I have reluctantly become a grazier.

These two Friesian dairy steer calves are now our permanent resident lawnmowers, and company for Clancy the horse.

This block is cursed with setaria grass, introduced for cattle, but harmful for horses. That’s it towering over them on the right.

It depletes horses’ calcium, so Clancy needs supplementary calcium, even though he doesn’t prefer the setaria over the kikuyu and couch grasses.

It seemed ridiculously unsustainable to keep paying to have the paddock slashed.

Hence the live solution of pet cows. Handreared, they are gradually getting used to me as I feed them their calf pellets.

My granddaughters have named them Salt and Pepper, given their colourings.

As their owner quipped when he delivered them: ‘At least you’ve saved them from being salted and peppered!’

For they’d have ended up as someone’s weiner schnitzel.

Male dairy calves aren’t good for anything else…

As a vegetarian, I would not have used beef breeds, despite all the advice as to how many quid I could make.

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Pepper has the prettiest heart-shaped blaze. Salty is the pushiest, which is no doubt why he’s bigger. 

Today they let me stroke them, for the first time since they came a week ago. Very cute!

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The NSW Gloucester Valley is stunningly beautiful. As I drove there on Saturday, I thought yet again how crazy it was to consider a gas field and a coal mine here.

Tourism is what Gloucester is about, for itself and as the gateway to Barrington Tops. Industrialisation and the attendant pollution is the last thing it needs. 

Which is why the chapter in my book, Rich Land, Wasteland on Gloucester and Margaret River is called ‘Allowing the unthinkable’.

The NSW government is blowing its trumpet for buying back PELs (Petroleum Exploration Licences). As in the Blue Mountains, and most recently in the Hunter, where the Broke/Fordwich vineyard area has fought AGL for years, and in Sydney suburbs where the 2km residential exclusion zone would make it impossible for AGL to expand there anyway. Many of the PELs are ones that have been found to offer little CSG.

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However, at Gloucester, because the AGL project there was already approved, albeit hastily and very misguidedly, the 2km exclusion zone was not applied.

Not because Gloucester folk are immune to the harmful health impacts of living in and near gas fields — especially so for children.

Apparently the state government just doesn’t care about them or their children when the interests of AGL dictate otherwise.

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The disastrous record of stuff-ups and cover-ups from AGL’s first four pilot wells at Waukivory here should have been enough to call an end to this project.

AGL would be wise to do that sooner rather than later, because the opposition to it and the bad PR is not going away.

If anything, it will increase, as folk who’ve been fighting to save their own patches from CSG can now focus on helping Gloucester — like Derek Finter (above), who’d left home in the Blue Mountains at 4 am to get here for this Walk.

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Every second Saturday, on the Growers’ Market Day, folk gather in Gloucester’s Billabong Park at 9am to walk peacefully through the streets, dressed in bright colours, especially the yellow and black of Lock the Gate and the Knitting Nannas Against Gas, and carrying placards, mostly handwritten and heartfelt.

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Kids in strollers, dogs on leads, babies in backpacks and the very elderly and not-so-able join in.

Afterwards we have a cuppa, cake and much conversation. This is a great community fighting for survival and healing, given the harm and disunity caused here by the AGL project.

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Usually we chant, but today we walked in silence, in memory of the clever and caring E. V. Phillips, founding member of the Barrington-Gloucester-Stroud-Preservation-Alliance.

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Many people wore tape with ‘Gas field free’ across their mouths, or — less painfully — on their clothing.

The silent walk was very powerful.

The next major event in Gloucester is the No CSG Summit on Saturday 25th July, hosted by Groundswell Gloucester and Manning Clean Water Action Group.

Find out the latest, become involved, contribute to the discussion and so much more. There will be a great line-up of speakers and lots of time for discussion.

Date: Saturday 25th July 2015

Time: 9.30am to 4pm

Place: Gloucester Uniting Church Hall, 7 Cowper Street, Gloucester

Cost: Free

Email enquiries here: 

Bring: Your lunch or purchase from one of Gloucester’s wonderful cafés.

* Morning/afternoon tea available with gold coin donation.

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The White-headed Pigeons fly like jet planes towards their favourite highest trees, landing with abrupt but sure precision even in the mist, and often on what looks like a ridiculous choice of perch. I mean, this one must have its feet crossed to be able to clutch on to a vertical twig. Why?

Well, if impressing is the aim, it did.

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This more immature one flew like the rest, way too fast and too low towards my house roof, only he didn’t manage to veer up and over in time.

Bang! Mad flapping and rolling, shedding small feathers, fluttering and staggering off the verandah to rest on the grass.

He did not look well.

Up so close, the stunning iridescence of his ‘black’ back was evident.

Lacking the full white head and chest he will have when grown, he nevertheless had the daredevil nature down pat already. Had to be a speed-loving, risk-taking juvenile male.

But would he survive?

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Thnakfully he hadn’t broken his neck, but he must have been in shock.

Meanwhile, the rest of the flock were blithely wheeling about and showing off across the creek flat.

After about half an hour’s rest, body not moving at all, beak open, eyes mostly closed, I feared I would soon see him keel over.

Was the pink blood? No, I read, beaks and eye surround are reddish.

I began to think of where I could bury him.

Then, without even trying out his wings, he simply took off. Up and away, no obvious harm.

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All that was left were the few breast feathers from first impact.

