Canberra is the capital of Australia, a planned city, with many parks, bush trails, green spaces and lakes. However as with many capital cities, Canberra is often seen as short hand for federal government rather than a landscape where people live. One quote I’ve read is “”Canberra has too many politicians, too many roundabouts and too much cold weather!”
When I retired from teaching in 2013, I decided to write a blog about Canberra, the beauty of the mountains and the lakes, and also the every day life of people living in Canberra.
Many of the photos of Canberra in this post were taken between 2014 and 2017, when I began blogging, and regular readers may recognise some of the photos…
Canberra in autumn is usually sunny, warm and pleasant, the best season of the year for planning gardens, going for walks, runs and rides, and taking photos!
Spring in Canberra can be windy and chilly, but the beautiful Manchurian Pears are out in bloom, which lifts the spirits. The National Library of Australia is one of my favourite buildings, often seen in my blog, I know! The small rather quaint tourist boat has, for many years, taken tourists who prefer a gentle slow tour of the lake.
In our early days of retirement, I was so keen to take photos that I dragged Paul out before dawn to walk around Lake Burley Griffin…. always worth it.
Canberra is full of early morning rowers, riders and walkers.
We often walk around the Parliamentary Triangle, and I love this Federal Government building…amongst others.
All along the paths the trees are changing, and the birds are in attendance.
During summer and autumn we eat breakfast on our deck, overlooking our garden.
At the risk of getting indigestion we often have an interrupted breakfast to chase big and little birds out of the veggie patch..
Thank you for taking the time to read my post today, and may your autumn or spring gardens be full of colour and joy.
We are back in Lockdown here in Canberra, as are many states of Australia. The Delta variant is a tough one, and Paul and I thank our lucky stars we are vaccinated.
The good news is, spring is on its way, and with it, come the birds. I took this photo of the Sulphur Crested Cockatoo from my study while I was typing. He/she has decided to walk along the road rather than fly. It could be that the roads are so quiet now, but as regular readers of this blog know, Cockatoos are a law unto themselves, and he is on a mission.
There is something endearing and reassuring about birds arriving in the garden during spring….. life goes on in the usual way, regardless of Lockdowns.
This Juvenile Kookaburra is a very welcome visitor, especially as a family of Kookaburras come to our garden every year in August, they are not regulars. I would like to think it is to show off the new baby, but in reality it is probably because we have plenty of birdbaths and veggie beds with worms in them.
Just before Lockdown began, we started moving all our books from a shelf near the kitchen. I pulled out a very old copy of my mother’s book, called Ouma’s Cookery Book. The first edition was published in 1940, in Pretoria, South Africa. My mother bought the seventh edition of this book in 1958. My sister-in-law has a recent edition. A publisher’s dream!
The book was compiled originally from recipes donated by women in South Africa between the first and second world wars. The first editions featured war-time recipes and gradually more recipes were added with each new edition. It is much more than just a recipe book, it has practical information on how to make do and feed a household, when times were tough. It is also full of quotes and comments and interesting social history, more relevant today with our current pandemic.
My mother, who’s own mother died when she was young, no doubt learnt all she needed to know from this book, especially when she and my father lived on a farm in a remote part of central Africa.
Sadly it has been many years since I have used a recipe from this book, and it is only now that we are in Lockdown that I have time to go through it, and enjoy all the quotes, and perhaps try a recipe or two. (If I’m successful I’ll let you know)
I have also been reading an article in the British Edition of Country Living called To the Manor Reborn. It is the story of Raymond Blanc, a Michelin star chef and restaurant owner in London, who is recovering from Covid. He has had to work very hard to recover, and says during his recovery he thought of food and gardens, and remembered his childhood near Besancon in eastern France, where the family lived off homegrown vegetables and the odd rabbit.
The experience of Covid has changed his ideas of food.
‘‘I think the environment is going to define very much what we eat from now on, post-pandemic we’ll be all looking for local produce, there will be a re-discovery of lost skill. My mother created the full foundation of my food philosophy. She taught me about the soil, the environment, about joy, about sharing, about teaching.”
Since being interviewed, Raymond’s elderly mother died, and he has written a book called Simply Raymond: Recipes from Home. The book is dedicated to his mother.
It will be interesting to see how this pandemic changes us. I think there is already a rising interest in locally grown food, and we plan to increase our own garden beds with more of our produce in mind.
