Baby boom for birds amongst their favourite trees, scones and cream and a tree kangaroo

Crimson Rosellas in the shade of a Eucalyptus tree.

International Tree Day is coming up on Sunday 1st August. Time to celebrate all our beautiful trees in Australia. and the wonderful array of birds that rely on these trees.

The states surrounding Canberra (ACT), are either in Lockdown or just coming out of Lockdown, and everything is very wintery and quiet..

Despite a few blue skies you may see in some of today’s photos, don’t believe it…. Canberra is having a cold, rainy, windy winter.

The brightest colour in the garden this week was the cockatoo’s yellow crest.

Fortunately birds are still visiting the garden and we are also going for bush walks around Canberra, when the rain stopped. While we were walking along Coolamen Ridge, on a rare sunny day, we noticed the juvenile Kookaburra below calling for his family..

Why are we seeing juvenile birds in the middle of winter? Perhaps, as a result of the rain, there is an abundance of food… Paul suggested a bird baby boom. Well that would be something positive in these Covid times.

Two juvenile Rainbow Lorikeets exploring near the hollow in the tree…there’s always a daredevil isn’t there?

These magnificent Eucalyptus trees are providing a haven for the birds to feed on and nest in hollows. Imagine how safe and warm they would be on windy rainy days.

One of the adult Rainbow Lorikeets is the ”scout” and she has a good vantage point.

The Australian National Botanic Gardens is a wonderful place for wildlife because there are so many Eucalyptus trees.

This Crimson Rosella has returned to a hollow in a Eucalyptus tree at the gardens
Gang Gang Cockatoos are quiet and elusive and never far from the protection of Eucalyptus trees

Australia has a wide variety of bird and animal life, and while we are on the topic of trees, there is a unique marsupial very much connected to trees, called the Tree Kangaroo.

While visiting my cousin in the Atherton Tablelands in Queensland in 2017 we stopped off at the Nerada Tea farm. This is the largest supplier of Australian grown tea, and not only do they have a lovely shop with lots of interesting teas and specially selected imported teas,

they also have a tea room with very inviting scones and cream.

As this is dairy farming country the lashings of cream on warm scones was delicious but messy!

After visiting the shop, we noticed a furry animal in one of the trees….a tree kangaroo! Very difficult to take photos of these shy animals, as it is very hard to see them. They look a bit like furry teddy bears with long tails. This was the first time for all three of us to see one in the wild.

Tree Kangaroos are kangaroos that live in trees. They have small ears and shorter legs and arms, their feet have curved claws for gripping and climbing. They are marsupials and are the largest tree-dwelling mammals in Australia. The Lumholtz Tree Kangaroos is the smallest of the species, and are found in the rainforest patches on the Atherton Tablelands.

Tree kangaroos feed on leaves and foliage and fruit and flowers of native trees in the rainforest.

This Tree kangaroo had a baby in its pouch.
A Lumholtz Tree Kangaroo: Photo National Zoo and Aquarium

Fortunately I was able to get a photo of a Tree Kangaroo from our own National Zoo. I must say this tree kangaroo is looking very well groomed and smart.

On this wild and wet day we stopped off at small cafes and shops selling delicious foods, specialist food products and coffee. A very satisfying day indeed.

Many thanks for taking the time to read my blog post today. With so many people in Lockdown or quarantine, or just being careful during these Covid times, I noticed a Zulu saying (undoubtedly meant for hunting) but true for us today ..

”To be clever is to be still”

Go well.

Geraldine Mackey: Copyright All Rights Reserved.

Canberra’s winter photos…. those that didn’t make the cut.

Well here we are in the middle of winter in Canberra, and I have left my camera in Melbourne.

Canberra, with its beautiful clear autumn and winter light, lends itself to photography. My Iphone is fine for family photos, but my camera is better for landscapes.

However, I do have many, many folders of photos that have not been used. I wonder how many bloggers are the same? I am better at de-cluttering the house than getting rid of photos. You just never know when you will need them.

So here are a few photos from these folders of my favourite places to walk, take photos, and have coffee in Canberra. Some photos have been used in previous posts, but many have been hiding in all those folders.

Ann Moyal, a writer, and an academic, had to say….

“I have been in love with Canberra for over sixty years. Its parched landscape, its ring of deep blue mountains etched against an iridescent sky. Its light and calming beauty…

Canberra’s suburbs are full of birds all year round, but in autumn and winter we start to notice some our most colourful visitors…the King Parrots.

T

The male Australian King Parrot is the only Australian parrot with a completely red head. The female King parrot has a green head and neck.

Australian National Botanic Gardens

The Rainbow Lorikeet is a beautiful splash of colour against the Eucalyptus tree in autumn.

Lake Burley Griffin

Early morning walkers and bike riders are dedicated…they are relaxing around the lake in every season ..even winter.

