Aotearoa Retreat Centre Project
An inspiring story about local native plant grower, Meret Weiss and how she worked with local children to grow their own seedlings and plant a riparian strip on the farm.
A year and a half ago, Meret Weiss, founder of native tree nursery OkGrow , invited children from Collingwood Area School, where her own three children are pupils, to plant some seeds. Just a few weeks ago, those same children came to plant a riparian strip along the Onekaka river, which flows through part of the farm, with the 18 month old seedlings - a mixture of native grasses, flaxes, shrubs and trees. The children grabbed spades and got stuck in with digging holes (the ground was pretty rocky so this was sometimes a big challenge!) and then they labelled their trees so they can come back and find them in future. With a few willing parents, we managed to plant 130 seedlings before we had morning tea and then finished with a few games of ‘name the native tree tag’ on the paddocks.
The Onekaka river is special for many reasons. It is home to some of the highest densities and diversities of local fish in New Zealand and the health of the estuary it flows into depends on the health of it’s waters. One of the ways in which we can protect waterways on farms is through riparian planting.
We are so thrilled to have Meret as a neighbour - she has been a great support and source of knowledge on local soils and what grows well where. With her learning from her many years as a passionate grower, and a background in horticulture and nursery production, she holds a wealth of local knowledge and experience. It’s also quite contagious to feel her passion and joy when she talks of seeing water ways transformed following wetland planting, and witnessing the return to health of ecosystems. By growing the plants which will help restore our streams and waterways, Meret makes an amazing contribution for us today and for future generations.
She also holds an awareness and respect for local māori tikanga around plants. You can probably see why we see her as a treasure, and we really value her involvement in the farm project.
Huge thanks goes out to Meret, the teachers and pupils at Collingwood Area school, and the parents who came along that day.
On Sunday 2nd October the Ren Xue farm hosted it's first Global Awakening Day gathering - to send out our heart felt intentions for awakening to the world.
The farmhouse provided warmth and shelter from the cold wind for a beautiful practice. It really feels like a Ren Xue family home now!
We warmed the mauri stone gifted to us at the farm blessing in June and spoke our intentions into it. We closed with a waiata (song) to honour the mihi from Jackie. The waiata (Te Aroha) shown in the video below speaks of peace, faith and love for all so it was a natural and joyful part of our practice.
After some shared kai (food) the sun came out and some of us went up to the high point for a practice while others went to deal with the milking! A wonderful time and a beautiful Qifield.
Huge gratitude to everyone for being a part of this wonderful day.
Last week a team of Ren Xue teachers rolled their sleeves up & got some much needed roof painting completed on the old farmhouse in Onekaka. The farm house has quite the history - previously a family home for most of its life, as well as being a post office starting back in 1912. The bustling little village of Onekaka had an iron works in those days, and used to export iron down the wharf back to the UK. After being a post office for the schooners coming in and out at the wharf, and for the locals to get their precious mail, it became a library and all through also remained a home for local people. So, we hope to continue it's purpose as a place of learning and sharing knowledge and family as a Ren Xue Community House. The location is utterly beautiful - heres the view down the estuary across the lower farm, taken from the rooftop.
A special thankyou to John Shepherd, Derek Hamblett, Ariel Linklater, Marie-Laure Darricarrere & Ollie Clifton for helping out on what proved to be a sunny, warm, & fun-filled week. Great team work from all involved! A thankyou to Jackie Blunt as well for hosting John & Ollie during the week, on top of everything else she is doing to manage the Ren Xue farm in Steve's absence at the moment - top effort all round.
Here's the crew at Ren Xue Farm wishing you all the most loving warm hearts this Full Moon of unconditional love. The moonrise is from our first June full moon here on the farm and tonight it looks just the same, rising like a bright silver circle of pure universe and love out of the sea. You'll see all the animals full of curiosity and enjoying each other while happily and unconditionally being themselves... on guard, resting up between duties, paddling back from the stream (where mother duck has become a pair of gumboots for lost ducklings), and most importantly herding ducks! We think that herding patterns and clearing conditions we've put on the 5 xin takes the same keen eyed interest and steady work that Taz is giving the ducklings to get them safely home!
Welcome to Ren Xue Farm and the start of our seasonal new year in winter! Here in New Zealand we have just last month celebrated Matariki, the rising of the Pleaides on the early morning horizon which marks Māori New Year for many. It's an historic Matariki as for the first time we have a national holiday for the whole of New Zealand, and that feels like a wonderful and inclusive way to start the life of this global Ren Xue home here on the farm where we as a community are kaitiaki/ guardians of and with the land and its creatures large and small.
