Hearing a new bird call, I searched the trees in my back yard. The call was familiar, yet not one I’d heard for some time.
It was a monotonous repeated call, the sort that might drive you crazy.
I located its maker, a lone Koel, unmistakable visually even if I’d momentarily forgotten which bird makes that sound: ‘koo-eel, koo-eel’ ad nauseam.
Its blue-black plumage, long shapely tail and red eyes mark it as a male Koel. And its arrival means the borders are open, as this migratory bird comes south from New Guinea from September onwards. It likes our humid coastal areas and rainforest fringes.
Part of the Cuckoo family, it shares the typical ‘parasitic’ habit of getting other birds to raise their Koel young by placing their eggs in a host’s nest.
So the Koel need not build its own nest, and has time to perch in people’s yards and announce that Spring is here and the borders are open!
I can no longer keep up my griping about Spring being a harbinger of Summer… the blooms are too beautiful. I can gripe about a Spring day of 30 degrees, as we had yesterday!
My Wisteria had been threatening to bring down the carport with its vigour, but a severe winter pruning has removed risk and delivered these dainty droops of lilac.
My purple Eriostemon shrub is the current native performer.
But mostly it is the English cottage garden stalwarts that are responding to Spring, albeit confusedly.
Like the May bush (Spirea), arching gracefully over my fence with masses of blossoms of the purest of white. In its northern hemisphere home, it would flower in May of course.
One native that would not look amiss in a cottage garden is the bountiful Seaside Daisy (Erigeron). Its happy little faces and its generous spillovers always make me smile.
As do the raggedy blooms of this Crépuscule rose that I am training to grow along my verandah railings; their sunny buds of deep apricot to egg yolk yellow, and paler simple flowers with their golden centres give me joy throughout much of the year. An 1864 variety, it is evergreen, fragrant, uncomplicated and honest!
I am not in the right climate for roses, but to have my old favourites around me, I will persevere.
As the orchids have been flowering over winter, they do not fill me with foreboding. Especially when bedecked with post-rain diamonds, I love seeing them outside my study window.
Not so the too-early signs of Spring, like the Ornamental Grape Vine, shooting and blossoming already. For after Spring comes Summer. Both are associated for me — and for many others — with heat and bushfires.
I love the fragrance of Freesias. I try not to regret their ephemeral nature or their harbinger of Summer status and wish hard that they naturalise here. In general bulbs do not seem to flourish in this sub-tropical climate, whereas at the Mountain they were my annual treat, great clumps of them coming up all through the lawn, untouched by the wallabies.
The little Cumquat trees offer both a visual and taste treat; I pick one bright globe and eat it every morning after I visit my Frogmouth friends. This Nagami variety has a sweet skin and tart flesh, so you get both sensations as you bite into it.
The lavender too cannot be blamed for blooming so profusely, and the bees love it for doing so in a winter short of flowers.
Who can resist sweet-smelling Freesias and Lavender? I quash my forebodings… begone doom and gloom, for the moment… and enjoy small vases of them about the house. Inhale. Smile.
Every morning I go out to check on my Frogmouth residents. They were not there the last two days and I fretted that they had left me. But no, they are back today, and not cuddled together as was usual. Is it warmer?
As I greeted them, one fixed me with its golden eye while its mate began assuming the broken branch pose. ‘I am not here’.
‘Don’t worry’, I assured them. ‘You are safe here, so please don’t go elsewhere for good!’
On my early mornings checks of the yard, I often see the intact wonders of overnight webweaving. I think this quite raggedy one on the Native Finger Lime may have its weaver at the centre? Better eyesight than mine must decide.
The maker of this more symmetrical circular web on the Acacia perangusta must be hiding amongst its leaves and blossoms.
Not having as much wildlife as I had at the Mountain, I treasure each and every creature… great and small.
This garden bed may look like one big mess, when in fact it is a cornucopia of gifts that ensure I will have ongoing vegetables and herbs to pick and eat.
All I have to do is allow the plants to live their full life span, to get long and leggy, flower and go to seed. Like the beautiful blue borage, ringed by new plants, like toddlers around their mother’s skirts. These I will dig up and plant as a border elsewhere.
My favourite salad green is rocket, (left) so I depend on these tall and healthy plants providing next summer’s crop.
Last summer’s lettuce (right) was allowed to be so straggly it fell over, but not before scattering its tiny seeds. So here are its progeny, to be picked as thinnings as they grow.
I could not eat enough of the Asian greens I planted, so most will have to be dug in as green manure, but a few will grace the garden with their yellow posies until I am sure of the next crop being bestowed on my garden, wherever their seeds choose to fall.
The Cos lettuce flowers are not showy, but the sole surviving plant, a veritable Leaning Tower of Cos, is cherished for its anticipated contribution to my table.
And this mass of Continental Parsley is the result of just one seeding plant last year. I should have thinned them, but instead I revel in the lushness, harvest them in great handfuls and treat them as a green vegetable. You can’t have enough parsley!
At least I can’t.
And all free… you just have to not mind a lack of order, of straight rows of plants.
I’m writing this post wearing my hat as a longtime member of The Bimblebox Alliance Inc., whose mission is to save the Bimblebox Nature Refuge in Central Queensland from coal. As you all know, I lived in a remote dedicated Wildlife Refuge for decades, so I am especially appalled at the idea of Coal instead of Nature.
The threat to Bimblebox is now imminent, as Clive Palmer’s Waratah Coal Company has applied for two of the last QLD government requirements for its huge Galilee Coal Project.
