Winter arrived in Canberra on 1st June with snow falling on the Brindabella Mountains
During autumn we had seemingly non-stop rain and so the occasional wintery, but sunny day was welcome. The storm water drains around the inner city were flowing steadily with water, hard to believe after so many years of drought, not so long ago.
We have taken to walking our daughter’s dog Charlie once a week, which is very good exercise and we visit parts of the city with good walking/cycling tracks.
One of my favourite walks is through Haig Park. This park reminds me of parks in Europe, perhaps as so many of the mature trees are European, and as in Europe, people stroll through the park all week and all through winter.
The park was planned and trees planted in about 1921, as a wind break shelter within the city. 7000 trees were planted, mostly exotic evergreen and deciduous trees.
Since that time the park has had times of neglect, but is now a wonderful addition to inner city living.
However, in contrast to European parks we have possums rather than squirrels and many different colourful birds..
Despite the regular walkers, and a very popular, busy market in the park on the weekend, there are plenty of birds to be seen everywhere.
Eastern Rosellas are very shy parrots, so I was happy to get a photo of these two Rosellas.
Last week we went to Sydney to visit Paul’s mother, and on the way home we stopped off at one of our favourite bookshops Berkelouw Book Barn.
This inviting Book Barn has a roaring fire in winter, and is a wonderful place to browse for books, (second-hand and new ones) at any season of the year. We always have coffee and sometimes cake, which provides the fuel needed to hunt out new books and second-hand books. We came away with an interesting pile of books, as always..
Nowadays the Book Barn is also a restaurant and a wedding venue as well. However, these don’t start until midday, so the very best times to visit are the mornings and week days if possible.
Lastly, a flashback to autumn when we visited our family in Melbourne. We always stop about half way, at a small town in the Alpine region called Myrtleford. Next door to our Air BnB is a vacant block of land, which is used as a wildlife sanctuary.
This family of Kangaroos always come down cautiously to see us…no feeding required, .. they are just curious, or as the Aussie expression would have it, they are Sticky beaks!
Finally, my favourite photo of the year so far, a young kookaburra in our garden. Every winter about this time a family of kookaburras come to our garden. I’m sure the family love the fact that we have many birdbaths filled with water for them, and many worms in our vegetable garden..(Paul doesn’t love that side of things)
However, I like to think, and I’m sticking to my story, that they also come back to show us their latest very cute offspring.
Best wishes to everyone and thank you for taking the time to read my blog post.
We are living in a turbulent world these days, and during times like this I remember my mother, who concentrated always on the small, simple and pleasant parts of life, to help get through the difficult parts, and her favourite quote, as I have mentioned before:
”When the world wearies and society does not satisfy…. there is always the garden.” by Minnie Aumonier
Having featured the Sydney Opera House in my last post, this week the Opera House had displayed the colours of the Ukraine, appropriate for these times
With such turmoil in the world this week, it was a quiet distraction and a joy to take a photo of this lovely Gardenia….the creamy petals are just soaking up the rain amongst the dark green foliage. We have two Gardenias in our garden, and this one has never flowered until this summer. ….it has tried, but the flowers never quite made it.
This summer, according to the Bureau of Meteorology, in our region, we have had 200% more rain than our average summer rainfall. As Canberra is often in drought, there is something magical about rain, and everything is green and growing. However, it is possible to have too much of a good thing, and parts of Queensland and New South Wales are experiencing severe flooding. It is either a feast or famine in Australia.
Meanwhile, our garden is greener than normal, and the zucchinis threaten to take over, along with the borage… I’m looking up recipes which include zucchini whenever I can..
Canberra’s usual season for newborn birds is spring: September, October, November.
This very young magpie is a February baby, and is bravely learning to fly.
Perhaps the abundance of food this year has increased breeding time.
The cockatoos are having field day eating from all the fruit trees. In our immediate neighbourhood they are enjoying plums, apples and almonds..no wonder they look so healthy!
These young Galahs look quite endearing, but when they are waiting to be fed they make a very insistent chanting call. I’m glad they are not in our garden!
