it’s an Instameet!


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Perhaps you know the quote attributed to John Lennon: ‘Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans.’ It kind of explains why my break from blogging has been a bit longer than anticipated. Our time away was very good, but the small amount of spare time I had was used to relax, and I knew you wouldn’t mind! On our second day away I received a surprise invitation to something I had only recently even heard of, and never attended…an ‘Instameet’.


camera man and participants–it made the weekend ABC news!!

As you know, I am engaged in a 365photochallenge. It involves taking a photo each day and posting it on Instagram @amosthemagicdog. Many of my photos have been picked up, with permission, by some of the Northern Territory tourism Instagram and Twitter accounts, as have many photos of others here in Central Australia. Through the efforts of @NTOutbackAus an Instameet was organised here in Alice Springs. It was to thank those of us who contribute to promoting our love for the place in which we live. It was also a chance for us to meet each other, as well as a few professional photographers who travel the country contributing from everywhere.


The lads and their drone

The problem for me was the Instameet happened only about 5 hours after our plane was to land from our trip. As you know there are always many things to get back into place when arriving home from time away, groceries, unpacking, washing of clothes, etc. Part of me really wanted to go along to this unique opportunity, but the introvert in me, that person who hates crowds and gatherings, sat on my shoulder saying “you can get out of it, you have an excuse”…


Andrew Langford takes a break from playing the didgeridoo

At 6pm atop Anzac Hill it was still very hot, 38C (100F) but I went along and found a bit of shade, and shook a few hands. Much to my surprise, some of the Instagram buddies, whose work I have enjoyed, were there and it was fun to meet them. Our hosts had provided local foods and some special guests from the local Desert Wildlife Park. In the background local performer, Andrew Langford, played the didgeridoo, which added to the very Central Australian feel of the event. People who happened along to view the sunset were intrigued, if not a little intimidated by the activities! There were even a couple of enterprising men with a drone! And then of course there were all those cameras! Who wouldn’t be a little intimidated? I’d guess about 20 or so photographers and contributors showed up, in addition to the Wildlife Park Rangers, the promotional people and other support staff. When will I learn these things are seldom as daunting as I imagine?

This, among other things, is part of the ‘adventure’ of my 365photochallenge.


(The day after the Instameet I came down with a heavy head cold which has kept me from the computer, but I have managed to struggle through the photo challenge. I will update you soon on that and our travels.)



light chaser and the moon


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Many of you will remember, I am a light chaser. I almost never sleep well when the full moon is in phase. This means I’m up early–‘sparrow fart’ we call it here. This morning was no different, so off I went in search of the majesty that flows when the moon is full.

I didn’t intend to chase it over hill and dale and around the outcrops, but it is a kind of drunkenness that overcomes me when I am chasing the light. So I jogged, at times, through rocks, prickles and spiky grasses to get every bit of light I could into my lens.

Here is the chase…


6:18am, the chase begins outside our front door


from a nearby rocky outcrop, the moon and Mt Gillen


playing hide and seek


Saying farewell until next time, as it dips behind Mt Gillen

And I will say ‘farewell’ for a few days, perhaps 10 or so, depending on internet connections, as we take a short break from our beautiful Alice.

in my kitchen, March 2015


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Firstly, and most importantly, thank you to Celia for hosting our monthly kitchen get together! And to so many who read and commented with wit and wisdom about my kitchen and garden adventures last month, thank you as well! There were many helpful suggestions and I will update you quickly.


what the well accessorised fruit is wearing this summer

limes on mosaic table

limes on mosaic table

Grasshoppers are still around, but have mostly moved out of the courtyard where most of my edibles are grown. There are still many around, but these later ones at least have a sense of style and colour!

It is lime time. We’ve had to empty the tree because the mealy bug has moved in and we needed to treat that. The limes are delicious this year and I wish I could send you all some. It has been a bad summer for growing a lot of things; insects we don’t normally have, in proportions we don’t normally have, and either too wet or too hot for a number of things. Welcome to Australia.

lady bug IMK!

lady bug IMK!

On the last day of February, I walked into my kitchen to find this lovely little creature poised on the edge of the kitchen bench. After taking her portrait, I gently assisted her to a nice fresh, green basil leaf that has regenerated after the grasshoppers cleaned most of them off!

