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.

Spring chorus brings joy to the soul

While we are in this COVID bubble the arrival of spring brings a sense of a change and maybe a little bit of hope (Cases in Victoria have remained under 100 for the last three days!) One of the many things that makes me happy living in the beautiful high country is the sounds of nature that fill the air. The winter rains have our dams overflowing which attracts the frogs. I can lie in bed at night and hear them croaking loudly. It pays for them to be a bit quieter during the day when the rather large white-faced herons are about! This is a short video I filmed to capture the sounds of my own personal chorus. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

Aussie frog chorus in the High Country

Spring is just around the corner…and hope springs eternal

Spring is just around the corner!

The blossoms are blooming, the birds are whistling merrily while others fight for nesting spaces and the sun helps to move the temperature from single digits to double figures. A nice change from the wintery blast. Speaking of numbers; here in the state of Victoria coronavirus infections have fallen to the lowest daily figure since July 5 with 73 new cases overnight. While that is good news, it is tempered with the latest death toll of 44. Most of these fatalities are connected to aged care facilities with half of them occurring in recent days and only just now being reported to the health department. In my rural area there was a report of one confirmed case overnight with no details provided. Today I also learned that a friend of mine in Melbourne and his family have contracted COVID-19 through his wife’s work as nurse. Thankfully, they are slowly recovering but as he says it is not a pleasant thing to get. Meanwhile we continue to live this in bubble designed to keep us safe and well.

During August I set myself the challenge of walking 100kms to raise money for the Fred Hollows Foundation to help restore sight to people who cannot afford the necessary operation. For as little as A$25 this operation can be performed and transform the lives of so many. Fred was a no nonsense get on with the job Aussie bloke. This eye surgeon has inspired others to continue his legacy. I have reached my fundraising target which will see 11 people have their sight restored. My little bit of good during a time of COVID. Follow the link below to learn more about this remarkable man and his work.

https://www.hollows.org/au/home

Despite a freezing cold weekend over a week ago, the payoff is the stunning views of snow-capped mountains and hills set against deep blue skies to enjoy during my walks this week. Makes me appreciate the gift of sight even more. There is a sense of the seasons turning and tomorrow September 1 bringing hope of better things.

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.

Unprecedented

Nature is a picture of resilience

Several words have become the new catch phrases of our world-wide “new normal” during the Coronavirus pandemic including “unprecedented”, “stay home” and “we’re all in this together”. So stay home I have except for one trip into town, my first in two weeks. It was an eerie feeling and not a lot of joy to be had. Strict hygiene measures were in place at the pharmacy and supermarkets. People giving me a wide berth on the street as part of their social distancing. There are still shortages of certain items and limits are in place.

There was an hour and a half wait to pick up prescriptions so my husband and I had to fill in time. It is not worth going home when you live more than 20 minutes away. Cafes are only open for takeaway coffees but you are not allowed to sit outside to drink them. An older friend of ours got moved on the other day by the police for enjoying a coffee in the median strip with a friend after their bike ride.

You are allowed to exercise (just don’t congregate) so we did a walk around town which was very quiet. Otherwise, we have been self-isolating on our 25 acres where we are surrounded by fresh air and nature in abundance. No complaints from us, it could be a lot worse and is for a lot of people.

We enjoyed stunning autumn days beginning of the week which has now ended with more 60ml of rain which was much needed. During the week I have enjoyed exploring photo opportunities and been playing around with some editing tools. Lovely to have time to do these things without feeling guilty that you should be doing other tasks.

While it is surreal staying home and not being engaged in any activities beyond our boundary fences, there has been positives in getting more jobs done and the chance to phone friends you haven’t spoken to in a long time. As they say “‘We’re all in this together” and if we pull together then hopefully sooner rather than later we will get through to the other side.

Would love to hear your comments for survival during COVID-19.

Hope beyond grief

We are drawn to the light…

Today marks the first anniversary of losing my stepson, Matt. At age 39 he made a decision to end it all. For his Dad and I it has been a journey of trying to make sense of this action and how we share his story to encourage others to talk about suicide. I wrote a post about this last year where I encouraged people to reach out to others who may be struggling

I don’t feel it is right to share his images with strangers or without his permission. I have never been one for sharing my personal grief on social media although I respect those that find it helpful. We are all different in our responses to grief. However, Matt’s Dad and I believe, that the best thing we can do is live our life to the full and honour his memory in that way.

