Black & white & in-between

By Lynn Elder

Grey clouds form a leaden sky
Above the black cattle grazing below.
Tree trunks are blackened
By the dampness they absorb 
From heavy downpours
Released from above.

Dimming daylight alternates
Between the various shades 
Of white, grey and black.
Birds and pets alike match
The colour scheme of the day. 

Twixt autumn and winter

Autumn is usually that settled period before winter arrives in earnest but this year it seems different. Spring is notorious for its fickle nature and the way that winter really doesn’t want to be gone too soon. A fellow blogger got me thinking about the time between seasons with his series on micro-seasons. This seems to be rooted in the Japanese culture unlike our western ideal of four seasons. We cannot mold the seasons to suit our requirements so maybe accepting these subtle or not so subtle periods twixt the seasons makes good sense.

Looking through my photos I was reminded of those occasions and activities that fall into autumn. Here in Victoria we start with a public holiday known as Labour Day in March. Then comes April holidays and the marking of Easter on the Christian calendar. On April 25 we also remember sacrificial love and duty to God and country when World War One broke out and so many took up arms to protect us. Sadly World War Two followed and other conflicts continue. ANZAC Day is not about glorifying war but honouring those who served. Younger generations of Australians and New Zealanders are learning about this part of their history. This year with no COVID restrictions more than 300 people turned out for the dawn service in our small town followed by the traditional gun fire breakfast usually a bacon and egg sandwich. Later in the morning there is a procession where veterans and other community groups and individuals are proudly involved.

The view from my bedroom window is changing with the arrival of foggy mornings and hot air balloons on crisp clear mornings. We see a red fox slinking through the grass in search of food and other times a family group of kangaroos waiting for the sun to arrive.

May is also when we celebrate Mother’s Day in Australia with all its commercial focus on pampering Mums everywhere. I managed a trip interstate to visit my own Mum. Last year, the borders between the states were being closed due to COVID and I just got home only hours before they were. I enjoy the larger open farming spaces of where I grew up. While visiting there was lots of burning off of stubble to make way for the next lot of crops. There is very little cropping near where I live now.

A new array of autumn colours has emerged while other trees shed their leaves freely. The sound of chainsaws echo in the valley as firewood is gathered for the coming cold months. The latest load of Black Angus steers has departed. Our birdlife changes with the seasons and weather. The colourful and cheeky King Parrots come searching for some wild bird seed. The weather has been a mixture of sun and rain with snow forecast this week on the nearby mountain. No doubt winter will arrive soon enough and with it comes the thought that we are almost halfway through another year!

Nature is not only what is visible to the eye – it shows the inner images of the soul – the images on the back side of the eyes.

