Wamboin Community Association

Wamboin Muse

by Jill Gregory

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My bush garden in winter is never pretty, but it looks magical under the light of a full moon. Leafy silhouettes of lace floating above forked trunks of brilliant white, shadows on the ground, silver pathways, muted edges of garden beds, and except for the faint red glow of berries on the row of nandinas and a few diosmas splashed with pale gold it could be an old sepia photograph. The clever moonlight has disguised the holes, glossed over rough patches and softened the barren spaces. For days the black cockatoos, like folds of soft velvet, have drifted overhead screeching “tidings of great joy”. And for once they were right. It rained last night.

We’ve had some glorious, calm sunny days but the last month has been very cold and dry. The heavy frosts, night after night, have sucked any moisture from the ground, pools in the creeks have dried up and dams are pitifully low. The powdery soil is lifeless and there is no feed for the animals. Mobs of kangaroos sprawl listlessly in the paddocks as if waiting for a green blade of grass to appear, and small kangaroos, alone and bewildered, cling to the gutters by the roadside trying to scratch something to eat.

And with little vegetation there seems to be much more rubbish by the road. Maybe there is or maybe there are simply fewer hiding places. I try to remember to stuff a few plastic bags in my pockets before I head off for a walk so that I can pick up some of the litter ......but I usually forget. And now that single use plastic bags have been phased out I have to rethink how I’ll collect roadside rubbish, and be organised with my bundle of cloth bags in the car before I rush off to town with my shopping list. I’m getting better at that, but sometimes I forget and leave them in the parked car! This means everything comes out of the trolley at the register, to be put back into the trolley as I fumble with my credit card and try to maintain my composure. I then struggle to manoeuvre an overloaded trolley with a dicky wheel and no brake back to the car park, fumble, this time for the car keys, and unload everything into the boot, hoping the bag of potatoes wont shift and squash the mushrooms as I turn sharply onto Sutton Road, and that the bottle of wine wont have found its way to the head of the queue by the time I open the boot and smashes on the concrete garage floor. At least I have my unused cloth bags ready to carry the groceries into the kitchen and then heave the bags up on the bench to be emptied, sorted and put away. My mother never had plastic bags in her early days and was unaware of her duty to save the planet. She simply wrote a list for the grocery boy and left it on the kitchen bench, and along with the baker and the milkman, everything was delivered to her back door.......nothing was packaged in plastic. When she went walking along country roads she picked wildflowers.

I wouldn’t live anywhere else...soon the bush will be filled with golden wattles and the first jonquils will appear in the garden....

But if I were a kangaroo reduced to eating periwinkle as they do around here, I’d be thinking of moving on.....but where to....that is the problem.


Back to Wamboin and a wintry world after balmy days, black starlit nights and the red and rugged isolation and emptiness of the Kimberley. Only the changing tides gave some indication of time passing; no mobile phones, no internet, no radio, no TV. I was blissfully unaware of the world outside. Then suddenly the holiday was over and I was back, bombarded by the pace and noise of cars and people, rules and regulations and the demands of texts and emails. But despite the chatter, little of any world shattering significance seemed to have been resolved while I was absent on another planet.

And once home I started to see some of my favourite things again...Corrugated iron shearing sheds, farm gates swinging on rusty hinges, gravel roads untravelled, and hard, sparkling frosts and brooding fogs. I stepped gingerly down the back steps, slippery with ice crystals and saw, twinkling with diamonds, a pair of blue denim jeans, legs stiffly askew, on the clothes line. Denim stitched with sequins.... surely not the stuff of Wamboin work wear....or had I been absent for too long!

This morning I headed off, rugged up against the cold, to a special “shearing shed," the Sutton community hall, for my regular yoga class. Even a verandah and a wall of windows does little to disguise its architectural heritage. The building is as cold as charity on a frosty morning and the pollen laden norwesterlies whistle through the cracks in late spring, but by the time classes started this morning the heaters had made it comfortable. Time to lie down, switch off the mind and relax the body. Lying on the old wooden floor with only a thin rubber mat between me and the permafrost I focus on the soothing instructions. My mind calms, busy thoughts are discarded and I let go of outside sounds. Then I breathe deeply....long, slow yogic breaths...listening only to the gentle rhythm of my breathing. Another long slow breath. Then my nostrils twitch. It’s not the smell of sweat and lanolin mixed with sheep dung in the shearing shed but something quite different. Oblivious to all else I breathe again, deeply, less rhythmically, but my senses are awakened. Stale beer! Concentration is shattered and my mind is racing. I’m at the party last Saturday night....a twenty first, a wedding reception, a reunion? It’s a lively gathering, anyway, voices straining above the music, laughter, feet tapping and beer flowing. Someone gesticulates wildly and a full glass of beer sloshes to the floor, close to where my head now lies. The old wooden floor is forgiving and in time honoured fashion quietly absorbs the spill.The party goes on. And now I’m doing a “downward dog” and mercifully my head is at the other end of the mat!

The world may be busy and noisy and full of people on contrived treadmills, but there are still places of calm within. And to think that I was able to be thoroughly modern, to multitask, attending a party while meditating in an old shearing shed in the middle of a paddock so close to home.

I wouldn’t live anywhere else.


We are about to go on a holiday, an indulgent holiday this time with everything planned, just like all those cashed up Baby Boomers whose life is one long holiday if you would believe the popular press. But I can’t relax just yet. I’d cancelled the newspapers, watered the parsley, picked and stowed the eight plus two surprise pumpkins, posted parcels and letters, emptied the recycling and was about to tick “packing,” with a flourish, when I found in tiny scrawl at the bottom of the list, “muse”. It’s not that time of the month, just yet, but it is for me!

I’ve bashed out the Muse from the WW1 Battlefields of northern France on a German keyboard, deleting any colourful language that would have been more at home in the trenches, tried reflecting on why I wouldn’t live anywhere else while in Perth preparing an obituary for a family funeral and struggled to dredge up memories of chilly air and warming gluhwein at the Wamboin Fireworks while a fan swirled overhead and small children scrambled under my clammy feet in FNQ.

This time, however, I want to get away and have a real holiday; leave home behind! But as I opened my computer I felt like the kid at primary school who had returned after the holidays, excited to see everyone again, happy to swap a few stories and then marched into class and told, “Write what you did in the holidays.” Silence reigned for the next hour. Teachers sure knew how to bring you back to earth with a thud. I wanted to indulge in daydreams for a bit longer. I didn’t want to write!

But if I were to think fondly of Wamboin and home, while away, what would come to mind.

I would recall the last Wamboin market; friendly faces, engaging conversation, a plate of prize winning scones jam and cream washed down with a good coffee, the smell of egg and bacon rolls, live music in the background and market stalls; a chance to talk to each other, exchange ideas and time honoured grizzles, a little local gossip, a shared joke, and in the end take home something hand made. I’d wonder if there were sparkling frosts or silent fogs and dew dropped spider webs. I’d see autumn leaves dancing across the cold grey ground, twisted lifeless boughs broken by splashes of red and gold from a tree unwilling to surrender its colour just yet. I would envisage the breakfast party at the back steps each day, the magpies noisily demanding their share, the self effacing currawong standing back until a lump of meat is tossed above the squabble of black and white and is caught mid air. The larrikin cockatoos with a flash of white screaming abuse as they fly overhead. The brilliant rosellas waiting patiently for a clump of black feathers to morph into choughs and fly off. Then it’s their turn at the bird seed on the stump. And when breakfast is over for the plebs, the king parrots cruising down in their splendour confident that they’ll be fed because they are so beautiful.... if a little dull. But they won't partake on the stump. Good heavens, no!

I might go away, but I will always return.... because it’s home and.... I wouldn’t live anywhere else.


Another ANZAC Day is behind us and with it the usual range of loud voices expressing their opinions. Think what you may, but here’s an opinion from a quieter voice. The simple, moving Dawn Service of remembrance, echoed around Australia as the new day dawns, signed off, on cue, by a lone magpie neither needs dressing up as entertainment nor needs to become a vehicle for yet another exercise in social engineering. It’s not the place. “Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.” Let them be.

In the lead up to ANZAC Day there is a lot of talk about heroes. I have a suspicion that we use the word “hero” too lightly in modern discourse. A hero is defined as “a man who is idolised for possessing superior qualities in any field.” What a burden to carry such a label through life! That some ordinary Australians, men and women from all walks of life, when called upon have done heroic things, endured unimaginable hardships, have been brave, impulsive, careless of their own safety to assist others, can’t be denied. But for a “hero” to return home, resume ordinary life as an ordinary person after the uniform has been taken off, and try to live up to the unrealistic expectations put upon you by yourself and others, must be crippling.

When I arrived home just before ANZAC Day having being in different climes for a few weeks and saw my confused and arid autumn garden, my shoulders slumped. I felt very, very weary, crippled. It always takes time to reacquaint myself with the garden and its surrounds, reconcile the changes, good and bad, and start to hear individual bird song again.

Brushing past a lavender bush helped restore the soul. Rosemary did the same. Then I heard the butcher bird’s call, saw Peace roses, my grandmother’s pride and joy, on a bush that had limped through summer and an embarrassed flowering quince sporting a few pink blooms. A crab apple sprawls, draped in a lacy shawl of russet leaves and nearby manchurian pears pose naked, caught out by an earlier, unseasonal cold snap. A solitary chinese pistachio, planted many Easters ago in a rough patch of garden and wished lots of luck, however, steals the show; small things can help to overlook the scars.....And there are many scars. My garden, owned by night raiders is very ordinary, with a very ordinary overseer on very ordinary soil in an area of ordinary rainfall..... so why do I expect heroics from it. There have been individual casualties this “long summer,” but overall it has survived. Some plants have been luckier than others; garden “heroes” in this particular season. I just have to accept what’s there, and get on with it. Composting is next.

I wouldn’t live anywhere else..... but it would be quite acceptable to have some decent rain....... lest we forget what it looks like.


It’s been quite a week; the culmination of twenty years of motoring history in our family.

It started with the realisation that we needed a “new” car, so we headed to the Pickles Auction. After careful deliberation we settled on a midnight blue Ford sedan. We took a numbered card and waited for the auction to begin. Tension mounted. Suddenly, my right arm spasmed, my hand shot up and I was waving a number above my head. In that instant we became the owners of a two year old, sage green Holden Commodore station wagon that had defied the “car detailer’s” skill by revealing its origins with the tell tale red dust of the Northern Territory. That was nearly the end of an almost perfect marriage! But time is a great healer. Without fuss or fanfare, the Holden, steady, reliable, unpretentious, purring, “Don't notice me”, won a place in our hearts. It never had a real name. We’d had the Shark, the Hard Charger and the White Goat before it, but it just remained, “the Holden”. It had wind down windows, a radio/cassette player, an air conditioner and a good sized glove box.

In its time it nudged a few unwary kangaroos and grew comfortably wrinkled and scratched. It failed to notice a tree behind it one day and thereafter was two toned, with a smart grey rear hatch door from the wreckers. There was always room for bales of lucerne and hay, bags of grain, potting mix and stinking fertiliser in the back. Animals were carried to the vet, the lamb to its annual Christmas Eve gig at the church and Cedric the rooster had his front seat ride to the letter box. It was never precious about what it carried.The dump was a favourite excursion especially when there were acres of sticky brown clay to bring home. It was the ambulance that made its way through the scrub to rescue our son and take him safely to hospital when he’d been mauled trying to untangle our terrified dog in the dam. Once we filled the car and the trailer to the gunwales with old, mouldy decking timber and brought it home from a Sydney renovation job. We looked like Ma and Pa Kettle in our working clothes, down on their luck with the last of their possessions, but the well seasoned hardwood kept us warm that winter. The Holden travelled the length of the East coast and made many forays into the back blocks. It crawled up Clyde Mountain at the end of a very hot February day, towing an old VW Beetle, and made it without boiling! It was a car for all seasons. Perhaps its stand out moment had been at our eldest son’s country wedding. In the lush green church paddock the spotless Holden was positioned, the rear hatch door lifted and there was the “drinks cabinet," champagne glasses, silver salvers, and Mozart playing in time to the popping of corks.

But all good things come to an end, and for the past couple of months the old two toned station wagon has sat forlornly in the car port, gathering dust and cobwebs, only visited by huntsmen. It’d been replaced by two vehicles...a nifty little fuel efficient red thing and a battered brute of a ute.

I didn’t see it loaded onto the wreckers’ truck, but I was there when the young chap knocked at the back door and handed me a folded $50 note in payment.....enough, perhaps, for ten soy lattes! After he’d gone I went out to see the hole left behind, and one of birdwatcher Luke’s female Leaden flycatchers flew in, flittered around and filled the space. Magic!

The Holden never aspired to a place at the Wheels of Wamboin beauty pageant. It was plain, humble and accomodating, but it was an extraordinary, very ordinary Australian, and, after a less than auspicious entrance, served us well.

I wouldn’t live anywhere else........


As I look outside the wind is tearing through the tops of the gums. A family of rowdy choughs has sought refuge in the shade and are taking turns at drinking from the fish pond, noisy black balls of feathers recently departed from the chook yard. Each morning they wait for the daily ritual, perched, brooding on the top of the chook yard gate, ready to pounce like vultures on the contents of the scrap bucket. They are hungry, just like the magpies that call at the back door. There are no worms in the dry, powdery ground, and few insects around. Many trees are already clad in their red and yellow autumn colours, some with crisp brown edges, but the gums are still strong and green. I seem to be filling bird baths almost every day. I must have missed one, but a considerate possum left me a reminder... neatly stacked in the middle of the dry bowl was a little pyramid of possum poo! Rain is promised......promises, promises.

However, at the markets, last week, there was little evidence of a lack of rain. I was greeted with fresh plums and peaches firm and full of flavour. One bite and I was ten years old again, in our backyard orchard. I bought REAL tomatoes, parsley that tasted like parsley, not synthetic grass, garlic from down the road in Bungendore, not China, and potatoes that would have made an Irishman’s heart sing. There was a real buzz, but it was not just the result of fresh produce or the craft or plant stalls, the buzz came because people were coming together, buying, chatting, catching up with each other and enjoying a late breakfast egg and bacon roll and a cup of good coffee. The market is just one example of the glue that keeps our community together.

I have some misgivings about the way “community," as a word, is bandied about as something warm and fuzzy that if said often enough will cure society’s ills. A community is not something that can be plucked from a conjuror’s hat on cue. A community is made up of us. It doesn’t exist just because we do. It exists because of what we, as individuals do, and how we come together to do it. There are many groups and activities in our area, catering for many and varied needs. Good, community minded people have perceived those needs over the years and have worked towards providing them. But our needs are changing as the population changes.

When we arrived here the creek was running, dams were overflowing, the grass was green and the wildlife was abundant and in its place. We were energetic, maintained our acres, engaged with the community and still put in a week of work in town. But we were 20 years younger then.There are now many long term residents in our community, many alone, who want to stay where they are but without real support may be forced to leave.

Sitting around the table the other day over a home cooked lunch with “old” Wamboin friends, thumbs in neutral, laughing and chewing the fat twentieth century style, we acknowledged that our needs are changing and that we are no longer as spry as we used to be, and no longer as quick on our feet. However, we still desire and are able to contribute to our community, and we still have a need to feel useful and relevant. A lot of positive ideas were tossed around. Whilst wishing to retain our independence in our own homes we don’t want to be socially isolated and lonely. Many of us now need some help, not just from each other but from the wider community. A community bus and a secure communal dog walking area were a couple of ideas floated. I’m sure the Thursday morning group at the Community Hall has further suggestions. All ideas are worthy of consideration, but putting them into practice can be the challenge, and take time.

The tree tops are still being buffeted by the wind, the shrubs outside my window are drooping as if they are desperate for a drink....and I share their sentiments. I only wish I could glue a few more cut out clouds in the holes in the sky to make the promise of rain more likely....but maybe I’ll be more realistic and simply pour myself that drink.

I wouldn't live anywhere else.


Christmas is well and truly wrapped up, and New Year's Eve but a distant blur with dim memories of fireworks, somewhere. I know I said, “Happy New Year,” to many faces, many times, but to me the real new year doesn’t start until after Australia Day. Australia Day is the watershed, the divide between the dreamtime of summer holidays and the inevitable return to the strictures of modern life; work, school, routines and schedules, the unnatural rhythms of life foisted upon us by society.

It’s a day on which I like to reflect, accept our history, celebrate all that is good in our society and look to the future, ever mindful of our impact on the planet we share with so many. I think of those dark, bewildered eyes amid the trees witnessing that new world spectacle unfolding in Sydney Cove so many years ago. And I think of the human cargo that was dumped on that shore, rejects from another world, a fractured society, whose hearts had been ripped asunder, whose bodies worn down by the long voyage and who had been left with little hope and fewer prospects in an alien place; another remarkable tale of survival in a history we can’t change.

However, I don’t think the birds that I was listening to as the day warmed were troubled by such thoughts. They were celebrating just another Australian day, carolling, twittering and screeching, out of harmony with each other but in harmony with the natural rhythms of the bush. Throughout the hot weather the eucalypts have been mindlessly discarding their outer layers, dropping leaves at whim and leaving a trail of destruction for us to pick up. But our rewards are glimpses of their ghostly white trunks mirrored in the moonlight.

Our contrived, once green lawn is now brown, crisp and threadbare, the tomato bushes are protesting against the heat and kangaroos, en masse, have claimed land rights on our access road. But when the sun sinks below the tree line and the heat goes out of the day, the evenings are long, mild and exquisite. It’s a time for a quiet drink on the verandah, idle chat and a spot of bunny watching, if this be your bent. Frankly, I’d like to dig up and throttle the chap who imported rabbits from “Home” in his pursuit of sporting pleasures. Never could he have envisaged the destruction he would unleash on the environment. On the other hand, I could hug whoever had the foresight to introduce agapanthus to our parched summer landscape when even the bush is fading; such happy, hardy bright spots of enduring colour.

And on that cheerful note, may I wish you a happy new year as you surrender the natural rhythms of holiday time and return, refreshed and renewed to face the challenges and rewards of the real world. We have so much to be grateful for in this wide brown land we share......and so much to celebrate.

I wouldn’t live anywhere else.



Spring finally roused itself with a little help from some timely rain. Shrubs and trees now look refreshed with new leaves and new shade, roses are blooming, lettuces are leaping out of the ground, hell bent on going to seed before I am ready to eat them, and the cunning blowflies are finding any gap in the fly screen to come inside. The days have become longer and warmer and the air is beginning to feel and sound as if Christmas is near at hand.

I’m getting prepared. There are two small Christmas puddings, tied up with string, and several fruit cakes mellowing on the kitchen bench. A youthful Margaret Fulton shared her pudding recipe with me fifty years ago. She probably looks and feels a little like her old cooking book these days....tired, faded and falling apart. She would have had me use a pudding basin but I always preferred a calico cloth because that was what my Grandmother used. To me, that’s what Christmas is about....traditions.

I grew up on Christmas card images depicting snow on roof tops and on the ground, freshly cut fir trees lit with candles, jolly Father Christmas snug in his red suit, bright eyed children with mufflers, mittens and lanterns carolling at candle lit windows, and everyone tucking into a hearty evening meal warmed by rich food and the fire in the hearth. An American lad, not called Donald, once asked why we, in Australia, have Christmas in summer!! I was somewhat taken aback. However, I do feel that we, in the southern hemisphere, are duped by Christmas.....and it’s not just about food.

Our Christmas trees are not fragrant with pine needles, rather a musty, old plastic smell. Outdoor “carols by candlelight” are now minus candles for fear of starting a bush fire, and jolly old Santa’s cheeks, smeared with sunscreen, glow unhealthily red below a brow beaded with sweat. Instead of snow covered ground there are thirsty lawns and plants crying out for a drink! And to add insult to injury, Christmas preparations come when we’re all exhausted at the end of the school and working year and just want to call it quits! Then we sit down to a traditional lunch with all the trimmings as the thermometer on the back veranda nudges 40! But, I make no apologies. As I wipe the sweat from my brow with the corner of my apron and join the others at the festive table I have to admit that I am a sucker for “tradition”. And when I’m the cook, I want the best ingredients.

And so, when I went to the chook yard the other morning to collect the best and freshest eggs for the puddings, I got a surprise; something that also spells the Christmas season.

I had begun to think that just when I needed plenty of eggs for Christmas cooking our three little brown girls had gone off the lay. They deserved a bit of down time, but perhaps the crows (ravens) I’d heard each morning might have been responsible for the drop in production. I decided to keep the girls in a little later hoping to foil the feathered suspects. Then I discovered a very fat, rather unhappy shingleback wedged in the fencing wire on its way out. Another possibility! Evidence mounted against the shingleback when I found another of its ilk looking well nourished and rather smug. I promptly removed it to the other side of the wire. But on this particular morning I got a surprise that made my heart miss a beat. Sitting on a nest in a dark corner of the shed like a broody hen, with every sense of entitlement, was a neatly coiled brown snake. Finally, I had nailed the culprit!

Spring is nearly over, the weather is warming, the natural world is responding and we in the southern hemisphere are starting to prepare for a traditional Christmas and gift giving. And the greatest gift I could wish for this Christmas is not snow, but mild weather and enough rain to fill our dam and yours.

Happy Christmas wherever you are........I’ll be here because....I wouldn’t live anywhere else.


We’d been away, up north, where no one seemed fixated on Donald’s latest ramblings or considered whether his inane prattle might have stemmed from his time out in the “naughty corner” playing with wooden blocks while the other kids in grade 2 were learning that there really were words other than “nice” to use in “show and tell”. No, the northerners were focussed on more important things, the Football Final; real football, not your wussy round ball stuff.

And so it was a bit of a shock to return home... a shock in more ways than one! Forget politics, or football... what had happened to the beginning of spring? I thought I’d missed it, as if spring had been a non event and we had leap frogged from the depths of winter to the end of summer. The garden was bone dry, good sized coreas and prosantheras had turned up their toes. Everything else that hadn’t died looked forlorn and downtrodden.There was nothing to suggest a robust spring in sight. Reluctant to water over winter with little water in the dam I had not realised how dry the soil had become and how susceptible the plants were to frosts. We had to make a decision. Rather than abandon the garden, we decided to cage anything that showed some sign of life and foil the night raiders, remove what appeared dead, and water until the taps ran dry.....and then we got some rain, magic, blissful rain!

Despite some big gaps in the garden a few holes have been filled with tube stock, and now, dotted throughout, are wire cages in all shapes and sizes keeping the plants in and our treasured wildlife out!! While the animals and birds are free the plants are behind bars. At first all this wire offended the senses, but now I hardly see the wire for the trees!

There hasn’t been much weeding therapy of late, but there have been other compensations with this slowly unfolding spring. In the dead of night I listen to the two mournful notes of a far off mopoke, a black bird enchants me from dawn to dusk with its melodic song, a busy little group of red brow finches flies unconcernedly through the wire of the chook coop in search of titbits and from the creek I hear the soft, slow, resonant “oom” of a bronze wing pigeon. Handsome spine bills snap their wings as they fly by and blue wrens display their brilliant spring fashions. In the shed a little bird has built an untidy nest between the metal clamps hanging from a rafter and another has chosen the rear wheel spokes of a bicycle hanging from the rafters in the garage. I nearly step on a sleek, fat shingleback, give wide berth to a jacky lizard sunning itself on the gravel drive and spy an echidna, head down, trying not to be caught out on a very bad hair day.

The old faithfuls in the garden are slowly rallying. The viburnums have shed their snow flake blossoms and the frothy white may bushes have assumed their place amongst golden diosmas and red berried nandinas. Happily the rosellas gave me just enough time to breathe in the fragrant wisteria before I was on my hands and knees scooping up the mauve flowers they’d picked for me to arrange awkwardly in vases inside. I have never had such a beautiful show of irises and now the hardy, caged salvias have answered the call of spring with new leaf and a hint of colour.

There’s still compost to be dug into the soil and a mound of mulch to spread and a list of things to do that never ends, but a gardener must never give up. One must remain vigilant, be responsive, appreciative and have hope......and perhaps one day even Donald might see the light, embrace gardening and realise that it is nice, very nice, in fact even a very very nice thing to do, and forget about politics altogether......... and that would be really very very nice for all of us!

I wouldn’t live anywhere else..................


(We seem to have missed out this month)


Yesterday was a real taste of spring....a jacket less day in the garden under a clear blue sky with bees buzzing, birds twittering and masses of golden wattle. Today, as I look through my window at pink japonica blossoms and yellow daffodils I see them through a veil of softly falling snow. It’s been a month of bone chilling winds and grey winter skies one day and sunshine and warmth the next; August tempts and teases, but spring is on its way.

This spring, however, will be different. There will be no Lena Lamb. Twenty years ago a sign on the notice board at the corner shop on Bingley Drive announced... “Black lambs...free to good home.” I said, “No” but two cute bundles of curly black wool followed us home and adopted us. They quickly befriended our feathered menagerie, and Mort, our faithful hound, who was the reason we had moved from the suburbs to Wamboin in the first place. We named one Bert, and the other, Lena, and once named they assumed their rightful places on the couch to watch TV with the kids. Sometimes we tethered them across the creek where the grass was sweeter. One morning, to our horror, we discovered that Lena was alone. During the night Bert had been attacked by wild dogs and all that remained was his collar, a tuft of black wool and a few entrails. Lena was in a state of shock. Despite our encouragement, she balked at crossing the creek ever again.

So Lena the Lamb lived with the chooks and ducks and trotted around happily with Mort or the kids, but she never quite knew how to relate to Cedric, the rooster. Cedric was even more confused about his origins. He had been hatched and rejected by a disdainful duck, nurtured in an old ugg boot in the kitchen and fostered by a shaggy white dog. Lena spent her days trimming the lower branches of the chinese elms to lamb height, pruning roses and supplementing her diet with grain and lucerne. At 16, long after the kids had left home and left us with their ageing pets and treasures, we took her to the vet after yet another attack by dogs and were told that she had perfect teeth and “years ahead of her.”

Every Christmas Dave, the shearer, arrived for his gig in the garage. Sometimes Lena was shorn in private, sometimes she had an audience of curious children and grandchildren but always her performance was faultless. Her fleeces were bundled up and stowed in the loft. One year a friend spun her wool into balls of yarn and I knitted a scarf. It was beautiful wool. When the local church needed a flock of sheep for the Nativity, Lena was it. At first she trotted to the church on Christmas Eve with the head shepherd, but in later years she gratefully accepted a ride in the back of the old Holden station wagon. Two years ago she retired from public life, still “Lena the Lamb”. She was the last survivor.

On the bleakest wintry night this August she lay down, and died. Amazingly, the two kids who had nursed her and Bert on the couch all those years ago were visiting, one from Germany and the other from Townsville. Lena had chosen her time.....and to her credit had waited until there had been enough rain to soften the ground across the creek to dig a large hole and her final resting place.

Now she lies in peace, beside Bert, safe from marauding dogs, beneath the wattles, listening to the crescendo of bird song as our feathered friends return for spring. Brilliant wattles, cheery daffodils, blue skies, a massed choir of bird song and precious memories......I wouldn’t live anywhere else.


When our elder son was to be married it was suggested to me that I should wear beige and keep my mouth shut. Well, beige wasn’t my colour, so I wore green......It seems only a few short months ago that the landscape also chose to wear green, but as I look around now I see only beige, and I can’t keep my mouth shut any longer!

Autumn this year was brilliant. We didn’t get much rain but what little we got came just at the right time. Since then, however, despite the periodic appearance of black cockatoos and busy little ant trails signalling rain, nothing much has happened. Meanwhile the green grass has vanished and all that remains are a few beige tufts and bare ground; the birds and animals are hungry.

You can’t blame them for their appetites. We provide year round water, even when the creeks dry up, with our dams only an easy hop apart. We provide a smorgasbord in our gardens long after the native grasses have disappeared, and the kangaroos munch steadily through hard times on the extras we provide, and continue to do what comes naturally.....breed! Many years ago during the last drought, I came across a well dressed couple beside the road, looking lost. They weren’t. They were German tourists who’d been told to go to Wamboin if they wanted to see kangaroos.

Well, the drought ran its course, we had a few good years, the creeks ran, our dams filled and overflowed, gardens blossomed and the kangaroos flourished. Now we’re in drought again and the foraging kangaroo population is out of control. They’re eating native plants that I’ve never seen them touch before and depriving many birds and other native species of their food sources and habitats as they strip the country bare.

This is a land of good years and bad years, but we’ve upset the balance. What are we going to do about it? Will we sit back, with our beige voices, and do nothing while our natural diversity is decimated. Kangaroos are beautiful creatures with a truly fascinating biology, they are unique, they are our National symbol, but they were never meant to inhabit this fragile landscape in such large numbers. We have, perhaps unwittingly, created this mess but are now impotent to do anything about it, trussed up as we are in a string of rules and regulations made by those with their heads in the clouds and their feet under a desk.

I wouldn’t live anywhere else....Encountering three or four kangaroos along my driveway is pure pleasure, but a mob of thirty or forty is a bit much!! And I pity those who have to eke out a living from this land, while struggling to feed the rest of us!


School holidays, and with it the arrival of two lively little lads from the north; let the games begin!

As a working mother school holidays used to mean a longed for chance to break the daily grind, forget routines and the ticking clock and take a slow deep breath, look outside, dream a little and let the day be ruled only by your stomach. Nothing really changes. Today the lively lads are enjoying those simple things in a Wamboin way, feeding the chooks and collecting their eggs, stacking the wheelbarrow with kindling for the fire, shattering ice on the water troughs, building cubbies, propelling vintage bikes across rocky trails, and weaving stories as they slowly thread their way through the bush, ever alert for gold nuggets and relics from the past! Freezing hands in the morning, dripping noses, rosy cheeks and good appetites, engaged with the outdoors, fascinated, less fearful and with growing respect for the natural world.

With this in mind we decided to build a camp fire and grill sausages and corn for lunch. First we chose a cleared site, checked wind direction and made a fire place with scavenged bricks. We were being good boy scouts. We found an old sewer grate, very heavy and of uncertain provenance, for the grill, and then set off to find firewood. Rubbing two sticks together to create our fire was considered but matches seemed a better option especially with rumbling stomachs. And so we had “the best lunch ever” garnished with a little grit and ash....and a medicinal tipple for the grandparents. Just before we turned into ice blocks in the thin sunshine, we called it a day, quenched the fire and hailed the day as a success. The boys hadn’t had a real camp fire before and now they were a little more aware of the vagaries of fire.

The next morning I was up early to light the fire. It was minus 4 on the back verandah, a good frost, and an even better frost for the truffle farmers who’d been plagued for weeks by dripping fogs. I cleaned out some ash from the fire box, noticing a couple of embers in it, added it to the ash already in the metal bucket and left it on the brick path, just to be safe. Then I put a bunch of dried lavender spikes in with the kindling, lit it, and savoured the fragrance of a warm summer. All was good with the world.

We were sitting, chatting after a leisurely breakfast when the liveliest lad exclaimed, “There’s a lot of smoke outside!” And there was. Some innocent, helpful hand had emptied the ash bucket onto the composting heap of fallen leaves and dry cuttings and those tiny embers had been fanned by a whispering breeze into life. It could have been a disaster, but swift action soon had it under control. Nevertheless it fired up the adrenalin! We had wanted the boys from the suburbs to become aware of the dangers of fire, but perhaps we went overboard trying to press home our point.The boy scouts’ campfire seemed very tame after that.

I wouldn’t live anywhere else....and Wamboin is still their top school holiday destination......but it was a salutary experience for all of us.....


I resolved this morning that I would rake up all the autumn leaves. I have been putting it off for weeks, not even doing a bit here and there because the colours have been too beautiful to condemn to the compost bin too soon. But the time had come. There would be no more shuffling through the mosaic of russet, yellow and gold, no more walking damp spots of leafy colour into the house: autumn must be over. The trees, however, have been reluctant to surrender their gowns in the still, quiet air, but an unseen hand has loosened the ties and their gowns have slipped over the hips to lie in folds at their feet; a deep sigh, a shrug and the last leaf floats to the ground; naked, they face winter.

This last month seems to have been one of endless celebrations...music performances, Mothers’ Day, birthday parties for the young and old and those in between, and a country wedding in a picturesque setting as the afternoon shadows lengthened and the warmth went out of the sun.

I can’t imagine a life without music. It takes you to another foot tapping place. Live music is even better; feeling the energy as you watch the musicians feed off each other. It puts a smile on your face.

We have dined on fine food, and even average food improved with fine china, and engaged in robust discussions around the table with good humour. How easy it is to cling, however, to long held ideas, and how good it is to have them challenged. We need a breeze to rustle the leaves and loosen that spent energy. We live in interesting times and the moral high ground has become a rocky place.

As well as celebrations I did a little fossicking, following the history trails left by my forebears on the Victorian goldfields. This got me thinking about the “olden days” and the prop that flourished in those times and got so many of us through the day, tea drinking. It is a thirst quencher, a reviver, a ritual, a diversion, a chance to delay the inevitable or engage in idle conversation. The brew in the billy and the cracked enamel mug, the blackened tea pot stewing on the hob, the tea caddy, bone china cups and saucers and tepid tea, the once “common” mug and then horror of horrors, a tea bag! And once upon a time I could ask for a black tea confident that I’d get tea with no milk. Nowadays, I have to decide between Russian Caravan or Earl Grey or even dead boring English Breakfast, not to mention green, ginger and lemon, chai....and the list goes on. I often wonder if the Irish, being Irish, drink Irish Breakfast only at dinner!!

But I have been diverted from the real task at hand. The shadows are lengthening, the rain has passed and those beautiful leaves are still lying on the ground. I have finally run out of excuses.....but I might just need to put the kettle on once more before I look for the wheelbarrow and rake.

I wouldn’t live anywhere else.......despite the ominous bite of winter.


Today it is raining so I have no excuse. When the sun shines I am drawn outside as if by invisible threads and I lose myself in the bush or garden; the inside doesn’t exist. But a spot of rain has brought me back to earth! What a spectacular autumn it has been, and perhaps it isn’t over yet.

There has been fruit to pick and jams and chutneys to make; never mind if they’re no longer sought after. A magic morning picking grapes in the calm crisp air with the promise of a glass or two of last years vintage in the sunshine, raking golden leaves, cutting back spent summer growth, building compost heaps, spreading blankets of mulch and collecting firewood for winter. And all the time hearing the songs of birds back from their long summer break.

The butcher bird calls from the creek, the koel and the currawongs, the spine bills are busy amongst the flowering salvias and coreas, Chinese elms are humming with bees, and rosellas are doing their utmost to thwart the bees by stripping the elms bare! The chough unit has reappeared, much to my delight after an absence of several years, ploughing through the mulch with military precision. I saw a red browed finch, a pair of flame robins and then a loose formation of velvety black cockatoos moving languidly across the sky, announcing rain. They obviously hadn’t got their forecast, this time, from the BOM! Two sulphur crested cockatoos have warmed my heart. When they’re not working with the steady hollow tap tap sound on their house renovations in an old grey tree trunk, they’re on the verandah rails, preening each other, wrapped in the glow of young love. If only they’d coo, like story book lovers, and not squawk!!

And so to the melancholy call, not of birds, but ANZAC Day bagpipes. We went to the Queanbeyan Dawn Service once again, driving through the dark, eyes on stalks, ever alert for a kangaroo or three claiming their rights that they were here first. And for the first time in years there was rain around. But a little rain could not spoil the significance of this simple, poignant service, echoed in country towns and cities around Australia as we remembered them, their innocence, conviction, clarity of purpose and sacrifice, and reflected on the untold ramifications of war on future generations. “Man’s inhumanity to man.”

Outside my window the magical natural world, though at times harsh and brutal, follows the seasons in time honoured fashion, a constant well of comfort and joy. The magpie carolled as the Dawn Service ended and the damp day began .......... I wouldn’t live anywhere else.


I can’t help myself. I wander around the garden, at one with Keats, breathing “season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,” but in truth it’s as much about frogs, fogs and fungi; fat frogs caught in the torch light while putting the chooks away at night and little see-through frogs on the window pane, out of focus trees and hills smudged damp morning grey, and fungi of all kinds, tiny, fragile, smooth, brown, white and bloated. The days are noticeably shorter but the treasured autumn mornings are blighted by the clowns who insist on keeping the clocks forward. The light is kinder and some leaves are turning yellow and red. There are mists and fogs, as well as frogs and fungi, but “mellow fruitfulness” can be pure fantasy around here!

In early spring I prepared the beds and planted Roma tomato seedlings after the last frosts. I whispered words of encouragement, fed them tasty treats, removed the laterals and staked and supported them. They grew well. It was about then that I noticed several self sown tomato seedlings in amongst the potted petunias that had been planted in compost, alive with worms. I transplanted them into the fenced and netted veggie garden, wished them well and wondered if I’d get Tiny Tims or Black Russians or Grosse Lisse....or maybe nothing. They thrived, outstripping the Romas, the bees buzzed, the fruit set and there were big green tomatoes hanging like swollen grapes just waiting to “mellow”. Then I was called away!

For three weeks I kept asking from afar, “Have they ripened yet?” and always there was the same reply. “No.” I was puzzled and disappointed. They’d shown such promise.

When I came home the first thing I did was visit the garden. The bushes looked unchanged. A mystery! Then I discovered a half eaten tomato with the first signs of blush, on the ground, and tell tale tunnels between fence and netting. Possums!!

Don’t get me wrong, I like possums. One gave me the origin of the old saying, “playing possum” by lying comatose in a bush just off the back steps. It had fallen, dead, from an overhanging tree during the night. We watched its contorted little body all day. There was no movement, not even a twitch; poor little dead creature.

Then, as the light faded it suddenly shook itself back to life, and shot off. It had been playing possum. Doubtless he was the grand daddy of all the thieving critters that have raided my tomato bushes this season!

While I can accept nocturnal possums grunting, groaning and cavorting on the verandah outside my bedroom window, accept their high spirited sport as they roll down the sloping roof, and even their appreciation of my hard won strawberries and cape gooseberries, I have a sense of humour failure when it comes to self sown tomatoes. They were a gift, with all the promise of coming into “mellow fruitfulness.” Now there is not even enough for green tomato chutney!

Possums 1 Me 0. But I wouldn’t live anywhere else.....especially in Wamboin in a season such as this.


(We seem to have missed out this month)


The Christmas holidays are over, the last of the visitors have gone and a quiet sense of order has descended, but perhaps it’s a little too quiet and a little too ordered. When people depart I don’t mind the business of washing sheets and towels, especially if the tanks are full, and stowing bedding. I don’t mind retrieving kitchen items from strange hiding places, put there by helpful hands, but I do find that stripping the plastic Christmas tree of its finery, dismantling it and manipulating its unwilling limbs into the box I thought I’d lost is a tedious and time consuming chore. It spells the end of relaxation and the beginning of the new year’s routine. Invariably the spaces where the Christmas paraphernalia came from have been filled by new “ Christmas stuff” and it becomes the annual ritual of finding new spaces for the old. Once that’s behind me, however, it is time to take a serious look outside.

There was an explosion of growth in late spring. The abundant winter rain had given us a free ride for some time and it seemed as if these halcyon days would stretch forever, but then the sun began to bite, the creek dried up and the ornamentals flagged. Suddenly it was back to the daily grind of watering. I was getting up with the birds to beat the day’s heat and trying to keep track of those areas most in need of a drink, and those areas have expanded over the years. However, nothing beats the cool stillness of an early summer morning filled with bird song. It’s a narrow window but it’s a magical time of day!

Almost overnight millions of Christmas beetles appeared and chomped relentlessly through the eucalyptus shade leaving the trees with no choice and no thought of who’d clean up afterwards but to shed their tattered leaves along with their bark coats. The canny lizards vanished, seeking refuge from the heat, but some little fellows were unfazed and pretended to be garden gnomes until they were exposed as frauds and promptly disappeared.

In the vegetable garden we are eating our first tomatoes, and I suspect the first of many zucchinis, picking basil, rhubarb and lettuces and waiting for the thirsty cape gooseberries to ripen.The chooks are relishing the last of the silver beet and I have nearly given up on the strawberries. The goannas and possums might win! Sometimes I think the super market may be a smarter option for vegetables!

There’s not much flowering but I never fail to sing the praises of the summer stalwarts...agapanthus, oleanders, geraniums, petunias and salvias. Beyond the garden the bush is a collage of different shades of green...grey, olive, lime and dark green, under a relentless stinging sun. Everything that blooms is over so quickly, a reminder of the passing of time and the importance of living in the present and savouring what life offers.

And so, without too much navel gazing, we concluded our holiday season with a family lunch to celebrate Australia Day, tossing a well marinated lump of lamb on the barbecue (with an uncomfortable feeling that I may be a victim of advertising), and serving it with fresh salads and seasonal fruits. It was a quiet acknowledgement of how lucky we are, today, to share in life’s rich bounty in this wide and diverse brown land of ours, and reflect on the struggles endured and the contribution made by those who came before us.

Holidays are over, and now it is back to serious things! From my study window I can see a forlorn looking bush crying out for a drink. The evening watering regime begins again.....but I wouldn’t live anywhere else.



I was quite content wandering around my late spring garden with its masses of flowering rock roses, pink and white salvias, marguerite daisies and pretty pink diosmas, much of which appears without too much intervention, until a dear friend arrived with a big pink bunch of peonies and said, “Haven’t you got any? They’re so easy to grow in Wamboin.” Breathtaking peonies, looking like the tossing skirts of a chorus of Can Can lovelies. It was the second time in less than a week that I’d heard that statement, but I’ll reserve my judgement. Each house site and garden in Wamboin is unique, but I feel ours would never be a peony paradise, even with perfect conditions. And then she added, “A garden reflects the gardener’s personality.” Oh dear!

However, there is one plant that has no trouble growing in any part of Wamboin and that is St Johns Wort! I’d heard that CSIRO had released a little black beetle with a luminous copper coloured sheen that EATS the beguiling yellow flowers of this pest, and once finished with the flowers steadily works its way down the stem. Hearing this I put out sign posts with an arrow pointing “This Way” and sure enough on my morning walk I discovered that the advance party had arrived. What a feast they have in store…And what a Christmas present for us! I do wonder, though, just what these little critters move on to when all the St Johns Wort is gone. Perhaps they have some regard for their future and conserve some for tomorrow. I’d rather hope not.

St Johns Wort spells the coming of Christmas, so I don’t need piped carols and tinsel to remind me, but there is one sound that simply says Christmas and that is the incessant bleating of fledgling galahs. By Christmas Day I’m almost as tired of their toneless bleat as I am of syrupy shopping mall carols, but I’d never tell the babies that.

As I’ve walked around the Lake exposed to lycra clad runners and cyclists from the big smoke, small bulbs sprouting spindly vines from their ears, one chap stood out. He did have the mandatory disembodied female voice on his hairy wrist issuing commands, which he meekly obeyed, but he preserved some hint of individuality. Instead of lycra he was wearing baggy shorts, unremarkable runners that had seen better days, and a nondescript T shirt. Last Christmas, I suspect, he found the talking black wrist band in his stocking. This Christmas I am certain there will be a lycra body suit and dazzling lime green and black cross trainers. How can we possibly stay fit unless we are decked out in the right clothes in the latest colours, with monitoring gizmos and ear implants that blot out all natural sounds.

So it’s farewell to a remarkable spring and welcome to summer watering and a chance to get fit with your Christmas gear and your New Year resolve. Happy Christmas wherever you are….. I’ll be here, because I wouldn’t live anywhere else!


Spring takes my breath away! Each year it catches me by surprise as if I am seeing it for the very first time. This year, however, it has excelled itself with its abundance, vigour and variety. If I am to be honest I have to admit that my garden is very ordinary; unplanned, uncontrolled, never the stuff, even photoshopped, of glossy magazine photos, but it is my refuge and renewal, my solace and my joy. Spring tempts me to believe that I have green thumbs, but I know I can’t accept the credit. Nature asserts itself….. and I just stand back in awe.

Mauve wisteria lanterns drape languidly over the wooden arch, spreading sweet perfume, flanked by viburnums and may bushes covered with tiny white flowers. Below there are irises, tulips, blue bells, columbines, daisies and wallflowers, and beyond are splashes of purple and mauve natives. Some of this colour I have orchestrated, but much of it has just crept in wherever it likes while I have been napping. Of course not all plants in the garden are welcomed. Some pop up each year, uninvited, and challenge me. Goosegrass appears out of nowhere and takes far too many liberties, wandering jew appears aimless as it steadfastly intrudes, and conniving periwinkle distracts you in one spot whilst stealthily invading another part of the garden. I do, however, have some guilt when it comes to pretty blue flowered periwinkle. In the drought I naively welcomed it. Against all odds it persisted, and I cheered, while its spineless neighbours waved the white flag. But persistent periwinkle, with no sense of place, has proven to be undisciplined in good times, and breaks all the gardener’s rules.

