Columns

August has always been a season of its own

AUGUST — it’s when many of us head north and if we can’t do it, we dream about it.

We’ve had enough of the chills and ills of winter and the cold weather seems to have taken over our lives.

It’s in all our conversations and seems all consuming.

Recently, I heard someone mention that August was a season of its own and it struck a chord.

August is often a difficult month for me, and for many of those in my inner circle.

Sickness seems to just hang around and motivation flies out the window at its earliest convenience.

I was an immediate convert to this idea of a new season, so I did a little investigating.

Seems it’s not a new thing after all.

Allow me to explain.

Across Australia there are many Indigenous calendars.

Most have six or seven seasons, including that of the Kulin nation – the five Aboriginal language groups that make up what we know as Greater Melbourne and Central Victoria, including the Wurundjeri People.

According to Museums Victoria:

“The Kulin have a detailed local understanding of the seasons and the environment.

Each season is marked by the movement of the stars in the night sky and changes in the weather, coinciding with the life cycles of plants and animals.”

Their calendar has seven seasons and, not surprising, August is a season of its own:

It’s called Guling Orchid Season, and it is marked by orchids flowering, the silver wattle bursting into colour and male koalas bellowing at night.

Poorneet Tadpole Season, (September and October) is when temperatures rise, rain continues and the pied currawongs call loudly.

The days and nights are of equal length.

Buath Gurru Grass Flowering Season, (November) is warm and it often rains.  (A good thing to remember as we start planning picnics.)

Kangaroo-Apple Season, (December) is marked by its changeable, thundery weather, longer days and shorter nights.

Biderap Dry Season, (January and February) has high temperatures and low rainfall.

Iuk (Eel) Season, (March) is when the hot winds stop and the temperatures cool, while the manna gums flower and the days and nights are again equal in length.

Waring Wombat Season, (April-July) has cool, rainy days and misty mornings, with our highest rainfall and lowest temperatures.

Seven seasons seem to make a lot of sense.

In my research, I stumbled across some notes from a workshop that was held in Warrandyte, in March 1994.

The workshop was initiated by Alan Reid, now a renowned naturalist and environmental writer.

He was interested in including Aboriginal knowledge of seasonal change together with local knowledge from regions of Australia, and had suggested the workshop to pool observations within the region to look for seasonal patterns.

This seemed to be the catalyst for ongoing work by other naturalists into the seasonal calendars of the Melbourne area.

Monitoring was undertaken by many birdwatchers, plant surveyors and others with an interest in documenting changes in local flora and fauna, and, later that year, an interim local calendar of six seasons for the middle Yarra region was launched.

Some years later, more observations were added, and the calendar was adjusted.

In brief, it seems they have done away with autumn for this six-season calendar, but here are some key points from their findings:

  • high summer, from early December to early February, when beetles and xenica butterflies appear and young fish come up from the estuaries
  • late summer, from early February to early April, when the Yarra River becomes muddier, young platypuses emerge and eels move downstream
  • early winter, from early April to early June, when morning mists are in the valleys, migrating birds arrive from Tasmania and casuarinas flower
  • deep winter, from early June to late July, when the weather becomes colder, heavy rains fall, orchid rosettes appear and silver wattles flower
  • early spring, from late July to late September, when more wattles begin blooming, many species of birds begin nesting and joeys emerge from the pouch
  • true spring, from late September to early December, when seed-eating birds, such as finches and parrots, begin nesting, platypuses lay eggs, the Yarra rises and tadpoles are in the ponds

Personally, I don’t want to do without the word autumn as it conjures up so much colour and meaning, but having a local calendar that incorporates indigenous knowledge seems to fill in the gaps and paint a more complete picture of the world immediately around us.

So, with a greater understanding from those that lived dependent on the rhythm of the seasons combined with the findings from the workshop in Warrandyte, perhaps we can all approach this next season a little wiser, be a little more prepared, and just maybe next winter won’t seem so long if we acknowledge Guling.

References:

museumsvictoria.com.au/forest/climate/kulin.html

emelbourne.net.au/biogs/EM01345b.htm

Calendar source: Museum Victoria

Nature: our wonderful wildlife

WARRANDYTE ABOUNDS with opportunities to enjoy natural landscapes and wild animals, birds and reptiles up close.

Although sometimes people would prefer the reptiles to be a little more at arms length!

