Tag Archives: bush

A view through the trees

This time five years ago, we came here for the first time and were captivated by the peace and beauty at Seventy Seven Acres, and, each time I take myself walking around the property, I fall in love over and again with how idyllic and serene our little piece of the world is.

I’m always amazed, too, at how much there is to see, and by all the inspiring vistas.  One short walk can take me up to the top of the hill, down the track towards the valley, then up and around the dam below the house and home again… or across the big dam, and high over the valley to the north… or way down south where there is evidence of the past in tantalising hints of the old homestead, long gone.

No matter where I go though, there is always

Here are some of those views as I wander here and there, breathing in the heady scents of the bush,  carolled by the birds, and savouring the beauty all around me…

There are many different kinds of trees, but predominantly we have brittle gums (eucalyptus mannifera), apple box (eucalyptus bridgesiana), native cherry (exocarpus cupressiformis), and a variety of wattles, including black wattle (acacia mearnsii) and something we know only as the wattle of doom… a very spiky affair with prolific brilliant yellow flowers!

While much of the bush is regenerated with most of the trees under thirty years old, we have several that are of a venerable age and have probably seen more than one or two generations of homestead families come and go before the farm was allowed to revert to nature… what stories they could tell, if only we sit still long enough to listen… shhh…

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

Will beneath an old tree down near the dam

Golden Wattle and Blue Skies

wattle in bloom

Wattle in bloom

The first sign of spring at SeventySevenAcres comes with the gentle buzz of bees, and blue, blue skies, as the wattle bursts into bloom, tree by tree.

There is something really special about stealing a couple of minutes in the middle of the afternoon to find a sheltered position in the sun on the lawn, to close your eyes and listen to the sound of the bees as they industriously buzz around the little pom pom flowers, and breathe in the heady, fresh-linen scent that fills the air from the glorious bright yellow blooms.

Don’t be fooled, though. Once the sun drops over the hills to the west, we know well and truly that it is still winter.

This winter has been particularly chilly, and we have burnt our way through all our reserves of firewood just to stay warm. This year saw several snowfalls at SeventySevenAcres, one deep enough to hang around for a couple of days (I know this is nothing in some parts of the world, but for us it was pretty exciting), but mostly we have had thick frosts and biting winds off the Australian Alps.

Many an afternoon has been spent wrapped up in front of the fireplace, with a good book and a warm cuppa, rather than braving the great outdoors.

Our veggie beds look like a mass of weeds, and will need quite some work before spring proper comes and we want to start planting out. I can see some very busy times ahead.

I’m also going to have to grow some resolve and get walking again. It has been too easy to decide it is too cold or too windy to go out regularly, so apart from some brief forays to collect kindling and admire how full the dam is at present, I haven’t really been out and about, and I can tell from how inflexible and unfit I feel!

Lyrebird by dam

a lyrebird beside the dam

A few good hikes up the mountain should fix that, but I’ve got to psyche myself into it first! And, of course, I’m so easily distracted by all the beautiful sights and sounds around the property. It doesn’t take much for me to stop and watch while some birds flit through the trees, or an echidna waddles by (like the one on the track this afternoon as I was driving home from work… sadly, by the time I had pulled my phone out to take a pic, he had waddled off into the bush and I didn’t feel inclined to chase him!)

Echidna

An echidna visiting our garden

Talking of our amazing wildlife, the wombat… sorry, The Wombat has taken up residence again in the wombat hole by the back gate. We are trying to give him lots of space at the moment so he doesn’t feel invaded, but have succumbed to leaving a few old carrots around near the entrance to let him know he is welcome. We will doubtless regret this later, but it is so exciting to feel that after, what, four years (!), he has finally decided we are acceptable-ish.

