The poet Mary Oliver liked to go out walking early in the morning. Although her landscape in the USA is undoubtedly different to mine, her poem has universal appeal to all who go out early in the morning.
”Softest of mornings hello. And what will you do today, I wonder with my heart…”
The National Arboretum of Canberra is a wonderful place to see the sun rise on a soft autumn morning.
Autumn is a very busy time for us, and we are trying get as much planting and tidying done in our garden, before we go and visit other gardens.
So here are just a few photos of our autumn garden…. and of course, the birds that come to visit…
The tiny Eastern Spinebill is a regular visitor, feeding on the Pineapple Sage, which has almost taken over this part of the garden.
It is a most elusive little bird, but Paul just managed to get a photo of him with his phone.
Thank you for visiting Canberra’s Green Spaces today, and I hope your autumn or spring days are bright and sunny, where ever you are in the world.
We recently spent a couple of days celebrating our anniversary in a beachside area of Sydney.
Sydney on a summer’s day is full of sunshine, colour and birds. I had fun taking photos of the suburban gardens and our ferry trip into the city..
This small tree is one of the most widely planted ornamental eucalyptus trees in Australia. It only grows about 5 metres tall so is suitable for gardens in Sydney. It has a pretty cluster of flowers dripping with nectar for the birds…..a win/win for any garden.
This grassy ever green (and purple) plant is used in many gardens in Australia. (alas not Canberra as it is not suitable for cold winters.)The wispy feathery grass is also often seen in public parks and gardens or embankments, but I have rarely seen one so healthy and well placed. It was tempting to run my hands along it every time we passed by…
Relatively speaking Sydney did not have many COVID cases or lockdowns during this last year, however the lack of tourists and people moving around the city was very obvious. Only three people boarded the ferry with us, and we chose to sit outside…absolute bliss on a sunny day!
After the ferry ride, we went to an art exhibition, had a quick lunch, and then a stroll through the Australian native section of the Royal Botanic gardens .
Banksias are well suited to Australian conditions, not only do they provide food for birds, but they can re-sprout after fire! A fellow gardener told me that after the Canberra fires, a Banksia in her garden, quickly re-grew, and two or three gardens in the street also found they had new Banksias in their gardens too!
The Royal Botanic Gardens of Sydney spreads from the city centre to the edge of the harbour.
How very enlightened were the city planners to save this slice of heaven for all to enjoy!
Once we were back at Balmoral beach we stopped off at a small restaurant, and had some lovely fresh fish and dessert.
When I showed Paul the photo he pointed out that I had also taken a photo of the old quarantine station.
North Head is known as Car-rang-gel by the Gayamagal People and was once used for spiritual ceremonies and rituals. This land was part of the setting for the earliest interaction between Aboriginal people and early European settlers and explorers.
This quarantine station was in operation from August 1832 to February 1984. It was established to regulate the risk of disease, with the arrival of free and convict Europeans and the merchant trading ships.
The practise of quarantine began in the 14th century in an effort to protect coastal cities from plagues and epidemics. The word quarantine was derived from the Italian words ”quaranta giorni” which meant ”forty days” Ships arriving in Venice from infected parts were required to sit at anchor for 40 days before offloading on shore…at least the ships coming to Australia did not have to wait quite so long!
During the period 1910-1950 the facilities increased and improved and in 1918-19 the centre held the maximum number of people following the influenza epidemic.
Despite our beautiful surroundings it was a timely reminder of the epidemics of the past and the fragility of the world we live in.
Thank you for visiting my blog today, and I hope your days are filled with sunshine and gardening, and perhaps some left-over chocolate from Easter.
This is a trip down memory lane for Paul and I, we often drove through the Blue Mountains on our way to Bathurst, the town where we met while at university (now known Charles Sturt University)
That was a long time ago, but the views of the mountains are just as beautiful and the people as friendly and hospitable as ever.
Hartvale is a country house and garden, nestled on five gently undulating acres at the base of Mount York, with wonderful valley and escarpment views to Mount Clarence.