The National Library of Australia

This is my favourite building, one of the best places for coffee, and so warm and comfortable too!

The National Art Gallery of Australia sculpture: Floating Figure by Gaston Lachaise

I always enjoy the native gardens in Art Gallery gardens, and the sculptures change with every season.

The National Art Gallery of Australia sculpture: Cones by Bert Flugelman

Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve is not far from the city centre, and is full of wildlife..

I have many photos of kangaroos as a result of our visits during spring. However, for some reason this photo never makes the cut.

An Emu at Tidbinbilla.

When we first came to Canberra we went to Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve at Easter time with our two young children (after our Easter hunt back home). We found a picnic table and sat down to have our picnic and Easter eggs. Some Emus appeared out of nowhere and two of them snipped up the Easter eggs, and off they went into the bushes! Our daughters have had a very cautious approach to Emus every since.

One of my absolute favourite places for a walk in autumn and winter is around the suburb of Yarralumla.

Government House Yarralumla

This is the house where the Governor General resides, and has a wonderful view across the lake. There lines in the water are for rowing boats.

In summer time I sometimes meet friends at a coffee shop near here, and the mature shady gardens are a wonderful place to sit on a warm day.

During one of my visits, a very organised lady arrived with her greyhound and small dog. I asked if she would like me to keep an eye on them while she ordered her coffee. She thanked me, but said the little dog was the boss, and even with her restricted collar, she would not let the greyhound move away.

I could believe it!

Just as I write this today, Australia has experienced a spike in COVID cases in Sydney, and short Lockdowns have begun. This is a timely reminder to get vaccinated. Paul and I have had our first vaccine with no side effects and will have the second dose in August.

Thank you for taking the time to read my blog today, and may your garden, your home and family be happy and safe, where ever you are in the world.

Copyright: Geraldine Mackey: All Rights Reserved.

Koala hospital in Port Macquarie and …the weather!

We recently visited the pretty coastal town of Port Macquarie, in New South Wales.

Many years ago, my parents retired to Port Macquarie, and they lived in a small but comfortable coastal cottage surrounded by Eucalyptus trees.

The real bonus for every day living was that they lived across the road from a National Park and Wild Life sanctuary.

I have many memories of my parents, Paul and I taking our daughters to visit the park and the koalas. Tiny hands linked in ours as we crossed the road and walked slowly into the park. Time always seemed to slow down as we walked across the park, taking in the colours, the smells and the birds..

My mother would peel away a bit of bark from one of the trees and talk to the girls about the tiny insect world just below the surface of the tree. She always drew attention to the details..

The historic homestead Roto House is nestled into the park, hard to believe there are roads nearby…

My parents spent many years taking all their grandchildren for walks over to the park, and especially to the Koala Hospital, which was in the early stages of development.

The hospital became much better known during the dreadful bushfires all over Australia in December and January 2000.

These fires had a devastating affect on the local koalas, and the hospital also became the emergency ”go to” place for people far and wide trying to rescue koalas.

These photos show the koalas who survived and thrived, there were so many who did not.

I took this photo of the Koala Hospital theatre through the window, my apologies for the shadows..

Thankfully the hospital is now a much calmer place, and as a result of the generous donations from around the world, the Koala Hospital is actively working to keep local koalas healthy, increasing education programs and research into koala health and diseases.

The koala hospital is a series of outdoor large fenced ”wards”. Each ward has tree trunks, branches and Eucalyptus leaves, so koalas are in their natural habitat.

As the koala’s health improves, he/she is moved to a ”ward” closer to the bushland. These koalas have trees to climb, getting them ready for a return to the wild.

However, some koalas can never be returned to the wild, and these koalas remain permanent residents at the Koala Hospital.

The koala above is called Ocean Summer. Her mother was hit by a car and killed, but Ocean Summer survived, despite being only one kilogram when she was brought to the hospital. She was raised by home carers. Her eyes are normal, but due due to the accident she has some brain injury and cannot see. Summer has adapted well to her environment and will stay in the hospital permanently.

Tourists are taken in small groups around the hospital. Each koala has a chart with the koala’s name and biographical details giving the reasons the koala is here.

Some quiz questions for visitors are embedded in one of the local trees… here is just one..

Amazing!

There were many stories about koalas living in Port Macquarie, and Garage Girl was one of the most endearing.

While we were at the Koala Hospital, they had a sale on eucalyptus trees.

My parents died many years ago now, and it is always a trip down memory lane when we go to Port Macquarie. We try to come in May or June and enjoy the bright sunny days, and coastal walks..

but this time the weather turned from mild to wild in Port Macquarie, and it has been like that ever since!

The beach was battered by the storms during the night

With weather in mind, my last photo is not of Port Macquarie, but taken in Mareeba in Far North Queensland. This sign was at the Mareeba Museum, a wonderful place to go if you are visiting this region. North Queensland often gets cyclones in summer, and this endearing sign shows the resilience and humour of people…all over the world… who live with difficult weather conditions!