The efforts to save my Bay Tree seem successful. I gave it a hit of Seasol once I could see it was shooting new leaves, and it has come on beautifully. I’m still scraping the occasional bit of scale, but once the weather cools I will treat it again, and that should take care of things.

new growth on bay tree

new growth on bay tree

The cast iron pan has gone for a test trial to Aunt B’s kitchen, where we have deduced the trouble is definitely operator error on my part (never was much doubt), and we will endeavour to correct that. Stay tuned!

I’ve been having some delicious breakfasts, and main course salads continue a favourite while the weather is still quite warm.


homegrown chili, the thing grasshoppers won’t eat!


bacon, lettuce and tomato salad with green dressing (I know this would be wonderful with Celia’s sourdough croutons!)


leftover stuffed mushrooms with egg and cherry tomatoes for brekky

I’m currently on a broccolini* binge. I have it in omelettes for breakfast, or steamed for lunch and dinner with a variety of modifications from bacon to cheddar or Parmigiano Reggiano. I’m sorry I can’t be biased, I love it all.IMG_6212

Here is a recent discovery of something clever that actually works; a way to remove shell from hard boiled eggs. I usually use free range eggs, as fresh as I can get them, which means they can be difficult from which to remove the shells when hard boiled. But if you place them in a jar of water, and shake gently, but enough to crack the shell all over, 5 seconds or so, the shells will actually come off pretty easily. I shook one harder, just to see what would happen, and it peeled alright, but took a layer of egg with it! So, the shaking will be a trial and error thing depending on your own strength and style!! Do let me know if you find it useful, I certainly do!

approximate ratio of egg to jar to water

approximate ratio of egg to jar to water


shake, shake, shake, shake it off!!

works as well as anything I have ever seen.

works as well as anything I have ever seen.

oops, don't shake too hard

oops, don’t shake too hard








Even though insect plagues and heat have ravaged my courtyard garden, I still enjoy looking out my kitchen window at it each day. The light is ever changing and inspiring. Wishing you light and lovely-ness in your month coming.

*Since one of the comments below alludes to the origins of broccolini I thought I would look it up to find some additional information for you. Here is what Wikipedia says:

Broccolini (original Japanese: ブロッコリーニ[1]) is a green vegetable similar to broccoli but with smaller florets and longer, thin stalks. Often misidentified as young broccoli, it is a hybrid of broccoli and kai-lan, both cultivar groups of Brassica oleracea. It was originally developed by the Sakata Seed Company of Yokohama, Japan, in 1993 as “aspabroc”.

The entire vegetable is consumable, including the occasional yellow flower. Common cooking methods include sauteeing, steaming, boiling, and stir frying. In Japan, it is highly popular as a spring vegetable, and usually eaten steamed. Its flavor is sweet, with notes of both broccoli and asparagus,[2] although it is not closely related to the latter.

The above is what I was led to believe were the origins, but it is useful to double check these things. Happy eating :)

a ‘no news’ week


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We have a saying around our house, ‘no news is good news’. Probably, you have used it too. We say it to reassure ourselves that when things are quiet, it is preferable to the bad news one so often receives. In recent months we’ve had quite a few bits of sad news, involving serious illness or death among family and friends. I tell you that so that you will know that my writing today is not so much written in response to events, but with an appreciation of their absence!

Deep, collective sigh of relief. Thank you.


another technology and composition achievement

In between the mundane, everyday events unfolding, I’ve noticed that the photography challenge has filled substantial space in my small amount of spare energy. I didn’t really know what to expect from the exercise. Only 60 days into it, I’ve already been very surprised a couple of times at opportunities and outcomes.


urban sunrise from my kitchen window

At the moment of taking a photo, I’m never completely confident that I’ve ‘got it’, though sometimes I am reasonably certain. Later, in the relaxed scrutiny of the shots, I decide…most are not quite there; misplaced focus, perspective could have been better, missed the right light, didn’t frame things very well. So much can, and does, go wrong.

I am an amateur and I have an iPhone as a camera, what can I expect?

