Moonset morning

There is something absolutely pure about the white orb of a full moon, even though I know it’s a great lump of pitted rock and dust.

I’m not sure that I wanted to know or that the knowledge has done mankind any good. I think the money for the space projects would have been better spent down here on poor old earth.

But when I wake up and see that perfect globe still hanging up there above my pink-flushed morning skyline, I can imagine it still holds all the mystery and magical powers that it used to.

The softness of she-oaks

Some consider the Australian bush harsh. Even in my rich mountain forests, there are areas where the dry furrowed bark of big stringybark trees dominate, with only bare ground and rocks, sticks and dry leaves beneath.

But it cannot be called harsh where she-oaks of any sort grow. These trees, properly called casuarinas, have what appear to be delicate bunches of slender drooping leaves.

Only they are virtually leafless, with the ‘leaves’ reduced to small teeth or scales arranged around the branchlets that we see as leaves.

The red she-oak timber, once used for shingles, is now prized for cabinetry. Most of the casuarina family burn with great heat and were in demand for bakers’ ovens.

But for me the standing trees have greatest value, rain or shine, for they grace the bush with their elegance, filter sunlight like fine lace, and turn raindrops into diamonds.
she-oak raindrops

Bangladeshi coal battle

We in the Hunter Valley think we have problems with the coal companies wrecking communities and lifestyles with their spreading, polluting coalmines.

Last week I heard a far worse tale, from Bangladeshi coal and climate change activist and economics Professor, Anu Muhammad, on an Aidwatch speaking tour.

Proposals such as the Phubari Coal Project, in a heavily populated, intensively farmed and very wet delta region, are obviously disastrous for the people and the environment, and make no economic sense – and yet they get the backing of so-called humanitarian institutions like the Asia Development Bank.

Australia is heavily involved in this, both as proposer and backer.

We didn’t pull the triggers on the guns that in 2006 fired on the 50,000 people protesting against the mine, but we are as responsible for the resulting deaths and injuries.

As we will be for the forced relocation of 50,000-150,000 people and the environmental vandalism.

Bush rat babies

For weeks I’d been trying to find and block every hole where a bush rat had been getting into my cabin.

It tunnelled anew under the rock and cement footings each night. It gnawed plastic, seeds, photo albums and – unforgivably – books.

It had to go. I borrowed a live trap big enough to take the critter I saw race along the same rafter each night.

The friend lent me two so I set them both, using apple spread with peanut butter as ‘bait’.

Next morning I had two mini bush rats – ‘it’ must have been a ‘she’.

Quite cute for rats, but nevertheless they were relocated.

The next day I caught Mum. I was heading to Sydney that day so she rode with me to the spot where the kids had been ejected.

So for the next few days in the city it was not only the dried mud on the Suzi but the rat cage in the back that gave us away as bushies.

Library nursery

wasp nest
My little cabin is lined where possible with bookshelves, unfortunately only one of which has glazed doors. They are all tightly packed. I need more house for more walls for more bookshelves.

If I haven’t disturbed a section of the open shelves for a while, it often happens that when I go to extract a book, it resists.

More determined tugging brings forth not only the book but a shower of dried mud and small spiders – or perhaps fat grubs.

For wasps like books too. They sandwich the tops together with a mud honeycomb of egg chambers, sealing within each a stunned spider for the larvae to eat when they hatch.

Clever, yes, but pretty disgusting for the would-be reader.

Autumn again

It’s hard to believe that a year has passed since I began this blog, but the leaves were definitely turning and falling in those first photos.

I was reminded of this the other day when I saw a crimson rosella clearly visible amongst the thinning vine cover on the verandah in front of me, where before they’d been peeping out from a densely green and then red leafy curtain.

The querulous poses it was adopting were as clear as its presence: ‘So where’s the tucker??’


It’s autumn, but it feels like winter. There’s a cool wind blowing. I’m walking through the damp forest early this morning, with the sun only reaching small patches here and there.

I need to keep my eyes on the narrow wallaby track so I don’t trip over the many fallen branches, but a brightness up the hill draws my attention.

In the pool of sunlight allowed by a small clearing, a wallaby mum and her teenage joey are propped, sunsoaking, sunspotlit – almost incandescent in contrast to the surrounding dark forest of fire-blackened stringybarks.

Bright new day

Cabinbound for a week, the day the rain stopped I went for a walk. After so much greyness, the bush seemed overly bright, the colours heightened like pebbles under water.

Everything was still very wet, but there was nothing drab under this fresh new light. Even the soggy leaf litter was bright red, not brown, as were the trunks of saplings and the splits in fire-blackened bark.

big fungus

In one small area of tussock grass and bracken, bright orange fungi had sprung up. Thick and bold, they ranged in size from a fifty cent coin to over a foot long – that’s my gumbooted foot next to it.

saffron milk cap

Searching my new fungi book (thanks Fred!) and a few fungi web sites, it sounds like I have to go back and cut one to be sure. But they could be Saffron Milk Caps — if they ooze milk.

I’m getting as fascinated by fungi as I am by clouds.

I discovered Gaye, a real fungi-lover, coincidentally in the Hunter, at her great blog.

May power play

This year I went to my first May Day Rally. It was held at Darling Harbour because that’s where the Labor conference was. And there was one particular agenda item that had us all up in arms: the sell-off of our state electricity industry.

Unionist placards and flags were almost equalled by the Greens flags and triangles, and the message on all was similar: `No power sell-off’. Shouted chants focused on the charming Mr Costa whose scheme this is, and ranged from the universal `Costa out!” to the more radical `Give Costa the electric chair!’

Rather than the traditional street march, the crowd walked round and round that area of Darling Harbour to reinforce the message to Iemma and Costa.

No doubt they got it, and their conference voted seven to one against the proposal, but nevertheless they are ploughing on.

This is arrogant, but also seems a cowardly lack of leadership at a time when global warming makes it absolutely critical that we have control of how our power is generated and distributed.

Leafy treasure

leafy window
This small horizontal stained glass window was made years ago by a friend, Nigel, who was attending hobby classes. He proved very capable in the craft itself but not so on the design side.

I offered to do his designs if he made me a window to replace a cracked one on my western wall. I wanted to reduce the summer sun entry but still see out, hence the clear central oval.

This year, for the first time, the ornamental grape vine on my verandah had spread so vigorously along the side wall that it shaded my own viney window.

Now its autumn pinks and reds and latent greens are complementing and enhancing the leafy stained glass design in a double-take of twining colours and shapes. Unplanned and perfect.

Rosey harvest

rosellas on lawn
It’s easy to see when the predominant native grass in my `lawn’ is seeding, because the yard is taken over by a purposeful band of crimson rosellas.

They proceed en masse up the slope, through thin grass as tall as themselves.

Standing on one leg, each daintily grasps a seedhead stem with the claw of the other, bends it towards their beak and neatly strips it, rather as we’d munch sideways along a cob of corn.

The harvest appears organised and amicable: no crossing of territory, no debate about personal patches, not one squawk of protest.

It is a silent harvest, though highly visible, as the richness of their red and blue plumage turns my plain yard into a moving tapestry.
rosellas closeup