The Decision

By Lynn Elder

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com
To stay or leave?
I am torn.
My heart and mind
are at odds.
What is the chance
one whispers,
of fire reaching us here.
The radio crackles.
Emergency announcement.
"If you have not already left,
it is now too late to leave."
Decision made.

This poem was included in a collection of poems published in 2021 as High Country Poets highlighting the works of local poets from Mansfield in North East Victoria, Australia. Proceeds from sales of the book go to the Mansfield Secondary College Welfare Fund.

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 leapt over a ditch on her horse in front of me. 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 pyjamas. 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.

Nature the equaliser

Mother Nature is the great equalizer. You can’t get away from it.

Christopher Heyerdahl

Gazing out my office window on this glorious autumn morning, I seek inspiration for a meaningful post. Then I think about the role of nature in balancing our lives and preventing us from getting out of kilter with our natural environment. Reaching another decade milestone in my life has me battling that white noise in my brain trying to derail us on our journey. When those negative thoughts and emotions come to visit me, I find that connection to nature balances out the sea-saw. Breathe in, breath out.
I got thinking about this concept of nature as a great leveller. I decided to do a search online for any related topics on this theme. As with many things, my thought was not original, but it did reinforce that idea. Victoria, where I live in Australia, has borne the brunt of bushfires in recent years. It is a reminder of the impact that such events have on our environment and our relationship to the natural world. We try to shape and conform the environment to our desires. Still, it is often usurped by Mother Nature’s unpredictable character and puts us back on our haunches.
Today, there is the gentle warm sun on one’s back, the constant chirping and twittering of the birds, green grass glistening from the morning dew, and a diverse palette of autumn colours. It is a delightful vision reminding me that Mother Nature can be like a benevolent aunt that wraps her loving arms around us, offering a safe haven.

Reference: Christopher Heyerdahl – Mother Nature is the great… (brainyquote.com)

https://open.spotify.com/embed/episode/366oEb5MkZagXriIPXmDAC

Staying home like never before

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

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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.

Autumn fades as the seasons change

Autumn colour on my door step with this beautiful oak tree

As the earth turns so do the seasons. We are all experiencing a different season in our lives these last few months of the COVID-19 emergency. Today, Victoria, Australia, was the only state or territory to record any new coronavirus infections in the last 24 hours. These cases are a worry but seem to be under control. The curve is flattening but as we ease restrictions from midnight, the start of winter will see a flurry of activities as more freedom to dine in or travel within the state begins. Our ski season is opening a week later this year on June 22 instead of the traditional Queen’s birthday long weekend.

Only time will only tell if the measures taken by our government and individuals will see a quicker return to normal life for many of us. But the damage has already been done to the economy which no doubt will take longer to bounce back.

It has been a struggle some days dealing with a rollercoaster of emotions in response to changed circumstances. Thankfully I live somewhere close to nature and the autumn tones this year have been a joy to capture during this period of self-isolation. It is also a reminder of something much bigger and more significant than ourselves.

“A generation goes, and a generation comes,
but the earth remains for ever.
The sun rises and the sun goes down,
and hastens to the place where it rises.
The wind blows to the south;
and goes round to the north;
round and round goes the wind,
and on its circuits the wind returns.
All streams run to the sea,
but the sea is not full;
to the place where the streams flow,
there they flow again.”
-Ecclesiastes 1:4-7


Here is a collection of some of my favourite shots of autumn 2020.

The “new normal” continues…

The golden hour offers a bit of magic during a time of uncertainty.

How different is the world compared to last year? Tucked away in my rural paradise in the Southern Hemisphere I can pretend not much has changed as I ooh and ah over an another stunning sunset sipping on my scotch and dry. It is my favourite time of the day. Tasks completed during the day and an opportunity to sit with my husband to savour the view. The only downside to this is the arrival in recent weeks of 200 plus screeching cockatoos free-wheeling between the various huge gum trees that surround our home. These native birds love to destroy trees and any other soft-wood they can find to combat their boredom. They love to start their deafening noise before sunup drowning out the melodic magpies and sweet sounding currawongs which come down from the mountains.