But that would not be the most helpful perspective. I have a camera and a brain and the will to seek, so, what can I expect? Certainly not any of the very best photos that happened this week! I ventured out each day inviting the magic to happen, and having faith in my skills that I could handle it. But this week was as if I had an invisible, omnipotent assistant helping me in ways I still cannot fathom.

Early in the week, I had a technical breakthrough with regard to manual focus. I had been struggling for nearly a year with certain lighting situations and upon reviewing my technique, I discovered a tiny, but vital, error.


technique breakthrough photo of wildflower

What a great life lesson, eh? When things aren’t working, have another look.

You know the saying ‘luck is preparation meeting opportunity’? Never has this wisdom been more evident to me than this week. Twice, opportunities presented themselves with wildlife shots I’ve been trying to capture for two years. The first, two Port Lincoln Parrots perched in a tree that had all its leaves eaten by grasshoppers. There were two amazing things that happened with this one, firstly, that the parrots who are quite skittish, actually seemed to pause an extra couple of moments before flying off, and secondly, that the grasshoppers had denuded the tree. If the leaves were still on the tree, the parrots would not have been nearly visible enough to be worth a photograph!


Port Lincoln Parrots in tree denuded by grasshoppers!

The second wildlife photo that was a benchmark for me was one I’ve been trying to get for two summers. Dragonflies frequent our courtyard because of the water. I have tried and tried to photograph them but to no avail. They are even more skittish than the birds. I read that when photographing animals if you move very slowly and then stop in increments they will feel less threatened. And that is how I approached this dragonfly, as he perched on an onion stalk. I am learning the wisdom of quiet, and patience. But also I am seeing the results of an iPhone Photography course I took online last year.

The most important lesson of the course? Practice, practice, practice.


dragon fly in my courtyard

And finally, finishing a spectacular week, came this morning’s sight at sunrise. It lasted only about a minute and had I not gone for my walk, I would have missed it.


pieces of rainbow at sunrise, Alice Springs

So there you have it, a ‘no news’ week, filled with tiny moments of grace.


My photo of the week may seem very underwhelming to you. But it evokes in me the moment I saw it at 5.15 in the morning. I wandered sleepily to the kitchen and turned on the light, and there, precisely laid on the counter next to the fridge and underneath the cereal cupboard, were the implements my husband would use to prepare his breakfast. The bowl, the spoon, and the knife with which he cuts the strawberries he enjoys on his cereal. The night before, after I had gone to bed, he had emptied the dishwasher, and had thoughtfully placed the items he would need in their place of use the next morning. It is the stuff relationships are made of; the little things sadly missed when someone is no longer there one day. He is not always this precise about things, but he is a very thoughtful, purpose filled person, and this was a tiny snapshot representing that part of him.


breakfast setting

(The photo was edited using an app called Waterlogue, that I am learning to use.)


seeing death with new eyes


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(19) skull of a wallaby–circle of life

I see dead things. Please don’t freak out; I’m not going to make you look at anything gruesome… I hope. It’s not that I go looking for them, I just see things on my walks. It seems to me a privilege to live so close to nature that she shares these with me. Fascinating. I remember seeing an early painting by Édouard Manet in a small gallery in Paris. It depicted a dead rabbit, so clearly I’m not the first person to be captivated by this concept. At the time I wondered about his interest in that subject. Now I understand. There is beauty in it. To paint or photograph or draw carcasses, which many artists do to this day, helps us learn. Of course it helps us learn to draw and paint and compose images, but it also teaches us about the life cycle and that death, of course, is a part of it.


Face of deceased hopping mouse.

Our wet spell in early January caused growth in vegetation and fauna that has been both interesting, and highly annoying. Birds have gorged themselves on grasshoppers and insects. Mice have been abundant because the seed and grasses have been abundant, and probably the snakes have adjusted accordingly, though thankfully, I have no visual proof of that!

In this ripened, hot part of summer, one shuts the drapes and blinds in an effort to close out the radiant heat and help the air conditioning cope. Even cloistered inside, the white noise of cicada ‘song’ seeps into my subconscious, and puts me on edge. It seems to underscore the heat and somehow makes the days seem even hotter. Cicadas are dropping from the trees now and their carcasses litter the ground, providing banquets for the gazillion, or so, ants.