However, there are always rule breakers. They are part of every garden and every society; rebels, reactionaries, non conformists, creative types, free spirits. And we need them even if they challenge our ideas, make us feel uncomfortable and compel us to re think long accepted norms. It can only be good to question some of the rules we blindly accept, and to walk in another’s shoes.

This vibrant, breath taking spring will produce quite a few nonconformists to challenge me in the garden, but I may have to accept them as part of the bigger, spectacular picture. You can’t have it all your own way, especially when your pale green thumbs played such a minor role in its overall creation.

I wouldn’t live anywhere else…..but I rather wish that St John’s Wort wasn’t already breaking so many rules with such vigour, and in such abundance


It’s a glorious spring day outside my study window. Perfect weather for pottering in the garden, pulling a few weeds, deadheading those now faded daffodils as I squelch between flower beds, and embracing the quiet energy of spring. However, I’m locked up inside, trying to “muse”..

I looked up the word “muse” in my battered old dictionary and it said, “ to reflect, ponder, usually in silence, a state of abstraction.” Silence, sweet silence. But it is school holidays, and schools holidays and silent “ponderings” are not synonymous! However, the exuberant young lads visiting from the north have just gone outside to play with their cousin, and peace reigns within.

Last year they had a wonderful time converting an old, time expired garden shed into the fabled Wamboiniana Restaurant, and for over a year they kept the dream alive. Now, after only a couple of days of hard won team work, they have extended Wamboiniana into a veritable food court with al fresco areas, paths and gardens, and a kitchen that would pass the most stringent government health standards on a good day!! Our young, creative scavengers have learned and achieved so much along the way, free to explore, build and make their own fun! The fact that my kitchen seems a little short on cups and glasses, and I’m forced to sweep the floor bent double with a dustpan and brush is of little consequence. Their enthusiasm is boundless and my only concern will be when sheets of corrugated iron start disappearing from the verandah roof!

Beautiful spring, and this year even more vigorous after exceptional winter rain. The rushing creek and happy frogs are simply white noise, a backdrop for the brilliant bird song. Some ingenious little brown birds found the perfect nesting place, this year, on a shelf at the back of the garage. They weren’t going to risk a nest in the open for their offspring. An even smarter couple chose the ideally shaped chain saw helmet, hanging from a beam. No one opted for the plastic “nests” at the top of the down pipes as in previous years; a wise decision considering the rain. We have even installed three young hens in the old chook yard, and they immediately rewarded us with three perfect eggs. The thrill of discovering a still warm egg in a nest of straw sure beats finding one in a cardboard carton off the supermarket shelf. And in the garden, yellow daffodils stand out against the blues of rosemary, catmint, muscari and hyacinths, and as each day progresses, stark, grey limbs are coming alive with green. Some blossoms have finished but the forgotten trees in the old orchard are in bloom and the crab apples are about to become a mass of frothy pink.

One could say that the downside to all this rain and warmth are weeds, but as a wise old Chinese fellow said more than two thousand years ago, “Where would the gardener be if there were no more weeds.” A day or an hour spent in the garden pulling weeds, especially in our soft ground, is the best therapy possible; a silent, mindless time, a chance to ponder, reflect, and achieve a mountain of good greens for the chooks!

I wouldn’t live anywhere else….and I’m off into the garden right now!!


A friend came up our driveway the other day greeting me with, “I see you’re not a purist!”. I was a little taken aback wondering how an incurable romantic who sees the natural world through a poor poet’s eyeglass could ever be suspected of being a purist, but she was referring to my tolerance of different wattle species along our road. I don’t plant wattles, they simply take up residence and grow here, and when they’re covered with masses of dots, puffs, splashes and pendulums of brilliant yellow I wouldn’t know a feral Cootamundra from an acceptable local brand, and I couldn’t care less; brilliance is brilliance whatever the name. ’Tis the season of wattles, bright and cheery, tugging on the coat tails of winter, begging it to be off.

But it’s not just the yellow wattles. Almost over night there is a garden bed cut through with yellow daffodils, violets hugging the ground and winter honeysuckle, alive with bees, perfuming the air. As I was bent double under an awkward rose bush I almost stepped on a small shingleback trying to get an early summer tan. I stumbled upon a large skink exposed and immobile in a pile of roadside rocks caught out by a sudden drop in temperature. High up in a stringy bark sits a pair of galahs keeping watch over their nursery. They have returned each year to that same hole in a tree trunk that was fashioned for them over decades by drought and fire. Snitchy honey eaters warn me to keep away from their nests. I heard my first thrush of the season. One lucky magpie chick will open its eyes in a cosy fur lined bed thanks to a departed kangaroo. Its cousin will be less comfortable, I fear, starting life on a mattress of coir plucked from the hanging basket on my back verandah.

I may still need my warm coat, woollen socks and gloves before I venture outside for a morning walk, but it is such a tonic to stop, look and listen and be witness to the changing season and rhythms of life, and take time to value what we have; valuing not just our natural environment but the wonderful selfless people in our community, as well, who help and care for each other, especially in times of personal tragedy and loss.

“Wattle, golden wattle, the symbol of our land……” I wouldn’t live anywhere else…..it’s brilliant by any name!


I’ve been away most of this month, and when you mention you’ll be in Queensland, especially at this time of the year, everyone immediately pictures you basking on a tropical island, eyes softly closed, idling away the day under a palm tree with nothing to disturb you but the gentle rhythmic rush of water breaking on a pristine beach. The tropics are undeniably beautiful and a welcome escape from a cold, grey southern winter. The sky is bluer, the vegetation greener, the majestic rock outcrops redder and the sea sparkles, but people live in the tropics, and people, whether they live in a paradise or the pits, have problems in their lives. I remember, in years gone by, encountering families in strife who were “packing up and going to Queensland”, heading north as if proximity to the equator would melt away their troubles. Sadly, we often pack our troubles in that extra suitcase and take it with us. Heading north, or west over the past fifty years has always meant spending time with family, and we have shared both special times, and sad, difficult times. But we’ve shared them together. Perhaps one day I might just escape to a tropical island and live the dream of a glossy travel brochure, but a six night package of contrived luxury and idleness might be enough. I rather like reality, warts and all!

And coming home, mid winter, is a bit “warts and all”. It’s grey, it’s cold, it’s wet….the ground is sodden, the trees are bare and everyone is hunched, tensed against the cold, wrapped in black or grey. But it is a delight to hear the creek running with such vigour, glimpse snow on the Brindabellas as you come down the hill, see the dams full and tanks overflowing, and a carpet of green grass in July. We found a bird’s nest woven inside a plastic helmet that had hung on a peg since last used when chainsawing firewood. I have had fun collecting kindling and just being in the bush, wandering aimlessly. The woodpile, sitting since before last winter has grown the most amazing fungi….mauve and grey, white and orange, sometimes round blobs, sometimes splotches, but all destined for the firebox. The jonquils are out and daffodils are spearing through the mulched beds. There are hellebores and winter iris and the first pink flowers on the ornamental quince. I’ve been watching the twittering, dun coloured wrens, but today I spied the first bright little lad in his blue cap and scarf. There’s not much happening above ground, but there is promise in the garden. Someone mentioned they’d started pruning roses….is it really that time again?

Visions of a tropical idyll may be alluring, but when the sun comes out in my own backyard and sets the wattles aglow I can’t help thinking, given half the chance, that I wouldn’t choose to live anywhere else. There’s something very precious about being home.


When you have to dispose of your own rubbish, having first recycled whatever you can, and all that remains is useless and unwanted, two words come to mind ... “Tip” and “Dump”. Tip is a word that is said with almost a smile; a pretty, airy sound with limited responsibility. Dump, on the other hand conjures up a stubborn frown and bellows consequences! I’d much prefer to go to the Tip, but I fear the Dump is more realistic. Seeing what rubbish our small household generates, and having to finally deal with the truly unloved stuff ourselves, is quite sobering. Rubbish doesn’t just disappear into thin air. Disposing of it with consideration for the consequences takes a little more time and effort.

Sometimes life seems intent on dumping a whole lot on you and those you love, and it seems as if you’re lost in a frown of unwanted consequences. But hopefully those detours can be navigated, the potholes avoided and in time you’re on the bitumen again. I’m looking forward to the sealed road at the other end of the dump.

We had a dump of a different kind, recently, a good dump this time, of rain, although I wasn’t here to see the best of it. I returned to the sounds of rushing water in the gully and the rythmic chorus of creaking frogs. It made me think of rills and burns and cataracts as I squelched through mud and soggy clay and stepped around puddles. New potholes had grown in the driveway and red, orange and snow white fungi under the trees. When the last of the showers passed and the sun peeped out from behind the clouds, the bushes sparkled like Christmas lights. A gentle breeze was rippling the wet leaves. Under a clear sky a white, frosty morning unfolded into a perfect Wamboin winter’s day! It only lasted a day but it was magic!

How wonderful to have had such a dump of heavy soaking rain ... and even better, how wonderful not having to plow through sticky mud to offload rubbish at the old Dump. A Transfer Station might sound a bit pretentious ... but it is too smart to be a Tip and without the mud it could never be called a Dump ... I wouldn’t live anywhere else.


We need a good rainy day every so often to catch up with those inside jobs that get forgotten when the sun shines. This autumn, except for the occasional days of westerly gales that chilled to the bone, has been perfect. The warm sunny days have acted like a magnet, drawing you outside and into the garden. After a weekend trip to the Japanese Gardens in Cowra we came home, inspired, and created our own “ Wamboin Japanese Garden”; a little short on cultural artistry but long on pragmatism......a celebration of nandinas, diosmas and junipers!

Many ornamentals are now bare, unable to hold onto their colours for long against the wind, and are dark, twisted and twiggy. But there are still clumps of colour. There are pretty viburnums with their russet cloaks, the oak leafed hydrangea that limped through summer is now dark red leafed and the many nandinas that I planted in bare spots over the years, before the “WJG” rush of blood to the head, are a splash of cheerful red amongst golden diosmas. There’s growing greyness, but there are also patches of new green, and a definite feeling that winter has arrived.

We were at the second last Wamboin Market for the season last Saturday, and as usual I came home with heavy bags and a light wallet. There were crisp new season’s apples, spuds and smoked trout. I picked up a few handmade cards, some excellent garlic with a story thrown in for good measure, neither of which was sourced from China or Mexico, a few bottles of jam, pies for lunch and my usual quota of native plants to keep the wild life happy. And on top of that I had a great “catch up” with fellow locals over a good cup of coffee. One of the topics that came up was the demise of Palerang Council, but even sadder was the discussion about the demise of civility and good manners in society, today. With the growth of the electronic community, where, with complete anonymity, you can chatter and say whatever comes into your mind at that instant, there is also the opportunity for that chatter to sink to the depths of slander, ridicule or abuse meted out to an unsuspecting individual with no ownership of or responsibility for what is said. What has happened to reasoned debate, considered opinion and acceptance of divergent ideas? In our peaceful, ordered society where we have so much, some of us seem to feel we have the right to be downright rude and abusive!

I am not a dinosaur, but I worry about how the hidden, anonymous electronic community is stealthily reshaping our society. I value real community, face to face contact where you see and hear each other, own up to your opinions and respect those of others.

The last market for the season is this month, but I look forward to their return after the winter break. You might come home from the next market with your bags full of produce, or you might just come home with that warm feeling having engaged with real people in your community ................... ................I wouldn’t live anywhere else.

PS: Thanks Jo for your Nature Notes....poor March Fly...what a short, brutal life. SWAT!


Last time it threatened rain I thought the time had finally come to begin something I’d put off for decades; sorting through the crates and boxes of photos that had never been put in albums. Ever the optimist, I anticipated rain of Biblical proportions which would give me at least 40 days and 40 nights to accomplish the task. Unfortunately, forty minutes was closer to the mark, but at least I’d made a start. All too soon, however, I had to reclaim the dining room table and that part of the house so everything that hadn’t been binned was bundled up and stowed out of sight. The problem had not gone away. It had merely moved to a new location, but at least I’d had a few days lost down memory lane.

Memories are notoriously personal and fragile, open to embellishments, real or imagined. But photographs, especially those labelled and dated unlike most of ours, are concrete blocks of memory. When I came to recall the events of 2015 at the end of last year I went to my smart phone, not a bulky album, and there was my memory....photographs in chronological order. My garden is a memory bank, too. As I wander around I find something flourishing that reminds me of the friend who gave me the cutting, or a plant that marked a special occasion or a thank you for something I would otherwise have forgotten; sedums, geraniums, rose bushes, herbs. I remember the Easter after a wet February when we planted the Chinese pistachio, now in its autumn brilliance, in a hole wrested from the shale. We wished it luck. There are ornamentals from a neighbouring garden that have been planted by birds. The trees are here but the neighbours have moved on. Kangaroos, wallabies and possums leave reminders, too, but it’s usually the absence of things, in their case; denuded rose bushes, flattened flower beds and tomato bushes stripped of their fruit!

And as ANZAC Day approaches, there are more stories and memories......stories and images that have become folklore, stirring our emotions. How do you explain the tears that caught me by surprise when I came upon a simple white headstone in a foreign field, little different from those on either side, but this one with the familiar name of a great uncle. I’d only ever known him as a name, but tears flowed for him and for all those lost souls, the lost families left at home and the generations of children born into a society maimed by war. We shall remember....but will we ever learn.

It rained again last night, but it didn’t last. However, the bush was washed clean and the reds and yellows of autumn, glowed. The season is advancing and it’s time to clear the Christmas decorations from the fire place and fill the kindling box. When, and if it really rains again, I might tip toe down memory lane once more.....but there is that niggling worry....how many hard copy memories does one really need?

Autumn in Wamboin, calm and peaceful, seems far removed from the tragedies of war.......I wouldn’t live anywhere else........Lest We Forget.


I have never needed a calendar to tell me it’s the first of March. Just go outside with shorts and bare legs and the first March fly of the season will find you. They never fail. But it puzzles me...what do they do for the rest of the year?

While pondering the doings of March flies and other issues of State, I have been picking roses in the early morning, not blooms that would win first prize in the Show, but pretty and perfumed and a sign, perhaps, that milder temperatures are finally here. Certainly there is an Easter feel in the morning air! But I’m hoping the first frost won’t come too soon, as poor Lena, our ancient lamb, has only just been shorn.

Each year around Christmas we have a visit from our favourite Kiwi shearer. When he’s dealt with the “flock” we sit on the verandah, eat slabs of fruit cake washed down with a beer and chew the fat. But this year he didn’t come, and eventually we realised that Lena’s heavy woolly coat was our responsibility. I did my bit....I purchased a pair of $10 hand shears from Bunnings and went out to lunch. When I came home there was a somewhat sheepish looking creature in the chook yard with a tousled hair cut and a husband bent double carefully nursing his back. We are both in awe of Jackie Howe’s feat, shearing 321 sheep in a day before machine driven shears came into vogue.

But while our energy flags even thinking about his stamina, it is heartening to see that there is still energy in abundance in the community. As is my happy custom, I went along to the Sutton School Country Fair on a beautiful Saturday after a stormy day before. Accompanied by our grandchildren, I was suddenly back at the country fairs and agricultural shows of my childhood. People were smiling, chatting and having fun, and kids were running around, enjoying themselves without breaking their parents’ bank. There was a real feeling of community, and I was amazed at the number of families from outside the area who came to the Sutton Fair because “it was a real country experience.”

I sometimes feel a bit of a fraud, pretending to be a country type while living on the edge of a sophisticated city, but perhaps we are lucky to have the best of both worlds.....an empathy with those who till the soil for real and tell the month of March without a calendar, and who, like us, share a warm and energetic sense of community.....

I wouldn’t live anywhere else.


It might be the end of summer, officially, but like the scorpion I found under a rock, it had a pretty decent sting in the tail. However, we appear to have been let off lightly. There is plenty of green around, there are still pools of water in the gully, and apart from the odd thunderstorm and one spectacular hailstorm, this has not been a summer of high dramas. But I’d be foolish to believe that it’s over, yet.

We were fortunate to witness the sudden hailstorm without any significant damage. Hail stones, a concretion of little ones the size of tennis balls, were wantonly flung down from the heavens stunning bewildered kangaroos at a loss to know which way to turn, blocking downpipes and belting the iron roof. The fury unleashed was deafening. This encounter with nature in full force was exciting, but another one we encountered was not so thrilling.

There is nothing that focuses the mind quite like discovering a couple of white ants in the garage. Silent and pale, they look innocuous, but they’re a formidable force when they work in concert! Once again we were fortunate. The damage proved to be minimal, but it lead to a frenzy of activity on our part which in hindsight was just the impetus we needed to tackle one of Wamboin’s downsides...too much space. The space to store those “one day you may need it” things, space to re-home someone else’s “surplus to needs” stuff, to put aside those things that can wait til you go to the dump “next time,” and to provide a safe place for your now flown from the nest children’s “treasures”. We hired a skip, we dragged out boxes, we sifted and sorted, took trailer loads to the tip and recycling, and rid ourselves of pages and pages of printed material. We’ve only scratched the surface. Our kids were delighted to find out that they had a history, and reclaim it, now archived, in absentia. But throwing out books, amongst them outdated text books with handwritten annotations, nearly broke my heart. So much of what we once hung onto is now irrelevant and superfluous. We get our information, store and disseminate it in a different way. And who wants a Classic with rough, yellowed pages, tiny print and the tell tale sign of cockroaches when you can simply download it and adjust the font size to suit yourself.

There is a new awareness, on the heels of the previous “new awareness”, of the need to help the elderly in our society embrace the electronic world in which they have to live. But there are a few things that well intended programs overlook. People, especially those who are elderly, a little deaf and isolated, welcome contact with real people, and need time to relate to a disembodied voice at the end of a line. Computer terminology and electronic screens are foreign languages to those on the outside, and like any language they are growing all the time. They incorporate both words and pictures; icons on a computer screen. I learned a new word and icon playing Scrabble with my granddaughter the other day; “emojis”. Up until that time I never realized that I needed them! Exclamation marks, I suspect, are as emoji as I’ll ever get.

When summer finally decides to recede into gentle autumn, I’ll disturb the fat skink in its garage paradise again and get back to those boxes and treasures. I can only say how relieved we were to find that those little pale creatures had only found the garage. If they’d been in the house as well we’d have an even bigger job ahead of us.

It’s wonderful to have space....and I wouldn’t live anywhere else....but there might just be too much of a good thing. (insert “smiley face” emoji)


There is one sound, living in the bush, that I cherish above all others. It might be the kookaburras with their measured “ooh waah ooh waah” warming up exercises before some comedian in the back row cracks a joke and they break into infectious mirth, but it’s not. However, I wake to their enthusiastic reveille at first light and welcome their less than restrained last post as day becomes night; they are always on cue. It could be the hollow, repetitive note of the bronzewing, or the mournful cry of a cranky plover penetrating the still blackness. It could be the cornflake crunch under foot as I walk through the tinder dry bush, or the skittering scratch of lizards on the wooden verandah scrabbling for cover as I approach, but it’s not. The sound that I cherish, the sound that gives me pure pleasure is rain drumming monotonously on the metal roof as I lie in bed.

There have been a few false starts to rainfall this month. Not long ago I had visions of building an ark and scooping up two of everything with the BOM forecasting severe flooding. But there was not a drop...... not even a few well aimed and well spaced pings on the metal roof. So it was back to watering every morning and evening with the wind sucking any vestige of moisture from the ground, and watching the level in the dam going down. Meanwhile the scribbly gums were revelling in adolescent behaviour, throwing off their outer garments and leaving them carelessly strewn on the floor. At least tidying up after them was something to do in a garden where I couldn’t even watch the grass grow! The gums, though, looked spunky in their cool, pale yellow summer gear, especially in the moonlight. Then the first rain fell gently and the crisp leaf litter became soft beneath my boots. Walking through the bush one morning after rain, I stopped, and with Monet’s eyes, watched a staccato of blue wrens and tiny pardalotes playing nature’s keyboard in the damp leaf litter under the trees. I saw eight magpies squabbling in the classroom until one of them cried out, “Teacher’s coming”, and in a flash they were back, in a line, on the fallen log, carolling to the heavens. To stop quietly in the bush, to listen and watch with unfocussed eyes, is a moment of magic.

The stack of Christmas books beside my bed is getting smaller, New Year has been welcomed with the usual fanfare and another Australia Day is behind us. We did throw a lump of lamb on the barbie, but not in response to any Ad campaign. It was simply left over from “Christmas”. As always, I have mixed feelings as Australia Day draws near. We, as a nation, have much to celebrate and are indeed fortunate, but we need to be mindful of our shared histories and retain a generosity of spirit towards all who claim this sunburnt country, home ....this wide brown land... of drought and flooding rains.

And as for my part of Australia.....I wouldn’t live anywhere else.....



I haven't been in Wamboin for the past month, but that doesn't stop me thinking of home. At the moment I'm a very very long day's travel away in a grey wintry world, in a foreign city.

I've visited this city many times over the years and it's now quite familiar and welcoming, but I still feel like an outsider looking in through a window. In the sanctuary of your own apartment it's a quiet triple glazed world, but the moment you step outside you're part of the restless energy of the city street, a place which changes but never sleeps. This is a serious city of business and finance. Men in dark tailored coats, scarves wrapped like bandages around their necks to ward off the cold, stride purposefully through the bewildered clutter of tourists who are dragging their rumbling luggage along the pavement unaware of a near miss with a cyclist. A cluster of men in shiny black jackets sit at a table, smoking and sipping coffee. Two women, from another place, push a baby in a pram, oblivious to the young woman in clicking heels and a well cut suit pushing impatiently past them. A beggar woman sits mound-like on the cold footpath only stirring to empty the few coins from the paper cup into the folds of her coat. From here it's a short walk to the theatre, the opera house, restaurants and galleries, and a train station that links you effortlessly to the rest of Europe. Shops stocked with goods from around the world and filled with people from every corner of the globe are at your front door. But there is little room for birds and sky, and little space for bare earth, and at this time of the year, especially, there is little to break the greyness of a city in winter save for the flashes of red and green, mirrored again in the wet asphalt, that dictate whether you must stop or go.

But there is something that can swiftly and silently change all of this. We had just finished a hearty roast goose dinner at a restaurant and were piling on layers to face the cold walk home when we noticed that it was snowing. It was still cold outside, but it was no longer grey. The soft white snow had softened the margins and transformed the city into a starkly beautiful old Kodak black and white holiday snap. Magic!

No one can deny that travel can be exciting and stimulating, an escape from the humdrum of everyday life, but it is not endless glamour and fun as the glossy tourist brochures would have us believe. It demands stamina and the will to move out of your comfort zone, to roll with the punches and laugh at yourself. I have had moments of foreigner fatigue when I am simply tired of feeling stupid and staring blankly when spoken to, tired of fumbling with my change and holding up a line of people at the checkout, cross with myself for walking, unthinkingly, on the wrong side of the footpath or straying into “defined” bicycle paths. Tired and embarrassed because I miss unspoken social cues and exasperated because they understand my language and I'm inept with theirs

However, all that aside, when I finish this I'll leave my little comfort zone and wander down to the bustling, brightly lit Christmas Market for a new adventure, except I won't be allowed to wander for long. Once I cross the road I'll be swept up in the march of people who all seem to know exactly where they're going, and they'll take me and a few unwitting tourists with them. They certainly know how to do Christmas in Europe! It looks just like the Christmas cards of my childhood.....fir trees dusted with snow, children in mufflers singing carols long into the night, twinkling Christmas lights, decorations in every window and mugs of hot Glühwein to warm freezing hands. Somehow it doesn't translate seamlessly to the southern hemisphere....the snow melts, the cut pine trees wilt and drop needles, the carollers mop their brows as the sun refuses to set and Santa swaps his red suit and boots for an old T shirt and a pair of thongs. But the spirit of Christmas, the feelings of joy and goodwill, the sharing with family and friends at the end of a busy year transcend distances. It is a very special time of the year no matter where you are.

I know where we'll be...... under a blue sky, in bright natural light with birds singing because ....I wouldn't live anywhere else. HAPPY CHRISTMAS!


I’m not ticking many things off my “To Do” list; I’ve been kidnapped by spring. Time is running out for me to get all those serious things done that need to be done, but I keep finding myself in the garden. I wander around, spellbound, feasting on the blossoms and the palette of colour. There are masses of humming pink, confetti petals floating in the breeze, wide brush strokes of white and purple, mauve lanterns hanging over a wooden arch, and bright dots of orange and blue amid fresh green. I want to applaud nature’s performance. Even my vegetables, sulking all winter, have put on a happy face. It’s been a captivating start to spring and a dramatic change from woollies to shorts. But I haven’t abandoned boots for thongs. With all the lizards and shingle backs out sunning themselves you can’t help but wonder what may be lurking, unseen. And, for the first time in a decade the lawn mower has come out to mow green grass, not just get an airing to mulch untidy leaf litter.

We’d been tolerably happy, though frustrated at times, with the mob we’d employed at fairly low rates for years to keep the grass in check. However, when they subcontracted to some low life, fly-by-nighters intent on turning it into an 18 hole mini golf course we decided that we’d had enough. We fenced off our seeded patch of struggling grass. Now, viewed from the deck after a couple of pre dinner drinks, it could easily pass for a real lawn, at least a real Wamboin lawn. The winter snarl of chain saws has been replaced by the roar of the Victa as it tries to keep up with spring growth,... and birdsong.

The birds are in their element, singing, warbling, chattering and screeching profanities according to their habit. A pair of thrushes has returned for the nesting season trilling from pre dawn to dusk outside our bedroom window in the overgrown winter honeysuckle. I peeked into the bush to see if I could spot their nest. Then I saw a twig sticking out of the plastic “nest” filter on the downpipe placed there to trap rubbish washed down from the roof. These clever birds had recognised a prefabricated “nest”, perhaps with the label still on, and were busily putting their personal touch on the new nursery. Last year they did the same thing, but sadly lost everything in a sudden down pour. This year we were ahead of them and were able to plug the gutter outlet before the forecast rain. Maybe next spring we will be awakened from our pre dawn slumbers by a full choir of thrushes!

Those who should know are predicting a hot dry summer, and I suspect they are right, but in the meantime I will just enjoy what is now on offer. However, some self discipline is called for if I am to whittle down my To Do list. I’ll just have to stay inside and look at the garden through the window.

I wouldn’t live anywhere else.....how could I, especially this spring!


I’ve always liked sheds. They’re functional, purpose built and they don’t spell housework, but I’ve always had a particular fondness for shearing sheds. I love the grey corrugated iron with rusted stripes, the weathered grey timbers blending with last year’s stubble and the dark oiled floors redolent with lanolin, stirring images of a time when Australia truly rode on the sheep’s back. However, with a flock of one there’s not a pressing need for a shearing shed at our place……. but we can always make room for a lesser shed.

Our original garden shed was resurrected from a pile of faded Colorbond found under a thatch of grass across the creek when we first arrived. It was brought across the creek, painfully reincarnated and served as a garden shed of sorts for many, many years. It was not a thing of beauty, it had no door, but it was useful and gradually the pain and frustration of resurrecting it faded. Then one day as I was idly flicking through a brochure I saw the perfect replacement. Too easy! How wrong can you be! We do have a beautiful shed, now, with a concrete floor, a gable roof and a door that closes, and one day we may get around to putting in the window, but why do flat packs look so seductively easy and why do they turn into Frankensteins when they are un packed! Even with the ability to read someone else’s instructions, and armed with an arsenal of tools, building a shed is not a task for the faint hearted. Too easy….you’ve got to be kidding!

But while we were labouring, soaking up the beautiful spring weather one day as we tried to square the verticals, and battling gale force winds the next as we manhandled sheets of iron, we had brief moments of pleasure. A banjo frog serenaded us from the gully, several gang gangs creaked through the trees and one morning six king parrots arrived for a buffet breakfast. What a bonus. We had to smile watching a rosella trying to eat a dainty morsel of “magpie mince” in a beak engineered for seeds. A couple of shinglebacks gave me a start as I was off task pulling weeds, and I could only wish that they would startle the rabbits which have been relentless of late.

I think it will take us a long time to heal from our latest shed building endeavours. In the meantime, I will look nostalgically at old, lonely rusting sheep shearing sheds and be satisfied with my new garden shed with a door to hide the chaos within! I wouldn’t live anywhere else……..


Sometimes August can be the pits. It teases with the promise of spring and then capriciously serves up the worst of winter. One day can be calm, warm and golden, and the next fierce winds and bleak. But despite its moods it can’t suppress the joy of wattles. I don’t care whether they’re feral or favoured, I think they’re all magnificent; swaths of yellow beneath leaden skies, or vibrant in the sunshine.

Whenever the day has been sunny I’ve been out in the bush or the garden, feasting on the wattles or pottering around finding violets, daffodils, hellebores and blue irises, and picking them to fill vases inside. The creek is still flowing. Moulds and fungi are tucked in amongst the leaf litter and on the weathering pile of wood chip mulch, a few wild flowers are appearing and those birds that that are back from their winter break are very busy. The koel has announced its return. One morning, after a heavy overnight dump of rain I found a poor, bedraggled scarlet robin impaled on a thorny bush beneath a tall tree.

I’ve been savouring the longer hours of daylight, especially in the morning. I lay in bed the other day listening to the dawn chorus, enchanted, as one song replaced another, building to a crescendo. Then, as suddenly as it started, it ended with sweet silence. All was well with the world. Infused with a benign goodwill I got up and took a stroll around the garden. Why am I always sucked in!! While I had been feeling at one with nature, the rampaging gang of cockatoos had doubled around behind my back and put me back in my box. Never admire anything blooming in the garden with proprietary pleasure! The few potted flowers that had managed a little colour on the front deck had been desecrated and heads had been snipped off the first daffodils. If that were not enough, the anti social possums had waged war under the cloak of darkness on my red succulents, ripping them out, scattering broken bits on the paths, and shredding the rhubarb in my vegie patch. But the Pollyanna in me is hard to quell!

I’ve been turning over the compost piles and shovelling compost onto the garden. I’ve been finding worms, pulling out weeds and wishing we still had chooks, attempting to control periwinkle and aluminium plant, both a challenge, and snipping and pruning. I have had some wonderful, peaceful, absorbing moments in the garden, but perhaps the best was just recently. I was in a rather neglected corner protected from the night nibblers. It had suddenly come alive with demure hellebores, their heads bowed, purple violets, blue irises peeping through straggly straplike leaves and a scattering of proud daffodils. Then, in the distance, I heard a blackbird. I was suddenly transported to Europe! But a ringing telephone broke the spell.....except there wasn’t a phone close at hand! A clever bower bird, I suspect, had just painted the final brush stroke on my old world picture, then slashed the canvas. It had been playing mind games with me. Koels may be back, but I haven’t seen or heard any blackbirds as yet! The bowerbird’s ruse was a moment of magic...... and mischief!

Winter is waning and August has had its moods. Wattles, daffodils, wilful cockatoos and pesky possums have appeared on cue as has the returning birdlife, but there is always a surprise, always something quite magical in a Wamboin garden. And it will only get better with spring. I wouldn’t live anywhere else!


We had two small boys from the tropical north to stay for their school holidays. They claim that “our Wamboin” is their favourite place; the gurgling creek, the trees, rocks and bush, the birds that fly in for breakfast, the geriatric black lamb, collecting kindling, lighting the fire, and, rugged up with beanies and parkas, going outside to play in the “air-conditioning” with their big cousin. Our “outside” is a typical Wamboin treasure trove for small boys. Beyond the garden paths you may chance upon scattered bricks, abandoned sheets of corrugated iron, lengths of timber and everything else that is vital for cubby building. My father was a dedicated recycler. He’d go to the tip with a load of rubbish and come back, beaming, the trailer full of “this might come in handy one day” items to add to his Aladdin’s cave. I had a wonderful childhood of cubby building, and then I married a man just like my father!

For a week or so, through fog and pale sunlight, I watched from my kitchen window another generation of recyclers and cubby builders. After much scavenging, hammering, sawing, a few demarcation disputes and the odd sit down strike, a tired and battered old shed that any heartless soul would have long ago consigned to the dump was transformed into a fantastic cubby house. It had a cement board floor, a covered, raised verandah and a ramp bordered with rosemary cuttings to ensure an aromatic entrance. And to plant it firmly in the twenty first century, it became a restaurant with a computerised ordering system. What an architectural, high tech wonder!

It seems to have been a long, cold winter, but there are positive signs. Soon the wattles will be a mass of yellow and the greyness of winter will slowly recede. I might wonder at how many more winters I can endure here, but my grizzles fall on deaf ears. I could never live anywhere else.....those two small boys from the north would forbid us to forsake “their” Wamboin....... and after all, it won’t be long before everything comes alive again. The garden and bush will be renewed with the onset of spring, and I will be able to say, with even more conviction, I wouldn’t live anywhere else..........

Footnote: Overnight, the fantastic cubby house succumbed to the elements...the verandah collapsed! A new project for their next visit?...... so until this is completed I couldn’t possibly live anywhere else.


After the soft, soaking recent rain I awoke to a brilliant blue sky and a world that was quenched and washed clean. The creek was gurgling and beside the road there were little streams of dripping water sounding like the hollow wooden notes of a distant angklung as they fell. From the tall pines a breeze, playing through their needles, produced a long sigh of satisfaction, and frog, clearing its throat, called for a mate. Kangaroos, absent for days, emerged sodden and dark amongst the scrub and weathered tree stumps, and birds appeared from hiding. It took a day of sunshine before my sharp eyed magpies and butcher birds were back, tapping at the kitchen door demanding breakfast. And most exciting of all, I found worms in the garden soil! I think, however, I was not the first to discover them!

Things are happening above ground in the garden. Spear tips of daffodils are poking up, and a few jonquils are out. The angular sticks of the ornamental quinces outside my window have produced their first pink blooms, and although flowers are scarce, there is still colour around. Sacred bamboos are crowned with brilliant red berries and there are brush strokes of red and yellow from the scattered dwarf nandinas and golden diosmas.

While snug in my winter nest, it is tempting to forget about the disasters and human tragedies occurring in the outside world. I was driving along an empty Sutton Road the other morning, isolated from the winter cold, in my “armchair”, listening to beautiful music and looking out at a benign and greening landscape. I thought how undeservedly fortunate I am, and how amazed my forebears, emigrants from a very different world, would have viewed my comfort and prosperity. I was listening to music, but had I been tuned to the radio I may have felt overwhelmed by the news; one item would have referred to the millions of people displaced in our world, fleeing poverty, poor economic prospects, political and social upheaval, and seeking a better life elsewhere. My forebears, in desperation, but perhaps tinged with a spirit of adventure, left their homeland for some of those reasons. And the very first Australians surely drifted here for similar reasons. Throughout history, people and populations have been mobile, but there have never been so many people on this planet, and we have never had instant global communication, before. Mass migration and social chaos seem so remote from the patterns of nature that I see repeated each season in my garden. I can remain snug, but hopefully not smug about what’s going on in the world!

The calm, sunny winter days are glorious, but I hope we haven’t seen the last of the rain for winter. I wouldn’t live anywhere else.....but I must confess that I can never feel completely smug about rainfall in Wamboin!


Have you ever paused for a moment to think how much we complicate our lives with clutter; we make work for ourselves by the accumulation of unnecessary things, and we gather all this stuff because “things” have never been so cheap. This was brought home to us recently on a trip to Darwin.

We were up and packed, shivering, well before dawn. Our transport arrived, suitcases were loaded and we set off in the icy gloom, eyes peeled for kangaroos returning unsteadily from a night on the town. It wasn’t until we got to the airport that we realised something was amiss. We were one suitcase down! Two of us arrived in the balmy tropics with clothes to spare, and a little too formal, but the third arrived with only the wintry clothes he stood up in. However, he had always insisted that I packed too many clothes for him when we travelled and all he really needed was his credit card. This time he was put to the test. Fortunately the weather was warm, the atmosphere casual and laid back and there were plenty of shops catering for hapless travellers. For a little over $50 he was fitted out with a couple of tee shirts, his favourite style of shorts, a pack of three undies and a pair of rubber thongs. He was not exactly a fashion statement, but he had the complete Darwin rig and blended with the locals. The most expensive item was the pack of two toothbrushes; my toiletries had been in his bag. Re equipped, we quickly slipped into “Darwin time” and enjoyed a very special gathering of the clan celebrated in true Territory style. How simple life became. There was no fussing over what to wear, no ironing crumpled shirts, and travelling was a breeze with all your belongings in a carry on plastic bag!

In my absence it seems that my garden decided that it too should pare back and embrace simplicity. The recent frosts and winds had stripped away the autumn colours and it looked subdued and empty, save for a few splashes of yellow, bronze, red and burgundy from scattered shrubs. The black cockatoos have returned, flying in loose formation, calling idly to each other and seemingly untroubled by their white, foul mouthed larrikin cousins. I stopped to admire a pair of scarlet robins, perched on a fence post, and added “magpie mince” to my shopping list. The other night I awoke to the lively patter of unwelcome feet in the ceiling. It’s getting cold outside. Winter has arrived.

Darwin is a long way from Wamboin, but its simple lifestyle has set me thinking. As I curl up by the fire on a winter’s evening I might contemplate how to simplify my life.....I might....but it will take some convincing before I abandon my boots and woollen socks for a pair of rubber thongs just yet...........I guess I simply wouldn’t live anywhere else.


We’ve all been “remembering”, especially in recent weeks. It would be hard not to, given the media saturation associated with the 100th anniversary of the ill fated ANZAC landing at Gallipoli. I went to the simple, but touchingly pertinent Dawn Service in Queanbeyan, rugged up against a cold that was not especially biting, smelling rosemary crushed between my fingers, hearing only the mournful drone of a lone piper in the blackness and looking up at a fading Southern Cross sinking slowly behind the trees. At the close of the service, a magpie carolled, and I dabbed a misty eye and remembered “them”, as well as my four great uncles. No doubt, like thousands of others, they had set off, “.....young, straight of eye, true of limb, steady and aglow....” Three of them came home. Perhaps they whistled the jolly song, popular at the time, which told them to “pack up your troubles in your old kit bag and smile, smile, smile”; fine sentiments, but they didn’t always work for those who returned, maimed, disfigured and permanently stained by their experiences, or for those, bereft and uncomprehending, waiting at home. I only ever knew one of those young men, but by then he was just a quiet, grey haired old man who reminded me of my father. He had a lovely smile, but he didn’t say much.

The sounding of the dawn Reveille brings you back to the presence. After the recent life giving rain we had our first toe numbing morning chill, today. Autumn mist filled the damp gully then drifted upwards, blurring the outline of trees and bush before it dissipated in the clear blue sky. I suspect I have picked the last tomatoes that will ripen on the kitchen window sill, and my next job will be green tomato chutney. I’ve already made basil pesto. Huge white clumped fungi appeared in the chook yard and golden mushrooms have pushed their way through the damp leaf litter under the eucalypts. The Chinese pistachio clings to its scarlet leaves, and the garden hasn’t lost its colour; red and white salvias and geraniums, purple daisies, lavender, rosemary and the first winter irises have appeared beside splashes of golden diosmas. Short spikes of green have spread a carpet over what were bare patches of earth. The garden is alive with little nectar feeding spinebills, and I’m alerted to their presence by the tell tale snap of their wings. Anzac Day is behind us and the melancholy bagpipes have been silenced by the whine and snarl of a chainsaw preparing the wood pile for winter. The first frost is lurking close at hand.

There has been unimaginable change in our wonderful country and in our circumstances since that first ANZAC Day. Throughout the intervening years military and civilian scholars have engaged in serious discourse and research, and there has been much political and popular delving and dissertation as well. We have learned a great deal, in hindsight, about human strength, human frailty, fallibility, mateship, and sadly human stupidity, but I wonder if our enlightened words, out- pouring of emotion and “paying our respects” will really make a difference in the long term in our dealings with each other. I hope that in the fog of national fervour and media hype, especially about mateship, we have not forgotten the meaning of true international friendship.

The fog has lifted, and the unfolding day is warm and peaceful. Bees are buzzing, small birds are twittering and even the rabbit nibbling in my garden seems untroubled......Wamboin is at peace, smiling broadly......I wouldn’t live anywhere else.


I heard a couple of gang gangs, the other day, unscrewing a cork from a bottle as they flew down the gully obviously in search of a spot to spread their picnic rug. It’s that sublimely beautiful time of the year when you just have to be outside, preferably in dappled shade, glass in hand, savouring a few idle moments and soaking up the passing parade. I saw six joyful little wrens in a sheltered birdbath, dipping and fluffing and spraying each other in a perfectly choreographed display, heard the mournful cry of a currawong, and the call of an invisible koel, home after a long absence. Yellow leaves are appearing and there are a few touches of red. Walking through the bush, the forest floor crackles and crunches under foot, and I tread carefully, trying not to confuse weathered “snake skin” sticks with the real thing. Sometimes a morning mist hides the promise of a surprisingly warm afternoon.

And it was on one of these rather warm autumn days that members of the community rallied for the annual “Clean up Australia” day. It always seems a shame that we have to have such a day. I remember sending a poster to our daughter when she went off to boarding school. It said, “Your mother doesn’t live here. Clean up after yourself!”I thought it was both apt, and amusing. But my sense of humour escapes me when I am confronted by the modern day middens alongside our local roads; empty bottles, not one but six and with the cardboard packaging, McDonalds’ wrappers and plastic plates, paper bags, cups with plastic lids, cigarette packets, plastic bottles and cans. It is easy to overlook any rubbish beside the road as you flash by, cocooned in your motor vehicle, but it is there. As a society we seem to believe that a problem will go away if we make it unlawful, but no law will prevent littering because the likelihood of being caught, especially in our rural environment, is remote. We have to foster individual responsibility. “Mum” and “the Government” are not there just to clean up your mess!

Glorious autumn, the perfect time for picnics, walks, rides and drives through the countryside.....and I can guarantee that the cork screwing gang gangs, while also enjoying the change in the season, will not leave a trail of empty bottles behind them.... and I hope we don’t either. I wouldn’t live anywhere else........


It’s been a month of eating, preserving and sharing summer produce. While the last surviving peach tree has been full of fruit we’ve lived on peaches, picking, eating and giving them away as fast as we can to beat the cockies and rosellas. I’ve had to scrabble around to find enough jars for chutneys and jams to use up surplus fruit, and without any decent rain, there has been the vegetable garden to be watered. An abandoned apple tree across the creek has been covered in apples; apples which not only taste like apples, but take less time to cook than any bought out of season from a supermarket.

For months, from my window, I’ve been spying on an industrious team of paper wasps painstakingly building a multistorey nest under the verandah roof. My ears have become attuned to the background hum of activity in the chinese elm, and the little birds have been a delight, busy and noisy, but if there is one creature that can spoil the party it’s a mossie at dusk. All the magic of standing outside with a hose at the end of a hot day can vanish with the first bite! The mossies have been fierce; the March flies have been looking at the calendar and are readying themselves for the next onslaught.

For the last few days, however, we have been at the coast where the average age of the population during business hours must surely be over 60! The beach knows no hierarchy; beneath a floppy canvas hat, dressed in shorts and rubber thongs with sand between your toes you could strike up a conversation with anybody. All pretence is stripped away. There’s time for a yarn, a chin wag, a chance to chew the fat and idly pass the time of day with the Christmas holidays long gone. My most memorable encounter was with a wrinkled, walnut brown body that appeared on an aqua, Mary Poppins bicycle complete with basket. He’d bought the bike for his wife to assist her recovery from a knee replacement. Knee operations are a great topic of conversation at this time of the beach year! She possibly hadn’t had much of an opportunity to pursue her exercise regime because she was hobbling around at home making his lunch. Time drifted on and then beneath the hat his face cracked apart in a wide smile and he said, “You gotta laugh in this life. No point crying”, and with that profound observation, turned, and pedalled off unsteadily in the sand. He didn’t say, fatuously, “Must dash...catcha later.” The sand and age impeded his dash. He didn’t engage in a “dialogue” with us and he didn’t have to have a “conversation about” an issue. He certainly didn’t seem to feel the need to reassure us that he’d “catch us later”. It’s sort of nice getting older and having time to just “be”.

