It is always wise here to carry a torch when stumbling about outside at night. However I am usually looking down, not up.

The other night, it was merely out of the corner of my eye that the top of one verandah post looked different, amongst the labyrinth of twining vines and leaves that encase them.

Indeed it was different: decorated by a diamond python, who slowly curled up almost out of sight.

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Wrapped around itself into an extraordinarily tight bundle, that’s where it stayed all the next day, although as the day warmed up, the tin must have been too hot.

I assumed it had fed the night before and was quietly digesting. But I’d kept checking its whereabouts — just in case.

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Next evening the torch revealed that it was hungry again and on the hunt. Poised motionless, flexed ready to strike, above the erratically filled bird feeder, where small marsupials might come to nibble leftover grains.

Whether it was successful or not, I haven’t seen it since. But I still look, above the door for example, as I go outside at night!

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Being up and about early has so often gifted me unexpected and ephemeral sights here that I feel I’ve missed something – or might have – when I sleep in.

At about 900 metres elevation, we do catch clouds often. They may be slow to lift, waiting for the new sun to warm them and lighten the load. But when they do, the two elements can create wonders.

At moments like these, I can see how folk might have thought they were having visions of enlightenment as the figure reaches out its arms to them.

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Even when the effect of a figure has dissipated, the long rays continue to find their way though the forest for many photogenic minutes more.

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In my yard, amidst the green of grass, the brown of strips of windblown bark or fallen leaves, and the black of wallaby poo, you rarely see the colour yellow. Especially a yellow so bright as to resemble plastic.

Naturally it drew me to closer inspection, which revealed small blobs of desiccated plastic.

Aha! Weird things that suddenly appear out of nowhere? Slime moulds!

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Although I haven’t seen it here, this one appears to be the common Fuligo septica, ‘Flowers of Tan’, ‘resembling a solidifed mass of scrambled egg, often with a small whitish trail leading to it’ says my fungi book. Not that slime moulds are classed with fungi anymore, but I don’t have a book on them alone.

Unlike fungi, they get together on a chemical signal and move, to ingest food like an amoeba.

Curioser and curioser is this world.

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Arriving home in a rainshower, I of course took the opportunity to go outside when the sun reappeared for a brief spell and I heard some high ‘peep’ calls.

King Parrots in the Pittosporum. As soon as I got close, they took off into the Lemon Ti-Tree.

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Their tomato-red heads and fronts are almost unbelievably vivid, but when the young and the females turn their green backs and/or heads they can disappear.

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While I was photographing the Kingies, one of a group of lazing kangaroos was interested enough to prop and watch, so I snapped them too.

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Just then a bird flew overhead. It took a second for me to register a different shape … fat-bellied … then another flew over. The White-headed Pigeons were visiting again, and as I hadn’t seen them for some time, I was inordinately pleased!

There were five altogether, preening and cleaning, posing and perusing, in the branches of a grey gum near the house.

Soon the rain clouds drifted over again and sent me indoors. The sun had been out for perhaps just fifteen minutes, yet look what I’d seen!

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Walking around the yard this sparkling autumn morning, I thought back over the many hopeful plantings over 35 years. I planted hundreds more than now exist, gone either from unsuitability or passionate macropod pruning, but I kept records.

I love how big many trees have grown but I also found myself noting the many small extra benefits that they offer.

This Lilli-Pilli (above) protects the bird bath so the small birds are game to land and stay to drink; they can scoot off into the dense leafiness and hide if need be.

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This avocado was grown from a seed I saved. It has flowered — finally and fewly — and I watched the sole fruit jealously, daily. But of course it went; a bird or possum got it first. However, I love that tree, culinarily unproductive as it may be, because of its growth habit.

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Its branches grow in a downwards arching manner — ‘pendulous’ or hanging — so standing inside its canopy is like being under a leafy umbrella.

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And they can be nurseries, in which butterflies can lay eggs or birds build nests. The citrus trees especially seem favoured.

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Of course they provide shade, perhaps none so conveniently as the two spreading Nashi trees outside my ‘bunkhouse’. A perfect spot for visitors to sit and listen to the silence.

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And for myself, they continue to offer not only beauty in each season, but surprises. I adore my Liquid Amber, mightily grown back after the 2002 fires. I’ve featured its bright autumn glow in many posts.

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As the cloud lifted and daylight tried to become sunlight, the kookaburras watched for emerging worms and the wallabies were out drying off. 

These two mums were close to the cabin.