The natural beauty of our lovely town and its environment is probably the reason a lot of people move to and live here, happily, for a very long time.

It seems fairly obvious, but certainly researchers are in agreement that being connected to and exposed to natural environments has a very positive effect on our mental and physical health, for a whole variety of reasons.

In fact, the research has shown that even just looking at pictures of nature on a regular basis can reduce stress and improve quality of life.

Enter the Warrandyte Nature Facebook page

People love being in and capturing their special experiences of nature, and then sharing those experiences with others.

The Warrandyte Nature page is a vehicle for that purpose.

It’s also a great way to find out about parts of Warrandyte you might never have know existed! Get on it.

The Diary has limited space in the print edition, so for the web find attached a bumper gallery of the images we received for this month’s Nature column.

If you like the selection of photos and would like to see more, please visit the Warrandyte Nature Groups Facebook page by clicking here.

 

Marsupials

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Birds

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Landscapes & the micro world

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Voting for change with our hip pocket

PURCHASING TRENDS change what’s available on the shelves of supermarkets and we all cast our votes every time we buy something.

Where demand lies, supply follows

If our spending can shape the market, then we consumers can change the world.

Sometimes becoming more eco conscious is simple, as certain actions align with some of our other social values or preferences.

But sometimes they don’t, very few people will give up everything they love for the planet, but most of us do want to do something — that’s a great place to start.

Last month I explored the consumption of animal products, and the heavy environmental impacts of that industry.

I understand that reducing meat consumption seems unfathomable to some, so this month let’s look at some of the simpler things we can do to be kinder to the earth and benefit the future of humanity.

Where does your food come from?

Many of us already like to source fresh produce that is grown locally, as we prefer to support our local businesses, and the Australian economy.

Home vegie gardens, local farmers’ markets and food co-ops are thriving, with more and more people also wanting to avoid foods sprayed with herbicides and pesticides.

A side benefit of locally grown produce is that the reduction of transport required to deliver produce (known as “food miles”) also reduces carbon emissions.

Energy use relating to refrigeration of fresh fruit and veg is also reduced or eliminated by buying from local farmers — eating what is “in season” within our regional climate is a great way to keep it local.

Food wastage is a major source of methane emissions from landfill sites; composting food scraps can be a great way to nourish your vegie garden, while reducing these emissions.

Importantly, compost needs to be turned every week, to allow oxygen in; If not, methane-producing microbes become active in anaerobic (no oxygen) conditions, just as they do in landfill.

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

After years of this mantra, most of us are pretty good at recycling our rubbish, the biggest issue is often working out what should and what shouldn’t go into the recycling bins (look this up on the local council website).

But we are still not so great at reducing consumption, or reusing things

Apart from excess packaging, we don’t often consider wasted resources when we purchase.

How often are we really going to use that thing? If not very often, we could consider hiring or borrowing one locally instead.

Perhaps we can buy a second-hand one, then pass it on afterwards.

Unlike some other parts of the world, Australia has not fully jumped on board with the sharing ideology of “collective consumption” yet, despite Time Magazine calling it one of the 10 ideas that will change the world.

This concept will reach the Uberesque critical mass at some point soon and we will see a great leap forward, with an online platform for local sharing economies within the next few years.

Let’s be honest, there are times when we — women at least — just feel like a bit of retail therapy, we can avoid the “fast-fashion” industry, and seek out a unique piece (or bag full) of pre-loved clothing at the Op Shop, or on the Warrandyte Secondhand Page.

When we recycle clothing, we reduce the energy and water consumption, pollution and land-clearing impact of the textiles industry.

Rather than encouraging wage exploitation of people in developing countries, which is usually the method of producing “cheap” clothes and appliances for mass consumption, we can instead give that money to charities through op-shopping.

You are not just a number

Western capitalist society is not designed to encourage this sort of consumer.

The ideal citizen seems to be one who spends all their hard-earned cash in our retail economy, constantly trying to keep up with the Joneses.

Life becomes an endless pursuit of happiness, chasing your tail hoping the next purchase will give you that satisfaction you are longing for.

But material things very rarely bring lasting fulfilment; how quickly the “new car” or “new phone” feeling wears off these days!

We have seen powerful ethical swings effect real market change, for example through the mass boycotting of cage eggs.