But just in case you think I might be slowing down, I have to dash........I must sniff the roses as I brush past them in my haste to do a tally of the bees buzzing in the chinese elm......I wouldn’t live anywhere else....catcha!


Filing and record keeping have never been my forte, but despite my shortcomings I was able to track down some of my previous January musings. There I was bemoaning the lack of rain and parched landscape one year, humidity, accompanied by a silent invasion of leaf sucking creatures the next, and then a year when my tomato crop, full of early promise failed miserably. This year, however, has begun as a truly happy new year. Not even the crickets and rabbits can keep pace with the rain generated growth, and I’m picking tomatoes, lettuces, basil and rhubarb!! I want to sing in praise of the recent rains, but I suspect my thin voice may be drowned out by a triumphant massed choir of blackberries, thistles, horehound, briar rose and St Johns wort, all noxious weeds having the time of their lives across the creek. It’s a pity the rain can’t be a little more selective in where it falls!

Looking at my unwelcome summer bounty, it reminded me of a field of pretty meadow flowers I once came across in Brittany. I had an overwhelming urge to embrace this wild garden. As I fell to my knees I realised that these exquisite flowers were simply weeds that I curse in my garden back home. But here they were perfect. A friend who knew west coast wildflowers but was new to the flora of eastern Australia saw a tiny yellow flowering plant beside her country road. Keen to establish more roadside colour, she cleared some weeds from around it, scattered leaf litter and left. Next year she was thrilled to find masses of yellow beside the road, until the noxious weeds inspector pricked her bubble by informing her that it was St John’s wort.

A weed is just a plant growing in the wrong place. I am trying a new take on our defiant noxious weeds that persist despite our efforts with a mattock or spray. Instead, I am picking and eating blackberries as fast as I can to thwart their propagation by birds and foxes. I am monitoring the briar roses while I source a recipe for rosehip jam, wondering, as I pull out horehound from the rain softened earth if it is the plant used for horehound beer, and trying to see beauty, rather than prickles, in thistles. In the meantime I am looking beyond the invaders. Walking through the bush I came across a scribbly gum, gleaming yellow in its summer nakedness with a circle of tight curls of orange bark at its base. The ground was crunchy underfoot. Then a mop of grey brown flew above me and I looked up as a tawny frogmouth settled on a branch. Amongst the leaf litter I picked up a small piece of quartz which seemed to have been worked by ancient hands.

Surely all of us, at some time in our lives, have felt as if we have been planted in the wrong place. As we celebrate “Strayah Day”, I think of Captain Arthur Phillip, brave, capable and well meaning, and how he must have questioned his place as he sailed into Sydney Harbour with his human cargo, a cargo of bewildered light eyes scanning the foreshores, watched from the cliffs by unseen, bewildered dark eyes. This was the beginning of a new era in our Continent’s long history, and a redefining of the meaning of identity and place.

I know my place....and I wouldn’t live anywhere else......at least not while my tomatoes are ripening and the garden is being watered from above even though some of nature’s bounty may appear misplaced.

Happy New Year!



Sitting around a table, with music in the background, enjoying good food and good company in a beautiful setting is something I treasure whatever the season. And for me, this is what Christmas in Wamboin is all about. But I am one of the lucky ones. Not everyone looks forward to Christmas, and some, sadly, for very good reasons. It’s supposed to be a happy, jolly time when we stop for a well earned break at the end of the year. It is that precious time to be together as a family, laughing, catching up, exchanging gifts and recalling that special childhood moment of awe and wonder reflected in the eyes and antics of children, but it is easy to forget that for some Christmas is something to be avoided; an empty time of the year that only reinforces feelings of isolation and loss.

We’ve spent Christmas in all sorts of places. As I was unpacking the Christmas tree from a large cardboard box stamped, “Made in China”, with the warning, “not suitable for children under the age of three”, I thought of the year when we were surrounded by suitcases and faced with a Christmas without a tree. Being resourceful, I grabbed something sharp, cut a branch from a straggly and very prickly grevillea and made it as upright as possible in a battered black plastic pot. Then, with some pre loved tinsel, several expired Christmas beetles tied up with thread and some slightly sour smelling, silver milk bottle lids fashioned into bells, we had our Christmas tree. I don’t remember, but I presume there were presents under the tree, and Father Christmas arrived and filled the stockings as none of our children grew up with too many scars associated with Christmas!

Gift wrapping was never my father’s forte. He would disappear into his shed and stay well into the wee small hours on Christmas Eve, finishing off hand crafted gifts on his lathe. With saw dust still in his grey curls, he would hand out his gifts on Christmas morning, each one wrapped in yesterday’s news, tied with string, and given with love.

Lately, I’ve been making the pudding and cakes and trying to coordinate a hot stove and kitchen with forecast spells of cooler weather. In past years this has often resulted in bowls of dried fruit, draped with a tea towel, sitting for a week or more on the kitchen bench needing to be topped up each day with two slugs from the brandy bottle, one for the pudding and one for the cook as I’ve waited for a cool change. One year the ants got to the fruit ahead of the change! And there was the year when the thermometer beat us. We cancelled “Christmas” after breakfast as the mercury soared. We celebrated the next day when the weather was kinder and allowed us to enjoy roast chook and plum pudding.

It’s beginning to look and sound a lot like Christmas. The grass is yellowing and the crickets are chirping. Soon the fledgling galahs will start bleating their tuneless carols, but wherever you are this Christmas, and however you mark the occasion, I hope your Christmas is a happy one.... one to remember for all the good reasons. As another year draws to a close in Wamboin, I know I wouldn’t live anywhere else. Seasons Greetings!


“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” This almost forgotten quote from Dickens suddenly came to mind when I sat down to write the Muse. Spring is the “best of times”; it assaults the senses with its energy and beauty, but its richness makes it the “worst of times” to write about in a few short sentences! I feel like a school kid coming back for the new term full of joie de vivre being given the task to write... “What I did in my holidays.” Some teachers certainly knew how to bring you back to earth!

I arrived home in early October having barely survived two weeks of relentless chemical warfare waged by the terrorists of FNQ, kitted out as sandflies. Looking after two very lively small boys was a walk in the park by comparison. I tried to picture Wamboin, tulips and bluebells, crab apple petals falling like soft snow, fresh lime coloured leaves, glistening fat shingle backs catching you off guard and taking your breath away.... living fossils in the garden, rose bushes covered with buds, the drone of bees, the tone deaf, ever hopeful frogs, the scent of wisteria and banksia roses on the breeze, and the brilliant purple splashes of native mint. Modern technology is a marvel, and I had access to images of home, but visions of a Wamboin idyll couldn’t compete with sand fly bites! No words could I pen. It’s hard to wax lyrical when you’re under attack. But once home, I could hardly believe my eyes. Wamboin looked like the tropics during the wet, except that the sun was shining, and then there followed wave after wave of blossoms...pink, white, mauve and yellow; each new wave surpassing the one before.

I started planting tube stocks, filling the spaces, and spreading wheelbarrow loads of compost. The rain came on cue and I had a chance to draw breath and admire my handiwork. I texted a friend to say I’d been pottering in the garden. We busy ourselves with such vital pieces of information these days! My very clever phone, however, couldn’t cope with anyone just “pottering”, not in a world where every second counts, so it decided it knew better and reprimanded me by sending off the message suggesting I’d been “loitering”. Later, I corrected it and re- sent the text, but this time it had me “littering”! After huffing and puffing and cursing technology and my ineptitude, I came to the conclusion that perhaps my smart phone was a little more perceptive than I’d realised. There is a great deal of “littering” in a garden, especially under eucalypts after a good north westerly; and many plants just sit there, “loitering”, until they decide it is time to move. Sometimes they move to most unexpected places! I’ve learned over the years that loitering is a plant’s right. It is impossible to get a head start in a garden. Nothing happens until the plant decides that “It’s Time”. (Sorry Gough!)

In mid Wamboin winter I dream of gently swaying palm trees, warm, sparkling tropical waters and sand between my toes, but if I had the choice between shovelling compost or enduring sand flies, I’d opt for compost every time.

Wonderful Wamboin, this spring....I wouldn’t live anywhere else.


(We seem to have missed out this month)


What a month! On the first day of August we sat beside a roaring fire and looked out on snow falling softly on a rambling rose covered in pale pink blooms; a pair of king parrots arrived to share the spectacle. Wattles, refugees from Cootamundra that had sought asylum along our driveway glowed golden in their adopted land. We awoke to frozen pipes. A dripping tap grew an icy tendril overnight and there was a blanket of crystal white. But the lengthening days began to embrace the sun, and little wrens appeared in their blue caps and mufflers twittering as they hopped about, the ground too cold for them to dally. I heard a far off koel. The bees moved from the mass of sweet scented winter honeysuckle to the frothy pink japonicas and then on to the viburnums, dusted with white powder, and now humming. From a bare garden, save for those bewildered roses, I started to smell violets, found peeping hellebores and winter irises, and then bands of daffodils lifted their yellow trumpets, and, joined by a chorus of frogs, heralded the final act of winter.

The end of winter, however, spells the beginning of activity above ground, not just for the plants and birds, but for me, too. My garden has been quietly growing old and lazy, it was overweight and flabby and I couldn’t ignore the signs of decline any longer. So, it was out with the secateurs and clippers, on with the gloves and I started weeding and snipping and pulling out dead plants and unwelcome weeds. As I snipped, I could hear the accompanying snarl of a chainsaw tackling the heavier stuff further off. And the more I weeded, the more weeds I seemed to find, and the more I snipped and pruned, the more dead and straggly bits were revealed. I also uncovered, to my chagrin, the secret life of rabbits! The pile of weeds and clippings grew and grew, and as if the scales had fallen from my eyes I suddenly saw last year’s pile and the pile left behind from the previous year, not just garden waste but long dead wattles and branches and lumps of timber dragged into a heap, discarded and forgotten; they had become part of the landscape.

But, there is a fairy godmother! Cleverly camouflaged, she appeared in the guise of two strong men, a truck, a community bonfire and a small boy to oversee the entire operation. Truck load after truck load was taken to fuel the bonfire, and our “like Topsy” garden started to take on the appearance of a neat, suburban backyard....well almost!!! The only problem is that now the superficial stuff has gone, and I’ve looked beyond the garden, I am beginning to see a whole lot more that needs to go, and the next lot might require more than a fairy godmother.

Wonderful Wamboin.......a haven for squirrels, collectors, recyclers, hoarders and lax gardeners.......where there are always bits and pieces too good to pull out or throw out, “ just yet”!

It would be impossible to live anywhere else.......but what a pity the new season stirred the spring cleaner in me and my eyes were opened. If only I hadn’t started!


Last night, as I sat snugly beside the wood fire, I resolved to get up early in the morning and take the dog for a walk. Silly me! This morning, like so many mornings of late, was blotted out by thick, wet fog. Fog that just sits, breathlessly, revealing an occasional tree stencilled onto a cold grey landscape close to the house. But I did eventually rouse myself, grabbed my coat and gloves, harnessed the dog, and was dragged off for my walk. And then, as if someone had flicked a switch, the air changed and the sun appeared.

It was on a morning like this, as I was trying to restrain the dog long enough to admire the golden wattles and note the different fungi tucked amongst the leaf litter, that I witnessed an incredible sight...a squadron of dashing white cockatoo fighter aircraft attacking a lumbering squadron of black cockatoo bombers in an air battle over Canning Close. As the battle raged, a disoriented raven strayed into enemy air space and was swiftly dispatched. But the sluggish bombers were no match for the agile fighters and were soon sent on their way, licking their wounds and protesting loudly. To my disappointment, the dog didn’t seem to share my fascination with the sky. She had a mob of kangaroos in her sights. I recalled the recent conversation I’d had with an earnest young man from overseas who’d asked about our “endangered” kangaroos. They might have been endangered on this occasion, but only if the dog had snapped her lead!

This spectacular morning image came back to me as I was chatting to a fellow grandmother at a school sports day. Her grandson was soon to be ten and she’d asked him where he’d like her to take him for his special birthday. Immediately I’d thought “Tidbinbilla” or “the Coast”, but apparently he’d suggested the Great Wall of China, and she’d agreed! Now I had to admit that it would be rather nice to have your photo taken standing on a section of the Great Wall of China on your tenth birthday and within seconds have your smiling image appear on your friends’ smart phones back home, but would it necessarily mean much more than that? Could it simply end up being a win for the seductive travel brochure and tourist agents, and another photo to be saved and forgotten? Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for exploring our wonderful world, but it doesn’t always have to be the exotic. Awe and wonder can begin with the little things on your doorstep.

Cockatoos, kangaroos, sparkling frosts and dripping misty walks....I wouldn’t live anywhere else...........but then again, perhaps even I could be tempted!


It is always good to come home. “No worries”, was music to my fatigued foreigner ears as I sailed through Immigration. I was back in the land where I could share a joke with a stranger and eavesdrop on others’ conversations. The familiar was so comfortable. Then we turned into Norton Road! Whatever has happened to the hill that I had once hauled a large, reluctant and very old white hound up to the top at the end of a marathon hike? It had been a long, steep, winding hill, then, and I’d felt like a conquering hero deserving of laurels when we’d finally crossed the finishing line. All of a sudden my efforts seem insignificant, and those stories of trucks dragging a log of wood behind to slow their downhill pace in the days before the road was properly formed will now read like fantasy. The new road down the hill, however, will be a dream when it’s finished, but it must surely make the corrugations as you turn left along Sutton Road seem like a worse nightmare.

When the car stops, the first thing I do after any absence is check the garden, and this time we’d been away for quite a while. We’d skipped most of what I believe has been a beautiful autumn and were plunged head first into winter. Thank goodness for a full wood box. As I daintily picked my way through the mosaic of rabbit holes, I spotted six long stemmed red rose buds on a bush that had refused to do anything last season. Once picked and inside, the buds opened, filling the room with a fragrance that would overwhelm any airport duty free perfume shop. What an amazing winter welcome! It didn’t take long for the king parrots and rosellas to realise that the “soup kitchen” had reopened, and for my ears to become attuned to the sound of stillness or at most the faint murmur of a breeze through the gum leaves. There aren’t many birds around but it was a thrill to spy a flame robin amongst the twittering wrens and busy pardalotes. A kookaburra laughed, a lost cockatoo screeched, and was it possible that I had heard young galahs still demanding to be fed, in June. If my rose bush was confused by this autumn, perhaps some birds are confused as well.

I enjoy travelling, but I truly wouldn’t live anywhere else....at least not until I’ve had a chance to speak sternly to those fluro vested, chainsaw wielding vandals who’ve slashed our budding wattles in the misguided belief that they will ever keep borers at bay long enough to grow to a height whereby they will interfere with power lines!!! Roads may change but some things never change!


(We seem to have missed out this month)


(We seem to have missed out this month)


If you are scratching your head and feeling a little confused by the season, you are not alone. A drive from Wamboin along Sutton Road to the village might have you believing that we live in a green and well watered land. But look again. Dams have shrivelled up, some of the deciduous trees are winter bare having lost their leaves a month or so ago, and some misguided trees have even blossomed. In my garden, bees have been buzzing as if spring has come amongst the flowering Chinese elms. Clouds roll in, hang around, build up and then scatter to the wind, the promised rain blown away. There is little we can do about it.

However, I was at the local Sutton school the other day, sitting in the school hall, and I heard a story that showed just what a community can do. About forty years ago Sutton Primary was a typical little country school with fifty children on a good day, and apart from the classroom there was nowhere to shelter from the blazing sun, the winter chills or the fierce winds, let alone gather for an assembly or concert. Word got around, however, that there was an empty factory shed in Fyshwick. Amongst the parents there was a chap with a big truck, another with concreting skills and a couple of others handy with a multi meter and a hammer and nails, and they all had a “Can Do” attitude. They weren’t prepared to wait for the slow wheels of bureaucracy to turn and for someone else to do it for them. Instead of being blinded by a problem, they looked for a way around it. The unwanted shed was dismantled, loaded onto a truck and eventually re built on a concrete slab in the school grounds. Today the hall is carpeted, lined and heated, and is the centre of school activities. I was fortunate to be in that hall, in the audience, on Grandparents’ Day to see 200 excited children performing, and the next day in the hall again enjoying a Devonshire morning tea at the spectacular annual Fete. And without many, many committed people, all prepared to give it a go, there would be none of this.

In Wamboin, Sutton and countless small communities around the country there are people working quietly without fuss, with no expectation of personal gain or accolades who are just “doing their bit” for the community, helping to make where we live a better place for all. May this spirit endure.

I wouldn’t live anywhere else........and if I’m here to stay, I’d better think seriously about what I can do to drought proof my garden.


Six flame robins perched like clothes pegs on the top fence wire, a lone white cockatoo drooping on the uppermost thatch of needles on the tallest pine tree weaving in and out of a backdrop of feathery white clouds, pristine puff balls appearing overnight, freshly washed leaves and the rich smell of damp earth; the relieved sigh from the garden and the bush after the beautiful rain has been almost palpable, and the wildlife has embraced the new rhythm. There is a changed feeling in the air. Can we begin to hope that summer is about to call a truce and autumn assume command.

I had started to wonder if the old man upstairs was determined to pull out all the stops in his efforts to convince Tony, our illustrious leader and global warming sceptic, to see the error of his thinking. Our thermometer on the back verandah had never reached such dizzy heights before as I watched my garden stoically face the intense and seemingly interminable heat. But it’s amazing how quickly those plants that survived put on a new face after the rain, and how quickly you forget those burning days as they’re replaced with a smudge of green.

But there was one creature that had not entirely given up on summer. As we were walking through the bush the other morning without even working up a sweat, we saw a red bellied black snake slide across the rough ground in front of us. We stopped, and it stopped. It fixed its glassy black eye on us and watched us as we watched it. Then, as we became one with the trees, it went on its way, but not before rewarding us with a spell binding display, perhaps recognising the respect we’d shown it. It slid languidly over a small log, then stretched its ribbed body, turned slightly to expose a now salmon coloured side between dark bands, and was absorbed silently into the leaf litter. One second it was there, and then it was gone. It must have sensed our pleasure because we got an encore! I have seen snakes many times before, not always welcome, but this was special. No expertly filmed nature video could ever surpass the experience of “being there”, and I was so glad to have shared this moment with our young people.

And while I am fervently hoping that summer is over, I have been observing “hope personified” on my morning walks with the dog. “Morning”, for me, is not confined to a brief window of time but stretches from somewhere between dawn and noon. Each day for the last week I have seen about five chaps contently picnicking beside our picturesque roadside, under the power lines, shaded by a stand of pines. Those not enjoying the pure pleasure of “just being” are plugged, thumbs twitching, into their mobile phone games. As there is no other activity I can only assume that they are waiting, waiting in hope for the fearsome pines to sprout more threatening limbs to inconsiderately drop on the power lines, so they can lop them off now, rather than going to the trouble to leave and come back later to complete the job. Don’t get me wrong, I am grateful to have a vigilant electricity provider that monitors our power lines, but “hope” can sometimes be a little misguided..... And perhaps abused?

I wouldn’t live anywhere else....... and I hope that I witnessed the robins’ debut, and the snake’s finale...... and that the season has changed, and summer is largely behind us.


The pile of Christmas books beside the bed is diminishing, Christmas memories are fading and with Australia Day behind us I can no longer pretend that it is still “the holidays”. It’s time to accept that 2014 is actually well under way! I’ve just been outside, shooing a couple of little rabbits off our fenced “lawn” experiment and methodically shifting sprinklers. I think the bunnies were mocking our efforts both at fencing and growing grass. What was once struggling to become a lawn is now a bare expanse that crunches underfoot. Many shrubs have been scorched by the relentless heat and gums are dropping leaves like confetti and shedding long ribbons of bark. Some of the deciduous trees are shutting down. It’s a constant battle to keep up enough water to thirsty plants, but perhaps it will rain in February......or March...or....Meanwhile, I’ve enjoyed spotting the different lizards out and about, catching glimpses of a lone echidna as it trundles off, bristling with embarrassment at the thought of having been caught out, and waking to the dawn chorus with the morning air still crisp and cool. Our family of choughs has returned. Perhaps their holiday is over, too.

Australia Day has come and gone, and I’m afraid I didn’t flutter any little “made in China” flags, paint my face with green and gold or join the lakeside throng. I did, however, throw a couple of chops on the barbie, but that was out of desperation, not patriotism, as there was nothing else left in the freezer after the family had departed! But I do love Australia. Nothing stirs me more than to be on a Qantas flight home, hear our flat, nasal drone and catch the tune and syrupy lyrics of Peter Allen’s song, “I still call Australia home.” My throat constricts and I furiously burrow into my bag for the tissues. There is something about Home, of belonging, feeling comfortable, sharing a history, a sense of humour, being accepted. It’s like a secret handshake. No amount of faux patriotism can improve on that. As I chatted to the young girl at the checkout today, someone who is probably a long way from being able, in her heart, to call Australia home, I asked if she’d enjoyed an Australia Day holiday. She sighed, with great weariness, and said she’d had to work .My hope for her is that someday she will truly be able to call Australia home, and I trust that we who already do will have helped her along the way.

I wouldn’t live anywhere else.......this wide brown land of ours......that we share with each other, and millions of rabbits!



It's coming around to that time of the year, again.....the festive season, the season to be jolly, the silly season...but however you view it, it is a happy time of the year with the weather warming and the year wrapping up even if it does become a little frantic as momentum builds. And you know it is upon us when the bottlebrushes turn crimson and the crickets start to sing, and your head swims with an ever growing "to do" list. Each year I seem to leave my run a little later and I wonder what is the solution.

I haven't yet made the cake or the pudding or ordered the hams, but I have been eyeing off a small out of place pine tree across the creek, and our youngest family member has retrieved all the Santa Claus which I'd had tucked away in a cupboard for the last 11 months. Given free rein he will probably find the rest of the assorted kitsch, and maybe a few unopened and overlooked Christmas gifts from last year, as well!

Although I still think of Christmas as red and green with plastic sprays of decorative holly and ivy etched into my childhood memory, reinforced now by red bottle brushes and brilliant scarlet and green king parrots, from my window I am seeing more yellow and green. The bush has lots of yellow flowers, and the recent rain has revived the grasses, but some of the yellow is definitely not native. St John's Wort, following the kangaroo trails, is on the march, and causing a problem.

But pleasures can be simple. I spent a contented hour in the very early morning, wandering across the trickling creek, getting wet feet from the heavy dew and pulling out a pile of that noxious weed. Most of the delight came, I hasten to add, from the ease at which its long network of roots separated from the soft ground. Only a week or so ago I had started filling empty gardens spaces with pig face, of all things, convinced it would never rain again and that the ground would remain hard and dry, but then it did. The rain helped solve my problem.

Maybe I should curb my cynicism when the next big truck flashes past me emblazoned with its company name incorporating "Something Solutions". Everything seems to be so easily fixed, if you believe the name, be it "IT" or "Transport" or "Cleaning Solutions". Maybe there really are simple solutions. I'm waiting to spot the first truck that comes along advertising "Christmas Solutions". But perhaps I should be looking out for a sleigh, not a truck!

I wouldn't live anywhere else.... Happy Christmas .....and a happy, relaxing and well earned holiday...... and may you find lots of solutions gift wrapped under the tree.


I’ve just been sitting on my front verandah looking at a garden that has been somewhat neglected, and yet seems to get prettier and prettier with each passing day. As one colour fades, another takes its place like a meticulously choreographed performance. Even the recent frosts and relentless cold winds that have burned the new leaf growth on several young ornamentals haven’t really spoiled the scene. But I do have some doubts about the long term health of some of the wisteria, and fear a little crepe myrtle may not recover. When the sun shines it is intense, and the ground is drying out quickly. Spring has a habit of overreaching itself.

My garden has been spoiling me and, with a birthday the other day, so have my family and friends. My presents ranged from the quirky to the sensual to the utterly practical, and some were a combination of all things. There was a pair of black lace gloves at one end, a fetching accessory to go with my gardening boots, old jeans and floppy hat, and a robotic vacuum cleaner at the other! Now I’m not a gadget person, nor one who speedily embraces new technology. In fact I’d probably still be making toast with an open fire and a spike of fencing wire to skewer the bread if I hadn’t been given a pop up toaster years ago. I’m even happy to slice my own bread and use a tea towel, so you can imagine that a robotic vacuum cleaner was somewhat beyond my horizons. However, I had decided that if I am to be blessed with a few more birthdays, I should at least try to keep up with life. So I unpacked “Maude”, turned off the lights and went to bed.

Next morning I was up early and out, so Maude could be ignored without guilt. But when I came home I discovered that she’d been quite busy, and she was winking coquettishly. Not everyone in my household could resist Maude! Finally I was shamed into acknowledging her presence. With the bedroom tidied, I plugged her in, pushed a button unambiguously marked, “clean”, shut the door and left her to it. It was easy. Then I faced the challenge of “walking” the dog! When I returned there was Maude, sitting smugly in her corner surrounded by an impeccable carpet. She had even scooped up the crisp blowfly and a fragment of Lego! What a pet!

And that is why I now have time to sit on my front verandah and admire the blooms, as well as walk through the bushland enhanced by lilies and orchids, daisies, buttercups and peas, all natives, and all flourishing of their own accord. I have time to stop and listen to the magpies warbling, the kookaburras cackling and the cockatoos screaming abuse at each other. I have time to hear a rustle in the leaf litter as a sleek, fat shingle back goes about its business, and the wind sighs in the casuarinas. Is it all because of Maude, or has it also got something to do with spring’s rejuvenating influence?

Maude... and I... wouldn’t live anywhere else..............and maybe next birthday I’ll get an obliging robot that picks up dirty clothes, just to keep Maude happy!


“......Show me your garden and I will tell you what you are.” The wind has been so vile of late that I have been cocooned inside enjoying all that is wondrous in a spring garden through firmly shut windows. Flicking through my gardening books, however, I came across a little book filled with some very pretty as well as some very down to earth quotes about gardens and gardeners. I liked the one suggesting that “a really long day of weeding is a restful experience and quite changes the current of thought”. My fingers twitch when I see a weed boldly defying order in someone else’s garden or in a public place, and I can quite lose myself pulling weeds in my own garden. With a mixed pile of weeds growing beside me I often pause and wonder how I came to be scrabbling around on my hands and knees in the first place!

“The glory of gardening: hands in the dirt, head in the sun, heart with nature.”That is to me the essence of gardening, but “show me your garden and I will tell you what you are”, that is a little confronting!

With my head buried in the crab apple blossoms, eyes closed, breathing sweet perfume and hearing only the hum of bees I must be a dreamer. The scent of wall flowers and freesias and I’m a child again in my grandmother’s country garden. Aphids on fresh rose shoots and I become a ruthless killer, and the practical me snips sprigs of rosemary for the roast lamb, and lets the rosemary just get on with looking after itself. I wonder what caging plants in wire netting reveals. Am I an incurable optimist, believing that one can actually triumph over nature!

I thought my spring garden was looking spectacular, and was glad that the birds seemed to think so, too, until I visited someone else’s garden. With its massed tulips and avenues of blossoms it really was spectacular; a garden that speaks volumes. I was in awe of the individuals who had the vision and determination to create such beauty from a scrap of dirt in a little valley beside the self absorbed highway. It brought to mind another quote.

“I never see a garden.... but think of the calamities that have visited it, unsuspected by the delighted visitor who supposes it must be nice to garden here...Gardeners are the ones who, ruin after ruin, get on with the high defiance of nature itself, creating in the very face of her chaos and tornado, the bower of roses and the pride of irises........Defiance.... is what makes gardeners.”

I don’t expect a bower of roses, but there are promising buds, and I picked a vase of irises the other day. My garden in spring seems to forgive me for all my omissions and caprice, and I hope it can keep a few secrets. The wind may blow a gale, but on days when it is still I wouldn’t live anywhere else..... especially in spring.....


Some women shop, some change their hair colour and some work up a good sweat at the gym, but when I need a lift I put on my big floppy hat and old boots, grab my secateurs and disappear into the garden. With the sun shining and the day warm away from the wind that’s just what I did today.It was pure bliss! I pulled weeds, hacked off dead bits, unhooked myself from under thorny shrubs and clipped back whatever wasn’t about to flower and seemed in need of a haircut. Finally, when I put my secateurs down and went inside with a bunch of daffodils and sprigs of flowering quince, I happened to glance out of the window. The afternoon light had set the wattles aglow transforming the grey bush into gold. Spring, with its mixed blessings of wind and warmth, seems to be here.

The end of winter witnessed another end in our household. For seventeen years we have lived with a succession of feathered friends and they have proved to be a fascinating cross referenced study of human nature. We started with four chicks but only three grew into hens and in no time at all we had to extend the chook yard. The coop record was twelve very handsome but somewhat decorative cockerels! Once, a bewildered duck hatched a scrawny “ugly duckling” that we were forced to adopt. He became a much loved pet but a somewhat confused rooster. Then there was the geese phase followed by more ducks, new pullets mixed with new hope, and a series of cast off chooks. The feathered population waxed and waned. We had a glut of eggs, we had a famine. Then the other day I decided that enough was enough; the chooks and ducks had to go. The time was right...the ground was soft enough to dig a hole, a big hole. Our original idea of eating our own poultry evaporated.

As the very big hole was being dug across the creek to provide the final resting place for our erstwhile friends, I thought of the little boys in green and yellow whom I often pass at the bus stop, crouched, stick in hand, wordlessly digging in the time honoured fashion of little boys. Each morning their hole grows a little deeper and a little wider, and then the bus arrives.

I’ve been watching some much bigger boys of late, from the Council, with much bigger sticks digging and slashing beside the road. I was not exactly sure of their aim, or even if they had an aim, but they slaughtered the roadside trees and scrub and left behind a tangled mess of bush and deep ruts. Perhaps it was misguided “fire mitigation” or perhaps it was to provide more interesting cover for roadside kangaroos. Whatever their aim, however, they won some friends! One little boy, whom I know especially well, announced excitedly that there was now an even bigger hole at the bus stop. In a matter of minutes the Council boys had created a hole that would have taken a team of boys their entire primary school years to dig!

With soft soil and soft sunshine it’s the season for all of us to start digging. Where did I leave my garden fork?......... I wouldn’t live anywhere else.


I was beginning to think I’d lost July this year, wiped out by a thick blanketing fog that stubbornly refused to budge.... and then it lifted. But I wasn’t fooled by a blue sky into thinking winter was on the wane especially when I saw the mountain tops painted with snow, a morning puddle with icy claws scratched across its surface and a small pine tipped with ice beads on drooping needles looking like a Christmas tree in July. But it’s so nice to see the sun again, and the garden thinks so, too. It’s stirring, shrugging off its winter torpor and slowly coming out of the shadows. There are the first hellebores, and violets, pink, white and purple, spears of daffodils and jonquils pushing through beds of fallen leaves, plump manchurian pear buds and wattles almost ready to burst . I’ve cheated the rabbits this time and bought “bloomers”. Now I have pots of coloured polyanthus, sweet smelling stocks and colourful kales safely stowed away on the verandahs, hinting at spring. Frogs in the gullies are practising their scales again, the little boy wrens have found the “dress ups” box, and a scarlet robin caught my delighted eye on one of my walks.

I went away last weekend. I travelled for eight hours, cocooned in a time capsule with my head buried in a book, numbed to my surroundings. I arrived at a railway station which looked like any other railway station in a big city, waited for the green light and joined fellow travellers on the grey footpath between grey buildings under a square of cold grey sky. The back views and faces could have been in any city in any part of the world. Then, out of the blue, I heard an Australian accent and realised that I had really not gone all that far. I was actually in Melbourne, still in Australia and not technically a foreigner!

It was fun to play at being a Melbournian for a weekend. Everything I wanted seemed to be within walking distance, and I discovered a new religion and a new church; coffee at cafes on a Sunday morning. The Communion wine and wafers came with a new twist. I joined the congregation but showed my lack of faith by opting for a pot of tea rather than a double shot latte. However, I was pleased to see that even though no one could hear each other above the din and clatter, they were engaging in the old fashioned way, talking instead of texting. The staff was pleasant, not just plastic pleasant, but their eyes betrayed them. I suspect they’d rather have been in bed sleeping off their “big night” than at the “new church” masquerading as altar boys.

Coming home, with a bag of dirty clothes and happy memories, is always the best part of going away, and this time I arrived in the dark, smelled the damp air and brushed past the winter honeysuckle, sweet and fragrant. It is good to be home......and after a walk to the letter box along the gravel road between the expectant wattles, I’ll make myself a cup of coffee, long black, and listen to the sounds of silence. I wouldn’t live anywhere else.


There’s nothing like the comforting glow and warmth of a wood fire, but it takes more than a roaring fire to keep a house warm at this time of the year. Our house was built when most people insulated their ceilings with a few inches of batts, put token insulation in wall cavities if there were spare funds, curtained the expanses of glass with heavy curtains where affordable, and carpeted the wooden floors. But fashion changed, and we ripped up carpets opting for the simplicity of wooden floors and hoping, at the same time, to confound dust mites. We dismissed pelmets as fusty and outdated, and opened the curtains during the day to banish the gloom in an empty house. When we returned in the evening we wondered why it was like entering an icebox. We sat by the fire at night and talked about how we could make the place cosier, but then the weather would start to warm up and we’d be in the garden desperately trying to keep abreast of spring. Suddenly, it would be winter again and we were back to where we started. Now that we are spending more time at home, however, and are not wielding the mattock so vigorously, we are trying to change our ways. We are installing double glazing and pelmets, but it is a slow process. When you choose to live on twenty acres in the bush, you tend to like doing things yourself, so nothing ever happens quickly. And although I use the word, “we”, suggesting that there are two hard at work, when it comes to actually doing the job I shamefully admit that it is “he”. I’m better with ideas, morning tea and holding a hammer, thoughtfully.

A week or so ago we were just part of the crowd warming ourselves at another fire, the bonfire in the old church grounds at Sutton. It was a simple but spectacular family event. The local Fire Brigade created a massive pile of wood, a sculpture in itself, and the flames disposed of an old pine tree that had long ago reached its use by date. The evening had an old fashioned charm about it. While the adults stood around chatting and sipping, relishing the flames and warming dark faces, the kids, big and small, explored the night, playing games in the dark in time honoured fashion. It was a happy, casual atmosphere, and I wondered if the kids ran free because there was a fence of sorts around the perimeter. There were defined limits, so parents could let their kids go, and the kids could push the boundaries, safe within those limits. It made me think about the importance of boundaries in our lives and the need to give them a nudge occasionally.

In the garden the rain gauge has filled twice and is filling again, and the creek is making sweet music. We’ve planted a crab apple to replace the one that languished for years after being ringbarked by hares, I’ve found some plants sown by birds and put them in little pots for spring planting, and I’ve been picking up barrow loads of kindling and firewood. Winter has its own delights.

I wouldn’t live anywhere else........ and most especially when it’s cold and grey outside and I’m sitting comfortably beside a good fire in the knowledge that there’s a full wood box on the back verandah.


Today has been a particularly dull day. The misty cloud hung around well into the afternoon just like the mob of sprawling kangaroos that refused to budge in the clearing. They looked like weathered tree stumps with exposed roots. Suddenly, the gloom lifted, and took the kangaroos with it. Even when the sun shines, however, there isn’t much colour in the garden. The busy wrens and pardalotes blend with the dun coloured grass and you have to look again to see if they are really birds and not just fluttering leaves. Many of the deciduous trees are already skeletal, having dropped their autumn colours early, but there are still snatches of bronze, rust red, purple and yellow with some of the Viburnums, May, Berberis, Nandina and Golden Diosma. And the good thing about these shrubs is that, unlike my misguided cottage garden delusions, they do not tempt the kangaroos. Huge mobs of hungry kangaroos can be seen cycling through, untroubled by our presence. But you only ever see the rear view of the solitary wallaby as it slinks off blackly towards the creek. One wallaby, though, can have more of an impact on my equanimity than a dozen kangaroos!

And so it was a good thing that my focus shifted from the garden to the inside. I arranged to have our chimney “swept”. Since child labour is no longer condoned, I tried to picture what a modern day chimney sweep might look like. I imagined someone, stove pipe thin, in a thread bare black suit, face smudged with soot, wearing a cap rather than a top hat and carrying a stiff long handled broom. Any romantic notions were dashed when an average Aussie bloke appeared in overalls, equipped with a powerful vacuum cleaner and a rolled up hearth rug. Of course our chimney was hardly of majestic proportions but he hadn’t known that, and I had wondered how anyone was expected to get up or down a standard flue pipe. Without drama or sentiment, the whole operation was over within half an hour and there wasn’t even a shower of soot or the odd bird’s nest dislodged. Now we have a fire that draws well, pumps out good heat and we can breathe more easily, knowing that a chimney fire is unlikely.

But I still have to look at my sad garden as it bunkers down for the winter months. Flowers have been replaced by festoons of chicken wire, and I suppose anyone living in suburbia could be forgiven for thinking that I’ve abandoned nature and have tried, without any artistic merit, to create a sculpture garden. In fact, all I’m doing is trying to lessen the impact of my night time visitors. At the markets the other weekend as I bought more plants from Lofty’s and Jo’s stalls, I joked that I was buying more nibbles for the native population. Then I heard something that made me smile. While I was rejoicing that we’d had 6mm of rain, someone mentioned that on the mid north coast, where they lived, they’d had 100 mm, and that they had to go home to mow the grass, yet again.

I wouldn’t live anywhere else....and as our north coast friends head home to mow, we can sit on the verandah and watch the kangaroos do the job for us.......and maybe learn to forgive them for not always knowing a weed from a plant!


Seventeen years ago, almost to the day, when I first set eyes on this property, fired up with visions of the good life among the gum trees, it was a very different place. The creek was running, the dam was filled to overflowing and a pretty English cottage garden rimmed the modest house. Across the creek there was a productive orchard and a fenced area for vegetables. Beyond this was the bush. The bush is still there, but the orchard has died and there are rabbits and weeds instead of vegetables. The creek has all but disappeared and the dam is shrunken. The house garden, however, has crept steadily into the bush, linked by paths. Tough native plants, like correas and grevilleas, have replaced most of the exotics of old. The house has grown, and a few sheds have sprouted. Our patch has evolved as we have learned to bend and adjust to nature’s whims. But the rhythm of life continues without missing a beat.

Once again there is the whine and snarl of chainsaws. Wood smoke hangs in the still evening air, sunlight scatters morning mists and a frost leaves behind its tell tale signs. Memories of scorching summer days fade quickly as I abandon my sandals and search for woollen socks. The changing season always seems to catch me by surprise.

And there are other markers of the season. I tumbled out of bed this morning at an hour I would usually prefer to ignore, piled on layers of clothes in the cold and dark, and headed off, a lone car on a moonlit road. It was Anzac day and we were going to the Dawn Service in Queanbeyan. As always, it was a simple, home grown, distinctly Australian affair, and may it stay that way! As the freezing blackness lifted and the Southern Cross paled and sank lower in the sky, I shivered and thought of all the other similar services of remembrance occurring in country towns across eastern Australia. “We will remember them.”

When I arrived home some time later and peeled off my overcoat, I was glad that it had been such a cold morning. Cold always makes the occasion seem more poignant, but this time I was glad for more personal reasons. My jumper that I had thrown on while numbed with sleep was not just on “back to front”, but it was “inside out” as well!

And a final marker confirming that the more things change the more things stay the same: true to form, the ACT Government was there with its speed cameras on Sutton Road, nicely timed to catch New South Wales motorists travelling an almost empty road on their way to take part in what I hope remains a very Australian tradition...the ANZAC Day parade. Well done ACT...that’s real mateship for you! ...But I still wouldn’t live anywhere else........ and it might really rain one day.


Mellow autumn, a brilliant Easter moon, morning mists, red and yellow trees and galah sunsets. It has to be the best time of the year. I was sitting on the verandah, breathing in the night while cradling a hot cup of tea in my hands. It was well before dawn. All was still, cool and quiet, and the garden was infused with moonlight. Suddenly, a distant car tore the bush apart, a kangaroo thudded through the trees, and there was a ping as gathered dew fell in the metal downpipe. It was a moment to savour.

I haven’t been able to get into the garden as much as I would’ve liked, lately, but perhaps the neglected garden has been saved by the welcome change in the weather. I would like a lot more rain, though. The constant wind has blown the clouds away and the promised rain has been more akin to the fabled Pommy wash than a self respecting teenager’s shower! But it didn’t blow the Koel off course. It’s back, for the moment, with its distinctive call, and the magpies have found their voice after a parched summer.

There is something else I always look forward to at this time of the year, and that’s the Sutton School’s Country Fair. I have been to many fetes and fairs over the years, from simple affairs to high powered extravaganzas, but none surpass the energy and enthusiasm of the Sutton School fete. It is a real community occasion, with a country feel, and I am in awe of the efforts of those behind the scenes. I think I’ve been hooked on fetes since the time, when as a small child, I won an iced fruit cake by correctly guessing its weight. I’d watched a stream of good country women ahead of me pick up the cake, screw their eyes tightly in deliberation and announce, confidently, its weight. I just plucked the first numbers that came into my head....six pounds eight and a half ounces...and without handling it, it was mine! In an era where there are so many activities each weekend competing for the crowds, it is testimony to the strength of the school family and its relationship with the community that this school fair is such a success each year. And I came home, not just with the memory of so many happy small faces, but a wheelbarrow load of plants for my garden and a few more toys to delight small people and further clutter the back verandah.

Beautiful autumn, special Easter times and the knowledge that I live in such a great community confirmed once again......I wouldn’t live anywhere else!


As I sit at my desk looking out at a low, dark sky, listening to the soft patter of rain on the metal roof I am glad that I had a sudden rush of blood to the head this morning. I leapt out of bed and through bleary eyes scattered the contents of a long opened bag of lawn seed onto a bare patch of ground that had been troubling me for some time. A friend had confided that her Grandmother, steeped in Nordic myths and legends, had told her as a child that there are “fairies in the rain”, and it had rained on and off all night. But it wasn’t just the potential fairy magic that had encouraged me.

Over the past few weeks I have noticed a change in the rabbit population. Their behaviour had changed. They appeared both tamer and bolder. Then it dawned on me that they were probably losing their sight, suffering from Myxomatosis. Although I did feel some sympathy for the poor little bunnies, it did also give me hope that finally I might be able to grow some grass. I trust, however, that there are indeed a lot of fairies in this recent rain. Reading the instructions on the packet as I consigned the empty bag to the bin, it occurred to me that perhaps I’d overlooked a few vital steps in my seed sowing preparations and that I may need more than just help from the fairies. Hopefully the seeds can’t read, and come from hardy, agricultural stock as well!

My vegetable garden hasn’t happened this summer, but I have valued the fruits of other gardens. Last week at our market I bought magnificent capsicums, tomatoes, beetroot, apples and rhubarb, and a beautiful bunch of basil which put my few spindly plants to shame. But our ducks and chooks have started producing again, and suddenly I am into my recipe books looking for anything that needs a lot of eggs. Although I’m a “bit of this and a bit of that” type of cook, and rarely follow instructions to the letter, I love recipe books. Recipe books acquire a certain patina; like good wine they improve with age.

The best and most loved recipes are usually hidden between two glued together pages. There are smudges and spills, notes scribbled in the margins, measurements crossed out, bits added and countless scraps of paper tucked between the leaves with instructions in different hands; neat, flamboyant, hurried, cryptic. I claimed my mother’s crumbling recipe books when she’d forgotten how to use them, and found a treasure of social and culinary history. There were names of aunts, cousins and friends attached to recipes, dishes and food that evoked memories of childhood parties and celebrations, references to cuts of meat no longer seen in supermarkets and handy hints that read like a foreign language. My mother would find a modern recipe book equally confusing! It made me stop and think, however, when a young friend said she got her recipes only from the internet. In a flash there was the recipe she wanted, and in a flash it was gone. Sometimes I use the internet for a quick recipe, but what a difference to thumbing through a falling apart book!

And as the gossamer like rain changes to a steady drumming on the roof, I am starting to fear for those fairies. Perhaps, like the lawn seeds, they’ll end up floating away in the creek and someone downstream, like magic, will score a lawn......but I wouldn’t live anywhere else!