Thank you for visiting my blog today. Here’s hoping your weather is mild, where ever you are in the world today.

Copyright Geraldine Mackey: All Rights Reserved

Autumn in Canberra: The National Arboretum, garden flowers and birdlife.

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…

A King Parrot feeding a young chick
Easter daisies are a welcome addition to the autumn garden, the flowers are still attracting the bees
The Chinese Lantern loves an abundance of rain, and has flowered all through the autumn
Charlie cooling down amongst the Japanese anemones
The Crimson Rosella is checking up on the last of our almonds
Our granddaughter loves putting water in the apron of this little statue…
The Pineapple Sage almost covering the window!

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.

My neighbour’s beautiful Banksia shines at us every morning
It is amazing that cockatoos do not electrocute themselves!
Job done!

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.

Geraldine Mackey Copyright: All Rights Reserved

Hartvale: a country garden in the Blue Mountains

stunning views of Mt Clarence.

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.

Copyright: Geraldine Mackey: All Rights Reserved

Victoria border closes, a hurried trip home, and happy birthday Marion Mahony Griffin.

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.

The lights from Telstra Tower can be seen as we drive into Canberra, it is a landmark for Canberrans.

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.

The Griffin design has allowed for more than one city centre, and more than one lake for recreation.

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.

I took this photo just before we left for Melbourne. Lake Tuggeranong on a fine summer’s day, the shops, library, College tucked into the landscape.

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.

It is always very peaceful on the lake in the early mornings

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 Story by 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.

Commonwealth Place.

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.

View from Mount Ainslie, the War Memorial looking down onto Anzac Parade to Parliament House across Lake Burley Griffin.

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!

View from Reconciliation Place across Lake Burley Griffin to the War Memorial.

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, I think would have been pleased to see wild birds happily eating acorns outside Parliament House.

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.

Copyright Geraldine Mackey: All Rights Reserved.

A gardener can be sometimes pleased………but never satisfied

Are you ever satisfied with your garden?

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 lovely Dahlia is growing well, and loving the rain we have had this year. The Dahlia is tied to a stake, and heavily guarded against Cockatoos, who love to nip the stems of flowers.
Agapanthus Silver Baby

This is my new favourite, miniature Agapanthus, Silver Baby. A long flowering pretty white shrub with blue fringes.

Agapanthus Snowball

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!

A Grevillea called Crackles flowering earlier in summer.
By the way, there is a blue soaker hose running through this part of the garden, it is not an exotic snake!

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.

The flowering cherry tree , providing shade and fruit…mostly for the birds.

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…

The deck now has a child proof gate, a very tricky one to open, even for those who are not children.

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.

Bruleed mango pavlova

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.

Copyright Geraldine Mackey: All Rights Reserved.

Koalas, Christmas, and Cockatoos in Canberra

At last, something to smile about in 2020!

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?

Botanical Gardens Melbourne.
Bottle trees in the Botanical Gardens in Melbourne
Botanical Gardens Melbourne in January… before long we would be avoiding people and crowds….who knew?

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.

relaxing under the trees in November

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.

Eastern Rosella
Crimson Rosella
Galahs

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.

Commonwealth Park in April
The kangaroos in Commonwealth Park are having a slow start on this chilly April morning.
Museum of Sydney has an exhibition about The Griffins called Paradise on Earth, until April 18th 2021

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!

He looks as if he auditioning for a Disney movie, and gets lots of attention from children.

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.

Red Hot Pokers are the stars in summer.

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!

Red Hot Pokers

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.

This cockatoo is helpfully dropping bark down to the others.

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.

These Cockatoos are perhaps the older members of the group, relaxing and doing a bit of much needed preening.

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!

Desiderata

”…with all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world.

Be careful Strive to be happy

Copyright Geraldine Mackey: All Rights Reserved

Quarantining in Canberra and gardening for mental health..

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

The yellow Wattle bushes were flowering and the Manchurian Pear trees have pretty white buds. The pink almond blossoms can be seen in the distance.

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.

The King Parrots eating in the plum tree
A Juvenile Crimson Rosella

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!

Ixias ..another spring surprise

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…

I’d trade this for an almond any day

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.

Copyright Geraldine Mackey: All Rights Reserved.

Canberra in August, the joys and hazards of spring…unless you have a Muesli Bar

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.”

Almond tree blossoms
Manchurian Pears beginning to flower, flowering Almond tree nearby, and the beautiful yellow Snowy River Wattle bush

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.

The Wattle Bird has been feeding steadily from the Grevillea bush (Wee Jasper) all through the winter.

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.

Spare a thought for all the people who work outside during spring.

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.

Stay safe and sane!

Copyright Geraldine Mackey: All Rights Reserved.