No matter how you get your food, the pandemic has shown me that sharing that food with friends and families is surely one of the most enjoyable experience in life. The recipe I distinctly remember as a child from Ouma’s cookery book was Koeksisters, a kind of doughy plait, exploding with syrup. Not the most healthy dish in the world, but a lovely plate to share with friends and family. South Africans are famous for their coffee, and I’m sure these Koeksisters are meant to accompany coffee or a Rooibos tea.
Thank you for reading my blog today, and best wishes to everyone. May your garden, and your food and family and friends, sustain you during these Covid days.
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.
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.
The Australian National Botanic Gardens is a wonderful place for wildlife because there are so many 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.
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.
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 ..
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.
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.
Floriade is Canberra’s biggest celebration of spring.
It takes most of the year for the ACT gardeners to prepare for Floriade, and the results are always wonderful.
In September Commonwealth Park is ablaze with over one million blooms.
There are horticultural workshops, market traders, entertainment, food and wine, and an ever expanding program of music. Most children who have been brought up in Canberra, have, at some time in their school life, played or performed in a concert at Floriade.
There is also a nightfest, which is very popular, generally, but especially for photographers; Instagram just explodes with amazing photos at this time.
Every year there is a different theme, this year is World in Bloom.
Somehow these magnificent gardeners, manage to make patterns and pictures out of the beds of flowers. The best way to look at the patterns is from the Ferris Wheel, of course.
Considering the festival runs for one month, I am always amazed at the rounds of tulips, daffodils, poppies, pansies and many other flowers that all seem to flower…more or less on time!
These gorgeous white tulips were just too much for one contrary cockatoo….. I noticed him
walking along the brick wall, lopping the stems of the white tulips as he went.
Unfortunately I didn’t catch him on camera, as he flew away…
leaving a couple of younger cockatoos who were enthusiastically learning from the boss. They were enjoying the smaller deep purple tulips. (tulips seemed to be loved by birds and all kinds of small annoying critters world wide)
Poor tulips, blooming so beautifully one minute, and limp and dried out the next…
When I checked on the problems of planting for Floriade (website ‘About Regional’) I wasn’t surprised to read that cockatoos were some of the worst offenders….coupled with hares and feral cats.
The annuals can be affected by early frosts, and need netted beds to keep away the water hens who pluck the young plants out of the ground.
The never-ending battles that face most gardeners at some time during the year.
I always admire murals….. imagine how long it must take to get everything in proportion!
The Heart Foundation funds an early morning walk for anyone to join, and we did join them this year. It was sheer bliss to be able to see Floriade in the early morning, and before all the crowds arrived. All they asked was a gold coin donation.
I hope you are enjoying your spring or autumn where ever you are in the world, and are finding some time to enjoy the small simple pleasures.
Almost every year we go to Far North Queensland in the winter. We leave our coats at home and freeze all the way to the airport. Then we board the plane for a three hour flight into another world, casual clothing, hats and a pair of sunglasses…nothing can prepare you for the colours of Queensland.
As the plane circles to land in this beautiful part of the world my heart always gives a lift…..
the vast azure sea, the tropical mountains, and the long blue skies.
This year we went with friends and family, and visited three different places, Port Douglas, the Atherton Tablelands, and Palm Cove.
We spent our time in Palm Cove with our family and lovely granddaughter, and it was interesting to see this colourful world through her eyes.
From our apartment, on the third floor, we had a great view of the lush green palms and tropical plants…
Birds play an important role in distribution of rainforest seeds, and we were heartened to see that Queensland has its share of cockatoos, eating and spreading seeds.
We woke every morning to the familiar sound of cockatoos screeching overhead as they flew from palm tree to palm tree. This must be an unsettling start to the day for unsuspecting overseas tourists.
Looking down from our apartment we saw a flash of iridescent blue, the Ulysses butterfly, common to this area…almost camouflaged by the rich green surroundings.
I know that many bloggers are interested in butterflies, especially Jason and Judy from https://gardeninacity.wordpress.com/ so here are a few striking Queensland butterflies from the Australian Butterfly Sanctuary in Kuranda.
The Cairns Birdwing butterfly is the largest of all Australian Butterflies
On our walk through the gardens to the beach we saw so many colourful and unusual plants and flowers…..as our granddaughter said ”Oh Wow!”
Unfortunately I couldn’t find the name of this pretty pink/red flower..
The palm below is a striking entrance to a garden.
We have been coming to Palm Cove for about 25 years, and one thing is a constant, Pete’s Place. This is the shop where you can buy milk, bread, magazines, summer clothes and hats,
….and THE best best fish and chips in town. Especially the fresh Barramundi.