Cicada carcass edited using Waterlogue app

(32) deceased galahs as found

(32) deceased galahs as found

But it was a true mystery the morning I walked to the back of the golf course and saw three dead galahs in quite demonstrative positions, as if an angry, but very precise, golfer had swung and surprised all three in a single felled swipe!

Another time, years ago, I captured the image below of a dying Galah. It moved me greatly, as it quietly waited for death. I know it was dying because a short while later when I went to check it, it was over on its side and ‘gone’. So dignified.


Dying Galah beside the road.

(39) deceased butterfly, edited with Waterlogue app

(39) deceased butterfly, edited with Waterlogue app

All of the images are taken ‘as found’. I do not ‘arrange’ the scene, only alter my perspective through the lens. After taking these unusual photos, I decided to see if I could make some beautiful compositions from them. It seems to me it elevates the creatures’ ordinary passing to dignified images, perhaps even, immortal ones. What I see is that they show a variety of demises, much the same, but different, as our human endings. They are perhaps not as beautiful as Manet’s painting, but something worth seeing, nevertheless.



Photo of the Week:

(23) simplicity at dawn

(23) simplicity at dawn

My pick of the week of all the photos I’ve taken is one (below) that will look familiar, but is different. I showed you a very similar one last week (left) that I had taken a couple of weeks ago. There is something so peaceful and simple about it. But a few days ago as, again, I walked up the driveway for my morning saunter, I looked up and behold!! Not only a bird in almost the same place, but that sliver of moon on the wane. So, a photo I had thought was so rare I would never probably see it again, has revisited me, but with the added special touch of a silver sliver, smiling down. The next morning, there was neither a moon or a bird. I had truly captured a special moment in time…with my iPhone!!


early bird and sliver moon


hello #200


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(28) my favourite tree at sunrise, edited in Distressed FX App

Here we go…. post #200 for ardysez. I started this blog three and a half years ago, as an experiment. I could never have predicted it would lead me where it has.


(37) face of a Golden Drummer cicada

This is the joy in trying new things.


It is partly why I decided to try something a little different this year, 2015.

I have heard that if you make just one small change in your life it can make a huge difference. While there is not a lot wrong with my life, I have certainly struggled with direction and purpose since our daughter flew the nest. My husband is ensconced in his research and is very successfully publishing papers and presenting at conferences. I’m very grateful and happy for him. But my own creative endeavours have languished at times, for lack of motivation and inspiration.


(13) tiny mushroom in blades of grass

On New Year’s Day, an article appeared from the Internet ethers, extolling the value of  a 365 day photo challenge. I’m very anti-new-year-resolutions, and even though this seems like one, it is more a ‘coincidence of date’, than a result of it. I had been pondering for a while some new purpose to which I could apply my interest in photography and creativity. I know, from other challenges that if one does not have the motivations well thought out, it is seldom successful. In those moments of weakness, what will be the reasons that propel me forward?

  • Improve photography composition and narratives
  • Learn new apps for editing and sharing photos
  • Record my year with a photo that represents some aspect of each day
  • Adventure (in my own very modest way–I’m not a skydiver!)

    (41) local wants to borrow the Advocate newspaper

    (41) local wants to borrow the Advocate newspaper

The only ‘rule’ that I adhere to, other than my own guidelines, is the one that says each day I must take a photo. That does not mean I can take ten photos one day, and use them for the next ten days. Every day I must take a new photo. The metadata on the photo will rat me out!! Here are my guidelines:

  • Take a new photo every day
  • The photo should be of reasonable quality (my discretion!)
  • I will post it on Instagram (if you care to follow, my Instagram name: amosthemagicdog)
  • All photos are taken with my iPhone
  • My only reasons for stopping are; if I feel I’m starting to hate taking photos; or if my iPhone breaks–perish the thought of either!

It is no small thing, to take a reasonable quality photo every single day. What if I am sick? What if I have an uninspired day? What if a well-meaning friend tells me all that is wrong with this idea? (which has already happened!)

The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes. –Marcel Proust


(3) birds on wires– this was my eventually successful photo from numerous attempts over the passed year, having taken over a hundred different shots.