-Edvard Munch (1863-1944) Norwegian painter and printmaker

Horsing around in the High Country

Biscuit and I

I was finally on track to achieve one of my biggest goals and dreams when it all went somewhat pear-shaped. Back in September, I found the ideal horse to build up my confidence again after many years of absence from the saddle. His owner wanted to see how I bonded with him and make sure we were a good match before selling him, which was fair enough. I was upfront that it had been several years since I was riding regularly.
He is a gorgeous 15.2 hands palomino part-quarter horse gelding with a lovely nature and a delight to ride. Biscuit had been used by many a beginner and was soft in the mouth without a hint of pulling. I visited him several times. With the assistance of a curry comb, I got stuck into shifting his shedding winter coat revealing a bronze-like colour beneath. I got to rug him, feed him and watch him being shod. Biscuit is the ideal horse to handle.
We took it slowly to begin with, but we were cantering around the small paddock by the second time. My dream of being a horse owner was about to become a reality. Biscuit and I were working well as a team. I had no nerves while riding him. I joked with my husband that I felt safer on that horse than on our ride-on lawnmower!
After a couple more visits, three of us set out to ride along the grassed roadside near his home in late October. It was a beautiful vista being in the foothills of the nearby mountains and walking past the bushland on horseback. The ground was very wet in places following heavy spring rains, and several small ditches were full of flowing water.
On our return trip, the rider ahead leapt over a ditch on her horse. So Biscuit and I followed suit. We did this fantastic leap, and his hooves had barely hit the ground when suddenly his backend went up. As I felt the buck beneath me, I remember thinking where did that come from as I tried to rebalance myself. Alas, it was too late, as I parted company with Biscuit and fell with a thud onto the ground below.
I was ever so apologetic to his owner for managing to fall off such a quiet horse. She said it was totally out of character for him, not to blame myself so much. Biscuit didn’t run away, and I intended to get back on thinking maybe I had just winded myself. I held my ribs as I sat on the ground when everything began to swim before my eyes and started to blackout. It dawned on me maybe; I wouldn’t be getting back on after all.
Biscuit’s owner called her husband to come and get me, as I turned as white as could be from the shock. My right side had taken the brunt of the fall with my arm so painful that I couldn’t move it. Back up at the stables, I sat quietly with a bottle of water. I was going to drive myself home, but Biscuit’s Mum insisted that I shouldn’t do that. I let her drive my car, and her husband followed behind to my place.
On hearing the cars pull up, my husband thought Biscuit was arriving at his new home but found his wife in the passenger seat of her car in a world of pain. I found what painkillers were in the house and dragged on my pajamas. After a terrible night’s sleep and concerns the following day that I couldn’t move my right arm, it was a trip to the emergency department of our local hospital still in my PJs and dressing gown.
COVID restrictions prevented my husband from coming inside the hospital with me. Because I couldn’t use my right arm, he had to put my face mask on for me and learn to use my mobile phone for the QR code required for contact tracing. Finally, I was admitted inside. The nurses found me some strong painkillers before the doctor ordered some x-rays done on-site. I was in so much pain. The hospital staff were worried that my right arm was dislocated, so advised a trip to a bigger hospital over an hour away to get scans.
It was suggested by the staff that I get someone to drive me over there. Since the advent of COVID, our paramedics and other front-line health workers, like many others worldwide, are being overwhelmed by demand. I was loaded up with paperwork to take to the emergency department at the other hospital and a “green whistle” full of morphine to dull the pain en route. A nurse found a triangle bandage to make a temporary sling for my arm. So I go to the other hospital with my husband, still dressed in my night attire. Of course, once again, when we arrived about midday, my husband had to remain outside after we managed to do the COVID-safe check-in. Then more paperwork. The waiting room was full of patients and divided into two with a plastic sheet separating the COVID or potential cases from the rest of us, which I found a bit unsettling although I had recently had my second jab.
Finally, I was taken to another part of the hospital’s emergency section, and the staff did a cat scan of my upper body, including my injured right arm. I then went into a room with other patients, some on beds and others like myself in an upright chair. I had to request more painkillers because the opiates had worn off.
Three different doctors attended me, with one confirming that I had sustained four cracked ribs, a broken scapula (shoulder blade) and suspected nerve damage to my arm. I also learned that the hospital had a three cracked ribs policy which requires hospitalisation of the patient for 24-hours because of the risk of developing pneumonia. Once I convinced the doctors, I understood the risk and had spent the previous night at home after the accident; they allowed my discharge. With several COVID cases presenting at the hospital, I felt it was safer to be at home.
About 5 pm, my husband was able to collect me from outside the main door of the hospital. I had been given some prescriptions, which we then took to the large pharmacy store in the town to be filled. A staff member told my husband at the door that the store was closed for a deep clean following a COVID exposure. The chemist in my hometown would be closed by the time we got back.
I struggled through the night with what pills I had. My whole right side was in so much pain, and the slightest movement triggered spasms. Once I got into a somewhat comfortable position, I wasn’t game to move. My poor husband had to help me out of bed because I couldn’t use my arm and put up with my groans. For several days, he was my wonderful full-time carer, which turned into weeks.
Since then, there have been trips to the local doctor, physio and the hospital for more x-rays. Two weeks ago, I thought I had turned the corner but overdid it because my arm pain flared up badly, and I needed to use a sling again. The doctors recommend only using a sling for about two weeks or so. I am supposed to be doing some exercises to assist in getting more mobility in my arm, which is hard when my ribs are still sore. But almost seven weeks since the accident, and I am slowly starting to feel more like my old self. I still have plenty of work to do to improve my breathing and build up muscle tone in my arm again. I am very weak on my right side and still can’t do any heavy lifting. But I am hopeful that I will be much better soon and able to get back into the saddle again by the early new year. I intend to stay on next time.

