Sunflower fields forever!

The car is packed with the essentials for a day trip. We have fruits and nuts to graze on as we drive from suburban Brisbane into the countryside. The road eventually turns into what is like an endless river of tarmac shimmering under a relentless Queensland summer sun. Rustic farmhouses dot the brown grassy hills as trees stand up like spectators near the zigzagging fences bordering the roadside. The speckle of black and white cows breaks up the sea of brown and green fields. Many of the cattle lay lazily under a tree to escape the heat radiating from the sun which hangs high in the never-ending blue clouded sky.

feature-southern-queensland-country-drives-images-by-sarah-whyte-1

We drive with no specific address in mind. All we know is that we should eventually find a trail of blooming sunflowers on several Queensland farms alongside the roads in the Southern Downs Region. Well that is what we thought. We drive for miles along the Sunflower Route which takes us to the historic township of Allora. We stop on the side of the road to find our bearings and quench our thirst from the hot summer sun. Interesting enough, the name Allora derives from an Aboriginal word, meaning waterhole or swamp. We eventually stumble across the author P.L. Travers of Mary Poppins’ childhood house. You can book a tour of her home which is the former Australian Joint Stock Bank, now referred to as Mary Poppins house. The tours are not operating on our arrival, but the unplanned and unknown town of Allora comes alive to us, albeit the mysterious sunflower fields still evade us.

southern-queensland-country-drives-images-by-sarah-whyte-27

The fertile soils of Allora and surrounding towns on the Sunflower Trail also known as Tourist Route 11 span 26 kilometres or 50 kilometres round trip from Warwick.  This is some of Queenslands most fertile soil and throughout the year farmers tend to wheat, corn, sorghum and oat crops. However, the summer months of December through to the end of February the fields yield a golden crop of brightly yellow coloured sunflowers.

After driving around for what seems like hours, we start to lose hope on finding these sunflower fields forever. We end up in Warwick where we stop to have lunch. Eventually we find the location of a sunflower farm on Willowvale road, thanks to the directions from the police officer who fines us for unknowingly taking a right-hand turn where it is not permitted. We still can’t believe we would break the law, so we drive back to the location the police officer explains the incident took place. To our surprise, there is a little sign close to the concrete divider on the road with a left-hand turn symbol with the word only. This costly incident does however lead us to a sunflower field.

IMG_2296

While you can put your detective hats on and try and find the sunflower fields on your own, you can ring ahead to the Warwick Visitors Information Centre to find the exact locations each year.  This information is complimentary from our roadside police officer. Otherwise, you can do what we do and have a friendly police officer kindly advise you of the address. Warning, apparently Warwick is a training ground for new police recruits. Whilst they are eager to serve and give directions, it can come at a cost.

The best time to see the sunflowers in bloom is an hour up until sunset. Keeping in mind the farms are private property, we pull up safely on the side of the road to get some photos. Note, the long grass on the side of the road is a great place for snakes. The sunflower fields also harbour mice who look for seeds to feed on and in turn the snakes feast on the mice.

IMG_2303

It is windy when I step outside the car and a pesky swarm of flies buzz around my face as my hair masks my visibility whilst trying to find a safe area to take some photos. My seven-year-old daughter is insistent she join me and screams as the flies swarm around her face. This is not the idyllic time to approach the nearby farmer to have a chat about his crop and farm. It will require a return trip to meet the amazing farmer who aids the sunflowers from seed germination to full bloom.

I stand facing the vibrant burst of towering golden hues which adorn the landscape. Suddenly, I have this overwhelming impulsive desire to run through the field and frolic amongst the sea of brightly yellow colour of happiness. But it’s private property, so I’ll have to wait to become friends with a farmer for this to happen.

IMG_2307

The trip to the sunflower field remind me of the humble tiny beginning of a sunflower seed which turns into the awe-inspiring flower of sunshine. The life-cycle of seedling, shoot, bud, bloom and regrowth reminds me of the hope within all of God’s creation. Like sunflower seeds, we are bursting with expectation and growth. The sunflower produces beautiful flowers, edible seeds and oil. Likewise, our lives are a testament to the power of creation and the beauty that is within all of us. Maybe that is why Van Gogh painted his sunflower paintings, to capture his emotions and mood of happiness and express his humanity.

sunflower bloom

“A sunflower field is like a sky with a thousand suns.”
Corina Abdulahm-Negura

Climb every mountain…

Close to the base of the mountain we drive past a large green concrete water tank which is unsuccessfully camouflaged among the green scrubs on the side of the hill. The stretch of road eventually morphs into twists and turns which increases with intensity the higher the car approaches the peak. The deep concentration of ensuring the car hugs the narrow curves of the road, whilst negotiating cars travelling down the hill, is no easy feat. However, my effort is rewarded with a breathtaking scenic view of the city of Brisbane. Standing on top of Mt Gravatt Lookout you feel a sense of achievement even though you haven’t exerted any physical energy to arrive at the destination. Some more adventurous types have come to seek out the large cave complex located on a walking trail on the southern slope of the mountain.

