Jacaranda time

It’s spring in northern New South Wales.

In this sub-tropical climate, that means new leaves, green grass and above all, flowering trees. Our route southwards has been decorated with blossom, most notably the spectacular orange blossoms of Grevillea robusta, the Silkoak tree, and the gorgeous misty purple of the Jacarandas.

Yesterday we passed through Grafton, the Jacaranda Capital of Australia, and home of the annual Jacaranda Festival. Sadly, we’re going to miss the event itself as we’ll be virtually home again by then, but the trees are already in spectacular bloom throughout the city. It was pouring with rain as we passed through, so all my photos are taken through the car windscreen, but I think you’ll get the idea anyway!

We’ve travelled something over 1400km (870 miles) since Sunday, with still a way to go. It has been wet every day of our trip so far, so I have no spectacular views to show you; the landscape has been shrouded in mist and cloud, or dense rain all the way. I’m carrying my camera with me, so if an opportunity to capture something does arise, I’ll be ready, but it’s not looking too hopeful!

I’m hoping for a few dry spells at some stage, but given the forecast this may be too much to hope for :-/  It’s going to be a soggy old camping trip…


An ignominious retreat

Small birds are amazingly courageous.

I’ve often seen a crowd of small and not normally fierce garden birds seeing off a larger potential predator. Today, though, I had to applaud. A pair of Peewees (Grallina cyanoleuca) were relentless in seeing off a large juvenile Brown Goshawk (Accipiter fasciatus), who’d wafted down and had taken up a watching post on the neighbour’s fence. He sat there impassively for a while as they swooped closer and closer, yelling noisily all the while, until finally he leapt into the air, clapped his wings hard a few times, and disappeared into the sky to take his hunting exploits elsewhere.

Sorry about the poor focus – I ran in for my camera and fired off a couple of shots but by the time I’d got the thing properly focused he was already away. Brown Goshawks prey on small birds, but will take larger ones if the opportunity arises. They have large, strong yellow legs and talons, a raptor’s tearing beak and mad, staring yellow eyes under heavy eyebrows. You can tell this one is a juvenile because of the heavier brown splashes on the breast feathers. Adults have finer barring on the feathers there. I’m not at all sure I’d want to mess with one myself, so it’s particularly impressive that the Peewees got rid of him.

Routed. And by a pair of noisy clowns!

Prehistoric creatures

No, not dinosaurs, but a distant relative.

I’m talking about Helmeted Friarbirds (Philemon buceroides). They’re strange, gaunt-looking creatures that give the impression they’d be quite happy flying about on webbed membranes instead of feathered wings. They have large, bony skulls which are strongly reminiscent of pterodactyl heads and are very bold, at times flying up to the screen door at the back of the house and hanging from the mesh while they eye the inhabitants of the room.

There’s a pair which is currently making a point of adorning the car with white splotches while they strut across the windscreen or admire themselves in the wing mirrors. While they’re at this artistic endeavour, we’re treated to their raucous, uninhibited song. I don’t quite know why this is suddenly happening after 3 years in this house, but we appear to be greatly favoured! They’re weird, but I like them 🙂

I just wish they’d keep their, um, offerings to themselves…

Colour as sound

Sometimes, Nature springs something that stops you in your tracks.

This is what stopped me in mine yesterday. Do click on the photo to get a larger image, it’s worth it! Can you believe those colours, those clouds? I have a very mild case of synaesthesia, and I could hear those colours. Think Jeremiah Clarke’s Trumpet Voluntary (formerly attributed to Henry Purcell).

You’d stop seeing it if it was like this every day, but sometimes, we’re reminded how amazing this planet is…

Miz Lizzie Adventures: Coast and country

I suffer from deep verandah envy.

