Bush bash

Recently I held a party. My mountain often being inaccessible, I chose to have my do in the next best bush place I know: The Old Brush.
oldbrush
Surrounded by forested ridges, it’s a green valley floor with man-made lagoons, rainforest borders, shady seats and quirky statuary – like Woodhenge. Kangaroos graze and birds abound.

It’s a small paradise that the owners are generous enough to share with the bushwalking and picnicking public.
brush cabin
Robert BignellRobert and Gail Bignell are friends, originally met when I interviewed Robert for an Owner Builder magazine story about his charming handmade bush cabin.

A professional photographer, that day Robert snuck a picture of me which later became the author photo for my book.

It had rained for weeks and continued on the party day—until the marquee and tarps had been erected beside the guest cabin down by the dam.

Then the sun came out and stayed out till the stars took over. A slightly boggy good time was apparently had by all—I left them to it at 3am—and Robert made a DVD to remind me that although I officially turned 60 I had fun doing it.

sharynDVD

These are some of his photos. More on The Old Brush web site.

Just another animal

kangaroos
houdini ponyWhen I feed the horses I have to tie them up so the greedy ones don’t annoy the others.

The worst is the little one, Shari, who’ll pick up the rim of the rubber bucket with her teeth and drag it away from a bigger horse, or just muscle in with her shaggy head.

I tie her up outside my house fence, just above the small dam.

There are often animals drinking there or feeding around the bank, like this family of Eastern Grey kangaroos.

Even if I’m going crook on Shari — a common occurrence — or calling the other horses to come, they remain undisturbed at the noise.

I warrant a brief interruption, a look — but oh, it’s only her — and they resume grazing. Human or horse: it’s just another animal.

By the way, anyone fancy a small fat pony, cute but cunning, and with Houdini abilities?

Angophora camping

Between Christmas and New Year the Suzuki and I and a friend went camping in the Goulburn River National Park.

The camp site itself was far more civilised than I’d expected: mown grass around moss-capped and lichen-patinaed rocks emerging at different levels in best landscaping style, under beautiful big angophora trees that leant and twisted over all.

campsite

There were even fireplaces, tables and a pit toilet that was almost as good as mine except that it had a door, so no view!

Unfortunately the river was in high brown flood, with quite large casuarinas laid flat in its current. No chance of swimming.

I was expecting this camping experience to be like at my place only more primitive and by a river, but I had to adjust to the fact that it was actually more public, for other people came and camped under the angophoras, not really close by, but even so I felt crowded!

angophora

But the surrounding bush offered much to look at, not least the erratic but amazingly intense blooming of the angophoras, with their clouds of clotted cream blossom on arching or drooping branches.

Food and fun

dandenong forest

poodle

Sharyn&AnneWhile in Victoria I spent an amusing few hours on a community radio (3MDR) show with host Ann Creber. This dynamic pixie of a woman also hosted me for several days at her home, which she shares with husband David, two large poodles, Nina and Georgie, and hundreds of antique dishes and pots and pans — props for her food photography styling — plus more modern gear for menu testing as well as cooking for her ‘Whispers of Provence’ lines of preserves, jams and vinegars.

Rose petal vinegar was in process, the petals collected from Ann’s wonderfully wild Dandenongs garden, where natives like fern trees and giant mountain ash eucalypts happily share the slopes with oaks and birches, lawn daisies and buttercups, foxgloves and heritage roses.

At the bottom of the garden she keeps alpacas, ducks and chooks. And I can vouch for the quality of Ann’s omelettes.

Being a professional foodie, Ann gets invited to cookbook launches like the one she took me to, somewhere posh, high above the heart of Melbourne. It was for a truly beautiful book called Turquoise by Ann’s friends, Lucy & Greg Malouf. Published by Hardie Grant, it’s as much Turkish travelogue as recipe book; the photographs are stunning.

The gathering included the sort of glitterati and fashion followers that you just don’t see in a country town. I was gawking unashamedly as I scoffed whatever vegetarian offerings passed by on platters carried by extremely aloof young men.

Preston market

The other Victorian food treat was a visit to Preston Markets, where people of every colour and culture mingle around shops and stalls offering every imaginable type of produce.

They even have a wine stall, where you can refill your ceramic stoppered glass bottles! Now that’s civilised.

Clearly not everyone found the experience as fascinating as I did.

I came back to NSW determined to use more fresh dill as well as mint and parsley in my Middle Eastern concoctions, to have another go at keeping the possums off my roses, and wishing we had more migrants in our Hunter Valley towns! Woollies just doesn’t compare as a sensory shopping treat.

Meet Glenn Albrecht

I’ve added a new link to bring Glenn Albrecht’s blog healthearth to your notice. It’s a treat as he’s a lyrical eco-philosopher. On it he writes commentary, eco-poems and eco-song lyrics — with apologies where due to such as Peter Garrett and Bob Dylan.

Glenn is also Associate Professor in Environmental Studies at the University of Newcastle.

I first knew him as the inventor of the term ‘solastalgia’, which describes the homesickness you feel when you are still at home, as your once familiar, thought-to-be forever landscape is changed abruptly and beyond your power to control.

This has happened with the massive Hunter open cut coalmines, but applies to other disasters like hurricanes, that we once called ‘natural’.

With the increasing climate chaos caused by us, I no longer use that term.

Chatting with Charles

cwooley.jpg

Early in May Charles Wooley interviewed me for his national radio program, ‘Across Australia’, about my book, The Woman on the Mountain. He was in Tasmania, I was on my NSW mountain, with only the still-incomprehensible wonder of the telephone linking us.

Yet he was so in tune with my book’s many layers and main themes, and so warm and funny, that it felt like we were sitting here on my verandah – just chatting. Sympatico – must be the Scottish connection!

NB: We’re having a few technical problems with the download below. Will be back with a fix asap.

You can download an MP3 audio of the interview here [1.6Mb].

You will need Quicktime to listen. It is free and downloadable here.

Of love and death

ken.jpg

Watching someone you love dying slowly, even if painlessly, is hard. I’ve been away from the Mountain for five days, keeping my friend Emily company at her husband Ken’s deathbedside as he shrank to a pale husk, incredibly breathing on, despite running on empty.

Talk about Aussie battlers!

I’d known Ken Donald for 40 years, had been at their first wedding in 1970 – Miss Sunshine marries dour Scot. Yes, I said ‘first’, because the marrriage didn’t last very long that time, despite each declaring ever after that they never stopped loving the other.

Life happened to them separately for 30 years, but they re-found each other recently. When they came to my Mountain for a weekend, as a couple they were the most romantic I’d ever seen, despite being well into what many would consider as advanced years (70s & 60s).

They re-married in December 2006, in an extremely poignant ‘shotgun’ wedding. For Ken had been diagnosed with cancer.

They had no idea just how very advanced it was, but they only managed a week of married life at home before he was hospitalised. And there he stayed. He’d given up smoking a decade ago, but those bloody Rothmans had done their work by then.

Read moreOf love and death