This is my modest voyage of discovery, documented by taking a photo every day for a year. Some days will be uninspiring, and yes, it will be hard to take a photo on those days, but that is where the growth lies. Yes, on dull days, the photo may reflect the lack of inspiration, but isn’t that one of Life’s lessons too? We must have the low points to see the heights.

dead butterfly on road--before editing

dead butterfly on road–before editing


(39) dead butterfly after editing in Waterlogue App

Most days I arise and go for a walk. Because I am motivating myself to ‘see with new eyes’ I want to find ever more ways to view the same scenes, whether it is the minutia of a day or the dramatic moments. This may resolve itself in the taking of the photo itself, or in the editing. I have already experienced days where late in the afternoon I had no ‘photo of the day’ yet. When this happens, I am reminded of all Life can show us, especially when we least expect it, but we have willing eyes. Without fail, something special has appeared, begging to be photographed.



My plan is to write about some of my experiences, and learning along the 365photochallenge way, and perhaps to elaborate weekly on some aspect of the photos or circumstances surrounding them. As I write this post, I am in day 42.

Thank you to all who regularly read my musings. My humble goal is simply, to not bore you! I appreciate all your comments and marvel at the world wide web, the blogosphere and the Universe.

in my kitchen – Feb 2015


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Anyone for fried grasshoppers?

This fig leaf was lunch for the grasshoppers, and they are still hungry!!

This fig leaf was lunch for the grasshoppers, and they are still hungry!!







First, thank you to everyone who commiserated and encouraged me in my time of loss of Kitchen Mojo last month. I’m happy to say it has nearly returned to normal. That is to say I’m having the usual number of failures rather than the dismal number I was having this time last month! It has been a battlefield here. We had a very wet start to January, followed by an invasion of thousands, and thousands of grasshoppers. They have nearly devoured my favourite herbs, citrus leaves, curry leaves and even my sapling fig trees. I don’t like to use poisons on my edible plants, for obvious reasons, so I have very reluctantly employed the ‘compression method’ my husband taught me.

Ick. But effective.

Well, let’s put it this way, I’m losing the battle more slowly than I was previously.


Bay Tree - BEFORE

Bay Tree – BEFORE











The next, and ongoing, battle was a bad infestation of scale insect on my 10 yr old Bay tree. Because of our heat here I couldn’t just spray with white oil and let it do the job. White oil will kill the plant at temps above 30C. So I had to strip all the leaves from the tree that had scale on them, while leaving the newer growth to help it recover. Then I had to spray the branches and trunk with the white oil, leave it under cover and out of direct sun for two days, then gently spray with soapy water and use a soft brush to wash it off. So far, it has worked. I am checking the leaves every few days and scraping the occasional scale off and tiny new leaves are appearing. When winter comes I will be able to spray it again.



Ham and bean soup with corn bread

Meanwhile, in the kitchen we’ve enjoyed a few nice meals inspired by the cool temps that came with the rain event. Leftover ham bone from Christmas made a delicious, savoury cannellini bean soup, along with corn bread made in my new cast iron pan. The cast iron pan is another battle I’m slowly losing, but I have not given up.



Buckwheat pancakes with fresh blueberries, peaches, apricots, walnuts and Greek yogurt (inspired by our own Bizzy Lizzy here)

The seasonal fruit has been delicious this year, with or without buckwheat pancakes!


Australian grown peach


If there is a more gorgeous fruit than a fig, I’d like to see it.











Lamb Mignon created by Milner Meats, Alice Springs

A wonderful new find from our butcher is ‘lamb mignon’. They use fillet or backstrap pieces and wrap it in bacon (their own) and skewer it for cooking on the barbecue/grill. Delicious.





IMG_6184I’ve been experimenting with some salads that are substantial meals in themselves.








finely shredded chilli and cabbages and crushed mustard and fennel seeds


Chilli Cole Slaw




And, finally, my creation of the month, as declared by my husband, is Chilli Cole Slaw. We have some medium/mild yellow chillies growing and so far the grasshoppers haven’t developed a taste for them, so I have plenty to use. I finely shaved two colours of cabbage, added the finely sliced pieces of chilli, then… wait for it… the magic ingredients… about ½ tsp each, mustard seed and fennel seed, finely ground in my tiny mortar and pestle. For a lighter than normal dressing I used organic, Greek yogurt, thinned with a little apple cider vinegar, whatever sweetener you like, and a bit of salt. The dressing should have a sweet/sour taste which offsets the chilli nicely. I used about 1/3 C for 3 C of shredded cabbage, but adjust it to your own liking.