That’s deep envy of deep verandahs, in case you were wondering about the ambiguity. Yesterday, we visited our friends down the coast a little. Dale is a blogging friend, and a while ago she and her husband made the brave leap from city life in Sydney to live permanently in their country bolt hole. Like any so-called idyllic setting, it has its downsides (30kms to the nearest bank/post office/supermarket, zero mobile phone signal, etc), but the sheer beauty of their surroundings, the peacefulness and the community around them are a worthy pay-off for these minor inconveniences. But what really seals the deal for me is their house. She’s a traditional Australian wooden house on stumps, high-ceilinged and with spacious rooms that nearly all open onto the verandah. And oh, what a verandah!

A great deal of their living is done there: working, eating, snoozing, Skyping friends, playing with the dog and simply gazing out at the green glory of their view. I adore that house, I would kill for that verandah, and I love spending time there, admiring the hard work they’ve put into the house and garden, the epic vegetable cage he has built to keep the marauding local wildlife out of the vegies, the enormous passionfruit vine with the biggest, shiniest fruit dangling from it that I’ve ever seen. All that…. It reminds why I first went to live in northern NSW, and why it’s still one of my most favourite spots on earth.

The air is full of birdsong there, and not much other noise, and though I was unable to capture the female Fairy Wrens that were hopping about and twittering loudly, I did manage a shot of this Eastern Spinebill feeding from the tubular red flowers of the grevillea. The sun caught his back at just the right moment, and his normally rather slatey blue back feathers gleam with iridescence.

And finally, no day here is complete without my walk on the beach. It was twilight when I got there, the moon was bright, the sky was clear and pristine, and the sun had just left the waves. I sat on a dead tree embedded in the sand and just absorbed it…

Today is going to be a moderately quiet day. We have some shopping to do, and are going to scope out the venue for this year’s motorbike rally in October, which is happening some 130kms up the coast from here. Miz Lizzie will wait in the sunshine for us to get home and for me to get tonight’s curry started…

Another beautiful day ahead. Life is hell…!


Miz Lizzie Adventures: Beach textures

Here’s what I was pottering around with yesterday.

There are some extraordinary textures in what’s washed up on the beach if you look closely. I love the neutral/monochrome colour palette, too. I think my favourite is the palm stem, with those delicate lacy fibres, thin and fine, but at the same time, incredibly strong.

It makes a nice collage of images, doesn’t it? I wish I could think of a way to integrate them into some sort of textural piece of fibre art….

Miz Lizzie Adventures: a serious lunch

By which I certainly don’t mean a gloomy atmosphere…

I mean the lunch was a standout, one of those blissful and delicious events that you remember for a very, very long time. We had business in Coffs Harbour this morning, and had meant to take a business associate out for lunch to say thank you for a job well done. She has flu, poor thing, so we changed our plans and the venue, and returned to our most favourite restaurant of all, where we got engaged and where we have celebrated many landmarks. It’s located at the marina, on the seawall overlooking the coast and the Solitary Islands.

Not a bad view to enjoy with your lunch…

So, knowing the size of the portions, we decided it would be a mains and desserts lunch.  The Husband had crab linguine, with home made pasta and a wonderfully tasty and chilli-infused sauce. I had roasted duck breast with beetroot, pickled fennel, walnut and goat’s cheese salad. Both were sensational, but merely a warm-up for the desserts!

The Husband’s was a Deconstructed Snickers, with caramel peanut parfait, dark chocolate soil, dark chocolate fudge, candied peanuts, a caramelised white chocolate delice and a crisp chocolate caramel wafer.

Mine was the Chocolate Assiette, with dark chocolate paste, rich chocolate rum fudge, divinely smooth milk chocolate ganache, white chocolate hazelnut cluster, an almond crisp truffle and a chocolate ‘spoon’.

Almost unconscious from the sugar rush, we decided a bit of fresh air was called for, and headed up the hill to Seeley’s Lookout, high on the range overlooking the city. It has a wonderful ‘sky bridge’, a viewing platform you can walk out on, cantilevered out of the hillside to give you a 300° view around you. On a clear day, you can see a couple of hundred kilometres to the south. We stayed a while to appreciate our blessings, absorb the beauty and do a spot of wishful thinking. And then it was time to turn for home.

I spent a peaceful hour on the beach in the late afternoon with my camera, capturing textures. I’ll share those with you another day.