Autumn ‘B’ treats

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?

Corona colours

As we are well into Autumn, I’d expect to be celebrating those ‘autumnal’ tones, but really only scattered parts of the Virginia Creeper are showing them. The warm weather is keeping most of it green.

It is the same with the Glory Vine that has given me such wonderful green summer shade… and still is, although I no longer want or need it.

While I wait for real Autumn, in my Corona home isolation I have been harvesting, using and preserving Summer. These colours are more in the autumn palette…

The last of my non-acidic yellow tomatoes slowly ripen on my kitchen window sill, while below them my sauerkraut quietly ferments.

Bean pods dry to brown and rattle with seeds for next summer’s crop.

My crop of about 60 Butternut Pumpkins was always within the colour range but my choko vine has produced its vivid green fruits in abundance, despite the season.

I make do with these indoor colours in a time of Corona and queer seasons. I will look for other colours outdoors to symbolise this time… 

Colour chemistry

Here on the coast, we lack the crispness to create stunning avenues of Autumn colour as in the Southern Highlands or Canberra.

But my Glory Vine, or Ornamental Grape, does its best. It has been moving with me via cuttings from the Mountain original. It colours differently here, but then our Autumns are not the same under global warming. Mid-day is still too warm here.

Despite the stunning cyclamen pinks and burgundies of leaves up close, surprisingly, overall it creates a more orange effect, as the still green leaves mingle with their fellows further along towards their deciduously bare winter fate.

Here’s an explanation of the colour change process from the ’www.sciencemadesimple.com’ site: 

‘During winter, there is not enough light or water for photosynthesis. The trees will rest, and live off the food they stored during the summer. They begin to shut down their food-making factories. The green chlorophyll disappears from the leaves.

‘As the bright green fades away, we begin to see yellow and orange colors. Small amounts of these colors have been in the leaves all along. We just can’t see them in the summer, because they are covered up by the green chlorophyll.

‘The bright reds and purples we see in leaves are made mostly in the fall. In some trees, like maples, glucose is trapped in the leaves after photosynthesis stops. Sunlight and the cool nights of autumn cause the leaves turn this glucose into a red color.

‘The brown color of trees like oaks is made from wastes left in the leaves.’

Veins of green chlorophyll amongst mottlings of the other pigments like the carotenoids, responsible for the oranges, with the subclass xanthophyll responsible for the yellows and the sugar-making anthocyanin favouring the reds.

A chemical riot!

Winter warmth

I am sorry to see the last of the Glory Vine’s red leaves preparing to drop and join the colourful drifts along the verandah edges.

But the little maple trees are taking up the Autumn baton from them.

At my last home, the Liquid Ambers were the light sources of dull winter days, but here does not seem cold enough for them to really glow.

Instead the Maples, not even as tall as me yet, are showing off vivid vermillion stems flushing into their buttery leaves.

And most welcome of all in winter are my citrus fruit trees, especially the perfect miniature, ornamentally shaped and coloured and deliciously sweet (skin) and tart (flesh) all at once, my Nagami cumquat.

Shaped by land

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.

Shading to infinity

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.

Autumn visitor

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?

Post-deluge frogs

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 had become so dry that small native trees were dying, citrus were turning up their toes, my creek had stopped running and its isolated pools were becoming stagnant. 

But from January 2 we’ve now totted up nearly 15 inches!

These brief but astonishingly intense autumn rainbursts make a joke of my carefully planned drainage systems, with pop-up waterfalls taking much of my soil down to the creekflats below. 

They have filled and overfilled the ‘pond’ that has been bone dry for months.

Up close, they looked more like aquatic mini rats, with their pointy noses and long tails.

Next day they seemed to be less often swimming under the water than hanging from the surface vertically, blowing bubbles, opening and closing their mouths in air. 

Clearly not fish nor rats but growing amphibians… froglets, frogs, soon to be adding to the frog chorus here!

Autumn mornings

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.

autumn-2

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

autumn-3

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.

autumn-4

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.

Season of contrasts

Autumn, my favourite season, when crisp sunny days contrast with fire-warmed nights.  Taking a photo of the glory vine’s red leaves, it struck me that my roof embodies the contrasts inherent in my life here.

Here I sit in the midst of constantly surprising, stunning natural beauty, and yet just look at my roof, bristling with the technological and mechanical facilitators of my civilised life.

Left to right: mobile phone aerial, NBN broadband satellite dish, hot water tank, roof vent, slow combustion wood heater chimney, slow combustion wood stove chimney (half-hidden), and digital TV dish.

contrast-2

Then there’s the contrast of the temperature being cool enough to fire up the leaves of the Chinese Tallow tree, but also to stoke the solar panels with energy.

contrast-3

And not least, that while it’s cool enough for me to be constantly running a totally banked-down wood fire to keep the cabin cosy, the red-bellied black snakes are still  actively getting about their business of food-finding — not in my woodpile, please!

Home pleasures

I am wallowing in the daily delights of my mountain, after too long away. Tassie is a permanent seductress for me, but so is home.

Even the wet days have been a treat, as I am snug and warm in the cabin, with the slow combustion fire on and banked right down. The mud brick walls hold the heat beautifully.

Being thus confined to the cabin and verandah is hardly a visual penance either, since the Glory Vine’s vibrant pinks and reds light up my once-green living blinds, while the wisteria’s slow pale gold and its ‘beanpod’ seeds interweave with the backlit evergreens.

home-13-2

And I noticed that the grape ivy had neatly knotted itself around my Thai temple bell!

home-13-3

Having more ‘free’ time between talks this year, if you don’t count doing EIS submissions, has meant I have been able to begin to tackle the long-neglected jobs here.

My outdoor pit toilet is now a visible building again, relieved of its overwhelming burden of honeysuckle (see my ‘Heady honeysuckle’
post of three years ago).

I was forced to this task because the little tank, whose tap I use for hand washing, was suddenly empty. Apart from smothering the whole shed, the vine’s fine roots had choked the gutter, the downpipe and the tank sieve entry.

It’s uncharacteristically neat now, and warmer of an autumn morning, as the sun can find the tin wall.

home-13-4

Natives can be spectacularly autumn-coloured too, except in reverse, as the new leaves of this Lilli-Pilli show.

Home is where…

I’m loving being home for a spell, especially as the weather is so beautifully verging on Autumn.

Here it’s green and fresh and clear and the wallabies and I are fully appreciating it! All the ‘garden’ trees, like the Chinese Tallow Tree, look happy.

home-2

For some reason the Lemon Ti-Tree is only flowering on one of the two main branches, the western one. This tree self-sowed in a potplant in one of my too-many inner Sydney rented homes (as a tenant, not a landlord!). Like me, it is thriving much better up here.

home-3

home-4

Its widely spreading branches offer the wallabies a choice of sun and shade during the day and they take full advantage of it. I have wondered if the lemon-scented leaves, when brushed against, give them any flea protection? They spend a lot of time de-fleaing themselves — and each other.