Happy February everyone. May there be no grasshopper plague in your lives!  Be sure to call around to Celia’s place at Fig Jam and Lime Cordial to see what’s happening in the kitchens around the world!

a post rain chin-wag


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Entrance – Olive Pink

I don’t usually blog about nature quite as much as lately, but the post rain event changes are still a bit interesting. The plant consultant at the Olive Pink Botanic Garden tells me what is happening now could be a once in a lifetime event. I suppose that depends how long one’s lifetime is, of course. He also told me he is on chemo for ‘blood cancer’ at the moment, so perhaps he’s speaking for himself. What a treasure he is, traveling far and wide, sometimes thousands of kilometres in a week to view habitats and take samples.


ferns, moss and lichen appear in crevices and live on seepage of water

He and I had a good ole chin-wag when I visited on Monday to research a tiny specimen I had photographed. I think we both would have enjoyed a longer visit but he had a plane to catch and an oncologist to see in Adelaide. God speed.


Processionary Caterpillars swarming from nest

lichen symbiotically living with moss on rock seepage

lichen symbiotically living with moss on rock seepage


Processionary Caterpillar nest (and yes, I do know what it looks like….)











In our short conversation his enthusiasm for the land and its inhabitants was infectious. He told me that the nest I had seen the processionary caterpillars swarming from a couple of weeks ago, is used in bush medicine to treat burns. There is only one catch… you must use the outside of the nest, not the inside. The inside would have residue of the hairs from the caterpillars and would cause your burn to itch horribly. Can you imagine the poor sod that discovered that bit of information first hand??

As usual, I’ve digressed a bit. The tiny specimen I photographed and was researching turned out to be a type of lichen. It lies dormant in crevices of rocks until a ‘big wet’ comes. The rocks act as reservoirs, supporting some life for weeks and months after rains have ceased. Evidence of this fact is the sprouting of tiny ferns, moss, and lichens, surviving from the seepage of water. They are rarely seen in our part of the world.


skull of a wallaby


tadpoles in rock pool at Olive Pink Botanic Garden

Also, he showed me a steady trickle of a stream that had formed in some of the rock crevices, creating a small pool, in which tadpoles were rapidly maturing. What a treat!

That same morning and, at the other end of the spectrum, I came across this skull of a wallaby, half buried in the sand. Who knows if it might have survived had the rain come a few months earlier? But perhaps one of the dingoes I’ve seen around in the last few years would have got it anyway.

Three days after the photos of the tadpoles, I returned to the Botanic Gardens to find the water pool completely dried up! I was so sad, no little froggies to show you. Also, the lichen specimens he had showed me the same day were all gone. We had two very hot days, 42C (108F), and that dries things up pretty quickly. The miracle of it all is that somehow, enough reproduction has happened, very quickly, to ensure species survival.

But what I did see was this gorgeous young kangaroo, having an early morning rest. This is a wild kangaroo that comes in from the rocky outcrops that back onto the botanic garden.


Kangaroo at rest, Olive Pink Botanic Garden

I also came upon a native species I had not seen in flower, or fruit, before. It would be the native version of a passionfruit. It is commonly called ‘caper bush’ but as you can see the insides of the fruit looks very much like the inside of a passionfruit. Apparently it is delicious but the birds and flowers usually beat the humans to it! The flower is very sweetly scented and beautiful and is large, about the size of a 10 yr old child’s fist, I would say. The fruits are about the size of walnuts, but slightly more elongated.


bush passionfruit flower


bush passionfruit partially eaten by birds


bush passionfruit newly opened














wildflower bud


Bush Tomato flowers










The wild flowers are starting to blossom, however, my walks will be severely curtailed from now on. As the grasses cover the ground it makes it hard to see snakes. And they will be in greater numbers since the things they eat are also in greater numbers! Also, my old nemesis, the prickles, are starting to take shape. We will explore other things, you and I, another chin-wag for another day.


view of Mt Gillen (edited with a filter app on my iPhone)


After the rain…


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cyclist risks the wet

As you may know from my most recent post, Alice Springs was experiencing a rare ‘wet event’ in the form of rain. We have received two thirds of our average annual rainfall in a week, some areas more. The normally dry Todd River has been flowing for days.

