>Country life


One of the pleasures of living in a rural area is that you can stay so much in touch with nature and see how there are planetary changes each year.
We moved into Bowraville just over one year ago.  The weather was hot prior to our arrival and for a couple of weeks afterwards.  The crepe myrtle trees were in full flower and the jacaranda on the front verge was coming to an end of its flowering.  Just after Christmas the big tree next door, which has long trumpet-like, white flowers which come out with a heavenly scent only at night, was full of hundreds of super-noisy rainbow lorikeets.
This year, the weather has been quite different.  We didn’t get the prolonged rain and floods of northern NSW or Queensland, but it has been a lot cooler and a whole heap wetter. The big tree has flowered much later and has had far more blossoms.  They only last the night and then they let go, floating gracefully to the floor like a parachute with the pointed end down and the blossom edges fluttering gently in the downward fall.   There have been few lorikeets, just the occasional two or three which don’t stay long.  The crepe myrtle trees are only just starting to blossom, and the jacaranda came into flower really late, well into December. 
We have a medium-sized tree in the back garden which last year appeared to have had no blossoms by the time we arrived as there were no seed pods.  This year the tree was covered in blossoms and the lorikeets had a wonderful feeding frenzy while the tree was in full bloom.  It’s now back for a second flowering and this time it’s the fruit bats which are having a good feed.  Mostly you don’t see the bats, only if you go out in the early morning when they take off in their dozens from the tree, but you do hear the flap of their wings during the night if you wake up, as the bats have big, leathery wings.  And yes, it’s so warm at night – 20C most nights – that we sleep with the windows and doors open.  It’s a quiet village and we’d certainly hear any intending burglars trying to get through the screen door, while the three dogs belonging to our neighbours either side are quick off the mark to bark if there are any strangers around.
You also get to see all sorts of butterflies, and watch all sorts of birds – green catbirds which sound exactly like cats screeching; galahs; butcher birds; magpies; a glimpse of bright black and yellow Regent bowerbirds, glossy black mature satin bowerbirds and podgy green and pink young and female bowerbirds; bright blue fairy-wrens; red-browed finches; doves; koels; woodswallows; treecreepers; all sorts of honeyeaters; crows; sitellas; kookaburras; grey shrike-thrushes (which look plain but have an absolutely beautiful song); rufous whistlers; willy wagtails; grey fantails; spangled drongos (wonderful name, also Australian slang – what a drongo – for someone who’s a real idiot); and of course we often get eagles flying over our home or overhead as we’re driving up to Coffs Harbour.
Yesterday, we had a nice little visitor, a praying mantis which kindly posed for a photo:
It is incredibly well-camouflaged and, when it’s still, is easy to mistake for a stick. In fact, I took a third photo but deleted it because it was so hard to sort out the praying mantis from the plant!
We also got some cuttings and odd plants from a friend and these have gone berserk in the heavy rains we’ve had this summer.  We’ve had to dig out the main area of high grass as it’s swamping everything else, but we’ve broke it up into clumps to grow along the fence and camouflage its rather dingy colour.  
On the left is a pic of a flower from the Tibouchina bush we put in halfway through the year. I’ve been fiddling with Photoshop recently and discovered quite by accident how to colour in the background on photos, great fun, back in my second childhood.
And on the right is a pic of the flower which has appeared on the arrowhead plant we put in.  This has gone berserk in the rain – grown very high and sends out runners in all directions which then send out roots and start off another plant.  If the runner doesn’t send out roots within a certain amount of time, the arrowhead just withdraws life energy and the runner withers and dies.
Below are pics of the floods here in Bowraville.  We had prolonged rain but then torrential rain overnight and awoke to find the sound of a river running down beside the pavement opposite where, the night before, there had been the neighbours’ gardens.  Their houses are much lower than ours and closer to the creek which runs along the back of the town to join the Nambucca River at the bottom of our road, which produced the flooded road, bridge (yes, there is a bridge under the water somewhere) and children’s playground:
The floods were gone within a day and nowhere near as bad as those further north in Queensland or inland in New South Wales or further south in Victoria, I’m relieved to say.  Our home is on the high side of the street and up a hill, while the house itself is on a sloping block and is on stumps, so water runs underneath.  
There is, of course a lot of debate about the cause of the huge floods.  It still amazes me that so many political leaders have their head in the sand in relation to climate change, particularly in the wake of the unprecedented high temperatures in Victoria in February 2009 which led to the Black Saturday bushfires in which almost 200 people lost their lives.  Perhaps political leaders are wary about standing on the heavy feet of the big polluters like coal producers.  But the time is surely coming when these catastropic events – long predicted by climate change experts – will need to be taken seriously as part of global warming and real steps and action taken to start putting in place measures to counter global warming.

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