The beautiful Hartley Valley is sometimes shrouded in mist in the mornings, has winter frosts, occasional snow, and warm to hot summers. In other words a bit of everything!
The owners of the property are Pete Kube, a builder, and his partner, Jennifer Edwards, an artist. They were inspired by the views to build this lovely house and garden, and their energy and artistic talents are obvious in a garden that is only three and a half years old!
The wide driveway leading up through the garden is edged with colourful cottage garden flowers. All the building materials used are recycled, giving the garden a sense of history.
The soil is clay based and needs plenty of compost, organic matter and regular bales of straw to protect against the heat and frosts.
The greenhouse has a big crop of tomatoes, and the surrounds are full of vegetables, and salvias, marigolds, Californian poppies..
Nasturtiums, salvias, marigolds, roses, daisies, dahlias….colour and greenery for our heart’s delight. The lush greens and colours are especially pleasant to see, this has been a year of abundant rain and a mild summer, and plants are not worn out from the heat!
Pete Kube said during the 2020 COVID year, he built a poly-tunnel, and installed a water tank…a very impressive and productive way to spend a COVID year!
The poly-tunnel will be used for all the winter vegetables..
I think, both the poly-tunnel and the tank are amongst the biggest I have seen in a country garden. They are well prepared for severe cold and most importantly, drought.
It is a universal truth that with gardens come opportunists! I did hear a conversation amongst locals about the problems of keeping the cockatoos away from the apple and pear crops….(can’t you just imagine?) Not to mention kangaroos eating the lush sweet grass and rabbits eating vegetables, possums competing with the bird life for fruit!
Along the winding driveway is another small shed in the potager garden.
Here is a place to sit and look at the garden, watch the birds…. or just to rest from the heat of the day during summer…
Looking down from the house, the upper and lower parts of the garden are divided by Eucalyptus trees, shrubs and Royal Gala apple trees espaliered along the fence.
We admired the apples on the fence, but neither of us took a photo of it, perhaps too busy with our coffee, which was offered on the front veranda of the house.
Another inspiring part of the garden is Jennifer’s artist’s studio. She takes inspiration from her surroundings….
Her studio is full of oil paintings of birds, flowers and landscapes.
While we were in the artist’s studio Paul took a photo of the view through a large window… no wonder Jennifer is inspired to paint…
It reminds me of a lovely quote by Monet ;
‘my wish is to stay always like this, living quietly in a corner of nature”
It was a pleasure to wander through this country garden, with so much colour, space, and the gentle feeling to time slowing down, far away from the worried Covid world.
Thank you for reading my blog today, and where ever you are in the world, may you enjoy your autumn or spring weather, and be inspired by gardens such as this.
We arrived in Melbourne, in the state of Victoria, last Tuesday to visit our family and grandchildren.
On Friday, as a result of new UK Covid cases in Melbourne, the Victorian government decided to have a short five day Lockdown. We watched the news at midday, and made the decision to pack up and come home, as the borders between states were closing at midnight. This could possibly mean not being able to get home for some time….much easier to come for a return visit in more settled times.
This is the world we live in these days!
We left at 3.30 pm for the eight hour drive back to Canberra. We usually stop at our favourite country town coffee shops, and occasionally at a really pretty nursery, where you can buy plants, and delicious cakes and coffee….all at the same time.
This time we stopped at a Roadside Service station for petrol, sandwiches and coffee. Everyone looked tired and preoccupied, manners were in short supply, understandably.
It was good to see the lights of Canberra through the bush as we got closer to home. We arrived at 11.30…. we made it by 30 minutes! Although we share the driving, Paul did all of the night driving, and he did a great job navigating trucks and semi-trailers, which seem to loom out of nowhere in the evening.
