What a world of difference....

Over the last week I've become incredibly aware of the vast differences in both season, climates and weather conditions between the Northern and South Hemispheres.
Take for instance here in Melbourne, we've been experiencing quite a dry spell and although we personally nipped off to the Canadian winter for Christmas, I believe that there hasn't been any significant rainfall here; other than a few millimetres since the beginning of December. There was a time during last month that 'they' reported that Melbourne was having its driest January since records began...but then there were a few spits and spots and that tipped the balance thus the record was broken! Personally, I think it's far better to have the rain....but only in moderation. With the extreme high temperatures accompanied with hot winds, there is  the ever present threat of bush fires and the state of Victoria has been experiencing many of these fires during the last month. It's hard to take in the fact that these fires can burn for months. 
The CFA (Country Fire Authority) are incredible hero's and have been battling against incredible odds but thankfully their expertise and a cool change in the weather means the risks have been substantially reduced. 

Whilst on the other hand ex-cyclone Oswald has wrought destruction across Queensland bringing back bad memories of the state's devastating 2011 natural disaster. Some residents are dealing with catastrophic flooding for the second time in two years, which is unimaginable. 
That's just a brief variety of the weather experienced within Australia at the moment....
I should have a warning on the next few photos because they could cause distress to the green fingered gardeners amongst you...me included! 
Here is a Magnolia that I brought from our last property...I should add here that I'm hoping for a miracle but if anyone knows what I might be able to do to bring it back to life, other than watering then please let me know...I had thought to put it out of its misery but I still can't help hoping that once the cooler weather comes to call, it will suddenly burst into life!

 And brace yourself because it gets worse....this is my beautiful blueberry bush (SOB...SOB)

But look...help is at hand...thankfully we have an 11,000 litre rain water tank that has been kindly saving all the rain water over the winter months and it has to be said it was rather a wet winter. The tank was full but it has now reduced considerably to just below the writing on its side.You can tell the water level within just by knocking on the tank with your knuckles from the top downwards. The sound changes once you reach the water level. Also I've noticed that the shape of the tank changes.

But it's not all doom and gloom in the garden...there are some very happy plants stretching tall to meet the sunlight.

The Bird of Paradise Tree (Strelitzia Nicolai) is extremely happy.

We've also a vine which has obviously resided on the premises since time began....
It has a beautiful twisting trunk that wraps itself around the canopy of the al fresco area. 
There is a slight problem here too but not due to the lack of water...we are having invations of the feathered kind. Namely the blackbirds are visiting regularly throughout the day....in fact in the photograph below there are at least three young blackbirds feeding greedily on the grapes. 
It's a kind of game of where's Waldo?

The trouble being that our outside eating area is just below this lattice roof and we are having leaves and grapes drop constantly upon the table, loungers and us!
The birds never seem to tire of this feast and it's quite incredible to see them pick a grape, then pop it whole into their beaks before they swallow it whole. 

I'm looking down here from an upstairs bedroom window in this photo...trying to capture a decent shot of the flybys! 
I have yet again spared a thought to the BBC, National Geographic and wildlife photographers out there...they have untold patience to capture the shots they do.... I knelt until my knees were numb waiting for the little darlings, but each time I gave up and went to sit below...yep you guessed it...in they would swoop. I'm sure they were watching and having a giggle at the windup!

 Again a view from above the vine....not a bad crop eh? 
And then...AH HA...there gotcha!!! (Just slightly to the left just in case you missed him too)

 This is one of the overhangs and I just loved the way the light shone on both the leaves and grapes.

 This is a little peep hole...see I'm sure they were just toying with me!

Onto another success story....
I was thrilled when we returned from Canada to find that my avocado stone had sprouted. I've tried to grown one previously but without success. I have been so impressed with this one's progress, but alas I've just read that this plant probably won't fruit....ever!
I previously had a little success after following all the instructions on how to grow avocados but then nothing happened. But this time there's a big improvement and I was so hopeful.

 Hopeful...that was until I read an article that told me that the seedling needs to be grafted with a fruit producing tree in order to produce fruit...plus it would take 5+ years even if it had all the correct temperature and conditions. So basically I think I'll be getting my avocado from my local veggie shop for a few years to come! 
(The avocado (persea americana) is a tree native to Central Mexico, classified in the flowering plant family Lauraceae along with cinnamon, camphor and bay laurel. Avocado or alligator pear also refers to the fruit of the tree which alas I'll never see on this plant!)
....and it looks so healthy too... :-(
So on to a little success story now...don't you just love happy endings?
My strawberry plants are doing great, although I suspect that a few feathery boozy birds might have their eye on them. I'm going to need to bring in reinforcements....ie netting soon if I want to enjoy the fruits of my labour!

And finally....(as the BBC news broadcaster used to announce for the last item of the news) for everyone in the grip of winter and desperate to see some colour...here's a little something from my walk this morning!
Don't worry I hear that autumn is coming on 1st March which means you'll soon be into spring. 

 Just a thought after mentioning the winter chills...

We've all heard the latest reports of the severe snowstorms that hit parts of Canada and the America's north-eastern region in the last few days with hurricane force winds...I'd like to take a moment to pass on to everyone whom may have been affected, my sincere best wishes. Stay safe and warm.

And on a lighter note....finally finally.....
Today is the most important day of the traditional Chinese holidays....it is Chinese New Year
In China, it is also known as the Spring Festival.
This year it is the year of the snake, which is the sixth sign in the 12 year Chinese zodiac and stands for "steady progress and attention to detail".
A signifying feature of the year of the snake will be the need for attention, commitment and focus!
"Ancient Chinese wisdom says a snake in the house (which would be the last thing I'd want, quite frankly) is a good omen because it means that your family will not starve", 


 Jong xi fa cai