I was clicking through my numerous photos today and I was struck by how the vision of the sun shining through the mist offered a glimmer of hope. The restorative power of nature should never be underestimated. I have gathered several pictures that resonated with me and provided a sense of beauty that speaks to the soul even when we are in a dark place.

Please remember there is help out there for yourself and loved ones. Useful links for two Australian organisations are below:

https://www.lifeline.org.au/

https://www.beyondblue.org.au/

The Spring that was…and the start of Summer that wasn’t.

It is not the language of the painters but the language of nature to which one has to listen.

– Vincent van Gough (1853-1890) Dutch painter

The end of November is technically the end of spring in the Southern Hemisphere but since when has Mother Nature complied with calendar definitions of the seasons? The start of summer here in the high country of Victoria saw a dump of snow on nearby Mt Buller and chilly days for the locals. We were talking to family in England and there wasn’t much difference between their temperatures and ours.

But the sun has returned with the promise of warmer days ahead. Our neighbour has tackled our long grass and soon it will be turned into large round bales for fodder. Our November has been a busy month and brings with it a mixture of joy and sadness.

The local Mansfield Festival over the unofficial Melbourne Cup long weekend brings an influx of visitors from the city to join in the activities. I help out early at the bush market on a stall to raise funds and awareness of our East Timor Friends of Venilale group while Bolly my husband is at the Anglican church setting up for the book stall and Devonshire Teas. Then at 11am myself and several others from our agricultural society group gather to participate in the annual street parade. Great opportunity to promote our up and coming show on the 16th November. Part of our display was a rusty 1937 Chevrolet farm ute which attracted plenty of attention. The rain held off until after the parade.

This Chevy hasn’t been on the high street since the 1950s! Road closed for parade traffic only.

Sunny skies were the order of the day for the Mansfield Melbourne Cup Day horse races and despite recent bad publicity about the treatment of some racehorses after their career is over, there was a good crowd and a social atmosphere for all ages. These country events also provide much needed fundraising for community groups.

We join the members of our RSL sub-branch and the wider community to pay our respects on Remembrance Day with a special service.

I somehow managed to find time to write a short story for the local Bushy Tales competition. This year’s theme was to be based on an “animal”. While I did not win with my piece about Friskie, our beautiful bushy-tailed friend who we sadly lost in October, it was published in a collection of stories and poems. I was invited on the presentation night to share my story which was written as part of my healing from the grief of losing a much-loved pet.

The 130th Mansfield Show was hailed as one of the most successful in years which was helped by perfect sunny spring weather. Without the huge effort by committee members and many other volunteers the show would not happen. As secretary my November was extremely busy. It was good to see horse entries up this year and the number of young children entering the various pavilion sections.

We entertain two lots of visitors during November and always enjoy sharing our little bit of country with them. The kids especially enjoy a ride in the trailer and wielding an axe! There are birthdays to celebrate not far from home, one a 70th and the other an 80th in idyllic rural settings. November is also sad as I remember family members who died five years ago.

But as the year draws to end, we reflect on the good things and learn from the not so good, and continue to count our blessings

Through my lens – macro magic

Seeing the world through a macro-lens is addictive and allows small things to be enjoyed greatly!

Blooming spring or is there is something in the air?

These red-rumped finches are among the native Australian birds to visit us during spring.
A field of daisies to some and just annoying cape weed to others!

Spring fever has hit early with a vengeance this year and has curtailed my usual activities. From feeling a bit off-colour to full-blown hay fever and a chest infection I am currently limping along. The coughing spasms and lack of energy do little to inspire the creative juices. But in-between coughing fits I have been reviewing some of my most recent photos and trying to do a cull and select a few that represent spring in my part of the world until I feel better to write about some of the things that have been happening in my life in recent weeks. Until then better stock up on those hay fever pills!

Oh, well spotted deer!

Living on our 25 acres we are often surprised by special animal visitors. We often see kangaroos but deer are much rarer. Our property is surrounded by cleared farming land and lots of cattle. Up in the hills and towards the mountains Samba deer are common and considered a feral nuisance. This little fellow was prancing outside our kitchen door on our lawn late afternoon on Boxing Day. Because it was a bit nervous, I was trying to take photos through my dirty windows so the quality may not be up to my usual standard. However, my husband and I were thrilled to have such a pretty visitor. I did wonder if Santa Claus had left one of his team behind on Christmas Day. It finally with little leaps and bounds disappeared to where we don’t know.

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.