Now that we have settled in back home I’m beginning my long term plan to write a few posts about Walter Burley Griffin, who designed the city of Canberra, while his wife Marion Mahony Griffin, played a significant role, not only as a fellow architect but as an artist who drew up the beautiful watercolour sketches of the city. Recently these two Chicagoans have been getting a bit more of the attention in Australia, at last, as it is richly deserved.
Today I’ll just write a little about Marion Mahony Griffin, as it was her birthday yesterday, (Aussie time). She was born on the 14th February 1871, in Chicago.
As we have precious few photos of Walter and Marion I’ll add some of my favourite photos of Canberra, some of which may have been in earlier posts.
In the summer of the year Marion was born the family were caught in one of the worst fires of that time in Chicago (1871).They survived the fire, but decided to move out of the city, and took their children along Lake Michigan to a place called Hubbard Woods. Marion grew up exploring the woods and forests, and she later said it was ”the loveliest spot you could imagine.”
Her mother, Clara was a Unitarian, and the church provided a social connection, and a sense of social justice for the family. Marion had a talent for art and an interest in architecture, and in 1894 she became the second woman to graduate with an architecture degree from Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the first woman in America to become a licensed architect.
Her skill as a graphic artist was already well known at university, and once qualified she began working for Frank Lloyd Wright. There she met Walter Burley Griffin, a young idealist architect, who shared many of her ideals and values. They eloped in June 1911 (Walter’s family had reservations about Marion, as she was older than him, and ”too bohemian”). However, theirs was an equal match of values and talents. Two months later, an international competition for the design of the new capital in Australia was announced. Walter entered the competition, but was a well known dreamer and procrastinator hence to quote by Marion…
”For the love of Mike, when are you going to start those plans for the Australian capital? Do you realise it takes a solid month to get them over there. That leaves exactly nine weeks now to turn them in. Perhaps you can design a city in two days, but the drawings take time and falls to me…”
Making Magic The Marion Mahony Griffin Storyby Glenda Korporaal.
Despite the universities recently opening architecture to women, Marion, at that time, could not apply to enter the competition herself, as a woman. How frustrating for a talented feisty woman like Marion.
The plans were done in nine weeks, and there was a mad dash one winter’s night to get the last train able to meet the last boat to Australia. The Griffins’ entry was the last to arrive.
In May 1912 Walter received a telegram stating that he had won the competition. There were to be many hurdles ahead, but none the less.. what a wonderful day for future Canberrans!
Both Walter and Marion’s philosophy was that architecture and city planning should work for the environment, not against it. Rather than looking to the past for their inspiration, they looked to a future.
It is amazing to think that Walter could be in an office in Chicago and design a city in a such a contrasting country as Australia, and Marion in turn was able to draw beautifully detailed sketches of the plan. What a team!
Marion’s story is as rich and varied as Walter’s and in the words of the fascinating book called Making Magic The Marion Mahony Griffin Story by Glenda Korporaal.
“She was also a botanist and an idealist, an astute social observer, a loyal wife, and a woman very much ahead of her time.”
150 years later, I hope Marion and Walter would be happy with their city. Happy Birthday Marion.
In March we are going to an exhibition in Sydney about another part of Walter and Marion’s life, their time in Sydney. I’m looking forward to that.
I’d say, occasionally I feel satisfied, but most of the time I end the day with a new list of jobs.
Our front garden is a challenge because it faces west….so it receives hot weather most of the day in summer, hot winds, and then frost in winter. We looked for drought resistant plants and decided to grow Agapanthus praecox orientalis. They grew tall with beautiful blue flowers in summer, and they persisted regardless of weather conditions.
Some time later I saw some Agapanthus with white flowers in a neighbouring garden and thought it would be lovely to have white and blue. So now we have both. Am I happy about this? Sometimes, but I’m now concerned that the blue ones will multiple and take over the white ones.
Fortunately I recently read a comment made by the wisest of all gardeners, Monty Don. (his book is called My Garden World – the Natural World ) and he said
The whole point about gardening is not to learn how to garden, but is to find solace, to be happy, to make beauty, to have a spiritual connection, to have fun, to muck about..
