Near my house is a very large Pecan-Nut Tree. When it looses all its leaves in the dead of winter the large number of parasitic Mistletoe plants that live amongst its branches is revealed. I also didn't realise until I 'developed' this snap that the sunset gave an effect of the tree being on fire. To see other sky shots from around the globe: Click Here.
The grass is very brown and burnt from a series of severe frosts a fortnight ago. Warming weather in a months time will quickly turn everything green again. On an afternoons walk I found some newly born lambs, met some folk who were collecting green feed for their goat who had mastitis and couldn't feed newly born kids and watched calves gambol around a paddock. Spring is really just around the corner!
"Pyrostegia Venusta", "Blazing Orange Trumpet Vine" or in the local vernacular "Dunny Vine" is a spectacular winter flowering plant. It is called "Dunny Vine" due to its rampant ability to quickly cover chook (Chicken) yards, farm sheds, fences and outside toilets, ( Dunnies) in Aussie Slang. The term really is becoming archaic as very few Aussies have toilets (Dunnies) in the back yard anymore, still I think it is a humorous name for such a striking plant. I was talking to the owners of this barn and the "Dunny Vine" is about to come off as the roof has badly deteriorated and needs to be replaced.
Grafton is regarded as having a sub-tropical climate but our winters are cool and can even be cold. This week I am going to try and identify a few 'signals' that demonstrate that we are in the height of mid-winter. 1: The Frangipanis are completely bare of leaves revealing their sculptural forms and motley branches.
Artist Lee Holmes has transformed the once dull grey Woolgoolga Headland reservoir into a vibrant mural that celebrates the migration of the Humpback Whales between May and October every year. She has done such a good job that I couldn't find one graffiti tag on the art work and it is now over 6 months old!
Woolgoolga Headland is a delightful location at anytime of the year. Its commanding position has great views for 360 degrees.
Today marks the running of the Ramornie Handicap. Named after a famous cattle station and the main sprint of the July Carnival. It is the most famous short race in all of regional Australia. Some famous winners over my lifetime include: Mistress Anne, Razor Sharp, Cangronde, Lightning Bend and Takeover Target. Grafton gets a half day holiday to attend. You need to pace yourself as tomorrow it will be Grafton Cup Day and another public holiday.
The Mounting Yard or Saddling Enclosure is the focal point prior to a race. Jockeys take final instructions from connections and trainers. Punters examine the horses before heading off for a bet. Stewards ensure everything is being done correctly.
It wasn't too long ago that the atmospheric and monetary heart of the races was the Bookies Ring. Oh what a sad slow death they are enduring and how much less the races is without their competitive yelling of odds and banter. They have been squeezed to death by the monolithic N.S.W TAB, corporate bookmakers with interstate addresses and heavy taxation by the Government. I still miss the old fractional odds they used and I understood far better how much I stood to win or lose with 'even money', '4/1' or 'in the red' than 2.00, 5.00 or 1.90. I miss the old tickets with their often indecipherable swish of crayon and the huge ledgers that bets were recorded in. At least they still have the old bags for the money. Only a decade ago there would be nearly 100 bookmakers at the July Racing Carnival, now there are only a quarter of that. You can picture a time in the near future when there will be none left at all, just the blinking screens of the totaliser. Racing is a much poorer event without their colourful presence.
It takes a lot of time, and money, to prepare thoroughbreds for a race day. At dawn the horses are exercised in various ways. Swimming the horses in the river is very popular. I have featured this activity before, but this scene is at Kitchner St Boat Ramp in Grafton.
The most popular form of preparation is track work. It was too dark to capture but I liked how the riders wore hats with blinking red lights to avoid collisions in the pre-dawn gloom.