Whenever I am asked what the climate is like in Alice, I answer that the temperatures range from -4 or -5C overnight in the winter to 40C+(104F) daytime highs in the summer. They usually respond with “Wow, that is hot” and it is the customary inside joke to reply “But it’s a dry heat”. At the moment, I really can’t say that without a huge caveat that we had 50% more rain than normal last year and it appears the pattern is continuing. The humidity and heat seep to my inner workings like rust into a motor, and nearly stop me. What doesn’t happen in the mornings before about 11am, seldom gets done until after a protracted siesta. (It is 6am and I am listening to rain as I write this)
Of course the local environment and our garden have responded to the wetter conditions, but not always in the ways we might have expected. The Ranges and outcrops are decidedly tinged with green, looking more like Ireland or Scotland than Central Australia. Wildlife is behaving somewhat differently, too. Usually when we have enough rain to boost the food sources in the scrub near town, the wallabies and kangaroos retreat from town to the bush and we don’t see them until things dry out again. This summer we’ve seen fairly regular appearances of them, one even stopping to have a look before breakfast earlier this week. My husband was working at the dining table and quietly called me to come have a look. I can usually tell by the quality of his voice if I need to grab my phone for a photo, and sure enough that was the case. A short while after this wallaby visited, a larger one, with joey under its own power, bounded up the steps and through the breezeway. They often use it as a ‘cut through’ to the scrub that is only one row of houses behind us. It was an entertaining way to start the day.
Curiously, a small family of dingos has established itself nearby as well. It has happened previously, and is of some consternation to locals as the dingos become fairly immune to urban life. Local domestic dogs have been taken and I have personally been stalked on my morning walks. The Rangers try to capture and relocate them when possible, but it can take a while. On a recent morning walk there were two dead and disemboweled wallabies near the path, and the following day another one. Very unsettling–and just possibly, the reason for the mums and their joeys to be moved in from out bush, if there has been a dingo population explosion–but I’m just speculating.
Bearded dragon lizards have also made their presence known in larger than usual numbers this year. Found this poor fellow recently deceased along the walking path this morning. We have one in particular at our place that suns itself on the grassy knoll in front of the dining windows. (behind where the wallaby appeared) We watch with great interest how brave he is. One morning he seemed doomed, fending off five butcher birds that had him trapped. He prevailed, snapping back and outwitting them.
The native flora in the area has blossomed profusely, providing stunning photography subjects, as well as exceptionally stunning hay fever. Fortunately mine is mostly controlled with lubricating eyedrops and my husband has a nasal spray that he uses so that we can both sleep at night.
Because the cloud and rain kept the earlier summer months cooler than normal, many flowering plants came on later than usual. Our citrus trees have suffered the most, the lime having only about a dozen fruits and the lemon tree which is normally prolific, not a single fruit. Puzzling. Both trees are about 15 years old and, except for the first year, have never missed a year without more than enough fruit for us and the neighbours.
In the darkest hours, the Outer Kingdom is filled with a din of crickets punctuated by the clicking of burrowing frogs that have come to the surface for their short life cycle. Spiders have nearly taken over outside, spanning incredible distances that I can’t help but admire…from afar. Every morning on my walk I have to carry a stick to clear the webs in front of me. Walking into spider webs is very unpleasant. I’ve seen grown men react worse than me. Ants frantically try to find dryer ground in between bouts of rain. Last summer we had the giant grasshoppers, but this is the summer of the teeny tiny ones. Their hundreds are no less damaging, devouring the tasty green parts of fig leaves with incredible precision. I live in hope of one year having figs on this, my third attempt of growing fig trees in 25 years. There has also been an explosion of that most charming of insects, the lady bug. I have had a dozen or more inside the house, which I have gently transported to the Outer Kingdom again. In fact, just now, when taking a break from writing I walked to the kitchen, and there was another one ensconced on a piece of plastic wrap!
I can’t help but think if I lived in a big city and the weather was significantly different, I may have missed all the changes taking place. But here, it is in our faces, and mostly we like it that way…as long as it isn’t attached to a web.