I decided to take Monty’s advice, so I’m just relaxing in the garden and paying attention to what I can see; there is so much colour and beauty in the garden, even during our hot summer days.
This is my new favourite, miniature Agapanthus, Silver Baby. A long flowering pretty white shrub with blue fringes.
We put this Agapanthus Snowball in a pot outside our bedroom, so we can see it in the morning and evening light.. it is a delight!
Here is a Crimson Rosella checking for the very last of the Crackles Grevillea flowers. Grevilleas are very popular with native birds, and vital food source especially as they flower from autumn through to the beginning of summer.
The flowering cherry tree is only three years old, and is taking over a corner of the garden. It has small cherries, very tart to eat, but delicious! I must look up some recipes for next year.
One afternoon, while sitting quietly in the garden with Charlie (who is seldom sitting quietly) I noticed a Blackbird in the cherry tree. He scurried along the branch and picked off cherry. He struggled to eat it, but finally got it down! The Blackbird has not visited our garden for a while…too many noisy cockatoos and then a dog… lucky me to be sitting still for a while to catch the elusive Blackbird feeding. A first for me.
Speaking of Cockatoos, here is one in our neighbour’s apple tree…
When I took his photo, he flew over to the wires (between the gardens). I have read that male cockatoos have black eyes, so I think he is young male, with just a hint of apple left on his beak.
Recently a small group of cockatoos have moved into an enormous eucalyptus tree in the neighbouring garden ( a mixed blessing). This enormous tree provides food and shelter for many different species of birds, and hopefully the smaller birds will not retreat!
The best part of summer for me, is having breakfast on the deck, watching birds in the garden, and in the surrounding neighbourhood trees.
Another part of summer I always look forward to, is eating the fruits of my childhood.. (I was brought up in Zambia, Central Africa). I love, mangoes, pawpaw, and corn. The taste of each of these, takes me right back to my childhood…
This recipe ( Bruleed mango pavlova) can be found on the Delicious website. There is some disagreement as to whether Pavlova originated from New Zealand, or Australia…or elsewhere.
Pavlova is an almost fool proof and delicious summer dessert. But for me, just the taste of a ripe mango, will do.
Paul and I have always enjoyed gardening, however, during this last turbulent year, the garden has been an incredibly important part of our lives. (especially when we were quarantining)
Now during our hot summer, we are relaxing in the garden, and I think, for once I am satisfied!
Many thanks for visiting, and happy gardening, and/or ordering seeds for planting time if you are in the northern hemisphere.
Recently a family living in the Adelaide Hills had an unexpected visitor to their Christmas tree. There are many trees in the area where they live, and seeing koalas in the trees is not uncommon. However, a curious koala had made it’s way into Amanda McCormick’s house
and climbed up the Christmas tree! The story went viral when her daughter posted these photos on FB. The koala was gently removed, (the Wildlife Rescue Team thinking this was a hoax at first) and the koala was taken back to her natural habitat. Fortunately she had not managed to eat decorations or green plastic leaves!
Amanda McCormick said, ”After a bad year, it was nice to have that”
2020 has been a year like no other. A year of changing our routines and habits, feeling a degree of fear and anxiety as the pandemic spread, and spending more time at home than ever before.
Looking back over my photos of the year, I feel as if we have lived three years in one year! Was it really only in January that we did a trip to Melbourne Botanic gardens? Wasn’t that a life time ago?
Lockdown began in Canberra in March and we realised it was time to cancel our long planned trip to the UK in May. The light slowly dawned on us all that travel to another country was definitely not going to happen any time in the near future, and travel to other states within Australia became increasingly difficult too.
By August and September, when the state of Victoria had the worst number of Covid cases in Australia and therefore the hardest lockdown, travel to another suburb within Melbourne was banned for three months. During this time, as I’ve mentioned in a previous post, our daughter, living in Melbourne, gave birth to a baby boy.
