What a difference a year makes

This gallery contains 16 photos.

Originally posted on Bagni di Lucca and Beyond:
Last year at Casa Debbio we decided to plant a new garden on the terrace below the house. We had some pine trees removed, which has allowed a walnut tree and a…

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Balingup Small Farm Field Day

Not that we intend to buy a small farm down here, but we are always interested in farming and what you can do with a small parcel of land.

Leaving Margaret River early this morning the sun glistened on the grape vines and paddocks, and the animals were enjoying the cool early morning.

On our way over to Balingup we passed this free range egg business that has made very good use of old caravans…..unique chook houses for their chickens to roost in at night.

Arriving at the field day it was already busy.  The car parks were filling fast and everyone was out enjoying the beautiful weather.

The livestock were obviously used to having people around.

The machinery, garden suppliers and craftspeople all seemed to be having a great day selling their wares.

And the kids had plenty of activities to keep them occupied.

On our way home we visited a quilt exhibition, stopped to enjoy the beautiful Blackwood River and Jim was pretty excited to see the rally cars in Nannup.  They were competing in an annual RallyWA event today.

It was certainly a glorious autumn day in the south west.

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Eco Dyeing

Margaret River Region Open Studios (MRROS)

With so much talent on display in the Margaret River region during Open Studios it is easy to see why the event attracts so many visitors. This year is certainly no exception.

Throughout the 16 day event visitors are invited into artists private studios to meet the artist and view their works. This year, the 107 artists have works on display that include painting, sculptors, textiles, printmakers, ceramicists, jewellers, photographers and up-cycling. Some even manage to find time to hold workshops.

One such artists is Jane Flower from Folios and Fibre, a textile artists who uses eco dyeing to create beautiful one of a kind scarves, handmade garments and other mixed media pieces. Jane generously shared her knowledge with us during an informal workshop, allowing us to create these beautiful pieces of eco dyed silk.

Using the Shibori resist dyeing technique our pieces where prepared using various resists.

The silk is then added to the bubbling eco dyepot. Eucalyptus and various other leaves are boiled to extract the natural dyes and tannins before adding the silk. This process means that no two dye lots will ever be the same; it can yield some lovely and unexpected surprises.

After a time brewing in the dyepot we removed our pieces and allowed them to cool before we could handle them.

And now time for the great reveal.  Here are just a few of our creations.

After drying to allow the dye to set my pieces are now washed and ready for me to find a creative way to use them…..I will let you know the outcome.

You can see Jane’s beautiful work by clicking here.


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It’s on again

It’s back again for another season…..and it was a lovely balmy evening in Perth for the start of the footy. 

The West Coast Eagles had a good win and Jamie kicked 3 goals.  Looking forward to another good year!


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Great Surf

What beautiful weather we have had here in Margaret River for the long weekend.  We could not resist going over to the beach to watch the surfers enjoying the waves.  The views up and down the coast made the water look very inviting.

Although the waves were crowded, the surfers are clever at staying balanced and avoiding other surfers on their wave.


With the world class Margaret River Surf Pro coming up in April, let’s hope the perfect conditions continue.

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Delights of Horrocks Beach

We are currently staying up at Horrocks Beach at Gaylene & Marks house, with friends Graham and Heather from Sydney, who were keen to see some of WA during their stay here.

On a lovely calm morning Jim and Graham went out pulling pots with our nephew Cameron and his mate. Not sure about the salute – Benny Hill’ish!

This sea eagle was keen to see what they caught.

The resulting catch was most enjoyed by all.

Thanks Cam.

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Foodies Heaven

More than 50 international and local culinary stars gathered in Margaret River for this year’s Gourmet Escape held at the iconic event location, Leeuwin Estate. Chefs Rick Stein, Marco Pierre White, Matt Moran, Antonio Carluccio, Matt Preston, George Calombaris, Guillaume Brahimi, just to name a few, were here taking part in cooking demonstrations and sharing their tips and experiences. They also hosted fine dining events throughout the Margaret River region showcasing Western Australian seafood and a wide range of WA produce.

For food lovers it was ‘foodies heaven’.

At the gourmet village food and wine tastings from a range of stall holders, particularly local restaurants, food producers, wineries and breweries, were all offering tempting delights to tantalise the taste buds.

Over the weekend the large crowds also enjoyed live music from a variety of artists.

Unfortunately the photos don’t do justice to the event as my camera battery went flat pretty early into the day…..next year’s Gourmet Escape is already on the calendar.

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Final Destination – Shanghai

Shanghai is the third largest city in China; 24 million people live in this busy metropolis. Considered the most modern city in China it has had western influences for centuries. The Bund area along the river was the area for foreign merchants and bankers, particularly the British. It is still a prominent financial district however over the past 20 years the other side of the river has seen all the new high rise developments.