Of course, our girls (the ‘roo family) have been turning up regularly, but we are yet to see any sign of this year’s babies. That is always a moment of great delight, when we catch a glimpse of a tiny nose poking out of the pouch, or, amusingly, an awkwardly posed leg.

kangaroo and joey

One of our ‘girls’ last year with baby on board

The most common visitors at the moment, though, are the birds that regularly turn up for breakfast. Dusty, the Burrawang, will follow me from room to room, peering with curiosity through the windows, until I take out some left-overs from the night before’s dinner, and will rapidly be joined by an ever increasing array of feathered friends. The magpies are generally second in the queue, along with a family of crimson rosellas, and recently the kookaburra has been joining them on the grass, although the funniest thing I have seen of late was when he dived in and stole food right out of the beak of one of the magpies, without even pausing mid-flight!

We have had a little thrush (still to be properly identified) hopping around, too, along with the whole tribe of blue-wrens.

Later on the choughs and ravens arrive… quite a noisy bunch… and sometimes we’ll get a galah or two, or one of the big sulphur crested cockatoos.

I can never get enough of watching the antics through the kitchen window, and still wonder at our great fortune in being a part of this amazing place.

Don’t get me wrong, though, there are many things that interrupt this view of paradise… pumps that fail, our leaky house-water water tank that will need to be replaced soon, a driveway that is increasingly resembling a goat track, feral goats and pigs (and foxes), some expensive maintenance that is going to be quite tricky to get done… spiders, snakes and biting flies… and the ever present summer threat of bushfire.

All part of taking on a bush property.

But for now, I’ll take the promise of a pleasant afternoon scented with wattle, and the humming of the bees going about their business, with the sun on my face and a not-too-chilly breeze in my hair.

A beautiful moment in time.

wattle in flower

No quotes this time, but I did find a poem that included wattle… however, as it was about where a dying stockman wanted to be buried I decided against using it!

Let It Snow…

I snuggled under my down quilt last night, listening to the wind buffeting the house and snapping the shade cloth over the breeze-way like a spinnaker on a yacht.  Through the open curtains I could spy the trees whipping back and forth in a hazy, dark blue world, and I was glad of the cuddly warmth of my bed and the fireplace on the other side of the wall, making sure our bedroom was nice and cosy.

It was still dark when I struggled out of bed, but the view from the window had already been transformed into a magical winter scene, sparkling in the light thrown onto the snow covered garden from our room.

In that instant, I, too, was transformed.  Excitement thrilled through me, and I hurried through my chores so that I could wrap up warmly and head outside with my camera to capture some of the beauty of a snow swept morning at SeventySevenAcres.

Winter had arrived…

Snowy leaves and an open gate

Come for a walk with me, beyond the garden gate…

Snow covered trees beside the track

…to see snow covered trees beside the track…

Morning light tinges the snow on the Hill across the Valley a soft, rosy pink

…morning light tingeing the snow on the Hill across the Valley with a soft, rosy pink…

Snow on the little dam above the house

…snow on the little dam above the house….

across the Valley from the top of SeventySevenAcres

…one of my favourite views, across the Valley from the top of SeventySevenAcres…

The Hill seen from further down the track

….The Hill seen from further down the property…

Walking down the track towards the road

….as we walk down the track towards the road…

Down the Valley from the track... not quite so snowy

…to look at the view up the Valley from down near the road (not quite so snowy to the North)…

Walking back up the track, with sunlight just peeking over the mountain and through the trees

…then walking back up the track, with sunlight just peeking over the mountain and through the trees…

 the hardenburgia is buried under a blanket of snow

…to the side gate, where the hardenburgia is buried under a blanket of snow…

over the Valley

…to glance back over the Valley…

... and back to the house

… and then up to the house, where a warm fire is burning in the grate.