Recently my neighbour went for an early morning walk, and as she past Ken’s garden, she saw a kangaroo grazing. Kangaroos sometimes come down from Mount Taylor to eat on the sweet and abundant grasses in the surrounding suburbs.
I rushed out with my camera, but the kangaroo had disappeared by the that time.
However, I’ve added a photo of a kangaroo, because we do have many kangaroos living in the bushland between suburbs in Canberra. It is not unusual to see kangaroos on our morning walks. The photo below was taken on an early morning walk along Chapman Ridge.
When the rain finally stops, it is a joy to see the Brindabella Mountains again, especially as it was only two years since the devastating summer bushfires were burning on these mountains, how nature replenishes and repairs…
Many thanks for taking the time to read my blog, and best wishes to all those, especially children, trapped in the madness of war. Having taught many children from war-torn countries, what they taught me is to never give up hope.
My brother, Neil lives in Sydney and every morning, regardless of the weather, he walks with a small group of like-minded guys who are up early…usually a bit before dawn.
Sydney and Canberra are in Lockdown, and residents are allowed two hours of exercise (close to home) every day in both cities. Bondi beach, and the cliffs beyond make for ever changing views of the city and the beach, especially at dawn. How very lucky they are to have these views, at any time, but especially during a Lockdown period.
One of the walkers, Tim Read, regularly takes photos with various cameras, and has kindly allowed me to show these two. Many thanks Tim.
Although Sydney is only a four hour drive away from Canberra, our climates are very different . I often envy my brother his walks as I sit shivering in my study in Canberra in winter and spring. However, our compensation is spring!
This year we had a long cold and rainy winter, and it was lovely to see the blossoms finally arrive on the plum tree..
and the almond tree..
The Wattle trees Paul planted a few years ago are enthusiastically flowering in the new garden.
We have become philosophical about the amount of blossoms lost to the birds…
In fact the King Parrot feeds on blossoms just above us, as we sit on the deck having coffee, blossoms raining down like confetti.
Canberra’s suburbs are surrounded by paths and bushland, and during these Lockdown periods many Canberrans have joined the Facebook Wildlife photography group, and are publishing a wide range of colourful parrots and birds.
We live in one of the outer suburbs of Canberra, and McQuoids Hill, a nature park nearby, has become a very popular walking destination since Lockdown.
This landscape is very similar to the landscape of my childhood and that of my brothers, in Central Africa.
We have only seen kangaroos on walks in this area, but people regularly take photos of Wallaroos (a cross between a wallaby and a kangaroo) so I’ll try to get a photos of them.
During winter we read an inspiring local story about Dimity May who has started a small business growing local organic seedlings tailored to our Canberra market. She called it Reid Tiny Farm. (Dimity was born and raised in Reid, a suburb of Canberra.)
Dimity had always been passionate about organic products, and has a Permaculture Design Certificate at Allsun Farm at Gundaroo. Later she completed a market gardener masterclass developed by a renowned farmer and regenerative agricultural advocate Jean Martin, based in Quebec. (an online course mainly for professional growers)
She’s had a challenging start to her business, with baking hot days last year, followed by torrential rain this year. However she has moved her business to Pialligo’s Garden Lots, and now has a seedling-raising cocoon tunnel purchased from Active Vista in Tasmania. Dimity’s father built the frames for the seedlings. The whole family is involved in her business, and hopefully they can continue to help her during this Lockdown.
At the start of 2020 Dimity began growing seedlings organically and has gradually developed her business. Now a subscriber can get a small or large box of seasonal seedlings four times a year.
We had subscribed to Dimity’s project during winter, and when she emailed to say our spring seedlings were ready, we were thrilled… it was just in time to start planting new seedlings and, chance to get out of the house!
Unfortunately it was teeming down with rain the morning we went to get our seedings, so I haven’t yet taken any photos of Dimity and her surroundings, or the polytunnel.
However, here is our bounty! We chose to buy a small box of seedlings (4 boxes a year, one for every season) and this spring the seedlings we have are; beetroot, radish, broccoli, cos lettuce, red butterhead lettuce, English spinach, cabbage and pak choi. (some we have given to neighbours.)
