Have you ever…. seen fields full of sunshine?

Last year, I was lucky enough to be cycling through fields of brilliant yellow. I was in France, it was summer and the sunflowers were just dazzling.

I love the colour yellow – it is associated with sunlight, summer and (for me anyway) a feeling of happiness and contentment. I was therefore in for a wonderful treat last weekend, when we travelled through the cropping areas of central NSW and passed dozens of fields of canola crops in full bloom. Stopping to try and capture these wonderful scenes, I was treated to the perfume of billions of flowers, all trying to outcompete their neighbouring blossoms for the attentions of their pollinators.

Canola crops in full bloom in central NSW

Canola crops in full bloom in central NSW

Add to this, the balmy temperatures of the encroaching spring, and you have a most memorable journey!

A lone Eucalyptus tree is surrounded by hectares of canola.

A lone Eucalyptus tree is surrounded by hectares of canola.

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The Silvereyes have arrived

Bees in their hundreds feeding off the 3m long flower spike

Bees in their hundreds feeding on the thousands of small white flowers on the spectacular floral spike.

Recently, I was rather excited to find that one of my Grass Trees or Xanthorrhoea‘s had developed a flower spike.

The reason for the excitement was that I had waited some 14 years for this to happen, having nurtured these slow growing plants from seed.

A Silvereye perched on the flower spike

A Silvereye perched on the flower spike

Now that the flowers are opening on this spectacular 3m (about 3 yards) long flower spike, the pollinators have arrived in their droves!

The bees are working overtime to get as much nectar as they can, whilst the Silvereyes are also working their way up, down and around, flapping the bees out of their way, getting their own sugar fix!

I have counted 6 of these small birds on the flower spike at once, but mostly they are there in twos and threes. It is a very busy part of the garden at the moment.

It is a long way off yet, but I hope that eventually I will get some seeds from this spike and I can start growing more of these beautiful plants.

Two Silvereyes working their way through the nectar laden flowers

Two Silvereyes working their way through the nectar laden flowers

I have had considerable pleasure in watching these birds and managed to get some photos to share. For those of you who specifically enjoy birds, I hope you will especially like these images.

Posted in Australia, Favourite things, Wildlife | Tagged , , , , | 7 Comments

Have you ever…. eaten a BIG egg?

large_egg

5 average sized eggs and one huge one!

3point3ozThis post is not about lovely big chocolate eggs which a friendly rabbit leaves around the Easter season. Nor is it about the eggs of the mighty ostrich which are huge – weighing in at about 20 times that of a domestic chicken egg.


94g Regular readers will know that I have two red chickens (or chooks as they are colloquially known in Australia). These wonderful birds regularly produce an egg each day, most of which are about 60g in size.
Recently though, we were surprised to find an enormous egg instead of the regular sized ones (and no, it was not a visiting bird, the chook yard is fully enclosed :-)). It weighed 94g or 3.3 ounces! I was certain it would be a “double yolker”, but no, just a single big yolk was found inside.

Have you ever had chickens and had them produce occasional huge eggs?

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Goanna up a gum tree!

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Trying to be invisible – the Goanna has flattened itself on the tree trunk, trying to blend with the bark.

When one thinks of Australian fauna, the animals that come immediately to mind are Koalas, Kangaroos and Wallabies. For those who prefer critters with feathers, there are also many beautiful birds to enjoy. However, an animal which is not generally readily identified with Australia is the Goanna.

Goannas are actually large lizards (getting up to about 1.5m in length), and although they look quite formidable, are shy and do not enjoy generally enjoy human attention.

I have been lucky to see quite a few, usually they are spotted when crossing a road, before scurrying up the nearest tree and away out of perceived harm.

Today we were driving out of a local national park and came across this specimen, also known as Lace Monitor. True to form, it was not overly impressed by being photographed, but we enjoyed watching it for a while, before leaving it in peace.

Large sharp claws make climbing trees a breeze.

Large sharp claws make climbing trees a breeze. Taken with a good zoom lens!

Can you spot the Goanna? This one is called a Lace Monitor.

Can you spot the Goanna? This particular one which we saw today is called a Lace Monitor.

Did you know that we had Goannas in Australia? Have you ever seen one or any other big lizard like it?