Anyway, I’m not complaining because giving up some of the pleasures and activities I was enjoying until things changed in March is the price I’m willing to pay if we continue to flatten the curve here in Australia. The enormity of this pandemic has shaken the world and its nations to the core. The loss of human life is heart-breaking to watch across the globe and the impact it has on those at the frontline. There is no denying that we all have a role to play in beating this COVID-19 in the little actions such as regular handwashing and social distancing through to staying home as much as possible. For those of us fortunate to have a roof over our heads this is possible but for others we need to be aware of the impact.

Thankfully, we seem to have moved beyond the initial panic buying of supermarket items including toilet paper but supplies of certain items are still limited and being restricted. Once a fortnight trip into town is all I can cope with at present. Shopping has become more stressful with limits on how many people are allowed in a shop, trying to keep our distance in narrow supermarket aisles while trying to reach into the meat section and having to pack our own grocery bags. Walking down the street people avoid you like you have the plague!

A highlight of our new routine has been the advent of takeaway deliveries once a week to outlying areas by one of our local hotels. My husband loves the Mexican Parma while I like the spring rolls washed down with a drop of local Aussie pino noir! They set up the van in a designated spot so we can do a drive through to pickup our meals and alcohol orders. This is one way of keeping staff employed while the hotel is closed due to Level 3 coronavirus restrictions. Living out of town we don’t bother with take away very often so it feels like a treat. But everyone must pre-pay by card over the phone when putting in their order to ensure no physical contact.

Easter regardless of whether you a follower of Jesus or use it as a break away with family and friends, was different this year. Our town is usually overflowing with visitors and hosting an array of events to keep people amused. After the economic downturn from the impact of nearby fires in January, there was a campaign to encourage visitors to return and fill their eskies with local produce. Come April and we are asking people to stay away!

My husband and I celebrated our birthdays one day apart during Easter. While there was no special dinner out or a trip to a winery even, Bolly (my hubby) bought some gourmet takeaway from town and fine wine to enjoy. The two of us spent most of our birthdays talking to family and friends over the phone at length because like us they have the extra time to spare. I think that has been a positive out of this. So many more people are talking about how they are catching up with friends they haven’t spoken to in a long time.

Church was different with a Zoom meeting but was lovely to see the faces and hear the voices of those we are missing from our regular Sunday gatherings. The local community radio provided air time for a stations of the cross a joint service with the Catholics and Anglicans on the Good Friday.

ANZAC Day on the 25th April was surreal with no war memorial services to attend. But people found ways to mark this sombre and important day by staying home and standing in their driveways at dawn with a candle as they remembered those who gave their lives for us. We took a battery radio outside to listen to the Dawn Service broadcasted from Canberra’s War Memorial with a handful of people including our Prime Minister Scott Morrison. My husband and I lit our old kerosene lantern and stood in our paddock watching the sun rise. As the strains of the Last Post played I was surprised by how moved I felt by this simple action. The magpies provided a beautiful background chorus. We later visited the war memorial in town practising social distancing and were able to view the many wreaths and tributes that were laid by various individuals and community groups and organisations.

Autumn has been delightful here and the show of colours better than previous years. We are allowed out to exercise so we are fortunate to have the picturesque Delatite River nearby to enjoy. April came to a close with impressive rainfalls and a wintery blast. We received more than 130ml in one week so there is lots of runoff from the hills behind us and our dams are overflowing which makes us very happy. This cold snap also brought more than half a metre of snow to Mt Buller making for a magnificent sight on a clear sunny day.

So life carries on with its own rhythms as we look forward to less restrictions in the near future.

Weathering summer…Down Under

Where the hell did January go? I finally took down my Christmas tree late in the month rather reluctantly because I love an excuse to turn it on at night and enjoy the sparkling white lights against my blue and silver decorations. I still uphold the tradition of exchanging Christmas cards especially with those who live a long way from us and our overseas friends and families. Letters and family snaps fall out of the cards, giving us a glimpse of other people’s year that was.