Summer is not my favourite time of the year. I prefer cool days and the comforting sound of rain on an iron roof at night, but I must admit I truly enjoy summer mornings. To be up early for the second sitting of breakfast with the birds, to feel a freshness in the still air and to see a garden revived by a cool night’s rest after the sapping heat of the day before makes you ready to face almost anything. It’s that special time before the day becomes hot and cluttered, a time to potter, to look around, fill bird baths and turn on a sprinkler.

I mulched many of our young trees and garden beds last November before we went away for a stretch, fearing perhaps that I had left it too late. The ground had suddenly become quite dry, but I’m so pleased that I did. The very hot dry weather of late has not been kind to either plants or animals, but at least the mulch has provided some protection for the plants. Wise kangaroos now sprawl listlessly in the dust under any tree that offers shade, unmoved by your presence, and the bush is quiet. Only a hormone driven mother duck defied the burning heat, sitting resolutely on a clutch of ten eggs. Every so often she tossed out an egg that had lost its promise, and fortunately for us hatched only two. With tongue in cheek we called the peeping fluff balls, Bless and Ing.... two, you could pretend might be a blessing, but ten would have been madness amongst the relics in the roost.

Apart from mulching in preparation for our absence, I had organised a young lad to stay in our house. He was a very pleasant, modern young man with a mostly academic enthusiasm for the environment, and agile thumbs. Unless he could check the relevant data on his I Phone he didn’t appear to know where he was or whether he should be feeling hot or cold. My suspicions should have been aroused when I asked him to collect, in addition to duck eggs, the mail, and noticed his eyes glaze over. I did wonder, fleetingly, if snail mail may have been an alien concept to him, but dismissed the idea. We set off and I left behind all thoughts of the garden, the ducks, and the fact that we have the smallest letterbox in all of Wamboin. But I learned something while I was away. There really is a Santa Claus!

As our letter box started to fill and then overflow with Christmas greetings from around the globe, our vigilant Postie became alarmed. He was alarmed, firstly, that something dire may have happened to the owners of the little letter box living at the other end of the red gravel road, and secondly, that uncollected mail was a signal to would be thieves that there was an empty house ripe for the pickings. I’ve never met our Postie and I know him only by the car he drives, often on the wrong side of the road, but we’ve waved to each other just as you wave to everyone who drives down your road. He, however, must be Santa Claus! He tracked us down using his local knowledge and a possible connection, and our family came to the rescue. I don’t think our young house sitter even noticed the sudden appearance of a mountain of mail at the back door. He probably stumbled over it, thumbs twitching, checking to see if he were home!

Thank you Postie, and thank you again for your vigilance, concern and initiative. I hope you enjoyed the l token bubbles we confidently left in our letter box for you to collect on the last mail delivery before Christmas. And next time I might be more precise in my instructions to young house sitters, not just about collecting letters from a letter box, but collecting duck eggs from cunning ducks as well.

I wouldn’t live anywhere else.......and to my delight, he did leave me a handwritten list of 27 birds he’d observed during his time here..........Happy New Year!



You never know what’s around the corner in this life, waiting to surprise and delight you, or take your breath away, or worse, cut out the ground from under your feet, but there are some certainties like Christmas and summer, and they’re both almost upon us.

I don’t have to traipse to the shops to see the signs of Christmas. I just have to look outside and listen to what is happening there. The bottle brushes are starting to flower with their red and green Christmas colours, gums are beginning to blossom, the grass is turning crisp and brown, sprinklers have come out of the shed after their winter hibernation, and the fledgling galahs and magpies are rudely demanding to be fed. They do behave like spoilt brats! Suddenly, underfoot, there is a fat goanna, inert and glistening black, silently cursing that it had been caught out, and a little dragon shimmers over the surface of a rock. I was about to venture outside the other day, without my regulation boots, but I’m glad I stopped to put them on. As I was scaling the chook yard fence, a sleek brown snake scratched the grass as it slid between my legs. I’d been seeing sticks masquerading as snakes for several weeks but this real live “stick” did sort of take my breath away, and reminded me that spring is past and summer is here.

It has been a beautiful spring, a surprisingly beautiful spring. My surviving rose bushes have outdone themselves, the rock roses, many self sown like the lavenders, are covered with flowers, and the bush is pretty with masses of yellow paper daisies and orange peas. I even found a tiger orchid, for the first time, on my side of the fence! But beware...some of the masses of yellow seen from a distance are not everlasting daisies, but yellow fields of St John’s Wort, apparently ignorant of State boundaries!

So, with Christmas almost here, I hope that your surprises at year’s end are only those that delight you, under the Christmas tree. And I wish you all a very happy Christmas and a relaxing, well earned break before we turn the corner into 2013.

Another year has come to an end....and I wouldn’t have wanted to spend it anywhere else but Wamboin.


Crab apples, viburnums, diosmas and wisteria ...pompoms of scented pink and white and dripping mauve.... Native mint bushes sprayed with purple, and splodges of orange poppies amongst green and gold leaves; columbines, irises and foxgloves and the white noise of bees. I was away for a week and returned to a very different garden, one that had been transformed, brimming with life and colour. Even the bush wildflowers seem more vibrant this year.

I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve travelled the breadth of Australia since I abandoned the place of my birth without a second thought, and called the east coast home. But this trip was unlike all others. It was the final full stop at the end of a story; a story that had spanned most of the twentieth century, an ordinary story of a life that mirrored the lives of so many throughout that era. I took part in my mother’s funeral and we celebrated her life.

My mother was born during the First World War, orphaned before her tenth birthday and yoked to an unloving step mother during adolescence and throughout the tough depression years. She was a new mother during the dark days of World War Two and went on to have a wonderful, fulfilled life. This visit was an experience rich with memories. I revisited the grand country home of my father’s childhood and was amazed that despite the still glorious view, it had shrunk with time to almost mean proportions. And as I shivered in a biting evening wind I pictured life in those days... unreliable tank water, wood fires for heating and cooking, no washing machines or easy iron clothes, no fridge or freezer or convenience foods...somehow the romance evaporated. They no doubt felt they had a good life, a fine roof over their heads, a loving family, food on the table and a bountiful garden, but by our standards life was tough, mundane and at times pretty raw. But my nana escaped to her flower garden whenever she could, and in the end it is family, friends, and a purpose that matter most in life.

I’ve come home with a suitcase full of bits and pieces that I don’t need, but I‘m not yet ready to part with them because, useless though they are in my present life, they are nevertheless redolent with memories. And memories are a precious part of who we are.

My spring garden is tugging at my sleeve. It’s time to lose myself amongst the weeds and flowers again, get my hands dirty and let my mind wander as I commit those images to memory....and remember other things long past.

I wouldn’t live anywhere else....and I’m glad I’m living through these times..... especially in Wamboin!


In order to help out some dear friends I was obliged, somewhat reluctantly, to join the twenty first century. I had to buy a pocket sized, lose it in your handbag- too smart for its own good type phone. For that amount of money I could have bought something really exciting like a painting or a holiday, but instead I purchased an item that gave me as much pleasure as a new set of wheel spanners. Helping out our friends, however, didn’t just involve a tentative leap across the technological divide. It afforded us a few days of living in an old, solid, two storied building, furnished with antiques, echoing with history and graced by a grand, sweeping staircase that tested the knees. It could have been the setting for a Victorian novel. The downside, however, was that there was no garden and no bush outlook, just buildings, roads and rail tracks lit by street lights. And instead of singing frogs and birds, there was only the rumble of traffic and the low throb of trains passing in the night.

In our absence spring in Wamboin erupted, and what a rapturous spring it is. The garden is smiling with yellow, pink, white and blue, and the exotic trees look as if they are being coloured- in with a light green crayon before our very eyes. The massed choir at dawn is my reward for waking early, with a pair of nesting grey shrike thrushes in leading roles. I even heard Jo’s powerful owl the other night, and saw a glistening black shingle back soaking up the midday sun. But I’ve been working hard since my return, snipping, digging and mulching, and being forever grateful that I have a wheelbarrow with pneumatic tiles. I’m piling up mountains of material to be mulched, and attempting to pull out my old nemesis, Peruvian Lily!

I didn’t know what peruvian lily was until a few years ago, and at first I had, from a distance, quite welcomed its pretty flowers when nothing much else was flowering in the garden. Then I had a visit from a fellow gardening friend, someone much older and wiser in the language and lore of the garden than I, and I asked her what it might be. She immediately whipped out her smart phone, pressed a few buttons, slid her finger over the screen and announced with great authority, “It’s Peruvian Lily”. From that time on my garden was doomed. Naming it seemed to give it legitimacy, and it developed legs.

This season I enlisted the aid of my strong, determined, mechanically minded offsider to help me remove it. He attacked the garden bed with great purpose and dug deeply, leaving it looking as if it had been taken over by giant rabbits. I averted my gaze from the unsightly mounds for a week or so. He moved on to other areas where he can best express his gardening talents such as feeding the screaming mulcher and chain sawing fallen logs. When I finally felt that I could tackle the site I raked it and discovered to my horror a million little pieces of peruvian lily chopped up into perfect self propagating lengths!

I can forgive my strong man helper, however. I should not have asked him for that kind of help. His skills amaze me but he was never intended to be on the nurturing side of a shovel. However, I blame my IT adept horticultural friend with the smart-alec phone. If she hadn’t been so quick and so clever at identifying that rotten plant, I might still be blissfully ignorant that peruvian lily is my challenge each spring.

I wouldn’t live anywhere else....... and I’m also grateful that the IT savvy bower bird that makes the telephone call on cue each glorious dawn chooses to live out of hearing further up the creek! He’s not in danger of mimicking the call on my phone. I have it tucked away in a safe place...a very safe place.


I’ve done it again! The other evening I had the temerity to admire the rusty red leaves of a succulent, spilling over a rocky garden border. It was a little piece of life in a nondescript space. But next morning it was gone; my little bit of winter colour shredded and strewn on the path, along with the contents of a pot of pretty pansies and primulas. Some people might see their Wamboin patch as a refuge for wild life. Mine is simply a clandestine amusement park, an adventure playground. The rabbits seem to think I plant native tube stocks just for them to practise their digging skills, the cockatoos assume that daffodils are positioned so they can have competitions for the title of fastest gun, and any brightly coloured flowers are purely for possum night vision stunts. The choughs rearrange the mulch, the rabbits landscape the garden beds and the kangaroos munch whatever is in their way as they sow the seeds of their preferred grasses. I wonder why I bother! I can sense a change in the air, so roll on spring and hopefully it will keep the new growth ahead of the pack.

It’s been a long, fairly dry winter, not especially cold, but long with coughs and splutters after a summer that hardly happened. But there is moisture in the ground, the creek is still running and our tanks are close to full, so I was surprised to hear someone mention at a yoga class that the water trucks have been seen again on Norton Road. We were sitting on the floor, taking a break from twisting our middle aged bodies towards impossible poses, and watching the snow falling soft and silently between the old strap barked gum trees along the creek. It was an exquisite winter moment, shattered by the thought that people in our midst were already running out of water despite a succession of benign seasons. Unless you’re running a commercial laundry or daily sluicing a piggery from limited rain water tanks, it seems incredible, to me, that anyone could use so much water. Have we forgotten the lessons learned in the recent drought years? Most of us managed to maintain a garden by quick showers and saving shower water in a bucket, diverting washing machine water onto a garden, flushing toilets judiciously, correcting leaking cisterns and limiting what went down the kitchen sink. It was often heavy work and time consuming, and I grumbled, but we had little choice. Low rainfall years will return, and may be with us sooner than we think.

And although I may feel occasional annoyance with the wildlife flagrantly enjoying my garden, my heart melts when I look from my kitchen window and see birds stacked in a leafless wintry tree; white cockatoos at the top, pink galahs next down, then crimson rosellas, while the sooty black choughs shuffle around on the ground below and a steely eyed currawong surveys the scene from a distance. From their far off perch, two kookaburras nearly fall out of their tree, laughing at the spectacle. A solitary bronze wing pigeon, oblivious to all, pecks in the dirt. My coir door mat is looking more frayed at the edges with each passing day, but I take comfort in knowing that it should make a cosy nest lining for the spring magpie chicks. The season is changing.

I wouldn’t live anywhere else.........and I can assure you that even with two minute showers I am still nice to be around, especially in a garden scented with violets and honeysuckle ....and hauling buckets of water certainly saves a trip to the gym!


Winter is a deceptively subdued time in the garden. While little appears to be happening above ground, below the surface things are stirring. Neglected daffodil bulbs are sending up shoots through the damp soil, there are a few creamy jonquils in flower, I notice hellebore flowers among their scrappy leaves that should have been removed in autumn, diosma bushes are now sprinkled with tiny pink dots, and I cut my first japonica blooms to put inside this morning, rosettes of pink on awkward stems ...an instant ikebana arrangement! The little wrens are darting and twittering. The boys have donned their courting blue finery, eager to impress, while the girls hang on to their drab attire, obviously confident that they’ll be pursued for their personality and not their looks. And on the verandah rails’ stage a lone magpie rewards me with a dramatic arpeggio against a backdrop of wattles poised ready to explode in a mass of yellow.

It’s been a time of collecting firewood and kindling by the creek at the end of those still, grey days, with finger tips frozen and hands smarting from the jarring and cold of breaking sticks across your knee. In the gathering dusk I heard a far off currawong cry, a long mournful note rising above the chatter of countless frogs. Some of the frosts have been beautiful. We drove through a black and white landscape on an early morning trip to Bungendore railway station. It looked for the world like an old Box Brownie snapshot.

Collecting firewood, however, has given us a chance to start “tidying up”. It’s not all dead wood and leaf litter. A fair amount of the rubbish lying around has come from old projects; odd shaped bits of corrugated iron, old posts from a long dismantled pergola still with lumps of concrete attached, might- be- useful -one -day timber beams, old doors and discarded pieces of trellis. This rubbish, piled haphazardly, nearly went to the dump, but school holidays intervened. What a stroke of luck! Our junk pile was transformed into a wonderful cubby house, snug and waterproof as the rain pattered down on the iron roof and the billy boiled on the camp fire. Three kids and a dog had a wonderful time. We often talk about children spending too much time inside these days, relying on manufactured entertainment, but neat or pocket handkerchief sized backyards offer little scope for creativity. Of course the kids in this case returned to school, the cubby house is now forgotten and a night of strong winds saw the story of the Three Little Pigs, minus the wolf, unfold. The area looks more derelict than ever before and we’ll have to start the clean up all over again, but the creative stimulus and pleasure derived from a pile of junk will be worth it.

I love my daffodils and hellebores and posturing blue wrens, but perhaps more than that, I love the unstructured space that permits me to “grow” junk, unashamedly..........I wouldn’t live anywhere else!


It’s always a rather special feeling, turning off the bitumen onto the red gravel road, driving through the trees and suddenly being home. We’d been away for several weeks, but home was still there, just waiting for us.

It was empty and eerily quiet to begin with, though, as if the cold had chilled the sound. The chooks, ducks and lamb were still away, reportedly having blotted their copy books at their holiday camp, but I soon realised it was not just their absence that I sensed. All the native birds had vanished, too. Gone were the screeching cockatoos with their wailing offspring and their lightning flash of wing, gone were the warbling magpies as they queued for breakfast on the verandah rail. There were no king parrots, rosellas or galahs in evidence, and even the hopping choughs and thieving ravens had vanished. But the faithful kangaroos had stayed around, steadfastly keeping an eye on things. On my first morning walk, forty pairs of soft brown eyes followed me, bodies erect and motionless like overgrown meercats in the silent, rising mist. The rabbits had stayed, too, but with less concern for our property. They’d obviously enjoyed one long picnic and had invited all their friends and relations to join in!

We’d been “up north”, travelling the backblocks and avoiding the exodus of grey nomads from the south, who moved like snails on the main roads with their homes on their backs. Northern caravan parks appear to exist simply as temporary retirement villages. Was there anyone over 65 years of age left behind? We crossed the watershed of the Great Divide and saw a sign telling us that we had entered the Lake Eyre Basin. It was like entering another world, a cultural shift, something akin to arriving at your incense filled yoga class wearing Channel No.5! Amongst others, I exchanged a few words with a young blonde barmaid, a mere slip of a thing behind an enormous bar, whose passion was racing camels, and whose ambition was to drive heavy machinery in the mines. It was refreshingly different. We soaked it up.

Back home life quickly resumed its familiar pace. There were mountains of leaves to be raked into piles and composted, a muddy chook yard to muck out, and a reform school to build where our delinquent ducks could serve out their time. As I was scratching through a scatter of yellow, orange and brown litter, crisp and soggy beneath stark naked trees, I came upon a memento of summer past...a champagne cork! Winter is a quieter, slower time in the garden. I read somewhere that the true beauty of a garden is that, unlike the chaos and messiness of normal life, it is a place where you have control. I have never been in control of my garden! I am forever one step behind, mopping up in its wake and hoping that the gods will smile kindly on my little patch of dirt rather than mock my feeble efforts. Perhaps it is being out of control that I cherish most in my garden.

It’s always good to get away...but it’s even better to come home, especially to a winter garden.....I wouldn’t live anywhere else...and by the way, does anyone know of a holiday camp for ducks on parole? We might need a new camp next time.


(We seem to have missed out this month)


I went to the Dawn Service in Queanbeyan on Anzac Day. In cold darkness a subdued crowd gathered, shuffling into place around the modest little memorial in the main street. A woman quietly offered sprigs of rosemary. The microphone coughed and squeaked, and then, from some way off there was the rising sound of rhythmic feet on asphalt; a scene replicated in countless little towns around Australia at this time, on this day. Anzac day does not fill me with great joy, but I respect its significance and try to use it as a time to pause, to ponder and reflect. In this busy world of i phones and constant accessibility, where time has sped up and where so many of us claim to be constantly under pressure, it seems that pure idleness, a chance to pause and ponder, is no longer valued for its own sake. Have we forgotten that occasionally it is important to just “be”?

I realised that I had become a trifle blasé about checking the rain gauge. Then, almost overnight, the bird baths were suddenly dry and I needed to turn on the garden irrigation. But, again I was saved when it rained. And now the soft, silent fogs have slipped in and cobwebs hang like gossamer in the early sunshine. There is a hint of nose twitching wood smoke in the cool evening air, the cockatoos and galahs have quietened and the little twittering birds have reappeared with great energy. I’m beginning to think of pots of pea soup and slow cooked osso bucco and all the delights of wintry fare beside the fire.

I’ve been idle, being “busy” in my garden idyll, trying to plant before the soil gets too cold, and watching the self sown pumpkins swell in the few warm days left to them. I’m working on a patch of rubbish ground that I’d abandoned when the drought began to bite. Maybe this time I’ll have more success. Perhaps over those intervening years I’ve learned a few things about mulching and what kangaroos don’t eat and what types of plants will have some hope of survival. I’ve certainly learned that it is the rock strata, although nicely tipped on its side, and not some grand plan that ultimately determines where shrubs and trees can be planted.

And the other morning, when I was trying to be a resourceful country woman and get my stupid self out of a deep and slippery roadside bog, a car stopped. Immaculately dressed and heading for the airport, these wonderful locals offered help even though they faced the prospect of a shower of sticky mud for their kindness. They were busy, and had a deadline to meet, but they hadn’t lost their humanity. Perhaps the ANZAC spirit lives on, especially in Wamboin. I wouldn’t live anywhere else.......and I’ve learned that it is wiser to park on the high side of the road, especially after rain!


Autumn, mellow autumn has arrived but I feel a little confused...whatever happened to summer?

I know I’m not the only confused soul in these parts. There are some very mixed up plants and shrubs in my garden and orchard not at all sure whether they should be sprouting or flowering or changing colour. But if they’re confused, the frogs certainly are not. They’re in full voice singing encore after rapturous encore as if they own the night. The ducks in the chook yard are ecstatic, too, convinced that the muck and mire was made just for their squelching pleasure. The hens, however, find this all most distasteful. They pick their way delicately through the muck, and cluck cluck at the heavens willing the rain to stop. But from my vantage point, perched above the gully on a ridge of shale, I can quite happily say I love the rain, and I love watching everything leap out of the ground.

The rain hasn’t done much for my potatoes, though, and I’ve given up on my tomatoes. When I dug potatoes on the creek flat the other day the ground was almost flowing around them. There was a smell of damp and decay and I fear the putrid smell of rotting potatoes will become more evident. But there are worms in the ground, and grubs and beetles under every rock and plant. The soil is busy and alive. There are fungi wherever you look, tiny orbs of creamy tan, fairy rings of white and brown, red cones with white spots under the pines, apricot sponges like lumps of coral, orange plates clinging to the bases of tree trunks and huge toadstools like terracotta ornaments. I only wish I knew what I could safely eat. Everything is growing.

And with everything growing, almost everything needs clipping and pruning before winter. I have amassed a mountain of green on top of a pile that had been mouldering, untouched, for the past year. Our once mighty mulcher, despite much surgery, had finally died, and after an extended period of mourning we replaced it with a bigger and hungrier one. We can now mulch and compost to our heart’s content. When you’re cocooned in earmuffs, hot, sweaty, and covered in dust, it’s a moment of enchantment when a bundle of dry lavender clippings goes through the mulcher, unannounced, and there’s a whiff of summer perfume.

I like surprises in the garden, things that just appear, things for free. I had been watching a plant in a bed of bits and pieces, suspecting it was a self sown rock melon, but not really sure. I thought I’d give it the benefit of the doubt and let it have free range. It wasn’t slow to respond, snaking rather comfortably in and out and over everything. I came upon it the other day and decided it’s time was up. Where were the rockmelons? It was then that I found I’d been duped. It had never intended to produce rockmelons, just scores of prickly mini melon balls bursting with seeds. I had given space and encouragement to a despised and fecund weed!!

The last few months have produced a few surprises, plus a little confusion, but how good it is to see dams full again and overflowing, creeks raging, ground wet and spongy and green all around. It won’t last forever, nature is the arbiter of that, but while it does I know that I most definitely wouldn’t live anywhere else.


There‘s something immensely satisfying about picking blackberries...it‘sa bit like fishing. I cross the creek in the early morning when the shadows are long and the grass is wet with dew, and I can pick a small bucket before breakfast. It‘s a time to just be, a time to listen to nothing but the tinkling rosellas against a background hum of bees; a space where you can let your mind empty before the clutter of the day. I remember with affection my country Nana picking blackberries in the gully. She‘d throw a long, wide plank into the bushes, hitch up her skirts and wade in, defying the vicious, grasping thorns to emerge, triumphant, with a bucket of shining black fruit to make blackberry jam. I should make jam, but like the rest of the modern world I find it hard to defer gratification. I can‘t save them...they beg to be eaten straight away! Forbidden fruit always tastes better, especially when it‘s free.

The other day, after confidently announcing that we rarely see the noxious weed inspector, he paid us a visit. He was a very pleasant chap but we were nevertheless glad that we‘d sprayed the St John‘s Wort and had grubbed out many of the other plants on the unwanted list. But we hadn‘t tackled the blackberries. The fruit was still green and shrivelled amongst the white flowers but it was full of promise. I decided on an environmentally friendly course of weed control. First I would pick as many blackberries as I could to limit the spread of this noxious weed‘s seed, then I‘d assess what further action was necessary. I‘ve done my best, so far, and I‘ll keep trying, but I‘m not getting much help from my careless feathered friends.

It‘s a busy time of the year, dealing with the wonderful produce of our orchards and gardens. We‘ve picked and eaten mushrooms, and recalled with a thrill the taste of real mushrooms. Our nectarines finished but then the un-netted peaches ripened. Soft, yellow and full of flavour they have been enjoyed by both us and the birds. In the days before modern netting, it must have been heart breaking to see a cash crop wiped out in one clandestine raid. Scarecrows and dangling bits of sparkle offered little defence against bird strikes.

I‘m still waiting for summer to arrive, but with full tanks and a trickle of water joining the pools in the creek, I‘m not feeling deprived. It‘s a bountiful time of the year.

I wouldn‘t live anywhere else....and perhaps if there‘d been a few blackberry patches strategically placed around the House on the Hill to divert some of our elected representatives, their recent undignified spat may have been forestalled.


With the tantalising aroma of freshly baked bread coming from the kitchen and the knowledge of fresh basil and some good cheese at hand, I set off for the first market of the year to buy someone else‘s full flavoured home grown tomatoes. All I needed were the tomatoes to complete a delicious breakfast on my return. But imagine my chagrin to find that no one had tomatoes. There were sweet juicy plums, robust bunches of swiss chard (silver beet to the uninformed!), even beetroot, but no tomatoes. Obviously I was not the only one who had produced a dismal tomato crop this year! And it was not from lack of trying.

I nurtured my tomatoes through early spring. Every morning I took them off the verandah for a dose of precious sunshine and each evening I put them back under cover, safe from icy fingers. I fed them, staked them, meticulously pinched out the laterals and finally when I decided that the frosts were over I planted them in good deep soil over the creek. Then we had another frost!! Dispirited, I allowed myself to be sidetracked and became involved in other areas of the garden. I challenged my somewhat forlorn looking tomato plants to fend for themselves. After all, it seemed a fairly benign season and I was over all this molly coddling nonsense. But while my back was turned, the six legged enemy crept in; millions of silent, unseen, sucking, boring, chewing little terrors invaded the garden and descended on anything that was green. While I concentrated on the damage around the house, I was oblivious to what was happening in the vegetable garden. My poor tomatoes! It may be the year of the dragon, but it‘s certainly been the summer of the insect so far.

However, it‘s been a comfortable start to the New Year even if the persistent cloud has tricked many of us into believing that the welcome rain late last year had persisted. The garden has become quite dry. But undeterred, my old summer favourites, the agapanthus and oleanders, put on a wonderful show of colour. They seem to thrive on neglect. And thanks to Lofty‘s market stall, my garden, like others around Wamboin, has been pretty with masses of pink and blue salvias, purple lavender, foxgloves, lupins and the second flush of a few hardy roses.

I spent a blissful Australia Day in the kitchen and the garden. I made banana bread with eggs from happy hens and celebrated the affordable price of Australian bananas. I picked a bucket full of nectarines and claimed victory over the cockies and parrots. I even stopped raking up the long strips of bark that the gums had flung onto the ground and paused to observe the flypast by three F18s over our house. It probably wasn‘t necessary just for me, but it was appreciated! And I thought of what Australia Day means to me; a story of survival, a time to reflect on our history, warts and all, and a time to celebrate. But I suspect there are some overt flag wavers amongst us who remain unaware of the significance of that date, the 26th of January.

I ended Australia Day sitting in my special summer place in the garden, a cold ale in my hand, watching the softening light through a lace work of gum leaves as it caught the darting insects, illuminating their flight for an instant. A butcher bird, bent on murder, perched above my head; a spine bill shrieked in terror; a distant cockatoo squawked a careless obscenity. All was well with the world. And in that moment I knew that I couldn‘t live anywhere else..... and perhaps, just perhaps, I could share my bounty with a million trillion silent, sucking critters after all!



We had visitors descend on us last weekend from the far outposts of Australia, and it was a great family gathering. However, I was very glad to stock up in bulk before their arrival. Having enough of everything to last a weekend and more requires some planning in Wamboin. I decided, with some reluctance, to help save the American economy from recession. Suddenly I was confronted with a monstrous, soulless warehouse with supersized trolleys, was photographed like a convict and paid for the privilege of entering its hallowed doors with a bright and breezy American accent ringing in my ears, ―Enjoy your shopping!‖ I don‘t like shopping even in the most pleasant of places so I thought her cheery wishes were in vain.

Now I was glad to buy bulk items, because I needed them, and they were cheaper, but did I really need to buy frozen berries from America and soft drink from Spain? I declined to add the life sized Santa to my trolley but I did succumb to the toilet rolls. A packet of forty eight rolls seemed somewhat excessive, even for our large crowd, but in my supersized trolley, trudging along the supersized aisles, they seemed acceptable. I must say I was a little taken aback when I tried to fit them into the back of the station wagon. But it was when I got home and tried to store them in my modest sized house that I realised I‘d been duped. It‘s all a matter of proportion. Since then I have given a few packets away, as presents, but even wrapped in pretty paper, toilet rolls are just toilet rolls. No one gets very excited about them.

In the course of many conversations on the weekend we were discussing inappropriate housing in Australia. In tropical Darwin there are large developments being constructed that look eerily similar to estates around here. Dark roofs, facing the westerly sun, no eaves, no verandas, no elevation from the ground, no louvered cross ventilation, constructed of solid heat retaining material and the only saviour, a huge energy gobbling air conditioner on the roof. Now I‘m not an environmental scientist, or an engineer, but it seems to make no sense to me that we still build these homes while we talk and talk and talk about being eco friendly, energy efficient and carbon footprints.

But it‘s the season to be jolly and to celebrate the end of the year, catch up with family and friends and enjoy all that Wamboin has to offer. Two inches of soft soaking rain has been a tonic. I have pretty pink and white salvias flowering, and rock roses, lavender, white daisies and herbs. The petunias are just starting to flower. Those roses that resisted my efforts with the mattock a few years ago are beautiful although some nasties have been amongst them. Seaweed sprays must be doing something but I think I‘m being naive.

In the chook yard the girls have kept up their production and I‘ve had large brown eggs for Christmas cakes and puddings. And next year we should have eleven mature ducks for Christmas dinner, but I doubt it. A kindly friend knew they‘d find a good home here and in a weak moment we accepted. At the moment they‘re cute ducklings and loved by the grandchildren.

And so that special time of the year is with us again. I wish you all a very happy Christmas, and Wamboin houses bursting with visitors over the holiday period.....I wouldn‘t live anywhere else....and will I shop super sized again?....I shudder at the thought.


My garden is a scented pastel palette, alive with noisy birds and bees.....and silent, sunning lizards, looking like tiny replicas from the long distant past. The recent warm weather and timely drop of rain has worked its magic seemingly overnight. There is so much happening all at once.

I have no need for an alarm clock...the little birds are busy from dawn, determined that we should all share their enthusiasm for the new day. The bronzewing pigeon has returned with its soft, mournful ―oom, oom‖ punctuated by the screeches and squawks of cockatoos and galahs. The magpies come early and sit on the verandah rails waiting to catch my eye in case I have forgotten the morning mince meat ritual. Sometimes one will perform a solo for my pleasure as if embarrassed to admit their real purpose for being there, or appear ungrateful. There was a treat this morning when the regular pair of King Parrots appeared with their prince or princess. It did, however, lead me to think, fleetingly, about the possibility of surrogate pregnancies in the bird world! A moment of enchantment a few days ago, that refocussed my mind from my frozen bare toes, was a rasping screech from a family of gang gangs as they moved through the trees. I haven‘t heard them again. We have a confused chough that swoops, with subtle accuracy, as we go to the chook yard, but I think it‘s just a breakfast reminder. I saw this chough, however, getting its comeuppance when it trespassed on bearded dragon territory. The lizard made a great show of aggression and repelled the startled intruder from its fortress castle; the ―lizard castle‖, created from an expensive pile of now weathered rocks destined for a rock wall that hasn‘t happened, is a magnificent maze of caves and tunnels, a refuge in winter and a resort on sunny days. We have another colony of cave dwelling lizards, skinks, not dragons, and I heard a story of another skink that has taken up residence under a doorstep and slides open the screen door to let itself in.

I have spent many happy hours in the garden, lately, and had made some real progress before nature showed its superiority and took charge. Nothing beats sunshine and warmth and real rain. However, I often wish I had assistance in the garden, not just from grass mowing kangaroos and rabbits or tip pruning cockatoos; someone who knows where I‘m going before I even do, someone sensitive and intuitive. I think gardening comes from the heart, not the head. I have had help on many occasions, and I‘ve been very appreciative of that help, but although muscled and well intended, it‘s often impatient help. The sort of, ―Here‘s a truck load of mulch, now where do you want me to spread it?‖ type of help; the ―Here‘s fifty random plants from the market, now what‘s your grand plan?‖ ―You need to spread fertiliser...?‖ and a container load of pelletised chook poo is dumped on the correas before you‘ve found the words to explain that natives have different needs to non natives! Are gardeners poor communicators and dreamers, or is it just me? I‘ve never had a grand plan. I‘ve never even had a less than grand plan. Wamboin soil and shale and uncertain rains have never meshed with a ―grand plan‖. Life, with its unexpected demands gets in the way of ―grand plans‖, and gardens grow and evolve. I think that‘s part of the enormous pleasure of a garden, and made more pleasurable, especially at the moment when it‘s brim full of living garden ―gnomes‖.

I‘m just going outside, now, to cut the first of my roses to fill a vase, check the chook yard for eggs and a pick a few salad greens for lunch. I will savour the moment, because come summer I may not be living in such an idyll....but for the present I couldn‘t possibly live anywhere else!


As I look back on the past month it is obvious that things are gathering pace around here. My garden has thrown off its stark, empty greyness and is becoming softer and prettier with each new day. There are viburnums with white flowers, and a mantle of pink blossom spreading over a splendid crab apple. The paths are bordered with purple blue rosemaries and fresh green leaves cover shrubs and trees; the last daffodils have faded along with the wattles. I‘m busy planting, spreading compost, pulling weeds for the chooks and planning to mulch. I‘ve even retrieved the old worm farm, long forgotten under years of fallen leaves. It‘s all go in the garden, but I‘d love some real rain!

The first market for the new season has come and gone. As usual I came home with armfuls of plants only to discover that I‘d bought a fraction of what I really needed. There are still empty spaces in the garden, and the next market is weeks away. After much deliberation, we‘ve finally had our old concrete tank resealed and re roofed. We‘d been reluctant during the drought to have any precious remaining water pumped out just in case we needed it. Now, according to the tank man we only need ten inches of rain to fill it!

Over the years I‘d thought that the ability to brag about rainfall, or bemoan the lack thereof invariably stirred a conversation in Wamboin, but lately I‘ve been hearing otherwise. Comments about rain seem to have dried up. Now we‘re swapping horror stories about the exploits of Cacatua Galerita. In my book of Australian birds, this magnificent specimen‘s call is variously described as ―raucous, discordant, deafening, shrieking‖, as it ―squabbles‖ and engages in ―destructive‖ behaviour. This seems to describe perfectly the sulphur crested cockatoos found around here, although I could add ―mindless, mischievous, cunning, cheeky and ungrateful‖. They snip off ―hosts of golden daffodils‖, cut swathes through the best blossoms and rip up succulents that flourished in difficult spots throughout the driest years. If ever I admire a flower or a pot of colourful pansies that I‘ve grown, I know that it‘ll be the kiss of death. Next morning there will be an empty pot or garden bed and scattered petals, torn and shrivelled. It‘s like being punished for false pride! And if they leave the flower beds alone, they‘ll shred tree trunks, peel off bark strips, slice through small branches and methodically tip prune while screeching to each other in the coarsest tones using language that would make a sailor blush. I think they‘re excellent mimics!! These cockatoos cut through TV cables, chew wooden window frames, and even unclip the lids and open plastic rubbish bins. Working in pairs they discovered how to use the automatic chook feeder ahead of our chooks. And while Cacatua Galerita is wreaking havoc in our backyards, its close black cousin, Calyptorhynchus funereus, is mournfully advertising rain that doesn‘t come in an attempt to divert our attention from the pines and hakeas it, in turn, is demolishing.

Living in Wamboin, close to nature, is a wondrous thing, but it has given me, from a comfortable distance, an inkling of the hardships the early settlers faced trying to eke out a living from this land. Today we might swap cockatoo stories and curse, but we also laugh.......it‘s not a matter of life or death. I wouldn‘t live anywhere else.......but cockatoos aside, I could still do with a little more rain!


I should have been at my desk hours ago, but the unblemished blue sky and golden sunshine just begged me to be outdoors. The recent mild days have zapped through the garden like an electric current, jolting it out of its winter torpor. Now there are daffodils and jonquils, ikebana- like flowering quinces, fragile blue irises, forgotten polyanthus and the first timid hellebores. The sweet scent of violets and winter honeysuckle in the warm air take me by surprise.

Beyond the garden the bush is glowing with wattles. Some are pendulous, dripping with frothy yellow, some are perky sprigs of gold and green, and others are just biding their time, waiting to explode with brilliance. The birds are back, an impromptu massed choir, hungry and busy. But not all have received a rapturous welcome. I wasn‘t too thrilled to see that an ibis had taken up watch on the pole above the fish pond. The ibis has now disappeared and the pond seems strangely empty of life. Our chook yard has grown. We now have five hens to amuse the decorative rooster, the new arrivals a gift from friends moving on. Our coop is a fine example of a blended family at work, with a couple of entrenched geriatrics sharing house with adopted adolescents in comparative harmony. I rather wish that the hens were a little more discreet about broadcasting their cleverness, however, as I have to be quick to beat the beady eyed choughs and ravens (not crows!) to the eggs that they lay. I tolerate the battalion of choughs that plough through my garden, but I draw the line at daylight robbery, especially when they dine well on the titbits I throw to their productive feathered friends.

With the onset of spring the garden summons. It‘s then that you discover that while little has been happening above ground over winter, plenty has been happening below, and not all of it desirable. I get caught out every year! I thought the severe frosts might have killed off some of the undesirables, but they are the hardiest. I‘ve lost several correas and other native plants, but the list of ―Plants that become Weeds‖ in my gardening bible are alive and well in my plot; peruvian lily, wandering jew, periwinkle, honeysuckle and blackberry. Beware of that cunning, vicious blackberry! It stealthily wove its way through the summer shrubs and is suddenly visible amongst the leafless branches. I attacked it, but I think I came off second best judging by the lacerations to my hands and arms. Next spring I know that I will face the same battle all over again. Those dear little birds that I welcome into my garden will make sure of that!

Although I haven‘t been able to spend much time at home, lately, let alone potter in the garden or walk through the bush, I look forward to staying put for a while and enjoying a Wamboin spring, full of life, beauty.... and challenges....... .I wouldn‘t live anywhere else!


Silence..... under a wide, high sky massed with countless stars twinkling and sparkling like a frost in the early morning sunshine. A landscape, burnt, bleached and sucked dry by winter, smelling of wood smoke. An all embracing silence... but suddenly I was hearing conversations again, making sense of the chatter around me, exchanging pleasantries, joking and slipping into the easy banter of my own language. We were home after three months immersed in foreign tongues, travelling in our own bubble, observing and absorbing, engaging with the history and landscape but rarely engaging with people beyond the superficial. I‘m home, and whole again.

I‘d become accustomed to the hee hawing of ambulances through the night, of ceaseless whirring traffic in the cities and the triumphant clang and jangle of church bells intruding on your dreams. I‘d grown used to green trees and neat fields, frenetic freeways, airport security and fast trains. I‘d accepted towering mountains, wide flowing rivers and expanses of water, skies criss-crossed with vapour trails and outdoor crowds eating throughout the day and night. But I remained mute. I seemed unable to mesh the scraps of foreign languages that I had practised with the country I was in. In Germany I muttered apologies in French, for invariably I was on the wrong side of the path or stairs, and in France I whispered incomprehensible German which was ignored anyway. In Crete the locals spoke to us in English, but I never knew what they were saying to each other. I listened fascinated to Swedish speech peppered with the Old English ―Nay‖ but knew nothing more of their conversations. The Dutch sounds were almost English but it all remained ―Double Dutch‖ to me.

However, I become quite competent decoding written information at historic sites in France. I was making hard work of a rather long narrative, one day, picking out the common French/English language links and feeling pleased that I was getting the gist of it until I suddenly realised that the sign was in fact in English! I went back to the beginning and it was so easy on the second reading.

We did try our scraps of language in restaurants and shops, and usually succeeded, but once we got double the order and another time we were forced to share, while the locals looked on bemused, obviously thinking it was a quaint Australian custom. It all became too difficult to explain!

I developed some affection for the computer as an invaluable travelling companion, but it could only accomplish so much. I went on line to hire bikes in rural Sweden, feeling rather pleased with myself for attempting to do so. Initially I had no luck but then a site mysteriously appeared. I booked, but doubts crept in. "Canaria Hire" didn‘t sound sufficiently Nordic and serious... and it wasn‘t. I‘d hired bikes in the Canary Islands! A few good emails and laughs followed between Germany and the Canary Islands, and an invitation extended to visit and collect the bikes at a later date. Eventually the kind chap at the hotel in Sweden offered us his own bikes! The computer is a great tool, but it‘s only as good as the operator.

And now we‘re home. I‘d almost forgotten how good a cup of tea made with rainwater, could be, and how pleasant it is to wake to the calm, unhurried voice of the ABC newsreader after months of CNN hype. I‘d forgotten the morning ritual of the magpies on the verandah rails waiting for their treat, and I was reminded, with a shock, just how cold a toilet seat could be in the wee small hours of a Wamboin winter! But what I hadn‘t forgotten was how good it is to be back amongst family and friends in Wamboin ..... I wouldn‘t live anywhere else.


If you didn't need a holiday when you first booked, you will certainly need one by the time you get away! However, things have changed, and I´m amazed at how electronic gadgetry has quietly infiltrated our lives and now seems essential in planning and executing any trip. Even the Luddite in me has been seduced by online booking and Googling places that were once only mysterious words on a scrap of paper. Like a miracle my suitcase is suddenly free of heavy travel tomes and books of maps. But I can`t quite abandon maps and travel guides and a life addicted to the printed word.

Flying has always filled me with awe, but today electronic wizardry makes flying an even more surreal experience. After the dehumanising production line of the airport check in, you are funnelled into a tunnel, greeted by a mechanical smile at a hole in a wall and find your way to a chair that goes up and down, backwards and forwards, and, if you´re lucky, rubs your back at the press of a button. In the intervening time sitting strapped in the tube I never once saw the wings of the aeroplane that I assumed I was in, and the steadily shrinking world from my oval window may just as well have been a TV screen. At the other end I left my magic chair, made my way through an identical, but this time rising tunnel, got a cursory nod from a man in a box, and was expelled into fresh air. I was on the other side of the world, or so I was told. It could just as easily have been virtual travel. I don´t think its jet lag we suffer, I think it´s something akin to an out of body experience.

There was yet another surreal experience in store for the innocent abroad; electronic navigation. Instead of ripping off my glasses to catch a fleeting glimpse of a street sign that had suddenly appeared, while still trying to keep a finger on the thin red line in the fat map book on my lap and remember a foreign name at the same time, a calm, cultured voice plotted our path through a maze of streets, and issued timely directions without a hint of hysteria. She instinctively knew her left from her right and didn´t lose her cool when the car missed a turn or ignored an unexpected sign. She was even unfazed when the windscreen washers sent a mist of Windex spray through the open sun roof. With the dulcet tones of Miss GPS, seducing the driver, I began to wonder if I had a role in navigating this life anymore! Occasionally, she got a little too clever for her own good, though, and I salvaged the situation with the aid of a paper map. However, there are now times when I get a distinct feeing that there are three people in this marriage!

We joined the annual Aussie pilgrimage to Villers Bretonneux, in France, for the ANZAC Day dawn service. It was an excited, but reverent mass of people, rugged up against the cold, who gathered at the Australian memorial in the middle of a now peaceful patchwork of farmlands on a rise outside a foreigner´s town. As the sky lightened and took on a pinkish glow, the half moon hung low and the temperature plunged. We shivered as one, with both cold and emotion. The air smelled of dew on mown grass, and canola. Then the lone bugler, from his lofty perch, played the reveille, accompanied by blackbirds, and as if on cue an aeroplane came into view and slid heavenwards behind the unlovely tower. It was a deeply moving moment.

After years of not knowing his whereabouts, I finally found my great uncle, tucked away in a British graveyard, far from the land of his birth. He didn´t have much to tell me, except his presence there spoke volumes. A talented, highly educated Australian doctor, he had joined the British Army, and like thousands of other young men, had paid the ultimate price for his loyalty to the Empire and his compassion for his fellow man. On his headstone I left two sprigs of lilac blossom that I had picked by the wall outside the graveyard, and a tiny toy koala given to me by a stranger. The sentimental Ivor Novello song popped into my head and the tune has followed me around for weeks; “We´ll gather lilacs in the spring again, And walk together down an English lane, Until our hearts have learned to sing again, When you come home once more.” He came from a very musical family, but like so many others, never came home to sing with them again. I suspect I was his first visitor in 95 years.

Again, it was the marvels of technology that enabled me to find him, and pay homage. And this search started on my computer in Wamboin, probably on a day that was too cold to be outside in the garden!