The view from the river at night is absolutely amazing; lights highlight the skyscrapers with many of them constantly changing colour and themes.

Our only day of rain was our last day in Shanghai so unfortunately photo opportunities were limited.

We had the opportunity to ride the Maglev, Shanghai’s magnetic levitation train that travels at top speed of 431 km/hr which it reaches in only a couple of minutes. I think it is the fastest in the world.

During our time in China we visited several museums and cultural history venues. Here are just some of the photos we took.

If you are thinking of a tour to China we would recommend you go ahead. We were greatly impressed by the ‘clean and green’ effort that China is adopting. The city streets are lined with trees to help with pollution, motorbikes and scooters are electric in all of the larger cities, the streets are clean and tidy and smoking is being discouraged.

We definitely had a tourists view of China but even so it was impressive.

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Suzhou – known as the ‘Venice of the East’ – is built on a series of man made canals that link to the Grand Canal.  The Grand Canal is also a man made river that flows from Beijing in the north to Hangzhou in the south, linking the Yellow River and Yangtze River. The oldest parts of the canal date back to the 5th century and were finally completed during the Sui dynasty (581–618 AD). The length of the Grand Canal is 1,776 km it is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

After a canal cruise we walked through the local market for a look at the local produce on sale. Not sure about the meat and seafood (no refrigeration) but the fruit and vegetables looked OK. The crowded street, sights and smells were memorable.

We then visited the Master of the Nets Garden which was first constructed in 1140 as a garden around a wealthy home. It has seen several redesigns and additional pavillions added over the centuries. The last owner of the house restord both the garden and house back to it’s original design and he donated it to the government on his death. Now open to the public it attracts many visitors; both local and international.

Our next stop is Hangzhou.

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Hangzhou is in southern China and is very popular with wealthy Chinese. Given the mild climate and beautiful scenery in this area many of them have luxury homes and apartments around the West Lake. Hangzhou also attracts about 20 million visitors per year to see its sights – mostly Chinese but it is also on the international tourist trail. With a population of 8 million the city freeway system is just as impressive as the larger cities.

We strolled along the lake side promenades and also took a cruise in a traditional boat to enjoy the views from the lake.

Another highlight of our trip was to attend ‘Impression West Lake’ – a theatrical production staged on the lake. The director produced the opening and closing ceremonies for the Beijing Olympics so the standard was right up there. With the stage set 2 inches below the water level it gave the impression the actors were walking on water. The story ‘A scene in heaven, and a dream on earth’ is about a love story that can never be. It was very impressive.

Not far from the city we visited a tea plantation and enjoyed a presentation and tasting of green tea, China’s most popular tea. Green tea is continually drunk throughout the day as it is considered to have many health benefits.

Our final destination is Shanghai.

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Longji and Guilin

We flew into Guilin and travelled north to the mountainous rice fields in the Longji region. The drive up the mountain was remarkably dangerous in a bus travelling around hairpin bends and very narrow roads at high speed – we were amazed it would go so fast uphill.

From the bus drop off point near the top we then had to hike the rest of the way up the mountain to our hotel in Ping An – very puffed by the time we arrived but the views made it all worth while. The little village sits at an elevation of about 800 mtrs. The mountains are covered in rice fields for as far as the eye can see; it has been grown in the region for centuries. At the moment the fields are still green and the rice heads are filling out. Although a little humid up in the mountains the weather has not been too hot.

Back in Guilin we visited the limestone Reed Flute Cave, so called because of the nearby reeds that have been made into flutes for centuries. The 240 mtr cave has been lit by colourful lights to show off the formations and it is certainly the largest cave network we have been in. Stalactites, stalagmites, stone pillars and stone curtains all have mystical significance to the very superstitious Chinese. Stone inscriptions from the Tang Dynasty are evident in the caves.

On our travels so far we have enjoyed our meals. Typically at lunch and dinner a variety of dishes are served on lazysusans for the group to share. This was our best coffee – cappuccino is not Chinese.

We have seen some interesting sights….

….. and faces.

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Xi’an and the Terracotta Warriors

Travelling south to Xi’an via bullet train we passed many very large cities and large areas of food production. With China having approximately 1.4 billion people to feed, farming of every sort is huge and crops of fruit and vegetables are grown on every spare peice of land in the countryside.

The cities are developing at a huge rate; with many people being moved off the land into city apartments as their small farms are being bought up by large corporations. Having said that, we saw hundreds of high rise developments that are unfinished. Given that China still has a restricted child policy it seems unimaginable that these developements will be filled for years to come.