The fires and smoke haze have disappeared for now in our part of the world. Kids are back at school. After a reprieve from hot days and almost 60ml of rain in the last week or so, one can almost be forgiven for thinking that we are through the worst. But the temperature gauge started to sneak up again and today it was 32 degrees Celsius at 10am. Tomorrow it will get into the mid-40s in places. January is always a funny month like that. One has plans to do lots during the quieter holiday period but when the weather is extreme it robs one of their mojo!

The holiday period has been a disaster for those who rely on the busy tourism period, so some of us locals have been trying to do our bit by spending money locally. While it is nice to be able to get a park outside your regular supermarket in town, the deserted streets are testament to a huge economic hit taken by businesses. Hard to imagine how much worse it is for those towns and regions actually burnt out.

But us Aussies are a resilient bunch and we bounce back with some help from our mates. A social media campaign “Fill Your Esky” is promoting the idea of people from the city and elsewhere to head off to places impacted by the fires and fill their ice boxes with produce and other goodies during their visit. We decided to head up to the hills to Jamieson, a pretty old timber village on the river about a half-hour drive from our home for lunch at Deb’s Café and a couple of craft beers at the Jamieson Brewery to do our bit. The Australia Day long weekend did see an influx of visitors especially for the annual river regatta which starts at Kevington. From what I heard it was well supported and loads of fun.

Here’s hoping for better things to come in 2020.

Winter solstice a reason to light up

June 1 heralds the start of winter in the southern hemisphere. From the idyllic autumnal days of warming sunshine we have plunged headlong into an extremely cold season for this part of the world. This morning I had to add a minus sign to the temperature of 3 degrees! Usually I get up early but this morning I was struggling to get warm. My feet still feel like ice-blocks but that might have something to do with popping outside to photograph a somewhat icy but stunning landscape. It reminds me of my winter travels to Lancashire and Yorkshire as I look across the open paddocks with rolling hills. But hopefully, with the sun on the way up, it will warm up soon.

To celebrate our winter solstice the Mansfield Lantern Festival now in its fifth year runs an event for all the family to get involved. In the weeks leading up to the event there are lantern workshops to encourage children to make their own. My husband and I, did the lazy adult’s version with my Ikea Christmas lanterns replacing the candles with safer lighting being the flashing red tail light from my bicycle and his head torch! There was a procession to the area which had been set up for the festivities. Loved seeing the families and the little ones with their lanterns. The cast from the forthcoming Dr Seuss musical had donned the red and white stripy tall hats with lights to promote their show. The night was clear but cold so parkas and gloves were a must. For a town of 4000 there was an excellent turn-out accounting for the queues for food and drink including a mulled cider which I can recommend. The two huge fire pits were most appreciated by festival goers and added to the atmosphere. It reminded me of the atmosphere of an European city in winter. For some with littlies the nearby pub for a meal and a chance to warm up was a popular option. It is always great to talk to new people and catch up with locals. Life in this small town is never boring!

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.

Winter cometh amid change

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Remnants of gold and red have lingered on from a delightful autumn to be embraced by the crisp, clear, first day of winter. A touch of frost is evident in the lower paddock and the dawn shadows are slowly replaced as the sun rises over the nearby hill behind our house. After throwing another log on the fire and brewing fresh coffee, I love nothing more than being snuggled up in bed with my electric blanket and furry friends, sipping on my morning cuppa as the view unfolds outside my window. Each day is different.

 

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More than 18 months have passed since the permanent tree-change. This is our life now. City life is like a distant memory and somewhere we still visit occasionally for special events, appointments and catch up with friends. Lying in bed listening to the ABC’s Melbourne Radio (it is hard to give up some habits after 30 years!), the traffic reports remind me how much I loathed the congestion on the city roads and travelling across from eastern suburbs to the west for work.  We have other obstacles to dodge now but the pace of life is slower so not rushing around everywhere.

