All at sea

American cruise ships are renowned for their abundance and excess. I don’t mean this in a disparaging way, but merely as a generalised perception of the ingenuity of the American way, However, as we embarked on our first even cruise – all cliches aside, we really did not expect the luxury, the cleanliness and yes of course, the abundance which we encountered. We really felt like “fish out of water”, sorry – bad nautical pun.

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Our main aim for this eight night escape was to see the ocean, relax, read and enjoy the tropical South Pacific. Embarking from Sydney, where we were lucky to spend time with Daughter Number Two and her husband, before we set sail, our departure lounge was the magnificence that is Sydney Harbour.

The view of the Harbour, the Bridge and Opera House never tires and never disappoints, it is truly one of the great harbours of the world. It was then, as the ship slowly manoeuvred away from the dock that it hit me.

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You see both our families, just a generation before us, came to this great land by ship. My parents and grandparents as refugees from Europe in 1949 and Colin’s mother and grandparents from Malta just three years later. In fact this ship was registered in Valetta, a beautiful port, which I have been fortunate to visit.

With these thoughts, I couldn’t help feeling how difficult it must have been for them to leave their respective countries and experience a voyage of uncertainty. Indeed, their thirty days at sea would not have been as enticing or our indulgent as our short cruise. Despite this, I knew that my experience on this ship would have me reflecting on those remarkable journeys of our collective history.

No doubt this sea crossing will give us time to reflect and put into perspective, our blessings and opportunities.

Please check out my other blog “finding stanley vodak” which is written in conjunction with Sydney daughter and our hope to delve further into our past, on the other side of the ocean.

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He’s back!

Our resident kangaroo has returned for the summer.

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This time he’s made a friend – our middle cat Albert. Enjoying an afternoon relax under the weeping apricot.

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Just don’t eat the roses, mate!

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He’s such an old boy. He can sit in our garden anytime 🙂

Scenic Sydney

A recent weekend with daughter No2 saw us experiencing the beauties of Sydney architecture, history and the magnificent harbour. Here are a couple of recognisable landmarks!

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In addition, the Hyde Park Barracks were open to reveal the living conditions of the early convicts. Not sure if these beds were that comfortable!
What a contrast with these people sunning themselves along the Circular Quay.

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My favourite tree,the jacaranda was out to greet us too! After so much walking we settled for some giant chocolate strawberries instead. This venue was the genesis for another venture and another blog which we are working on – more information to be revealed soon.

Confronting

I guess I never expected to feel so overwhelmed and emotional visiting the Albany Whaling Station. It is the last remaining fully in tact whaling station and a sober reminder of our cruelty to these wonderful sea centuries. Over 14,000 whales were processed here until 1978. I was devastated.

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Despite the mentality of the time that whale oil and baleen bone corsets were necessary, the sheer level of mechanical application which went into hunting the whale, harpooning it, dragging it to shore, dissecting it on the flensing decks, the blood, the bone, the barbarism was too much to bear today.

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We all stood in silent contemplation of how this beautiful place could have witnessed such senseless degradation. Confronted, we were, indeed.

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Whale Watching

All men live enveloped in whale -lines. All are born with halters round their necks; but it is only when caught in the swift, sudden turn of death, that mortals realise the silent, subtle, ever-present perils of life. (Herman Melville, Moby Dick)

In keeping with our love of all things coastal – hence our garden title “CrabandFish” – not just a combination of our star signs – but a calling to all things natatorial, we embarked on a whale watching excursion.

We have foregone the wineries, chocolate factories and fine food outlets for a two hour sea-faring adventure in this part of the region of Margaret River. As our followers know, we are holidaying in one of the most ancient and magnificent regions in Australia, renowned for its ruggedness and beauty. The beauty we sought out today, was the elusive and dramatic beauty of the hump-back whale.

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Whale watching is just that – a concentration of the senses, a patient disposition and a navigational vessel that knows its waters. Our “Naturaliste” vessel took a group for forty of us out to sea and promised a sighting of whales and it did not disappoint. After a slow start – we are such impatient creatures, we humans – our first sighting appeared, albeit for only a few seconds. This was followed by not one but two diving tails and a collective, outpouring of excitement.

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We were then to begin our chase as our vessel picked up speed pursued these creatures with a frenzy – was this the excitement those whalers experienced? But how could anyone bear to end the life of these magnificent and majestic sea creatures? In the horizon we could see their spouts spewing water, their breaching, their wings and splashing tails. We gathered pace until we were surrounded by whales to the shrieks of delight from all on board.

