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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.