The nights are really drawing in now, the sun is dipping behind the hills around 5pm. This week we have been treated to some sunny days and we have finally got around to cycling during the warmest part of the day to our roadside mail box 4km away. Our social cycling group that meets on Wednesdays has moved its start time from 8.30am to 9.30am during the winter months.

My husband Bolly and I have found another social group to join which I found on a local Facebook group page calling for musicians and singers to get together to encourage one another and for the sheer joy of making music in a relaxed and comfortable environment. The first gathering was in the lounge room of a young man with three singers and two guitarists unknown to each other. Almost two months later others have joined and we now have a permanent home at the local RSL club.  We are invited to bring music to the group for us to learn and practice. It is a diverse group with a range of tastes ranging from pop, rock and through to country. Numbers such as Eva Cassidy’s haunting cover of Fields of Gold, Under the Milky Way by The Church and classic country favourites by Merle Haggard and Kris Kristofferson. The group is still evolving and bonding but we look forward to our Thursday night sessions. Music has such a positive impact on people and without the pressure of having to perform in public it provides an opportunity for us to learn. I own a blue guitar bought for my birthday from Aldi that sits on the KISS book for learning chords in my lounge room in anticipation of me finding time to learn.

My other consuming passion is photography. A local Facebook group encourages photographers to share their images and improve our skills behind the camera. Living in such a beautiful part of the world sees lots of wonderful outdoor shots including mountains, rivers and animals featured.  I was quite pleased with several awards for photos I entered in the local show last November. The administrator of the page also puts out challenges to develop our creativity. One member is a professional portrait photographer and gave up his time for free to conduct a workshop for interested members. So about three weeks ago, three of us had the opportunity to learn how to do studio-quality portraits with a professional model. The only cost was a contribution towards the hire of the model (also a trained actor) who was an amazing subject to capture. Also got some tips on editing with a professional software package.

On the study front, I have just completed a unit in Overseas Development which I enjoyed and gained several new insights into how aid is delivered in developing countries. Now I am embarking on a unit called Sustainability, Ecology & Communities which involves a major project. Slowly getting closer to the end!

There is no shortage of activities to keep us occupied. My duties as show secretary have kept me a lot busier than expected and I am still on a committee for a community house in Melbourne. But we did manage a week away using my timeshare allocation down at Victoria’s Phillip Island. The Penguin Parade is an a popular national and international tourist attraction. The little penguins nightly descent from the sea up to their burrows above the beach has made Phillip Island one of the must-see places. There is a lot of new building there to expand the site for the increased tourist numbers. But there is plenty of other things to do on the island which is linked by a bridge from San Remo on the mainland.

 

We weren’t worried about seeing the little penguins because we have done that before when we were still living in Melbourne. One area that has had a significant makeover is near The Nobbies. Gone is the tired-old bright blue kiosk covered in seagull droppings. In its place is a fairly new attraction called the Antarctica Journey which uses a mixture of cinema and photography to create a stunning visual display. There is an interactive section popular with young and old – with lots of selfies the order of the day. It is a wonderful way to experience what it would be like to be in Antarctica in an eco-friendly way. We loved it so much, we ended going again the following day with friends who hadn’t been there in 10 years. They loved it too. Of course there is a shop and a licensed café that looks over the wild seascape as it lashes against the rock formations known as The Nobbies. It was freezing cold and wet but if one is wrapped up, the walk along the boardwalk provides great views and you may even see the blow-hole in action.

 

 

Later in the week we did a boat cruise out to Seal Rocks which is not far past The Nobbies. Be warned you can feel a bit queasy from the choppy sea and if you are down wind of the seals, the smell can be overwhelming too. It was worth the trip to see so many Australian fur seals in one place. The younger pups frolic around the boat and leap out of the water and dive below in great numbers. On the rocks the adults including several large males are sunning themselves. Several 100 seals have chosen this wild part of the coast as home.

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Leaping seals, Seal Rocks.

