Category Archives: Country Life

The permanent tree change – one year on

 

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The hill behind our property by artist Greg Footit

Still busy clearing up after last month’s storm with the help of several special friends and recovering from the festive season, so there has been little time to reflect on our transition to full-time country life. This month also marks one year since my husband retired from full-time work, although he has just spent three weeks down in the city filling in over the new year at his old job! Of course, the storm hit while he was away.

 

We enjoyed a pre-Christmas lunch at our house with our new friends who we met through the local church last year. Had our new neighbours over for a barbecue tea with their three young children before Christmas. I forgot how lively five-year old boys can be! But great kids.  Then we got to enjoy a splendid Christmas Day lunch with 16 others at another friend’s home in town. Then it was up early to travel to the city to enjoy Boxing Day celebration with my husband’s two sons. The eldest boy loves to cook and is addicted to the TV cooking channel!

This time of year also brings extreme heat waves with temperatures over 40 degrees Celsius. Always seems to coincide with the Australian Tennis Open in Melbourne. When we made our permanent move this time last year, it was hot then too. The addition of a reverse cycle last March has made those exceptionally hot days bearable.  We try not to run our air-conditioner any more than we have to in interest of keeping costs now and trying to be more environmentally friendly. The year has flown and the list of jobs around the place doesn’t seem to get any shorter!  But we are not complaining – we love our new lifestyle and enjoy being surrounded by the great outdoors despite the challenges it throws at us.

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An artist’s impression of our new home by Greg Footit. Painted in spring following a wet winter.

 

Our days and nights, weeks and months, are now marked by the ever-changing seasons, the surrounding views of nature and man at work, a passing parade of wildlife and bird life in what we now call our bubble!  Connecting with the outdoors in such a personal and engaging way, makes it difficult to leave here sometimes. This doesn’t mean we have turned into hermit monks; my internet connection and other activities in town make sure of that. I have just picked up a part-time administration role with a local community organisation which looks like keeping me very busy. My studies continue with six units to complete to get my degree. I continue to discover the joys of blogging and connecting with many others from across the world.  It provides a wonderful opportunity to write and be read by a diverse range of people.

My husband Bolly and I have reconnected with old friends and made some new ones in the past year. We are so blessed to live in such a vibrant and active local community. My passion for Timor Leste continues with my involvement with the local friendship group and I hope to return again soon with Bolly. Throughout the year we have been involved with Landcare Group activities and still thinking through the best use of our small acreage.

Work on the house which is mainly cosmetic is still ongoing. The kitchen and bathrooms are earmarked as major renovation projects this year. But then there is still my dream of being a horse owner again and getting back on board after many years!

I have earmarked 2018 as my best year ever. I think 2017 was like a gap year for me but it is time to spread my wings and see what lies over the horizon.  Escape to the High Country is part of that journey and I look forward to others travelling with me into a new year.

 

 

 

 

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The storms of summer continue…

The fury of  what I can only describe as being  akin to a tornado battered our property late afternoon on December 28.  In a scary five minutes it managed to wreak havoc.  It  ripped healthy limbs from solid old gum trees and strewn them several metres away including under our veranda. Our spacious lawn area was covered in leafy branches and the canopy of our majestic gum had been shredded to pieces leaving it to look rather sparse. A mix of hail, rain and extreme winds hit the house horizontally, tossing my pot plants asunder and blowing the outdoor furniture down the paddock. It was wild. So much water was coming in under the doors, that I had to use nearly every towel I owned on the sodden carpets.  It wasn’t safe to venture outdoors. Then as quickly as it came, the storm abated leaving just drizzle and a huge mess to clean up.

 

Fortunately, I had grabbed my two cats prior to the onslaught. The day had been muggy and oppressive, so a storm wasn’t unexpected given the clouds that rolled in later. But this was nothing, I had experienced before. My husband was down in the city working so I didn’t get to share this with him until much later. When it was calmer and safer I took a walk outside. I was gob-smacked at the damage to our trees. Our olive tree and weeping cherry were  spilt through the centre. My exercise ball was over the fence in my neighbour’s paddock. The cover over our rain water tank pump had been blown off some distance away. In my previous post, I talked about the damage to our driveway from a previous storm; well it has got a whole lot worse now. Just waiting for a very busy local guy to come and fix it.

Neighbours rang to see if we were OK. One family had lost all their chickens and another couple got the brunt of the storm with huge trees uprooted, gates ripped off their hinges and the well-maintained grape vines battered beyond belief. The storm was fairly localised.  The following day, I could see where numerous trees had been uprooted or branches snapped off in a row and the next row of trees left untouched. Sadly, I did hear a nearby property reported loss of cattle and someone else heard a horse had died as well. Given the large number of cattle and horses in the area, it was amazing there were not more losses.