Ruling the world on International Cat Day – August 8

Rambo my fur baby

Well my cat Rambo does on every day of the year and especially during this COVID Pandemic and the numerous lockdowns. We have become a permanent fixture in his world. My world has shrunk but his still offers lots of scope for exploration and patrolling outdoors on our 25 acres when he is not hogging the bed or sofa. He also loves finding other hidey spots just to change things up a bit.

We lost his mate Friskie almost two years ago, so he is a solo cat in our home. At times I call him the world’s most annoying cat when he wants out at 3am! Even on a cold, frosty night we leave the French door in our bedroom open and then later I will find a warm, little body snuggling up in the small of my back. Like us he is craving some warm sunshine to bathe in and when he can’t an electric blanket or a spot in front of the wood fire heater offers a substitute. He is over 16 years old now and feeling his age (he is not the only one). From the time I was a little girl, there were always cats in our home and I always feel bereft if I have to live somewhere without one. I am fortunate that my husband is a cat lover like me but he does have a hankering to be a dog owner once again.

Our pets have been vital for our mental health during these challenging times and deserve our love and proper care for all they give us. Happy International Cat Day to felines everywhere.

Wombat welfare concerns

Photo by International Fund for Animal Welfare on Pexels.com

Life is a gamble for many of our native wildlife species in Australia. Wombats are often fatal victims on our busy country roads and have succumbed to the scourge of mange in more recent years. It is believed the mange is spread by introduced species such as foxes and rabbits as well as wild dogs.


Farmers have a love-hate relationship with these animals due to their ability to burrow underground and create cavernous tunnels. Our country house and shed are built on a concrete slab, so they don’t try to dig under our buildings, but neighbours with weatherboard houses on stumps are forever trying to keep them out. City people may think wombats are cute animals but have never seen the damage caused by their powerful digging prowess. They are also nocturnal mammals, so they are out and about during the hours of darkness when most of us are indoors. I often find piles of scats around our property the following day marking their journey.

Suppose you happen to see a wombat wandering about during daylight hours. It is usually a sign that the animal has serious health issues related to mange which is an infestation of mites. They get under the skin of the wombat and cause unrelenting itchiness and loss of hair covering. Constant scratching creates red raw sore patches on their body and in the worst cases open wounds. The loss of hair covering forces the wombat to graze more to keep warm and to come out during daylight hours.

Mange causes this crust to form on the skin of the affected wombat which has been wandering onto our property during the day to graze grass.

Another sad aspect is the impact on their hearing and sight. I have a wombat on my property at present who I can get very close when it is out eating grass during the day. I am careful not to get too close because wombats are wild animals and can get distressed. But I did get close enough to take some pictures and a video as a record of the wombat’s condition.

My husband and I thought we had discovered where the burrow of this particular wombat is on our property. We put some small sticks in the entrance to test this theory. Unfortunately, they remain undisturbed. Other burrows are waterlogged due to the heavy winter rains we are having this month. So we think its home must be on one of our neighbours properties. We had hoped to treat the wombat as per the instructions from the Wombat Mange Welfare website https://mangemanagement.org.au/.

It is not always easy to know when the wombat will be out and about. We have contacted the welfare people to see what can be done. It is heartbreaking to see them suffering this way so we need to encourage more action to eliminate this mange and return our wombats back to full health. Hopefully as more people are aware of this serious issue the more that can be done for them.

I haven’t seen the wombat this week probably due to it being so cold and wet, but will continue to keep an eye out for it. Follow the link to the website to learn more about what is being done to manage mange in wombats

Seen on the rail trail while I was out cycling

Staying home like never before

“Home is where love resides, memories are created, friends and family and laughter never ends.”

Unknown

How many of us thought that 2021 would be different to the previous year which was so consumed with the impact of the Coronavirus Pandemic? Here in my home state of Victoria we are currently in a snap five-day hard lockdown with Level 4 restrictions because of issues with the emergence of the UK strain believed to have come from someone in quarantine. After several weeks of doughnut days as per my previous posts we are once again confined to barracks even in regional areas where we have no cases. It came as a shock to many businesses in my rural community and many events were cancelled.