IMG_2516

For some the journey that has led them to the Mt Gravatt Lookout has been a long arduous trek with many valley experiences. Perched atop of the mountain is a cafe that does more than serve food and beverages. The cafe is a beacon on a hill, a light offering hope and a future for some of the staff that work here. The LoveWell Project cafe is a social enterprise attached to the Hope Foundation. The founder and Chief Executive Officer of the Hope Foundation and The LoveWell Project is former drug-addict and sex worker Bronwen Healy. Bronwen started the Hope Foundation in 2007 to help female drug addicts and sex workers transform their lives. She eventually opened Hope Haven, a drop-in space in Mt Gravatt for Hope Chicks (reformed drug and sex workers). In 2010 Bronwen had a dream to start a ‘profit for purpose’ cafe to provide a welcoming place of hopefulness for the Hope Chicks to gain employment skills and confidence to help give them a brighter future. In August 2015 that dream became a reality, albeit it took a year for it to be renovated to create the fun, cheery and welcoming cafe it is today.

lovewell.jpg

When you walk into the cafe you immediately feel welcomed. The decor of rustic recycled tables and brightly coloured chairs of green, red, blue and yellow make it a cheerful and fun place to be. The cafe opens out onto a deck and the Brisbane city views and light breeze provide the perfect ambiance and backdrop to enjoy a great selection from the breakfast, lunch and  beverage menu.

IMG_2602

The LoveWell Project cafe is abuzz with diners by Sunday mid-morning. A flutter of diners coming and going against a backdrop of bird calls and a koala peeking out of the nearby tree acts as an umbrella for outside guests. When it comes time to order from the enticing descriptions on the menu, the choice becomes difficult with the fluttering visual displays of brightly garnished dishes quickly being transported to eager diners by the cheerful and friendly girls who work at The LoveWell Project. I eventually settle on the vegan waffles which consists of homemade waffles with creamy coconut labna (cream), banana crisps, tangy mixed berries and topped with pistachio Persian fairy floss. This was a mixture of tangy and sweet kisses to the taste-buds. My guest chooses the Bread of Life lamb burger with salad and beetroot puree which did not disappoint. The burger came with an encouraging message reminding you that food nourishes the body, but the spirit needs nourishing too.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

One of the Hope Chicks who has found a purpose and a brighter future at the LoveWell Project is Hayley. She was a former drug addict for twenty years (Hayley started at the age of fourteen) until she found herself at Moonyah, a Salvation Army rehabilitation centre that provides residential programs for people recovering from drug and alcohol addictions. Hayley was desperate to turn her life around and started attending God’s Sports Arena (GSA) which is a sport-based church run by the Salvation Army. Hayley says that Bronwen Healy spoke at GSA and this connected her to the Hope Foundation.

‘I started attending the Haven drop-in space run by the Hope Foundation once or twice a week,’ she said. ‘I started developing a relationship with God.

‘I studied a Certificate III in Community Services whilst completing rehab and Bron offered me the job as Liaison Officer at The LoveWell Project. I completed my 400 hours of court-ordered hours of community service at the cafe which kept me out of jail. Eventually I ended up with paid work and a future here as the Liaison Officer.’

IMG_2597

Hayley now supports and assist other women who are trying to turn their lives around by offering them support and the skills they need to be employed. Hayley says she puts her heart and soul into the LoveWell Project cafe because of what it has done in her life and she wants that for other women who have ended up in a world of drugs and pain.

‘Like a flowing river, I too can pass onto others the gift of life. Before coming to the Hope Foundation, I couldn’t read or write. Now I’m in the process of completing a Diploma of Community Services,’ she said.

IMG_2604

The seed of hope planted in Hayley’s life is taking root and with a lot of hard work, persistence and support she is now starting to bear fruit and others are benefiting from her new life.

IMG_2603

If you’re in the area, do yourself a favour and check out the LoveWell Project cafe at the Mt Gravatt Lookout on Shire Road. A ‘profit for purpose’ business nourishes the body and soul.

 

A rose by any other name…

Tucked away in a quiet corner suburb of Logan is an unassuming patisserie that has the fluffiest moist cakes infused with the exotic flavours of the east.  Brightly coloured cakes, macaroons, biscuits, cupcakes and cream puffs welcome you as you approach the glass cabinets. The delicate flavours of rosewater, cardamom, saffron and pistachio breathe life into the palate as you sit and savour the Afghan and Persian style treats.  

img_2363

Rose Patisserie is more than a bakery, it is a sweet Mecca for many Afghan, Iranian and other Middle Easterners who travel far and wide to enjoy the Afghan and Persian style sweets . A former refugee family originally from Afghanistan who moved to Iran, Malaysia and eventually Australia daily make in store a range of pastries, biscuits and cakes based on the age old Afghan tradition.

img_2353.jpg

Abbas, in his mid twenties, opened the patisserie with his sister Fatima and mother in August last year. The dream of owning their own business did not seem possible after leaving Iran as non-citizens with limited rights, and eventually seeking refuge in Malaysia for five years. The opportunity to do further study and open their own business became a possibility when the family of seven were accepted for asylum in Australia in 2013.

img_2361-e1547296197865.jpg

The name Rose was chosen for the patisserie, says Abbas because of its culinary significance in Afghanistan, Iran and Australia. Rose is the same sounding word  and name in Farsi, Dari and English. Rosewater, rose petals and rose designs are prominent in Middle Eastern sweets. The word Rose became a fusion of three significant countries that had formed a part of Abbas and his family’s journey and story.

Whilst a rose seed may seem small, within it holds beauty, aroma, flavour and majestic blooms. Abbas’ journey has been a long one, his mother started the journey by leaving Afghanistan as a child with her family to find a better life in Iran. The life there had not yielded the ground for them to bloom. However, as Australian citizens with many rights, their entrepreneurship, culture, customs and traditions have taken root in Logan and the locals are enjoying the sweet harvest.

rose-flower-seed-500x500

 

To see things in the seed, that is genius. — Lao Tzu.

 

rosebud-2545642_1920