Despite all the hurdles of tight hospital rules and general anxiety in the community, this bonny baby was born in September and he smiles all the time….the best of 2020.
During this Lockdown year, most Australians have been able to go for walks, around suburbs and within slightly wider boundaries.
As good luck would have it , the La Nina had begun, bringing plenty of rain to Australia.
Now there is less chance of drought and bushfires in summer…not to mention beautiful healthy green growth, food for all the birds and animals around Canberra.
If the Chicagoan architects and planners of this city, Walter Burley Griffin and Marion Mahony could see Canberra now (well, most parts of it anyway) …..so much greenery, bushland and space, at a time when it is most needed. Many thanks to them.
I have read that during this pandemic, dog ownership has become remarkably popular, in Australia and elsewhere. This is not surprising considering how many people have been working from home…dogs provide both companionship and a reason to exercise!
Our daughter bought a puppy, named Charlie, during this year, and he has been a great Covid year companion, and we look forward to his visits. He is very very cute!
Last summer I wrote about a gardener in our suburb, named Ken, who had begun to grow plants on the verge outside his home and garden.
This year, he has, with the permission of the local council, extended the area and he has planted, trees, shrubs, flowers and vegetables. (the vegetables are for any passer-by to pick)
These pathways are well used by the local community, and every time we walked past there are a whole range of new plants to admire.
Ken and his wife are very proud of their gardens and always have time for a chat. The big sandstone rocks provide seating and shade, and companionship to passers-by. Best of all, the birds love the extra trees and plant food.
I think this casual interaction between neighbours gives us a sense of community, and belonging, I’m not sure anyone had the time for chatting before 2020!
Yesterday, as we walked through these gardens and down the hill to get the morning paper, we came across some busy cockatoos.
The ABC Science show recently had an interesting talk on Sulphur Crested Cockatoos..
They often fly in flocks as big as 50 -100, (the noise they make is deafening) but spend their time sleeping and eating in small five square kilometre areas, with tight networks, going from 5-20 birds who seem to be best mates….as seen here.
They could be collecting the bark to look for bugs to eat, and/or perhaps sharpening their beaks at the same time. (I’m open to suggestions). They are such intelligent birds they could be just keeping busy.
I always love to catch a glimpse of birdlife in Canberra, and to look over at the Brindabella Mountains….may they keep that blue/green hue all summer long.
Many thanks for visiting my blog this year. During a year of so much solitude, I have enjoyed reading blogs and keeping in touch with every day living in other parts of the world.
May you have a peaceful, happy and healthy Christmas and New Year.
Desiderata was my mother’s favourite verse, and it is very apt for today, despite it being written in 1692!
”…with all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world.
At the end of two weeks of self-isolation in our home in Canberra, our neighbours sent us this lovely, and much appreciated card.
We recently visited our daughter and family in Melbourne, Victoria, during a time when Melbourne’s Covid numbers were on the rise. In order to do this we agreed to self-isolate in our own home for two weeks once we came back to Canberra. We had regular police visits during this time to check that we were doing just that. We also had a Covid test at the end of the fortnight.
All went well, but I’m glad we could open the gate at the end of a fortnight
Spring growth in the garden was just beginning when we left for Melbourne.
By the time we got home, thanks to the frequent rainfall this year, everything had grown and the garden was full of lush greens and yellows.
The tulips in the front garden were a lovely surprise, and even impressed the police who came to check on us. We couldn’t go into the front garden, but could view them from the window, and that was enough.
Unfortunately we missed the lovely apple tree blossoms, but here is a photo from last year…at almost the same time.
Canberra has an abundance of busy birds visiting gardens in spring, and our plum tree attracts various parrot families at this time of the year.. The plum tree is near the house, and so it is easy to take photos and watch them all day ……instead of looking up exercise programs, and/or de-cluttering the cabin.
On rainy days the cockatoos fly in to check on the almond tree….they love almonds, especially if the shells have been softened by rain.
I have read that cockatoos spread out their crests when they are happy, active, annoyed, or purposefully going somewhere. Perhaps active and happy in this photo.