Thankfully, two hours before the announcement, I had stocked up on essentials including toilet paper. Sadly, supermarkets had to implement limits on certain items again because of panic buying. The authorities seem to have the cases under control now but with one more day to go, one can never be sure with such an infectious virus. On the eve of the lockdown, we joined good friends and neighbours for dinner and drinks. If COVID has taught us anything it is better to accept invitations when you can!

My home has certainly become my castle during COVID. I am fortunate to share it with my husband who has plenty to do keeping 25 acres under control and my much indulged cat Rambo. We are surrounded by hills and trees which attract a wide range of native birds and animals such as wombats and kangaroos. There is also plenty of black Angus cattle in our neighbouring paddocks and cows are just starting to calve.

No pandemic will ever be long enough for me to get through all the books on my shelves that are waiting to be read or to complete those craft projects started with good intentions.

I am hoping that as news breaks this week of a vaccination rollout in Australia and overseas, that while life may still be governed by COVID to a certain extent there will be a return to normal activities. That may mean sharing my home with a wider group of family and friends. May your home always be your castle not a prison.

Cat on the hospital payroll

I usually start my day with a cup of coffee in bed listening to Melbourne ABC radio with morning host Sammy J. As a comedian he provides some levity during a time when media is saturated with Coronavirus coverage. This morning he talked to the owner of Elwood the cat who has become a social media sensation because he spends his days across the road from his inner-suburban home on the steps of the Epworth Hospital. I did an internet search and discovered Elwood’s fame has spread far and wide. For those of us who know the power of cat therapy, this is a feel good story.

A purrfect feel good tale!

The real deal…

The real deal…in Aussie lingo if you hear someone described this way, it is a high compliment indeed. Genuine, what you see is what you get, knowledgeable, not arrogant, a willingness to give of themselves generously, true-blue, and an ability to get on with anyone; are some of the attributes that come to mind. This year I had the pleasure of meeting two such individuals.

One a highly credentialed senior journalist and the other a skilled horseman and country musician. I’m not sure that they have ever met but they do have in common a love of Australia and sharing stories of people and places.

Heather Ewart, esteemed and seasoned television journalist with the ABC for many years, is the real deal. From hard-nosed reporting on the 7.30 Report to fronting the series Back Roads she is travelling across Australia with her producer and camera crew to capture the essence of places and people that are off the beaten track. Usually, smaller communities with characters and stories aplenty to share feature.

Our paths crossed recently during the annual Tolmie Sports Day held each February for 133 years in a bush setting in the hills about halfway between Mansfield and Whitfield in Victoria’s north-east. The day showcases traditions such as the wood chop, woodwork and blacksmithing and newer ones to include a chain saw competition. Equestrian events offer various novelties and jumping competitions for younger and older riders. The foot races judging by their names cater for all abilities and ages; ranging from the single ladies race to the Cooked Chooks through to the bloke’s Old Buffer’s Race and the Prime Bucks. The dog jump is always a crowd pleaser and so was the special display by the “Flipping Disc Dogz” which promotes a positive message of encouraging young children that they are capable of doing great things. It has a feel of an English fete with an a bush flavour. There are historical displays and of course the ever-popular Devonshire teas.

The day starts in brilliant sunshine but after lunch, the clouds rolled in and the rain poured down. But the local CFA (Country Fire Authority) volunteers agreed with me the much needed rain was preferably to dealing with bush fires. Despite the down pour and the risk of frizzy hair, Heather and her camera crew continued filming and interviewing some of the local identities and personalities. There were still smiles all round and good-natured banter. Heather posed for photographs with many of the local volunteers and assisted with the raffle draw taking it all in her stride.

Having followed Heather’s career and her more recent foray into presenter of the popular Back Roads series, one can see her ability to tell a story and to engage with individuals on all levels. Heather grew up as a country girl in the Victorian town of Murchison on the Goulburn River. There is a relaxed, laid back manner about her and a genuine interest in people’s stories. She manages to dig up some real gems like old-timer Tarpot in a recent episode featuring Windorah in outback Queensland. Sadly, Tarpot died recently but he is immortalised on screen. If I told Heather I thought she was “the real deal” she would probably brush it off and tell me she had encountered much more worthy contenders for the title.