I shall be content with silence

I thought I would just share a few more autumn pictures from around seventysevenacres today, and forgo my usual long winded narrative.  Just walking around our acreage takes my breath away as I delight in the beauty of nature at my doorstep:

view from the top of the hill

the view NNW across the valley from the top of the property

evening light across the top 'paddock'

evening light seen through the trees in the top ‘paddock’, where regenerated bush has long taken over the land where sheep used to graze

bushfire sunset... hues deepened by smoke from a hazard reduction burn

bushfire sunset… hues deepened by smoke from a hazard reduction burn (about 30k away)… and, yes, it really was this colour!

an early moon

an early moon, shivering in a cool evening sky

beyond the gate

beyond the gate… another lovely sunset seen from the side gate above the main water tanks

a dash of colour

a dash of colour – dark red amongst our predominantly native evergreens

home sweet home, the house pergola swathed in colourful grapevines

The title quote, by the way, can be attributed to Ansel Adams (to whose lofty heights of photographic talent I could never hope to aspire):

“When words become unclear, I shall focus with photographs. When images become inadequate, I shall be content with silence.”

Watched by a Wombat

Mostly, all we ever see of him is a handful of cube shaped calling cards that he leaves heaped on a rock or a fallen log nearby.  For ages, we didn’t even see that, but, bit by bit, he has been venturing closer and closer, and, for a while now, we have found his scats quite closely arranged in an ever decreasing circuit around the perimeter of our garden.  There was even evidence of a brief foray into the garden, once, to investigate his old hole.

I feel as though we are being watched.

We’ve been at Seventy Seven Acres for three years now, and, right from the start, the Eastern Greys just sort of took us for granted. To them, we’re family.  There is a Swamp Wallaby that considers us his catering crew, and a family of Brush Tailed Possums with a similar view, not to mention the myriad of birds that watch me through the window every morning, waiting to see if there is anything for breakfast.

The Echidna occasionally turns up at my study window searching for insects caught in the cobwebs (I’d rather have the spiders than the poison and am too lazy to go around with a brush too often), and we have seen turtles at the dam and blue tongue lizards and water dragons on the track.

Wombat remains (mostly) invisible.

Wombat on track... facing off with our car before dashing into the bush...

Wombat on track… facing off with our car before dashing into the bush…

We know he is there.  As I said, he leaves his scats prominently displayed, and I did stop the car in great excitement once to take his photo as he charged across the track.  The previous owners also had photos of him pottering around the garden in a slide show they had cannily left playing on their giant TV screen (it was pictures of the snow on the same screen that caused me to say, “Snow?  that’s it!” and caused the Real Estate Agent a moment of, “Oh, it’s not every year… maybe once every three years… and not very much…”, not realising that it was a selling point for me, not a turn off, and, little did she know, we were already sold by then).

He was a rescue wombat, and I don’t know the full story but I’m pretty sure it involved a car.  Wombats and cars are not a good mix.  Since moving here I have seen too many of them upside down by the side of the road.  Not much seems to scavenge on them (I gather from the story Wombat Stew by Marcia K Vaughan that they are very tough eating) so they tend to be lying there for some time, a sad reminder of the toll on wildlife brought about by our fast paced age.  Wombats are not too good for cars either.  I’ve seen the resulting damage to a visitor’s car after an altercation along the valley.  Best to try and miss them if you can.  Although, that can be difficult, as they are very quick little creatures.  Well, quite big creatures, actually.

Anyway, my understanding is that he was brought up from a joey elsewhere, and released here as a young adult.  There is a wombat hole in the garden, and there was a pile of sand for his digging pleasure, and there are definitely other wombats around, so he is not alone.

The ex-owners told us tales reminiscent of Diary of a Wombat (the lovely picture book by Jackie French) but did warn us that he had become less people oriented as he became older — which was, indeed, the aim of the game.  We, clearly, are not the right people at all, and, quite rightly, he maintains his distance.

Although that distance is getting smaller… and we are being watched.

Some Wombat Facts

Wombats, one of Australia’s famous marsupials, are squat and sturdy in build, with a large head and small eyes and ears.  They have short, muscular legs, which, teamed up with their sharp claws, make them amazing diggers, and the females have a backwards facing pouch so that joeys don’t get showered in dirt as Mum digs.  Wombats can dig burrows that are up to 30 metres long and a couple of metres deep, and they generally stay inside during the day, where they can keep cool in summer and warm in winter, often sharing with other wombats.