According to the tourist brochures, Western Australia has one of the longest migratory seasons for whales – from May to December and many can be seen from the shore-line. So we were indeed privileged to witness them frolicking in these waters.

Once you have experienced seeing these grand creatures in their world, you have to marvel at the beauty of their existence. They do not threaten us but live parallel to our shore and breath and feel and nurture as we do. Let us watch them and admire them as nature’s grandest creatures.

The Caves

We have left our garden, cats and chickens for a short time to travel to Western Australia. This much awaited second trip will take us form Perth to Albany, about a six hour drive, south, staying in various locations in between. Currently, we have nestled into a beautiful bush setting overlooking Bunker Bay near Cape Naturaliste.

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After a track walk to the lighthouse with spectacular views and a fright – a little brown snake crossing our path – recovery, we reached the lighthouse with a further surprise – whales in the distance.

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Our surprises for the day, however, were only to increase.

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Who would have thought a spectacular ancient cave was just down these inconspicuous steps?
As a child I visited some caves in New Zealand but nothing like this one. Ngilgi Cave (pronounced “Nilgi) a show cave which opens up for kilometres! In a classic tale of good and evil, the aboriginal dreamtime spirit of Ngilgi now resides in the caves.

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I can tell you that it was a privilege and a rare experience to spend an hour down in these caves. The air was heavy with humidity but the main chamber was a colossal experience with stalactites from the ceiling and stalagmites as well as straws and shawls – highly recommended.

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If you ever get the opportunity to visit a limestone cave don’t pass it up.

Peppermint Gum

To my non-Aussie readers you may presume this post will tout the benefits of masticating a certain confectionery. No. Or indeed if you are crafty you may presume a perfumed, gluey substance suitable for many projects.

To my Aussie readers you will immediately visualise that tall eucalyptus specimen which abounds throughout our wide, brown land. The eucalyptus is a beautiful tree, habitat to our koala and available in many varieties: blue gum (eucalyptus globulus); yellow gum (leucoxylon); some are lemon scented and others have fascinating trunks – my favourite, the scribble gum (haemastoma) much admired on our trips to Fraser Island, off the Queensland Coast, its bark looks like a child has taken a crayon and scribbled across it.

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(meanjin.com.au)

Despite its importance to the landscape, this particular specimen, the peppermint gum has caused us many sleepless nights.

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As you can see it has a double trunk and is positioned three metre behind our bedroom! So with much deliberation and a thick cheque book, it had to go. We didn’t want to have to call the SES one stormy night. Remember what happened to our neighbour’s tree recently….

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Fortunately we have a fantastic arborist who, with his team, climb up and safely bring the tree down. Guess Mr Peppermint will have a second life as firewood!

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Let the stacking begin! Just in case you’re wondering, it doesn’t smell of peppermint at all!

Blue Beans

There aren’t too many blue shades in nature. I remember my grandfather, many years ago, getting very excited telling me he was growing a new rose called “Blue Moon”. But really it was a lavender colour – not blue at all.

Sure, there are bluish pansies and violas, however, they also have a purplish tinge. I have lots of blue pots but otherwise no blue plants. So you can imagine my surprise when I opened a packet of seeds this afternoon….

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Well! The pack read Roma Beans from a reputable mail order company. They were duck-egg blue, they even looked like tiny duck eggs! When I read further, I discovered they were treated with a fungicide. Well! Do I want to plant blue beans? Do I want to eat the next generation of blue beans? Mmmmm…..

My little garden patch is struggling after the cold winter.

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A little garlic, some spindly spinach, regularly nibbled on by Mr Kangaroo, who, by the way is still around. Some sorrel and a bowl of lettuce.

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And today we had shots of brilliant sunshine – I had to plant.

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I’ll keep you posted.

Spring Chicken

I’m not sure why this blog has been silent for six weeks, but I do know that in the blogging world, that’s too long. Maybe it’s been the short winter days, some busy weekends or maybe I’ve been chicken or just plain lazy but I’m back to chronicle our garden’s ever changing moods, here on the Mount. I’ll begin by reintroducing you to our chickens – our particular Plymouth Rocks – Long John Silver, his four girls and their Isa Brown and Australorp friends.

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IMG_4069.JPG At this time of year, our friends, the chickens, can scratch around their favourite camellias and hide amongst the hellebores.

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IMG_4067.JPG There’s more to come as we are invited to step into each garden “room” to experience the colours of Spring.

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