I don´t think that I´d ever exchange the real thing for virtual travel. Turning the pages of a map book, losing your way, coming across the unplanned and unexpected will always be real travel for me, but I admit that life is a little easier in a strange place when you have a few electronic aids at your disposal. However, when it´s time to come home, I know one thing.........I wouldn´t live anywhere else.


I planted three ash trees, yesterday. They had been sown by birds that hang out in the old black wattle, and they are only three of a forest sprouting up under its protective wings. As I wielded the mattock, sparks flying, I was reminded of something I‘d read in an old National Geographic on the Flint Hills of Kansas. This particular area had been, "saved from the plow (sic) by stubborn layers of stone jutting rawboned through thin soil". That resonated with me as I grubbed in the "thin soil" between lethal looking daggers of shale. But, with the little trees secure in their holes, I had my reward. I paused, spellbound, under a spreading wattle. It was electrified with life; darting pardalotes, busy little wrens and LBBs that twitter. The chatter and flutter, the darting and chirruping created one of those "good to be alive" moments. A little earlier I had been talking to a couple visiting from the land of my forebears, and I found we had little common ground. To them the Australian bush is ugly, untidy and dull, and they bemoaned the lack of stately old buildings. I thought I probably wouldn‘t extend an invitation for them to visit us in our humpy, planted on a bed of shale, in scrubby Wamboin. But I consider we don‘t just live in a house, we live in an environment.

And what can be better than our environment in autumn! Cool mornings softened by mists through the eucalypts, snatches of reddening leaves, and layers of birdsong; distant cockatoos piercing the still air with their nasal squawk, a lone kookaburra mocking you from high up in a tree, the well modulated tones of a koel and a magpie warming up with an arpeggio. A wander around the garden and there‘s a salad for lunch, self sown pumpkins fattening, and across the creek, red apples to be picked. However, there is a bit of powdery mildew around, a few more grubs have appeared this year and are quietly feasting on tiny tomatoes, and the March flies arrived on cue. This morning, bleary eyed in the early gloom, I went to feed the chooks. I checked their feed hopper and was puzzled to see brown blobs amongst the grain. I peered again. This time I saw a dozen little beady black eyes looking at me, sandwiched between as many pointed ears and six pointed noses. I‘m happy to feed a mouse commune, but I prefer them to stay outside!

This is a glorious time of the year, but something tells me that soon I‘ll have to clear the Christmas decorations from the fire box and take out the woolly jumpers. There is a feeling of Easter in the air already. So much for my tomato harvest, though. I suspect a frost will finish the crop and it will be green tomato chutney again.

But I wouldn‘t live anywhere else....green tomato chutney is fine....and who‘d want to inherit the draughts and plumbing in a "stately old building".


Our yoga teacher farewelled the class with the suggestion to ―tread lightly‖ this week, but I can assure you that I trod anything but lightly when I crossed the trickling creek this morning and waded through thick grass to the overgrown and neglected orchard hoping that mother nature had been generous to the undeserving this year. I wore my stoutest boots with my jeans tucked in to my longest socks and I outdid any determined dinosaur with my dinosaur stomp! I didn‘t hear the grass rustle, nor did I spy anything slithering through it, but it‘s amazing how a length of long abandoned irrigation hose, lying in the grass, with a slick of glistening snail trail along its length can stir the blood!! I came back, mercifully, in one piece, shoulders drooping under the weight of bags full of apples, peaches, nashis and plums. All the fruit was ―certified organic‖. The only fertiliser over the past few years has been courtesy of passing kangaroos, and the only pesticides, birds. How kind the season has been to us this year.

I have, over the years, tried a bit of companion planting in a less than scientific sort of way. Good neighbours support each other and create harmony in an environment. I discovered a punnet of marigolds in a nursery and vaguely recalled that they should be planted next to roses. The marigolds grew and the roses bloomed and I imagined that there were fewer aphids and black spots, but then I read that it should‘ve been garlic and overnight the aphids appeared and sucked the roses dry! I planted and nurtured tomato seedlings, but suddenly rogue potatoes appeared and grew up around and through them, and I had feelings of disquiet. I was right for once, but not only had I mixed antagonistic potatoes with tomatoes, I had compounded the cultural mismatch by growing corn and pumpkins in the same bed. Fortunately our neighbours across the creek are more methodical and they grow very good vegetables, but we are still able to do some trading; a few eggs for keeping an eye on our chooks in our absence, organic apples for an armful of basil.

Good neighbours are invaluable. Robert Frost once said, ―Good fences make good neighbours‖, but there isn‘t a fence between us and our neighbours, only a poor excuse for a creek. Over many years we have developed a special friendship. We‘ve celebrated family joys, and commiserated over sorrows, swapped stories of broken pumps and septic systems, shared blackouts and battles with Telstra, prayed for rain together then prayed for it to stop, and together tried, against all reason, to create an exotic garden in the bush. But the time has come for them to pack up half a lifetime of memories and move. Wamboin is both a magnet and haven for hoarders and collectors, a ―let‘s build another shed‖ can-do type of place, somewhere to be yourself and indulge your ―little ways‖ far removed from straight-jacketed suburbia. Our neighbours have tolerated all that from across the creek.

I can‘t imagine that leaving here would ever be easy. However, nothing stays the same, and after a frightening fire, years of plenty and years of steadily worsening drought, the good times have come again and it‘s time for them to move.

I wouldn‘t live anywhere else....and I know one couple who will have heavy hearts as they farewell wonderful Wamboin to live somewhere else. I only hope they have trunks large enough to store all their carefully wrapped treasured memories. ...and find good neighbours waiting for them.


Post Christmas and January is always a delicious time. The pudding plate is empty, the dog has the ham bone and you feel justified in pulling up the drawbridge and losing yourself in the pile of Christmas books and chocolates that have amassed over the festive season. But, stirring in the dim dark recesses of my brain is something from perhaps the first law of Physics ...something about matter being neither created nor destroyed but possibly changing from one form to another. The pudding may have disappeared from the Christmas plate, but it seems to have reformed on the hips!

Normally I would have worked off the excesses of Christmas in the garden, but first it was too wet and the ground was too soggy to do much, and now it has suddenly become too hot and dry. But it hasn‘t stopped the masses of beautiful butterflies from invading the garden; big black and white ones with a flame of red, busy orange and brown ones and others like little petals of white, rising, falling and spinning in circles above the flower beds. Then there are the spiders, countless tireless toilers, stretching gossamer webs across paths to snare an innocent gnat or guileless gardener, and embroidering window corners and cracks.

Although the last month in Wamboin may have been mostly a relaxed and happy one for me, it certainly hasn‘t been like that for many of our fellow countrymen. The images of our flood ravaged neighbours to the north and the south, and the forgotten people in the far flung west of this vast land have been numbing in their horror; the roaring, unleashed power of water, pummelling and sweeping all in its path; the silent, seeping red brown syrup spreading over farms and streets, silt filling every crevice and settling on all in its wake, and the stench of rot and decay, mould and mildew in the hot humid aftermath. Somehow our short lived raging creek and soggy ground of last month seems like child‘s play, a bonus, not a curse.

As January unfolded, we came to yet another Australia Day. Ours was a ―three snake Aussie day‖, which seemed entirely apt. The day started early with the rescue of a very large but somewhat thirsty red bellied black snake, tangled in a frill of bird netting and long grass. Its grateful sigh was almost audible as it slipped out of the noose and swam off into the inky black depths of the creek. Next we threw a chop and snagger on the barbie, seduced by the media in recent years to believe that this was our patriotic duty, then promptly forgot our ―green‖ ideals as the mercury soared, and retired to the sanctuary of the air conditioned indoors to ponder, briefly, what it means to be Australian.

Australians are not unique, we‘re not heroes, and Australia is not immune from natural and man- made disasters. We‘re just ordinary people lucky enough to live in an affluent country. Sometimes we are called on to do exceptional things in extraordinary circumstances, and we applaud those who do. Others help behind the scenes, willing to do whatever is required to help their neighbour or a stranger. But let us hope that whoever we are and whatever we do, we will continue to feel compassion towards those who have suffered such loss, and especially at this time of the year, a time when we expect to recharge our batteries for the year ahead.

I wouldn‘t live anywhere else ......and the other two snakes?....two unwelcome big browns taking a short cut through the chook yard when they thought we weren‘t looking. They were hastened on their way!



A few days until the official start of summer, but from my window I am looking out onto a wet and wintry world. The low, leaden sky has smothered the distant hills, and the trees and bushes are sagging, heavy with rain. Yet only a few nights ago I was driving home to brilliant sunsets.... one night an orange painted sky held together with brush strokes of grey, the next a brilliant deep pink morphing into purple, and then a sunset sky of bleached blue and pale gold. And the night air was warm and damp, fragrant with the smell of drying grass.

But even if the weather is trying to confuse us, there are other more reliable signs that Christmas is just around the corner. I now drive with greater caution, looking out for lizards of all types sunning themselves on the early morning road. One, more streetwise than its mates, chose to drape itself instead on a sunny letterbox. The fledgling galahs have started their monotone grizzles, the air is thick with flying insects and red bottle brushes and yellow black wattles are in flower. Fringing the road yellow paper daisies and bush peas add patches of sunshine. But where are the pretty blue wrens? They seem to have disappeared from my garden this spring.

It's a busy time of the year, not just with Christmas preparations and end of year deadlines and festivities, but trying to keep one step ahead of the grass. Even the kangaroos can‘t tame the energy of all the grasses this year. Suddenly old Victas that haven‘t seen the light of day for years have re appeared and with them a whole vocabulary, almost forgotten, revived in an attempt to get them started; the snarl of the feisty four stroke competing with the earnest drone of the latest "ride on", drowning out the background chirrup of a million frogs.

It's been a wonderful year, full of surprises, in our neck of the woods. As the year comes to a close I'd like to say thank you to all who help make our community such a vibrant and happy one. And it‘s not just the people who put up their hands and volunteer their time and talents, but all those who support our local organisations, groups and activities. I think, but I can‘t be exactly sure as I‘m not very good at keeping records, that this may be my 100th Muse. It's been a personal pleasure to keep an eye on our environment and chronicle some of what has happened in our midst, and I thank those who have travelled with me.

I wouldn't live anywhere else.......Seasons greetings!


This time last year I was relieved to see some bright green leaves and cheery blue flowers of the periwinkle, pleased to find wandering jew creeping over arid wastelands, yarrow filling the gaps between the pink flowered Peruvian lily that was poking through, uninvited, in an exposed garden bed, and amazed to find a cringing asparagus creeper in an inconvenient spot. This time last year I was grateful for anything that was growing in the garden. However, it’s a different story this spring. Suddenly the cheery periwinkle is rampant, threatening to overwhelm not only the garden but the house as well, my wandering jew has become less aimless and shows no respect for territorial boundaries, and the asparagus creeper has picked up pace and is off! I thought I’d methodically uprooted every last trace of yarrow and Peruvian lily in late winter, but obviously they regarded my efforts as simply overdue “thinning” and have re-emerged with gratitude. But I guess you can’t have it both ways.

It is a long, long time since I’ve seen my garden and the bush beyond looking so spectacular. Everything is bursting into life and colour. Purple lavender, bright orange Californian poppies, graceful pendulums of lacey white may, pink balls of crab apple ready to explode, mounds of daisies and purple mint bushes, irises and the last tulip of the season. And what’s more, I have roses. Thank goodness I’d run out of energy before I’d attacked more than the first two rose bushes last autumn. A light prune, some timely scattered rose food pellets, a recent spray of seaweed juice and the beautiful rain has the bushes covered with buds and blooms. It sure helps to have nature on your side.

And with the bush and our gardens looking like glossy magazine spreads, is it any wonder that Wamboin has once again become the venue for parties; birthday parties, engagements, weddings, in fact any reason to celebrate. I don’t even have to be invited to get pleasure from seeing coloured balloons floating above letterboxes or dangling below street signs signalling a gathering just down the road. And we certainly know how to party! I do wonder, however, about that stock of plastic chairs and trestle tables that do the social rounds, moving from one venue to the next on the back of a ute, the soul of discretion. What stories they could tell!!

I wouldn’t live anywhere else.....and if only I can keep one step ahead of the weeds and my former friends I’ll be content to smell the roses. There are simply no free lunches in a garden.


A little girl, very well known to me, expressed sadness that she would miss the Fireworks because her inconsiderate parents were dragging her off to Europe for the Grand Tour. She was further aggrieved because she would leave before and arrive home after Floriade had wrapped up. The little girl in me is sad because she, too, will miss the Fireworks Spectacular at Wamboin this year, but I am not too fazed about forfeiting a trip to Floriade. Instead, I have been delighting in my personal Floriade around the house. And not only have I been admiring the colours, textures, perfumes and sounds in the spring garden, but rolling up my sleeves and getting my hands dirty while avoiding the crowds, parking hassles and camera happy tourists. What bliss!

The daffodils are fading, flowering plum blossoms are carpeting the ground and the crab apples are poised ready to burst. Behind the massed pink and yellow of the diosmas and the wash of purple-blue rosemary, the viburnums are showered with tiny white flowers. And everywhere there is the scent of violets and wallflowers, and the calls of hopeful frogs and busy birds above the white noise of a billion bees.

While some may have been focused on fireworks and flower festivals, there are others who’ve been obsessed with football and grand finals. Even with your head in the clouds or in the garden, there is no way you could have escaped some reference to football over the past few weeks. Now, it is unlikely that Wamboin will ever host a football Grand Final, but I was wondering if once the bonfire had died down and the ground had cooled and hardened to a perfect cricket pitch, whether the Wamboin First XI might rise from the ashes. I can almost see it ....a cricket game on the village “green”, players in pristine whites with the click of leather on willow. However, I would object most strongly if our team and any game it played was likened to a military operation; no one would be “called up” for “battle” in their “campaign” to win. Sport should remain a game, not a metaphor for war ....otherwise “it’s just not cricket”.

But now I must thrust some of the seed potatoes into the ground if we’re to have potatoes to dig for Christmas, throw my glad rags into a bag and dash to the airport or I will miss my flight.

I wouldn’t live anywhere else ....but sometimes I’m called up to serve on far flung battlefields, and have no choice.


Winter is now officially over, and what a bonzer winter it has been. Certainly one for guernseys and wellingtons and knee high hand knitted socks. “Bonzer” was one of my father’s favourite adjectives, signifying his quiet approval of something. I thought it had been buried with his generation, but I was appalled to catch it on TV the other night singing the praises of a hamburger. A hamburger, indeed! This has been one of our best winters for years. There are still sheets of silver water spread across the slopes, and sticky mud in gullies and tinkling waterfalls beside the road, and I have even heard the odd complaint that we have had too much rain. Never!

Of course with the soft, wet ground, some trees, affected by drought, are susceptible to losing their grip and without warning, toppling over. With this in mind, we had to look seriously at some of our trees. Two had to come down. We felt like murderers and executioners. Within a few minutes, a snarling, whining giant sized chainsaw ended the life of an ancient and noble candlebark. It fell swiftly and silently and with a dull thud it was all over. We felt numb. Gone was the high rise home to a handful of possums, hundreds of birds and millions of tiny creatures. The fledgling galahs had lost their nursery, the magpies their look out, and the cockatoos their escape route after a raid on the feedbin. Gone was the shade for the chook yard and the graceful beauty of this silent sentinel that had witnessed camp fires and hunters on the creek flat from a distant world. But as the tree came down, a startled rooster leapt over the fence, and a surprised hen popped out the first egg for the season. The long awaited egg was cause for celebration, but the escaped rooster was not! It took three nights of cunning and stealth before we outwitted our feathered friend and returned him, just ahead of a fox, to his girls.

The end of winter is a time of yellow; sunshine, wattles and daffodils trumpeting the coming of spring, and with them the sounds of birds, both sweet and raucous. It can stir poetry within and recall the words of William Wordsworth. But I wonder if he had penned his verse in bonzer Wamboin and not gentle England it might have gone something like this......

Ï wandered, wet feet, as a cloud,
That rained and rained our dams to fill,
When all at once I saw a crowd
Of cockatoos snipping heads off daffodil.

I wouldn’t live anywhere else.....and apologies to Wordsworth......but was he doomed......what if, with a name like that, he’d always dreamed of becoming a coal miner?


I lost interest in watching glib garden shows on TV long ago. My waning interest might have had something to do with the quality of the picture on our vintage TV set, but I tend to think that it had more to do with the total lack of reality they peddle. Gardens don’t just happen, they require genuine effort, especially here. Several months ago I chanced upon a tree that I had admired in another’s garden, but had never before seen in a nursery. I was so delighted to find one that I promptly bought it . Once I had it safely home, however, the problems started…where to plant it. I walked around for months trying to find the perfect spot. The best positions, naturally, coincided with either an outcrop of shale or were under power lines. And even unencumbered sites were a challenge. The clay was as hard as rock and a mattock, wielded with all my strength and blistered hands, bounced off. The prized specimen began to haunt me. I tried repotting to appease it. At least, in a bigger pot, it might survive until next year. I walked around in ever decreasing circles, with furrowed brow, hoping for a hole to magically appear, but it seemed as if it never would. Then the gods smiled on me. It rained, and it rained some more, the flint-like clay became malleable and suddenly all seemed possible. I loaded the wheelbarrow with potting mix and mulch, balanced the mattock, spade and crow bar, just for good measure, on top, and selected a spot that I had not even considered before. The tree went into the ground, and a wire cage grew up around it. Now I just have to wait til spring!

Although winter in Wamboin is a battle against the cold, it is a beautiful time. To awaken to mornings bleached white and sprinkled with diamonds beneath a cloudless sky still enchants me. To lift panes of frozen glass from muddy puddles and shatter them on the ground, to watch puddles in the creek transform into a raging, roaring river where once you stepped across with ease, to hear happy frogs in noisy chorus, feel the soft, silent dampness of an enveloping fog and smell wood smoke. The flowers have disappeared, but there is the scent of violets and winter honeysuckle, splashes of golden diosmas and red berried nandinas and the promise of daffodils. The school holidays saw kids building cubbies, stepping around fairy rings, and finding ant hills and echidnas while the kangaroos watched, unfazed, and the birds returned.

I know we should buy a new TV. Sooner or later new technology will force our hand, but when it does I still don’t think I’ll be able to watch those plastic gardening shows….not until they portray real people, with genuine sweat on their brows and calloused hands, wielding real tools in real dirt, and then, stooped and aching, surveying a garden wreathed in chicken wire.

I wouldn’t live anywhere else…..


I met someone a few months ago who said, “Ï know where you live. It’s the house of roses!” Well, I’m sorry to destroy her illusions, but it is the “house of roses” no more. I’ve finally given in, I’ve accepted defeat, and I’m wielding the mattock and pulling out the rose bushes.

For years I battled the vagaries of the weather and tried to be philosophical about the creatures that munch in the night. I’ve mixed magic rose potions and sprayed the bushes to gently discourage black spot and aphids. I’ve drowned the massed thorns in sea weed sprays and lavished more magic beneath to encourage spring growth. I’ve pruned them when the moon’s been full and tried again next year with the waning moon. I’ve sanitised secateurs and been torn to shreds, bent double beneath the grasping claws as I’ve tried to make the perfect cut. Once I was trapped, pinned down by spikes, and only made my Houdini escape by divesting myself of jumper and hat. I’ve caged them in chicken wire and spoken kindly to them, but it’s too late!

I must admit that they weren’t helped by the enthusiastic pruning a Queensland peanut farmer friend gave them one particularly cold July. He thought he’d give me a surprise. He was right.... and I think the rose bushes were surprised, too, because they never recovered. And to be honest, there have been times when I have been a trifle ad hoc in my gardening approach, but overall, rose growing has just been one long uphill battle. When desperately needed rain finally came, black spot followed quickly in its wake. The aphids departed but only so the crickets could move in, and never did the predicted rain eventuate after carefully timed fertilising. And all the time the lone wallaby and kangaroos were eroding my efforts, stripping leaves, breaking stems and leaving their calling cards to replant the garden to their liking.

However, if you think getting rid of roses is a “walk in the park’, think again! Old roses are tough and defiant. Their roots are huge and if they they get into clay they’re away. And once the roses are removed, suddenly the hardy plants that stole in during the drought are revealed....and they didn’t survive without enormous roots, either.

I wouldn’t live anywhere else....and perhaps I’ll take up aquaculture when my hands begin to thaw... and buy myself a bunch of roses.


Someone asked me the other day if I spent a lot of time in my garden, and I replied, “Not much” ….and that’s true. I don’t spend endless hours digging and weeding, pruning, planting and mulching, but I do, in fact, spend most of the day in the garden. I’m there at first light through my bedroom window, I’m in it in the midst of kitchen chores and as I sit at the dining room table. I watch its many faces as the day unfolds until evening wraps it up, and then I see it bathed in soft moonlight. My garden and the bush beyond is a living, breathing thing, sometimes sluggish, sometimes defiant, sometimes restless and forever changing, and I‘m in it.

I finally admitted defeat and picked all my tomatoes a week or so ago and made green tomato chutney. I dug a bucketful of potatoes, much to my surprise and delight, and gave the last of the silver beet to the chooks. I spend happy hours pulling luxuriant weeds and found mauve blue winter irises tucked away beneath their straplike leaves. I didn’t rake the crunching mass of litter already on the ground, but just enjoyed the red and yellow lingering on the branches above. It’s been a splendid autumn, with images that I want to save and store for the short grey days ahead, images to savour.

In days, long gone, I used to spend precious hours performing small miracles at the ironing board. This was my thinking time. It was my legitimate space to put my mind in neutral and let it wander, to think and ponder, have conversations with myself, dream and remember. I’ve downsized my ironing basket these days avoiding most things except quick easy squares of table napkins and handkerchiefs. I can‘t quite give up these relics of the twentieth century, however, I wonder if I’m missing out on something. I’m not concerned about a decline in the skills’ area, simply the time to reflect and consolidate memories. In a world where we are bombarded by media words and pictures, where we feel compelled to be in touch with each other at all times, even if at arms length, where it is a sin to be idle and unproductive, and everything new is good, I wonder what we are doing to real memories. Sometimes I really want to slow down, to stopping running and start walking. I wouldn‘t even object to a shuffle. At the moment I am far from Wamboin, seeing majestic gorges, rugged landscapes, vast distances, feeling heat and sweat and seeing faces that were never drawn in my first reading books. I want to hang on to these images and feelings, fit them into the jigsaw of my life and recall them at another time.

This Wamboin autumn has been a treasure….and like all treasures, it is one that I don’t want to bury with the map. I want time and space to remember where I put it. One day I might want to locate it again.

I wouldn’t live anywhere else……..and I wonder what winter has on offer.

PS: How many times have you said, “I’ve never seen/heard something before…” and suddenly it’s everywhere. Yes, there are lots of red conical white spotted toadstools around Wamboin….I’ve now seen them. They’re just not at home on our piece of prickle and shale!


Twelve months ago we travelled through parts of north eastern Victoria and were confronted by the dry and lifeless landscape. We returned recently to cycle the Murray to the Mountains old rail trail, and back, and delighted in a green and mellow countryside. What a difference a little rain can make! I started thinking about recreational cycling trails in our part of the world and the broken threads of the old railway line from Queanbeyan to Cooma and beyond. Old, abandoned railway lines, with their gentle gradients can be transformed into excellent cycle and walking paths…but we need means and a will.

It was while we were riding through a damp area of pines and casuarinas that I spied a beautiful conical shaped fungus, red, with white spots. It looked as if it had been lifted straight out of the English fairy story books of my childhood. I haven’t seen one like that around here, as yet, but I am amazed at the number and variety of fungi that I have seen in my garden and the bush this autumn. Walking through the bush there is the distinctive smell of moulds and fungi busily working their magic above and below ground. I have picked and eaten mushrooms as big as entrée plates, obliged puffballs by kicking them with all my might and been fascinated and repulsed at the same time by “dog’s vomit” and stinkhorns in my well mulched garden. There is one specimen, however, that has captivated me. It looks exquisite, a perfect, translucent glass like cap supported by a delicate stem. I think it’s a Hygrocybe. This morning I saw bright orange plates stacked at the base of a stringybark. What a difference a few good months of rain can make while the ground is still warm and alive.

It hasn’t really been cold yet, but I kindled a fire, nevertheless, on the eve of ANZAC day, one day ahead of the traditional fire lighting date. I didn’t shiver at the Dawn service this year and lose all feeling in my feet, and I didn’t dab my misty eyes with numb fingers as we soberly remembered those who would not grow old. It was a still, clear morning after beautiful overnight rain, and I stood there in silence, my eyes fixed on the Southern Cross in the inky sky as the Last Post sounded. Then, before the Reveille broke the poignant silence, a larrikin kookaburra started to chuckle. I wondered what the young ANZACs, so far from home, would have given for a glimpse of the Southern Cross and the sound of an irreverent kookaburra above the noise, fear, stench and chaos of war.

We are indeed fortunate to live in these easy times, especially now that there is a little moisture in the ground, and although few of us will ever begin to comprehend what they endured and sacrificed for their ideals, I am still glad that we gather in solemn respect on that “one day of the year” to “remember them”. And long may that larrikin Aussie streak, which probably fired those young men and spurred them on, remain part of modern Australia.

I wouldn’t live anywhere else….


I’ve often wondered how we’d initiate a conversation with a stranger, or even a friend, if we didn’t have the neutral topic of the weather to begin with. In Cairo the weather is literally unremarkable; it just doesn’t change so no one talks about it. If we were commenting on the weather in the high northern latitudes we’d need at least a dozen different words for what we simply call “snow”. This first month of autumn has certainly given us plenty of scope for easy chat.

At the start of the month I was tempted to clean out the twinkling tinsel from the firebox, the last remnants of Christmas decorations. It was almost cold enough to light a fire at night, and I was hard pressed to remember where I’d stowed my winter woolies. I needed them. It seemed as if we’d plunged straight from summer into winter, but we’d forgotten the fickle nature of autumn. Winter was but fleeting. Soon I was waking to gossamer mists, green grass heavy with dew and the sun catching the facets of a million diamonds. Then summer returned with hot dry winds from the north, sucking out moisture and igniting only tempers, and as suddenly as it came, it passed and we were lost in a silent white fog. And through all these changes the season has been quietly making its mark.

I have roses in my garden that I hadn’t seen in spring, masses of pink and white salvias, abelias flecked with white flowers, brightly coloured chrysanthemums, dahlias and canna lilies, and white flowering potato vine rampaging over everything. Amongst the natives the hardy correas are flowering, much to the delight of the busy little honeyeaters, and the background chorus of bird calls seems to be echoing a general approval of the state of the world. A thrush came to stay for a few days and thrilled me with its song, and then a koel popped in. Some of my deciduous trees are starting to show their autumn colours but others are taking their time to change. We had a summer caller the other day, a fat, sleek magnificent red bellied black snake. It had obviously come from the creek via the chook coop, where the chooks and a colony of mice coexist. The three bulges in its body betrayed its indulgences en route. It was caught briefly in some netting that had been carelessly left on the ground, but, with help, it soon regained its freedom and was off, like molten metal poured over the ground. It has good stores for winter.

Autumn in our part of the world is a wonderfully rich time, a time to savour the fruits of summer gardens, even if they’re not your own, and to enjoy the easy company of family and friends over the Easter break. I wouldn’t live anywhere else…..Wamboin is blooming…..and you must agree, we have more to talk about than just the weather!


“If you’ve never moved house you’ll never know what it’s like to be packed up in little boxes,
Torn limb from limb, suffocated in shredded paper
Newsprint, not even the stipulated white,”
So, as likely as not, you’re sandwiched between Brezhnev’s death
And “Bringing up Father”......”

and so it went on, a poem I penned nearly thirty years ago, in Malaysia, when I was facing yet another move.

I have just returned from the other side of our vast nation, from that speck of green stretched around a sparkling river, facing empty oceans and backed by a harsh interior. This time I was there for another move. “Duty of care” demanded that my frail, 93 year old mother relinquish her little home of six years and shift to the hostel in the same garden retirement village. She’s been progressively moving from a big box to a smaller and even smaller box over the past thirty years, and now her life is wrapped up in one small room. This time, like the last, she was fiercely reluctant to move, but this time, unlike the last, my strong, determined little slip of a mother was not aided by a robust mind. One of the saddest moments was spent sifting through a lifetime of photographs recording family Christmases, anniversaries, weddings, graduations and magic moments of travel around the globe. I gave her some pretty snaps of a time she’d spent travelling with Dad in England. She tossed them aside, disdainfully. They meant nothing to her. I left with a heavy heart, wondering if there was a better way of handling the challenges wrought by ageing.

I had imagined, with all that beautiful rain, that this month I’d only be talking about happy things; a rushing, churning, milky brown torrent of water, scouring the creek bed and isolating our neighbours. I thought I’d mention the forlorn, grey and bedraggled kangaroos, with their bewildered joeys, cut off from my garden smorgasbord, and a sudden rush of water rising and swirling around trunks of great trees that had stood, only minutes before, on dry ground. And somewhere in the middle of that I thought about my favourite tree.

There is a tree that I pass on one of my walks that fascinates me. It’s a tall gum, arching gracefully, with a scar, high up, left behind after canny cockatoos peeled back the bark in search of grubs. The hapless grubs left behind empty corridors, and, in turn, an enterprising swarm of bees moved in. It’s been an active bee hive for many years. Just above the hive is a nesting hole which has been the nursery for generations of galahs. But we chanced upon another tree, the other day, which was rather special, too. It was an abandoned peach, beside the road, laden with fruit. We straddled the gutter hidden in the long grass, and like gypsies, filled our bags. With such bounty I had to make chutney, and then find jars to fill. It is a wonderful, bountiful time of the year. I am finally picking big, fat, red tomatoes and wondering if I’ll need more jars for relish. There are huge mushrooms popping up everywhere, plenty of self sown silver beet and potatoes to be dug. One of my greatest joys is to see the excitement when our little ones dig in the dirt with their bare hands and find potatoes.

And so I’m back in Wamboin, a more benign Wamboin, with green splashed across flats and rises that have been grey and lifeless for years. It was good to see the sign at the bottom of the hill, and to be home. I’m thinking of sorting through my boxes of photos. I’ve been thinking of doing that for more than thirty years. Perhaps I won’t bother. If I leave it long enough someone else may do it for me. Maybe I’ll just wander outside and pull some weeds for the chooks.

I wouldn’t live anywhere else.....


Forget all those baubles, smellies and pampering treats, gentle, lingering rain was the best Christmas present, ever. It lifted sagging shoulders and put a spring in my step. The rain might not have added anything to the dam levels, but it transformed the grey dust across the creek into a carpet of pale green and revived a flagging garden. Along the roadside the kunzeas looked as if they’d been dusted with snow and the yellow paper daisies glowed. But I suspect I may not have seemed grateful enough, because there were no “many happy returns”. A month later the bush now seems greyer and more brittle, the understory has thinned and emptied over the dry years and beneath the trees the ground crackles underfoot. I have felt a kinship with the eucalypts, though, as they’ve stripped off their outer garments in response to the heat. Great ribbons of bark have been shed and strewn carelessly on the ground, leaving behind a mess that would rival the aftermath of a rock concert. But their new naked trunks, shining creamy yellow in the moonlight, look magnificent.

I never really feel the holidays are over and the New Year has begun until we’ve done with rejoicing because we’re young and free, and the kids are safely returned to their institutions of prescribed learning. I rather wish, though, that the acknowledgment of our youth and freedom didn’t come wrapped in an Australian flag and that we didn’t have to be hoodwinked into believing that massed sausages for breakfast, on a predictably hot morning, is fun, and part of being Australian. I spent Australia Day, savouring my freedom, toiling in the “golden” soil of the garden, marvelling at the beauty and defiance, against all odds, of the blue and white agapanthus and red hot pokers, and feeling depleted of youthful vigour by day’s end.

I have enjoyed the holidays, some pleasant bush walks, a dip in the briny and a morning spent cycling before a welcome beer at our friendly “local”. To add to this, my faith in Santa was restored on Christmas day, but I have completely given up on the weather man. He’s full of lies and idle promises. The next time he predicts rain, I’m going to hang out the washing, wash the car, flush the toilet regardless, turn on the watering system and make hay!

But I wouldn’t live anywhere else....maybe I’d become complacent if I did.



Without Lofty’s plant stall on the back of his ute at the monthly markets, I wouldn’t be able to fund my garden and still have a bit left over to buy the odd bottle of wine. And without a glass of wine under my belt my garden wouldn’t look half as good as it does. There are few pleasures greater than sitting on the verandah after the sun has slipped behind the gum trees, soaking up the intense quiet and indulging in a wee sip of something. My garden grows better as the glass empties, the rough bits are smoothed, the holes are filled and I feel as if I am seeing my world through Monet’s eyes. Blurred vision improves my Wamboin garden.

Sadly, it seems as if spring is over and a long hot summer is upon us. But for a fleeting fortnight I had an almost picture perfect garden. The roses tumbled from their buds, lavenders bloomed under the wisteria and the ground was overrun with snow- in –summer. My garden became a mass of green and white and purple, with dots of red and orange. Once upon a time I’d had a bright, disorderly cottage garden which seemed to flourish effortlessly, but the years of drought have wrought many changes and I have drifted towards some of the hardier native plants. And without Jo’s stall at the markets, as well, I wouldn’t have the correas, grevilleas, callistemons and mints that are thriving further out.

For some people the onset of the “silly season” is marked by hot weather or Christmas catalogues slipped between the folds of the newspaper, or carolling shops decked with glass balls and tinsel, but for me Christmas is heralded by the appearance of the bottlebrushes in bloom and the monotone bleat of the fledgling galahs. I don’t think we have as many different birds around our place this year, but the little galahs have arrived and I heard the first notes of a distant koel. In the bottlebrush the honey eaters and wattle birds are enjoying their Christmas cheer. The season has begun. And with Christmas fast approaching, there is precious little time left to indulge myself in playing “Monet” on the front verandah. Another happy year in Wamboin is drawing to a close.

I wouldn’t live anywhere else.....and it’s rather comforting to think that, as summer strikes, the proceeds from Lofty’s monthly garden stall will continue to assist our Fire Brigade in its vital role. -- Seasons greetings!


A weed is defined as a plant in the wrong place. I thought that I had been keeping abreast of the weeds in my garden until they took off with the sudden burst of warm weather last week and left me flailing in their wake. The welcome rain last night has made it easier to pull out some of the weeds, but I’ve been overwhelmed by those ghastly things that twist and turn and climb through bushes and over everything else that struggles to grow. Even the chooks shun the big sticky mounds of goose grass that I toss to them over the fence. And periwinkle, once tolerated because it clung to life in areas where everything else had withered and died, and required “Care: nil” according to the Garden books, has invaded every inch of unguarded territory and seems to have dug itself in.

I realised that I had been duped by the grey skies and cool weather for most of the month into believing that there was still good soil moisture. When I scratched the surface I knew it was time to turn on the irrigation. But it was then that I discovered little fountains of water spurting in inappropriate places throughout the garden beds and I regretted having been a trifle cavalier with the garden fork over winter. Having to mend hoses was another setback to the weeds’ advantage. And I’m way behind with my mulching.

But while the weeds were making their presence felt, so were the lizards. Suddenly there were lizards popping out of the rock holes in the embankment, enjoying the sun’s warmth while their more adventurous brothers choose the middle of the road for their place in the sun. I found the last of the donkey orchids and clumps of purple orchids and I began to tread more warily in the bush across the creek. I haven’t seen a snake, yet, but I daresay they have been aware of my presence.

A spring garden is a delight. The first blossoms have given way to blue lavenders and irises and the may bushes are massing with white flowers. The first pink rose has appeared at my front steps, and as I walk around the garden I try to look beyond the weeds, but my fingers begin to twitch uncontrollably and in no time I find myself bent double with a mound of weeds beside me. If only I could train the kangaroos and rabbits to be my allies.

I wouldn’t live anywhere else....but sometimes I wonder if this gardening business makes any sense at all!


Rain, heavy driving rain that has filled the rain gauge and the dam, sent creamy brown water rushing down the gully and turned the fine red dust to mud. And after the rain stopped drumming on the roof, a thousand frogs reclaimed the night air, singing as if their hearts would burst with joy. I had thought that these last few weeks could not have got any better. All of a sudden, in the early dawn light, I was hearing a mix of bird calls that I’d almost forgotten, and in a magic moment chanced upon a bird bath full of fluffy black feathers; a couple of young choughs were testing the waters under a canopy of pink crab apple blossom. A baby magpie, almost as big as its indulgent mother, squawked impatiently, demanding to be fed. Spring was warming up....and then the heavens opened!

The chooks have gratefully received the bundles of weeds that I’ve thrown over their fence and have shown their appreciation in kind. I’ve even pulled out clumps of grass with worms attached. I haven’t seen worms in my garden for a long time. The other day, after digging and weeding a garden that has been idle for the last year, I planted potatoes. Later a friend told me that while he was planting his potatoes, unbeknown to him, a king parrot was following behind. He looked up to see a handsome red and green bird strolling unconcernedly past him with a potato in his claw.

I’ve often wondered what might have gone through their minds when fresh European eyes encountered our wildlife. Looking detachedly at a mob of kangaroos the other morning, the same mob, no doubt, that had silently moved through my garden whilst I’d been asleep, I saw some very odd creatures. There were some with horrific prolapses, or at best, distended bellies, a few with two heads - the second, smaller head protruding below the chest, and others with a fifth limb, growing thin and angular in the middle of the stomach, below two withered arms. And then there were a couple that appeared similar to the one standing aside from the mob, but that one was much bigger, with broad, muscled shoulders and a smug look on its face. I counted sixteen in the group. A seasoned eye could safely assume that there were thirty one kangaroos in that mob, with more in the pipe line.

It’s been a lively, changeable month, this first month of spring, not just in the garden and the bush, but in the community as well. We’ve had gale force winds and calm days, hot days and freezing days and nights, golden days and days blanketed by red dust, promises of rain, splashes of rain and finally a mighty deluge. The WOWS have turned three, and celebrated, the produce market is back after winter, and the annual Wamboin Bonfire roared into life on cue, a great evening despite the missing wow factor of the fireworks.

I wouldn’t live anywhere else....and the frogs seem to agree with me.


The bees are buzzing in the first frothy blossoms of spring, the golden daffodils are nodding wisely to each other in the blustery wind and the wattles are bursting into bundles of yellow above the grey spikes of kangaroo grass. Winter is officially behind us, but it didn’t disappear without a fight. How wonderful it was to spend an idle Saturday, cocooned inside because it was too wet and cold to tackle the myriad new season jobs outside. The wet weather didn’t last very long, barely long enough to make a few puddles in the dry creek bed, but I cherished winter’s last hurrah.

I’m often amused by the topics of conversation when locals gather, and surprised at how different they are from those of town dwellers. I recently heard a horror story about a couple who arrived home from a hectic few days at the coast to an icy, dark house with a large puddle on the kitchen floor and a freezer brimming with warm, limp items. Usually we would blame our electricity supplier, but this time the forces of nature had been at work. Hornets had cleverly built a mud nest in the power box and chewed through some tasty insulation. While the mud remained moist, the power flow was uninterrupted. However, once the nest had dried out the power supply was cut! And the other morning I turned on the tap and nothing happened. There was no water, but there was light! We discovered to our dismay that a furry nocturnal friend hopping home after a night of feasting had tripped on a very cold plastic pipe and broken it. The pump obligingly turned itself on and pumped out the contents of the tank onto the grateful ground. At least we had power; no water usually spells no power. Then there are the stories of cockatoos that pick daffodils indiscriminately and “tip prune” small branches of trees, and possums that try to propagate plants with no horticultural skills at all. But how good it is to see the little wrens, all a nervous twitter, hopping around in their new spring outfits, listen to the happy sounds of the little honey eaters, and hear a chook, cackling with sheer delight at her cleverness in laying an egg.

With the fire in the hearth still burning, the wind tossing the blossoms outside and the fire bans already imposed, we can only hope for a gentle spring that eases us into summer. I think about it occasionally........but I wouldn’t live anywhere else.


Where do I start?

We arrived home a few nights ago. It was bitingly cold, the vast sky was lit with millions of sparkling lights and it was silent, save for the gentle sigh of a breeze through the trees and the persistent croak of a lonely frog. It was hard to breathe in the clean, cold air. I’d been in another world where the relentless hum of traffic, pierced by sirens through the night yielded to clanging church bells with the new summer day. The only bird that ever disturbed my sleep was a pigeon...and that lone pigeon seemed to be at my dawn window wherever I went.

I was interested to see how my winter garden had fared in my absence. At first glance it looked good, clipped and neat, almost European neat, until I realised that this was Wamboin and it shouldn’t be neat. I’d had lots of busy pruners and trimmers beavering away in my absence, and all that was left above ground level were those aromatic plants spurned by kangaroos, wallabies and rabbits. The correas and grevilleas had survived the onslaught as had the junipers, rosemaries, nandinas and diosmas. The bulbs were poking through and the flowering quinces, my instant ikebana arrangements, were beginning to flower. There was the sweet perfume of winter honysuckle and a faint scent of moth eaten violets. The spicy lemon smell of daphne was missing this year; my once vigorous bush had turned up its toes at the end of last winter. But the hellebores looked healthy, obviously benefitting from their end of summer haircut, and the viburnums were covered in red with the first flecks of white flowers appearing.

In my travels I’d marvelled at ancient ruins and more ancient ruins, saw pretty fields of corn and wheat and barley, entire dairy farms inside huge barns, wide rivers and rushing streams, and mountains of rock. I’d shed a tear on a beach that could have been set in Australia and which had soaked up the blood of once young Australians, I’d seen faces in the crowded Metro that were living sculptures of ancient Rome, I’d paid 50p to “spend a penny”, wrestled with an infinite array of taps and plumbing systems and doors with broken latches, twisted myself into tiny shower recesses, ate olives and cheese for breakfast on terraces that would defy Australian building regulations, and hoped the well dressed European cyclists hadn’t noticed a couple of Australian fashionistas in helmets and cycling pants pedalling past. We seemed to be the only people who wore hats and sought the shade in a sea of sun worshippers.

But what I found I was drawn to, most of all, were plants and trees and shrubs. At Gallipoli, with the smell of salt in the air, there were rock roses (cistus) and rosemaries and laurels. Sadly, I came home to rock roses chewed and stripped of leaves, but the rosemary was intact. In Europe the rose bushes were in full bloom, white and pink and red, awash with perfume. I startled a big fat bee as I plunged my nose into a perfect flower. I won’t be pruning many roses in my garden this year...those that remain have already been over pruned! In a stark, majestic, rock filled landscape, I saw steep sided valleys filled with pink oleanders that straggled up mountain gullies until the soil ran out and they were halted by a wall of rock. My sickly oleanders endure the drought and rocks here, but at least they remain untouched. And when I stood under 400 year old oaks with their green and spreading branches, I remembered the magnificent, untamed eucalypts of home, some as old as that, with their grey green leaves and strips of dangling bark, a haven for birds.

And then it was time to come home. The flat nasal Aussie accent, perfected by crews on homebound Qantas flights, was like music to my ears. It was like hearing it for the first time. I had missed my mother tongue and the easy flow of language and shared jokes. I was glad, in a way, to become myself again.

I returned with a suitcase full of magical images, wonderful experiences and memorable conversations.... But I know where my heart is.

I wouldn’t live anywhere else.....and who knows what will pop up in my garden in spring.


(We seem to have missed out this month)


I didn’t really think I’d have a chance to savour autumn, this year. I thought the prolonged dry and fierce winds would have blown the colours away before they had massed, but I was wrong. Even in my own garden the golds and reds and yellows have added a cheery spot of colour against the green and greying backdrop. The nandinas and berberis, and some of the mays and viburnums are still red, and even a few wattles have a rusty tinge. And amongst them the golden diosmas, and behind them the Chinese elms catch the sun and glow. The elm has clung on to its leaves much longer than the ash, as if defying the onset of winter.

But I don’t spend all my time in the garden. Sometimes duty calls in the guise of a dump trip. Now I’m not a frequent visitor to the dump. Usually I have to forego such pleasures because there’s a crossword to complete or some leaves to be raked, but this morning I went, just to be companionable. The weather was dump perfect; misty rain, grey skies and slippery, clogging mud. I got out of the car to throw a few bags into the ether and within a few paces had grown inches taller and my shoes felt like lead. But what really impressed me was the pallet clad library near the carefully labelled bins. Once I went there and felt like royalty, with an honour guard of toilet bowls. Another time I admired a couple of blooming pot plants. It is indeed a wonderful dump. My father was a true dump crawler, and I discovered that his son in law shared the same gene pool. I admit that I’ve always dreaded the trailer returning with more in it than when it left, and my fears are often realised. However, I’ve been carefully conditioned over the years to believe that “you never know when something might come in handy”. My father’s shed was testament to that, and we, too, have a couple of sheds in support of that theory.