The new Back Roads series including the Tolmie episode is due to return to our ABC television screens from June 17. While on the subject of ABC television, it is worth noting journalist icon, Barrie Cassidy, as well as being husband of Heather Ewart, retired in June after 18 years presenting Insiders, a successful current affairs show with shrewd insights into Australian politics . Described by many as tough but always fair, the accolades and response from the public and politicians alike, puts Barrie into the category of the real deal as we hear “back to you Barrie” for the last time. One hopes that Barrie and Heather get to spend more time together on a back road somewhere!

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-04-27/abc-tv-back-roads-heather-ewart-the-road-back-home/8001104

https://www.abc.net.au/news/about/backstory/television/2019-06-09/barrie-cassidy-signs-off-from-insiders/11186060


My other contender is Tom Curtain, respected horseman, dog handler and a golden Guitar winner at the Tamworth Country Music festival held every year in NSW. I met Tom in his home town of Katherine in the Northern Territory playing at the tourist motel where I was staying with my husband and friends in 2012. My Mum, a country journalist interviewed him when he was performing at the “Man From Snowy River Festival” in Corryong some time before. Growing up on a large cattle station one of five boys his life revolved around horses, dogs, music and all things country.

Tom Curtain can play his guitar on a horse with no bridle…if you are lucky you may even catch him standing up on a horse and playing.

His lyrics echo the stories of so many who call Australia home – that great dividing line where the city ends and bush begins. As a young man while out in the mustering camps, Tom would try to hone up his playing skills. Obviously, a combination of perseverance and talent, came together in the 2004 release of his first album Smack Bang providing insights into life in the territory. He has gone on to win, the prestigious “Australian Independent Artist of the Year” at the 2018 Southern Stars Australian Independent Country Music Awards in Tamworth, NSW.

Tom also knows about resilience and having to reinvent one’s self when one door closes and take on a new venture which was to be the Katherine Outback Experience after his livelihood disappeared due to a downturn in the pastoral industry because of the Australian Government’s ban on live export of cattle in 2011.

Tom and his partner Annabel embarked on a whirlwind tour across Australia performing at small towns including Mansfield in Victoria(slide show above) and big cities such as Melbourne, earlier this year as part of his “Speak Up” tour. This tour was a result of the “Speak Up” single duet with Sara Storer that Tom penned in memory of Amy ‘Dolly’ Everett who at 14 took her own life after being bullied. This had a huge impact on Tom, a parent himself, who knew Dolly as a part of his local community. The song and the video clip was possible thanks to the generous support of several musicians who kindly donated their time and studios with 100 per cent of all proceeds and royalties from the song going to ‘Dolly’s Dream’. The Dolly’s Dream Foundation has been established by family and friends to help raise awareness about bullying and get more educational programs into schools. As part of this awareness program, Tom, arranged school visits and media interviews to spread the word about Dolly’s Dream while on the road with his “Speak Up” Tour.

Tom is the real deal when it comes to his work ethic and ability to connect to so many people through his horsemanship skills, working dogs’ display and undisputed musical talent. Watching him in action, it is wonderful to see how he can get the young kids up and dancing. His passion for sharing Dolly’s story is evident and a positive part of her legacy. Check out the two websites below to find out more about Tom Curtain’s music, his Katherine Outback Experience show and supporting Dolly’s Dream.

https://www.katherineoutbackexperience.com

Home

The slow-burn of summer

As school returns for another term and the holiday makers disappear, the car spaces return outside the local supermarket and a sense of normality is resumed. Some may have gone home earlier due to the extreme heat wave conditions and fire activity close to popular camping areas. Last week our weather station was recording outside temperatures in the high 30s with some days hitting almost 44 degrees Celsius which is unusual for this part of the world. But to be honest, what is normal these days? Regardless of your thoughts on climate change, there is no doubt our weather patterns are changing.

Any sign of green grass has been replaced with an extremely dry landscape which adds to the risk of fire with the long, brittle grasses scorched by the blazing sun.

