Ending at home

I am so glad to be home for the end of 2013. Since September we have all reeled from one Abbottrocity after another.

I need some peaceful time where the protected Nature here can make me briefly forget how much it is under attack elsewhere, like at Bimblebox.

at-home-2

So the camper is off the ute and the wallabies have reclaimed it as just another shelter.

at-home-3

In their usual fashion, the critters here step up their ownership levels if I am away too long. This time it’s the wretched possum.

He’s been taking the odd lemon but now he’s eating my oranges. They’re not ready but I’ll have to pick the lot anyway, or I’ll get none.

His most unwelcome habitation here not only means stains of possum pee on the ‘guest room’ ceiling, but I get no fruit. The parrots leave me enough not to mind their share, but with a possum about…

Not a single Nashi when normally I get hundreds, no peaches, no nectarines.

How I miss my possum-eating quoll.

at-home-5

at-home-4

I am grateful for the flowering plants that neither the wallabies nor the possums eat — so far — like the Chaste Tree, the hydrangeas and the waterlilies, but my fruit and vegies are for eating, for sustaining my life here.

So how about the vegies, you ask? Well, I found that the bush rat has burrowed under the vegie garden netting and uprooted large parsley plants and lettuces and gnawed the turnips.

All minor annoyances, I know, compared to what others are threatened with.

I can only hope that 2014 will see the awakening of more people to the permanent damage the Federal and state governments are doing to their people, the land and water, and the planet.

These ‘leaders’ have become so extreme and blatant that one can only hope they have enough rope to ………………

Bring on the next election.

Extremes

Two weeks ago I was preparing my place for bushfires; days were hot, the little dam had dropped to such an unprecedentedly low level that I was worried about the frogs and tortoises in there.

extremes-1

The grass was dry and unappetising and the wallabies and roos were jumping up to pull down even higher branches of my fruit trees.

extremes-3

Then we had about 10 inches of rain, with too-close-for-comfort thunder and lightning. The grass has greened up before my eyes.

Maybe the carpet of wallaby and roo pellets will begin to break down. The critters look rather bedraggled but they will soon dry out.

extremes-4

My track will be a slide event for some time as the hillsides are back to oozing water; good to see the water table replenished — and the dam.

Tree morning

It’s untypically dry here, even the short grass between the beige tussocks is brown. The air is smoky; the ever-forecast rain does not materialise.

I am mowing firebreaks, crew-cutting the tussocks and blady grass, mulching sticks and gum leaves as I go.

And I am pumping day and night (it’s a very slow but sturdy old pump) to fill my ridgetop tanks for possible fire duty.

Walking over to my springfed dam to fill the pump tank early one morning, I met the sun just coming over the ridge.

Its rays lit up the ti-trees that are now flowering most gracefully over there; they love the damp along the spring line.

tree-morning-2

As the sun rose, more of the forest began to be streaked with light and even the tussocks glowed. I thought again how much I love this blue gum forest, mostly regrowth yes, but its trees are as tall and straight and silky as their 50-60 years could make them.

They thrive here — as do I.

Back to basics

A couple of years before I was born, Irving Berlin wrote a song (used in the musical Annie Get Your Gun) whose words have stayed with me.

Or at least the chorus has: I got the sun in the morning and the moon at night and scraps of verses along the lines of 

Got no diamond got no pearl

Still think I’m a lucky girl

And I still do.

I try not to think of Dean Martin singing it, as he always made me feel rather queasy; too smooth by half.

(If you want all the lyrics they’re here)

basics-2

I’m waking up early these days, so I caught this sunrise from my bedroom windows. If you look very closely, you’ll see there’s a slender crescent moon in the blue.

basics-3

Stumbling outside with the camera, I found that the sky to the west was a reflected rosy wash. Fleeting, almost past, but such a gift.

I truly am a lucky old girl!

Flower balm

After last weekend, my spirit was in sore need of healing. Especially as I’d spent, not just Saturday, but the past week in town standing on hard cement all day each day, offering hopeful one-liners and how-to-vote leaflets for The Greens at the pre-poll booth too.

So getting back to the Mountain was urgent.

And no, I’m not going to comment on the election results, except to say that it is imperative now that we all get more active regarding climate change if our grandchildren are not to inherit a nightmare world.

flower-balm-2

In the hot week away, Spring had forced many early flowerings: Jasmine, May, Wisteria, Pittosporum… scents and sights as balm for my soul.

The rock orchids above the outdoor loo were truly stunning — a frothing shower of white on one clump, while the other’s slight delay gave honeysuckle varied tones.

In the early morning light, as they caught the first sunlight, they were breathtaking.

flower-balm-3

Unfortunately the warm weather had also brought increased bushfire worries, as escaped hazard reduction burns linger uncontrolled in difficult country. 

