Monthly Archives: October 2015

Canberra’s markets build a community

Canberra is  surrounded by productive farming land. For many years these farmers and producers were beholden to big supermarket chains to buy their produce.

IMG_6216 (1024x890)However, in recent years a few really good markets have started up in Canberra, giving farmers and producers a chance to sell directly to the public.

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We go to the Southside markets most Sundays. We don’t go to get a bargain, (although we often do get one).. we go because we like to know where our food is coming from, and to support local growers and producers.

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The stallholders themselves not only meet customers, but develop links and friendships with each other.

Two farmers who come from  the Tilba area (near the South Coast) have stalls next to each other. One grows strawberries and the other is a dairy farmer, he sells cream, milk and yoghurt, and cheese ….

…now the strawberry grower sell strawberry ice-cream ….

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We went to the markets before breakfast today…but I’m definitely going back to try the strawberry ice-cream…and all that fresh dairy produce….the farmers tell me it does not  affect cholesterol at all!!

We buy regularly from Russell who owns Windellama Organics. He is a methodical and painstaking grower and producer and today he has the first of his spring produce, radishes, kale, rhubarb, free-range eggs and lots of wonderful jams…and pickles.

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Canberra is a great market for South Coast fishermen, it is easy enough to get to Canberra for the weekend, and wonderful for Canberrans to have such a choice of fresh fish.

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This Narooma sign says ” We only sell sustainably caught fish from two family boats. We do not sell imported or farmed fish. We are happy to answer your questions…..

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The girl who is filleting our Flathead remembers her grandfather’s fishing days and is also telling us some stories about surfing near the headlands at Narooma….sounds very brave, having seen the waves last week.

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Another favourite stall we visit is Burnbar Fruit. These farmers come all the way from Alstonville. Their farm, in northern New South Wales, is far enough away to produce avocados long after we can get fresh ones here in Canberra. They drive to Canberra every fortnight for quite a few months of the year….just over 1 000 Km…

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We love their avocados, their bananas and their sense of humour. They are unfailingly cheerful even in winter months….and what an adjustment from their mild climate to ours….

Once spring arrives everyone stays to have coffee, pancakes, bagettes, and whatever is on offer.. my favourite musician is playing classical guitar…I don’t think you can’t put a price on the happiness music brings to a place..

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On our way out we notice another star of the markets, Clover the piglet. She is owned by Wisher Woods Sanctuary who fund-raise for abandoned animals…I suspect Clover is quite safe in that department, but she is a wonderful drawcard. However this morning she is a little over the paparazzi and after this photo was taken she retired under her sack.

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There are so many more markets to talk about…we’ll be back..

 

 

 

 

Canberra’s south coast……birds, shrubs and drama at sea

Many people in Canberra consider the South Coast of New South Wales as a second home. It is a commutable distance from Canberra, the climate is more temperate and the sea….

 

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…..no wonder it is called the Sapphire coast!

A  good friend and gardener extraordinaire, invited us to stay for a few days.

Her garden is full of colour, from bird antics….

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this King Parrot is a regular in the garden, named Winston…….because he never gives up

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…and it always pays off!

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a visiting Kookaburra nesting in the nearby spotted gum trees..

 

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Rainbow Lorikeets…always up to something!

 

to diverse shrubs……

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Grevillea Sylvia

 

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Grevillea Superb

 

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Tree Fuchsia Arborescens..attract bees particularly the Blue-banded bee

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Blue mist plant, with the lovely trunk of the Spotted gum trees behind it…

Whenever we go down to the beach at this time of the year, we look out for a whale sighting

Each year, in late winter and spring this coastline is a route for migrating whales. They swim south from their northern breeding grounds to a summer of intense feeding in the Antarctic Ocean.

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This migration has been going on for millennia with coastal Aboriginal people witnessing their passing and occasionally feasting on a beached whale.

With colonisation came the whaling industry which almost brought the whale population to extinction. Now that whales are protected, almost worldwide, the populations of whales have made a slow but steady recovery.

Montague Island is nearby, and the area is well known for being rich in krill and close to the continental shelf, making it a popular feeding ground for whales, especially female whales and feeding calves.

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Unfortunately yesterday, a young Humpback whale (with its mother) had been spotted entangled in fishing tackle. As there were high winds, and its mother was naturally protective, it was impossible to attempt any rescue.

The Marine Parks Authority staff, the National Parks and Wildlife services and many volunteers became involved in the rescue attempt. They tied floatation Buoys to the fishing tackle around the calf to keep track of them and also to stop them from diving down.

 

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When we took this photo they were waiting in an inflatable rescue boat alongside the mother and calf for an opportunity to cut the calf free.

