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Archive for July, 2013

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The lure of an unfamiliar path or roadway beckons everyone to follow it. Where will this trail lead us—what beauties of nature will unfold to photograph and enjoy—which new discoveries will intrigue and delight us along the way?

When the urge to explore our surroundings became impossible to resist, I prepared a permanent excursion kit, ready and waiting to help us make a quick departure. Packed away in a special basket are: a thermos, tea and coffee bags, pottery mugs, a container for cookies or sandwiches and our well-worn regional map. It takes only a minute to fill the thermos with boiling water and a small bottle with fresh milk. Once we collect our cameras and keys we can be off and on our way.

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What I love about my adventure kit, is that there’s no raking through chests and cupboards before we can finally leave home. If you enjoy exploring the out-of-doors, set up your own kit to keep packed and ready to go? It’s often these spontaneous outings that provide the richest and most enjoyable experiences nature can offer.

on the road again
windows wide open
pedal to the floor
not even westerly winds
can catch us

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Flora Galora

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In the southern hemisphere, July ushers in the final throes of winter. Now the days are at their shortest and the cold is growing wearisome. Our flora—leaves and grass in particular—is burned by the early morning frosts, lending a desolate and gaunt appearance to the landscape. But as the trumpet vine bursts into its glorious flowering, Mother Nature rescues us from winter by lifting our senses into a brilliant blaze of orange.

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The flame vine, (Pyrostegia venusta), is a member of the Bigmonia family. It’s native to southern Brazil, northern Argentina and Paraguay and now grows profusely throughout Australia. The genus name coming from the Greek is descriptive of its flowers. Pyro suggests flames or fire, while stege describes its covering. The species name, Venusta, means pleasing— and pleasing it is—both to view and to enjoy.

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Flame vines are vigorous, fast-growing, evergreen woody vines. These develop into large climbing plants forming sheets of growth which can cover a fence or our entire potting shed, (see below). Each single vine can reach 80 feet or 24 metres in length and will branch profusely. The compound leaves have two or three oval leaflets, arranged in pairs opposite one another. Often the central leaflet contains tendrils that support the vine as it climbs.

The tubular flowers—resembling a trumpet—are clustered at the tips of its branches. The corolla has four lobes, bent backwards, while its long orange stamens and style extend well beyond the tube. The flower clusters cascade downward like exotic chandeliers, under the weight of their own beauty.

 

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We are grateful for the spectacular trumpet vine, one of the most dramatic in cultivation. It alone makes our winters bearable.

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Nature's Bounty 2

nature’s bounty –
food to nourish
the body
beauty to nourish
the soul

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In Queensland’s Granite belt all the bones of the earth are laid bare. Rock is everywhere—scattered in piles of rounded boulders, exposed in great slabs throughout ridges, creeks and forests, or appearing on bare domed mountains, soaring above the low lands and valleys. In the best example of a granite landscape here, the question begs to be asked, ‘Where did all this rock come from?’

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Originally Stanthorpe Granite was a molten mass of magma, thrust into the older surrounding rocks some 240 million years ago, during the early Triassic period. Deep below the surface it began to cool, allowing its minerals to solidify and grow into large crystals still evident in the rocks today. Since then the slow process of erosion exposed the granite to weather events.

In the fresh rock surfaces, four mineral constituents can be plainly seen. Clear grains of quartz sparkle in the sun light while pink and white feldspar crystals and black flakes of mica are sprinkled through the rocks like salt and pepper seasoning.  As erosion slowly removes the great weight of rock above the land’s surface, stresses are released. These allow the granite to crack along fractures, particularly those located along major sheet joints, parallel to the surface. This action isolates large sheets of rock of varying thicknesses. As weathering and decomposition proceeds, this process eventually sculptures the sheets into rounded boulders or ‘tors.’

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Near Pozieres lies a tumble of massive tors known as Donnelly’s Castle. Piled helter- skelter into outlooks, caves, and twisting corridors, this natural fortress sheltered Captain Thunderbolt, his outlaw gang and their horses for many years. The escaped convict freely roamed the New England Tablelands in the 1860s, evading capture through his prowess as a horseman and his intimate knowledge of the terrain. As we explore the rocky outcrop, we imagine him hiding in the caves or fleeing through a maze of passages.

The pristine beauty of this place with its stark shapes and forms will always remain a popular destination. Here a visitor can marvel at the variety of nature’s distinct handiwork by experiencing the power and size of these bones of the earth.

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