While we were weeding all through the garden (Paul did 90% and I did 10%) I listened to a podcast on gardens, gardening and our mental health.
Geraldine Doogue on Radio National was interviewing Sue Stuart Smith, the author of a new book called The Well Gardened Mind. As a psychiatrist the author was interested in the connection between gardening and mental health. Her grandfather, Ted, had been a P.O.W. during the war, in a camp near Gallipoli. He returned home malnourished and shell-shocked.
His wife took great care of him on his return to England, but he still remained traumatised by his experiences. In 1920 he was able to enrol in a government program, a Horticultural Rehabilitation scheme in Hampshire. This program taught people the full range of horticultural skills, tending the soil, growing vegetables, seasonal changes. Ted became a keen gardener, and lived a long and full life, growing his own vegetables.
Sue Stuart Smith writes about cultivating the land, and the enormous benefit human beings have when connecting with the land. The gardener is drawn into the rhythm of the garden, the structure of the seasons is stabilizing, and we are pulled along by its growth.
The garden doesn’t let you procrastinate for too long, the seeds have to be sown in autumn or spring, the weeds have to be removed!
I haven’t yet read the book, but everything Sue Stuart Smith said in the interview was interesting and so true.
While we were self-isolating we received regular messages from ACT Health to check on any Covid symptoms, but also on our mental health during this period of isolation.
Over the two week period we had a few friendly conversations with the police who visited daily. Each time they mentioned that most people self-isolating in Canberra, are returning from overseas, and have no choice but to quarantine in small rooms in hotels or motels, often with small children.
During our two week of quarantining we had enough living space in our house, and plenty of gardening jobs to fill four weeks rather than two.
One of the young policemen said ”well you’ve got your garden…you’re okay!”
I bet he comes from a family of gardeners!
As well as the garden, the cockatoos provided a bit of every day humour to our lives. This cockatoo doesn’t look impressed with his pick of the crop…
Our garden was very important during this period of isolation, along with the birds, family, friends and neighbours. I will definitely buy Sue Stuart Smith’s book to read further on this interesting topic.
Here is a lovely quote from her interview:
”When we sow a seed, it is an action of hope”
Thank you for taking the time to read my post, and may you have a few rays of hope in your garden today.
When we arrived in Melbourne last month, the Rainbow Lorikeets seemed to be the only ones not in Lockdown 4. We had come to Melbourne to visit our daughter and family, as they were expecting a new baby in September.
There were severe restrictions in Melbourne as a result of rising cases of Covid 19.
We were allowed into Victoria, but had to get an exemption to get back into Canberra, and could only enter ACT (Canberra) by plane. Once back in Canberra we have to self-isolate for 14 days and take a Covid test on day 11. All of which we are happy to do.
All the boxes were ticked for the visit, and we were delighted to see our daughter and family again.
The restrictions have eased slightly now, but when we arrived, Melbourne was like a ghost town.
No playgrounds permitted to be used, adults working from home, children learning remotely from home, one hour of exercise outside of the home per person per day
There was a nightly curfew and compulsory wearing of masks, outside of the home. Very heavy fines for all offenders.
My daughter and family live in the inner city of Melbourne, and fortunately have many parks around their home. The urban planners of yesterday had wonderful foresight, people living close to the centre of the city need parks more than most… and during this difficult lockdown period they are a godsend to the community.
During our time in Melbourne we spent our hour of exercise taking our granddaughter to the park, running off toddler energy. We have no live cases in Canberra and do not have to wear masks, which are compulsory in Melbourne. It is a skill getting the right mask!
We also spent time walking around the suburb with our granddaughter. Many people had put teddy bears and toys in the windows, and some had decorated the street trees with ornaments for children.
Luckily she likes bugs and insects and snails have a charm of their own (who knew) because they leave silver trails..
The spring colours are everywhere…
She enjoyed the ”Bird of Paradise” looking over the fence every day…
We enjoyed Melbourne’s spring weather…a little ahead of Canberra..