While we waited we walked along the coastline……IMG_5767 (1024x706) (979x634)

And had a look at all the marine life along the jetty at Narooma…

 

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IMG_5831 (1024x768)and a little Sooty Oyster Catcher, looking as if he was made of black and orange velvet.

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Just on dusk, we heard the team had managed to cut 150 metres of nylon fishing tackle from the young whale. They used hook-shaped knives on long poles, a dangerous operation.. as the NPWS operation coordinator said

while conditions were good, agitated whales always make for a dangerous operation. It was very satisfying to see the calf re-join its mother and the pair continued to head south in the evening.”‘

 

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I think a collective cheer must have rippled along the coast as people waited to hear the news…and what a brave rescue crew, facing an understandably agitated mother and calf whale.

A beautiful evening walk along the beach was made all the sweeter.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Canberra’s native gardens around Parliament House

Parliament House in Canberra covers an area of 33 hectares on Capital Hill. There are 10 hectares of turf (easy to see) and 13 hectares of garden beds. I have written a post on the courtyard gardens, but native gardens around the building actually make up about nine hectares of the gardens.

IMG_5637 (640x390)In 1988 the native gardens were originally planted as a dense understory beneath the canopy of trees.

Canberra suffered a very long drought, starting in 2003 ….the native gardens were watered until 2006 when the whole region began severe water restrictions. To achieve a 45 per cent reduction in water use, the irrigation of the native gardens was stopped. As with many gardens in Canberra, some plants were lost,  others adapted well, and some were replaced by shrubs that could tolerate drier conditions.

Here are some of the native plants that have survived and thrived…..

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Hairpin banksias (Banksia spinulosa)

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Eriostemon

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An early flowering Bottle brush (Callistemons) in this part of the garden

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Grevillea ground cover

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Grevillea shrub

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Purple Mint Bush (Prostanthera ovalifolia)

The gardens fit into the landscape so well that it is surprising to find paths winding throughout the shrubs and trees, it is easy to forget we are walking between Parliament House and a busy road!

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Tennis courts, for use by all parliamentary staff, are almost hidden amongst the trees..

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and a Senate oval is used for volleyball, football and touch football. The hedge of Bottlebrushes are unfortunately not flowering yet, we’ll come back later for them.

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The plants at either side of the Senate oval steps are hairpin banksias and white Correas

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Natives grasses are used as boundaries between one garden and another….unfortunately the snowy river wattle (Acacia boormanii) has almost finished flowering (behind the native grasses)

I love the white barked gum trees which can look spectacular in the evening or early morning light.

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This is the perfect habitat for birds, but, today, we’ve only seen the larger birds around…. ravens, magpies, and of course…..a currawong being swooped by poor swallows as they try to defend their nest.

It must be spring!

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a Magpie studiously ignoring the frantic call of a Plover.

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a Currawong looking out for the swallow’s nest…

The Senate gardens are slightly different to the House of Representative gardens, so I’ll write about that in a new post.

Canberra’s spring festival…..the South African Embassy

As part of the spring festival in Canberra, many Embassies have opened their doors and gardens to the public, and South Africa is one of those Embassies.

IMG_5145 (640x367)The South African Embassy is one of the oldest in the diplomatic circle in Canberra. The beautiful Cape Dutch building was established in 1956, and the gardens were designed at this time. The elegant buildings and grounds reflect the era in which it was built.

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It is surprising these lovely long lawns have survived the drought. Nowadays many embassies, including this one, have very large water tanks to store rain water. Some years ago, Canberra suffered 10 years of drought, and since then there have been permanent water restrictions for watering gardens.

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However, this year we have had plenty of winter rainfall and everything is looking very green and lush.

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The Galahs have found some tasty seeds in the lawns of the Embassy, and, a Magpie is making a nest in one of the many trees nearby.IMG_5154 (640x480)IMG_5150 (640x368)During nesting times, Magpies become very territorial, and I’m watching her, watching me…..

In the front of the building is a wonderful bush full of proteas, the emblem for South Africa. My mother spent her childhood in South Africa, and she felt homesick every time she saw a protea…(or a Red Hot Poker, or Flame Lily)

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The plants in the garden are a mix of those that grow well in Canberra and those that represent South Africa..

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colourful, frost tolerant salvias..

 

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Loropetalum

 

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African daisy

and some flowers that seem to have strayed in from Monet’s garden…

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We visited South Africa a few years ago and enjoyed the markets, the colourful fruit and vegetables and the lovely fresh food served in restaurants…….IMG_5050 (634x640)

As one of the South African waiters said to me…when I mentioned that she had given me a very large serving….

“‘ What are you worrying about?……you can go on a diet when you get home….”

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I’m using this logic today at the Embassy cupcake stall…even though home isn’t very far away.