Far North Queensland and Hemingway’s on the Hill..

Far North Queensland: Port Douglas

Canberra is well known for having cold winters (by Australian standards). June to August can be cold, rainy and miserable in Canberra.

Fortunately the temperatures in Far North Queensland are mild and pleasant during these months. Many Australians from the southern states, including our family, go on holiday to Queensland during our winter months.

This year in mid-June, Paul’s much loved mother, at the age of 96, passed away. She had eight children and many grandchildren and great grandchildren, and will be sadly missed by everyone.

The last few months have been very busy, and at times very sad. However, we had planned a holiday in Far North Queensland and a few weeks ago, we packed our bags, and flew to Cairns.

Despite the overcast view that day, it is always a pleasure to see the coastline as the plane turns to land in Cairns.

We decided to start our holiday with a few quiet days in the Atherton Tablelands, despite it being a little colder than along the coast.

Paul found us a small cottage in the Atherton Tablelands and it was called Hemingway’s on the Hill.

It was quiet, rustic and peaceful, and just what we needed….a break away from everything.

On the way to our cottage we stopped at a pretty country town called Yungaburra and bought pizzas, a bottle of wine, and a few extra food supplies for our first meal at Hemingway’s on the Hill.

The drive into the pretty town of Yungaburra and Nick’s Pizzas not far away..

The cabin had all kinds of interesting books and magazines. The owner of the cottage lived on a farm nearby. She had packed the fridge and kitchen with fruit, eggs, bacon, butter, jams, honey and yogurt.

Everything we ate there came from local farms.. what a feast!

Paul lit the fire on the first evening and we sat quietly watching the sun going down …..it was cold, but a very pleasant quiet time…there is nothing like a flickering fire for relaxing.

In the morning we had better views of the rolling hills, and farms dotted across the mountains. The Atherton Tablelands provides food for many parts of Australia, with its rich volcanic soil there are an amazing amount of crops grown in this area. (more of that in another post)

The owner of the property had left instructions for everything, but this little note at the back of the folder made me smile….be warned of noises when you are in the countryside in Australia.

We did hear the Curlew birds in the night….my impression is that they have a rather sad cry, and always late at night. However, my cousin, who lives not very far from this area, says she loves coming home and listening to their long song.

A Bush Stone-curlew bird Photo: Birdlife Australia

We have never had bandicoots in our garden, (thank goodness), but possums are a perennial problem and they bounce across our carport roof quite often in the night, usually looking for fruit and vegetables.

Our three days at Hemingway’s cottage was spent eating good nourishing food, having quiet times by the fire, and reading books…..we slept well, and were completely unaware of any night time activity during our stay.

Before we left for our second holiday house at the coast, I took some photos of the two colourful flowers that were growing in the gardens at Hemingway’s. As with all flowers and shrubs in this part of the world, they are large, bright and cheerful.

There are many interesting parts of Far North Queensland to see and enjoy, and I’ll write a few posts on some very different parts of Queensland.

Many thanks for taking the time to read my post today, and may you have some sunshine where ever you are in the world.

Copyright: Geraldine Mackey: All Rights Reserved.

Canberra’s winter: birds, kangaroos and walking tracks..

Canberrans often complain about our winters, which are generally colder than coastal areas nearby. However, when I looked through my photos of winter in Canberra I decided to look on the bright side.

canoeing on Lake Burley Griffin

Canberra in late autumn, early winter can be beautiful, and for many people it is a time for rowing, cycling, running and walking and taking photos.

One of my favourite occupations is looking out the window into our back garden and taking photos of the birds we often see in winter.

Here are a family of King Parrots who fly in to drink melted water from the gutter of our cabin in the garden. I love watching these beautiful birds because they are very cautious and shy and we hardly ever see them during other seasons.

The male Australian King Parrot has a completely red head, and the females are similar to the males except that they have a completely green head and breast…easier to distinguish in the photo below.

