Friday, August 2, 2013

It's Hardenbergia Time!

Hardenbergia Season! (goes by the names of Hardenbergia violacea, Native Lilac, Lilac Vine, Waraburra (Kattang Language), Happy Wanderer, Purple Coral Pea, False Sarsaparilla) 

There is only one Hardenbergia around here - you don’t notice it until July and August and suddenly, our world turns purple! They grow in a range of soils but always well-drained, and in full sun to Gumtree shady. I looked for a small-leaved form at Trees In Newcastle (Bush Regeneration Nursery) and planted them in my garden several years ago.  The tiny leaves are almost invisible all year but now everyone can see the masses of purple splashes all over everything!

Clever little things that make their own nitrogen fertiliser, they seem happiest if left to look after themselves - which they are quite capable of doing. For example, if they are growing in an exposed spot, they hold their leaves up erect to avoid the hot ground in the middle of a hot day, returning to rest them at night.

The leaves look single and lanceolate but on close inspection - especially when it is very young, you can see the leaves begin as trifoliate, but soon drop the outside leaflets and leave the central one - like a footprint of a Wallaby with side toes missing.

The stems have no thorns or tendrils but twist themselves around anti-clockwise so it can climb to a better vantage point to show off it’s sexual parts - and bask in the sunlight!

Very rarely, one comes across a different form in the wild - a shrub form or a different colour.  A couple of years ago a lovely pink form was found in Awabakal Nature Reserve.  I photographed it on a rainy day just as the sun was coming out!

 The area where this was growing was burnt last October so I wonder if there will be one this year?

Lately there has been a few different forms selected from along the east side of Australia and marketed - for example:

  • "Canoelands" - a form with dense, long thin leaves
  • "Happy Wanderer" (very vigorous, purple flowers)
  • "Pink Fizz" (pink flowers - climbing, not vigorous)
  • "Mini Haha" (tightly compact, shrubby - purple flowers)
  • "Alba" (white flowers)
  • "Free 'n' Easy" (whitish flowers, vigorous climber)
  • "Blushing Princess" (shrubby - mauve-pink flowers)
  • "Purple Falls" (trailing - purple flowers, good for rockeries)
  • "Bushy Blue" (shrubby - blue-purple flowers)

Drink:  Apparently, the boiled leaves produce a slightly sweet and reasonably pleasant drink 
A grey-blue dye can be obtained from the flowers too! 

Cribb. A. B. and J. W. Wild Food in Australia.
Facciola. S. Cornucopia - A Source Book of Edible Plants.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Dragon people friends

Well, I know - I haven't written for a while.. the Dragons are all asleep for the Winter and so perhaps was I?  However, word seems to be getting around and I've found a lovely person who lives in the same valley who also has made friends with the Dragons and wants to tell about them.  Meet Dick and 'his' Dragon friends - it seems Dick's diaries are remarkably similar... 

19th June 2012

Here's a Pinky story (#1).
A few years ago Pinky was in the habit of climbing up the tall gum near the house, and catching the morning sun on our tile roof.
You know how sometimes you get the feeling that you're being watched?
Well, occasionally I'd be in the yard and I'd get that feeling.
I'd look up and see Pinky peering over the edge of the roof, watching proceedings (see attached pic).
One New Year's Eve our friends, a married couple, slept over after we celebrated till 1.
In the morning the husband lay down in the sun on the deck, on a sun lounge, to relax before breakfast.
He had on a stone coloured T-shirt, which was stretched tightly over his rather large, round stomach.
To Pinky, who had climbed to the roof early and was looking over the edge, this must have looked like a lovely warm, round rock to sunbake on.
He launched himself from the roof and did a belly-flop onto our mate's stomach.
He leapt up with a scream, and poor old Pinky leapt, in turn, from the deck onto the lawn below.
"Mate," I said, "What are you doing scaring our lizard?"
Regards for now
Dick has many more stories...
I'll post some more later.


Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Born to be wild...and friendly

Wed 7th March, 2012
What’s that I hear? Rain as I wake in the early morning darkness? And an sms coming through – garden work cancelled today so stay in bed. Oh well, re-arrange appointments yet again and another day on the computer. 
I don’t really mind working on the computer when it’s cold and rainy outside – there is such a lot of fantastic things to learn and creative stuff to do drawing up garden ideas.  But by lunchtime I’m feeling so fat and yuck because I’ve already eaten breakfast, morning tea, lunch, afternoon tea and snacks… It just seems so good to eat all the time. 
What’s that I see?  Sunlight?  Yes, and it feels warmer.  I take the opportunity to break free of the house – and the food - and go out the front in the direction of the sun rays streaming down on the wet front garden. My next door neighbour comes out at the same time – she had the same idea!   We chatted and of course the conversation turned to Dragon stories. “Maybe it’s just my imagination,” she said, “but I was away last week, and upon returning home, ‘Lizzy’ (her resident Dragon) came running straight up to me!” Apparently, her husband and daughter stayed home but Lizzy was really pleased to see that she had come home. She said the greeting was like a happy dog. Her ‘Lizzy’ lays around all day on a hanging fern pot that contains the remnants of a long-gone Hare’s foot Fern – all soft and comfy. I think Lizzy is one happy lizard!
Only the other day Mum and a friend and I were chatting on the verandah with ‘our’ Harry sitting next to us looking interested in the conversation.  Mum swears Harry talks to her!  We were all commenting that it is curious that free (wild) Australian animals can seem to be such lovely, harmless good friends.  Would you imagine a fox in Europe being friendly? Or a wild cat or dog? Cats and dogs can be dangerous even when they’re ‘tame’ let alone if they are wild – and I think NEVER become good harmless friends unless you take them from the mother soon after birth and train them.
We love our Harry though – he’s got character!  Take last week for example:  I saw a little baby Dragon on the path so I thought I’d try to photograph it by lying down on my belly – like I saw David Attenborough explain.   Apparently it is a way of getting closer to wild animals because you are low down at their level and they are not so afraid of you.

