Western summer

Despite heavy prunings at ground level by the wallabies and hence a slow start until I netted the base, the Glory Vine has excelled itself this year, and run the whole length of my western mudbrick wall.

In doing so, it has shaded all the windows – which was the intention. I never feel any heat through the unshaded wall but the windows (and the unused door) are the obvious heat leak.

From inside it means a dim green — and cool — light during the day.

By late afternoon when the sun is low in the west, I can momentarily get strange beams of light via small gaps amongst the leaves. These pierce the interior of my little cabin like rays of enlightenment before leaving me, as ignorant as ever.

Like rainbows and sunsets and morning sun on dewy webs, I am ever grateful for such ephemeral gifts from the natural world. As 2012 begins, once more I say to myself  – and the wallabies –  how lucky we are to live in such surroundings.

Green Glory Vine

Noticing that the first reddish tones of Autumn were appearing in some leaves of the Glory Vine that clothes the western ends of my verandah and mud walled cabin, I decided I’d better celebrate its green stage before I lost it for the year.

I am always astonished at how vigorous it is, how far it grows over summer from being totally cut back to woody stumps each winter.

Despite — or perhaps because of? — the wallabies nibbling the lower shoots and trying to get at more from my verandah, it was even more far-reaching.  As you see, I netted the bottom vines, barred my verandah access, and off it took!

As it reached higher I strung more wires for it, which were greedily seized, enveloped and looped about, gradually  greening and cooling the afternoon light through the windows.

Don’t worry about it blocking that door — there’s a bookshelf on the other side anyway!

The door is there because the cabin was only ever half-built, one wing of the original — and still intended — ‘V’ design. One day.

Once on the verandah the Glory Vine takes second place to the Wisteria, threading its broad fans through the finer fronds, adding texture as well as pattern and of course, more shade, to this western corner.

So before I start waxing lyrical about the riotous colours of Autumn — glory to the green Glory Vine!

Paddock perfection

Can you imagine anything more purely beautiful than this fungus? It had popped up in the the orchard paddock and was gleaming white at me across all the soggy green. There was another further up the hill.

Each was alone in its perfection, a setting befitting the creation.

It is Macrolepiota dolichaula, I discover, and am surprised it is ‘very common’ in eastern Australia. What a wonderful world where such beauty is common! My examples are about 150mm diameter across their snowily tufted tops, below which the dainty picot edges set the parasols off beautifully.

The central peak reminds me of a meringue, slightly crazing as it cooks to pinkish brown. My book reckons some people eat these regularly but others ‘suffer stomach upsets’. I think I’ll be content to feast on the sight alone.

Shade magic

Each year the Crimson Glory Vine powers up from its woody trunk and heavily pruned short stems — and goes crazy along my western wall. I am amazed anew at its vigour. 

Before it begins to live up to its colourful name, I wanted to celebrate its green and growing summer stage.

Not only does it lace in and out of my verandah lattice, giving shade, and protection from wild summer storms, but it stretches right across the mud wall.

Each year it reaches further and this year for the first time it has made the rear extension. Next year I may not have to put up that shadecloth.

On the main western wall the greenery brings shade to the unused door and the upper fixed window; there is a leadlight window to the right of the door, but so densely shaded that it is invisible.

All from one plant! Magic — and free. And far more beautiful than shadecloth!

While the woman’s away…

vines-1Spring is a really risky time to leave the property for any length of time. And it’s not only that the animals think they can step in and lay claim to my apparently unoccupied place.

This time it was the verandah vines, the wisteria and the ornamental grape — which had decided to join forces and extend their tentacles to block my entry.

vines-2Even when I’d got past those on guard at the top of the steps, it was clear that those on the verandah proper had already reached halfway towards the door.

They had claimed the table and chairs as the interim prop and were looping around each other for strength to continue their horizontal attack. I dare say they were most frustrated, after all that effort, at my insistence on re-looping them back to the railing edges.

They can confine their adventurous tendencies to heading for the roof – where they’ll get a shock because I’ve removed the guttering. What will they block now?

Bathful of tadpoles

The only bathtub around here is outdoors, cold water only — the toothpaste green bathtub that serves as the horse trough. One day in late summer, after rain had caused it to overflow, I noticed it was full of tiny brown tadpoles.

The water level is usually well below the rim, but some misguided frog must have taken it for a pond in its brief overabundance, and made a deposit for the future.

I don’t know what these little fellows were eating but the layer of poo in the bottom grew larger and so did the tadpoles. I couldn’t empty it out to clean as I normally would because that would have been frogicide.

tadpoles in bath

One day I tore a piece of mountain flat bread (lavash bread) into scraps, and let them flutter down into the tub like a discarded love letter.

At first they didn’t approach these strange pale papery objects that floated above them. Perhaps when these soften and disintegrate, I thought, they’ll get the idea that this is food, even if unlike anything ever seen in their tubby universe.

Then one of the smallest nosed up to a scrap and began nibbling. Just like with humans, it’s the kids who are game to try new things, who work out how to deal with new technology.

tadpoles eating

By the time I got back with my camera, the bigger ones had caught on and in twos and threes were swimming about pushing a piece of flat bread in front of them. Some were underneath, wearing the scrap like a hat, while smarter ones wedged it against the tub side to attack it.

But some still weren’t convinced. Luddites, I figured.