A view up river

A view up river

We received about 180mm of rain in 6 days. Some areas north of here have had more, areas near the airport have had less. Our average annual rainfall is about 280mm, or about 11 inches a year. Many years we get considerably less than that. It is not a vast amount of rain unless you are in the desert where plants and animals and houses and drains are not used to it, and it happens to come all at once!!

As the weather has lifted, my iPhone and I have sent out to try and document some of the changes.


Spencer’s Burrowing Frog posing for a portrait




‘Naked ladies’ prolific in their beauty

The Spencers Burrowing Frogs are everywhere… even as road kill… no photo… yech. But nearly every morning we are assisting one little frog out of the spa. This fellow paused to let me take a photo.

“Eat grasshoppers and mosquitoes, please, little froggie!”


Insects fill the air. Birds will struggle to fly if they consume all that is available. No doubt mice will appear in droves soon, with so much food abundant. One year we trapped over 50 mice, and then stopped counting.

The air is so thick you could cut it with a knife, and no longer smells as sweetly of eucalyptus, but is tinged with the odours of decomposing leaves and drying mud.

The ‘Naked Lady’ native lilies throw a new flower head or two every time it rains or we have a couple of cloudy days. But after a big rain, they are positively prolific, and gorgeous!

One morning, these tiny, fragile little mushrooms appeared in the herb garden. They had perished before day’s end. I know these may not be unusual for you to see, but they are a little out of the ordinary for us, and surely would not have sprouted but for the continuing damp conditions. As I looked around the following day, I saw two more types of mushrooms.


fragile mushrooms, lasting only a few hours


magic mushroom


tiny mushroom in blades of grass


Processionary Caterpillars coming from nest

There were a few slack periods of rain when you could almost think the weather was lifting. I happened upon this nest of the ‘furriness’, and at first could not figure out what I was seeing. First glance told me it was a lot of mould growing on an apple. And then I realised it was moving! Dozens and dozens of caterpillars were writhing and squirming to figure out whom to follow, and to where. Such is the perfection of nature, they quickly figured out that only a few feet away was one of their favourite snacks, a wattle bush.


processionary caterpillars on their way to wattle bush

During that slackened wet period, one wonders if Mother Nature didn’t have a quiet word to the ‘Processionary Caterpillars’. “Get out now, while you can!”

And they did!

Off they went. Top to tail.

And lucky me, I got to see it. And photograph it… and lucky you, even shoot a short video! I marvel at my technical skills sometimes! Lol. (…like the two legged dog who walks, it’s not that it is done well, it’s that it happens at all!!)


Tiny ferns grow in cracks of rocks, and buffalo grass decorates remains of ‘Yeperenye’

A little bit of lore, while we are at it… The ‘Processionary Caterpillar’ is also known to the Indigenous Arrernte People here, as the ‘Yeperenye’. Their Dreamtime stories tell of the Yeperenye caterpillar and two others, arriving separately and battling the ‘green stink bug’. When the stink bug started to win the battle, the caterpillars ran, and the mountain ranges known as the MacDonnell Ranges represent their deceased remains.


moisture covered stem


desert plant capturing droplets

The land is turning green before our eyes, no longer the Red Centre for a few short weeks, more like the ‘Emerald Oasis’ or as my blog friend called it ‘Glen Alice’. The river is already going to sleep again. Everywhere there are signs where once were swirling waters. Everywhere things are growing. With ample water and now the sunshine, you may hear them from where you are!


Our famous sun is returning











When the rain comes to Alice…


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Down came the rain, obliterating the mountains

When you live in the desert and it rains, you take notice. And when it rains a lot, I photograph it! We’ve had a very wet, and cool, start to 2015, not that most of us mind. Though there are a few poor souls who are stranded out bush due to road closures. And, sadly, there is a 23 year old young man who was trying to ‘tube’ down the Todd River with a mate, and has gone missing. Messing with the forces of nature is a dangerous business.

