One of the benefits of wintry mornings is that the sun rises later according to the clock, so I need not bolt out of bed at 5.30 a.m. to catch the event.

In fact I can catch it from my bed now, being the end of autumn.

On this particular morning the light flooding my room was so glowingly golden that I knew a beauty was occurring. Bolt out of bed I did, and scurry for the camera. 

It was chilly, but I didn’t wait to throw on more layers, knowing how very ephemeral the sight would be.

Pure gold … and not even a cheap thrill, but free!

As I write this and look over at the shades of grey and white that fill the sky where that glory had so recently been, I don’t like to say it’s banal by comparison, but it is!

At least it is changing constantly, being composed of clouds. Plain blue sky is but a background wash awaiting clouds to give it life.

If you have doubts about that, do check out The Cloud Appreciation Society site.

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When I wrote my first book, The Woman on the Mountain, I originally intended to illustrate it. After all, if Gerald Durrell could have illustrations in books for adults, why couldn’t I? In the end, the book having grown longer, we decided not to use the pen and ink drawings.

I still have scans of them, and as I hate waste, I’ve decided to share some of them with my blog readers, accompanied by relevant extracts from their chapters.

This one was meant for Chapter 3 – ‘Close to the elements’, as we certainly were, living as we did for fifteen months in a small secondhand tent. Except for wet weather, we really only slept there; all the real living space was outside. 

‘Yet despite the extremes dealt by the elements, that first year here, living mainly outdoors, remains the happiest of my life.’

My three-year-old daughter and five-year-old son loved it… and so did I.

‘For dining, under the spreading arms of a white mahogany tree we had set up a card table and canvas director’s chairs, with holes dug in the ground for the uphill chair legs so diners didn’t roll down the slope when eating, as several unwary visitors had done. As they were a little tipsy at the time, they rolled easily and didn’t hurt themselves, although the sight was so funny that the sides of the callous and equally tipsy spectators ached for some time.

‘Our chosen clearing had appeared to be a gentle slope but actually was relentlessly unflat, as each small area that needed to be level soon proved. Everywhere involved walking uphill, to or from, and we got very fit, especially carrying buckets of water up the steep incline from the spring. That was excellent for deportment too; only my straightest back would keep the buckets from bumping into the slope ahead and spilling.

‘My cooktop was an old fridge rack balanced on four rocks, my cooking equipment was disposal store cast iron — camp oven, frying pan and saucepan — and one heavy soup pot. From our Merriwa camping weekends I’d developed quite a collection of recipes for one-pot or one-pan dishes. For those weekends I used to cheat a little to compensate for the absence of bench space, like making the dough and rolling the balls for chapatis at home, in which form they’d happily sit until I was ready to flatten them and cook over the fire to accompany the Saturday night curry. Now I had the luxury of the card table as a bench.

‘The camp oven, buried in hot ashes and coals, worked well, but I could only bake one thing at a time in it. We bought a rusty fuel stove for $10 and set it up close to the big tree above the ‘kitchen’.

‘The first time I used it I wrote (in my diary): 

Took a long time for oven to heat up but finally cooked pitta, pumpkin pie and two veg. strudels in it. Flue melted its joins and blew off.

‘Here’s another baking morning.

Lit fuel stove — baked cookies first, then two loaves bread, then prune loaf, then Rieska [quick rye bread for lunch]. Used top to warm yoghurt, de-candy honey, cook chickpeas, etc. All done by 12.30. We got sand and rocks for last trench. Finished that by evening.

‘Was that me, that so-organised, energetic young woman? Where did she go?’

I have copies of The Woman on the Mountain which you can buy at a special price here.

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It’s Autumn, so many locals are burning off their grasslands, or setting fire to their stacked bonfires of fallen branches and creek logjam clearings.

Being Autumn, it’s also a time of misty mornings and low-angled sunray surprises in this valley.

This particular morning I was treated to a combination of them both, as the sun’s warmth rekindled the night-dampened bonfire into smoke and released the paddock’s dew into rising mist. Only the smoke’s more blue colouring gave it away.

Autumn evenings bring early dark to the valley, while the far escarpment holds the last of the setting sun’s light.  It also often holds the gathered moisture of the day in a long rolling breath along the ridgeline, hugging the last of the land before becoming sky clouds.

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There are lots of kookaburras around here, and lots of good vantage points for them. This one chose a particularly photogenic spot, bedecked as it is with lichen.

Quite high off the ground, yet the bird can see the slightest movement down there, punk head cocked, poised ready to swoop and put that ferociously strong beak to work.