Posted in Australia, Have you ever..., Wildlife | Tagged , , , , , , | 18 Comments

R U OK day

Today is “R U OK?” day in Australia.

What does this mean? Well it is a day when people are invited to stop and think about those around them and to ask – “Are you OK?”. Quite often, those who mentally troubled, or have a lot of life worries, tend to internalise them and do not let anyone know what they are going through.

So, how about it? Why not ask those around you if they are OK? They may seem to be OK on the surface, but this may be a facade. The simple act of kindness from someone around them who took the time to genuinely ask about their welfare could make such a difference to their lives.

It is rare that I am able to photograph a bird this close, but this little animal was not OK. It died not long after I took this photo. Yet it looks so perfect here.

A beautiful Double Barred Finch.

A beautiful Double Barred Finch.

 

Posted in Musings, Odds & ends | Tagged | 7 Comments

Oh cheese!

Cheesebar

Oh yum……. where to start? :-)

It has been a while since I responded to any of Ailsa’s travel challenges, but I could not resist her topic for this week: Merchandise.
I rarely take photos of merchandise (!!) but there is one thing that I do miss a lot that we just cannot get in Australian supermarkets, and that is cheese. We can get the ordinary cheddars or vintage brands, but there are just none of those exotic, fascinating and intriguing varieties that exist in fromageries and supermarchés in every town, village and city in France.
Cheese2Cheese3
The last time I saw one of the cheese sections of the supermarket where I was getting groceries, I just could not resist getting a few quick snaps of the huge range of delicious cheeses which the French people can take for granted. Admittedly, they do not have Vegemite on the shelves, but I would quite happily do without this Australian iconic spread to enjoy more lovely cheeses with my evening meals.
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In case you also do not have hundreds of cheeses in your local supermarket delicatessen, this is what I am referring to!

Posted in Favourite things, France, Travel, Weekly challenges | Tagged , , , | 16 Comments

Have you ever… seen a Xanthorrhoea flower?

There is no doubt. There are some pretty amazing plants in this world of ours. Two in particular stand out for me amongst the Australian flora – the Gymea Lily and the Xanthorrhoea or Grass Tree.

Gymea Lilies do not like our climate, and I have not attempted to grow them. However, when it comes to Grass Trees, I am happy to report that I have had wonderful success.

Grass Trees are protected in Australia, you are not permitted to harvest them from the wild without a permit, and they are very difficult to transplant successfully – taking up to 3 years to decide whether they like their new location or not. They are consequently also very expensive to purchase. They are strange plants, having a stem which emerges from beneath the ground, which then can grow quite tall, pushing the skirt of grassy leaves up as it lengthens.

So why this protection? Well, simply because they take a very long time to grow and can live up to 600 or more years!  I was able to get some Xanthorrhoea seed some 14 years ago and planted it in pots in my greenhouse. The tiny grass like leaf that emerged took 3 years to get a mere 5cm (about 3 inches) in height. I had pretty well given up on them ever doing much, but decided to eventually plant them in a well drained, raised area in my garden and see what happened.

Xanthorrhoea

A lovely group of Grass Trees – all grown from seed many, many years ago.

Some 12 years later, most of the plants were still alive, but not really growing that well. Then, surprisingly, in the past 2 years, about half the plants decided to suddenly flourish. (Sadly, the other half decided that life was not so good, and have quietly succombed :-( )

Xanthorrhoea1

That is one very long and spectacular flower spike. The individual flowers are small and white – the white line down the left of the spike shows where the flowers are starting to open.

This year, I have been rewarded with the ultimate prize – a flower spike. This is quite unusual, as these plants generally only flower after a fire has occurred. The spike is some 3m or 10 feet in length, and has only just started to show open flowers. To give you some idea of how large this plant is, I got my partner to stand next to it.

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Lots of small flowers emerging on the side of the large flower spike.

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The stem of the flower spike is very large, at the base as you can see.

I am so delighted with my beautiful grass trees. Nature is just so wonderful. And hopefully, soon, I will have a new lot of seed to start the process all over again!

If this species has intrigued you and you would like to read a bit more about it (it is worth it, they are amazing plants!) a search on the web will reveal lots of fascinating information. If you want a nice summary, then Wikipedia will give this to you.

Posted in Have you ever..., Image Gallery, Musings | Tagged , , , , | 17 Comments