I remember the days when what little waste we had was genuinely recycled. Tins were buried in the back yard, bottles were used repeatedly for jams and chutneys or to hold a drink for school, and newspaper was crumpled to light the fire. Brown paper was carefully pressed and folded and put away until a parcel had to be wrapped for the post. There was very little plastic, and whatever came into the house was too precious to be thrown out. Leftovers were then stored in those rare containers and lost at the back of the fridge until they could be disposed of without a conscience. Any decent food scraps went to the chooks. And when you did go to the dump it was a great opportunity for trading. What my father couldn’t find some use for, or repair, simply wasn’t worth having.

I am very aware of the amount of rubbish we accumulate in our daily lives, and dutifully try to recycle, but sometimes I fear my measures are little more than “feel good” gestures. Our storage sheds have helped to extend the life of the Macs Reef tip. We’ve retrieved lots of valuable items from there and created new space, but I wonder how green that solution really is. Think of the resources used to build another shed.

I wouldn’t live anywhere else.....long live the tip and the recycling bins...and let me deal with the rest.


I thought my backyard was looking somewhat forlorn, desperate for a decent drink, but a trip south of the border made me realise that we are much better off than some. I saw countless stressed and dying trees beside the road, and hard, bare paddocks stretching to the horizon. Then as we wound through more heavily timbered country we were suddenly confronted by brick red forests, burnt to a crisp, that abruptly changed once again to a lifeless, blackened landscape. The change in the air at Easter had almost wiped away my memories of summer....but it has left deep scars on many and their environments.

This has been a month of changes; clear, still days with nights cold enough for a fire, long before the Anzac day marker, steady, welcome rain and then a dust storm that swept across the countryside filling the sky with an eerie pink light. I would normally have welcomed half an inch of topsoil being dumped on my block, but not at the expense of the embattled Riverina. The coating of dust and grit was about as good as the Council’s latest effort to improve our road, except they glue the grit with a tar that is spread as thinly as glace icing over a cracked and overcooked packet cake. Even the puff balls at the road’s edge pushed their way through with ease. And every ripple and dent and imperfection in the tarmac has been preserved for posterity!

As we made our way home through the spectacular mountains and valleys to the east of the Hume, it was wonderful to see how a few more days of rain can green the countryside, and how a burst of cold weather can paint the autumn trees. The colours and contrasts became more subdued as we neared our part of the world, but it still looked better than we had left it.

I wouldn’t live anywhere else....but it doesn’t hurt to have a comparison sometimes.


I’m in a dilemma this month. On the one hand I want to sing the praises of sweet autumn; calm, softer, with crisp mornings carrying the rich smell of dew on dry grass. I want to celebrate my bountiful crop of tomatoes, all the sweeter in the knowledge that they were originally grown from illegal immigrants, savour the last roses of summer and note the leaves turning from green to yellow and crimson. But on the other hand I want to throw up my hands in utter despair as I watch the relentless, stealth-like demolition of my garden by mobs of kangaroos. I know that they were here before we moved in, and I know that we’ve upset the balance by building dams and creating a permanent water supply, and I am sure that I would prefer rose bushes to dry, bristly grasses if I had a choice, but give us a break!

However, for the first few weeks of autumn I was too busy making tomato relish and tomato sauce, grilling tomatoes, roasting tomatoes, pureeing tomatoes, eating fresh tomatoes with basil, eating fresh tomatoes without basil and wondering if I were in danger of turning a tomato shade of red to be bothered by the kangaroos. At least tomatoes seemed to be one thing they didn’t eat. To handle this autumn bounty, though, I needed recipes that I’d only half heard discussed over the marbled green laminex kitchen table of my childhood. I sent off a few SOSes for recipes. Then I discovered a gem tucked away in a bottom drawer....my mother’s battered CWA cookbook from the 1930s, stuffed full of handwritten recipes scrawled on the backs of envelopes and slips of paper. It was a real social history. You could make just about “mock” anything. There was mock cream and mock chicken and even a tantalising recipe for mock haggis. Mock strawberry jam was made with rhubarb and mock raspberry jam was mainly melon and plums. Finally I found what I was looking for ....a scrap of paper with “Aunty Peg’s Tom Relish” and “Joan’s tomato sauce”. One called for a “shy dessertspoon of salt”, and the other a “small handful of salt”. Precision was obviously not an issue!

Autumn is a special season and although a decent splash of rain is long overdue, I’ve seen changes, not just in the colours of the trees, but in the visitors to the garden. Some yellow tailed black cockatoos thought they’d try their luck at pruning a hakea, having moved from the huge candlebark, but they moved on, and I’ve seen several eagles wheeling in the sky, black against limitless blue. There’ve been a few more mice scuttling around the chook yard after dark and a brazen fox has sauntered by, stopping long enough to create mayhem in the coop. And while I’ve been stirring the tomato relish pot bubbling on the stove I’ve had time to ponder the collective noun for kangaroos. “Mob” sounds so tame...wouldn’t an “oversupply of kangaroos” be more to the point.

I wouldn’t live anywhere else.....but I wouldn’t object if a few of my marsupial friends chose to live elsewhere.


I had felt like having a rant about electronic communications and the current expectation by people, especially those in business, that everyone has a fax or internet access at their fingertips, and computer skills to match. I was going to rail against the marginalisation of the elderly and not so elderly in a society seduced by the electronic media, but suddenly that seemed inconsequential in light of the horrific events across the border. No one, especially those living in a bush environment like ours, could not be moved and horrified by the devastating fires and tragic loss of life and property in some of Victoria’s most picturesque areas. It was certainly a wake up call for us. It was quite easy to become a little complacent this year with a comparatively milder summer and fewer blistering periods of desiccating northwesterlies. But it appears easy to become complacent even when conditions are extreme. I was amazed to see photos from Victoria of brave, desperate people foolishly defending their properties dressed in stubbies and “sturdy, fire proof” rubber thongs! And it seems unbelievable to think that some were caught unawares because they were plugged into their TV screens probably watching a “reality” show!

I would like to think that most of us in this area are at least aware of the unpredictability and extremes of bushfires, and I think this is largely due to the efforts of our local Bushfire Brigade. Whether it be a talk at the WOWS or an information session and demonstration at the Fire Shed last market day, there is plenty of practical information and support available to individuals. Meanwhile, I am enjoying a garden that seems to have withstood the ravages of summer. It still looks remarkably pretty and vibrant, helped by some of the salvias I bought a month or so ago at the markets that almost fell off the back of Lofty’s truck. I was adding a few more to plug holes in the garden the other day when the ground beneath me collapsed. It was then I discovered that some wretched rabbits have been quietly colonising the front bed under cover of darkness. Why do they pick on me? Why don’t they stay on the other side of the creek where the pickings are richer?

I wouldn’t live anywhere else......this is my little bit of paradise, but hopefully not a fools’ paradise. With my new leather boots, leather gloves and goggles added to my fire readiness kit I feel some peace of mind...... but I’m no hero. Thank goodness for our wonderful volunteer fire fighters.


The sweet sound of running water against a backdrop of uncontrollably happy frogs, a smudge of soft green below rain washed, blossom covered gums, honeymooning king parrots and hot days building to spectacular storms.....what a welcome to the New Year!

I have enjoyed cutting and filling vases with blue and white agapanthus, gladioli and roses, and watching as my tomatoes fruit on the bushes. Agapanthus is much maligned across the border in Victoria, being declared a noxious plant. I’m glad I don’t live there. These hardy annuals make a spectacular show when there is often little else to provide life and colour. This season is an exception but unfortunately some of the bright yellow comes from one of our noxious weeds...St Johns Wort.Bottled, and in pill form, there are claims that it helps to treat depression. A cheaper cure for depression may come from trying to grub out the wretched stuff. And then there is the conflicting presence of the many different thistles; tenacious, spiky invaders with exquisite flowers. And if St Johns Wort and thistles aren’t enough, add briar roses and blackberry, and throw too many rabbits and hares into the invasion equation.

I was half listening to a discussion on the radio, with my holiday brain still engaged, about the validity of celebrating Australia day on the 26th January. I couldn’t help thinking that Captain Arthur Phillip and the pitiful, ill prepared First Fleet chose a convenient time, at least for his successors, to arrive at Sydney Cove. Putting aside the debate about the appropriateness of his landing in the first place, a public holiday to mark the end of summer holidays and the resumption of the serious side of life seems reasonable to me. And life beyond my garden will certainly present some serious challenges to many in the coming years with the northern hemisphere economies reeling and ours following in their wake. However, looking out of my window, strolling around the garden, walking through the bush, reading joyful announcements on the notice board and watching the happy throng at the local winery on a Friday evening, one can only feel that we still have much to celebrate.

Advance Australia Fair....and with it, Wamboin....but not too much! I wouldn’t live anywhere else.



Barely a month ago I was despairing at ever finding anything in the garden for my weeding therapy sessions, but the tables have turned. Now everything is leaping out of the ground with almost audible vigour. I have no time to slump on the inside couch. I’m much too busy with my outside therapy. Amongst the weeds and in the damp earth there are slugs and snails. They have returned after a long, much appreciated absence, but there are still few worms to be seen. The recent storms have given us the most beautiful rain, but the creek remains a series of puddles. It hasn’t flowed for a long, long time. Exactly how much rain we’ve had remains a mystery, as my rain gauge was borrowed by a small, curly haired boy who was visiting, to augment the sand pit toys, but it has been enough to make me feel comfortable. It has grown into a most beautiful spring. And with summer officially here, the sounds and sights of Christmas are in evidence.

For some, shops festooned with plastic fir trees and piped carol music may signal Christmas, but for me, the monotonous bleating of the baby galahs is the first signal that I should be thinking seriously about the festive season. And there are more signs that Santa is on his way. Our generous Council has bestowed early gifts. Our now short, straight road, previously blessed with reflective guide posts on each side lest we be inclined to stray, now has a sparkling new sign to tell us that the road will shortly end. At the other end, there is an equally sparkling sign to tell us that we are approaching a T junction, just in case we miss the significance of the huge black and white stripes ahead across Norton Road. I was well brought up, and taught to accept gifts graciously, but perhaps I would have preferred Santa to spend his money on something else!

The year is drawing to a close, and I admit I will be glad to see the end of it, but it has shown us a little of the Wamboin of old. The recent rain has been the best Christmas present ever. I wouldn’t live anywhere else.....Happy Christmas, and happy holidays!


The year is rolling on and before we know it the screeching of cockatoos and the whining of blowflies will be joined by jingling bells. The silly season will be upon us. It seems to come a little earlier each year, and when it does there is hardly time to pause and appreciate all that is around us.

My garden is a picture at the moment and I can hardly claim credit for it. I simply fill spaces with a bit of this or a bit of that and wait and see. I am not one for grand plans. A little manure and water and mulch probably help, and then I trust the bees to do their bit. At the moment I’m enjoying the sweet fragrance of banksia roses tumbling over the trellis, the first roses and the last of the crab apple blossom. The tall irises are magnificent, sturdy yet fragile, and the daisies, sprinkled amongst the lavender spikes, pink diosmas and delicate columbines are bright and sunny against the fresh green growth. I’m sure I never planned it this way....it just grows.

But sometimes some real magic creeps into the garden and it makes me stop and watch in silence; the lizards and goannas are emerging. Motionless they pose on a warm rock or drape themselves over a low wall, or stand, sentinel like in the middle of the gravel road. They are like visitors from another world, a quieter, slower other world: visitors from an ancient past. I saw one the other day at the fish pond and it was “flat out like a lizard drinking”. When it had had its fill it rose slowly, carefully edged away and slid under a blanket of leaves. It barely acknowledged me. I enjoy goannas and lizards but I treat their cousins with utmost respect and courtesy. I prefer less intimate meetings with snakes!

We had another visitor a few weeks ago, before the sun had enticed the goannas from their holes. It was a friendly red kelpie. Now I know there are some dogs that get bad press around here, but this red kelpie seemed a decent sort of chap and appeared quite at home with us. However, I’d seen a sign on the chalk website at the bottom of the hill and thought that he probably had another home. What followed was a wonderful dog story that could only happen here. “Boy”, as we called him, was indeed a fine fellow, but had learned a few tricks from Houdini and was an accomplished escapee. He’d escaped from both his birth parents and his adopted parents’ homes despite their best efforts...and finally his adopted parents rescued him yet again, this time from death row at the Pound. That, of course, came at great cost to both “Boy” and his surrogate parents. He was now micro chipped and neutered. “Boy” was eventually reunited with his real parents after a month on the run but for once our notice board failed. It took an advertisement in the Bungendore paper to find them.

There are lots of visitors in the garden at the moment...feathered, furred and scaled...and they are enjoying what’s left of spring before the dry winds blow the life out of it and the silly season takes hold. Savour it while you can......I wouldn’t live anywhere else.


Another exquisite spring morning echoing with bird song and new colour. I’m always surprised by the onset of the new season, how quickly it comes and how extensive the transformation. Suddenly, the daffodils have gone and the crab apple is bursting with frothy pink blossoms. The mornings come earlier and the evening light stays longer.

For us, this year, the seasons seem to have blurred as summer merged into winter and winter seemed as if it would never end. For much of the time we have been numb. Our little grandson and his mum and dad have absorbed most of our time. Little Tom was on the rollercoaster ride of his life. Then he got off it, for a time, and went home and did all those things little babies do, but it wasn’t to last. On a Monday morning, as the dawn painted the sky a brilliant red.... “Red in the morning, a shepherd’s warning”....Tom gave up his fight.....As the day unfolded out tears fell, loud and hard as the wind driven rain then softly like the gentle patter. Our tears for Tom brought life giving rain.

Politicians glibly use those emotive words “family” and “community” as if they will cure society’s ills but we have been so fortunate to see real community and family at work here in Wamboin as summer became winter then spring. Little Tom didn’t have the long life we had hoped he would have, but the life he had was buoyed by the wonderful people in this community who have supported him and us in so many ways over the past months.

The little church on the hill filled and overflowed on Saturday afternoon as we farewelled Tom, and that night the bonfire lit the night sky and the hundreds of smiling faces as the fireworks rained down.

Thank you Wamboin.....you make it impossible for me to live anywhere else.

Daffodowndilly by A.A. Milne

She wore her yellow sun bonnet,
She wore her greenest gown;
She turned to the south wind
And curtsied up and down.
She turned to the sunlight
And shook her yellow head
And whispered to her neighbour:
‘Winter is dead.’


Glorious golden wattles and daffodils have appeared to lift our spirits just as winter was becoming worn and grey. The days are growing longer and ending in pink and grey galah sunsets. The birds have come back and I am hearing calls that I had almost forgotten. I’ve seen a family of gang gangs and a king parrot and heard the blackbird and whistler. Spring is on its way.

Ornithologists may disagree, but I think Wamboin chooks are migratory birds. Some succumb to the seductive call of Frank and seek permanent refuge with him, but the more adventurous are frequently on the move. Whenever their hosts take off, they take flight. Sometimes their stay is short, sometimes they are forgotten and need a nudge to go home, and some of them never return. Our flock moved around a bit, as we did, but mostly returned. Then one grey, drizzly night they were gruesomely wiped out. We had to start all over again. Our new girls, however, were career women and soon burned themselves out, except for one. Eventually all that was left was a museum piece, a frustrated young blade and the workaholic. It was decision time. Were we to summon Frank, pray for a grey, drizzly night or bite the bullet and begin again? It was then, just when life was at its most complicated, that there appeared a notice on that dreaded notice board. “Twenty chooks...free to good home.” We were one step ahead of Frank and suddenly we were playing host to twenty or so feathered friends. And what a delight!

I have no trouble leaping out of bed, even on the chilliest morning, to let them out and feed them. They run towards you with glee, hands clasped behind their backs, and greet any scrap as if it has come from a cordon bleu kitchen. And then to show their gratitude, they lay eggs! Chooks are the best time wasters! There are cheeky chooks and diffident chooks, considerate chooks and selfish chooks. Some are loners, others are party girls, some are adventurous and others are timid. Each day, if I can beat the grandchildren, I collect a basket of eggs and carefully date them. I keep and dry the discarded shells, crush them and feed the grit back to the hens. However, I’ve noticed tiny pieces of shell scattered on the ground often with a number still visible, written in my hand. Now these new girls are a smart bunch. I expect that it won’t be long before they suddenly realise that they’re being fed a giant jigsaw puzzle and start producing eggs with the date already stamped. I’ll keep you posted.

I wouldn’t live anywhere else.....


The morning is frozen and still. We didn’t get the snow, but yesterday’s raindrops hang onto the naked branches like tiny crystal balls. The wattles beside our road, those that survived the ravages of the clearing bobcats, are covered in tight little balls of icy yellow. The lone daffodil looks downcast, perhaps regretting its early appearance, and the few hellebores are tucked up under last year’s leaves. We’re in the depths of winter, but the days are getting longer. My dear old chook noticed it probably before I did, and laid her first egg for the season in a cosy nest of lucerne away from the chook yard.

With the cold weather it’s rather hard to turn your mind to the notions of global warming, and the need to makes as little negative impact on the environment as possible, but we try. We try to save water and we try to be as Green as we can, using the car judiciously, recycling and reusing. Doing this creates a warm, fuzzy feeling, but it’s easy to be naïve. Every human activity has a consequence. However, we’ve become a little more earnest in our endeavours to help protect our beautiful world, but it’s a hard road.

We still have our twenty five year old, water guzzling washing machine which refuses to die. It’s had many near death experiences but skilful surgery has always brought it back from the brink. Until it splutters for the last time I simply can’t throw it on the dump, so we have to find ways to help it live compatibly in this green world. Now “recycle” is not a new word, and it rolls easily off the tongue. It has a sort of effortless and self sustaining ring to it but the reality is very different. We lug water from the wash to the toilet cistern, spilling slops onto the floor, and we try to save wherever we can. Not content to simply collect the cold water in a bucket before the warm comes through to the shower, and then push the bucket aside to luxuriate for thirty seconds under a stream of hot water, my dear boy decided we should have a tub. Now I love those round, flexible plastic tubs that are in every hardware shop. They have so many uses. So, a tub was duly installed in the shower recess and early one morning, still befuddled by sleep, I leapt into the tub as the first hint of steam appeared. Words cannot describe the shock and horror that consumed me as my petal pink toes met the outside temperature of the icy water. Suddenly that warm and fuzzy feeling shrivelled. I was wide awake, and not even an indulgent 35 seconds under the hot spray could restore my calm. My frozen toes remained so for the entire day.

Being a Greenie is hard work, but as long as we breathe we’ll keep trying to find ways to conserve and recycle. I am on the lookout, though, for a pair of rubber boots, size 8, with drawstring tops..........I wouldn’t live anywhere else!


The joys of winter are many. Bright green mosses that look for all the world like the rich fabric folds of an old master’s painting, winter irises, delicate and blue mauve, hiding in a tangle of strappy leaves, forgotten bulbs poking through the cold damp earth amongst the violets and the first creamy jonquils. The flowering quince, my instant ikebana arrangement, has produced pink rosettes on its stark and twisted stems, and the wrens are very busy, darting and twittering as the boys show off their new blue caps and collars. When walking along the road I’ve seen flashes of yellow as tiny pardelotes dart through the bushes as if trying to find their lost tails, and below on the shaley banks, masses of hardenbergia growing with a vigour I’ve never seen in my garden. I love winter days...sparkling frosts and soft, grey, silent fogs that swallow up the world until the sun triumphs. But I especially love winter nights.

There is little that beats the pleasure of settling, after a good dinner, into my favourite fireside chair with a crossword on my lap. The only downside is the ancient TV that shares my cosy space with my channel surfer spouse at the controls. Stuck for a clue, and glancing up I’m suddenly confronted by an intense, dark eyed young chap, a belt of explosives strapped around his middle. Next minute there’s a spaghetti of hairy, beefy legs and someone’s blowing a whistle, and before I know it the screen is captured by a beautiful young blonde, designer stethoscope around her perfect neck, disposing of the opposition with a few swift karate moves. I can’t keep the thread; I’m forever losing the plot. And then there are the images that simply overwhelm and I wonder if we’ve all lost the plot. Tragic pictures of people, their lives shattered by earthquakes and floods, pathetic wide eyed children with swollen bellies, weeping women swathed in black with sad eyed men and children against a back drop of smoke and rubble. And these images are not always from far off places. Some of them are in our own back yard.

With the days closing in early and the sun reluctant to get up in the morning, winter can be a gloomy time for some. I am, however, one of the lucky ones, able to get outside, to walk with numb fingers and an icy nose, and to see and breathe in and listen to the richness of the world around us. And when it all seems “too much” and our prospects bleak, a walk through the bush can be a wonderful tonic. We don’t have to wait until spring!

I wouldn’t live anywhere else....how fortunate we are.


(This should have been printed in the May 2008 Whisper but was not due to a mistake on my part. – Ned Noel, editor)

I don’t pay much attention to real estate movements around here but every now and again I am surprised at just how many places have changed hands in the years we have been here. Now we’re comparative “new chums” with only twelve years of Wamboin history but the thought of ever shifting, sprucing up the property for sale, nailing the “for sale” sign to the letter box and then waiting for a buyer has always filled me with horror. I’m too scarred from my former gypsy life to ever willingly contemplate a change, and so I was taken aback when I discovered that friends who’d arrived here at about the same time as we did were quietly upping stakes and moving.

In the relatively short time that we’ve all been here there have been many changes in our area. When we first arrived it was a wetter period, and we had a robust cottage garden around the house. The creek flats were squelchy underfoot and the few kangaroos kept a discreet distance. Walking across paddocks where now there are roads I’d found low stone walls, all that remained of a miner’s camp, and nearby an abandoned shaft filled with water. The scribbly gums bore the scars of early timber cutters and small scattered dams, scratched in the shaley dirt, watered native animals now, rather than flocks of sheep. Long before we arrived the creek flat had been an Aboriginal hunting ground, with the old trees on the rise hanging low, providing perfect cover for the hunters. The few trees on the flat had only grown after the hunters had long since disappeared.

People come and go, and there are always changes; some we like and some we don’t. Some people make their mark, others simply vanish. Our little community has changed over the years and now it’s time to farewell a couple who have, without fuss or fanfare, initiated changes in our community which have helped to make it a better place. They may quietly make their exit, but their legacy will remain.

Call it inertia... I wouldn’t live anywhere else....


(We missed out this month due to an editorial oversight. The May Muse appeared in the June Whisper.)


Easter is a special time of the year. For me it is the watershed between summer and winter. This year, with Easter being so early and summer refusing to go away, I thought the Easter bunny might have been very hot and sweaty getting about his deliveries. But we were all saved. Good Friday dawned respectfully bleak, and it got colder as the day grew longer. We lit our first fire for the season and kept it stoked all weekend wondering why we began to feel uncomfortably hot. The moon was at its brightest, whitest best and suffused the garden with a light that made the last of the roses at the front steps glow. Saluting the end of summer, the gums stripped off their brown and tattered coats and left them in an untidy mess on the ground. But in the moon light their naked creamy trunks shone with brilliance. By day and by moonlight we did our best to pay homage to the rampant cocoa bean but I drew the line at chocolate hot cross buns. I would have preferred the cockatoos and rosellas to have developed a taste for chocolate, but they ignored the little eggs in the garden, forgotten from the Easter egg hunt, and quietly set about shredding the Chinese elms until there was a thick carpet of green on the ground below. It was a beautiful Easter, and then it got even better; it rained!

Autumn started, then faltered and now it seems to be with us again. The leaves that hung on are starting to change from green to yellow and red, and the rosehips on the briar roses are already bright splashes of red and orange. I feel a little guilty admiring them, and the exquisite scotch thistle and other noxious plants that provide colour and charm but despite our efforts to remove them they still appear in unexpected places. And it seems churlish, in this mellow season, to condemn anything that has made it through summer. Easter time is indeed a special time of the year. I wouldn’t live anywhere else....


There’s no point pretending that I can sleep any longer. The kookaburras have noisily proclaimed a new day and their enthusiasm is catching. They’ve stirred a distant magpie into life and upset a tone deaf cockatoo. Now the little music makers have joined in, trilling and twittering. Another day has dawned, ending the last of our official summer and heralding sweet autumn. Not that we can complain about the summer we’ve just had. The beautiful crisp mornings of late have felt more like autumn, anyway, but there could yet be some surprises in store. I’m never confident that summer is over until we’ve had our first frost.

Life can turn up some surprises, and challenge you in ways never imagined. In recent months I’ve heard myself saying, quite often, “but that’s life!” It’s not the stuff of television. It’s real and sometimes raw and it’s what is happening now. In the last few weeks I’ve spent some time travelling to and fro. I almost feel like Snow White awaking from a hundred year sleep. Suddenly, Sutton Road is throbbing with huge trucks, snarling along the tarmac without a trace of humour or goodwill. They seem oblivious to anything but the strip of black tar ahead. And that black tar hasn’t much to recommend itself, either. It looks like a poorly conceived patchwork quilt thrown over a lumpy unmade bed, and feels as comfortable as the princess’ bed with the pea under the mattresses.

But driving our lumpy, frayed edged, cluttered and narrow roads made safe by lowered speed limit signs, I have had occasion to think about what makes our little neck of the woods so special. I may be a little odd, but I love the notice board at the bottom of Norton road. I like to share someone’s birthday greetings, alert myself to be on the lookout for the lost loved family pet, ponder about the next resting place for the lounge suite or the new stable for the aged car. I’ve even known someone who bought a house after responding to a for sale notice for a piano. And the monthly markets are another of our treasures. A chance to catch up with friends, fill your baskets with fresh local produce and buy a few more roses for the kangaroos. There’s also the church, the community hall and fire shed. All places where the community comes together.

My tomatoes are finally getting some colour, those thorny feral blackberry bushes are yielding sweet berries for jam, there are mushrooms to be gathered and apples falling off trees. The timely rain has kept the garden fresh and the birds saved me from having to make plum jam. Life is full of surprises. I wouldn’t live anywhere else!


The Christmas crowds had departed and I had some time to wander around my neglected garden. It’s been a kind summer, to date, and the garden looks surprisingly good from a distance thanks mainly to to the saviours of a summer garden, agapanthus, gladioli and daisies. But a closer inspection revealed many holes. I decided to fill a few of them with lettuce seedlings. Sadly the lettuces failed to thrive. I later discovered, while flicking through a magazine, that I had miguidedly planted them at the wrong phase of the moon....and then realised that the hen that ate them must have read the same article!

Animals are part and parcel of why we live here. The reason we moved in the first place was because we had a dog, not any old dog, but a “free to good home” gem. When I saw the ad in the paper all those years ago, I immediately conjured up the image of a small, short haired, non dribbling little thing to sniff and shuffle around our suburban back yard. Mort was everything but. He was large, pure white, except for a few dalmation spots on one ear, long haired and performed the most amazing airborne tricks. And he didn’t dribble, he slobbered. He was definitely unsuitable....but he captured our hearts.

Very quickly Mort realised that we were being stifled in the “burbs” and needed space for our spirits to grow. So he moved us to Wamboin and settled in as if born to the life. He led our walks through the bush, he retrieved logs of wood, bounding back to us with them in his mouth and then kindly dropping them on our feet, swam in the dam regardless of the season and slept on the Turkish rug beside the fire at night as was his due. Once he rescued a gosling that had been caught in a thunderstorm and carried it to safety in his mouth. He allowed the kangaroos to have free run of the garden, only feigned annoyance when a magpie tried to share his bone and kept a firmly closed eye on our property while soundly asleep. We took him to a kennel for a holiday on one, and only one occasion. He walked around sniffing the enclosures with interest, cast a pitying eye on the incumbents and then wagged his tail as if to say the inspection was over. We left with misty eyes and the sound of his indignant yelps ringing in our ears. Mort taught us about youth, middle age, and then what it was like to grow old. His eyes and ears dimmed, but he kept his dignity and trusted us to ensure that his well earned rights and privileges would be upheld. But Mort had one habit that was to be his downfall; he loved cars. He loved riding in cars and greeting cars. And on this occasion we let him down.

And so we have to create another garden, a garden where Mort’s spirit can run free, where the kangaroos and wallabies will visit under the cover of darkness, where birds can build their nests and feed, and where the only holes will be those that Mort has left in our hearts.

I wouldn’t live anywhere else.....I never had a choice.



It is never easy getting away from Wamboin. Apart from the chore of packing suitcases, there are the animals and garden to consider; finding holiday homes for an assortment of aged animals, trying to drought proof a sprawling garden and imposing on the goodwill of family and friends to do extra watering and keep a general eye on things. And it was especially hard in early October this year when it looked as if we would skip spring and go straight into summer. But we did get away, and after lengthy delays eventually arrived in Europe, minus our luggage and questioning the wisdom of brand loyalty when it comes to choosing an airline. On day one, without warm woollies and jet lagged, I became acutely aware that although we had arrived behind schedule, we had nevertheless arrived ahead of global warming!

We marvelled at castles perched atop rocky outcrops on river bends, we pressed ourselves against old walls to avoid cars as they rattled past like a charge of roller bladers on the narrow cobbled streets, we coveted the noisy rushing streams and rivers, savoured cold, damp air and skipped over puddles and squelched in the mud like children. But we hardly saw a bird, save for the universal pigeon underclass at railway stations, and a lone, song less blackbird in the fir outside our bedroom window. There were no clear blue skies; just uniform grey and everything viewed as if through a gossamer film. Once I glimpsed the sun but it had gone before I had time to squint. There was the feeling that the day was forever waiting to begin, and then it was evening.

And suddenly we were home, much sooner than we’d planned, and once again unburdened by luggage..... But what a wonderful homecoming. Spring had arrived in our absence. The garden was blooming, the eucalypts had grown new leaves, the sky was wide and blue, and the dawn was filled with birdsong both raucous and sweet. It was good to be home.

I wouldn’t live anywhere else....


(We seem to have missed out this month)


I like the idea of pottering in the garden; waking after a night of gentle soaking spring rain to a dazzling morning with only a hint of a breeze, pausing only to snip here and sniff there and becoming absorbed in a spot of therapeutic weeding. Peace....only broken by the twitter of darting wrens and the brilliant red flash of a pair of rosellas. It’s a nice idea, but maybe next year.

I’ve spent a lot of time in the garden over the last few days, not pottering but labouring. I’ve been weeding and shovelling mulch and battling gales that whip your sensible hat off your head and send it cart wheeling down the hill. And when you’re not scrabbling for your hat you’re wiping grit and dust from your eyes. The other night I was awakened by a few sharp notes of rain on the iron roof. I had barely time to blink before it was gone, ushered off by a growl of thunder. It was just enough to let the weatherman off the hook with the promise of a “possible shower”.

The ground is very dry but the plants don’t seem too bothered, just yet. The wattles and daffodils are fading, their happy yellows giving way to the pinks and mauves of daisies and diosmas. The viburnum bushes look like they are covered in white crocheted doyleys; there are still blue splashes of rosemary and masses of rich, rusty red wallflowers, sadly without the perfume of yesteryear. But the magnificent crab apple takes the prize; a frenzy of pink and white froth and bubble, trembling in the wind. Weeding has thrown up a few surprises that are not exactly therapeutic. When you are bent double under a bush, intent on getting every last offending weed, to catch sight of a black scaly shape in your peripheral vision can cause the pulse rate to soar. I was glad the creatures I encountered grew legs, and were too sleepy to be interested in me.

Spring is a busy time for gardens and gardeners, and especially so this year. And I haven’t even started on our strenuous clean up in time for the bonfire, Bonfire night with its spectacular pyrotechnics and food stalls, the WOW’s first birthday party or anything else that keeps me off the streets of Wamboin.

I wouldn’t live anywhere else....and surely only posers would “potter” in a garden. Real gardeners sweat!


(This episode was duplicated in the October 2007 Edition, just for good measure)

A glorious spring day, the sort that tugs and tugs at you until you give in and find yourself in the garden, idly pulling a few weeds and marvelling at the change a few warm days can make. It’s still officially winter, but you wouldn’t know it. Suddenly the yellow daffodils are out with their cheeky smiles, gladdening hearts, and the lenten roses have emerged, almost bashfully, in the middle of last years fraying leaves. Despite the winter ravages of our resident wallaby, the purple, pink and white violets have held on and are everywhere now, their sweet perfume blending with winter honeysuckle to fill the warming air. But there’s another garden smell, heavy and pervading that dispels romance and yet is part of spring. One needs a discerning nose and determination to filter out the rich aroma of pelletised chook poo and only smell the violets!

And while I’ve been busy with the secateurs, assisted at times by my over enthusiastic sulphur crested friends, I’ve noticed that the kookaburras are back, the bees are humming and the little twittering wrens are dipping into their spring wardrobe. There’s a wonderful feeling of timelessness and renewal in the natural world at the moment and it feels good to be part of it. But I still like to think I’m part of the twenty first century, too. Telecom has a way, however, of reminding you of who really is the boss.

A recent, theatrical thunderstorm, that was the sole justification for the rain gauge this August, also wiped out our telephone line. Now there have been times when I have dreamed of a telephone free world, and longed for a day unsummoned and undisturbed to just potter in the garden, but I’ve wanted it at my convenience. This silence occurred just when we desperately needed a phone, and it went on for four days. Fortunately we had email, but I felt like a deaf mute, perched atop a hill, sending off smoke signals into a thick fog. I guess I should have been grateful that we had mobile coverage if we drove to the top of the next hill!

I wouldn’t live anywhere else....the natural world keeps me happily shackled and I’ve already filled my calendar for the afternoon, spreading mulch in the garden. But there’s the telephone.....and there goes my mulching . Thank you Mr Telecom for your efficiency and service!


“Grandma! Your creek is working just like ours!” shouted our incredulous three year old. He’d never seen a creek “working” before and even though I had, I felt his joy and wonder, with an added dose of relief thrown in. The holes and depressions have filled, the dam is full and as I look out through the eerie, dripping fog I know, come spring, there’ll be some green grass as well. Now there are intricate black pictures drawn on the top of silver dams at the end of the day, happy ducks, and an impatient frog can be heard, starting its warm up exercises in readiness for the nightly A Capella choir performance. Although we haven’t had even half enough rain, it has been enough to lift sagging shoulders and put a smile on everyone’s faces.

On Sunday afternoon I was navigating my way through the post football crowds at one of our far flung airports. I thought of Wamboin and summer as I joined the long snaking queue to the check in counter. Once through that I realised I had to queue again in another even longer snake to get through security. I wasn’t feeling especially kindly towards the competing throng, but it seemed surprisingly cheerful. Maybe there’d been a victory or perhaps the throng had seen the inane “Have a nice day”, flashed up on the screen before I had, and were obediently complying. Finally it was my turn. The red illuminated sign issued an instruction ...“lay your bag on the conveyor”. That was too much! I wanted to tell someone that only my chooks could lay, and they laid eggs, not bags.....but there was no one to listen. I needed home.

Home, I found, was very much colder but the welcome was warm, the fire was glowing and to my delight the chooks had laid; there was the first egg for the new season. Although I had fed them corn on the advice of a knowledgeable chook owner, to warm them up and keep the eggs coming, they had obeyed the signs of the daylight hours and refused to be seduced by mere corn. They had laid on time.

The creek has subsided from a torrent to a dribble, and now it is quietly resting and seeping. Bulbs are stirring and on some of the little brown wrens there is a hint of blue. Winter is beginning to lose its grip.

I wouldn’t live anywhere else.......


At long last....a real winter! What a thrill to wake up to an icy morning sparkling with a million diamonds, listen to the steady drum of rain on the iron roof, drive through an eerie, unreal world of fog and watch snowflakes, like whispers, fall to the whitening ground. It’s the season for red cheeks, damp noses and warm woolly jumpers. I’ve even been forced to clean out a few cupboards and drawers and spend some time indoors.

However, I’ve also spent a little time this month in waiting rooms, flicking through glossy and some less than glossy magazines. I now think I’ve caught up with who is in love, who is out of love, who is sporting a baby bump and who has the current trophy child. But I am still puzzled as to how these beautiful people can possibly get out of bed in the morning, let alone hold down a job and look after their garden. And I’m getting mighty tired of hearing that sixty is the new forty. It makes me want to tear out my grey streaked hair!

At forty I didn’t have a retired husband, grandchildren, decrepit animals and twenty acres for the sole pleasure of mobs of kangaroos and marauding rabbits. I did have a couple of teenagers, but on the plus side, I had a job that gave me status, someone to clean the house and energy to burn. I didn’t need to invest much time or money at the hairdresser, shopping for clothes was fun, I could and did eat anything I fancied without dire consequences and a pleasurable run around the block with the dog was just that...a pleasure. And now I think I’ve earned my stripes. I feel the same inside as I did when I was forty, but I don’t look forty anymore and I don’t feel forty, and neither do I wish to. I’ve had my turn and now it’s time to bow out gracefully and let the real forty year olds have their turn.

The frost has thawed, the fog has lifted and the rain has given way to a brilliant blue sky. I can’t wait to get into the garden, pull a few weeds for the idle chooks, shovel some dirt and get a wheelbarrow load of wood for the fire tonight. And at the end of another wonderful day I’ll share dinner with our grandchildren and feel truly sixty!

I wouldn’t live anywhere else......


The garden has had to look after itself for most of this month, and it has done remarkably well without my interference. There are masses of whites and creamy whites; viburnums, potato vines, daisies and snapdragons, correas and westringias, catching the early morning sun as the fog lifts. And in amongst them, the leaves of the may bush look warmly autumn and a few bedraggled winter iris are poking through. Black cockatoos are back again, rising and falling like a wave of black velvet in the sky, masking their evil intent. I’m happy to see them around providing they stay on the other side of the creek.

Earlier this month we accompanied an elderly friend who was looking for a new car. As she was debating the merits of a small European number, I wandered over to look at its big brother. Nice! Immediately I could picture myself in it as I slid behind the wheel and made myself comfortable in the pale leather luxury. Suddenly I was purring along Norton Road, cocooned and oblivious to the smells and the outside temperature, skimming over potholes and hardly registering the broken edges of the road. There were no kangaroos poised ready to jump out in front of me and no cyclists clinging to the frayed edges of the bitumen to be avoided as a blind corner appeared. Bliss! Maybe it was time to finally ditch the battered old station wagon and update our image.

But Wamboin has a way of pricking your bubble. When I was feeding the chooks the next morning I became eerily aware, as I rattled the feed bin, that something was amiss. There was no sound from Lena. Lena, like Pavlov’s dog, would bleat on cue when she heard the clank of metal. Today there was silence. I investigated and in an instant I knew why. Our poor “lamb”, for she is at least eight years old, was standing motionless, head hung low, eyes glazed and blood saturating her black wool. The back and side of her neck were torn open. It was horrible. Lena needed the vet. This was poor defenceless Lena whom we’d had since a lamb, who’d sat on the kids’ laps and watched TV with us, who’d slowly recovered after losing her mate in an attack years ago, who’d given her fleece to me so I could knit a scarf and who had represented her flock at each Christmas nativity play while the lone shephered watched.

As she was being lifted into the back of the old station wagon, hardly pausing before she showered it with calling cards, I suddenly had a vision of another car. How could we have carried a shocked and bleeding sheep in the backseat of a stylish, gleaming European number. Despite their age and bumps and bruises, our trusty models are a mobile testimony to their endurance and versatility.

I wouldn’t live anywhere else.....Mind you, I still wouldn’t say no to a flash car, but the problem is, with the cost of feeding one lamb these days we’ll never have the necessary funds......and especially when the vet has assured us that Lena will be good for another eight years!


According to Wamboin folklore, you light your first fire for the season on ANZAC day. This year we had a fire on ANZAC’s eve, but we did have a false start a few weeks earlier when I had to scramble to remove the long forgotten Christmas decorations from the firebox and scratch around for kindling. The tinsel and baubles, which had sparkled and been ignored for most of summer had to be packed away in a box probably to be forgotten entirely by next Christmas. The year is rolling on.

It has been a perfect autumn if one can overlook the obvious lack of rain. The reds, maroons, oranges and golds of the northern hemisphere trees are spectacular, especially when sprinkled amongst the straggly, undisciplined green greys of the local bush; bold and transient in contrast to the unassuming and resilient. And as the warm colours spin and flutter to the ground and are replaced by naked branches, we are reminded that winter is not very far off.

But here’s a story to warm the cockles of your heart and numbing toes as the days grow shorter and the nights grow longer and colder. It’s a story that could only happen in the Vicar of Dibley’s parish.....or in Wamboin. Two souls, both in their autumn years, one like a sudden summer heatwave, the other like the glow of a warm winter’s fire, met, chatted over a good cup of coffee at our markets, and have discovered the joys of spring. One is a champion of all “down on their luck” creatures, whether feathered or furred, and the other more interested in bloodlines and breeding, and making fine cheese....but both have a smile on their faces.

We might never again achieve our average monthly rainfall, and an early winter’s chill might spell the end of my still ripening tomatoes, but nothing can detract from a good love story.

I wouldn’t live anywhere else.....not even in Dibley where I’m sure it still rains.


Cool morning mists, mushrooms, softening light, sparkling dew covered grass.... these are the delights of our autumn, but there have been days, less welcomed, when we have been flung rudely back into summer. After the first rain early in the month I felt brave enough to poke my nose about in the garden. It was a shock. I felt like a Londoner emerging from an air raid shelter during the blitz with the “all clear” still ringing in my ears. What the drought hadn’t napalmed, the rabbits, hares and kangaroos had conspired to destroy. But it’s nothing short of miraculous what an inch of steady soaking rain can do. Suddenly you become aware again of the reason for living here.

But there’s yet another reason to be here, and that’s the almost total absence of junk mail in your letter box. Fortunately the local kids are too smart to be hoodwinked into believing that they can make their first million pedalling a bicycle around, posting advertising glossies in your box. However, the occasional brochure does fall out of the newspaper, and the other morning I found myself flipping idly through the pages of one. It was full of glamorous young things feigning exercise, lifting weights, walking treadmills and simulating jogging. Dressed in luminous, figure hugging lycra, skimpy shorts or colour coordinated outfits not one showed any sign of working up an honest sweat. It seemed in stark contrast to the fitness conscious types, seen, and unseen in the predawn blackness, around our neck of the woods.

There’s a small group of determined walkers who are out on a Friday morning, pounding the roadside tracks. Disguised in sensible hats, and with not an inch of lycra stretched between them, their nearly middle aged legs appear to move in perfect harmony with their mouths. It’s only when they chance upon a rotting carcass, peppered by an unusually hot autumn sun, that they can be observed quickening their pace and slowing their mouths. Oh! The sights and delights, and the overwhelming smells of a country walk.

I wouldn’t live anywhere else......where else could you enjoy good company and exercise, inhale the autumn air, albeit with caution, and not give a tinkers cuss whether your socks are a matching pair or not.


Recently I had cause to ring a mobile phone company on behalf of a younger family member who is overseas. I obediently followed all the prompts, but did pause to wonder why a simple phone call had aroused such excitement from the sweet young voice on the end of the line. I thought she may have been rehearsing for The Young and the Restless. Then, when I was finally connected to something that was living and breathing, I had the greatest difficulty decoding what he was saying. He was speaking my mother tongue, I believe, but at lightning speed and with words that I had never before encountered. I felt old and bewildered.

Apart from the “foreign” language, I am puzzled as to how anyone can get so excited about a mobile phone. I see them as a convenient tool, at best, and an intrusion, at worst. In my day we had yo yos and a bag of marbles to keep us amused and we were told it was rude not to look at someone when you spoke to them. But times change and so does the English language. This fact has become clearly evident in our little part of the world. No longer do you greet your neighbour with a “Gidday”, or a “How are you”. Now we say, “Wotja get?” And ... what did you get?

Like everyone else, I have been watching the afternoon skies build massive bubbles of cloud, then darken ominously only to slip away to the north or the south or to the east or the west and leave us in brilliant sunshine. We would be teased with a few heavy drops or a distant rumble of thunder but nothing more. I began to think we were beng punished for daring to challenge the uneven and exorbitant Council rates hike. But last night we got it. Not a flood, not even “heavy soaking rain”, but enough to see it in the rain gauge without your glasses. Already I can hear the grass stirring and the kangaroos sighing with relief that soon gladioli and canna leaves can be crossed off their impoverished menu. Even the magpies can dare to imagine a fat juicy worm instead of dog pellets.

