The icy embrace of snowy climes soon brings autumn to its knees.
No good praying for it not to be when winter arrives on time.
Artic blasts keep temperatures in check while us mere mortals shiver,
And slosh about in rubber boots to keep the water out.
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
“Autumn shows us how beautiful it is to let things go.” – Unknown
The clocks were turned back during the first weekend of April and it seems to have coincided with a definite change in the seasons. There is a coolness in the evening air despite some days of sunshine. The mid-March temperatures in the low 30s and annoying blow flies seem to have disappeared here in Victoria. But April can produce some stunning Autumn weather to enjoy over the Easter holidays. Will wait and see. We have avoided floods here but our hearts go out to those especially in NSW who have experienced severe flooding twice within a month.
For me autumn offers a calming time of year. It is subtle and yet spectacular as it reveals its hidden beauty. From green to gold, yellow to red. Here in North East Victoria the colours of autumn tend to really come into their own about mid April to early May. Then the great shedding of leaves starts as we approach winter. Raking is one way to get a good work out!
Over the weekend I explored our 25 acres with camera in hand for different perspectives and to capture the various tints and hues of the changing season. I also managed to find glorious brightly-coloured flowers.
There was also a visit to one of my favourite local places, Jamieson, an historic Victorian township on the river and in the bush-clad hills that were once home to many searching for gold. My husband and I attended the once a month Anglican church service which was followed by lunch in a nearby café.
Whatever season you may be going through, remember to enjoy the one you are going through now!
A run of hot, humid days accompanied by thunderstorms has been the norm for most of March. A wetter than usual winter and spring created unprecedented grass growth. Good news for those who had hay to cut and bale, but for others on smaller acreage like ourselves, keeping on top of the mowing is a constant task. When there was minimal rainfall, grass growth was a lot slower. But seeing our dams full and household tanks almost at capacity, we are not complaining.
We had hot and dry conditions for our annual campdraft just gone, which made it a top weekend for competitors and spectators alike. Being on the committee kept me busy with various activities over the two days. I will do a separate post on the Australian equestrian sport of campdrafting and share some photos.
With its still calm weather conditions, autumn also marks a period of planned burn-offs in our high country. While this is designed to reduce the fuel load in the bush and mountain areas, the smoke haze can make one feel like they are living in an ashtray. It has been a long time since I have hung out in a smokey journo’s bar. I used to go home and hang my good jacket on the clothesline to get rid of the smell. I couldn’t afford to pay for the dry cleaners too often!
However, the smoke haze does provide some superb sunset photo opportunities. Another night we saw this large, red glow in the distance due to a burn-off in some stubble that flared up. Earlier this week, a storm and some rain cleared the air. Another photo opportunity.
This morning was the coolest start for several months, but it has been a lovely warm, sunny day. One can sense a change in the seasons and see the changes in the leaves of grapevines and various trees. Daylight saving is due to end the first weekend in April, which will see a return to being lighter early in the morning and becoming dark much sooner in the late afternoon.
On one side of the world, spring is bursting forth while here we prepare for the coming winter months. That includes sourcing more fire food and putting away the summer clothes. As restrictions and lockdowns disappear and we are told we need to learn to live with COVID, one dares to dream of travelling to warmer climes and visiting friends and family over the coming weeks.
Late afternoon and suddenly, the smoke haze returns, clinging to the sides of the valleys. I better close windows and doors to keep the smell out and rescue the washing from outside before it absorbs the smokey aroma. Happy weekend everyone.
Some random images taken around and near my home in the High Country of Victoria. I love the changing natural light from sunrise to sunset. The changes in the seasons and the abundance of trees and other plants is also a joy to watch. The Delatite River is a delightful place to cool off or cross by bicycle. It is summer now and the lush greenness of spring has disappeared as the baking sun dries off the grass. It also brings outs the snakes including tigers and browns. We just chased one off now while having our coffee on the verandah. Snakes are a protected native species in Victoria but sometimes people will kill them if they get too near their house or sheds. We also have friends who have sadly lost dogs and even horses to snake bite so it does pay to be wary when out and about. Just like COVID we are learning to live with it!
To stay or leave?
I am torn.
My heart and mind
are at odds.
What is the chance
of fire reaching us here.
The radio crackles.
"If you have not already left,
it is now too late to leave."
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.