Steve and I are frequently to be found out on the electric "Tuatara" with Taz and Ash our faithful hounds, checking out the state of the farm, the rivers, the mud (and the cows!).
First stories from the farm
Over the past few weeks, Steve, Jackie and their family have moved out of their house in Greenpark, Christchurch where they have been living for more than 10 years. They have been settling in to life in Onekaka, and getting to know the Ren Xue farm - the weather, the animals, the soil. Here is a little taster of their experiences...we look forward to finding out more as they make their discoveries and the farm shares with us it's teaching and potential. Huge gratitude to their whole family for the skills they bring and the care they are taking for the land. These are lucky, happy cows.
June Celebrations on the farm
It was a heart-warming time celebrating the land and the new beginning for the Ren Xue retreat centre project. We experienced all kinds of weather - storms, sunshine and rainbows!
We took the time to look back and honour what has gone before, everything we have in this moment and to set our intentions for the future. We gave thanks for the privilege to be the kaitiaki of this beautiful land and by planting trees, we showed our hope for a bright future. A simple wish for living in harmony - with ourselves, with others and with nature.
Together, we helped to create a beautiful foundation and Qifield for the project going forward.
It wouldn't have been the same without each of you playing your part so, from our hearts, we thank you for being there and supporting us.
With gratitude and our best wishes,
The retreat centre project team
For those of you staying at Shambhala: Please note that to access Shambhala there is a ford which can be flooded and impassable at times. If you arrive during one of those times, please call Cat (027 4622663) or Ollie (027 333 9252) and we will find a good solution!
Looking forward to being together soon!
With warm wishes for safe travels
the project team!
events happening in June to celebrate this - if you’ve missed the details see the project website
are focussed around creating some baseline data - our starting point - in areas such as soil, water, climate and landscape.
We are beginning to explore a working relationship with Lincoln University, led by our farm group member Rainer
Hoffman, which thus far looks very promising. Our first adventures in this research realm came over Anzac weekend,
with honours Lincoln student Lulu Jordan leading a team of keen helpers on a soil sampling expedition - see details on
the project website: https://www.aotearoaretreatcentre.org/blog/soil-sampling-and-other-fun-on-the-farm
Much learning and planning about the farm will take place over our first 6-12 months on the land, so watch this space as we develop our ideas and look for input from the wider community.
Here's a quick overview of everything happening in June, with a few specific details. See this map for locations.
Sunday June 12th
9am-12.30pm. Yuan Tze Online workshop: Unconditional Openness
All participants need to register individually for this event. You can do that by following this Link You also need to reserve your cushion by contacting Cat Alker by Sunday 5th June
From 4pm: A Farm warming party! Bonfires, braziers, shared Kai and warm drinks, music and making memories.
Bring your instruments, warm clothing and some kai to share. Hot drinks will be provided.
At the old villa.
Monday June 13th
Farm Rambles: Guided Access to Farm
10am-12pm: Morning session
2pm-4pm: Afternoon session
Further information regarding meeting location to be confirmed.
Tuesday June 14 : Full Moon Blessing ceremony and events
7.15am Dawn Blessing
At the Retreat Centre site. All welcome.
Meet at the coastal dwellings car park at 7am if you would like to walk up together. This will be a quiet, meditative start to a special day. A time to set the scene, welcome the new day and new beginnings.
Warm clothing and gumboots essential.
10.30am Blessing Ceremony
At the Retreat Centre site. All welcome.
Meet at the coastal dwellings car park at 10am to walk up together. Limited parking near the site.
There will be a short mihi whakatau (welcome) and waiata (song) followed by kōrero (speaking) from Yuan Tze, giving thanks and acknowledging this special place and time.
12.30pm-2pm Shared Kai: Potluck lunch
Bring some kai for a shared lunch. Location to be confirmed
2pm-4pm : Tree planting on the farm
Activities and Locations to be confirmed. Bring your spades and gardening tools.
We would like to take care of everybody's health, safety and wellbeing. At the current Orange setting, there are no restrictions on numbers at gatherings. Face masks are currently advised whenever you are indoors. Most of our events are planned to be outdoors. However, if you wish to wear a mask in any setting, we hope that you will feel comfortable to do so.