The suburb is changing as new families move in, and there is pleasant mix of houses and well kept townhouses. Often the houses have a wrought iron trim, pretty lace curtains, lead light windows and front gardens, carefully tended, full of interesting plants and vegetables..
The small pleasure of the day was getting take-away coffee from the regular coffee shop, called Brother Nancy. As I waited for Paul, social distancing strictly in place, I watched the gardener of a house nearby.
His garden was full to the brim with plants and vegetables, and he kept a small bucket tied to the fence with fresh, sweet smelling herbs, free to anyone passing by…
In the afternoon he came out with his broom and swept the street around his house.
There was something very touching about his pride in his home and his generous spirit offering some of his abundant crop.
A sign of the changing times is a new café specialising in vegan food and small plants…
Melbourne is well known for its coffee shops and there is always room for one more…especially since they are reputed to have delicious chocolate slice.
Meanwhile a lovely baby boy was born, and has been been fitting into life at home very well.
Once the baby was born we tried to make the most of the time we had left, to go, when weather allowed, for a family walk to a lovely little park nearby.
The evenings were getting longer and warmer and we often just sat on a bench taking in the scene. Many people choose this time of day to use their hour of exercise, and they seemed to stroll past us, Paul said it reminded him of the passeggiata in Italy. We saw this near Rome, where families met for Sunday lunch and the strolled along talking to friends and family.
My friend and neighbour commented that the Europeans had/have good practices with family walks. She lived in Germany years ago, and as the shops closed on Sunday the family would ”spazierengehen”, go strolling with the family and often stop for ”Kaffee und Kuchen.” (coffee and cake) Sounds wonderful!
Perhaps we have all slowed down during this pandemic…it seems that way to me.
Thank you for taking the time to read my blog and I hope you have time to stroll occasionally, even if it is just around the garden, as we will be doing for the next two weeks of self-isolation at home…..the time will fly by as the garden has sprung into life while we were away.
Winter in Canberra becomes dreary and seemingly endless by late July.
This year has been a particularly damp winter, and while we always welcome rain in Canberra, grey skies and drizzling rain can dampen the spirits during a pandemic!
Just when spring was around the corner, we had freezing temperatures, and snow on the mountains….
Michael McCoy, in Gardening Australia writes that winter is bleak in his patch,
‘‘but then, sometime in August it’s as if someone flicks on a dimmer switch preset at its lowest setting and starts to turn up the dial.”
Not only does the light change in August, but bird songs change too…..during winter and early spring, we hear the territorial call of the raucous Wattle Bird, who seems to be telling us off every time we go into the garden.
Now we hear the early morning magpies warbling melodiously, and during the longer spring evenings the blackbirds start to sing…… a joy to hear.
Magpies are one of the most common birds in Canberra, known and loved for their friendly visits to suburban gardens. Most of the year they are affable birds, companions in the garden, without causing too much damage. They not only have a beautiful morning call, but are also skilled mimics, and are known to imitate barking dogs, sheep, chain-saws, and during the bushfires they very quickly learnt how to imitate fire engine sirens.
However, once spring starts, some Magpies become territorial, and the swooping season is upon us! As Canberra has so much bushland between suburbs, the magpies are naturally nesting close to suburban houses. Traditionally magpies swoop as a means to protect their patch while they care for their young.
Magpies are a protected species of bird in Australia, and so there are plenty of warning signs for people, walkers and cyclists especially, to be alerted to swooping magpies.
Bike riders and and people on small motorbikes are particularly targeted, perhaps because they are moving rapidly across the bird’s territory.
Surviving as a postman/woman in Canberra has always been quite a challenge during spring…. a helmet and a waving yellow flag might help, but a territorial magpie can be very persistent.
In 2017 this young postman won local fame by trying a new technique.
