about this blog

This blog tracks the ongoing changes of my garden, and the wildlife I try to attract to it. It's a nature blog. It contains my thoughts and musings about anything and everything to do with nature - gardening, book reviews, philosophy, travel, science, history, art, design, politics.
Catmint is my signature plant because it has all the qualities I value in a plant: resilience, beauty and the capacity to spread prolifically . Unfortunately it's not indigenous. If I was starting again I'd probably choose an indigenous plant.

Saturday, 23 August 2014

awesome land of gorgeous gorges

They call it the outback, and it's a long way from the city. It took two days travelling to get to the Flinders Ranges. One day by train from Melbourne to Adelaide, half a day to Port Augusta by bus, then another four hours driving to reach our destination.

For a nature buff there's lots to see and experience - wildlife, rocks, gorges, sky, trees, shrubs and flowers.

The easiest animals to see are the large mammals. They're generally shy though, and you have to be quick or lucky with the camera.

Euro, Emu

Without binoculars you tend to hear birds more than see them.


Then there are the reptiles, spiders and insects. Even in winter, the flies were so bad, it was either a case of wearing a  head net, or using the  'Aussie salute' - waving your hands in front of your face to stop the bush flies landing on your face or mouth.

unidentified, well camouflaged spider
unidentified ant
Common Glider (Trapezostigma loewii), male

There are also feral animals: rabbits, goats, cats and dogs. These do a lot of harm to native wildlife and vegetation.

In the Flinders Ranges there are rocks so ancient they help us to understand the distant history of the planet. Most of the rocks were laid down in the sea 500 to 1500 million years ago.

Millions of years later, about 60 million years ago, the mountain plateaux we see today were formed, and continue to change and evolve.

There are a profusion of trees, shrubs and flowers - all evolved to flourish in a dry arid or semi-arid climate.

Clockwise from top right: Echium lycopsis - Salvation Jane,
Asphodelus fistulosus - Onion Weed,  
Rumex vesicarius - Ruby Dock - introduced weeds.
Clockwise from top right: Eucalyptus socialis - Red Mallee, 
Acacia tetragonophylla - Dead Finish, 
Callitris columellaris - Native Pine, Solanum quadriloculatum- Tomato Bush
Olearia pimeleoides ssp. pimeleoides - Showy Daisy Bush
Pilotus obovatus var.obovatus - Silver Mulla Mulla 
Solanum quadriloculatum- Tomato Bush and Senna artemisiodes - Desert Cassia

It rarely rains, and everywhere you see dry creek beds. In the extremely rare occurrence of torrents of rain, the creeks and rivers fill up and there are floodplains as far as the eye can see. When we were there we saw little water.

Dry creek beds lined with River Red Gums - Eucalyptus camaldulensis

Drinking water is obtained from tanks that collect rain water.

Along the Hans Heysen trail, Parachilna Gorge
Dry dusty road

For other uses of water, for sheep and cattle and for washing, bore water is pumped from below the surface of the earth.

Aboriginal people lived in the Flinders Ranges for thousands of years before the Europeans arrived, and left behind numerous examples of rock art.

taken from Flinders Ranges Research 

When white people settled, they cleared the land for mining, pasture and stock, and many trees were chopped down to provide timber for use in building and in mines.

Today part of the Flinders Ranges is conserved and protected as a National Park, and tourism is a profitable industry. But we mustn't get complacent. Mining and development companies are formidable lobby groups.  Brown coal is still mined in nearby Leigh Creek. So hopefully the area will stay wild and natural for a long, long time.

Friday, 22 August 2014

the earth will survive us

With so many terrible things happening in the world, it feels important to share something optimistic yet realistic, from a guy who really knows what he's talking about, having seen the Earth from another perspective ...

"The world is immensely stable and ancient and self regenerating. It's withstood far worse things than us." 

So said Chris Hadfield recently.  Chris was the Canadian commander of the International Space Station.

 Let's hope he's right.

Saturday, 19 July 2014

children and gardens

 What messages do we give kids about gardens?

Thanks to a successful program getting gardens into schools, many children now know that food doesn't originate in a supermarket. So far The Kitchen Garden Foundation has established gardens in nearly 600 Australian schools.

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

spontaneous nature photography, or ... have camera, will snap

To do nature photography you don't have to be in a garden, park or the bush. Just make sure you have a camera and keep your eyes open.

A spider has already spun the silk using the spinnaret glands at the top of its abdomen. It holds the silk using several legs - a bit like holding them in its lap. At the same time, it uses one leg to hold one end in a kind of lasoo, while feeding the silk out using another leg.  The tensile strength of spider silk is greater than the same amount of steel.

A suburban shopping strip, a street with no trees or gardens ... but vases of flowers on the pavement tables allow for a nature photo op.

Sunday, 15 June 2014

garden bloggers bloom day, June 2014

It was a mild autumn and up to now it's been a mild winter.

The last leaf has fallen and the branches are bare on the Crabapple tree.

The purple flowers on the French lavender bushes are starting to open.

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