Don’t be fooled though, those short legs can carry them at fairly high speeds.  I have memories of reading about one that was clocked at 40 kilometres an hour, and I’ve seen them hike across a road at an alarming speed.  I suspect this is why they get hit so often – people just don’t realise how quickly a frightened animal can turn and run across the road in front of them.

Wombats are generally grazing animals, mostly eating native grasses, but I’m given to understand that they are also partial to carrots and parsnips, and even the occasional bowl of oats!  They are very territorial about their feeding grounds, however, and will chase off challengers with lots of noisy grunts and snorts.

Mating in spring, between September and December, Wombats produce one offspring, which crawls its way to the pouch and usually stays there for about seven to twelve months.  They are tiny when they are born, weighing about one ounce, but they grow quickly in the protection of the pouch.  Wombats reach maturity and are able to have young of their own at about two years of age.

In New South Wales, wombats are protected but continue to face threats from cars and wild dogs, as well as suffering from competition for feeding from domestic animals.  The Common Wombat (like our friend) is not considered threatened, but the Northern and Southern Hairy Nosed Wombats are on the endangered list.

Information from http://www.environment.nsw.gov.au/animals/Wombats.htm (and care of Jackie French’s wonderful book Diary of a Wombat )

 

 

Camping and Cockatoos

My first encounter with the enigmatic Yellow-Tailed Black Cockatoo was early one morning when a small flock flew overhead and scattered amongst the trees at a camp site up on the edge of the Brindabellas.  I was there as a young teacher with a group of intrepid Year 5s, and a select group of us were collecting wood to make the fire to cook our breakfast.

It was cold and we were stamping about to keep warm, looking forward to Toad in the Hole (Aussie camping style)* and hot tea.  I guess we were a bit preoccupied, and the first thing we knew about the cockatoos was the sound of their eerie cries echoing through the forest.

At first I thought that perhaps seagulls had been blown inland, but the sound wasn’t quite right.  And there were too many answering calls for it to be eagles or hawks.

My confusion was quickly abated as the willowy, black shadows weaved their way through the trees and into sight.  It was breathtaking, and they have ever since remained a firm favourite for me amongst the cockatoo family.

We occasionally hear their haunting cries or catch a glimpse of them here at Seventy Seven Acres.  They are beautiful, elegant birds, and so solemn and graceful compared to their louder cousins: the familiar, white, Sulphur Crested Cockatoo.

Perhaps you can imagine my delight this morning, then, when a pair came to rest in one of our Brittle Gums by the back gate.  I slipped outside as quietly as I could, for these birds are shy creatures, and quickly took a photo before they went on their way.  They only hung around for a few moments, and one very purposefully hid behind a large branch, but the other remained calmly aloof with his back to me, long enough for me to snap my pic.

A beautiful Yellow-Tailed Black Cockatoo taking a moment to rest in our garden.

A beautiful Yellow-Tailed Black Cockatoo taking a moment to rest in our garden.

The Yellow-Tailed Black Cockatoo is reasonably common in South Eastern Australia, although I’m given to understand that numbers have declined as old growth forest has been logged.  Apparently they need large, old, hollow trees for nesting and breeding, so loss of these trees from their habitat has impacted on their ability to retain the larger flocks that were reported in earlier times.

These days they are more likely to be seen as pairs or in family groups of up to about 10 or 12 birds, although they may still form large flocks in winter.  They are semi-migratory, ranging to find food through the changing seasons.  Predominantly seed eaters, preferring casuarina, eucalypt, hakea, banksia and xanthorrhea, they will also search out and eat wood boring insects and bugs in a variety of trees.  As with most of the cockatoo family, they have taken a liking to the introduced pine species, and will happily pry the seeds out of the cones or rip the bark away to find bugs.

At about 60cms they are the one of the largest of the cockatoos, but with their streamlined shape and long wings, they look smaller than the Sulphur Crested White Cockatoo – and are certainly less raucous!