Xi’an was the first capital of the united China (before Peking) and the largest city in the world at that time and the start of the Silk Road. Today it has a population of around 8.5 million plus another 1.1 million university students as the city is home to 50 universities, each specialising in it’s own field.

In Xi’an we visited the Wild Goose Pagoda where the Buddhism scriptures were translated into Chinese which happened after the Silk Road extended into India.

The preserved ancient city wall around the old city of Xi’an was built in 194BC to fortify the city from invading armies. It is still intact and a very popular to walk and cycle around.

One of the popular places to visit is the Moslem area which comes alive in the evening. Food and a variety of wares are very popular with the locals.

Just out of the city the amazing discovery of the Terracotta Warriors, regularly called the 8th Wonder of the World, is the most significant archeological find of the 20th century. The 8,000 warriors, archers, horses and chariots, of which only a small number have been unearthed, were made to guard the tomb of Emperor Qin in 210 BC. The Emperor believed that the warriors would protect him in his afterlife. Made of clay from the local area the warriors were colourfully painted but archeologist have discovered that once the warriors are exposed to air and light the colour disappears. Sonar and other means of detection reveals that the colour is still evident on the unearthed warriors so at this stage some of the work has been stopped until technology comes up with a way of preserving the colour.

Such a fascinating place….all to guard the afterlife.

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Beijing and the Great Wall of China

We have recently returned from a 13 day tour of China which we thoroughly enjoyed. Unfortunately due to China’s ban on external social media, we were unable to use Facebook, Google or WordPress which I use to publish this blog. We were however able to use our email so could keep in touch with family.

We flew into Beijing at night and were amazed at how huge this city is – current population is nearly 24 million and growing. This photo is just a small part of the city.

The weather was perfect. Clear skies and about 28 deg. C. There had been a thunderstorm the previous night and as a result the smog cleared for a couple of days.

Our first tour stop was to Tiananmen Square and as the tourist season has started we were two of the expected 70,000 (yes that is right) visitors for the day. The crowds included many, many bus groups and also locals who were out to enjoy their Saturday.

It was then on to the Forbidden City and Imperial Garden; home of the Emperors of the Ming Dynasty. This is where the movie, The Last Emporor, was filmed and it is the only film ever allowed to be made in this location.

Just out of Beijing at the foot of the mountains is the Emperors Summer Palace. Built on a large man made lake the Summer Palace was once enjoyed by the Emperor and his family as a country retreat. A 750 mtr undercover walkway was built to be a cool sitting place for the family.

The highlight of the tour so far has been our walk on the Great Wall of China. We climbed the very steep steps and enjoyed the picturesque views. Although we only visited one small section of the wall we could not help but be impressed by the feat of construction undertaken by the Chinese; albeit many men must have lost their lives in the most remote regions of the wall.

We have been impressed with how clean and organised this city is although the traffic is horrendous.

Next stop is Xi’an – city of the terracotta warriors.

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The Great Ocean Road

After a few days in Melbourne we are now slowly making our way home. The trip over from Perth to Melbourne was pretty rushed; 3,423 km in four and a half days towing the caravan – the trip home will be at a leisurely pace enjoying the sights along the way.

It is unseasonably hot for early October. The temperatures have been between 30 to 35 deg C. since we arrived and the day we left it reached 38 deg C. Very warm.

We are taking the drive back west along the Great Ocean Road around the beautiful Victorian coastline.

Our first camp was at Kennett River where we dipped our toes into the freezing water – felt like is was directly off the Antartic ice melt. Lovely beach though and there were some brave souls out there swimming and surfing.

Just behind the camp a family of koala’s were trying to keep cool in the gum trees.

Further along we stopped to enjoy The Twelve Apostles and the other amazing formations that have developed over time.  The weather is much cooler today, about 23 deg C. and sea mist and smoke from a distant fire dulled the view a little.

This is certainly one of the most picturesque drives in Australia.

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AFL Footy Fever in Melbourne

Melbourne is awash with Eagles blue & yellow and Hawks brown & gold colours being worn with pride by their supports.

In Friday’s grand final parade our nephew, Jamie Cripps, was enjoying the moment as a West Coast Eagles player.

On game day, the family gathered for breakfast before making our way to the MCG.

With 98,633 spectators Jamie and Nic took in the atmosphere before the game.

Although not the outcome we wanted, our young team has had a very good season and I am sure they will be back next year with a better result.

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Spring is here

The weather the past couple of days here in Margaret River has been glorious…hopefully spring is here. The overcast cool days have turned to lovely sunny days and although the breeze is still a little chilly the sunshine makes up for it.

