Friday, 25 October 2019

Lucky Newcomers

“You know there are koalas in this area!” explained the owner of the rental property…

In April 2018, the Better-Half and I relocated from Western Sydney. As animal lovers, we have spent years travelling through Southeast Asia, visiting rainforest sanctuaries and botanic gardens, so fortunately seeing wild orangutan mothers and babies, vociferous gibbons, inquisitive proboscis monkeys and a wonderful array of plant species including the famed rafflesia. Koalas in their natural state, and in our homeland, however, had eluded our discovery.

Our interest was piqued soon after moving in to our temporary rental home on the discovery of torpedo-shaped poop under the statuesque eucalyptus tree in our front yard. We spent days looking up into the tree wondering whether we had koalas; evenings studying native animal scat online, and nights shining torches into the heights of the tree. No luck…

Of course, we had not learned at this point how much koalas move around in their local territory.

My first Port Macquarie sighting of a koala came in September 2018. Out for a morning walk, a feisty koala ran across my path on our local thoroughfare. So excited, I ran home the few hundred metres to our home to collect the camera and the Better Half.

Other sightings came thick and fast… at a local sporting ground, Pacific Drive at Flynn’s Beach and then on the edge of Lake Innes Nature Reserve.

A male koala 'seeking out a mate' at the Innes Lake Nature Reserve

In mid-November, we finally had action on the home front. One Wednesday night after we had long retired, there was, what seemed to be, an animal eating on our roof! Scratching noises! My tired, three a.m. investigations turned up nothing, but the next morning we discovered koala scat on our front verandah and in our garden pots and along our pathways.

Then, in the dark of the following Sunday night, the Better-Half heard the bellowing of a male koala emanating from our adjoining reserve.

Just one month later, the little torpedoes were scattered all over our driveway again. Following the usual routine, I looked up into the tree… And there she was, our first ‘home’ koala. A beautiful animal, she had found shelter from the impending thunderstorm in our front yard. Later, on examination, our camera revealed that she was nursing a healthy little joey. You cannot imagine our excitement.

Legs akimbo, acting as a cradle for her joey. Can you see the little one?

A little nose appears above the mother's arms...

Our mother and joey visited us on four more occasions, twice coming to a tagged tree in our neighbouring reserve, the most recent visit to our front yard once again.

Mother and Joey. They are beginning to separate, a signal that the joey is becoming more independent.

A motherly portrait

We are so grateful to have experienced these wonderful moments of indigenous nature.
Importantly, these are moments and opportunities which should be preserved for all, especially for generations to follow us. We do not want our precious native animals, as in other nations, to be extracted from their natural environment, to be confined in ‘reserves’.

A big yawn from a secure and beautiful little animal

Should our leaders, therefore, be considering the type of future development that we want as a nation, a development that does not require the further removal of our forests, or even single native trees – habitat for our precious native animals? And on a personal level, should we not be obeying road safety signs and speed signs in designated koala territory.

So, when you drive in Koala Territory, please slow down…

Wishing you hours of enjoyment and contentment in your garden…

Sunday, 24 February 2019

A New 'Malaysian' Garden

Kaffir Lime… What to do with the fruit?

The Kaffir Lime (Limau Purut) is an excellent plant for a kitchen garden, with its wonderfully fragrant leaves an important ingredient in many dishes of Southeast Asian origin. For the past few years, we have wondered how to use the green, knobbly fruit. At times, we have used the zest, and at other times, we have tried slices of the aromatic fruit in black tea. Because of the astringency of the limes, the latter is a real challenge, unless sweetened.

Our limau tree has produced just a handful of fruit over the past two years, so finding a use for the fruit has not been pressing. This year, however, we have more than twenty fruit to deal with. Best not to waste them.

So, what to do with an excess of the fruit?

Reading the ‘net was productive. We found that the fruit could be a useful shampoo, as well as distilled into an essential oil, among other applications. In the end, though, we stumbled upon recipes for cordials for other species of lime. Finding a likely recipe, we modified it for our bitter kaffir limes.

As a first attempt at making kaffir lime cordial, with a touch of ginger, we could not be happier: a refreshing cool and fragrant drink was created. The cordial is very strong, so should be used sparingly (to taste) …

Below is the recipe which we used…

Kaffir Lime Cordial

  • 12 kaffir limes, juiced and retained
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 2 or 3 slices ginger
  • 1 ½ tsp citric acid
  • 1 Ltr water

1.                   Squeeze and strain the lime juice… This will make about one cup or a little more of strained juice. Set aside.
2.                   Boil one litre of water.
3.                   Dissolve the sugar in the boiled water.
4.                   Add ginger slices and kaffir lime skins to the boiled water
5.                   Add citric acid.
6.                   Allow the mixture to cool, then add the lime juice.
7.                   Refrigerate overnight, before bottling in sterilised bottles.
8.                   Keep your cordial refrigerated.

Wishing you hours of enjoyment and contentment in your garden…

Saturday, 23 February 2019

A New 'Malaysian' Garden

A Garden in Waiting

The big move north has been complete, temporarily, for some months. Now, we wait.

Realising our dream comes at a small cost: for the moment, we rent until such time that our new home, on a small acreage, is finished. If the construction continues to plan, we move again at the end of autumn: a grand time to begin planting an orchard and gardens.

There are no regrets. Even at our rental home in a small Mid North Coast city, life is splendid. Regular visits from koalas, kangaroos, ringtail possums and deer are preferable to the congestion and continuing over-development of Sydney. How people’s lives have been altered by the mushrooming high-rise and endless traffic of a once beautiful city!

Overall, our wait will be for about one year. Our new garden will also have waited for one year…

Preparation has been the key to the move. Some of our most precious plants were disinterred from the Sydney home. Then potted. Our two most special fruit trees, a seedling mango with Maha Chanok parentage, and a pomelo, were grown as grafts. Other fruit trees, such as Starfruit, Jackfruit, Longan, Chiku (Sapodilla) and Lychee were grown from seed. And, an array of citrus trees was purchased as available.

A selection of 16 mangoes, jackfruit, starfruit, chiku, papaya and macadamia trees...

 Furthermore, we have prepared for the planting of an Asian floral and senses garden in similar ways, some plants cutting-grown, others purchased, others removed. White and yellow Chempaka trees, Heliconias and Azaleas were purchased, Frangipanis were grown from cuttings. Our collection of Gingers, both ornamental and culinary, were uplifted and potted… Native plants, Staghorns, Orchids, Herbs and pond plants, all came north to grace an abundant, new garden.

Some of our ornamentals awaiting transportation

Gingers, edible and ornamental, kaffir lime and lemongrass

Moving so many potted plants from Sydney in the beginning necessitated the hiring of a van to complete the massive job. Luckily, the second move will be much simpler, being just a hop-skip-and-a-jump in comparison, requiring a few short hauls in a family car.

As you can imagine, the yard of the rental home is overflowing with young plants, perhaps 200 in total, all requiring daily attention during the current, warm days of summer. Watering, potting, repotting. And, of course, preventing our hungry, pet rabbit from eating them!

A collection of citrus trees

When we walk amongst our green babies, they seem to suggest that they would enjoy immediate planting at their new home so that they may spread their expansive roots. So, which of our precocious plants will be first to be planted?

"Will I be first?" A 'Carter's Red' pomelo in fruit appears to suggest that it should be the first planting

Wishing you hours of enjoyment and contentment in your garden…