I wouldn’t live anywhere else...mind you I began to have some doubts for a while... but now the rain has found us. What a welcome change! (Wamboin Muse ends)

Tourist Mecca. Spotted in the vicinity of Canning Close . . . . a car load of well heeled German tourists. They’d been told to come to Wamboin if they wanted to see kangaroos. Had they heard about our mobs of kangaroos on the grapevine, or is the word “wamboin” in the German English dictionary listed as meaning “an Aboriginal word for kangaroo”?


There are two colours that are good for my soul, blue and green. I have been soaking up the beauty of these in recent weeks. Sparkling stretches of water reflecting a clear, wide blue sky bordered by a thin line of white sand running into mottled green beneath spreading eucalypts. I was like a child let loose in a lolly shop. I couldn’t get enough of it. Then, in a short, dark night, I was carried across the slumbering continent and spat out the other end into the bright, bleak landscape of home. Dusty bare paddocks, crinkled brown leaves, strips of bark hanging lifelessly from tree trunks, and at the road’s edge, kangaroos looking like groteque statues, undignified in death. It was good to be home but even Pollyanna had a few reservations this time.

Feeling quietly patriotic on Australia Day, however, I thought of Dorothea McKellar’s poem about our love for a sunburnt country. I couldn’t muster much enthusiasm, though, for the sunburnt image as I looked at the forlorn view from my window. Somehow her disdain for “ordered woods and gardens” seemed like something I’d rather have running through my veins at the moment. And as for “drought and flooding rains’, the former has been grossly overdone, and the latter remains but a distant memory. Once the creek roared, boiling and frothing, and the dam spilled over the top. Once, I recall, you needed gum boots to wade along the creek flats, and the ground was too wet to plant vegies for months. Once there were water holes with yabbies and frogs. Now the lone frog calls to its mate from the plastic fish pond, and the kangaroos ignore us as they feed on the remnants of violets and rose bushes. At least their sad brown eyes seem to be saying “thank you” for providing a few green stalks in a desert.

But just when it all seems too much, I spy from my kitchen window, a galah, two magpies, a rosella and a wattle bird all drinking from the same bird bath. On a nearby branch a third magpie is singing a most unmagpie like song and the old black chook announces noisily the arrival of yet another big brown egg. It’s not all gloom.

I wouldn’t live anywhere else....I do love our sunburnt country, but enough’s enough. Bring on the “flooding rains”.



It feels like the end of summer, it certainly looks like the end of summer, but according to my calendar, spring has a few more days to run. I was beginning to think that we’d missed a season this year, but as if to prove me wrong, we had four seasons within a week in the middle of the month. Out came the doonas and the not quite mothballed jumpers, and I watched soft flakes of snow flutter down. The cold snap and accompanying rain washed away all gloom for a day or so. If only I’d been more prepared, I might have snatched that window of opportunity to boil my Christmas pudding but alas, I hadn’t thought of soaking the dried fruits at that stage. I fear the fruit will be very well soaked this year, waiting for a cool day to cook it.

I’m trying to keep up the watering, but it’s a balancing act. Yet, if you don’t look too closely, the garden is still rather pretty. Most of the roses have faded, those that withstood the nightly invasion, but there is plenty of cheer. The petunias are flowering, the potato vine is covered with white, there is lavender and the yellow curry bushes have begun to flower. Some plants, which in better times I had pulled out because they were “weeds” are now providing wonderful cover and depth. A weed, afterall, is only relative. I’ve even got one lupin flowering and although the kangaroos have been reduced to raiding petunias, the petunias are holding their own. One surprise is to discover that the agapanthus are already forming heads. I’ve never had agapanthus at Christmas. We wont have potatoes, though. We only got around to planting the last of them, yesterday.

But looking beyond the garden and the dry creek bed, and focussing on things other than drought, I’ve started walking with the Wobbles. It is amazing what you can learn when you walk through the bush. I’ve learned a lot more about the nature of fires and how to be more prepared around your home. I’ve been introduced to nanotechnology, the best way to plant potatoes, eucalypt identification and gained a few tips on chook husbandry. As a consequence, one family member has been getting more exercise than a month at the gym, moving woodpiles and raking up leaf and bark litter, the chooks are now laying again, and I’m about to begin my second lesson in nanotechnology! I didn’t realise that our morning throng of birds, magpies, choughs, galahs and parrots to name a few, had been terrorising the chooks. A new nesting box has made all the difference. The lawnmower no longer has its grass catcher, but there’s no lawn to mow, now, anyway! I’ve also found out about the original farming family in our area, and a mulberry tree that they brought from England, as a cutting, which is still bearing fruit…and what’s more, the juice doesn’t stain.

As the “Silly Season” looms and there are cakes and puddings to be made, rooms to reconfigure and beds to be found for the sudden influx of happy holiday bodies, I am reminded that it really is the time to be jolly, and I jolly well intend to be just that.

I wouldn’t live anywhere else…..and let’s face it, I haven’t a hope of doing otherwise, at least until after Christmas. Have a happy and joyful Christmas.


I counted forty different types of flowering shrubs and plants when I walked around my garden one mid October morning.The air was crisp and clean, so good that you felt compelled to breathe deeply, the sky an innocent blue, magpies warbling and rosellas piping, and there was the sweet scent of wisteria and banksia roses. A glorious spring, like any other, except, sadly, it ended at the bottom of the garden. Beyond the exotic greens and contrived flower beds, the months of cloudless skies and sucking winds have conspired to paint a very different picture.

But there was a day that brought a lift to sagging shoulders. It rained one morning, enough to drench me on a “two dog and a cat” walk to the letter box, fill my nostrils with the rich smell of damp earth and tempt me to believe it would last all day. Alas, the wind came back and blew the clouds away and with it all traces of moisture. Ten years ago we kept our vegetable garden flourishing throughout summer with buckets of water drawn from a deep pool in the creek. This year, with summer still officially some time off, the vegetable garden is modest and the once deep pool but a murky puddle. Perhaps it was a kindly frost, afterall, that burnt the potato plants last night.

With the persistent winds and dry weather, we are being constantly reminded of the threat of bush fires. In better times, I looked at a wood pile in summer and merely thought of snakes. Now, I have to think of it as a potential bonfire. Once I relished the shade of towering eucalypts, looked with fascination at the textures created by long, straggly strands of bark hanging down their trunks and scuffed my boots in the leaf litter enjoying the crackly sound. I knew those trees protected the earth beneath, purified our air and provided a haven for a myriad of small beasties. But was I naïve. Now they seem to have become the enemy.

However, innocence is alive and well, and you can still find fairies at the bottom of the garden. I went to a four year old’s birthday party the other day. There were small creatures with wings running everywhere, flitting between the kangaroo fodder that masqueraded as rose bushes and skipping over expanses of dust, sprinkled with tufts of grass. They seemed oblivious to everything except fun and an endless procession of parcels to unwrap, fairy bread and chocolate frogs. They didn’t seem to notice that the dam was brown and shrunken as they scrabbled for a musical chair, or that the treasures were more easily found in the garden hunt because the bushes had thinned. Those fairies hadn’t been around long enough to know of better, wetter days, and were infused with small delights.

So, as I watch the last of the crab apple petals flutter to the ground like snowflakes, and wait for the aphis chewed rose buds to open, spread mulch and more mulch for the choughs to scatter and sit back while the kangaroos systematically munch through my garden, knowing that it is their god given right to do so, I know I wouldn’t live anywhere else. Where else would life present such opportunities for an optimist. And as one well known local identity was heard to say, “Why would I want rain. It would spoil a bloody good drought!”


It might be dry, almost desperately so, and it might be blowing a gale, but somehow it is hard to put a dampener on the face of spring. Each day in the garden produces a new delight. The daffodils have gone and the wattles are fading, but the crab apple, buzzing with bees, looks like a mass of pink frothy lace against the bright new leaves of the chinese elm. I’m enjoying wisterias camellias and the first irises and the soft, fresh leaves on the rose bushes. And in amongst the shrubs, the smartly dressed blue wren boys are chasing their tittering brown girls and the magpies are singing, unable to contain their joy. Lizards and goannas can be seen stretching their legs in the sun, and even their less favoured cousins have emerged, gliding noiselessly by. Everything seems to have woken from its winter sleep and found new vigour.

We have had two early morning bonfires, cleaning up in readiness for what promises to be a long, dry summer. While we were feeding the flames with dead wattles, some kangaroos hopped by, and stayed, curious to see what we were doing. I counted seventeen watching us nonchalantly from the hill. Seventeen, minus one, is sixteen, double it is thirty two, then add one, and my tally seems more accurate. Each doe has a joey, and bigamy seems quite acceptable. Sometimes you see a tiny face poking out, sometimes just a tangle of long legs.

We didn’t get our trailer loads of dead wood and prunings to the Community Bonfire this year, but our contribution was hardly missed. The pile was huge and so was the crowd that gathered for the Wamboin spectacle of the year! The Bonfire was well ablaze when the excitement began. It was a fabulous display, and every face was smiling, lit by the flames. I saw two little girls, their faces silhouetted against the light, thrilling at their first fireworks. One had brown and the other had blonde curls. With the first burst of brilliance, they clasped hands and beamed, “Isn’t this gorgeous!” Then one little hand grabbed mine and holding it tightly whispered, “Grandma, have you ever seen anything like this before?” I had to admit that I had, many times in fact, but each occasion is like the first. It never loses its magic.

Perhaps it’s spring, perhaps it’s the first market of the year, or the Bonfire or the new craft group, but for whatever reason, all things seem to be buzzing in our little patch at the moment. People are out there meeting and doing.

I wouldn’t live anywhere else….it may never rain again, and the polar ice caps may well melt, but for the moment I feel pretty happy up here at 800 metres.


I’ve long believed that if you can weather a Wamboin August, you can weather anything. I think of it as the greyest, bleakest month of the year, but once again fickle nature has proved me wrong. This year it has been a glorious preview to spring, surpassing all previous Augusts in my experience, if you can ignore the small matter of rain. Golden daffodils and creamy jonquils bring cheer to the garden, fringed by the blue tritellias, and there is the sweet perfume of winter honeysuckle and violets on the breeze. The wattles are bursting with puffs of yellow and the flowers of the Manchurian pear trees are swelling with promise. Colour has at long last returned to my garden. Spring is about to take flight.

With the lengthening days, the girls have decided that it’s time to earn their keep and contribute to gross domestic product. I introduced Ralph, a fine young fellow, to redress the gender imbalance, but they’ve shown scant interest in him. They are career girls, born and bred, driven to achieve, goal oriented, with no time for dalliances. But one, though duty bound, is different. She’s a good layer, but an habitual escaper. Despite her clipped wings, she manages to fly the coop and savour her freedom in the garden. With great dedication she has succeeded in turning over the beds, scattering my frost ravaged pansies and primula seedlings in her wake. It seems as if some creatures are simply born escapers.

Long ago, a bright green budgie flew in through an open window. Deciding he was tame, and lost, we trapped him in the room then set off to buy the Rolls Royce of cages, complete with mirrors and bells. But he was restless, forever tugging at the door. He was obviously lonely, so we bought him a blue friend. The friend proved to be a complete dud. It huddled in the corner, pale and self absorbed, ignored by the green one who continued to worry the door tirelessly. Finally, despite our best efforts, he escaped and we were left with a smart cage and a miserable bird that we had not really wanted in the first place! The green bird was never meant to be a prisoner, and neither is my spirited hen.

I wouldn’t live anywhere else…..but I’ve often wondered why I never get to finish, or even start half those inside jobs I set myself. Could it be that I, too, am an habitual escaper….When Wamboin produces sunshine in August, the good earth beckons and I flee the confines of four walls and get amongst it all.


I haven’t spent much of the past month in winter. I’ve been in T shirt territory, an empty land of red sand, blue skies and spinifex. But it was good to come home and be greeted by the kookaburra’s perverse sense of humour, just before dawn, and the magpies apologetic carol as the mercury, and I, struggled to rise. Then it was off to feed the chooks, and by default half the bird population of the southern highlands. Before I could turn my back, the chook run was full of feathers…pink and grey, brown, black and white and traces of yellow. And then the magpie chorale was drowned out by the harsh, strident squawks of the cockatoos; magnificent birds, clever, comical, mischievous, but sadly never destined for the school choir. Although not musically gifted, however, they sure know where to find us.

Cockatoos don’t seem to need a letter box number or a street sign or even balloons on a sign post to find an address, yet letters and friends quite often get lost coming here. Maybe it’s time, after ten years, to give our little patch a name. Somehow Rose Cottage, Honeysuckle Lane, didn’t ring true. Perhaps Briar Rose Cottage, Wattle Way was more authentic, but even that is a little too sweet, and Shale Quarry, though apt, is too brutal. I looked around for inspiration, and then it hit me. “The Repository”.

There, beside the old shed rests an ancient VW, donated by a friend who thought we needed a “scrub basher” for our block! Then there are the assorted trailers, tricycles and bicycles similarly bestowed. There are remnants of furniture from shared student houses, the students having long moved on, and second hand cats and dogs and the spoils of several renovations. All this, sitting comfortably beside the treasures of a career bower bird. And, as children of parents conditioned by the Depression years, we know that whatever it is, it “might come in handy one day”. This was borne out.

Early one morning we had a phone call from a shivering family member. The hot water system had died and what could be done. It was then I remembered that a year or so ago we had retrieved from a family renovation, a hot water system, destined for a Sydney tip. It was only two years old, almost new, and it “might come in handy one day”. It came home on the trusty old trailer, along with a former front fence, and disappeared up into the loft. It did indeed ‘come in handy”, saving that day…..and many more! This was not the first time “the Repository” had come to the rescue.

So, whether our little bit of Wamboin is called “Rose Cottage” or “the Repository”, there’s no place like home. I wouldn’t live anywhere else……and name or no name, the cockies, at least, will continue to find us.


It finally rained and then everything froze! But for one glorious night and day soft, soaking rain fell, filling the hollows in the creek bed and encouraging a trickle of water. The frogs responded immediately and a few worms stirred. I even felt brave enough to venture into the garden before the frosts began to bite, and grubbed around in the damp soil and sodden leaves. To my delight, I found a few forgotten hellebores and bulbs. Then I discovered a silent invader.

During the driest spells I had looked at the periwinkle almost benignly. It survived with its shiny green leaves and blue purple flowers, and like magic, spread over dusty spaces. “Care: nil”, the gardening book had said, which had convinced me that it was indeed suited to Wamboin. But while I had been preoccupied, looking to the heavens for rain, it had been creeping into areas “off limits”. Suddenly I realised that it had taken over, and was determined to keep its foothold. I pulled at it and dug and followed the trail under bushes and shrubs, but the more of it I pulled out, the more I seemed to find. What had seemed like a garden bonus a few dry months ago now seemed like a nightmare. Are there no “free lunches” in a garden? Alas, there is no magic……I even began to question the existence of the tooth fairy.

But all doubts and cynicism were dispelled on Saturday night when I arrived at the Firefighters’ Ball. The glittering ballroom was filled with characters who looked as if they’d tumbled from the pages of a fairytale book. Gumnut babies, some lofty, some able, gained credit for their costumes, and there was evan(s) a banksia man! Frogs, princesses, pigs, wolves and witches gyrated on the dance floor, dodging blind mice that became more afflicted as the night wore on. It was a wonderful, warm, wacky Wamboin occasion. But at the stroke of midnight, or thereabouts, the fantasy ended and we spilled out into the arctic night, with ice covering the puddles and frost reaching to the top of the trees.

I wouldn’t live anywhere else.......I don’t think they’d let me.


(This actually missed the June issue of The Whisper, but was printed in the July issue together with the July contribution)

One could almost believe that the weather man dozed off while his finger was still firmly pressed on the “fine and beaut” button. We have had seemingly endless days of perfect autumn weather; a light frost to put an edge on the new day, blue skies and barely a breeze to hurry along the last, lingering red leaves. Without fanfare, the purple blue winter irises have appeared and violets are poking through. An evening walk transforms the eucalypts from blue grey leaves to black lace on pale grey satin, and just for an instant you can glimpse the black silhouettes of a pen and ink sketch that an artist has carelessly thrown aside.

But you can have too much of a good thing, and even Pollyanna has her breaking point. Where is the rain. I thought last May was despairingly dry, but even with water in the dam, this May seems worse. The chooks are expressing their displeasure when I throw them lettuce leaves instead of a bundle of freshly pulled green weeds, the kangaroo is bringing her joey to the front door to trample and nibble violets because there is nothing to eat beyond the garden, and the frogs have all gone to ground. The last pool in the creek bed has disappeared. But as much as I feel for the animals, and the trees and bush, I feel for myself, too. I have a lists and lists of things, saved up to do on a rainy day. But it never rains! And while the sun shines, while the rain stays away, I have to be outside. I can’t waste it. So cupboards stay crammed and unsorted, crates of photos sit alongside empty albums, and the family history grows more complex as it remains unchronicled. My sewing machine lies idle and the stack of books on my bedside table, grows. I never get beyond the first page of anything before I fall into an exhausted sleep.

I wouldn’t live anywhere else....but where else would you complain about too much of a good thing. Would someone please rouse the weatherman…..I desperately need at least a month of rain to bring some discipline back into my life.....and the animals and bush might welcome it, too.


With the first frost and the first warming fire of the season it is farewell to the dahlias and welcome to the snarl of the chainsaw. Like fortresses, wood piles are built to ward off the coming winter. Dew drops sparkle on a morning cobweb, a towering golden ash glows in the late afternoon sun, and the chill air of evening, lit by a brilliant Easter moon, carries the scent of wood smoke. Despite the shrinking black pools in the creek bed and the clouds scurrying by, out of reach, the scribbly gums, in their fresh white trunks, stand tall above the powdery ground, their leaves filling the spaces between the reds, and oranges and honey colours of autumn.

I immediately became aware of honey when I bent down to walk under one of the chinese elms the other day. It was alive with bees. I had forgotten that our shearer friend had put some of his bee boxes at the top end of our block to catch the last of the stringy bark blossom. Those blossoms hadn’t lasted but those busy bees had found this new source of nectar and descended like a cloud. I watched them for a while and thought of a different “busy bee” that I had been part of, recently.

The local church announced a “gardening bee”. Everyone came in their best working gear, armed with gardening skills and well used secateurs and clippers, rakes, shovels and mattocks. They set to with a common purpose, determined to redeem the grounds. At the end of the day they had achieved their goal, but in so doing revealed a range of gardening styles. There was the kind and gentle, sensitive, nurturing “snipper”, who gave every leaf and petal just one more chance. Then there was the “creative cutter”, short on horticultural skills but with an artist’s eye for form, who followed. Next came the “academic pruner”, with a store of botanical names and scientific advice. Finally, there was the “slasher and burner”. She came through like a whirlwind, casting sentiment aside, and left in her wake a garden that will grow and flourish in the spring. And backstage were the drudges, who shovelled and dug and raked and sweated and earned their ice cold beer.

Autumn is the perfect time for being outdoors, for toiling and idling, for buzzing around or merely looking on. I wouldn’t live anywhere else….and where else would you find a jar of golden Wamboin honey, labelled “Stringybark”, that had a hint of the orient.


I buried Cedric this morning. He died on the back door mat near his cane perch outside the kitchen window where he has slept most nights for nearly the past eight years. He slipped quietly away while I was arranging his final car trip, this time to the vet.

He was not, as the vet had suggested, a “valuable” rooster, but one she quickly realised was priceless to us. Cedric was hatched by our favourite duck and, with his long pointed feet and sharp beak, quickly rejected as the “ugly ducking”. We scooped up this motherless fluff ball and brought him inside by the fire. His first mother was an ugg boot in a warm electric frying pan. He spent his formative years in a four bedroom nest, and followed us everywhere. When he outgrew the ugg boot, he bedded down each night in a wine cask box. His nightfall was when the cardboard flap was closed above him, and dawn was when the lid was reopened. His was a fairly flexible schedule.

Cedric grew into a fine young rooster with a full throated crow that nearly turned him inside out. He wore a golden cape around his neck, and sported natty white pantaloons which peeped below his smooth white coat. His noble wattles dangled impressively below his chin and he developed intimidating spurs. But he walked with a mincing step, and was a practised voyeur. He would tap dance around the verandah, keeping a beady, but somewhat self conscious eye on all that happened within. It was his solemn duty to patter along the wooden boards, just as the first rays of light were penetrating the night, and be the first to greet the day. His enthusiasm was boundless. We grew to love his call, but our feelings were not universally shared, especially by guests who were savouring the country quiet.

Cedric was proud, inquisitive, territorial and sometimes coy. He had no inkling that he was a rooster. He would run out, hands clasped behind his back, to greet us when he heard the car tyres crunching on the gravel, then suddenly pull back, overcome with embarrassment for revealing his emotions. He took any open car door as an invitation for a ride, and enjoyed a trip to the letterbox. He knew he wasn’t a rooster, but thought perhaps he was a dog until he got ideas above himself and in a flurry of dust and feathers the gentle Mort sorted him out. Then one day he went for a holiday, and camped with some feathered friends. He returned with a little less enthusiasm for taking his pleasures on the upturned plastic bucket and began to notice the hens. But he was never really sure of where they fitted into the grand scheme of things.

And so it was with great sadness and many tears, shared by all the family, that Ceddy was laid to rest today. He has a special place in the garden. His father lies amid the daffodils under the crab apple. His short term foster mother is beneath a thriving melaleuca, and his unclaimed brother rests close by. I have a garden of memories that make me smile......

......and I wouldn’t live anywhere else. Where else would you find such therapy digging, albeit burial holes, in your garden ......And thank you Ceddy for choosing to fall off your perch after such a protracted dry spell......digging in the hard ground added to my therapy.


I suggested to my two most special little people the other afternoon that it was a good time to go across the creek and pick apples. Picking apples makes me think of mellow autumnal skies, pretty straw hats and baskets. We set off, however, in stout, snake proof boots with sensible canvas hats, sunscreened noses and a clutch of recycled plastic bags. But the image wasn't spoiled when we came back with bulging bags and the knowledge that we'd beaten the rosellas and left behind a few discarded apple cores for the kangaroos. Every now and then we are teased with the prospect of autumn and sense that the long, hot days of summer are losing their grip. Not that it's been a bad summer, if you can discount marauding grasshoppers and hail storms and a blackout or two. But I always prefer to see the back of summer.

We lost a dear friend the other day. Newly retired, and at the threshold of his "golden years", he won’t see the seasons change again. And as I was busy swapping eggs for tomatoes across the creek, and potatoes for basil up the hill, and comparing respective rain gauges and hail damage, I began to think, yet again, about the transition from being "in the workforce", valued, purposeful, defined by your job, to being "retired"; being on the treadmill or suddenly off it; superseded by the latest model. Some of us never have to retire from our jobs, some are fortunate to withdraw gradually from employment, but many of us simply get the chop. Needed one minute, abandoned the next. And perhaps this is where gardens and growing things may be so important. To quote TE Brown, "A garden is a lovesome thing, God wot!"....especially when the tomatoes, as one, turn red, the apples plead to be plucked and the figs ripen with a flourish, all demanding to be eaten or preserved this instant. You feel so needed!

I wouldn't live anywhere else.......I just wish that I could remember where I have been so carefully stowing all those glass jars for the next fruit season.


You can tell a local from a tourist when they turn off Sutton Road into Norton Road. Locals slow down and wander to the left. They’re checking the community notice board, the country equivalent of the town crier, the updated message stick, the suburban “back fence”. It reminds you that the produce market is on this Saturday, announces significant birthdays, lost dogs, pianos for sale, houses for rent, homecomings, eggs, if you bring your own cartons, and surplus donkeys and roosters. It lets you know that you can choose between church this Sunday, or golf. But unlike the fearless town crier who spreads the news rain, hail or shine, our notice board, like the rest of us, is at the mercy of the weather. At the first pilates session of the new year, numbers were down. Perhaps the rain had prematurely washed the board clean.

Our new year started with a rush of visitors, some not always welcome. First there was the invasion of the midgie-like Rutherglen bug, undeterred even by screens at the window and vying for space in my bed, and then there was the creeping wave of grasshoppers. I battled with my lettuce seedlings. After a few days they were frilled by nibbling hoppers, then what remained was scorched by the burning sun. I set up shadecloth, but forgot to remove it before the spectacular hail storm hit. The shadecloth collapsed under the weight of the ice, and those plants not crushed were shredded. But the creek gushed again with incredible energy, brown and foaming with our neighbours’ precious topsoil, and flushed out the stagnant pools sending the frogs into a frenzy of excitement.

But the capricious recent weather has had little impact on my life compared to the power of the community noticeboard. Who would have thought that a response to a “for sale” sign and a subsequent, comfortable “Wamboin chat” would lead not just to the acquisition of a piano but ultimately the relocation of family from Sydney to our fair hamlet. We may be in the era of electronic communications, but chalk still talks.

I wouldn’t live anywhere else…..and maybe my message is getting through, too.



The kangaroos are letting me down. The big boys may have provided me with a few sparring spectacles, and much huffing and puffing and snorting and grunting, but they’re not doing their job. The grass is getting out of control! Now the incessant bleating of the baby galahs, scarcely smaller than their mums and dads, competes with the snarl of mowers and snippers, and only the determined carol of the magpie rises above the din. What an amazing spring it has continued to be after a numbing summer and autumn. My garden is buzzing; birds abound and there are long stemmed roses, poppies, marigolds and all sorts of surprises. I saw a tortoise hastening slowly to the dam, an echidna all abristle and lizards trying out new poses in the sun. There have been a few less than welcome visitors, however, long, thin and glistening brown, and somewhere a very fat egg thief is lurking. I’ve become quite adept at vaulting the fence and scooping up a still warm egg whenever I hear a “pleased- with- myself” cackle from the coop. But I don’t always win the race.

While everywhere nature is restoring and re creating and renewing its imprint on the drought ravaged land, I’ve noticed a new sign of our presence. A stone wall has appeared at the little church on the hill; a remembrance wall. This caused me to stop and think about all the other man made creations in our community, and the people who’ve been involved over the years. But it’s not just the tangible things like roads and trails, halls, houses and sheds, fences and walls or the gardens, groves and sports fields, but the organisations which have endured the hard times, helping to give us a sense of belonging. While nature may box us pretty soundly about the ears, at times, we can still maintain a presence.

And now it’s time to jingle some bells and deck the halls with holly. Hark! Is that an angel singing? No, just one of the young girls announcing that I now have sufficient eggs for the Christmas cake.

I wouldn’t live anywhere else.... and as I soar over the chicken wire, I breathe a fervent wish for Santa to build me a gate in the chook run for Christmas.


When I was a child and was asked the standard question, “What is your favourite colour?” I always answered, “Green.” I endured the life sapping dry heat of summer, waiting for the first rains of winter to restore the landscape. Winter’s green promised a good wheat crop and relief all round. It wasn’t until I’d lived a few years in a land of perpetual green that I began to see some beauty in a brown and bleached landscape, but I still preferred green. Now as I look around I can’t believe the many colours of green that the rain has bestowed on us.There are bright greens and soft greens, lime greens, olive greens, blue greens and grey greens. My garden and beyond is a riot of green. And amongst all this green the cream banksia roses are scrambling out of control, pansies are poking up their cheeky faces and irises abound. The glorious rain.... and perhaps a few bags of chook pellets broadcast in early spring…have worked their magic.

We’ve planted potatoes, lettuce, tomatoes and spinach, and if my calculations are correct, we should have a hundredweight of potatoes for Christmas. Anyone for a festive potato pudding? And although my own garden is flourishing, it was fun to go to the first Wamboin produce market of the season and purchase some locally grown goodies. I went home with an armful of leeks, fresh milk and fetta cheese, and with eggs from our own girls, and a little imported smoked trout, whipped up a wonderful quiche.

As well as digging and planting, we’ve been trying to clean up for the fire season, but it has been difficult to burn off with the recent rain. Fortunately, the Community Bonfire came to the rescue and we watched our contribution flame as the fireworks screamed and whizzed and banged and lit up the night sky. I was standing beside an old, “seen it all” country boy, and his involuntary, “Wow!” echoed mine. It was an outstanding show, almost on par with nature’s recent sound and light spectacles. It is, indeed, a spectacular spring. Energy abounds....

I wouldn’t live anywhere else.... fancy not being able to burn off because the creek flat is too wet and all around the grass is long and green! Is this really Wamboin?


In the last month, a blank canvas has been transformed into a masterpiece, and I have sat back in awe. And while the painter has been applying his brush, the conductor has been summoning his orchestra. The ground beneath the prunus is covered in a pink confetti that has drifted down from the frothy blossoms above. There’s a blue wren dressed in the new season’s colours, and a watchful lizard soaking up the sun on a warming rock. An echidna bumbles through the violets on a very important mission, a polished ebony shingle back slides under the bushes, eyes averted, and a pair of frogs rehearse all night outside my bedroom window to the accompaniment of massed choirs. And everywhere there is a fresh greenness. When I wander through the garden, deadheading the crumpled daffodils, secateurs in one hand, glass in the other, I am reminded of an old entry in the Canberra Times gardeners’ column, which exhorted us in the “Things to Do” section, to “fill the bird baths”. It seemed somewhat trite and indulgent at the time, but this week I did just that. Everything else seemed to have been done for me. It’s a garden of “goodwill”.

Which brings me to another goodwill story that I’d like to share with you. A local chap made a quick dash to Queanbeyan for some supplies, leaving his sick wife at home in bed. Now we all know that a “quick trip to Queanbeyan” is pure fantasy, these days, with our Sutton Road workers’ motto, “If at first you don’t succeed…..dig it up.” So imagine his chagrin when he got to the checkout with his trolley, slapped his back pocket and realised his wallet was still on the dressing table. “Never mind,” said the obliging woman on the checkout, “Leave your stuff here while you nip home and get it.” “But I come from Wamboin,” he groaned, and only someone from Wamboin could understand the full impact of that admission!

“So do I,” came an unknown voice from behind. “I’ll pay for it and you can fix me up later.”

I may complain about some of my neighbours, at times…..those tunnelling bunnies, trampling kangaroos, tip pruning cockies, and everything else that goes munch in the night…but a spirit of good will and true neighbourliness, engendered by our environment, is surely alive and well in our community.

I wouldn’t live anywhere else.... and maybe next time I’ll be able to smile warmly at the fellow making music with his shovel as his mate paints white lines around the latest hole on Sutton Road.


A garden is like a child. If you turn your back, for an instant, it creeps up on you. This has been a month for venturing into the garden, not just to smell the sweet scent of winter honeysuckle and daphne, or to listen to the bees making music in the flowering quince, but to look more closely with secateurs and clippers at hand. I started reducing drought hardy perennials that had had their head over autumn and winter, and was surprised to see how much they had grown and just what they had overwhelmed. I found forgotten plants reduced to a few dried sticks, only recognisable by their labels. I've cut and snipped and pruned and accumulated a pile to be mulched.

It has been a beautiful August. The yellow wattles are about to burst, I heard my first thrush calling its mate, this morning, watched galahs searching for hollows in high up branches and been thrilled by the leafy reflections in dark pools. Every hollow seems to be filled with glinting water. And the sunsets have been pink and grey, like a sky of galahs.

The return of so many birds made me decide to plant the new outer bed with "bird attracting" natives. Cottage gardens are for romantics. We should come to terms with where we live. I read the labels and carefully selected the plants, and then we erected a star picket and chicken wire fence to keep out the marauding kangaroos and rabbits, just until the plants were established. I could accept the unsightly fence because soon I would have a lovely, flowing garden, linked by paths and segmented by arches, filled with native birds, chattering and piping as they flitted from grevillea to banksia. Then I turned my back, just for an instant. Unfortunately, the cockatoos crept up on me and showed their displeasure at being left off the guest list.

I wouldn't live anywhere else..... where else would you find such hopeless souls content to live with a garden shrouded in white bird netting and ringed with star pickets. But, watch out..... spring may yet rediscover the romantic in me!


I awoke, a few Saturdays ago, to a sound that I couldn’t readily identify. Then it hit me….the creek was flowing, and not just flowing, but rushing! Less than twenty four hours of steady rain had produced this. For a week I listened, with an inner glow, to that unaccustomed sound as it gradually died down to a steady flow and then a trickle, and finally stopped. But it filled the dam and left the creek pools brimming. The frogs sang praises to the heavens, the kookaburras chuckled and the wood ducks started quacking on about real estate and construction. Even the old girls seemed to rally, and popped out their first eggs to mark the new dawn.

Meanwhile, inside the house, we had gutted the kitchen and were retreating to an increasingly smaller space, living like two ancients as we hugged the hearth, awaiting the promised transformation. By demolishing the old kitchen, however, we had unwittingly upset the balance of nature. We discovered, not entirely to our surprise, a wonderful rats’ nest, complete with former occupant. We did our own “carbon dating” which revealed the age of the nest. The rat, for our benefit, had carefully shredded a TV guide announcing the final episode of Sea Change. We also discovered that there had been a mice migration in a previous age, beyond the chook coop. And suddenly, from no obvious evidence of mice in the house, we began to see their tell tale trademarks. A brand, spanking new kitchen, sullied by mice dirts would never do! “Living way out here,” the plumber replied laconically, “you would have rats and mice.”

We have a full dam, hens laying, birds singing and violets perfuming the warming air. I wouldn’t live anywhere else….so what if we have a few free loaders. That is but a small price to pay!


I love a good winter to grumble about, one where the days close in early and leaden skies, rain, sleet and traces of snow leave your more northerly cousins fearing for your survival. The gentle, wintry rain has lifted sagging shoulders and put a smile in our hearts. There is a feeling that things are stirring below the ground, and above, there are signs of life and change. New grass is peeping through, winter irises and hellebores are showing their heads and there is a scattering of violets through the garden. Buds are appearing on the flowering quince and daphne, and the duck is enjoying its own special weather. But we are not out of the woods, yet. The tank is filling, but the dam remains low.

There was a time when the dam was overflowing. Back in those days, in Yarrowlumla Shire, we had a corner shop, too. It was where you went when you desperately needed a tub of icecream for an instant family dessert, and finding none, came out with a compensatory slip of paper that said, "Geese for sale. Tel; 6238....." I wasn't keen on geese, but was reluctantly won over by the dubious claim that they were "good watch dogs". And when they arrived home, poked their sleek white heads out of the restraining chaff bags and fixed their china blue eyes on me, I was captivated. It was a picture lifted from a Beatrix Potter book. But their charm was shortlived and although they produced wonderful eggs, and fluffy goslings, their behaviour was not endearing. I find my chooks far more pleasant and between them and my compost heap, all my organic waste is recycled.

Our two old girls downed tools a month or so ago, and perhaps their productive years are behind them. Maybe it's time to begin again. The problem is, do I want Australorps or Orpingtons, Leghorns or Rhode Island Reds, or simply chooks?. Do I want cute "day old" chicks and risk the odd rooster, or pullets with their adolescent problems. The recent rain has allowed me to dream and plan new ventures.

But speaking of new ventures, will they still be possible under the Pallerang umbrella, in the suggested "Rural Alternative"? A weekly rubbish collection service two hundred metres from your back door seems little compensation for a whopping rates hike, especially when we are able to recycle so much of our own rubbish.

I still wouldn't live anywhere else.... thank goodness the rain, at least, has put a smile on our faces!


I haven't spent much time in our autumnal hamlet this month. Apart from a few days tottering around on unaccustomed high heels among the dim, draughty canyons of Melbourne city, I have been wrapped in the warmth of the far north. Picnics watching the sun slide into the tropical sea, T- shirted evenings lit only by the moon, thundering waterfalls, fresh water swimming holes, crocodiles on tidal mudflats, wetlands throbbing with life, and sprinklers idly spraying water on already green lawns, at midday. The greatest difficulty I had was lingering in the shower, guilt free. Water, water everywhere, and they were claiming it'd been a "dry" Wet. Despite priming myself for the worst, arriving home was nevertheless a bit of a shock. My hot air balloon was pricked. When we decided to move here nine years ago, the trickling creek was full of deep waterholes. The dam seemed to reach to unfathomable depths, the orchard was robust and the well fed kangaroos kept their distance. I grew vegetables, gave away dozens of eggs, made jam, bottled fruit and felt like I had the lead role in a remake of "The Good Life". We could indulge ourselves, knowing we didn't have to make a living off the land.

I've learned a lot since I've been here. I've watched the seasons and learned that rain is something you only read about in weather forecasts. I've learned that rosemary, lavender, diosma, choisya and nandina are largely kangaroo resistant. I've learned that sleeping in to avoid a frost doesn't work with impatiens and dahlias, and I can pick a bad fox night by the carnage next morning. We've tried all sorts of water wise schemes and I realise that the best way to save water is to turn off the tap and drink wine. But oh! how I long to be profligate with water, to luxuriate in a ten minute shower, flush the toilet just for fun, wash the car, welcome overnight guests without thinking twice about washing almost clean sheets the next morning, and let the sprinkler idle away on the lawn, if we had one, until midday.

I wouldn't live anywhere else.... but it's so, so good to escape.... just sometimes!


Happiness is a wheelbarrow, a good shovel and a pile of cow manure against a curtain of red gold leaves under an autumn sky. The gardening gurus may have other things in mind for us, but I’m making compost heaps. I’ve been snipping and hacking and pulling in the garden and have amassed a mountain of material for mulching. This, with the manure, a scattering of lime and a deep watering should produce crumbly brown compost for spring. Already the worms and slaters and little things that move have claimed their paradise. I’ll leave it to them.

I haven’t had a vegetable garden this season. About all I’ve harvested is two bonus pumpkins, and bunches of self sown parsley and cherry tomatoes. There hasn’t been any water to spare, but I have had some of the fruits of other Wamboin gardens. We went to the local produce market on Saturday and it was a real treat. I came home with yet more blooming snacks for the rabbits, and an armful of lettuces, tomatoes, basil, rocket, zucchinis and garlic. As well I had a tub of fetta cheese from a doe-eyed jersey cow and a brown paper bag of freshly ground coffee. And I was peckish.

I chopped up some tomatoes and basil, and added a grind of black pepper. Then I brushed several slices of good Italian bread with olive oil and lightly grilled them. While the aroma of brewed coffee was teasing me, I heaped the tomatoes on the toast and added a chunk of cheese, more like bocconcini than fetta to my taste. What a perfect repast! By the time breakfast was over it was morning tea time and we still hadn’t moved from the table. So, we tucked in to a little homemade date, walnut and banana loaf that had followed us home and washed it down with a little more coffee, just to give us the strength to start the day.

Shovelling cow manure and making compost heaps is a pleasure only surpassed by creating and enjoying meals from fresh Wamboin produce. I wouldn’t live anywhere else.... where else can the fruits of another’s garden so easily make up for the lack in your own.


Gum blossom, the first morning fog, Easter Sunday church bells, soft pink sunrises and a house bursting with B&B and L(unch)and D(inner) guests. It’s that wonderful time of the year, a time when Wamboin is truly at its best.

But it is the sunsets that have been most captivating. The other evening, returning from a busy time in Sydney, and feeling a little piqued, we were treated to forty minutes of the most spectacular western sky. It was in turn a garish red, orange, gold, pink and grey. Puffy clouds shot through with spikes of light against a back drop of blue so deep it seemed to go on forever, and at its fringes shades of grey blue merging into green. Fatigue, speed and alcohol may be currently “targetted” by our highway police, but a sunset such as that eclipsed those driving hazards. Never mind the road, I wanted to capture the spectacle above, and keep it forever in my mind.

A week or so previously, such a red sky would have filled me with terror, but the threat of bush fire seemed to have receded, ….or so I thought. We were out for the day, the weather was mild, and our watchful neighbour was home…or so we thought. So you can imagine how stunned we were to arrive home to the smell of soggy smoke and the sight of the Wamboin Fire tanker and four local heroes. The threat had passed, but the old, ailing tree, perched perilously close to the dry creek bed was still smouldering. It may have been a different scenario, however, if the watchful eyes in the Kowen forest tower had not alerted our local “boys”, and they had not responded so speedily. That night, when I went out to check the old tree, I looked up into its thinning branches. It seemed, for all the world, to be strung with fairy lights; a myriad of twinkling stars shining through in a cloudless sky.

And so we mark another Easter season in Wamboin. I wouldn’t live anywhere else…..where else would you find guardian angels in yellow, fire proof suits and big boots.


One golden February it rained and rained. Soft, soaking rain that fell for days and days and filled the rain gauge several times. I thought we had eight inches but I may have been dreaming. Nevertheless, it was enough to render the clay pliable, and I had an idea. We would dig a hole and create a fish pond. Fish ponds will encourage frogs, some warned, and frogs will attract snakes, but we went ahead with our plans and sure enough we did find snakes at our front steps, but we also had the joy of tinkling water, darting fish, serenading frogs and a myriad of birds. Fantails, wrens, pardalotes, honey eaters, rosellas and magpies would take turns to splash in the water, flash their colours and twitter or trill a “thank you”.

This month I have again enjoyed the birds around the pond, the second flush of roses and the smooth, creamy trunks of the unclad eucalypts. There have been bonuses in the garden; self sown tomatoes that have ripened among the flowers and a pumpkin that grows plumper by the day. It is indeed a treat to get something for nothing in a Wamboin garden. But everything comes at a price, the knockers say.

I was on the verandah the other night captivated by the sight of lightning bathing the garden with flashes of mauve light while the rain drummed on the metal roof and thunder grumbled and rumbled around the hills. We had been promised rain for days. The ants had been busy, building pyramids beside the paths and scurrying along in their thin black lines. A few black cockatoos appeared, spreading the glad tidings of imminent rain, and the frogs were in full voice. It had to come, and it did, and I was pleased. But they were right. There was a small price to pay.

Just as we were about to sit down to a lazy lunch of garden greens and cherry tomatoes, we realised that the ant bait, beside the path, was missing. Its plastic container was there, albeit a little chewed, but the bait was gone. It couldn’t have been the duck or the rooster, because they don’t have teeth. Where was Mort?

I couldn’t live anywhere else….where else would you gain so much pleasure from summer rain. And the Vet’s bill is in the mail!


So far this summer my garden has given generously, its bold splashes of colour contrasting with the faded grasses beyond. There are dahlias and gladioli, petunias, geraniums, hydrangeas and agapanthus; brash blues and reds and purples, bursting with life. A stroll to the orchard, across the nearly dry creek bed, revealed more. Mother and father Wood duck, once regular callers at the chook coop, were swimming proudly ahead of seven lively balls of downy brown. Closer to the house, the sweetest little bunny, eyes unblinking and ears too big for its head, hopped out to greet me, then had a sudden change of heart. A polished black goanna, of ancient lineage, moved silently away, clinging to the shadows of the rock edged garden. It had come for its morning feed of plums that the cockatoos had thoughtfully plucked for him and left scattered on the ground. I counted four fish in the pond, two large and two small, and watched the mother magpie, with all the patience of a born teacher, instructing her little one in the art of survival. Spring growth, now summer harvest.

But summer in Wamboin offers layers of reality. Once again I scan the horizon for those tell tale clouds that herald the forecast thunderstorm. They puff and bubble and foment, and look wonderfully threatening, only to part, almost biblically, and slip around us. Watering becomes the daily ritual yet again. I dip into the dam, reasoning that if I don't, the wind will surely scoop it up. The Yass river has long forfeited that precious run off. But watering has to be slotted in between dusk and dawn, when the wind is not up, and it seems to be blowing all the time. I water, and the plants flourish, and suddenly those sweet rabbits and kangaroos, now with their babies, abandon their spartan bush diet and come to my table. A smorgasbord of treats. Word spreads of the fine fare on offer, and the grasshoppers descend. Not even the feasting magpies can put a dent in their numbers. And when the day ends and I sit on my front verandah, above the high water mark, I tally the score.

Our little hiccups, our small battles with nature are insignificant when compared to the tsunami catastrophe that has swamped our fellow man. My little plot gives generously to me, and now it is my turn to give to those so desperately in need. I can only hope that my small offering may ease a little of the pain for someone over there.

I wouldn't live anywhere else.... where else would your focus on a few (hundred) grasshoppers be your biggest concern.