February 7, 2019 marks the 10th anniversary of Black Saturday which was one of the darkest days in Victoria’s history and changed how as a community we dealt with the dangers of bush fire. ABC TV aired a documentary this week “The Aftermath: Beyond Black Saturday” stories of survivors and their struggles. Despite the horrors and heartbreak, that will always stay with individuals, there are the stories of hope and love; and lives rebuilt which pay testament to the ability of the human spirit to overcome. https://iview.abc.net.au/show/aftermath-beyond-black-saturday

Although I was not directly involved in the 2009 bushfires which during January and February destroyed many parts of Victoria, it was heart-breaking to hear of the 173 deaths, thousands of homes and other buildings lost, and the 400,000 hectares that were burnt (cfa.vic.gov website).

The scale of the tragedy saw more than 78 Victorian communities directly affected. The anniversary on February 7, marks the devastation of several towns including Marysville, Kinglake, Kinglake West, Narbethong, Flowerdale and Strathewen. The Country Fire Authority (CFA) ultised more than 19,000 members in frontline firefighting, incident management and support behind the scenes (cfa.vic.gov website). For a more detailed account of the fires it is worth visiting the CFA website to understand fully what these firefighters were up against on the day. Hopefully many lessons have been learnt from that event to prepare us much better 10 years on. https://www.cfa.vic.gov.au/about/black-saturday

Our move to the country has made us think more about being fire-prepared and to realise the real possibilities of a fire. The recent hot weather makes one nervous, especially when surrounded by dry, grass. But we are fortunate to have good neighbours who help out and keep others in the loop if there is a problem. We also have three CFA brigades reasonably close by. The former owners of our property were smart in setting up a sprinkler system around the house which pumps water up from our dam.

This past week has seen us concerned about friends who live at Grantville, near Western Port Bay, in Victoria due to a fire that got out of control in a nature reserve. For a week now, they have been observing a watch and act advice. While they have been relatively safe, it has been unnerving for them. Transport yourself to far-north Queensland and I have another friend who has been struggling with the impact of flooding with a record 1000mls over one week. Talk about extremes. Yesterday, we received 25mls in one hour and yet the nearby township only 20 minutes away got zilch.

Apart from being immersed in the weather conditions, my husband and I are always amazed at the wildlife and birds that live here. His discovery of a metre-long snake skin makes me not keen to meet the former occupant! I am finding the odd dead frog indoors who has sadly succumbed to being dried out because of the hot weather. Before it rains, I often find large, sugar ants busily running around on my front porch.

The extreme heatwave is hard on native birds, especially the magpies. The young ones take a while to work out that the silver tray is full of water just for them. We have also been watching a family of Willy Wagtails in their tiny, mud-built nest in the oak tree. Every time, I walked past the tree I would get dive-bombed by mummy bird to warn me off going near her three little babies. Today, we noticed that there is only one left in the nest.

From small palm-sized birds to majestic giants, we happened to come across a pair of wedge tail eagles in a nearby paddock last week. As we were driving past, I thought they were perched on a fallen log. We turned the car to go back for a closer look and found it was a dead sheep they were standing on (I imagine the sheep had died of natural causes). I was too slow to get a decent photo but they were magnificent to see. Several days later, while we at home enjoying a coffee outside, we spotted what we think is the same pair soaring across our paddock and perching in the dead gum tree. It was incredible to watch the smaller birds trying to scare them off. I also warned Friskie my cat to keep well away or he would end up as a tasty snack!

So life in the country is anything but dull; and we wouldn’t have it any other way.

Summer days herald the New Year in the High Country!

Spring rains have produced long green grasses now dried golden by the hot baking sun.

Several of my good intentions never materialised including a blog post to herald the start of summer on December 1. This was due to the busyness of my life before Christmas. I can’t blame it on Yuletide preparations. I come from a small family with members scattered across Australia, and Christmas tends to be low-key. My husband has a married brother with two adult children living near London, in England. We spent Christmas with them in 2015, followed by New Year’s Eve in Vienna, in Austria. It was such a special time because we don’t get to see each other very often being so far away. But thankfully the internet and cheap overseas call rates helps us stay in touch.