We did feel for our builder and neighbour, who unfortunately had a tree collapse on the roof of his house and work ute. Like good neighbours people rallied round to lend him a helping hand. I had an older husband and wife team arrive with chain saw and dressed for work, help me clear some of the fallen branches and limbs while my husband was away.

The sound of chain saws can be heard throughout the valley as landholders deal with the aftermath of the storm. No shortage of wood for next winter. It has been a bit tricky trying to clean up with the heat wave and a total fire ban day as well. My husband Bolly and I were so proud of ourselves that we had done such a great job getting fire ready and this latest storm undid all that good work. At least, I’m getting a good workout by raking leaves and carting wood. I’m hoping the new year will be a bit calmer weather-wise!

 

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Roll on summer!

December 1 heralds the official start of summer in Australia but this month also saw the arrival of a summer’s worth of rain in 24 hours. Following our cold, frosty winter we have been enjoying some rather warm 30 degrees Celsius plus days in the run up to December. With the big downpour I started to wonder whether we should start work on an ark! Our builder says his shed wasn’t big enough for such a project but he would watch out for a dove with an olive branch. My husband’s response was, “The olive tree had floated away!”. It was a deluge.

 

Our driveway suffered a bit of damage so we are waiting for a professional to come in and remake the road for us. We have placed a couple of “witches’ hats” in the two holes to warn visitors.

My city slicker cat is adapting to country life and has a new activity chasing little bunnies who are game enough to come out into the open. However, the day after the big rain and being cooped up for a couple of days, Rambo spent his time watching the rabbit burrow near our rockery. He came back to the house and was scratching like crazy. I thought he had sat on one of the many sugar ant hills around our house and got himself bitten.  But no, looking at his dirty chest, he had stuck his head down the burrow and was infested with fleas. We usually use the slow release flea treatment that is absorbed into the cat’s bloodstream but this called for urgent action. We were fortunate to have some flea powder handy and the fleas were jumping in large numbers! A friend told me it happens a lot with rabbits and cats – and owners have to flea bomb their houses afterwards. I’m not scratching so haven’t resorted to that action – just a really good vacuum.

With the warmer weather, the snake sightings increase which makes me nervous if the cats are wandering around outside. My husband just called me outside to near the rockery where a rather large black/brown snake was slithering away. So I bring the cats in and they are not happy being locked up on such a nice afternoon. My camera is sitting next to me but when it comes to snakes I don’t feel so inclined to get that close to the subject matter.

Earlier this year we attended the Alternative Farming Expo at Seymour where we watched a snake handler do a display with various snakes found throughout Australia. It is part of a snake awareness education program, explaining the different types and how dangerous the different species are. We bought a snake bite first aid kit for our car. Tourniquets are no longer used and a wide crepe bandage is used to immobilise the affected limb or other body parts.  I did feel braver when watching someone who was experienced with snakes and did pat one of them when he walked around with one for the audience to touch. I took several photos but it was still unnerving watching these reptiles slithering on the ground. But there are very strict regulations for transporting snakes and some heavy-duty storage lockers in use.

 

Snakes are a protected species, so it is best to give them a wide berth when encountered. We have a dam near our house which we are told attracts snakes. Just like other parts of the world we learn to respect the wild things that we share this land with and use common sense when around them.

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.

 

From Easter to Anzac – sacrificial love

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On a green hill far away…

Good Friday dawns outside my bedroom window. The sweeping view causes me  to pause and think of a man hanging on a cross in a faraway land on a lonely hill. The bright sunlit scene before me belies what happened to a man called Jesus over 2000 years ago. This is our second Easter in our new home. Last year it was a chance to escape the city for a long weekend and time out from work.  For some Easter is a time to reflect on the actions of this man who came to live among us and then die so we could be forgiven for our sins and enjoy life in its fullness. The sermon for the day uses the modern analogy of a garbage truck travelling through the town picking up everyone’s burdens and dross along the way. I am conflicted this day because it is the first time that Australian Rules Football has been played on Good Friday and my team is playing. They lost by the way!

Easter is soon followed by ANZAC Day. This is a time to remember those who paid the ultimate sacrifice to fight a battle in a faraway land on our behalf and I am reminded again of a man on a cross who well understood what unconditional love and sacrifice means.

Easter and ANZAC have come and gone this year, but I am forever grateful for the gift of living free in this country and the blessings that I enjoy.

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.