King Parrot

I’m on holiday in Australia, staying with my sister and family in Beaconsfield, Victoria. It’s a beautiful area, and their house is situated at the head of a long wooded valley, teeming with wildlife and birds, all very different to those I’m familiar with back home in England. It’s spring here in Australia, and I’ve been woken every morning by the laughing call of Kookaburras, and the burbling of Australian Magpies. While we were having lunch on the veranda, a pair of King Parrots entertained us with their chattering, and stayed long enough for me to grab my camera, and photograph this one before it flew away.

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The Australian Royal Tour and Good Friday

Prince William, Kate and George, have finally finished their royal tour of Australia. I have to say I’m quite jealous; Australia is a beautiful country, and they’ve certainly seen some of the really good bits! A few days ago I watched a TV news clip of their visit to the Blue Mountains of New South Wales. The royal party was standing at the edge of a cliff face, admiring the view from Narrow Neck Lookout. Kate was keeping a respectable distance from the edge, but Will was of course right at the very brink of the precipice, looking down. I wondered what I would do if I were there. Would I be standing at a safe distance appreciating the view, or would I be close to the edge, looking down?
A few days later I was at a Good Friday church service, and the royal scene at the Lookout popped into my head again, and I wondered why. I felt God prompting me to think about it. And I thought that if we walk through life, always looking down, then we only notice the rubbish that collects around our feet, and the filth that lurks in the shadows where we walk. Kicking around in the dirt we see old discarded drinks cans, sweet wrappers, crisp packets, and the chewing gum that has been trodden into the pavement. And in looking down we also miss all the wonderful things of nature all around us, the trees, the birds and butterflies, the sky, and people’s faces. I felt God say that I should keep looking upwards, and I would see His hand working in creation all around me. I remembered too that it was Good Friday, and I felt that I would only see how Jesus gave up everything for me, if I stopped looking at the ground, but looked up at the cross.

Kate and Will at Narrow Neck Lookout

Summer to Winter in Twenty-Four Hours

I’m home again. I’ve gone from Australian Summer to English Winter in a very short space of time, and it feels mighty cold! Although all the snow had thankfully gone before I arrived home, the air is still very icy, and when there is a gust of wind, it cuts right through to your goosebumps!
However, it is not all doom and gloom, the sky at the end of the road this evening is alight with the pink and gold of the setting sun, with house and car windows reflecting the brilliance. Down the street, the kids, well wrapped up in coats and hats, are braving the cold and playing outside as the day draws to its close.
I’m sure I’ll acclimatize soon, but for now I think I’ll enjoy the sunset from indoors!

All Good Things Come To An End

I’m finally, and reluctantly coming to the end of my holiday in Australia. I have one more day, and will probably spend most of that packing and stressing about whether my luggage is over weight or not! If you’ve been following my blog you’ll know that I’ve had a fantastic time; visited lots of fabulous places; seen many incredible sights and scenery, had some very different experiences, been called a ‘pom’ a few times, and generally had a wonderful time.
I leave Australia with very mixed feelings. I’ve been here nearly two months, and am now looking forward to getting home – despite the cold and wet of an English winter, (but hoping I’ve missed the worst of it). I am eager to see my daughter and son, and of course my dog Brinny. I’m also looking forward to catching up with other family and friends. I am however very sad to leave my sister Sue, brother-in-law Chris, and the family, and also the brightness and warmth of the Australian summer!

So farewell Australia, till I visit again – which I’m sure I will!

Flag of Australia

Flag of Australia (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Goat Herding

Cathedral Ranges

Cathedral Ranges

When I came to Australia for a holiday with my family, I had no idea that it would include herding goats! Let me explain. My sister Sue, who has three dogs, one cat, three chickens and three alpacas, wanted to add some female boer goats to the menagerie! “They’ll keep the grass down in the paddock,” she said. “And eat the brambles and weeds.” So early Saturday morning we were off to the Cathedral Mountain Ranges, a beautiful drive of about an hour and a half, to a farm selling some boer goats.

In a large, rough field thirty or so goats were grazing, about a dozen emu were padding around, and a very nasty black alpaca was eyeing us up. We braved the alpaca, who advanced on us menacingly, and spat at the farmer as we went through the gate into the field. Emus are strange, curious creatures; we were constantly aware of their booming and drumming sounds as they followed us around the field.
We looked at the goats. “Yes!” Sue and Chris definitely wanted six or eight females, “Can they be delivered?” they asked. Peter the farmer offered to loan us his livestock trailer, “You can take them today – if we can catch them!” he said. Sue was delighted. So for the next hour, Peter on a quad bike, and we three novices on foot, arms outstretched, were rounding up goats that didn’t really want to be rounded up! We managed to herd about half the goats into a small fenced run, but when we turned away, they were out again, under a broken piece of wooden fence and off up the field! Repeat performance; one quad bike, and us, herding unwilling goats down the field to the run, with a few booming emus following just behind. This time we got most of the goats into the run, and blocked the hole in the fence! The quad bike and the trailer were carefully positioned at the head of the run, with the goats huddled together at the other end. We advanced, herding the goats along one side of the run towards the trailer – until some scrambled under the wire fence in a desperate bid for freedom. We encouraged the remainder along the other side, and Sue began to choose which she wanted. Then Chris and Peter wrestled them one by one on to the trailer – steep learning curve for Chris in how to handle goats – horns and back legs – while I stood guard on the trailer gate to prevent any further escapes. Finally we had eight goats on the trailer. (One male went on by mistake, and had to be forcibly removed!) The trailer was secured, a tarpaulin tied over the top, and the trailer was hitched to Chris’s ute (utility vehicle). Then, in the ute, we followed Peter up to the house.