When you step out of your ute in a Macdonalds carpark (yes, I confess: a rare last resort!) you don’t expect to be eye-to-eye with a prehistoric creature like this.

It was most uncomfortably perched on top of a harshly pruned hedge, as spiky as itself.

I think it’s a water dragon but there was none of that substance about. It, like the dragons, is usually found at ground level.

Maybe it was waiting to be fed leftovers from Maccas?

By the way, at least I learnt that Maccas still doesn’t cater for vegetarians.

Coffee with fries, please.

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Meanwhile at home, I have two far more smooth and docile creatures in residence.

The Gramma couple are snuggling up in a corner while I consider how best to use these gifts from a neighbour. I’ve done the Gramma Pie they requested. Very nice too, but it was more an exercise in disguising the Gramma than making the most of its flavour (?).

Anything could have provided the bulk.

Anyway, I’m not sure I can bear to break up this loving pair. Well, he seems a bit uppity, but she clearly adores him.

Back in my old Mountain home, the verandah grew a living green blind each summer, blazed red and pink in autumn, and leaflessly let in the sunshine all winter.

Naturally, I took cuttings of this Ornamental Grape to bring with me.

They survived the trip and the transplant and here they are flagging their first autumn on their new verandah home.

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The other decoration on this verandah are the intricate spiderwebs between the uprights, only visible when delineated by a fine morning mist.

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The spiders do other useful work, such as binding the leaves of the little Nagami Cumquat into a neat parcel.

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With great difficulty I also brought with me my Dad’s Place. It was built by me and my sisters to house his ashes.

Not having been designed to be mobile, it weighed a ton.

But here it is, resettled, its lavender and wormwood plant settings fast making it look less newly transplanted. My grandkids have decorated the steps and verandah for him.

Fittingly, behind it is a terracotta chimneypot from my childhood farm, Dad’s orchard venture. I never saw it on a chimney, but I always loved it and I have carted it about for over 50 years. It lived in the rockery at the Mountain for the last 35.

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Here the southern face of its ferro-cement roof has grown a velvety green moss. I consider this makes up for the ridgeline crack it suffered in the move.

I have seen a tree snake trying to climb a water tank here. I suspect this is the same slender Green Tree Snake, made smarter by that experience.

Now it uses the ladder.

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My book says that this snake will inflate the fore part of its body when threatened; I’m not sure if it was me or the ladder that it considered threatening but it was clearly fatter at the front.

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Just look at the way it manages to hang on to the ladder while investigating the old guttering leaning against the wall beside it. As unwelcoming a climbing surface as the water tank was…

My book also said that this snake can be can be grey, green, blue, brown, black or yellow, so I’m only assuming I’ve identified this one correctly.

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The skin between the scales is apparently most revealed when the snake inflates – blue – but this one seems dotted with blue…?

I have become so accustomed to the flock of White-headed Pigeons landing in the tallest branches of the tallest Camphor Laurel by the creek that I don’t rush for the camera.

Just the usual penthouse residents again.

Luckily, this time I paid more attention. These birds looked different.

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Without the camera zoom I couldn’t see the brown punk tufts on their heads, like bald men with thick toupées, hoping it makes them still look young…

These were Topknot Pigeons.

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My first sighting here and only my second ever anywhere. That was in 1997 at my Mountain and I was unsure about the I.D. then. No zoom!

It’s mid-Autumn; at last the nights and mornings have turned cold.

The slow combustion fire warms me at night; the sight of Autumn mists rising from the valley warms my spirit of a morning.

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The dew and the sunshine cause even the electric fence and the wretched Setaria grass to take on beauty.

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I am rarely quick enough to catch the occasional grazing wallaby who is still out in these misty mornings. The rabbits are even more occasional and usually even quicker to leap away, but I managed to snap this one, looking for all the world as if he’d hopped out of the pages of a Beatrix Potter story.

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I am very happy for this handsome fellow to eat the grass; so far I have only found evidence of unwanted nibbling on the lettuces, sorrel and parsley.

Beatrix observed that lettuces have a soporific effect on rabbits like the Flopsy Bunnies, but I am yet to find a snoozing rabbit in the garden.

Nature rewards

May 4, 2015
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Last year the Nature Conservation Council awarded me their Dunphy Award (link to ‘Nature wins’). With it came a prize donated by Crystal Creek Meadows of a two-night stay in their beautiful Kangaroo Valley eco-resort.  It has many laudable and genuine eco aspects and projects, and from the guest books, many appreciative and loyal fans.  I […]

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Beeps and bites

April 21, 2015
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Last Sunday, April 19, hundreds of small groups of people parked their vehicles at staggered spots along 2000kms of the Newell and Pacific Highways. They were forming the longest anti-CSG protest ever. Amazingly, it all came about in three short weeks of Facebook frenzy. I had made a reconnaissance trip a few days earlier and […]

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 Pigeon profusion

April 11, 2015
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At my old Mountain I was delighted as the White-headed Pigeon population that occasionally visited grew to eight. They would visit my ridge from the rainforest gullies that pleated my Mountain’s sides. Here I am even more blessed. The remnant rainforest along the creek includes some large Camphor Laurels. No blessing, except that the White-headed […]

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Horse Houdini

April 3, 2015
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The other Saturday night Nature gave us what used to be known as ‘a dump’: 150mm of rain in one storm. The sight that greeted me in the morning showed we’d had a lot of rain even before I checked the rain gauge, which overflows after 150mm, so we may have had more. The little […]

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