Conscientious consumers are now prepared to spend more for better treatment of animals; many people choose recycled or sustainably sourced paper to avoid the destruction of our native forests, or elect to support renewable energy ahead of coal power.

More and more of us are taking responsibility for the future — and the more numbers creating demand for a higher standard, the more the market will supply that standard.

Where to start?

We mere-mortals do struggle to adjust our behaviours, like remembering to take our green bags into the supermarket.

How about practicing other things that can prompt us to reduce waste, like getting a quality refillable pen, a nice drink bottle, and some rechargeable AA or AAA batteries?

Check out how good you feel and for how long after spending $100 at the op shop.

Grow some organic vegies at home, picking as you need avoids waste and gardening is good for our health by reducing stress levels.

Consider borrowing that random tool rather than buying one next time — I’ve just joined Peerby, and hope that you locals hit me up for a lend of any of the excessive “stuff” I have.

I find that purchasing consciously and congruently with the future I want, brings me a greater sense of fulfilment than anything I might purchase for a short-term gain.

For more information on how to lighten your carbon footprint, get on board the Victorian Governments new “Take 2” program.

Timely tax tips – getting ready for June 30

JUNE IS THE month when our minds turn to tax and the obligation to lodge our tax returns, which brings to mind Kerry Packer’s memorable claim, “I pay what is due and not a penny more.”

The purpose of this column is to assist you in adopting the same philosophy which you are perfectly entitled to do, providing you understand the important difference between tax evasion and tax avoidance.

Tax evasion is acting contrary to the law and incurs severe penalties, whereas tax avoidance involves working within the law to avoid paying more tax than you need to.

So what do you need to understand in order to implement Kerry Packer’s advice?

Claim all deductible expenses

Make sure you claim all expenditure incurred in the tax year that is tax deductible.

This will require you to keep either paper (invoices, receipts etc.) or electronic records that contain date of expenditure, description and amount.

Bank statements and credit card statements may suffice if they contain sufficient identifying information.

Alternatively download the ATO myDeductions App and use it to record your deduction records on to your mobile or tablet.

This App is suitable for use by individuals and sole traders.

Work related expenses totalling less than $300 do not require supporting documentation but you will be expected to have a reasonable basis for arriving at the amount you are claiming.

This may apply for example when claiming laundry of uniforms or protective work clothing.

Claiming all expenditures such as donations, work related expenses, business and investment related deductions etc. can be quite complicated, so give consideration to using the services of a registered tax agent whose fees and your travel time to visit are deductible.

Your tax agent will also be able to advise you on the appropriate records you will need to claim the deductible component of motor vehicle, phone, computer, home office expenses, laundering of uniforms and protective clothing, self-education expenses and depreciable assets etc.

Use timing to increase deductions

We have probably all heard the saying “a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush”. This equally applies to tax by bringing forward deductions into the current year and reducing your tax liability for the current year rather than waiting a further 12 months or more before you claim the tax saving from the deduction.

Deductible expenses such as insurance premiums should be timed to fall due in June rather than any other month of the year.

The same goes for depreciable assets that are deductible such as computers, rental property depreciable contents, and particularly tools, plant and equipment and motor vehicles used in a business.

If you donate to charities, school building funds etc. give a thought to making these donations in June rather than earlier in the year, reducing the time period between the cash outlay and the receipt of the tax deduction benefit.

Delaying receipt of
assessable income

Timing benefits can also be accessed by delaying the receipt of income until July rather than having it paid to you in June.

This strategy could be applied to timing the sale of investments that are likely to trigger a capital gain where there are no offsetting capital losses available.

Wage and salary earners entitled to a year-end bonus may be able negotiate payment in the first pay period in July rather than the last pay period in June.

Sole traders selling on credit could consider delaying invoicing for work done in June until early July.

Tax saving and impact on
cash flow

The income and deductions strategies explained above whilst reducing your taxable income will have a significant impact on your cash flow if you are entitled to
a refund and lodge your tax
return early.

Example: A sole trader on an otherwise taxable income of $60,000 brought forward the purchase of an item of plant costing $15,000 from July to June which is fully tax deductible being under the $20,000 cap for a small business.

She also delayed billing customers for work done in June until July 1 amounting to $6,000 thereby reducing her taxable income by $21,000 to $39,000.

With tax levied at $0.34 per dollar in the range from $37,000 – $87,000 her tax saving and increased cash flow would amount to $7,560 including a low income tax offset of $415.