In winter we often go to the Australian Botanic Gardens, there are always a few colourful native plants and an abundance of birds ….especially early in the morning.

Canberra is a planned city with many parks and bushland. We often go for winter walks along Coolaman Ridge Nature Track, which has a winding track around a mountain ridge. Quite often in winter the kangaroos are slow to start the day and you can see a little Joey still half asleep enjoying the warmth of the sunshine on the rocks.

The photo below shows the kangaroos in languish mode, along a track near Mount Taylor, near where we live. This photo was taken a while ago (in winter) and since then this area has become very popular as a walking track, and a place to take dogs for a walk. Fortunately there is a fence between the walking track and the kangaroos, who spend time on the other side of the mountain.

We saw these kangaroos at Weston park, and although they are watchful, they are used to people strolling by and taking photos occasionally.

As the winter sun sets, the view from our street is of the Brindabella Mountains…the colours change from hour to hour. The currawongs call is a familar sound in the evening, time to close the curtains, turn the heater up, and be very, very thankful we live in a peaceful part of the world.

Best wishes to everyone, and I hope you are enjoying your patch of sunshine where ever it may be…

Copyright Geraldine Mackey: All Rights Reserved.

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 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.

Canberra in winter: Parrots, the Lake, and Edmund Barton, first Prime Minister of Australia

Canberra has a crisp blue-sky beauty in winter…..and for those of us who live in leafy suburbs, it is all about the birds that visit our gardens, and brighten a cold day.

Winter is the time for King Parrots in our garden…. and this year they are searching, in particular, for fresh water. Almost every morning they check the gutters of our cabin for frosty water pools warmed by the morning sun.

Although King Parrots are relatively large, they are sweet, shy birds, always in pairs, and easily frightened away..

Once they have had a drink, they often fly to the Japanese Maple, right near the sunroom window…

Look at the beautiful red and dark green markings on the tail and underbelly of this bird, as David Attenborough says, the natural world is so full of beauty…

Our regular Sulphur Crested Cockatoos are also looking for water..

…and, rather like school inspectors, they investigate the garden thoroughly

and we are found wanting …….

Where are the bird baths?

What happened to all the almonds?

I have the feeling we are getting zero out of ten for this old bird bath..

Hardly any water, shabby looking, almost toppling over..

The only reason we are here is because your neighbours are neglecting theirs…

The birds are great fun to watch while I am resting and waiting for my wrist to mend. Many thanks for all the well wishes, my wrist is now almost back to normal, and all is well.

Apart from watching birds from the sunroom window, I have been catching up on some reading,

This book, called ”The Good, the Bad, and the Unlikely”  is a very short history of Australian Prime Ministers.

It is written by the irreverent and humorous journalist Mungo Maccallum.

Commonwealth Avenue Bridge. Some of the flat stones from London’s Waterloo Bridge (when it was demolished) were donated to this bridge when it was built in 1963.

Inspired by my reading, I wanted to take a photo of the statue of Edmund Barton, the first Prime Minister of Australia. His statue is appropriately in the suburb of Barton, and we decided to incorporate a walk around Commonwealth Park, near the centre of the city, before taking the photo.

Despite being a clear winter’s day, there was a biting cold wind, and all walkers and cyclists have long abandoned the Lake and are warming up in coffee shops all over Canberra.

Commonwealth Avenue Bridge, Lake Burley Griffin, and the Captain Cook Memorial

The Captain James Cook Memorial is combination of the water jet, and a terrestrial globe, and commemorates the bicentenary of Captain Cook’s landing on the east coast of Australia in 1770. The three routes of Cook’s voyages, are inscribed on the surrounding handrail.

The stunning jet  of water always attracts the eyes of tourists, especially children.  Many years ago, as a young teacher in Canberra, I met up with friends and we hired a little boat, and rowed around the fountain.

We were thrilled to get thoroughly wet by the jet spray……they seem such innocent times now!