 

Despite the rain every day, we managed to fit in some walks on the various surf beaches, a change from looking at our hills and mountains. Another worthwhile visit while on the island was to the National Vietnam Veterans Museum. A war that caused a lot of division among many Australians with many protesting our involvement in an American conflict. Sadly, when serving soldiers returned, they did not receive the welcome back that those from World War 1 and 2 did. The Vietnam War had a profound impact on the physical and mental health of many men. It has taken many years, but finally recognition for their service is happening and sites such as this museum honour their contribution.

After a wet week away we return home to dry, sunny days. But winter has arrived with icy blasts felt from the mountains this week and 21ml of rain over one day.  The town is overflowing with visitors during this long June weekend in honour of the Queen’s birthday (which is in April!) and the official start of the snow season. Not much snow to be had but plenty of fun. Bolly and I enjoyed a day up  at Mt Buller last weekend while entry was still free. Freezing cold but enough snow for tobogganing and snow ball fights.

 

We have some friends from the city staying for the weekend with their two young children so our house is full. Always lovely to have young people around and see the world through their eyes! Attempts to catch yabbies in our dam proved fruitless but a lot of fun anyway. The seasons are changing and so are we, as we adapt to our new life and routine.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The permanent tree change – one year on

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The hill behind our property by artist Greg Footit

Still busy clearing up after last month’s storm with the help of several special friends and recovering from the festive season, so there has been little time to reflect on our transition to full-time country life. This month also marks one year since my husband retired from full-time work, although he has just spent three weeks down in the city filling in over the new year at his old job! Of course, the storm hit while he was away.

We enjoyed a pre-Christmas lunch at our house with our new friends who we met through the local church last year. Had our new neighbours over for a barbecue tea with their three young children before Christmas. I forgot how lively five-year old boys can be! But great kids.  Then we got to enjoy a splendid Christmas Day lunch with 16 others at another friend’s home in town. Then it was up early to travel to the city to enjoy Boxing Day celebration with my husband’s two sons. The eldest boy loves to cook and is addicted to the TV cooking channel!

This time of year also brings extreme heat waves with temperatures over 40 degrees Celsius. Always seems to coincide with the Australian Tennis Open in Melbourne. When we made our permanent move this time last year, it was hot then too. The addition of a reverse cycle last March has made those exceptionally hot days bearable.  We try not to run our air-conditioner any more than we have to in interest of keeping costs down and trying to be more environmentally friendly. The year has flown and the list of jobs around the place doesn’t seem to get any shorter!  But we are not complaining – we love our new lifestyle and enjoy being surrounded by the great outdoors despite the challenges it throws at us.

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An artist’s impression of our new home by Greg Footit. Painted in spring following a wet winter.

Our days and nights, weeks and months, are now marked by the ever-changing seasons, the surrounding views of nature and man at work, a passing parade of wildlife and bird life in what we now call our bubble!  Connecting with the outdoors in such a personal and engaging way, makes it difficult to leave here sometimes. This doesn’t mean we have turned into hermit monks; my internet connection and other activities in town make sure of that. I have just picked up a part-time administration role with a local community organisation which looks like keeping me very busy. My studies continue with six units to complete to get my degree. I continue to discover the joys of blogging and connecting with many others from across the world.  It provides a wonderful opportunity to write and be read by a diverse range of people.

My husband Bolly and I have reconnected with old friends and made some new ones in the past year. We are so blessed to live in such a vibrant and active local community. My passion for Timor Leste continues with my involvement with the local friendship group and I hope to return again soon with Bolly. Throughout the year we have been involved with Landcare Group activities and still thinking through the best use of our small acreage.

Work on the house which is mainly cosmetic is still ongoing. The kitchen and bathrooms are earmarked as major renovation projects this year. But then there is still my dream of being a horse owner again and getting back on board after many years!

I have earmarked 2018 as my best year ever. I think 2017 was like a gap year for me but it is time to spread my wings and see what lies over the horizon.  Escape to the High Country is part of that journey and I look forward to others travelling with me into a new year.