” I get some pretty good quality Muesli bars specifically to feed the birds. You have to develop a relationship with the birds, that is the way to do it in spring”
However, times have changed. The magpies in this postman’s area are, no doubt very disappointed because Canberra now have new electric bikes for delivers of mail.
The new high-tech electric Australia Post vehicles have been adapted from the Swiss Post Model. These bikes are energy efficient, and more stable than a motor bike. They are also so quiet no one notices when their mail is being delivered.
They have the capacity to carry many more parcels, and with increased online shopping parcel deliveries now outweigh letter deliveries.
There are some definite downsides to the vehicles, but they are here to stay, and I think all posties will be glad of protection against rain, wind and heat in summer.
The roof of the vehicle gives 100 percent UV protection and an added consideration……. protection from swooping magpies in spring!
Our local postie was very enthusiastic about her new vehicle, and when I asked if the new model was keeping swooping magpies away she said
”well, yes, so far……. but they’ll find a way!”
I’ d be interested to know how other readers are receiving their mail these days.
I hope the sun is shining and your garden is growing where ever you are in the world today. In these uncertain times the garden, city parks, country walks, bush trails are a wonderful distraction.
This young kookaburra is new to our garden this year. Looking through my photos, I realise that near the end of winter, almost every year, one or two juvenile Kookaburras arrive in our garden.
Kookaburras are often found in family groups around suburbs bordering Canberra’s nature reserves. In the evening and the morning, the kookaburras get together and give a loud cackle.
I can quite understand why early settlers were terrified by this cackle…it is a loud raucous sound. However, this call is enough to bring tears to my eyes when I’ve just returned home from overseas…nothing sings Australia like a Kookaburra call.
I have read that a Kookaburra in your garden is a good omen because they bring laughter to your home. Well, I’m not usually into omens, but this one sounds good doesn’t it?
All birds are welcome…and who would not be cheered by the colours of the King Parrot, another regular visitor in winter.
Resplendent in his plumage of scarlet, a shiny blue tail, and emerald green wings and back, the male King Parrot is the only parrot to have a red head..
King Parrots feed on fruits and seeds gathered from trees. They spend many happy hours eating seeds from our Japanese Maple. This tree is very close to the house, so we look out on these colourful birds almost every morning.
I’m enjoying the birds more than ever this winter, they are a constant in the garden, and full of life. On a very foggy morning, I noticed the buds are developing on the plum tree. …I’m looking forward to spring.
I have always enjoyed company, conversation and friendship, but it takes on a whole new meaning during a pandemic!
Canberra no longer has full lock down and we can have a gathering of six people, with social distancing of course.
Paul and I meet up with two other couples for soup on Friday, and we are lucky enough to be within walking distance to each other’s houses, so we can build in a walk before eating.
During the week two friends visited, each bringing some sweet smelling Daphne and spring flowers. A friendly gesture which means a great deal.
If Paul and I are in the front garden, nearby walkers will call out to greet us, and chat about flowers and gardens and weather. Did this always happen? Perhaps it is just more frequent since the pandemic. Friendly contact with friends and neighbours helps to lighten the never-ending stream of negative news broadcasts.
One of our daughters and family are living in Melbourne, and Victoria has gone back into Level 4 lock-down. Hopeful this will end before our daughter has baby number two in September.
Way back in January…remember those days? we took our granddaughter to a wildlife reserve. Here children can measure themselves against an Eastern Grey kangaroo, or a Wallaby, or the smallest, a Pademelon, and Joanie is measuring herself against the Pademelon…..she is probably a lot bigger now.
In the meanwhile this is our view as we return from our walk….a far cry from those dreadful photos I posted in summer of the fires across the Brindabella Ranges. These mountains look their very best on a clear winter’s day.
I hope you are enjoying your season, where ever you are in the world. I’m taking the same attitude as the writer, Jane in her blog called https://theshadybaker.com/, where she says ”I am always looking for the joy in small things especially in winter.”
Many thanks for taking the time to visit my blog. I enjoy reading blog posts from around the world, another small but pleasurable part of the day.