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

Shades of Autumn

“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!

Welcoming Autumn

The golden hues of autumn grasses against grey skies.

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.

Country views

Surrounded by nature in my country home.

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!

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.

Sandra Lording on the Mansfield Farm Project

Showcasing the talents of local photographer Sandra Lording which captures the behind scenes of a large working farm in the beautiful area I call home.

Brightside Story Studio

Sandra Lording’s Mansfield Farm Project Photography Exhibition tells the Manning family’s story through images of farming activities, landscapes and people. I spoke to Sandra about the inspiration for the project, how it played out and what she learnt.

The exhibition will be held at St Mary’s Hall, 48 Hunter Street, Mansfield on April 3-7, 2021.

What inspired the Mansfield Farm Project?

When I moved to Mansfield, Victoria, in 2017 (see Sandra Lording, Mansfield Photographer), I had little understanding about farming. Overnight, cattle or sheep appeared in previously empty paddocks, crops sprung from the ground, and the landscape was ever-changing colours. The Mansfield Farm Project was born out of a desire to educate myself about farming and to capture images to inform a wider audience.

I asked for expressions of interest and selected the cattle farm Davilak.

Barawatha Auctions “Barawatha Auctions” January 2020 by Sandra Lee Photography

Can you tell me a…

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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.

Changing seasons

 

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Watching rain come in across the valley.

 

 

It’s like osmosis. This gradual shifting of one’s mindset from crazy full-on life in the city to one that seems to move with the seasons and the natural world. Don’t get me wrong I’m not exactly enthusiastic about the rather large brown snake that chooses my veranda as its own personal sun deck. And I’m still grappling with the mystery of how do dead frogs end up on my bed! This week we feel like we are living on top of Old Smokey because of the planned burn-off in the nearby hills that has shrouded us in smoke haze. While I know we are not in any danger, I do feel for those people who are traumatised by the smell of smoke and are reminded of bush fires that have caused loss of life and property. One positive, is that it provides spectacular sunsets.

 

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Smokey sunset.

 

Autumn seemed to emerge in a matter of 24-hours about a week ago. Heat, dust and flies has been replaced with pleasant autumnal days and chilly starts.  Thoughts of lighting the wood fire are becoming more frequent with temperatures down to 5 degrees Celsius overnight. I love pulling on a pair of jeans, boots and T-shirt plus fleece if needed. No need to worry about what am I going to wear today.

I’m relishing these cooler days and seem to be more productive. I can choose when I want to go for my daily walk instead of trying to beat the heat. Bolly (my hubby) has been busy gathering and cutting wood for winter. We are fortunate that there are plenty of fallen branches and old logs on our property to use. My husband hired a wood splitter which made easy work of rather large pieces and much easier than chopping by hand! Bolly has a small 30-year-old chainsaw. Since moving here, he has pulled it apart several times to try to fix it. Despite my comments, that maybe a new chain saw might be a good idea, he spent hours working on it (This must be a man thing!).

 

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A view of our neighbour’s vines.

 

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One of many frogs attracted to the moths on our windows at night.

 

On our weekly shopping trip to town yesterday, he became the proud owner of a rather impressive looking chain saw. He succumbed! The week before he bought a large water tank to capture the run-off on our shed for when it does decide to rain again. Just as well we only go to town to shop once a week!

Today, we are doing our bit for the local economy! Got a local plumber in to deal with some suspected tree roots that are blocking our toilet. We use to have the same issue at our old house in Melbourne.

All of this is just part of normal life for many of us, but there is something comforting to know that others experience it as well.

Our life here is still a work in progress. Last week we walked around our place and discussed the possibilities of creating horse yards which is exciting for me. Getting back on a horse after many years is on my bucket list!

We are both keen to build some raised garden beds for our own vegetable patch. Will need to protect it from stock and other wildlife.

Plenty to keep us occupied. Almost done unpacking the boxes, although we still seem to have more stuff than places to put it! Slowly getting more organised and starting to make plans for the year ahead. We feel so blessed to have this place to call home.

 

 

The permanent tree-change begins!

As with most dreams or adventures, fulfillment of these, can take days, weeks or months as in our case. Several years of yearning to return to my country roots and escape the frenetic pace of city life, has finally become a reality. The journey to get there has been one of self-discovery, grief and sadness, faith, and of course good old fashion hard work.

My soul mate on this journey has been my English-born husband who was willing to give country life a go after his retirement from full-time work in January. My work ended with a redundancy almost a year ago followed by some casual employment until our big move. This has been a bitter-sweet experience for me but I have accepted  sometimes we need to let go to enjoy the new blessings that await us. Juggling work, part-time study, home-life and health issues depleted me of much of my usual energy.

But now the opportunity to commune with nature and rekindle my creative talents at the same time causes my spirit to soar high above the dark clouds and bring light into my new endeavours whatever they may be.

This blog is part of that new beginning. A sort of journal that tracks life on a small rural retreat of 25 acres in Victoria’s High Country where the “Man from Snowy River” legend lives on, at least in the minds of those who remember the halcyon days when cattlemen and their horses reigned supreme in these alpine parts.  I lived and worked in this community over 20 years ago.  On my return I am observing many changes as the population grows. While farming is an important activity in this district, tourism feeds the local economy in a huge way when there is a good ski season in winter and there has been enough rainfall to fill the large local lake for summer recreation.  Many  city people are attracted to the lifestyle and the availability of more affordable housing. Others opt for small rural properties to enjoy on weekends and during holiday periods.

We are here to stay but are fully aware of the work ahead of us as we apply some TLC (Tender Loving Care) to this almost 35-year-old house and surrounding paddocks. Join me on this new adventure to reinvent myself as I shed my suburban existence for hopefully a less stressful and more peaceful life in the country. But the reality may yet be something beyond our wildest imagination!