The above photo was taken in winter a few years ago…the photo below was July 2018, absolutely freezing…..even the resident pelican looked downcast.

However, a pair of Crimson Rosellas were steadily eating their way through some scattered seeds from overhanging trees.

Across the lake from Commonwealth Park there is a view of Old Parliament House (now the Museum of Democracy) and behind it,  Parliament House today (under repair as the roof has been leaking).

Here is another, much closer, photo of Parliament House. Much clearer without the repair work tent over the roof!

And here is the handsome statue of Edmund Barton….

According to Mungo Maccallum, Australia’s first Prime Minister, Edmund Barton had one unique quality…he managed to unite a fractious group of politicians and colonies into creating a federation… in Mungo’s words..

Like most of their descendants, this motley bunch (the politicians at the time) were driven by a combination of idealism and self-interest, and getting them to agree on anything substantial was like herding a football team into a temperance meeting room.

Politicians all over Australia, agreed to become… as Barton says,

”a nation for a continent, and a continent for a nation

What a talent! I wonder how successful he would be if he tried that today!

Here is another sculpture of Edmund Barton, which is in The Prime Ministers’ Avenue, set in the magnificent Horse Chestnut Avenue of the Gardens in Ballarat. Well worth a visit, in every season.

https//ballaratbotanicalgardens.com.au

 

 

I hope you are enjoying your green spaces, where ever you live in the world….each season has a beauty of its own.

 

Copyright Geraldine Mackey: All Rights Reserved

 

Lanyon Homestead in Winter

When we left Canberra in May, the last month of autumn colour was still with us..

 

After an exciting month in Italy, we arrived back in Canberra at the beginning of June.

Winter cometh!

After some dreary rainy days (but we always need rain!) I have to remind myself that there is another side to Canberra winters…bright blue skies.

Last July we visited an historic homestead close to where we live in Canberra, the Lanyon homestead..

IMG_3395 (1024x797)

The homestead is ringed by the Brindabella Mountains and sits at the heart of a natural bowl shaped valley. This scenery takes my breath away, no matter how many times I see it.

This land has layers of rich history from surviving Aboriginal heritage sites, through to unbroken pastoral use since European settlement.

The land was granted to James Wright and  John Lanyon in 1834. At that time the journey from Sydney took several weeks by bullock wagon over rough tracks. The farm land was so isolated that the farmers of the time had to be completely self-sufficient.

IMG_3374 (1024x734)

Andrew and James Cunningham bought Lanyon in 1849 and built the homestead over time. The house remains almost completely unchanged since 1859.

IMG_0987 (1024x725)

The original out-buildings around the homestead include a kitchen, cellar, laundry, worker’s barracks, a meat house and dairy stables, harness room and a blacksmith’s shop.

IMG_3376 (1024x768)Despite the green and blue hues of this land today, in 2003 Lanyon homestead was under real threat as wind and fire raged over these mountains. I have read that there was only one fire engine available for Lanyon as the fires were so widespread. Miraculously the property survived.

IMG_3392 (1024x768)

Today the house is a museum and there are picnic areas and a café in the grounds.

Weddings, plant fairs, historical events and social activities go on all year in these lovely gardens.

The flower and vegetable gardens are a treat to see in spring and summer, indeed Lanyon homestead deserves to be seen in every season. (I’ll be back!)

IMG_3397 (1024x768)

The Bunya Pine became fashionable and, as with many homesteads in Australia, there is one planted here, quite close to the house.

IMG_3375 (648x1024)

And you won’t be surprised to know that when Mr Big Personality has finished stripping the flowers and branches off the Ironbark eucalypts in our street, he’ll be off to Lanyon to strip the Bunya Pine of its Bunya Nuts…..

IMG_4061 (1024x906)

That is the ying and yang of living in a bush capital city!

Have a happy weekend, whether it be winter or summer in your part of the world.