One day you’re floating, buoyed by the sweetness of spring, the next you’re torpedoed by summer. My modified cottage garden, with its kangaroo and drought resistant plants, like me, is gasping under the sudden summer onslaught. We’d all been congratulating ourselves on the brilliant spring, as if we’d had some hand in its glory, but nature sure has a way of showing who’s boss.

But I’m not ready to let spring slip away just yet. As I was walking the dogs early this morning, pretending not to notice them testing the waters of every neighbouring puddle they came across and using the sniff test to determine the age of each carcass they unearthed, I started thinking about why we came to live here in the first place. It was all because of Mort. We acquired our “free to good home” pup when we were living in tidy suburbia, with a neat garden that we had achieved with a good deal of youthful blood sweat and tears. But Mort soon took control, and before long had reduced our manicured lawns to something akin to the Birdsville Race Track post Cup Day. I just knew he needed bigger things, acres in which to frolic and explore. And if we had acres, then we could grow our own food and become self sufficient, ….and save money.

Whether either of us truly believed this fanciful stuff I don’t really know, but move we did, and Mort finally found dog heaven on earth. However, apart from a glut of silver beet one year and buckets of berries never to be repeated, we have had pretty lean pickings here. But the other Sunday it was a different story. With floppy canvas hats on our heads and a calico bag in hand, we set off for a morning ramble with the dogs, and came back with a bag of plump, pink field mushrooms. We ate mushrooms all week, supplementing those with more that we gathered around here, until we couldn’t face another one. What a thrill, living off the land! All we had to buy were a few thick, juicy eye fillets to accompany nature’s bounty and a few bottles of red to compliment the steak! And while we wined and dined like kings, we were serenaded by our resident frogs, one forever tightening a nut on a rusty bolt, and the other practising like one obsessed, for the duelling banjos, but never getting beyond the first note.

I wouldn’t live anywhere else.... we may not have saved much money since we moved here, in fact some knockers may even have the gall to suggest that we’ve slumped into a financial cess pit, but where else could you live off the land, at least fleetingly in spring, and feel like you’ve won Lotto?


October has been spring at its best, and when it is also a month of family gatherings and celebrations, it is even better. Even a couple of light frosts and a few days of those dreaded winds couldn't spoil the overall picture. Perfect sunny days backed up by some good soaking rain, and we had the added delight of a visit from some little people, and I saw spring through new eyes.

Each day there seemed to be a new colour in the garden and the promise of more with rose bushes covered with buds. As one crab apple faded another burst into colour. The garden was alive. But it wasn't only the plants that were emerging. Shy little creatures like lizards... and snakes... were coming out to soak up the sun. We've seen shingle backs sliding over the ground like visitors from another era, and blue tongues slipping away, fearful that they might have been noticed. The little sun lizards have been popping up all over the place like cleverly placed garden ornaments, some grey patterned, some brown and some black. Of course the blow flies have discovered spring too, and they are out in force, especially when there are good smells emanating from the kitchen. We put a fly trap on the back step to try to stem the invasion, and discovered an enterprising lizard positioned itself there. It was untroubled by our comings and goings and seemed to grow fatter by the minute. It came back for several days. On one evening “toddle” with the little one, where we stopped to investigate every ant hole and determine whether the scats belonged to kangaroos or rabbits, we counted ten different types of birds. Our noisy progress probably disturbed another ten before we could see them. As we passed, the kangaroos stood up to watch us and a couple more curious of the mob hopped towards us.

Wamboin seems to attract friends and family like blowflies to a fly trap, and we prepared for a busy weekend gathering to mark the christening of a grandson. We'd had a wedding here on the last day of summer, so a christening in glorious spring would be like a walk in the park. People began arriving from afar, the garden was looking beautiful, plumped out by some timely bloomers from the monthly produce market, and we were set for a garden party. And then it rained!

I wouldn't live anywhere else..... where else would you find people rejoicing because a garden party was washed out and a fire had to be lit to keep warm. Rain on!


Layers of bird calls as the day unfolds, the background hum of bees as the air gathers warmth, frogs serenading, new shoots pushing up towards the sun from plants long abandoned, yellow wattles, powdery blossoms and stems bursting with bud under a limitless blue sky; seductive spring, brimming with life and promise. And so it seemed fitting, as a bush community, soldiering on under the shadow of drought, that we should have a celebration that reflected all the dazzle and energy of spring. I'm referring to the community bonfire, that once a year spectacle that brings us, young and old, together, to be young at heart again.

This home grown event is ours, and it embraces so many of our local cultural icons. They, the pony club, playgroup, cubs and scouts, the local church and the bush fire brigade, all ensured that we were well fed and watered while we were entertained. Even the monthly produce market got a berth and many of the optimists amongst us went home with dainty treats for the kangaroos and rabbits that we'd left behind to babysit. But one cultural icon, seldom heralded, was by its very nature, missing..... the tip.

A tip is a wondrous thing, a final resting place for all that is unwanted, rejected, broken and unloved, yet it is a record of how we live. Like most of us here, we are dab hands at recycling. Whatever leftover that doesn't feed Mort or the chooks or the worms, is fed to the compost heap. Whatever can be mulched is mulched. But we still have to hitch up the trailer and every so often make a pilgrimage to the dump. I go to there with my nose wrinkled, my mouth hermetically sealed, and the windows up, not so much to supervise what goes out, but to monitor what comes back. But the tip is full of surprises. Each time there seems to be a new avenue, thoughtfully curbed with treadless tyres. Sometimes I'm greeted with potted geraniums or an honour guard of fridges standing stiffly to attention. Other times there has been a line of lolling couches that have seen many an afternoon snooze, or a contortion of tricycles and toys, but this time I was saluted by the Australian flag flying proudly, and a friendly nod.

I wouldn't live anywhere else….where else does the environment, natural and man made, live so comfortably together ….And Mort is quite taken with his latest acquisition…… a “new” trampoline bed from the….. . Ssh, don't tell him!


The snarl of chainsaws and a whiff of eucalypt smoke on the breeze suggests that this Wamboin winter is on the wane. With the fire ban deadline fast approaching, we decided that it was time for our big burn off. The forecast was for afternoon showers so we felt confident that there'd be no rain to hamper our efforts! We notified the Fire Brigade captain and our neighbours, as all good citizens do, and burnt huge piles of rubbish that could not be used either for firewood or mulching. We had already taken a load to help build the Community bonfire. It was an exhausting day but as I threw sticks and brambles onto the blaze, I thought of our wonderful local firefighters, volunteers who give our community a feeling of security as winter turns to spring and summer quickly follows. All our community volunteers… ordinary people doing extraordinary things.

A walk around my garden confirmed that spring is just around the corner. I haven't watered my garden all winter, not even a bucket of shower water. That has been going into the toilet cistern. And yet, within a week of warmth, suddenly there were violets, blue rosemary, pink flowering quince blossoms on angular spikes, instant ikebana arrangements, winter iris and tiny puffs of yellow wattle, lenten rose and daffodils and daphne. One day, it seemed, there was one golden daffodil and almost overnight there appeared a “host”; forgive me, spring does that to me!

Not only the plants, but the animals, too, sensed the change. Our two old girls began laying and their combs are now scarlet. Magpies could be seen stealing away with tufts of Mort's hair in their beaks. Some lucky chick is going to wake up to a white, fur lined world. And the wrens are busy, twittering coquettishly, with the boys looking splendid in their blue caps and vests.

What a chameleon this August has been. I went to bed the other night despairing that we'd ever see rain again, but last night I was lulled to sleep by the sound of steady, gentle rain on the iron roof.

I wouldn't live anywhere else..... Perhaps this will be a spectacular spring, after all.


It is still, cold and grey. Outside my window the tree is naked except for a line of water droplets that hang glistening from the underside of its branches. A lone magpie is trying to rouse the day with its song. Beyond the slumbering garden, tiny smudges of green are making a pattern on the brown expanse which in years gone by would now have been a carpet of green. The flowering quince is showing signs of stirring, and the first green spikes of the daffodils are pushing their way towards the light. But my focus this month has been further north, away from wintry Wamboin, in areas where winter seems almost a sham. A funeral in Brisbane and a joyous new life in Sydney has kept me at a distance. Brisbane winter is swapping shorts for jeans and in Sydney you might add a light jacket as you adjust to a shortened day. You watch the sky for gathering clouds and it really rains.

Wamboin is different. The Saturday it snowed lightly all day we had two fires burning. If you ventured outside the cold slapped your cheeks and your nostrils filled with the cosy smell of wood smoke. The weather begged you to cook tarts and pies and rich, steaming casseroles, and curl up by the fire to chat or read with a glass in your hand. And I did. Next morning the ground underfoot was crunchy and the poor lamb's coat was stiff with flecks of white. Other days brought long, lingering fogs that dripped, or frosts of diamonds and frozen pipes. There was even a hint of rain.

Nowadays when I return it takes a little time to readjust my eyes to the beauties around me. I have to stop focussing on the eucalypts that are dying, and the thinning bush, and trust that the sad kangaroos can find at least something to sustain them. I have to look beyond my sorrowing, pock marked garden and imagine some spring magic around the corner. I have to appreciate the highs and lows that nature serves up to us.

I wouldn't live anywhere else. It wouldn't be a winter without gripping cold, fogs, frosts, fleecy trousers and thick woolly socks!


Like the Federal Government, my garden has gone into "winter recess". Safely tucked beneath layers of blanketting mulch, what survives only warrants a casual glance and then more out of academic, rather than horticultural interest. Nandinas, rosemary, lavender, camellias and choisya seem to be holding their own against the onslaught of the creatures of the night. Sadly some crab apples and manchurian pears may not reach their spring potential. Nocturnal ringbarkers have been abroad!

The other day someone told me that a friend of theirs claimed that the end of June would be unusually wet. The next story was less encouraging. No decent rain before next April! I've given up believing in fairy stories and decided that a change of focus was needed. Rather than despair about the conditions, we should take advantage of Wamboin's bounty. My idea was that we should build paths edged with rocks, create rock "features" and remove the dead trees that the drought had claimed. And so began a very busy time.

The first challenge was to repair and sharpen the chain saw. This chain saw, which has seen better days and had been threatened with the dump long ago, was painstakingly restored. I supported the mechanic with cups of tea and sympathetic noises. Trying to be helpful, I suggested that we call in the Tree Man to take down the bigger trees. This immediately became another challenge. I celebrated the winter solstice, standing outside in conditions that would have deterred Sir Douglas Mawson, holding a length of rope attached to the targetted tree, and wearing a look of grave concern. The chain saw shrieked interminably but each tree obligingly came down in it's programmed space. Then the logs were sawn into fire box lengths and stacked in neat piles for next winter. My important job was to stand on the trunks while they were being cut up, and act as a counter balance. The next step was to mulch the leftovers. I was excited about turning all this wonderful stuff into next year's compost. But of course the mulcher ingested a foreign body early on and developed a life threatening illness. Major surgery was performed and it was indeed fortunate that snow was only falling above 1000m that day. I assisted the surgeon with cups of strong tea and silence . Next on the agenda is collecting rocks, a bit like gathering nuts in May except it is June and...............

I wouldn't live anywhere else.... where else would a simple idea, borne of despair, create so many worthwhile challenges and diversions.


I have spent the last couple of weeks on the other side of our “wide brown land”, helping my mother, just this side of ninety, move from her retirement home of thirty plus years to a compact unit in a beautifully landscaped “village” where autumn had barely touched the gardens and the roses still bloomed. My parents had downsized when they retired, moving from a roomy “hills” house to a cottage on five acres in the bush. At the time of their move they were too busy to do much sifting and sorting and so took everything with them. Thirty years later, being the original “greenies‟, they had all that they'd taken, and much more. They'd always believed that everything, in time, could be recycled, and I helped complete the task they'd begun!

So I was a little weary when I left, mission accomplished, but eager to be home. I was greeted by a tangle of grey green bush, in stark contrast to the more vibrant greens of the marris and jarrahs of the Perth hills. And as I walked down the garden path I was taken aback to see that the flower beds had been over run by something akin to a rampant Victa. Nothing, save the stalks of some violets and a few strands of aromatic rosemary stood above the closely cropped plants. The ravenous rabbits and consuming kangaroos had had a picnic. I could have fallen into deep despair, but was saved by the golden glory of the crab apples and elms, and a sprinkling of red and russet from claret ash and prunus. And over the next few days I saw two robin red breasts, my first blue wren of the season flitting from bush to bush, and a black bird with its brown mate scattering the wrinkled leaves under the shrubs. On one morning walk I disturbed a flock of black cockatoos in a tree, and they screeched indignantly, lifting themselves lazily and sliding across the sky like folds of black velvet. The elm suddenly dropped all its leaves, spreading a circle of gold beneath its boughs, and I saw my first winter Irises peeping through. Autumn is never half hearted in our part of the world. So we've been busy raking leaves and mulching long forgotten cuttings, filling compost bins and recycling natures treasures.

Having the space to store and eventually find a new life for something is one of the great joys of living here. You see, we downsized and moved here when my husband retired and being much too busy at the time to sift and sort, brought everything with us.

We couldn't live anywhere else...... where else could you simply add on another shed to store all your treasures and more, so that one day your children, too, may experience the joys of recycling!


What a glorious day! The trees and shrubs were sparkling, refreshed from last night‘s shower, and with my arms brim full of luscious Wamboin produce from the last Saturday market of the season, and a bottle or two from the local winery clinking in my calico bag, the next step was to summon our dear neighbours from across the creek to join us for yet another long lazy Saturday afternoon lunch on the deck. In no time they had thrown off their gardening hemps and swapped them for crisp, white linens and snappy, wide brimmed hats. I knew, as they stepped across the gurgling brook, following the trails carefully landscaped by the kangaroos, that they would tread lightly lest they disturb the bunnies, tucked up below, sleeping off their night‘s excesses. I set the table, country chic, with a bowl of tumbling roses, still sparkling with the morning dew and............Dream on......

It is indeed a marvellous autumn. The sky is clear, the mornings crisp, a whiff of wood smoke in the night air. The sun has lost its sting, and as the day draws to a close the sky is an artist‘s palette; galah sunsets one evening, rose pink and grey, and the next, mustard puffs against a blue rinse sky. But one vital element eludes us. Oh rain! Why dost thou foresake us!

When we first moved here we were looking for a bit of land with a creek and a dam, but nothing that would compel us to toil and produce a useful crop. But we did toil, and we did produce, and I bottled fruit and made jam for the first time and created 101 recipes to use the silver beet that grew and grew. We even invested in a slasher to keep the grass down and adopted two cute lambs, Lena and Bert, to help keep nature‘s bounty in check. However, it was not long before we were buying lucerne to feed Lena. Bert, sadly, had been attacked and killed by marauding animals. So we were buying feed for our pet lamb, and paying Dave to have her shorn each year. Each Christmas another fleece was bundled up and stored next to last years, in the loft. Then I discovered a friend who loved to spin. The other day she presented me with a bag full of beautiful soft, dark brown balls of wool. I wouldn‘t live anywhere else.... where else would you be forced inside, when it rains, to knit and crochet, scarves, shawls, jumpers, hats, coats, blankets....... all from the wool grown on your own land..... Dream on!


It is finally autumn. Soft mists hang like a veil over the mornings, innocent and seductive. The cool morning air promises a gentle day, but alas, the promise is often broken. Summer seems to be hanging on for all its worth, and, as the earth grows more lifeless, only dust seems to grow beyond the garden. But within, we are still enjoying the rewards of our pre garden- wedding efforts, with dahlias, vincas and hardy petunias, impatiens and roses spreading colour. My best blooms, viewed from a distance, remain those that I purchased from the $2- Shop and cunningly grafted onto the rose bushes before the wedding. I've almost resigned myself to the fact that drought resistant gazanias and succulents are not the ultimate solution, and am moving towards rosemary groundcovers to fill the more difficult spaces. At least the creatures of the night seem to resist them.

Now I don't mind if a little tip pruning occurs whilst I am sleeping. I can even cope with the odd bit of open cut mining, although three mine shafts in the soft garden soil one morning did challenge my cool, but I'm finding the pathways and tunnels through the garden, with complete disregard for the layout, almost the last straw. The stepping stones that I'd placed with both function and whimsy in mind, have been ignored; plants have been snapped off and trampled, undermined or mown down to the roots and replaced by dusty passageways.

A recent article in the local press alluded to the Calicivirus and the fact that a rabbit sighting is a rare event these days. That writer certainly hasn't been to these parts in recent times. I love having chooks, and I know that chooks bring mice, and mice bring snakes, but who brings the confounded rabbit! I have to accept the kangaroo, with its big trampling feet and penchant for exotics, because it was here before us, but rabbits, like us, are “new chums” and deserve no special privileges. Unfortunately they're also pretty and bouncy, and enjoy great media exposure at this time of the year.

Autumn and Easter is a wonderful time of the year at Wamboin. Family visits, lunches on the deck, evening drinks on the verandah watching the birds and kangaroos, Easter eggs. I wouldn't live anywhere else.... but please, will someone shoot that dratted Easter bunny!


It's been hot, baking hot. The bleached grass is crisp underfoot, the eucalypts have been flinging off their bark coats, exposing creamy flesh, in an apparent attempt to beat the summer heat, and one of our old girls in the coop called it quits the other day. I suspect she heard the forecast maximum and just decided that enough was enough.

It's always sad to lose an animal, especially one that has been part of the scene for so long. We started our feathered menagerie with four, day old chicks, two balls of yellow fluff and two of red. I naively chose one of the red ones because it looked more robust than the rest. It never produced an egg, but Roderick Senior, as he became known, produced many successors. Our flock grew, and we added two ducklings, Victoria and Albert. They became firm friends, but we had to rename Albert when she started laying. And so we were blessed with beautiful chook eggs and duck eggs and serenaded night and early day by many and varied roosters. Our reds and whites produced the most amazingly coloured offspring. And as we prospered we became more adventurous and responded to a “needs a good home” sign on the notice board. Now we had six geese or ganders or a mix of both. And they multiplied, too. Alberta died and was replaced by Mr Brown and I seemed to spend my days making 5 egg cakes that nobody really wanted, and playing lady bountiful with cartons of eggs. Meanwhile the trips to town to purchase chook and duck food became more frequent, and chook yards were extended and reinforced as they out grew the coop. Then tragedy struck!

It was a night rather like the one we've just had; cool, misty rain and moonless. We were woken to the sounds of silence. A sinister, foreboding quiet filled the morning air. And then we discovered the carnage! A cunning fox had struck under cover of darkness and the only life that remained of our dear feathered flock was one crazy social misfit, perched dumbstruck on the highest branch of a trembling wattle, and two drakes, the last of an inbred line, huddled and quivering in a corner. So we were left with the “duck boys”, harmless but hopeless, and the fiercely independent black hen who had to adapt to life in an enclosed coop with two fractious girls and a droopy eyed great grandson of Roderick. They tolerated each other, and life went on until the other day when the white hen simply expired.

The cool change came too late for the white hen, but just in time to save me. I couldn't live any where else. Where else would you be flinging off coats one day and searching for winter woolies to put on the next.


Summer, if you believe popular culture, is one long, lazy carefree day, a time to put your feet up, relax and indulge yourself. But as summer unfolds I begin to feel more care worn, than care free. Despite the refreshing summer showers, it's been simply weeding, watering, white ants, wabbits and wedding.

It was grey July, with the cold disguising the drought, when our pair announced the heart warming news that they were engaged, and the shattering news that they would like their reception at home, at the end of February...."because we love Wamboin so much". Well I love Wamboin, too, but a garden wedding party in Wamboin at the end of summer, hot on the heels of a period of drought seemed akin to madness! But we set about to create a "suitable setting", not quite the stuff of glossy magazines, but a Wamboin approximation at least. After all it requires a touch of madness to live here, anyway.

The spring garden was a picture and it held up well into December, but the wedding was still a long way off. Then everything wilted, plants and people, in the post Christmas heat, but I took heart knowing that I could at least, after balancing dam levels, tank levels and fire threat, turn on a sprinkler, unlike our Canberra compatriots. The winds worked against me, but I got up earlier and earlier each morning to get in some hand watering before the day heated up. And the garden's living sculptures were popping up everywhere...little lizards sunning themselves on rocks, as well as a less than welcome brown snake which would hardly delight our city guests. And the wildflowers are brilliant, the bright yellow paper daisies and kunzias covered in powdered snow. I planted drought tolerant sedums, and developed a new respect for rock gardens, and filled more holes with gazanias. I shouldn't have bothered; the rabbits made short work of them. And as the wedding date draws nearer, and we head into the last "lazy, carefree" days of summer, we know we have the white ants under control and the sturdy new front and back steps in place, the petunias are invading the weeds, the watering is being managed and the wabbits look almost cute in the dying light when viewed with a glass in hand. I think we'll get there....

I wouldn't live anywhere else....where else could you work so hard to turn popular culture on its head.



Recently my time has been divided between Wamboin and Sydney, where I've been doing a spot of “hands on” grandmothering. Each time I return it's dark and so I have to wait until the new day to see what has been happening while my back has been turned. While I watch the little one grow and change in Sydney, I am always amazed by what has been growing and changing here. One week it will be the incessant racket of the baby galahs, a sound I didn't hear at all last year, the next time the majestic spikes of the hollyhocks will grab my attention and then I'll notice that the lavender has faded and the marigolds are now stealing the show. The hills that were green are being bleached pale gold by the strengthening sun, while the eucalypts have freshened up with new growth. But it's not just in the garden that there have been changes. The little church, tucked away on the corner of Poppet Road, has obviously succumbed to nature's spring challenge and produced a little one!

The new Lych gate, as it turns out to be, has been erected in memory of someone to whom all who reside here should feel indebted. David Robertson was one of Wamboin's founding fathers. He was instrumental in establishing the Wamboin Volunteer Bushfire Brigade as a separate entity, and setting up a training programme for volunteer fire fighters. He served on the Yarrowlumla shire council, and the little church was his gift to the community. This very English gentleman was passionate about his adopted land....and he was passionate about lych gates. But, even more importantly for some, he was responsible for rejecting the name “Canberra Country Estate” for our little bit of heaven, and calling the place, Wamboin, meaning grey kangaroo. Perhaps, some may think, that the original owners have been just a little too enthusiastic in endorsing the name, judging by their current numbers!

So, although at the moment I am travelling to and from Sydney each week, I am always ready to swap the bright city lights for the night stars of Wamboin. I wouldn't live anywhere else......and.... thank you, David Robertson, not just for your benevolence to the community, but for your insistence on calling us Wamboin. Imagine musing about a Canberra Country Estate!!


“Things that go bump in the night ..
Should not really give one a fright....”

So begins Spike Milligan‘s delightful piece of whimsy. The trouble here is that a great deal goes ―bump in the night‖, but I hear little, except perhaps for the drone of jet aircraft circling monotonously at high altitude. A day in the spring time garden usually finishes me!

But the other morning, in that golden time I cherish before the sun shakes off the night, the usual sequence of morning greeting, first by the rooster, then the kookaburra, magpie and cockatoo, was disturbed. There was a commotion from the chook house. A little later I saw Mort, that faithful hound, cradling a limp possum and licking it tenderly. The possum, sadly, was beyond responding. It was dead, showing all the hallmarks of a fox attack.

I felt I had known that possum well. On nightly raids it would drop from the overhanging bushes and tear out the primulas, rip up the pansies and chew on beetroots still buried in the ground. One night we heard a rustle in the tree. There, in the torch light, was a possum, but a most unfortunate little fella with a bulbous growth under its chin. The ―growth‖ we discovered as it fell to the ground was a half eaten rockmelon that I had been waiting to pick . Then one morning we saw a possum hanging spreadeagled in a prickly wattle. It stayed there all day, as if dead, and it was only under the cover of darkness did it rouse itself and vanish into the night. So that was what they meant by ―playing possum‖, but now the little creature of the night had given up its games. Reluctantly, for the ground is hard, I grabbed the shovel and with my faithful hound, set off to dig its final resting place. I buried him and we solemnly tamped down the dirt and went away. But things must have gone ―bump‖ in the night, for next morning I discovered an empty grave. I retrieved the dusty possum and under somewhat critical supervision, respectfully buried him once again, marking the grave with a large tree stump.

About this time a mound of freshly dug earth appeared in the bed where I was struggling to grow some Japanese windsongs. The windsongs were scattered and in their place was a magnificent rabbit‘s burrow. I wondered why I hadn‘t thought of digging my hole there.

Then, with the new dawn, I went to pay my respects to the possum, and found he‘d managed to tunnel his way out. I couldn‘t find him so I wandered up to inspect the earthworks in the garden bed. To my surprise, there was no burrow. The earth had been neatly tamped down! Would I be right in thinking that there was a very surprised bunny now sharing its home with a restless possum, and a hound that felt his friend had at last secured his peace?

I wouldn‘t live anywhere else....where else could you sleep so peacefully at night, while a whole world ―bumped‖ around outside.


Spring seems to creep up on you and before you know it the lengthening days have teased out new life …a patchwork of soft pinks, bright blues and lively yellows spreading over the garden. But I had hardly noticed all this, too busy preparing for the vagaries of the impending summer.

For several years we had taken for granted the wattles that brightened the end of winter and filled the spaces between the trees, and were unaware that our screen had thinned with time and drought and in its place were dead trees, stark and untidy; a ready fuel for any bushfire. And so we began the task of pulling down the dead trunks, breaking off the kindling, and chain sawing the bigger pieces for next year's firewood. Much of it was useless stuff, although the slaters and wood grubs may have disagreed, and we piled it up in raggedy heaps to load onto the trailer for the Community Bonfire. What was left behind fuelled a blaze that burned all day and left nothing but a scorched circle of bare earth.

About this time I spent a day or so rattling a tin outside a shopping centre, helping to raise funds for a uniquely Australian charity. Soliciting funds, even for a worthy cause, is not my favourite pastime, but it made me think how essential the charity dollar is for our society, and how important our volunteers are. Volunteers are the essence of our community.

As the spectacular bonfire crackled and roared into life in Bingley Way the other night, and the assembled throng, big and small, tucked into greasy sausages wrapped in bread, I knew I couldn't live anywhere else….where else would you find such a crowd, warmed, not just by the blaze of dead wattles and unwanted timber, but by the spirit of community….and perhaps just a little gluhwein!


I was driving to work the other morning, just the wrong side of eight o'clock, when I encountered one of my least favourite Wamboin commuters. This little truck has a certain rustic charm, but it's a charm that I find more fascinating from my rear vision mirror. I was forced to slow down and my eyes wandered beyond the road. It was then a little ditty surfaced, one whose origins I've long forgotten, but it brought a smile to my face, and goes something like this…..

Wattle, golden wattle, the emblem of our land.
You can stick it in a bottle…or hold it in your hand.

And there it was, poking through the stiff green pines, the golden wattle, glowing under a leaden sky.

I love winter, but my enthusiasm for it begins to wane about this time. However, in the last few weeks it seems as if nature has been conspiring to change my mind. Not only was the wattle smiling, but on the first day of the month I was delighted to find that our ageing girls, the feathered remnants of a once mighty henhouse, had started to lay. Shortly afterwards I spotted my first blue wren, then a tawny frogmouth chose to roost, one night, on our garden arch, and the daffodils opened their yellow trumpets. The air was filled with the busy twitter of wrens, punctuated by the single, hollow, repetitive mating call of a pigeon. A lone thrush thrilled me with its morning scales, frogs set up a backdrop chorus near the growing puddles in the creek, and the sulphur crested cockatoos, that rag tag gaggle of unruly choristers, reconvened for rehearsals. The numbing cold seemed to be loosening its grip. There was energy and music all around. Even August has its champions!

Then the winds blew in from the north and west, and blew the birds and wattle away. But this time they brought us some precious, long overdue rain, and the puddles linked up and the creek began to flow, and the dam began to fill.

I wouldn't live anywhere else…. where else would you be forced by inclement wind, rain and sleet to spend a weekend inside, and yet be glad.


Mists are out, fogs are in; winter is now our constant companion, but not the old friend that once dazzled despite the chill, rather one more pensive and brooding, dismal and damp.

Our faithful hound took me for a walk the other morning, when the world was grey and smudged. I became wrapped in an eerie silence, still and calm, with a solitude that seemed to fill my ears and veil my eyes. Everything was in soft focus. The trunkless trees seemed to float gently in the milky air. Then, suddenly, the silence was pierced by the knife song of a lone magpie. It's burst was short and sharp, a ten second grab with no operatic trills, and then it was gone. It was as if the magpie had been stunned into silence by its own audacity. I walked on in this timeless world, and because there was little else to see, began looking at fences.

I have been trying to build a fence, or perhaps I should say, a stone wall, in my garden of late. As I struggled with huge rocks and tried to position them, I started thinking about the first line from one of Robert Frost's poems, "Something there is that doesn't love a wall..."and much further on he says, "before I built a wall I'd ask to know what I was walling in or walling out..." I recalled some of the fences I'd seen on my walks through the fog. Some stood proudly, some sagged and others were but poor metaphors for a fence, a wire straggling along the ground with a forlorn stick, scarred by fire, despairing of holding anything up. But do good fences make good neighbours? I wonder. Certainly if they restrain a ferocious dog or rooster, or prevent livestock from escaping, they have their place, but they are ignored by the kangaroos that tread their heritage tracks through the bush, regardless, and they limit our options for rambling or riding. I heard someone say the other day that it's a pity there are so few places to walk around here.

I wouldn't live anywhere else...where else can you walk and enjoy nature so close to home...but it is, indeed, a pity that you have to enjoy it from the edge of a busy road.


July is not my favourite Wamboin month, eclipsed only by dismal August. It's not so much the bone chilling temperatures or the cutting winds, it is more the general greyness. It's a time when I need to escape, and I have done just that. I spent a week at the coast, smelling the salt air and watching the waves collapse, sending the water fussing and foaming at its edges but going nowhere. It was a time to feast my eyes on green expanses, crossed by a churned up chocolate path trodden by a line of cows heading home. But then it was time for me to head home, and come back up the hill.

And once home I started to see that even July had a few pleasant surprises. I hadn't beaten the winter grey, as planned, with my pansies or wallflowers, because the rabbits had discovered them. But the first pink of the flowering quince was there, and a Lenten rose, ahead of all the others, had begun to flower. There were more winter irises, their tissue thin mauve petals peeping shyly through a tangle of ribbon leaves, and there was the perfume of violets in the cold air. And the daphne bush, that had somehow survived summer by an irregular dousing with a bucket of shower water, is covered with buds.

Grey July, however, is not really a time for the garden. It's better spent indoors, curtains drawn, with a cheery fire, good food, good wine and good company. It's a time for Coq au Vin, Duck a l'Orange, Moroccan lamb shanks and "retro is new" French Onion soup. It's the smell of wood smoke, and the sound of a cork pulled from a bottle. It's laughter and banter and well oiled debate.

I wouldn't live anywhere else...where else would you find a better excuse for such indulgence...but I fear that rabbit may soon be on the menu if those pretty little cotton tails don't mend their ways and leave my "bouquet garni" alone.


What could give one greater cause for joy than a carpet of golden leaves just waiting to be raked up, and a pile of well seasoned cow pats softened by overnight rain. My thoughts immediately turned to composting. This, I decided, was the year for compost. But my joy, overall, has been somewhat tempered by recent events.

Now every parent assumes without question that their offspring is God's gift to mankind, a creature loved by all. And this extends to one's pets. So it came as a terrible blow the other day to discover otherwise. Cedric, the rooster, the noble bird who is always the first to strut out to greet me when I arrive home, attacked our dear neighbour when she responded to our dog's cry for help. We thought we had left Mort in charge for the day, but he had obviously felt abandoned, and cried, and Cedric foiled the rescue attempt.

Cedric isn't exactly your common, run of the mill rooster. It is bad enough to be saddled with the name Cedric but to come into the world as he did was most unfortunate. Thus I suggest there were mitigating circumstances. He was hatched by a duck who took one look at her ugly duckling and immediately thrust him out into the cold. Then, scooped up by young hands, he spent his first days in an old ugg boot in the electric frypan on its lowest setting. He thrived, but was reluctant to venture back into the cruel world that had first scorned him. He had a sheltered adolescence, far removed from the peck and scratch of the coop, and his first involuntary crow confused and astounded him. He sought the company of the lamb, ignored the chooks and learned to his own detriment just how far he could push Mort. Mort sat comfortably at the top of the pecking order, but Cedric could not be dissuaded from challenging his position on occasions.

Cedric was in deep trouble . There was only one honourable thing to do.

A few nights later "Cedric" was delivered to the neighbour's front door, plucked and chilled, with a note of apology from Mort tucked under the tartan ribbon. Our gracious neighbours even asked us to join them for dinner.

I was driving home the other morning, enjoying the patchwork of icy white frost on a grey brown landscape, and watching the morning cloud pick up its voluminous skirts and steal into the light, when I turned into our drive, and there was Cedric, strutting boldly towards the car to greet me.

I wouldn't live anywhere else where else would you find such wonderful neighbours.


I lit the fire mid morning on Anzac Day, the first real fire for the year. A few days earlier we had been basking in the Easter sunshine, lazing away the hours on the deck, eating, chatting and sipping with family members who'd travelled from near and far to be together for the brief holiday period. It was Wamboin living at its best. In patches the garden even looked like spring. Certainly the crab apple was confused.

We visited a friend during this time , who is both a gardener and a handicraft devotee. Sadly her beautiful and extensive garden and dry dam reflect the severity of the last few years of drought, despite her tireless endeavours. But her handicraft output has suffered, too. How long has it been since we've had a day when you're forced to stay inside, to knit or sew, or even read a book, with a clear conscience. Fine weather always spells outside exertion, or at best, a long, leisurely walk at dusk. It was while I was walking the other evening that I spied a stream of steely grey kangaroos in the distance , crossing the road. They looked for all the world like a plague of oversized rats deserting the sinking ship. Then I heard the forlorn screech of the black cockatoos as they wheeled about the fading sky, spreading their empty promises of rain. Our faithful hound, stick in mouth, had to shake off the mud when he squelched from the dam with his quarry.

But this morning I didn 't have to wait for the alarm to rouse me. I was woken instead by the gentle sound of rain on the roof, punctuated by the piercing screeches of my fine, black feathered friends . They simply couldn't contain themselves. They'd finally got it right.

I wouldn't live anywhere else throw another log on the fire!


"Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness.." It is that wondrous time of the year once again. Early morning spider webs looped between bushes, threaded with diamonds; a soft, grey opaque light hanging in the gully, washing out the dark grey shapes of kangaroos, grazing. A smudge of green, colouring the hills ; new life, roused by the rain from its slumbers.

But lurking in some of that heart warming green are plants deemed "noxious weeds". I remember when my grandmother used to pick blackberries to make her prized blackberry jam. She'd throw a plank of wood into the thorny mass, then hitch up her skirts and stride brazenly into the briar patch, armed with her billy can, to gather nature's bounty. She'd emerge some time later with her fingers stained purple red and her billy brimming with fruit. Now, however, I wrestle with any stray blackberry cane that dares to seek refuge in my garden. Blackberries are noxious plants, to be hunted down and attacked, along with the fiery orange- red berried pyracantha, once described in the Canberra Gardener as a "useful evergreen vigorous shrub". I have to grub out the scotch thistle, too, but not before I stop to admire its intricate flower. I once called the purple plant that masses on the hillsides, Salvation Jane, but now I refer to it as Patterson's Curse.

The first rains have produced some of the old survivors, not all of them officially welcomed, but we need a lot more rain before we can put the drought behind us. The dams are still disturbingly low, and it seems that we must wait a little longer before we will hear, once again, the comforting sound offrogs croaking in the background.

I wouldn 't live anywhere else, but I would sleep more soundly if I were serenaded by a choir of frogs.


It has rained! For the last couple of weeks there had been more energy in the air; gathering clouds, teasing us with the prospect of rain, blackening, threatening, then skipping away without leaving a trace . It was a summer that seemed to go on without end, a summer that seemed already old and tired long before spring had officially been blown away with the westerlies. My efforts in the garden had been reduced to long hours of hand watering, deciding which plants were most deserving, which had to fend for themselves and which plants should never have been there in the first place. The sprinkler system had become useless.

Apart from the dwindling water stocks, the sprays were clogged with dirt . Those sprays that the creatures of the night hadn 't scattered in the dust remained upright and sprinkled water wastefully on an empty spot. Filling the bird baths became almost a daily chore. And then I saw the last rose of summer, a flimsy white bloom on a bush stripped of leaves, looking like a white flag signalling a truce.

Then it started to rain. Like magic the grimness of the long dry seemed to lift, replaced by a promise of new life. I didn't even mind that the gazanias I had planted in desperation, as "sun loving, drought tolerant bloomers ", to fill holes in the garden before a family gathering, refused to open under the grey skies.

It's rained! I wouldn't live anywhere else ....And where else could you observe the dietary habits and sexual proclivities of macropus giganteus from the sanctity of your own front garden.


It's hot and dry, and the air is heavy with smoke. The sun seems remote, alien, a glowing red orb tracking across a close, grey sky. Sometimes, just for moment, you can be tricked into thinking the greyness is a sign of impending rain, but then you remember it's only smoke. The dreary, heart breaking drought hangs on. I was in Queanbeyan the day after the shocking fires, scouring the place, in vain, for metal buckets. I was standing in the line at the checkout and there was a chap behind me wearing a couple of rolled hoses on his arm like two outsized plastic bangles. A few others were milling around the hose section. An elderly lady turned to me and said,

"Everyone seems to be buying hoses. Are they on special?"

The chap with the hoses raised his eyebrows and we exchanged wry smiles. Where had she been?

Like fire stories, there are drought stories. A neighbour continues to water her lawns judiciously, drawing on her dwindling bore supplies to provide just enough green pick for the sad eyed kangaroo and her joey. She has handed over her rose bed to the kangaroos. Another neighbour succeeds in keeping her husband's Navy "whites" credible and gleaming despite having only brownish bore water for washing. We had a win at Christmas. Our house guest was from Finland and he eschewed the Aussie penchant for daily or twice daily showers and fresh clothes, claiming that too much washing removed the skin 's natural oils and left it vulnerable to frost bite. I was delighted to use the water he had forfeited on the struggling garden.

And another thing. The once spurned agapanthus, geranium and oleander have gained a new respect in my garden. They are brave splashes of colour amongst the yellowing and browning leaves of the deciduous trees.

I wouldn't live anywhere else ..... I just hope that I will continue to have a choice.



The few remaining tufts of grass have been bleached to the colour of pale straw. Dirt grows and fills the spaces; a lifeless powdery talc whipped away in the wind. The ground is dotted with kangaroos' calling cards. The eucalypts shed their leaves, discarding useless baggage. They look old and grey and thin and they cast pale shadows. The kangaroos look up forlornly as you pass. The creek clings to its one remaining black puddle and the cracks in the clay bed spread out like grasping fingers. Halfway up the bank there are pockmarks, left behind by the halfhearted scratchings of a night visitor. Smoke from bushfires hangs in the air. "We" are now officially in drought.

It is easy to feel burdened by what we see around us, but I remember the comment made by a cheery cockie in the 80s drought, that it's a great opportunity to dig out the dam! I'm enchanted by the number of lizards that have appeared in my garden. They're a vast improvement on plaster gnomes. And the roses have never looked better! A friend told me his peahen is sitting on six eggs. Our two roosters seem unfazed by the dry, greeting each new day with their rousing duet and the magpies continue to toss around magic notes in their throats. But, perhaps best of all, I can wear my dusty, unwashed car like a badge of honour. At last city folk are coming to terms with what we have long known, that water is a precious and finite commodity.

I wouldn't live anywhere else but, I would believe again in the bearded old man with the red suit if Christmas drinks on the deck were washed out by rain and we were forced to scuttle inside, dripping wet. Oh for the smell of rain on parched earth! Season's Greetings!


The shower is usually my thinking time, a time to let my mind wander, dream a little and sometimes retrieve the odd creative thought. But, with the current drought I have had to limit my time uner the shower. Any chance that I may have had to think has been taken up with the serious business of deciding whether it will be the daphne or the rose, this time, that is most deserving of the half bucketful of water that I have collected.

The rose won this morning. As I poured the precious drops around its roots I recalled the rose bushes I used to walk past every day on my way to school when I was a kid. Those roses scrambled thrugh and over fences, propping up structures that had seen better days. Others grew stiffly in garden beds flanked by gravel paths. No one ever seemed to prune or feed or water them and yet every October they burst into magnificent life and bloomed bravely for a few weeks before the hot, dry easterlies stripped away their petals and perfume.

This year I gave my roses a light prune. The first year here I didn't even notice that there were roses in the garden. The next year I pruned them, with sterilised secateurs in one hand and a How To book in the other. Last year I didn't have to bother pruning them at all ... the black lamb discovered them and saved me the trouble. But this year, after judicial trimming, and nourishing with the best complete rose food, I am waiting, like an expectant montehr, for the first show. The old fashioned roses have started to come out, full of smiles and filling the air with a captivating perfume. The others have buds and plenty of promise, but I only hope that I can keep up the water for long enough for them to flower.

The impact of a drought is many layered . Its effects are far reaching. At least I can spare some water for the roses, though.

I wouldn' t live anywhere else ..... but I wouldn't object to a good tropical downpour either.


Just when I had resigned myself to let the kangaroos walk all over me and my garden, it rained. Lovely gentle rain. It kept me awake all night, too frightened to doze off in case it stopped.

So, the quiet weekend that I had anticipated, listening to the bees making the blossoms come alive and watching the last of the daffodils "tossing their heads in sprightly dance", had to be revised. I had to mulch!

Now I believe that the world can be divided into two sorts of people, those who compost and those who mulch. Composters are methodical, thorough, patient souls who do their bit then stand backand let nature work its magic. Mulchers, on the other hand, are an impetuous lot. Sadly, for mygarden, I am a mulcher. I've tried to be a composter but it all seems so tedious and contrived. It requiresa degree of foresight, whereas I have to seize the moment. I do, however, leave my mulch to simmer for some time, and I often season it with a dash of Dynamic Lifter, but it invariably fails to live up to its promise. The rich, moist brown crumble looks good enough to dive into when I spread it inches thick around the plants. But then the Westerlies blow, those strong, irascible, desiccating winds that shrivel everything in their path and reduce my mulch to grey powder and chaff. Next the marauding choughs descend. Stretched out three abreast they plough through, scattering the crumbs and exposing the drying soil.

And thus I found myself standing in front of last weekend's efforts, mourning my losses when I lifted my eyes to the heavens and the sky was filled with pink, masses of frothy pink bubbles. The crab apple had burst into flower. I wouldn't live anywhere else......

You're welcome, choughs, to the mulch scraps. I'll have the blossoms above.


"I wouldn't live anywhere else ... they can take me out of here in a box." I have heard myself say with conviction to visiting friends who are deprived of living in such a wonderful environment.

As I go for my morning run, at a pace dictated by creaky knees and complaining hips, I am filled with joy. The kangaroos and their joeys stand up tall, forepaws clasped together, eyeing me with bored detachment as I blunder by. Our special magpie, the one we call Spot, perches high up in the old, dead tree and carols in praise of the new day. My progress is monitored by the screeching sulph ur crested cockatoo. He signals to his mate further up the track to warn of my coming. A pair of crimson rosellas flit across in front of me. A kookaburra laughs raucously at my efforts. The bounties of nature! My spirits soar!

Pity though, about the Volvo. We did get it repaired after the first brush with a kangaroo. We now drive very carefully, day and night, around here, and we're particularly vigilant when the moon is full. We thought of panel beating after the next encounter, but while we were making up our minds another was added so we thought better of it. Never mind, the kangaroos were here first, and we've contacted Wires on occasions and been thrilled and relieved to hear that a rescued baby has survived.

There is no grass around at the moment. We have to buy feed for our solitary sheep, the one that was acquired as a cute wooly bundle for the kids before the kids left home. The Kangaroos have first chop at the grass, but they were the original inhabitants so of course they have priority. They have, however, developed a taste for the exotic. They really enjoy primulas, pansies and polyanthus. They're not too fond of foxgloves, though. Like fussy children they snatch a bit then leave it on one side of their plate. Then they move on, but not before they've trampled over the whole table and reduced the carefully set surface to dust. I tried planting natives. After all, this is their territory. It's a pity about the red tailed black cockatoos. They arrived one day and stayed for a while. I didn't mind because I know they are the harbingers of rain. Pity about the hakea. It had finally got its roots down through the shale and was beginning to do well.

I wouldn't live anywhere else ... but sometimes ...