Baby Dragon near homemade mini magic mushroom compost bin

So here I am creeping along on my belly photographing and getting closer (one day I’ll just get a better zoom lens), and I thought I was doing pretty good – I got to within about 40cm!, until I felt Harry come up behind me and brush past my leg.  I lifted my leg to gently kick him out of the way – continuing to photograph the baby while I still had him in my view; then I feel Harry jump onto my back and just sit there!
At that point I felt a bit awkward... lying on the concrete path, carefully trying to sneek up on a baby Dragon, and I’ve suddenly got a blooming full-grown male one sitting on my back saying ‘Hellow’!
 Just then the little one spotted a baby Dragon-sized grass hopper and ran off to catch it.  I turned to look over my shoulder and Harry hopped over it!  My camera was so close to his face, it was too close to even focus!
Baby Dragon posing for the camera

Oh well! That’s the thing about photographing Nature – you can’t easily sneek up on Nature they always see you first!

Baby Dragon in background now...

I'm watching you...

Harry poking his head in front of the camera while I was carefull sneeking up on a baby Dragon

Monday, March 5, 2012

George's Property gets an upgrade!

George’s block of land gets upgraded!
Rain!  Again!  How inconvenient.  The scientists claim our culture / economic system / whatever... has created a ‘climate change’ - a rise in average temperature by 2oC.  Sounds ok until you learn what this really means. Does it mean our day temperature becomes 23 instead of a perfect 21oC? We wish!! And apparently, besides the Climate Change-causing mayhem of ocean currents changing, sea levels rising, increasing storms, etc, etc, there are at least nine other physical ecosystem limits we are warned about crossing:  Stratospheric ozone, land use change, freshwater use, biological diversity, ocean acidification, nitrogen and phosphorous inputs to the biosphere and oceans, aerosol loading, and chemical pollution. Phew! Not only that, there are good old-fashioned resource limits being reached at a rate of knots.

George is looking much happier now!

Meanwhile... over the past two summers ‘Poor George’ who had arrived at my back door looking like he’d been travelling for months across the great ‘City Desert’- after all the other dragons had gone to bed for the Winter – has been looking much better!  I’m happy to report that he now feels fairly secure in his own block of land at the front of my house – albeit fairly low-status as it is closer to the road and further away from the creek and Glenrock State Conservation Area! So what does ‘Fat George’ think of it all? I think he knows the humans have been sending a little love his way and I can tell by the look in his eyes he appreciates it.
Looking at ‘Happy Fat George’ made me think of ways I could make my lifestyle more ‘sustainable’ and I gave myself a pretty good Xmas present – I got rid of the last bit of turf out the front and replaced it with a gravelly-sandy surface called Rhyolite dust.  It forms a hard surface but is still loose enough to grow some native ground covers, and can be scratched out to make a little hole for laying Dragon eggs.  I was nervous that the neighbours might not understand the objective, but amazingly, I kept hearing things like, ‘looks great’!  and ‘Like the way you can see the garden better rather than the green turf running into the green of the shrubs’. 
Even so, when a friend was telling me she needed to buy a new mower, I was hesitant at first but then, thought ‘Why not?’ So I gave away my mower and fuel tin!  That was the weirdest feeling – so liberating and yet somehow scary.

This afternoon the sun is out and the distracting sound of lawn mowers has been droning on and on. I take a break from the computer to look if it is my dear old neighbour down the end of the street who has been struggling to maintain the weeds in the reserve next to his fence.  I should offer to help! I figure I’ve helped already by doing some Landcare work with the massive weed problem in the rainforest further along but the large area beside his fence is just mowed grass and low weeds. The only way to control it is to keep mowing or replant with something small that can be maintained and isn’t a fire hazard.  The neighbours in our quiet cul de sac want to plant a few citrus to replace most of the mowed grass.  They reckon it would be easier to maintain and everyone would be rewarded with fresh fruit, the Dragons would eat the Stink Bugs (they LOVE them!), and the people might be more inclined to take ownership and look after the rainforest (even though it is land ‘owned’ by Council, it is not Council’s responsibility to maintain it anyway).