Tax-free gift of up to $500

Your homework is to Google “Super Co-Contribution” to discover whether you are eligible to receive your free gift.

Disclaimer:

The content of this article is not intended to be used as professional advice and should not be used as such. If you have any questions you should consult a registered
tax agent.

Brian Spurrell – FCPA CTA, Director

Personalised Taxation & Accounting Services Pty Ltd. 0412 011 946

Gardening as an art form

A rusty bucket of daffodils, a vintage copper insert filled with water and waterlilies, or an old turquoise bowling ball nestled amongst the arctosis.

Garden art can cost you anything from the petrol it takes to drive around checking out garage sales to thousands of dollars spent at a gallery or nursery.

“Beauty is in the eye of the beholder” is a common quote but nothing is more true than what people see as “art” in the Warrandyte Garden.

Rust lends itself perfectly to the Australian bush backdrop that our properties are surrounded by.

Gums, bursarias, wattles, native grasses and shrubs all huddling around an old piece of metal, the natural tones of the setting sun on gum leaves compliment the brown, orange and black tones of the rusted metal making it a natural addition to the garden.

Looking at the garden art entries at the Melbourne Garden Show this year gives you some ideas of how we can adorn our gardens.

From mosaics, to carved limestone blocks, the barbed wire balls, to plastic chairs painted with zebra stripes burrowing into the ground.

Swimming pools, fish and frog ponds show reflections of the trees above and the autumn leaves floating on the surface add tranquillity to the scene (except for the pool boy/girl who swears at the inconvenience of having to scoop them out).

The rusted barb wire fences bordering properties give us a sense of days gone by but rolled into balls become “art” with a $100 plus price tag.

Rusty fire pits are all the rage and now is the perfect time to invest in one.

A fire and a glass of wine in the garden in the evening is one of life simple joys.

Cane baskets, gum boots, kettles, fire grates, buckets, baking tins, all become receptacles for bulbs and succulents.

Allowing art to spill down stairs, to be clustered under trees in a huddled group waiting out the winter when they will then burst forth into floral tributes.

Water features add the element of movement and noise to a garden or courtyard echoing the sounds of the Yarra river, a drawcard for birds, bees, insects and frogs to your garden.

Vintage gates that lead to nowhere nestled at the bottom of the garden and used as trellis in vegetables gardens, long sticks tied together to form tee pees for climbing beans and peas, tomato frames in jaunty colours in clusters, old screen doors with the wire stripped out leaning against walls — all are the perfect frameworks to hide an eyesore in the garden, to create the illusion of depth or make the garden feel bigger and more interesting, to divide the garden into rooms or to add height to the newly planted garden.

So remember to find original pieces, try not to buy the commonplace “art” but think outside the box and see what you come up with.

Garden benches, garden chairs, hammocks or a simple swing invite visitors to sit a while in the garden, to contemplate the plants, smells and sounds, to be a child again.

Now is the time to look out for environmental weeds.

These include agapanthus, asparagus fern, bluebell creeper, cape broom (Genista), Cootamundra wattle, cotoneaster, English ivy, holly, weeping willow, Japanese honeysuckle, pampas grass, and Spanish heath to name a few.

They spread too easily by seed and cause destruction in bushland and forested areas by smothering native plants.

Autumn and winter is a time to flick through gardening books and think of other alternatives for these plants in the garden.

Plant evergreen trees in May. the soil is warm and with the autumn rains we have been having the soil is moist and easy to turn over.

Evergreen trees can be planted now acacias species, eucalypts, jacaranda, malaleuca, peppercorns, camellias, michelias.

Remember a hole dug to plant a tree should be at least twice the size of the root ball.

Don’t be stingy when digging a hole, never try to jam the trees roots in a hole that is too small especially when you have purchased bare rooted trees.

Remove the plant from the pot and gently tease out the roots, place a hand full of slow release fertiliser in the hole a, place the tree in the hole and replace the soil making sure the soil is good quality.

With feet or hands firm down the soil around the plant and water deeply. Make sure you mulch to help conserve moisture in the soil.

To avoid “collar rot” make sure the mulch is not resting up against the trunk of the tree.

If you are planting kangaroo paws remember they like to be planted in a mound slightly above the ground to ensure perfect drainage.

If you want to be happy for a lifetime — be a gardener.