Focus on winter in the High Country

Winter

By Lynn Elder

Winter steals our blue skies

and replaces them with yearnings for wood fires.

When rain-drenched clouds

above the paddocks crowd

a sense of gloominess descends,

bringing a desire to seek out friends

to indulge in wine and song,

while the season of winter stays too long.

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.

Winter solstice a reason to light up

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

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

Winter cometh amid change

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

 

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

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Leaping seals, Seal Rocks.

 

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

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

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Spring forward, fall back

A month into spring, we move our clocks forward by one hour for the beginning of daylight saving as we head towards summer and somewhere on the other side of the world, clocks fall back by an hour as winter advances. Coming out of a colder than usual Victorian winter, the sun-lit days with increased warmth are welcomed with open arms. The ski season was able to extend its season to include the most recent school holidays but the sight of snow-capped mountains is quickly disappearing! Good winter rains has filled our dams and tanks and left the surrounding country side looking reminiscent of the green hills in Lancashire, England, the birthplace of my husband.

 

As we shed our winter layers and start to tackle the tasks of cutting grass and weeding garden beds, we are aware of the changing seasons.  Daffodils and jonquils created a jolly display and now we are seeing white and pink blossoms throughout our property. Spring also brings new purpose to our bird population as they busily flit about building nests and leaving their calling cards on the walls of our house! A certain magpie has taken to dive bombing me on my get-fit walks which always makes me nervous. We are amazed by the tiny wrens picking up material for their nests twice their size and the pretty ground-level plover eggs.  As the heat increases we are aware that snakes including brown and tiger varieties, are awakening from their hibernation. At this stage, only seen two down by our dam.

 

We enjoy watching the antics of our neighbours’ new-born calves as they view us with great curiosity. Our two elderly cows despite their old bones enjoy the fresh green blades of grass on our lawn. The frosty days seem to be behind us. Now time to issue all those much overdue lunch and dinner invitations to celebrate these precious spring days with friends new and old. I watch the sun come up over the nearby hill and watch it go down on the opposite hill in the evening. Every day is different and brings a wonderful sense of calm and peace to know that nature is healing my body and soul.

Jack Frost nipping at our heels!

 

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Moving from the city to the country; early morning frosts brings back childhood memories.

Winter arrives with the icy fingers of frost and heavy fog in abundance. Jack Frost is laying claim on our wide open spaces with great delight, as temperatures dive down to minus zero Celsius. The appearance of snow on the nearby mountain peaks, has brought the best ski season in five years attracting visitors and tourist dollars to the region.

I began this post at the start of winter and here it is with only one day officially before the start of spring. Life and other distractions have kept me away from finishing this blog about my tree-change during the cold months. My blogging was focused on Creativity and Innovation,  my latest university unit towards my agonizingly slow process of getting my first degree.

It has been an exceptionally cold winter. The wood heater is working overtime and the woolly jumpers and fur-lined boots busted out of the wardrobe. My two furry friends, Friskie and Rambo, have increased the snuggle factor as the temperature gauge drops overnight.

My respite from the cold was a two week trip to East Timor (Timor Leste) in July with a local friends group of 16 which included eight secondary college students, teachers and community members such as myself.  This was a life-changing trip and has increased my passion for this emerging nation and its beautiful people to do more to support them. I will post separately about my travels to Timor Leste and share my observations and experiences. The morning I flew out to 30 degrees plus temperatures, it was minus 5 at home! Very cold by Australian standards.

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Our frozen landscape!

With the cold weather, also came a wet winter. Many of us thought that last year’s big wet after almost 10 years of dry weather was  a one-off and not to be complacent that the same would happen again. Obviously, we were optimistic when we bought our 22,000 litre water tank to catch the run off on our shed in April – it is now full. Both our dams have filled as well which is a bonus. Bolly (my hubby) continues to clear up around the place and is making some significant inroads. Where he has cleared the banking between the dams, is now a clearway for visiting kangaroos. We do see some big holes which belong to our burrowing wombats but not near the house thankfully. Rabbits were also on the increase but their numbers seem to have tapered off. My city cat, Rambo, caught his first rabbit the other day and his second one the next day. We are not sure if it was the same rabbit or not! Not bad for a 11-year-old cat who sleeps most of the day.

Sadly, we had to have one of our old cows put down recently. The extra cold mornings and the deterioration in her health, meant that it was the most humane thing to do. The other two despite their slow movements are happy munching grass and treating us with the contempt they think we deserve.

Although the chilly days bring their challenges to keeping well rugged-up and warm, the landscape is always changing and giving us new vistas each day. But seeing the early daffodils nodding in the breeze gives one hope of warmer days ahead.

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Oh daffodil your arrival not only brightens my garden but gives a promise of spring to come.