Todd beginning to flow passed Tuncks Road crossing. 8am Thursday

Todd beginning to flow passed Tuncks Road crossing. 8am Thursday

One of the routes I take on my morning walk, is along the normally dry Todd River bed. Yesterday morning, the river was flowing heavily enough that it had crossed the Tuncks Road crossing and was heading out toward the Gap. I walked out into the middle of the river bed, which was still dry, to take a photo, as well as look back at the causeway.

“See the Todd flow three times and you’re a local,” it is said. We have been ‘locals’ since the second year we arrived, 21 years ago. But it is an ever curious sight, like a sleeping water serpent, awakening, sometimes fast and angry, other times, lazily going back to sleep again. One can see why the Indigenous people attach meaning to these events.


Tuncks Rd causeway, 8am Thursday

At 6.15 that same evening, the causeway was closed and this was the scene. Can you see the white marker behind the white car in the above photo, then again amidst rushing brown water in the photo below?


Torrent at Tuncks Road

A few minutes later, we crossed Taffy Pick crossing. An hour later it was closed due to the rising water.


From Taffy Pick causeway toward the Gap

About 10 hours later, Taffy Pick was opened again. At Tuncks Road, the nearest causeway to our house, I shot a photo this morning, to put next to the one I took last evening from the same place.


Todd in flow near Tuncks Rd. 6.15pm Thursday


Where is all that water? 8am Friday morning

We are predicted to receive two more days of heavy rain, as the monsoon from Western Australia bears down on us. Once the ground is saturated, as it now is, additional rain will cause the river to rise suddenly again. It is capable of flooding. We have seen it, though thankfully, our house is out of the flood zones.

A blogging friend asked me if we get lovely plants, flowers or animals to the area after such rains. At first I answered ‘No. Not really’. But I pondered further on her question. The Red Centre (as we are called) turns green, and that is a novelty, and especially beautiful against the red ochre dirt and rock. But most of the green means additional food for creatures… like mice. And mice are additional food for snakes… and you can put the pieces together. Then there are the gazillion additional flies and mosquitoes and at the moment we have a plague of mini grasshoppers that are denuding everything possible, except, of course, those flowers that give my husband hay fever!


Spencers Burrowing Frog

However, there is one cute little species that appears after big rains, and that is Spencers Burrowing Frog. As you can imagine, we have few frogs here in the desert. When they do make an appearance they also make their presence known at night, calling each other in the dark ‘I’m here’… ‘I’m over here’… ‘C’mon over and let’s get jiggy with it’.

Their instinct draws them to water and, unfortunately, our spa is a natural target. But the chlorine in it will kill them pretty quickly. I rescued this little fellow this morning but am not sure he will survive the chlorine exposure. Not that he is likely to survive very long anyway. Their main objective is to mate and promulgate the species, and that will be done in a few weeks, after which all will go quiet again.


Spencers Burrowing Frog in our spa

Spencers Burrowing Frogs have the ability to absorb large amounts of water (and presumably chlorine—eek!) and store it between their muscles. Burrowing Frogs vary in colour and markings and have digging ‘implements’ on the side of their back feet. In dry times they dig down backwards into the sand in search of a moist spot where they can sleep until heavy rain awakens them from their slumber. A short burst of activity then follows (he-he, we can guess what kind of activity!). Up to the surface they climb, feed and reproduce, before the water disappears.

IMG_5088_2The other lovely thing we get is a native lily that we call ‘Naked Ladies’. They pop up whenever we’ve had a few days of cloud, or rain. Their crocus-like heads last as fleetingly as the rain.


Closed Tuncks Rd Causeway

There is nothing more humbling than living in a place where you witness the power of nature and its cycles so closely. It is a local phenomenon for many people to turn out and watch and photograph the river, for it is such a fleeting miracle of nature. When it disappears underground again, we have the added comfort of knowing our water supply is being replenished.

As my husband succinctly put it. “We’ve had enough rain now… but there will be more. It is the way it always happens in Australia.”





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