Our seedlings look very healthy and happy, and in between the seedlings we have some small plastic white butterflies to chase away real white cabbage moth/butterflies.
Dimity has, on her website, a quote by Martin Fortier (a farmer educator and award winning author) and this quote seems just right for Dimity’s business.
What we need is food grown with care by and for people who care.
Thank you for visiting my blog today, and I hope everyone can enjoy a bit of sunshine and small pleasures during these uncertain times.
The devastating bush fires burning across much of Australia has made this a long and sombre summer for most Australians. The extent of the bush fires, and the ferocity of those fires is unprecedented.
Today’s newspaper has a photo of an older man, former owner of a lovely home in a community he and his wife loved; he pointed to the charred rubble on the ground and said…
”life was good, and then suddenly there was nothing.”
In December and January many holiday makers go to the pretty NSW South Coast of Australia, and this year we too, intended to meet up with our family there for Christmas.
We cancelled our holiday just before Christmas, and stayed at home. Luckily we did. We had a lovely time at home, and cleaning birdbaths and watering was a daily occurrence.
In early January the fires tore across the south coast, destroying homes, and communities, and with some loss of lives.
Canberra too, is in a fire prone area, and, in January, as the fires continued to burn in National Parks and along the coast, we had to prepare ourselves for the possibility of leaving our homes at short notice.
What do you take when you may be leaving your home for good?
A suitcase of clothes, essential documents, water, a full tank of petrol in the car, photos, and sleeping bags (where did they go…given away years ago?) USBs, chargers, torches, batteries, candles, matches, the list goes on.
If there is no power, we are back to torches, matches and candles…. the real world!
We have lived in Canberra for over 30 years, and those of you who follow this blog know that one of the joys of living in Canberra is that almost every suburb is surrounded by bush, and the birds, the kangaroos, wallabies are part of every day living for us.
However, this comes at a price during droughts and bush fires season.
Communications during bush fire threats are much better these days, it brings a chill to all Canberrans to remember how poor the communication was during the 2003 fires.
These days we have a helpful app called “Fires Near Me” which gives daily and hourly updates on fires in our region.
During the really hot days, everything is quiet, and the smoke from the surrounding fires is thick in the air. A quality index reading above 200 is considered hazardous to health. On one particular day the reading in Canberra was 5,000, the highest level in the world for that day.
It is a great relief when a cool change comes, the smoke haze improves (for a while), and the birds come back again.
As the weather clears, the cockatoos fill the skies with their screeching as they swing confidently into the garden to check the almond tree..(miraculously full of fruit).
This gives us an endearing sense of normality.
Needless to say, they and all animals and birds are welcome to any food we can give them.
We live near Mt Taylor, home to many kangaroos, wallabies, birds, butterflies, lizards, insects, indeed, a smorgasbord of animal and insect life. Now, in the early morning and the late evening some kangaroos, one with a joey, come down our street to drink from the birdbaths, and buckets of water we leave out for them.
A group of volunteers called Water our Wildlife put stations of water in the same place daily so that the animals know where to go for predictable water supplies.
As I write there are no active fires in or very near Canberra, however, we have been in a state of alert since the beginning of January. So much has been written about the fires, and so much sadness, that I decided to just show some photos of our two most loved holiday destinations, both of which are also on high alert..
Kosciusko National Park ..(some contained fires in the higher regions)
This is an area rich in flora and fauna……
A sign near this beautiful Snow Gum (Eucalyptus trees) says “these grandfather trees are two and three hundred years old. Aboriginal tradition says that the spirit of ancestral travellers live in these warraganj (old snow gums)
During all the fires, there is the devastating loss of wildlife, flora and fauna, and loss of habitat for those who survive.
However, this little Pygmy Possum (a mouse sized marsupial) is capable of surviving for almost two weeks by bringing its body down to the low temperatures during times of extreme cold or heat. The biggest threat to this little possum is clearance of the land…another story.
Our second frequent and much loved holiday destination is:
The NSW South Coast ..also on alert..
We have spent many happy days with friends walking along these pretty beaches solving world problems .