The Bimblebox Alliance Inc. will fight these applications in the QLD Land Court, alongside Youth Verdict, standing up for their human rights. The Environmental Defenders Office will provide legal services.
We have now had our first day in Court, at the Directions Hearing on 19th June. The battle begins in earnest.
But we need your help to carry it through. Please visit our Chuffed campaign, watch my video, read our story, find out what we need these funds for right now, give what you can – and share!
As well as the global warming impact of its approved 40mtpa of coal, this mine would destroy the almost 8000ha of Bimblebox, a living green woodland ark in a largely cleared region.
Paola Cassoni, Bimblebox Alliance President, and co-owner of Bimblebox, has been in lockdown in northern Italy, caught while visiting her elderly parents in February. So Bimblebox Alliance members like me have had to act here. Having seen too many places destroyed for coal, I cannot contemplate the rich natural treasures of Bimblebox becoming another wasteland.
Our wildlife need all the habitat they have left. Our grandchildren need all the help we can give to stop warming their planet!
As the ornamental grape has lost all its lovely pink leaves, I tackled the pruning of its woody infrastructure, always a little trepidatiously, but knowing from experience that it will shoot even more vigorously if I prune it hard.
And besides, the best cuttings are good for striking more plants, and the bulk of them dry to make good kindling for the fire.
But not everyone was pleased by the removal. A few grasshoppers lost their hiding places, and this lone butterfly seemed quite upset as more and more of the thin twiggy veil was cut away.
Then it landed on the railing and stayed so still for so long I worried it was stunned somehow.
It has the unfortunate name of the Common Eggfly. Most unfair for such a pretty and dainty creature. And if it’s common in general, being found from the Torres Strait and Northern Australia all the way to Sydney, it’s the only one here!
When it did fly off, it seemed agitated, fluttering in and out of the remaining vine. Had it laid eggs there?
Autumn didn’t quite get its act together here before the end of May. But come the first really cold days (relatively, in this climate at least) the season got the signal and the grapevine leaves really came into their colours. It’s not called ‘Glory Vine’ for nothing.
I relish the changes in deciduous vines like this, more spectacularly bright when backlit, but the external deeper reds and burgundies of the living curtain are also a visual pleasure.
Then came wintry cold winds and most of the glory ended up on the verandah, swept into the garden as a pink carpet.
But now the Crepe Myrtles have the idea and are colouring up for me in turn. These are almost as pretty as a Persimmon tree in Autumn … and given I don’t like Persimmons, smarter for me to plant.
The two varieties (white and mauve flowering) are offering me different tones and variegations, as well as rates of colouring. Position, perhaps?
No matter how much I love our native plants, I am also allowed to love these introduced showoffs, even if they are somewhat confused by the seasons. After all, in this warming world, the seasons themselves are confused.
So are humans, given what and who are masquerading as leaders in too many countries.
It’s wise for me to focus on the natural world instead…
As the days remain cool and the nights even more so, I am beginning to trust that Autumn is here to stay. No more bursts of summer heat to wilt or scorch seedlings with unexpected ferocity.
It also means I can justify lighting my Thermalux wood heater/stove… and I can bake bread the way I used to at the Mountain. My loaves are heavy with oats and rye, maize and spelt flours, mixed and kneaded Tassajara-style, crunchy with millet, sunflower, sesame and pumpkin seeds. They are satisfying on so many levels, including the visual, so Bread is my first Autumn photographic treat to share.
The next has to be Birds.
Apart from my Frogmouth couple, I have an indoor trio that give me pleasure every day, especially of an afternoon when they are sunlit. This is a particularly Autumn treat because only now is the sunshine welcome rather than to be shunned, curtained out.
The biggest is a perfectly balanced rocking bird from a woodworker’s gallery in Fish Creek, Victoria; its small adoring friend is a piece of driftwood I have had for decades, and the gay little lead light wren perched in an antique wick surround was made by my clever and creative sister Colleen.
Not that I have forgotten the outside Birds; I visit daily to see how they are, but as the nights have grown colder they huddle so closely and fluff up their feathers so fatly and fully that their heads are hidden. Their tree sways in these Autumn winds but they remain unmoved, asleep and snugly side-by-side.
The third B was a surprise. As the Buddleia and most of the salvias are finishing their flowering, I see less butterflies. But after visiting the Frogmouths I spotted this sole Butterfly on the Geisha Girl blossoms. It was fluttering and flitting too fast and frequently to photograph it, but then it flew onto the verandah and simply settled on the leaves. Unmoving. Resting?
I think it is an Australian Gull (Cepra perimale scyllara) although I fail to see the gull likeness that may have caused it to be so named. Can you?
It’s no secret that I love Tawny Frogmouths. Every day now I go out to look up into the bottlebrush tree and and see if my two new visitors are still there. They have been sitting well apart, and are mostly just visible as two blobs amongst the branches. Only one can really be seen in the dense foliage.
And he/she can see me, as this rather annoyed look shows. ‘So what you gawping at?!’
Or is it ‘Can’t a bird get some decent sleep around here?’
Most of the time they seem to take up the same separate positions on the branch each day, and sleep the warm days away.
I have seen them described as ‘grotesque’ but to me they are beautiful in a unique and characterful way.
Who could resist those softly patterned feathers, such clever camouflage that they can simply nap in view all day, unlike other night birds like owls?
Or that prominent tuft above the beak, which always impresses me as long eyelashes, although unromantically described as ‘bristles’ in my bird book
Then, after one especially cold night, early next morning when I went to check, I found them snuggled up together, feathers fatly fluffed. And so they stayed all day. My very cool couple, keeping warm.