This is once in a lifetime, once in a moment even. You take a breath and marvel that you are one of ten lucky people together in a  basket watching the beginning of a new day up close. There is reverence, an unspeakable softness.

For today’s flight we have headed from our meeting place at Balgownie Estate north towards Glenburn. It’s still dark and our strange little convoy of troupees towing wicker baskets seems strangely out of place. At the launch site, after a safety briefing and checks, we help the crew get the basket ready and hold the massive balloon (nothing prepares you for how big this silky piece of fabric is – or how much you will be relying on it 100% very soon!) while it is filled with air from a massive fan that is then heated to create lift.  By 6am, we are one of three hot air balloons ascending into the Yarra Valley skies on a journey of softly panning circles, following the updrifts in a southerly direction. Every burst of the furnace bathes us in golden light and transforms the balloons into giant lanterns. It’s above beautiful.

 

The skyfilled night gives way to a pink and gold sunrise and our one-hour flight seems to take hours. From the safety of our basket we wander the skies, across forests of ancient trees, open paddocks and farmhouses, neverending vineyards and townships. If you’re a local, there are recognisable landmarks that you feel you can almost reach out and touch. If you are a visitor, you have a perfect vantage point from which to plan where to next! From this elevation you see absolutely why the Yarra Valley is a valley – the ring of mountainous terrain embraces a valley that is always green – a lush food bowl and source of water and life, and everything we enjoy the most in life.

As the sun bursts over the fringe of mountains, the mists hovering over the dams and valleys start to lift and the city skyline is revealed (we can even see a tiny balloon hovering above the CBD).  It’s meltingly gorgeous. I am caught between capturing everything I can on my camera versus taking it all in first hand without the distractions of tech. It seems impossible to take a bad photo at this angle!

This floating experience is serene and atmospheric, and something so much more than I expected. To see this part of the world in its pristine nature, so much of it untouched and wild, gave me a renewed sense of what we need to love and protect in our environment and gave me a fresh insight into how we all share this land.

Charting a path across the Yarra River (Birrarung) and billabongs of Yering, Kiff points out local wineries and landmarks, boxing kangaroos and his local primary school.

We land in a paddock in across from Yering Estate, the resident cows barely raising a head to greet us.  After ‘all-hands-on-deck’ to pack up the mighty deflated balloon, we return to Balgownie Estate for a cooked buffet breakfast and a much anticipated coffee!

 

 

 

Kiff, our captain, has been flying balloons since 1987. He has just returned from a world ballooning event in Slovenia with his son where people could land ‘on a flag in the middle of a paddock’ he says, so precise were their navigation skills.   I’m certain Kiff would hold his own in such company. I sense he knows instinctively what his digital navigation tools are going to show before he’s even looked at them. “It’s all about invection – the meeting of cool air and warmer air bands,” he explains. “But it’s also something felt,” he continues, “a five senses experience.”

 

“When you are up here you have a different perspective. It’s a joy to be able to see beyond your own confines. To experience the world like this, it opens you up. You can’t not be affected,” he says. “Everyone should know this feeling.”

With my new perspective, I completely agree.

 

Disclosure: Lindy Schneider was a guest of Global Ballooning on Tuesday 29 October 2019. She has lived and worked in the Yarra Valley for almost 20 years and has an even deeper appreciation for the region having now experienced it ‘from above’.

I wrote this piece last year. I feel vulnerable sharing it, but if it means just one other person feels heard and understood then my heart will rest.

………………………………………………………………….

I want to tell you how much I cry silently inside when he arrives home from school and tells me how all the kids were talking about the latest birthday party they’ve been to and he matter-of-factly accepts that he wasn’t invited.

I want to tell you what it feels like to get ‘that tap’ on the shoulder from one of your child’s carers when they suggest there may be something in your beautiful son that isn’t quite fitting the mold. My boy was just three years old. He’d built a sand castle and attached a complex network of reeds and twigs to it to make a hydro-electricity scheme. This was a red flag…apparently.

I want to tell you what it is like to spend two hours every night holding him to help him go to sleep because his brain, or his life, won’t turn off enough to stop his limbs from being in constant motion. How he often sobs with the anguish of his school life.

How I have spent hours taking him to psychologists, audiologists, speech pathologists, chiropractors, herbalists, osteopaths, ENTs, kinesiologists and every other bloody-ologist looking for just one thing that might ease his heart. I want you to know that one unkind word from a child unravels that and sets us back weeks, months even, but you would never know because he is wary of how people respond to him and does his best to hide it. I collude in this lie.