Meanwhile, we read and heard about the changing weather, back in Canberra.
Canberra does get the occasional dusting of snow in our winter, but this year …. especially in the National Park and some parts of Canberra, the snow kept on coming !
Social media went mad with clips of kangaroos hopping around in the snow, wombats and even a platypus pushing through the snow..
The ABC and BBC news and the Washington Post had clips of kangaroos bounding around in snow. What a confusing time to be an Aussie animal…this photo says it all..
SO….who is responsible!
…..and how about booking us into Palm Cove next year?
I hope you are enjoying your season where ever you are in the world, and thank you for taking the time to read my blog, especially if you should be out in the garden!
Autumn in Canberra is all about the changing light, birds flying in and out of the garden, and the pleasant gardening weather.
Easter is a time when all the almonds on our tree have ripened, and the shells have softened after some much needed rain in the last few weeks. This means the almond cafe is open for business.
For those new to my blog, cockatoos love softened almonds, and especially when they fall on the carport roof. This allows them to eat and chat in relative safety. They are very sociable birds, and the young ones in this photo seem to very happy with their almonds.
There were fourteen cockatoos on the carport roof and the almond tree when this photo was taken.
Interestingly, most cockatoos seem to consistently hold food in their left claw…
Our garden has changed over time, and now some of our bigger trees need trimming every year. The apple tree on the right hand side is the only tree in the garden to get special treatment, clipped by a trained arborist.
…thus the lovely shape in summer.
Last autumn Paul cleared a large section of the garden, and we had fun choosing some new plants, something you don’t get a chance to do very often in an established garden.
This year Paul re-did the paths with wood chips and put mulch all around the plants.
It looks like a completely new garden!
We have two rain water tanks. The white tank in the photo below is the smaller one, kept purely for this garden. It is attached to the carport so that rain water can drain from the roof of the carport into the water tank.
It is lovely to see Paul’s hard work paying off this year, the garden is flourishing, especially the two Manchurian Pears, the Snowy River Wattles (Acacia), and a Grevillea called a Bronze Rambler….. and this plant sure does know how to ramble!
And following the path up to the carport (and water tank) are some Camellias, and the first flower has just arrived from the oldest bush.
Our front garden is the most affected by frost and heat. In this tough climate, the Canberra Belle (Correa) is one of the most rewarding plants, they survive all, and give the bees a chance in autumn with these pretty little bell flowers. They are indeed the Belles of Canberra..
Another lovely autumn flowering plant is The Chinese Lantern Plant (Abutilons)
I have previously quoted the poet Dorothea McKellar’s poem Australian Autumn and here are a few lines from the poem again….
”This is the gentlest season of the year.
From mists of pearl and gold
The slow sweet hours unfold….
I hope you are enjoying your season, or changing season, where ever you are in the world. What is your favourite season of the year?
Every morning in summer we walk down to the shops to buy the paper…and we always stop to admire this view…
This garden is on the verge of the road and the footpath. It has been planted and cared for by a very generous gardener who lives in a house nearby. He and his wife bought and prepared the soil, fertilizer, and plants. They have even installed a watering system, and keep it watered all summer at their own cost.
How is that for a gardener’s generosity of spirit!
These colour co-ordinated Eastern Rosellas are up early and enjoying the morning sun.
Further along the path is a neighbouring garden spilling over with a shrub that seems to be saying…”It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas, and summer”.
Every morning we pass the cockatoos and galahs enjoying breakfast at this bird feeder …(a mixed blessing)
The galahs seem to understand the pecking order, and wait for their turn. Occasionally they all eat together.
And far off on the lamp post, a female cockatoo is on parenting duty….
Nearby, a young cockatoo is holding on tight to the branch …. perhaps his first flight without his mother..
Oh dear, he had a slip, but luckily his beak is strong enough to steady him.
His tail feathers look like a wedding dress!
As we walk across the playing fields, we often see the male Red Rumped Parrot and the lighter coloured female….these parrots are always feeding in the grass, and are totally unperturbed by sporting events going on around them.
By the time we walk home, it is getting hotter, but the Red Hot Pokers are still a treat to see as we walk…
This summer we have had a heatwave and dust storms ..
This makes for some beautiful sunsets across the Brindabella Mountains
When I look across at this view of the Brindabella Mountains, I think there really is no place like home..
I hope you are keeping warm or cool where ever you are in the world, and enjoying your home as much as I enjoy mine.