The bird life in this part of the world is amazing, and to see the birds fly between these beautiful spotted Eucalyptus trees, with jet pilot precision, is both stunning and a privilege.
The Rainbow Lorikeets are very noisy in spring when they feed off the flowers from the Spotted Eucalyptus trees…and then reverse into the bird bath for drinks…ever cautious..
A walk through a wooded area near the sea..
I hope this young Swamp Wallaby, and others, have found safety..
Amongst all that is lost, and fear of what may be lost, is the absolute admiration and out pouring of gratitude for the fire-fighters.
They are the first port of call for wildlife too
Some firefighters have been killed, most with young families. These families have to grow up without a father, which is a life long sentence.
There is so much more to say about the generosity and kindness of ordinary Australians, the leadership and calmness of RFS Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons, and the heartfelt worldwide response, but I will leave that for another post.
Jessica, (blog: Rusty Duck) will have seen that Kangaroo Island has suffered badly in every way from the fires, and has lost most of its Ligurian honey bees, believed to be the last remaining pure stock of bees found anywhere in the world.
Many thanks to all of you who have sent good wishes, it is lovely to have a blogging community across many worlds.
PS I will write about the gardens in New Zealand in February.
It has been a busy month and I’ve missed writing a post for Mother’s Day.
Looking through my photos, I thought I’d highlight some of the many mothers and parents amongst the wildlife in our garden, and around Canberra.
Of course I have to start with the biggest personalities in Canberra, the Sulphur Crested Cockatoos.
Despite their screechy and bossy ways, it was lovely to be able to capture this very patient mother having her yellow crested feathers examined by one of her youngsters….
One morning Paul and I wondered if a world war was breaking out in the garden, only to discover that the baby cockatoo (almost as big as its mother) was having a mighty tantrum about being fed..”I want it right now!”
Kookaburras are not very common in our garden, but Kooka parents will bring a baby to the birdbaths on hot days….while the parent/sibling waits patiently on the garden bench.
and here is an even younger Kookaburra in the photo below. It looks as if it is having a first flight from the nest with the safety of wires to land on, and parent close by…
Even in winter, there are late babies, and the King Parrots like to fly into the garden for a drink….and then feed on the buds of the Japanese Maple…
As I took a photo of them, I noticed their baby waiting patiently in the tree…the first winter, wow it is cold out here!
The photo below shows a young Currawong in our garden…the first, and only time we have seen one so young. ..unfortunately I didn’t get a photo of the parent who would undoubtedly be somewhere close by. Currawongs are the bain of our lives, as they chase small birds, and generally frighten everything out of the garden. However, this little guy with his crew cut, is cute!
This is a great photo of an adult pied Currawong, and thanks to Harry Charalambous Birdlife Australia.
A kangaroo has an extra responsibility, she carries her Joey around in her pouch for some time..
She is putting her paws protectively over her Joey, perhaps to warn him that I am nearby with a camera, or that he is about to fall out of the pouch!
Here is a baby Koala, almost too big for a ride with Mum..
This adult Koala carried her baby for a while…
..and then it all got too much and she sat down……haven’t you felt just like that in a supermarket with a toddler?
It was lovely to share these, mostly accidentally photos, I have taken of motherhood and parenthood in full swing with birds and animals.
I was lucky enough to have a mother who believed that the small details of life were important, and that people, nature and animals should be central to a life well lived. She noticed the tiny details; the spider web in the morning light, the lizard in the sun, a new flower blossoming, a bird call…she got great joy from it all.
Canberra, the capital of Australia, was created to appease the established cities of Melbourne and Sydney…..both of whom thought they should be the capital!
As a result Canberrans are lucky enough to live in a small manageable size city….. not too far away from big cities…and with two other holiday choices, the pretty South Coast beaches, and the Snowy Mountains, which is the highest Alpine Region in Australia.
In the summer time, Paul and I often come to Lake Crackenback, which is just outside Kosciuszko National Park, to enjoy the cooler mountain air, and to do some walking and see the alpine flowers.
Lake Crackenback has a Lodge and some self-contained apartments, and nearby the kangaroos are frequent visitors.
These kangaroos easily hop over fences to graze on the lawns, but will also hop away if you come too close.