The house was set in the most beautiful gardens with the majestic Cathedral Ranges in the distance. We met the gardener – Peter’s mother – wow what a lady! At 94 years old she still mows the grass, and grows superb organic vegetables! We were told how on Black Saturday in February 2009 bush-fires had raged across the mountain ridge; the road was blocked and they were cut off, with no other way of escape. Thankfully the fire only just brushed the edge of their property, but 92% of the Cathedral Range State Park was burned. Now, almost four years on, the ridge is misty purple and blue in the distance, as the ranges begin to regenerate.
We towed the goats back home, and brought the trailer into the paddock. The alpacas were initially very interested, but as the goats jumped out of the trailer they kept their distance. Now, two days later the goats and alpacas are happily integrated, and the goats are munching the grass, and lower tree branches, and tree bark, hopefully the brambles and weeds, and goodness knows what else!
Sue and Chris originally wanted six to eight goats, and bought eight. However, three of the goats are pregnant, and boer goats usually have twins. So in about three weeks time (after I’ve gone home), they may well have a herd of fourteen!

Holgate Brewery

The last stop on our Horses, Wine and Beer tour with Melbourne Sports Tours was of course the beer tasting. So after the wine tasting and a very nice wood-fired pizza lunch at Gisborne Winery, we moved on to Woodend and the Holgate Brewhouse, home of the ‘2008 Best Beer Brewed in Victoria Trophy’. The Holgate Brewhouse, housed in the old Keatings Hotel, is a family owned craft brewery, where premium quality beers are brewed, using natural methods, and the best 100% malt from Germany and UK, the finest hops and yeast, and pure Macedon water. The Holgate’s started the brewery in 1999, after seeing micro-breweries in operation in the USA. There are a range of classic full-flavoured beers on offer, including seasonal brews and special releases. 

We had a great time, guided by a knowledgeable young barman who had had brewing experience in Ireland. We smelled and poked jars of different grains, and I learned quite a lot. We tasted seven beers, starting with Pilsner (Classic German style lager) (Gold medal AIBA 2007), which to me was very like the lager we drink in England, quite light, but to me, nothing special. The next beer we tried was Mt. Macedon Ale (Pale Ale -New World Hops) (Gold medal AIBA 2003, Silver London 2010). It had a distinctive summery flavour, very reminiscent of elderflower, it was quite malty, light and refreshing, and I could quite happily had more! This was followed by ESB (Extra Special Bitter) (Gold medal 2010) and as I’m not a fan of bitter, I wasn’t surprised to not like this one! Then we sampled Road Trip (American IPA), and learned that IPA means Indian Pale Ale, and contains more hops – which were needed originally because of its long journey to India! It had a very hoppy flavour with a hint of citrus, and was quite pleasant. Temptress (Chocolate Porter) (Gold medal AIBA 2010, Silver 2009, Gold London 2009) was the next. It was dark, and quite surprising. It has cocoa and vanilla added, but to me it tasted strongly of coffee, and was almost like drinking an iced coffee – beer and iced coffee at the same time; wow! The penultimate beer was White Ale (Unfiltered Wheat Beer), which is brewed with a blend of citrus peel, spices, wheat malt and barley malt. It was smooth, with almost no bitterness, and was very refreshing – a larger glass would have gone down a treat! The last beer we tasted was Mornington Peninsula White IPA , which seemed to me like a more bitter version of the White Ale, with a bit of Road Trip mixed in. It was slightly spicy, with a hint of grapefruit.
The beer tasting at Holgate’s Brewery was a great experience – I’ve never tried so many beers in a such a short space of time before, and I never realised how different they could be. My favourite definitely has to be Mt. Macedon Ale; or maybe White Ale; or?

Gisborne Peak Winery

After our tour of Living Legends and visit to Woodlands Homestead, it was on to Gisborne Peak’s Mawarra Vineyard in the Macedon Ranges wine region. Gisborne Peak Winery is situated on the north-eastern side of Mt. Gisborne in Victoria, at an altitude of 550 metres, and produces cool climate wines. The first Riesling grapes were planted here in 1978 as a hobby. But over the years the ‘hobby’ has grown, and now covers nearly 13.5 acres, and also includes Pinot Noir, Semillon, and Chardonnay grapes.
At Gisborne Peak I had the best wine tasting I have ever experienced. Not only did we get to taste some very good wines, but were also shown how to actually do it, what to look for, and how to smell and taste the wine; so next time I take part in a wine tasting, I might actually look like I know what I am doing!