Salvation Sunday at Anvil Hill

Several hundred people from all over NSW had made their way to the property near Anvil Hill by Saturday’s nightfall. Faces by firelight, beanie-topped, scarf-swathed, hard to recognise. Wood smoke and cooking smells – the Hare Krishnas’ curry competing with the steak sandwiches.

Music and talk with passionate folk from Canberra to Byron Bay: the mood is optimistic. We CAN save Anvil Hill!


Next morning is foggy, the hundreds of small dome tents like brightly coloured fungi emerging from the grey ground cover of sticks and bark, where the vicious tiger pear leaves await the unwary. Some try to migrate, hitch a ride on my tyres.


As the fog lifts and the sun warms our bodies, hundreds more people arrive, in vans and cars and buses big and small. Their blue-clad numbers warm our hearts.

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Chatting with Charles


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.

High Noon at Anvil Hill

Don’t let them turn this


into this


Next weekend, June 2 and 3, I’ll be heading to Anvil Hill near Wybong in the Upper Hunter Valley.

Centennial Coal wants to turn it into a monster open cut coal mine, 2000 hectares of it, destroying precious remnant valley floor woodlands.

I’ve seen it, and still can’t believe anyone would contemplate approving a mine in a place called ‘The Ark of the Hunter’ because of its rich biodiversity. But, having postponed his decision until after the election, NSW Minister for Planning, Frank Sartor, will be delivering it soon.

Local winemakers and horsebreeders don’t want this mine any more than the farmers or the environmentalists do. Lots of people from all over the state will be there this weekend too, to draw a metaphoric line in the sand and say to Mr Sartor, ‘No new coalmines’.

Check out the Anvil Hill Alliance for details like directions, special buses from Sydney and Newcastle on the Sunday, and bookings.

Coal is proven to be toxic for the planet: how insane is it to be helping fuel global warming, to the tune of around 25 million tonnes of C02 per annum??!!

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Cloud dunes


Autumn is noted for its winds here. They’ve been a little late this year, but then everything about the weather has been out of whack.

Because the mountains I face are so high, clouds often get hooked there. The wind then appears to flow over them, sculpts them into an upper mountain range.

But very early the other morning, the wind instead formed the clouds into a mighty dune, super smooth, backlit by the rising sun so it held a silver edge for about a quarter of an hour.

Other small clouds, unreliable bits of fluff, promenaded about and skylarked, ski-ing down the slope while the going was good.

I looked for my local wedge-tailed eagles. I’ll bet they were checking out the wind waves from somewhere out there – ‘Great day for a surf, eh?’

I wished for wings – but instead I grabbed the camera. There’s a lot to be said for getting up early – at least when you live somewhere like this. More clouds to come…


A rosey day



Yesterday it rained all day on the mountain, cold and lashing and miserable-making.  23mm. worth of it. From my desk window the autumn leaves of the verandah vines were dull shadows of themselves without their sunny backlighting.

Then a flash of rich red refocused the scene. A crimson rosella had landed on the birdfeeder there and was skulking amongst the dripping leaves, pecking at sodden seeds and keeping a watchful eye out for a currawong or magpie.

She flew off when a strong gust sent a cane chair flat on its face and skittering along the boards. When the rain stopped, she — or a cousin — was back, less startlingly exotic now as the vine reclaimed a little colour, though still missing the sun.

These ‘rosies’ are my main — red and blue and black, with green on the young. My flying jewels, my singing stars.

The vines are wisteria, now turning butter yellow; ornamental grape, almost bare of its pinks and reds; and Chilean jasmine (Mandevilla laxa) which is not a jasmine, is not invasive, and has the most beautifully perfumed bunches of slenderly furled white trumpet flowers in summer.

They produce the elegant long seed pods, joined in twin arcs, that you see by the rosella in the photos. Leave a comment if you’d like some seeds from it!

Of love and death


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.

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A question of territory


Last week Charles Wooley interviewed me from Tasmania for his radio show, which goes out to 50 regional stations across Australia.

Clearly a discerning and intelligent man, since he loved my book – he proved to be warm, funny and empathetic as well. He especially loved the stories about the Spotted-tailed Quoll who lives and breeds in my shed.

When I put the phone down I was still chuckling at his offer to play the quoll in the unlikely event of a TV show of the book.

Not two hours later a movement about a metre inside the sunlit open doorway of the cabin caught my eye. There she was, as bold and spotty as you please, walking into my kitchen in the middle of the day!

I uttered a small squeal – not the clichéd mouse-sighting kind – just a shocked involuntary ‘What-the …!’ She glanced at me, turned, and unhurriedly waddled back out the door, her long tail held straight out behind. I got up from the desk and followed her, grabbing the camera as I went.

She hadn’t gone far. From the doorway I watched as she jumped into my ‘burnables’ bin, fossicked about, then leapt back out on to the verandah with a potential but unproductive piece of scrunched up printer paper.

I could have told her that story was no good, but it must have smelt of the buttered slice of pumpkin and walnut loaf that had sat on my desk papers at morning tea.

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I ought to be planting trees…


It’s a glorious autumn on the Mountain. The Woman ought to be out there planting trees but is spending too much time indoors right now, doing interviews, preparing talks, because her book is out!


The Woman on the Mountain is now in any bookshop worthy of the name. Published by Exisle Publishing, (ISBN 978 090 898 8709) and distributed by Pan Macmillan, it’s a candid meander through my life up here alone on my remote mountain wildlife refuge – answering the oft-asked question, ‘Why do you live way out there?’

The horses and the quolls and the wallabies have as large a role in the book as I do, although the defiant machines on which I depend for my self-sufficient lifestyle take up quite a few pages too.

There’s always something new and unexpected happening here in the busy natural world in which I dwell, so this site can be my ongoing notebook.

Catch what the critters got up to lately or my most recent saga of mechanical ineptitude.