An intrigued George watching the neighbour mowing

I look out the front and there is my next door neighbour mowing his lawn. 

George is watching from his favourite spot in his ‘improved value property’. 

And the droning of the mowing goes on and on...

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Dragon Dressing Recipe

My bowl of Dragon Dressing

Dragon Dressing (Raw)
Grapefruit juice – ½ cup
Parsley – small bunch
Sundried tomatoes – 4 pieces
Rapadura sugar – 1Tablespoon
Honey – 1 teaspoon
Ginger - thumb
Onion - half
Parsnip - 1

Blend raw.
Serving suggestion: over avocado and snow peas/peas, on boiled quinoa, and sprinkled with
Gomazio (toasted sesame seeds ground a bit with seaweed sheets and Himalayan Salt…EASY!)
OK – so I went out to the deck for better light to photograph my Dragon Dressing – and while I was bending over trying to focus the camera I heard the pitter patter of George’s little feet. I looked up and there he was peeping up at me (see photo 2).  You can see it is George – see his crooked knee and the patch of brownish skin down his back that didn’t quite finish shedding before he went to sleep for the Winter.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Genetically Modified animals for human Affection

On Wednesday, a neighbour gave me the little dead body his cat unfortunately killed and brought to him.  He felt bad but thought I'd like to see it.  Incredibly, its a Feather-tailed Glider - it was still struggling to survive in the narrow corridor of weed-infested bush behind our houses. 
Some people get angry about cats, and it is awful to see a cat not controlled. I suppose it is just about learning that we need to build cat enclosures. As a new culture in an Australian environment, we are slowly learning (she says optimistically...) that we need to protect our unique plants and animals. That's why I thought I'd tell the story. Most people I talk to have never even heard of a Feather-tailed Glider, let alone seen one in their backyard - but they and lots of other amazing creatures are still trying to survive our ways, and 'growth'. But time is running out.
I find the topic of our culture vs the environment interesting. For example, we actively breed (in a way, genetically modify) specific traits we feel a want or need for. 'Animal Assisted Therapy' (AAT) advocates put up a good argument that animals bred just for affection and obedience (such as our human-raised and trained puppies and kittens) can offer some amazing benefits to elderly, lonely, disabled, and sick humans (see attached photo of cat nuzzling up to an elderly man: 'Exploring the benefits from animal therapy' from De Pets).
I'm fascinated when I see advertisements for cat food - commonly with slogans such as: 'He'll love you more', and I wonder if we have a need in our culture to look at:
·         how we meet our needs for affection,
·         to learn to care for another,
·         to feel like we can 'make things happen' - or have some control over something,
·         and learn self-control.
Studies have shown that 'animals', '...could be catalytic agents in therapy and could aid in the orientation and connection to reality, particularly for those suffering schizophrenia or autism' (pioneering psychiatrist, Boris Levinson). Levinson also stated that 'pet animals in homes could restore healthy communication in the families of disturbed children'. He contended that companion (and residential) animals teach responsible, independent behaviours and non-gendered care-giving.

Our culture feels such a strong need for the affection of 'genetically modified' and artificially controlled animals, that if a person was to purposely kill or harm another's family 'pet', it is called 'inhumane', is a crime, and in additon, the offender could be fined $1000s for negligent infliction of emotional distress. Yet, here is a cute little Feather-tailed Glider almost wiped out as a whole species because of family pets, and attitudes of indiference to 'bush'.
Its also interesting that it is illegal to pick a wildlfower - yet when a Bull-dozer drives through bushland - as I've just seen twice in my area in the last 2 weeks - it is not just beautiful wildflowers that are destroyed forever, many little animals are also squashed - Feather-tailed Gliders, Sugar Gliders, Blue-tongued lizards, Water Dragons, Leaf-tailed Geckos, Owls, Blue-Wrens, Fungi galore... the list goes on. Its a total massacre! Who's paying compensation for the infliction of emotional distress on all the people who see this - such as you and me - and the future generations?
My question is: do we need to look at how we treat each other living in our natural environment so we can feel ok about ourselves, meet our affection needs, etc? Or do we continue to use genetically modified cats & dogs to do this for us?
February …and the heat goes on…

The neighbours’ children like to help –
holding the grasshoppers temporarily in a bottle. 

Tried to find grasshoppers for Poor George who is now slowly beginning to fatten up. 
(Note to self:  Research plants that attract grasshoppers!  ...what am I thinking!)

They often get distracted by the Frog Pond though…

And isn’t the delicate little miniature Native Water Lily charming!

Poor George has found himself some, albeit, low-status real-estate in the front garden -
which is not really ideal - facing the road, even if it is a quiet cul-de-sac.
He’s even started to shed his skin although a narrow strip along his back is proving persistent! 
Here he is having a rest on the Rain Chain pot stand.
In this hot weather, the Compost bins are critical to the survival of the garden as the constant gradual seepage of liquid fertilizer coming from the bottom keeps nearby roots cool and well-fed. See the lush growth of the Dwarf Banana and Orange trees behind George!