Whilst on a recent drive the golden wattle was in bloom on the side of the road and paddocks of dandilions, canola, pattersons curse and wheat glistened in the bright light.

The golf course is in top shape.

And the ocean is bright sea blue.

But the one thing that I don’t like about the warmer months coming is the possibility of snakes. We saw this one sunning itself around a verandah post this afternoon….I really don’t like them and we were a little surprised that it thought today was warm enough – only 19 deg – to venture out.

Looking forward to many more sunny spring days.

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Lovely winter sights

Winter is a wonderful time to be in Margaret River. There are so many lovely sights to enjoy. Although a little chilly at this time of the year I think it is still a great area to visit in the cooler months. Everywhere is lush and green and with the promise of spring and the wildflower season just around the corner it is well worth a trip south.

Most of the the vines have now been pruned ready for the next florish of leaves and grapes.

Large mobs of kangaroo are enjoying the lovely green grass.

Fungi is growing on the forest floor.

Arum lilies and freesias are in bloom in the paddocks. I think both are declared noxious weeds in this region.

The river is flowing into the ocean.

The dampness on the walk trails highlights the smells of the forest.

Early morning fog is a regular site.

The deer at the Venison Farm are looking healthy.

As are the dairy cows and sheep with their lambs.

There have been some very pretty sunrises, sunsets and rainbows.

In fact, unlike much of WA where the seasons are not that distinctive; I mean short autumns and springs, it is lovely that we get to enjoy all four seasons down here.

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Lovely winter gardens in Nannup

On a glorious winters day we travelled over to Nannup to attend their annual Flower and Garden Festival.  The sunhine certainly bought out the best of the flowers and the crowds of people who attended seemed to be enjoying the festivities.

Our first stop was to the tulip farm ‘Especially Tulips.  As the sun gradually made its way onto the tulips the dew glistened in the light.

Guinea fowl and ducks act as natures pest controllers by eating the slugs, snails and grasshoppers around the gardens.

Next it was into town for the festival.  The planters in the street were in full bloom and the many stall holders made the most of the large attendance.

The tulip lady was there again to provide any information needed. Isn’t she georgeous!

To finish the day off we took a leisurely stroll around Holberry House – a guesthouse surrounded by beautifully lawned gardens.  A little creek with waterfalls, tall gums trees and a variety of deciduous and flowers trees make this garden a haven for birds and wildlife.

The organisers of the festival must be so thankful for the lovely weather today. We were!

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Bryah Station

imageWe finally get to visit Bryah Station. This map of Western Australia shows its location.

Dane’s family sold Bryah many years ago and unfortunately in recent times, with no one living at the station, the homestead has fallen into disrepair. Such a shame to see this grand old home in this state.

The roof and a few of the walls have started to collapse leaving the interior exposed to the weather. To make it worse vandals have also been in and made a mess. The homestead had beautiful pressed tin ceilings and walls and wooden floorboards.

The tennis court, bower shed, swimming pool and yards have all been neglected. Dane remembers his mothers garden with lawns, flowers, fruits trees and vegetables all growing in abunbance. Hard to picture, isn’t it!

This is the old stable where Dane and his sisters kept and fed their horses.

On a brighter note the scenery on the station is interesting. The colours in the ranges and rocky outcrops are outback red, just as you would imagine.

The wide plains are covered in grasses after the rains and the shrubs are coming into flower.

About 20 kms from the homestead is Bibbingoona Pool – a permanent water hole on the Gascoyne river and favourite place of Dane’s when he was growing up on the station.

The day we visited it was drizzling but, undetered, we stopped here for a BBQ lunch and enjoyed the scenery. A variety of birds including black swans, sparrows, budgerigars, cockatoos, hawks and willy wag tails were also making the most of the pool.

You can see the brown stains on the ghost gums indicating the high water mark when the river is in full flow. Not a regular occurance – it must be specticular when it happens.

Thank you Dane for taking the time to show us around your part of this beautiful state!

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Exploring the Murchison

After meeeting up with our brother-in-law Dane we began exploring the area between the Murchison and Gascoyne rivers.

We set up camp on a little ridge overlooking the plains.

Dane prefers sleeping outdoors in his swag…with Fenton (the dog) nearby. Out here there are so many good things for a dog to roll in (particularly cow dung) so regular washes are necerssary.

We first visited the historic gold mining town of Peak Hill. Established in 1897, the mine was very productive but today the remains of the town are very fragile.

At the nearby Peak Hill cemetery few headstone remain in tact but recent work has seen the grave sites marked with these little white stones.

Mining exploration is still active in the region and there are many open cut mines to see.

Little remains of Peak Hill Station which was once owned by Dane’s family.