The nearest had an inquisitive joey, lightly furred over its pink skin. Head out, but wisely not interested in venturing from the warm pouch.

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Mum had work to do, cleaning up after the muddy days and dealing with the fleas and ticks. Her joey just had to duck the odd angles that put her in.

First the tail, laid out in front, thoroughly scratched and the fur sifted.

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Then between the toes, licked and nibbled. This sent the joey back inside for a moment.

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Then the ears, which doubled mum up even more.

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It was all so exhausting that Mum decided it was time for a nap. She flopped sideways and almost at soon as she hit the ground bub disappeared to sleep in the soft silky pink world of her pouch. What a life!

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Failing knees (OK, old age) mean I can no longer manage here without help, so, regretfully, I am seeking a new carer for my Mountain and its creatures. Readers will know how much I love living here, but it’s time to make a move.

I need to relocate closer to family, to a more accessible small rural block. It’s best to do this while I still have some ability to re-establish as close to a self-sufficient lifestyle as I can manage.

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My 65.55 hectare property in Upper Hunter Shire, NSW, has been a dedicated Wildlife Refuge since 1980, and is now also under a Voluntary Conservation Agreement (VCA) with National Parks. The wallabies, kangaroos, echidnas, kookaburras and eagles really own the place, but they allow many other mammals, birds, reptiles, frogs and me to live here. They need to be able to trust the new humans who take over from me.

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This sanctuary for man and beast offers rare peace and privacy in a rich mountain forest world where the wildlife is unafraid and abundant, the sky is close, and the springs are permanently generous. I shall miss the privacy and the unlimited water; I can only hope for the peace, and at least visits from wildlife.

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The wildlife have it sorted naturally, but I’ve set up here for self-sufficient living for humans too, with stand alone solar power and springfed water supply. Its temperate climate, good rainfall and good soil mean the potential is enormous. 

For such human use, a 12.24 hectare area is excluded from the VCA, enclosing all the many improvements, like the dams, 92,000 litres tank storage, gravity-fed watering systems, my charming (yes, I do say so myself!) owner-built two-bedroom mudbrick cabin, large shed, carport, glasshouse, bunkhouse (sleeps 5-6), and a separate colorbond clad and insulated cabin.

There’s far too many advantages to list here, so if anyone is genuinely interested in becoming the new carer for my Mountain — as in considering buying it — please email me for full details, more photos, price and directions. No merely curious queries please!

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Photos of me and the cabin interior by G Beeche

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On a very hot afternoon last week, I was visited by a tiny representative of a species that I rarely see. Bats.

There are 20 bat species recorded in these mountains, but as I am not a nocturnal animal, I don’t see them. But this one came to me as I worked on my verandah.

It flew up and down the length of the verandah a few times, attracting my attention, and then landed on the narrow strip of mud wall above the window. Far too close to the tin roof for comfort, I’d have thought.

And there it stayed for some hours, flapping its ears periodically. Its clinging power surprised me, as my mud wall’s not that rough.

I found it very hard to work out its features, but I think it’s an Eastern Horsehoe-bat, from the small size and the horseshoe shape of what my book calls the ’noseleaf complex’.

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About five o’clock it flew to a western end rafter and clung to a bolt. It was still there on dark, but gone in the morning. 

I know almost nothing about bats, but I am delighted to have met this little one, even briefly.

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Sitting for Leard Forest

February 10, 2014
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In the past, I’ve walked in rallies or stood in protest against the threats from coal or gas that continue to bombard our special places. On 28th January, instead I sat for a day, a small part of the ongoing blockade against Whitehaven Coal’s destruction of Leard Forest near Boggabri. (See my past posts here, […]

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Shrinking pond world

February 3, 2014
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As in much of Australia, it’s been dry and hot here. My small dam is really a large pond. Unlike my main dam, it is not springfed, but filled by runoff plus what is collected from my shed roof and piped to it. Both rely on rain of course – and we’ve had almost none. […]

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Moonrise surprise

January 16, 2014
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It was still daylight, the last of the day’s excessive heat finally withdrawing as the sun sank over the western horizon.  I was lolling on the verandah couch, home brew in hand, grateful for the fitful cooler breezes reaching me. When I stood up, I saw that, literally behind my back, the moon had risen […]

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Of Kings and Kookas

January 7, 2014
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Although there is no fruit left on my trees, the King Parrots are still hanging around, always startlingly bright amongst grey gums and stringybarks. They haven’t been very vocal, but in any case they’d be outdone by the Kookaburra Kids, who have been driving me nuts! I finally tracked down one of these sources of […]

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