We drove from Crackenback up to Charlotte’s Pass amidst flower-covered borders along the road….for me this is reminiscent of Scotland (where my father was born)
We took the walk from Charlotte’s Pass down to the head waters of the Snowy River seen below….Paul had ideas of walking up the path on the other side which goes to the Blue Lake…..but I thought we should quit while we were ahead!
These Alpine plants cope with harsh conditions during the winter….
and then create this patchwork of colour during summer..
Australia is the only country in the world where a single genus of tree, Eucalypt (commonly called gum trees), occurs from the desert to the mountains, to the sea.
The Snow-gum trees are very imposing, often looking dramatically twisted and stunted, and able to repair themselves from wind and snow damage.
The Silver Snow Daisy makes a lovely carpet of flowers beneath the Snow gums.
It is impossible to go past one of these trees without touching the silk-smooth trunk and branches.
The sign nearby says ”these grandfather trees are two or three hundred years old. Aboriginal tradition says that the spirits of the ancestral travellers live in these warraganj (old snow-gums)”
The water here is cool and clear…a lovely place to stop and take some photos..
Australia is such a dry country, water is always a delight to see..
Time to turn back….unfortunately what comes down……must go up….
However, the scenery along the way is worth it..
Meanwhile, at Lake Crackenback, the kangaroos are snoozing on the edge of the golf course…..amazing really..
and near our self-contained accomodation…we’ve interrupted a bit of grazing on the grass
Just as well we walked that day, the next morning the Scottish weather had rolled in… dramatic and beautiful in its own way…
Many thanks for dropping by to read about my place in the world, and I hope you are enjoying your own green spaces, city or country, where ever that may be….
This wonderful Sturt Desert Pea, from the desert of Central Australia, seems to be singing..
‘It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas..”
Canberra is nowhere near the desert in Central Australia, but the Sturt Desert Pea grows here in the Desert Garden of the Australian National Botanical Gardens.
Canberra usually becomes very hot, and dry-looking the closer we get to Christmas, but this year we’ve had unexpected rain, and the Brindabella Mountains stayed blue for a long time.
The development of the Arboretum in Canberra was very controversial at first….one hundred forests of trees from all over the world were planted.
This was an act of faith really because a ten year drought had not long ended. However, we have had regular rain since then, and despite the difficulties there may be, the Arboretum looks stunning now, and is a great tourist attraction….
Not far from the south side of Canberra, (where I live) is Namadgi National Park…
These last couple of years, with abundant grasses and vegetation, there has been an explosion of babies in spring….
On the edge of Namadgi is Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve…used by bushwalkers, and families alike, and it is a joy to see all the animals and birds around after a rainy day..
I believe two new koala babies have been born since our visit…
…closer to home, one kindly gardener has planted red hot pokers, red geraniums, and blue agapanthus along the verge next to her house…it looks wonderful in the morning sunshine, and the red hot pokers are stunning against the white trunk of the Eucalypt tree.
I often walk along the backtracks (fire trails) with Paul and also with friends and neighbours..
Paul had just finished painting the deck (luckily it was dry) when an unexpected hail storm occurred.
It only lasted about 15 minutes but caused some damage around the neighbourhood.
Luckily no damage for us, but most of the plants looked a bit bedraggled….. one minute it is 33 degrees Celsius and the next minute there are pieces of ice in pot plants!
These Liliums and the Gazanias get the prize for resilience….they began flowering again the next day.
The Gazanias must wonder what is going on here….one day a Sulphur Crested Cockatoo is lopping its flowers, the next….pieces of ice are landing in the pot!
My favourite part of summer is sitting on the deck having breakfast, the sound of sprinklers and happy birds flying in and out of the water.
So much fresh stone fruit to add to our breakfast… the birds eat from our fruit trees and we buy ours from the markets…something seems wrong with that equation….but where would be we without them?
yes…its beginning to look a lot like Christmas….
The Good Food website has this variation on a Pavlova (an Australian/New Zealand favourite summer dessert) …and there is another one with honeycomb…they are worth looking at…
Season’s greeting to everyone, and thank you for your company this year, I’ve enjoyed writing about Canberra’s Green Spaces, and travelling the world through blogs I read, and the people I’ve met.