Some members back home avoid Christmas all together which is fine by us. Bolly (my husband) and I were once again invited to join friends in town for Christmas lunch with their extended family. This year there was 12 of us compared to 16 last year. I got out of cooking again! The only problem with this is I don’t have any left overs for our traditional Boxing Day picnic outing. Never mind, we made do with pizza and beer at Wrong Side Brewing at Jamieson on a hot summer’s day.

The end of the year was extremely busy with our local agricultural show on the 17th November involving lots of work beforehand and after. Took me the secretary, two weeks to recover! The hard work of all the committee obviously paid off, not only were we blessed with a beautiful late spring day, but our gate takings were the best ever in several years and everyone commented on a great atmosphere enjoyed by young and old alike. Of course, behind the scenes we can see areas that need to be streamlined before next year which will be our 130th show. Our next event is the annual campdraft in March. This has evolved from mustering cattle into one of the fastest growing equestrian sports in Australia.

I was also trying to keep on top of my studies. In lieu of doing a community development placement I was allowed to do a project on my involvement with the Friends of Venilale group and my return trip to East Timor in September. This country has a special place in my heart and I now have several Timorese friends on Facebook. The local Friends’ group continues to meet monthly. Fundraising efforts in 2018 included a stall four times per year at the annual bush market, the ridgeline walk across several local farms, special guest talks, a trivia night, a book launch and a film afternoon. Despite being time poor, I managed to produce a 1500 word essay and an audio-visual presentation. In early December I started a new study period doing an elective unit “Drugs in Society” which is proving most interesting. End of February, I will commence my final core unit for my sustainability major. This will leave me with two more electives to complete and hopefully my double degree before the end of the year!

November was also a time to commemorate the contribution of our service men and women 100 years later at our local Remembrance Day Service on the 11th day of the 11th month at the 11th hour. This was preceded by a procession of those who were returned servicemen and women, and those who proudly marched wearing medals passed down through their families. My husband wore his grandfather’s World War One service medals for the first time. It is a real community event with young people involved in the service.

As 2018 drew to a close, temperatures began to climb into the high 30s and even 40 degrees Celsius on a couple of days. The nearby hills have lost their green tinge by becoming brown in the hot sun. Our paddocks look wave-like as the long, dried golden grass moves in the breeze. Our fire warning ratings have hovered between high (blue) and very high (orange) this week. The weather has been unsettled over the Christmas and New Year period with some heavy rainfalls followed by high humidity. During the afternoon of New Year’s Eve, we were surrounded by constant storms with lightening and thunder. Rambo my cat tough by name not nature, hid under the bed all afternoon. We received a phone call from a neighbour to alert us to a nearby grass fire at the end of our road. I checked out the emergency services’ website, to find there was another incident of a small fire two roads away. But both were under control. Early evening we learn that another neighbour has a tree on fire on his property which was also dealt with quickly. All three were caused by lightening strikes! We need to revisit our fire plan and be sure that we are prepared in an emergency.

We enjoyed a quiet New Year’s Eve at home with just the two of us. I made a special dinner including wine trifle for dessert. We had an early night so we could get up early to drive to Melbourne and celebrate New Year’s Day with my Sri Lankan friend and her family. It is a annual lunch with loads of traditional Sri Lankan food, drinks and even dancing to work it off! We love catching up with my friend who was a former employee of mine. Bolly and I limit our alcohol consumption so we can make the three-hour trip back home. As much as we love visiting our friends and family in the city, we are always keen to get back to our country haven.

As normality returns to our lives, it is time to prepare for the coming year and setting goals so our time doesn’t get squandered. Just before Christmas we invested in solar panels for our north facing roof of our house. It will take about four years to start to recoup our money but at least we are doing our bit for the environment. I follow the tracker for our energy provider and notice less usage when the solar panels are operating during the day. Other jobs include finishing painting the outside doors and windows. We have two new homes being built nearby so we are going to do a huge tree planting along our fence line. Today sees a change of neighbours directly behind us, who no doubt will want to make their mark on a new property acquisition. Life is full of changes and sometimes we just have to embrace them! While Christmas is behind us, or until the Christmas tree and decorations come down, I thought I would include the video below as a reminder of striving for peace and harmony throughout the world in 2019. May we all find joy and personal satisfaction in the coming months.