(Includes information from Michael Morcombe’s Field Guide to Australian Birds – a fabulous resource.)

Aussie Toad in the Hole (camping variety)

This is one of those amazing meals that just isn’t the same if you try it at home… I think you have to be cold, tired after a sleepless night in a tent, and truly hungry for it to work properly, and it is definitely best cooked over a smoky, wood fired barbecue.  Luckily it is also very simple and quick to make.  Warning: this bears only a minimal resemblance to the classic English recipe containing sausages and batter.

Ingredients:  Sliced bread, egg, butter, salt and pepper to taste (per serving).

Method:  First cut or tear a hole in your slice of bread (a circular cookie cutter works well if you have remembered to bring one) and melt a large dob* of butter on a the hot BBQ plate, using the tip of a knife to spread it around.  Drop your bread on top of the butter and immediately crack an egg into the hole.  Cook until the first side is done then flip over to cook other side (time varies depending on how well-done you like your egg – generally, it is not recommended to have your egg too runny unless you are happy to wear it on your clothes for the day).  Season with salt and pepper to taste and eat while piping hot. Totally delicious! ( a real shame that I can’t eat bread any more)

*dob – in this context, ‘dob’ is a technical term meaning an amount of butter large enough to grease the hot plate, but not so large that the food is swimming in it.

…when the bough breaks

There is always something that needs doing around the property.

The remains of the pump house down by the main dam!

The remains of the pump house down by the main dam!

This little project has been waiting for a while, but really needs to be sorted out, sooner rather than later, to protect the pump that makes sure the garden water tank is always full.

In the background is the large tree that fell on it, another ‘little project’ that we are still working on clearing up.

There is some nice wood in the old tree, so we aren’t too keen on relegating it directly to firewood.  Matt thinks he can do some rough planks to make a bench and possible picnic table if we can be patient enough to let it dry out properly.

In the meantime, the tarpaulin that we threw over the top of the old pump house to keep the weather out keeps getting blown off, and when I went out to measure the concrete pad it sits on this morning, I really couldn’t be sure what might be lurking amongst the alluring blue folds.

I maintain a healthy respect for some of the more slithery brands of wildlife that we share our home with.  The tarpaulin has to go.

We haven’t been able to source a replacement shed of the same size at a reasonable price, but Matt found some fairly cheap prefab sheds at the local hardware store.  The one he snapped up looks like it might be too small to fit the pump and all its bits and pieces inside, as well the power point, but, it’s okay, he already has alternative plans for that shed and has his eye on another ‘bargain’ in a slightly larger size.

While the original pump house was just tall enough to fit the pump, the new shed will be able to house some tools as well so that we can leave a few things down near the dam.  We have plans to build a garden on the north facing slope that runs down to the water – maybe a small orchard or some grape vines , or possibly even an extended veggie patch.

Whatever we decide on, the first job will be to erect some kind of enclosure to keep ‘the wallaby’ out.  He doesn’t just eat the fruit, he eats the entire plant, as we have found to our detriment with a cherry tree, an apple, a green gage, and our pear tree (which was doing so well) in our back garden.  I chased him off the peach tree the other day, but some of the lower branches are looking a bit sad.

The impromptu chicken wire fences around the existing garden beds have done their job at keeping young Wally, the possum(s), and the goats at bay, but, sadly, were unable to repel the late frosts that killed off our tomato plants and seriously stunted everything else, or the hot, dry days over summer that took their toll on our veggies.

I’d like to spend more time in the garden, bringing on more edibles by preference, but when school is in, time is regrettably short, so the garden just isn’t looking all that bright at the moment

If nothing else, there’s a lot of weeding to get done.  Not Matt’s favourite job, so it generally comes down to me.  That, and putting up scrappy looking chicken wire fences (that sag, so the possums don’t feel confident climbing over them).  Still, the roses are starting to recover inside their wire-y prison, so I can’t complain too much.

a couple of brave roses putting on a show...

a couple of brave roses putting on a show…

I’ll let you know how the shed project goes.