Much less common here — a visitor, not a resident — is another basically brown and white bird, but oh, so different.  I spotted this this Straw-necked Ibis all by itself in the paddock; it was so big that at a distance I first thought it might be a wallaby.

That long rapier beak is perfect for poking about in marshes or shallow waters, so I was surprised to see it, alone and on my hillside, not down by the creek.

It clearly has two legs but seems to prefer standing on one. I admire the balance required to do this total twist for a thorough clean-up.

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My Glory Vine is wearing its Autumn garb; when the leaves turn red, right? They look red, as I come out to the verandah, with the morning light behind it.

But then I step outside and look back at it and the shade of the main leaves externally is so different that I have no name for it: but no ‘red’ I can think of will fit. I mentally go through my old paintbox tubes with all the evocative names of colours. As for the small ones, well, ‘salmon’ perhaps?

And yet, a few metres further along, they choose more burnished shades, with only red herringbone veins.

On the eastern side they are opting to hold on to green, to refuse to give in to one red shade, choose reds only in blotches, or restricted to edges.

Twining through the Glory Vine on this side is the Mandevilla Laxa, (right) whose slender pendulous leaves are showing gold and red shades for the first time, with clearly defined stages and veins. How odd that they are donning Autumn garb more here nearer the coast than they did not at 3,000 feet?

I miss the Wisteria’s golden contribution from those days so I am welcoming this… and all the subtle shades to infinity that Autumn can offer, even here in subtropical Australia.

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The ornamental grapevine leaves are now red, so the little green tree snake who visited it in its summer green is no longer camouflaged.

The best it can do is mimic stems. Here it looks as if it has green frog fingers as well.

Although its head is teeny, thumbnail size, as you can see, its body is very long and fatter. Too fat to be a grapevine stem.

And way too active, although when it freezes in mid-air-curve, it could be a large tendril seeking a new hold.

I love the way it peeps out at me every now and then; or is it posing?

Most times I am awake and risen early. Some days it’s more worth it than others. Like today, as the sun rose in just the right spot over the escarpment to be split into morning glory rays of benediction by a perfectly placed tall tree.

Within minutes the sideways rays grew longer, the view brighter. The day was here.

All too soon it settled into the more usual lovely misty layers gently steaming skywards, with only a faint ‘hand of god’ ray visible.

Worth getting up before sunrise to catch that moment? Oh yes.

The delicately feathered lilac curls of the native Melaleuca thymifolia are a relief as well as a delight to see, as these swamp-loving small shrubs have only been in for about six months.

They will only grow to about 2 metres and will hide my shed from view for verandah sitters.

Willows love water and my little willow is now taller than me. I did plant it to help soak up a wet spot, and so it does. It will be a magnificent summer shade tree in years to come.

I had bought the cheapest ($30) little fountain I could find online, as a tester. I am amazed at how much it enhances my little pond, adding sparkles and ripples and splashes, varying its spray height with the strength of the sun. I have come to regard it as a little creature, part of the pond life, and I enjoy watching its varied moods. It even works in a sun shower.

The mosses are thick and glowing like furry jewels, with tiny golden fungi flowers bringing bursts of sunshine on a grey day.

While appreciating the bonuses it brings, I am as sick of the rain as this Willy Wagtail, who may not be able to see the watery wins as I do.

But of course with the sort of showers and sun roundabouts we’ve been getting, we are at least blessed with a rainbow now and then.

Moving mountains again

April 2, 2017
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The time has come for me to leave another beautiful mountain area. After only two and a half years here, I am not embedded in the country as I was at my Mountain, which owned me for 36 years. I still grieve for the loss of the Mountain. I had thought four acres would be […]

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The Big Wet

March 27, 2017
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In one week, another 416mm of pounding rain fell, flooding the creeks and closing the roads, strewing logs and stacking beaver dams at fences and bridges and crossings that got in its way. The skies cleared one evening and the moisture began to separate into creeks and clouds, as they should. It heralded the dawning […]

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Post-deluge fungi

March 20, 2017
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Wet, wet weather and just enough warmth still in the air to cause a whole new aspect of life to come forth and blossom … fungi. This beauty unfurled out of the top of a palm stump that has sat there unadorned for two years. Way down in the paddock, a smattering of white glimpsed […]

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Post-deluge frogs

March 13, 2017
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It’s autumn, and I welcome the cooler mornings, but we are also having daily deluges more like tropical summer storms. In the first five days of March we had 124 mm — or six inches if you’re my age — and that’s on top of what we’d already received in 2017.  By New Year it […]

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