I want you to know that he reads adult non-fiction and remembers interesting facts that you would never imagine a ten year old being remotely interested in. How he is a voracious consumer of texts but with that comes the fact that he’ll read something and repeat it in a way that your child finds odd, or you find too advanced or even just a bit off. I can’t stop his interest in the workings of the human body or his appetite for information. He can’t help that his filters aren’t set in such a way that he doesn’t know what to repeat and what to hold. He’s ten. He is a masterclass in obsessions, and he will fix your computer and can be found in long detailed conversations about cheat codes with the guys behind the counter at the EB Games shop.

I want you to know that it’s not his fault (although it’s taken me a long time to realise it’s not mine either). That being ‘that kid’ in the class seems to automatically make him guilty of all the transgressions that go on in the school yard. That even when he has the balls to speak or tries to let adults know he is being bullied, the first and default response is to suggest he made it so. That’s what happens to all the kids who are different – us mums know this only too well. And one day a teacher softly says ‘yes I’ve seen what they do to him’ and you can’t hide your relief, but you’re also angry that it’s taken this bloody long for them to see the reality of his world. And then there’s the guilt that I also didn’t act earlier and be his advocate.

It’s exhausting. I’m exhausted. He’s exhausted.

I want you to know that I love my boy and admire him for who he is but I carry his stress too and it magnifies in my body. Sometimes I avoid the school pick up because I carry the feeling that ‘I’m the mother of that kid’ even though I know it’s not my shit to bear. I suffer from a form of co-dependency – how he is doing is deeply influential on how I am, and in the past 3 months, as my little boys’ life has become increasingly more difficult, so my anxiety has exploded. Sometimes we can both afford to go to the psychologist, but most of the time I postpone my appointment so he can have his.

I want you to know that some days I just can’t face the drop off scene because it’s taken me two hours to move through the morning’s pattern of school refusal and I have nothing left to give – and I’m certainly not showered. I want you to know that meltdowns are exhausting and what works today may not work tomorrow.

I want you to know that there are endless appointments and expenses in our family. I work less because I feel I need to be ‘on call’. When my phone rings and I see it is the school, a hot wave of worry automatically rushes through me- I think must be a little like PTSD. And I have spent so much time in the principal’s office.

I want you to know that at times I feel desperate, and I run out of strategies. I often lose hope because I don’t know what to do next and my partner and I will have different ideas about how we might move forward. We are a bedrock of support for our little guy but even stones develop fissures. I want you to know that my daughter suffers and we do our best to not have our family life obsessed with my boy, but it’s hard, and she feels it and her resentment is understandable.

I want you to know that I would never judge another child for being who they are. And having a child like my son is full of its own rewards. Because one day he will be remarkable and quite possibly change our world. He is magnificent–the one you want on your team (although these days he’s consistently last pick), the creative misfit that actually has a fucking good idea or two. My boy’s sense of social justice is beyond his years. He feels with every fibre of his being and it’s overwhelming for him.

Yes, I want to tell you that he feels it all, everything. He overacts, a lot. He insists on rules but only as they apply to others. His behaviour is annoying. He doesn’t do well with maintaining friendships. He rarely follows instructions straight away. He goes to sometimes extreme lengths to avoid anything that makes him feel vulnerable. Believe me I know these behaviours better than anyone. He tells me he knows that the tall stories he has told to impress people have had the opposite effect, but no-one will give him another chance. That two weeks ago his latest ‘story’ had sufficient red flags in it for mandatory reporting. These are not the stories of our family life. The only subtext is ‘please like me’.

I want you to know that last week he cut off the beautiful long eye lashes he was born with because other children teased him about them. I want you to know that ten year olds shouldn’t be having an existentialist crisis or talking about suicide.

I want to tell you what it feels like to have your child lose his trust in you because you haven’t made it better yet. That is the kind of ‘epic fail’ no parent should feel.

And I want you to know I look forward to a day when our society practises tolerance in the truest sense of the word – a time when generosity infuses the way we respond to children with autism or Asperger’s or who are just their own people.

Because the system is a tough place for all of us, and all the programs in the world will not make lives better for these kids if the mums and dads, the teachers and the classmates who get to spend so much time with our children don’t show tolerance and compassion. We desperately need to learn how to embrace the different kid. I’m not sure what is worse for them – to be ignored or to be the target.

My son is losing his faith.
Yesterday he said to me, ‘Mum, why do I have to endure this?’
I cannot answer.
Just love…fiercely

 

© Lindy Schneider 2018