The air was smoky anyway but on this morning it mingled with early rising mist and this newly blooming camellia glowed like a beacon before it. As with all my camellias, it is unattractively swathed in netting to keep the wallabies and roos from eating it. The camellias were all grown from cuttings from an old garden, so are especially precious.

Even a few days there helped restore my positivity before I had to go to Sydney to speak at the 350º Divestment Forum. Always a boost to see so many people passionate about acting to save our only planet.

Winter warmth

These last few winter weeks have been my ideal weather: warm, still days and cold nights, no bushfire or snake worries. Getting cosy at night with my wood fires, by day enjoying a sun that doesn’t try to fry my skin in an unguarded instant.

My wallaby mates love it, and the in-pouch joeys of all ages have the best situations, snug against the faint chilly edges, sunsoaking with Mum.

winter-wallabies-2

I feel as rich as I ever wish to be when my solar batteries are on float and I have a full woodpile for the nights.

winter-wallabies-3

All I need now is some free time to take my Gypsy camper away on a proper holiday – one not dictated by book talks. She’s waiting more patiently than I am. In fact, she’s been sitting there so long she’s growing a green tinge on her southern side.

Winter Mountain

After a few weeks away, I was keen for the rainy days to end so I could walk about and see what had changed since Autumn had become Winter. And at 8ºC on the verandah, Winter it sure was.

A sunny day, the wallabies busily stripping my shrubs as usual, revealed that some of my introduced trees were fully bare, but the best loved, the Liquid Amber, stood grandly glowing still.

winter-mountain-2

My verandah view was now all twining arms and pendant seed pods, soon to be collected before I prune the vines.

winter-mountain-3

Walking through the bush, I spotted a rogue vine, a garden escapee: this banana passionfruit twining up a tree in the rainforest gully. I’d reluctantly removed the vine years ago as the birds were taking the fruit and spreading the seed. I’ll have to pull this out, despite its pretty flowers and healthy growth.

winter-mountain-4

I’d hoped for lots of fungi, but I only saw these tiny ones (left) on the splitting bark at the base of a large Blue Gum. I saw several such trees, all with fabulous colour combinations and shapes. Weird and wonderful!

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.

Colour me perfect

Looking out of my eastern window, I was struck by how perfectly the colours of the fur of the Eastern Red-necked Wallaby match those of the local rocks, here laid as a tank base. They really belong.

perfect-2

Not three metres away I spotted an echidna; not so camouflaged in my yard, but good to see as they’ve been absent lately, no doubt busy aerating other slopes. You can easily twist an ankle in my orchard in the many holes they’ve dug.

Like the wallabies, they have flea problems, but they are at least equipped with an extra long claw to get at them and scratch amongst the spines.

perfect-3

Now, in this non-stop rain, from my wet verandah I see that the wallabies and roos are still out there doing what they must, bedraggled and darkened but hopefully dry underneath their fur.

A few are sheltering under my verandah, but most want to be feeding.

This mother seemed to me to be exhibiting supreme patience as her big joey drank… and drank… and drank… while the wind whipped the cold rain around them. I hope he’s grateful.

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.

Visiting the lilypads

I haven’t been down close to my small dam, my waterlily world, for months, mainly because I usually come across a red-bellied black snake there.

I’d only looked from a distance, as when the White-necked Heron came.

Today I took the camera and went there on purpose, to see how the lilies were growing and what was gadding about amongst them.

To my surprise the Heron was there! Does he visit far more often than I notice, or is this just coincidence?

lilypads-2

With several harsh croaks he flew up into a nearby tree and assumed an aloof pose until I should leave, which he’d have to notice out of the corner of his eye, as he wasn’t deigning to be seen watching me.

lilypads-3

But it’s no wonder he visits, quite apart from the aquatic tucker, as the little dam looks very pretty.

The two pots of waterlilies (one pink/white, one lemon/white were planted in separate spots. They are thriving, the pink spreading further than the lemon and indeed, jostling for space at its claimed end.

lilypads-4

As always, I see lots of tiny wildlife on and around the waterlilies; the more I look, the more I see: spiders, dragonflies, beetles, grasshoppers. I see no frogs or tortoises but I know they’re here.

World’s edge

Some mornings when we have been inside a cloud, as it rises it leaves us lightly damp and not yet sunlit, but the valleys below me are bright.

I imagine the wallaby inhabitants down there looking up to see the cloud cap lifting off my mountain.

I can also imagine that my tree-rimmed clearing is perched on the edge of the world.

And it often does feel like our own remote world, just me and the wallabies and the roos and the teeming other creatures that share this refuge with us.

edge-w-2

The kangaroos are the big bosses here, especially the males. I take care not to approach or look too interested in roo families, for fear the blokes will feel obliged to flex those impressive shoulder muscles to prove who’s tops.

Amongst the feeding wallabies this male is alone, which is usual, but as I posted a few weeks ago, one family is feeding together frequently. In the damp preceding day I had seen them again, a bedraggled but still tight nuclear trio.

edge-w-3