…best wishes to you all, and may you have enough time to enjoy family and friends and green spaces (or snowy white spaces from the comfort of your warm fire..) where ever you are in the world.
Canberra is not far away from the Snowy Mountains, and autumn is the perfect time to enjoy the mountain air, and do some walking.
Even the kangaroos have a slow start on these crisp mornings, and here are a few enjoying the morning sunshine on the Lake Crackenback golf course.
In the morning we noticed a deer grazing nearby….this can only mean trouble….
We drove to Thredbo and took the chairlift up to the Kosciuszko walk, on a beautiful clear sunny morning.
Everywhere you look there are scattered rocks and sharp crags shaped by water and ice..
The lichen encrusted boulders give shelter to small mammals like the endangered Pygmy-possum.
This fascinating mouse-sized marsupial is capable of surviving for almost two weeks by bringing their bodies down to low temperatures during times of extreme cold or heat.
Haley Bates has written an interesting article in The Conversation called:
Australian endangered species: Mountain Pygmy Possum
Bogong moths are also well known in this part of the world. During summer they fly from the heat of NSW and Queensland, to the cool mountain crevices.
Aboriginal people explored these mountains, and interpreted the landscape, and many of their beliefs and ceremonies were forged in these areas.
Many of the paths forged by Aboriginal people were in turn used by early European explorers such as the Polish explorer Paul Strzelecki who climbed the highest mountain, Mount Kosciuszko, and named it after a Polish patriot.
Over time the mountains and surrounds have become accessible to all, and explorers, graziers, scientists, surveyors, writers, and artists have all been captivated by the ”high country” as it is known.
I must admit, after many years of coming here with our family, the landscape of the high country draws me in too.
…but the path back to hot coffee is always welcome…
…and to think we packed our own lunch!
When we returned to Lake Crackenback we stumbled on a few wombat holes, unfortunately, not a wombat in sight…usually only seen at night…
but I have included a photo of a wombat in the snow….something I look forward to seeing one day…
I hope you are enjoying your place in the world, as much as I am enjoying mine!
Canberra is just a short drive away from the Snowy Mountains… the highest alpine wilderness in Australia.
The Lake Crackenback Resort, near Australia’s highest mountain, Mount Kosciuszko, is the perfect cool summer place for us to celebrate our 39th wedding anniversary….where did the time go?
On our early morning walk we saw this beguiling little kangaroo….she waited patiently while we took about five photos. Can you believe that pose?
Meanwhile we noticed her mother had taken the younger Joey and was waiting anxiously for the star to finish her photo shoot…parents the world over can recognise that anxious look (and blissfully unaware younger brother/sister)
Our young star seems to be saying…
”well, maybe I will….. maybe I won’t” (she must be a teenager!)
Phew, she’s hopped down to join her family.
Off to shoot the breeze on the golf course..
Australia is the driest continent on earth, and since the 19th century with expanding settlement and farming, there has been a critical need for irrigation, and a water supply to combat droughts.
The Snowy Mountains, with melting snow and flowing rivers, was ideal for hydro-electricity. Thus began, in 1949 one of the biggest post WW11 projects, the Snowy Mountains Scheme. This scheme changed the course of Australian history in many ways, and definitely deserves its own post, later this year.
In the meanwhile, I’m passing on the canoeing (easy for some)….. but we are ready to try out the excellent pizzas in the Alpine Larder.
Look at the wonderful soft grasses!
I was brought up in Africa, running through grasses trying not to attract snakes and bugs, so I’m a latecomer to how beautiful they look in a landscape like this.
There are fences and gates between the kangaroos and houses, but ….
I bet it is hard to keep all the animals and insects away from new plants..
I loved the use of stone and timber in the house below, for a split second I think how nice it would be to live here…
But…. we are happy just to be here.
So, a toast to our 39th Wedding anniversary, and to having the good fortune to be able to stay in the lovely Snowy Mountains.
…and looking out over this most precious and elusive resource in Australia…water.