Winter blooms

Kind of creepily flesh-like, with its pairs of pointy-toed pink ‘legs’ and that gaping orifice;  kind of disgustingly gooey, with those red wet lumps, which yet are almost like the secretions of raw wounds.

The pink fleshy stems add to the plant or animal dilemma (hence the ‘phalloid’ species). But the ‘yuck’ factor increases at this stage of its life, as its spore-slime glistens in the centres, like faecal flowers.

And indeed, from a distance, these fungi do look like red flowers scattered amongst the grass in the paddock. But flies, not bees, are attracted to that brown goo by the ‘rotting meat odour’ of this stinkhorn fungi, Asero? rubra,  commonly called Red Starfish, for obvious reasons. The flies obligingly carry away some spores on their feet to deposit elsewhere and spread the species.

Interestingly, this was the first fungus recorded for Australia, collected by Labillardière in 1792 beside Recherche Bay in Tasmania. He named it for its stellar shape, so why not Astero?? Typo?

The paddock is also blooming with lilac, or mauve if you prefer, in the brief beauty of this fungus before it fades to beige.

It is also plentiful.

My winter wildflower meadow is a wild fungi paddock.

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.

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!

Building for babies

This Spring the Welcome Swallows and the Willy Wagtails have both chosen to raise their families on my verandah.

The Willy Wagtails built a tidy and solid new nest, a smooth cylinder of cobwebs and grass and bodily fluids.

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The slack Swallows just re-used the old one; didn’t even shore up the crumbling structure, just did an interior makeover with more feathers.

But at least two of the Swallow babies survived and flew and still kept returning to the nest area as home base.

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When the Willy Wagtail decided hers was good enough, she sat. And sat. A rare occasion for the hyperactive Wagtail to be still long enough for me to get a photo.

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When she sat less often, I waited for the first peeps, but heard none. Compared to Swallow babies, these are quiet — just bundles of fluff and beak, huddled together in a tiny nest.

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There look to be four of them, as yet far less handsome than their dapper parents. They are all keen to be ready for a feed when a parent appears.

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The parents are kept frantically busy, catching food and returning to feed one chick at a time, putting their own beak right down the chick’s throat.

At this rate they’ll outgrow that nest very soon…

October storms

September was wet enough, but appropriately gentle.

October is delivering its rain in tropical tantrums, with sunshowers and rainbows and start-stop deluges.

This double rainbow appeared on the very first day of the month, to announce how things were going to be.

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A week later and we were treated to another fulsome beauty. Sadly, no pot of gold has ever been found by me, however hard I’ve looked.

The plants love the frequent drinks — not that they need extra encouragement to grow here. Weeds like dock are over my head already.

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This wallaby approves of the state of my ‘lawn’ at least.

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The swallow family don’t seem to mind being alternatively drenched and baked. Like me, they have to make the best of what the gods deliver…

Another day in Paradise

The end of a Spring day when the sun is still setting north of west brings the last of the light low over my ridge’s shoulder. 
It finds the far escarpment and paints it gold.

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The wallabies have been in clover — literally — as Spring has sprung with flushes of flowers on welcome plants and weeds alike.

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Birds arrive that I have not regularly seen here, to feed on blossoms and seed heads. Lorikeets hang upside-down in the callistemons, galahs waddlle through the yet unmown grass, beaks full of booty.

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Under the verandah roof the swallows are nestbuilding, perhaps even eggsitting by now, so this hopeful kookaburra keeps perching on the nearest star post.

The swallow parents divebomb his head relentlessly; he just keeps ducking. When they occasionally connect, he flinches, wobbles slightly, refluffs his feathers — and stays put.

Morning glories

Spring is here, with welcome rain freshening the creek, which had slowed and dropped alarmingly.

Having only one tank here, when I used to have four, is nerve-wracking.

Nights are still cool enough for a fire, and mornings are bright and crisp.

Not so crisp as to make me want to stay in bed, however. I am happy that the light is waking me up earlier, so sunrises are back on my radar.

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Dews are heavy of a morning, bringing endless varieties of bejewelled webbing designs.

The grand she-oaks are especially favoured, with one branch bearing an unusual flag-shaped web.

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The small Acacia Baileyana wattle that I planted only months ago had not been forgotten. 

It hasn’t flowered yet, but who needs flowers when you have strings of pearls?

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.

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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.

Winter birds

A yellow Robin has appeared, flicking itself from one bush or tree or tree guard to another, more like a wind-blown leaf than a bird in flight.

It stays still in any one place for such a short time that it’s hard to get a photo of it. When it lands on the ground you only see its grey back. Usually I see one on its own but I have now spotted two at the same time, although you wouldn’t say they were together.

It appears not to have the grey throat of the illustration in my book, so although on its past seasonal visits I’ve called it a Southern Yellow Robin, now I’m not sure. Could it be a Pale Yellow Robin?

Then one time I heard it make a sound it sat on a small bare tree and went ’ ding, ding, ding, ding,ding, ding…’, non-stop, unvarying, sounding like my Thai temple bell in a stiff breeze.

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The magpies and the kookaburras are still about in abundance, although, like this kooka, they get in a huff at all the windy weather we’ve been having. I love the way to kookas go all punk and fluffily fat to keep warm.

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Of course the most envied critters here on cold wintry days are the pouched babies…

Morning gold

It is chilly of a morning, tempting to stay cosy under the comforting weight of the blankets — and yes, I still use woollen blankets, not doonas.

Well, those blankets just haven’t worn out, some even after 45 years, as my wedding present Onkaparinga apple green one is. My frugality dictates that until they do, I’m not replacing them.

As regular readers know, I love sunrises. I have mattress height windows facing north-east, so a gently glowing one like this was more than enough to get me to throw back the covers and rush for coat and camera to share it with you.

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Even when there are few clouds to cause a real riot, I appreciate the subtleties and the purity of the colours.

The sun itself is rising further to the east, so to the right of the photo, behind my forest.

Down here at my cabin it is barely out of darkness.

But I’m out of bed, and I will stay up. Put the kettle on, turn on Radio National — let the day begin!

Summer Surprises

After so much rain, the early summer heat is encouraging growth and blossoming and inviting birds and bees to sample the offerings.
It doesn’t seem to bother the plants that this heat alternates erratically with chilly mornings and nights.

And of course these are all plants blessed by being despised by my munching macropods!

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My most spectacular summer surprise is always the clump of Spider Lilies. From nothing they arch forth their broad straps of leaves and then their extravagantly designed flowers, trailing enticing scarves of white and extending shamelessly come-hither stamens.

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A close second are the Lilliums, heading for the sky afresh each summer and making at least two metres before they trumpet their bunches of elegant bells.

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Far less showy but making up for this lack in abundance is the Lilli-Pilli shrub, much loved by a world of insects. Who would miss Spring with such annual Summer surprises? It’s always incredible to me that these plants resurrect themselves, unaided and unreminded, every year.