There’s always something interesting or unusual happening in the yard throughout the year. If it’s not the birds or animals up to something, then it’s the trees and plants. This Spring, something perhaps not overly unusual but most certainly on a huge scale has happened to all the Messmate gums in our yard, our neighbours and, as far as I can tell, elsewhere in the neighbourhood. For some reason, leaf galls have appeared in massive quantities and caused leaves to drop in vast numbers. Our yard is full of such leaves and when I took our hound for a walk one morning, I noticed similarly large numbers on the road, with most squashed by car tyres or feet. These leaf galls were everywhere. I’ve seen these most years, but never in such quantities and our neighbour is also perplexed as he hasn’t seen such a mass event in all of his years living in the area.
Having just lost Jenna, I wasn’t in the best of moods in the following weeks and was hoping that the bad news year was over. But that wasn’t to be the case as just as we were adjusting to the loss of Jenna, a huge tree fell down at the back of our property crushing the roof of our neighbour’s garage, certainly making it a write-off. Fortunately no one was hurt and the only damage was to the shed as it was empty at the time. After more than a week of constant rain the ground around the base of the tree must have given way and the tree came down. It had been a fairly still night, so it didn’t fall because of the wind. It happened around 8:00pm when I heard the almighty crash, went out to see where it had happened, but couldn’t find any evidence anywhere. I’d surmised that it was next door to us, but seeing nothing, thought it must have been further away. My wife thought is was just thunder as the weather was turning ominous.
If there’s one interesting as well as slightly mysterious feature of Mossvale Park, it’s the local crayfish that inhabit at least one part of the park. For many years I wondered what the muddy mounds with a large hole in the middle were, as they resembled something between an anthill and a underground dwelling spider hole. It wasn’t until I came across something similar in our front yard, that the penny dropped and I realised that these were the entrances to the homes of small crustaceans. The crayfish in our yard were very hard to spot as they only came out at night and the slightest vibration would send them quickly back into their holes. I only ever saw two such holes and one night was able to observe what the inhabitants looked like. They were all black, incredibly spiny and quite the small monsters; something that could be easily used as the basis for a creature in a science fiction horror movie.
Mossvale Park this Winter hasn’t been quite as interesting as in previous years, or else I’m just becoming used to the way it changes year in and year out. While it’s said that familiarity breeds contempt, I certainly have no contempt for Mossvale Park as it’s one of those rare places that isn’t a regular park, nor is it a botanical garden despite all of its historic trees. It’s a nice mix of perhaps both, especially as you can enjoy it year in and year out without the restrictions and regulations that normally accompany anything closer to Melbourne. I guess given the location of Mossvale Park, trying to regulate it in the way many other parks are regulated would be kind of a lost cause because of the way nature treats it at least once every year. With the Tarwin River West Branch circling the park, I’m not sure that there exists any other park in Victoria that gets such a thorough wash every year without fail.
This is the last in my series on Mossvale Park 2017. I could go on about many things, but a lot has already been covered in other stories, so no need to become overly repetitive. One of the things that is ever present at Mossvale Park is the birdlife and other fauna. It’s not overly diverse and seems to host a resident group of familiar and not so familiar birds. There are also other hidden dwellers about, but they are nigh on impossible to photograph and can only be done at night with much perseverance and fortitude, and I’m not that keen on wandering about the park at night for an obscure denizen.
As I alluded in Part 2 of this series, Autumn is perhaps the most vibrant time of year at Mossvale Park. The European trees change colour and then carpet the grounds in an array of shapes, sizes and colours before they fade and eventually get mowed away. The onset of these vibrant colours can be variable and at times slow, as so much is dependent on the temperatures dropping low enough to shock the leaves into their coats of many colours. We don’t quite have the protracted zero degree nights and mornings that you might find in the Alpine regions of Victoria such as Bright or Mt Beauty, where the much colder weather brings about dramatic change. And European trees aren’t found everywhere, except places where the first settlers and later immigrants brought along memories of their homeland. And at least the trees didn’t bring with them the problems that other memories of homeland brought, such as rabbits and foxes.
When the Bureau Of Meteorology (BOM) reported that Winter 2017 was the hottest on record, it immediately gave me the theme for Part 2 of ‘A Year at Mossvale Park’. The hottest Winter on record indeed. I don’t think there was one person in Mirboo North this year, or the region for that matter (I’ve spoken to a lot of people), that would have thought that the Winter just past was the hottest on record , as everyone was thoroughly sick and tired of the endless cold. Mind you, what may have been a record was the demand for firewood, which became something of a scarcity as this ‘hottest on record’ Winter came to a close. But not to be outdone, Spring came on with a vengeance and produced even more cold and then unrelenting rain for weeks on end. If firewood was in short supply towards the end of Winter, it became a luxury item in Spring. I’m just waiting for the BOM to claim that the beginning of Spring was also the hottest on record (of course it was).
Mossvale Park means many things to many people. For some it’s a place to take your dog for a run, for others it’s a place to have a picnic or wedding and still others just like to enjoy the trees and gardens. Then there are those for whom it’s a place to remember. For me, Mossvale Park means many things, but it’s especially a reminder of a bygone era and our European history, which we should never forget. Originally, I was going to write ‘A Year At Mossvale Park’ from a seasonal point of view, watching it change from Summer to Autumn and then Winter to Spring. However, there was so much overlap in subject matter that I decided to base these stories more on what I observed, trying to place related subject matter into each part, rather than doing a ‘seasonal’ theme. The thing that dramatically changed my mind about the style was something I came across towards the end of August while on one of my, almost, daily visits to exercise my hounds.
In Jan 2012 we did a Cruise that ended at the Mitchell River National Park. Our campsite was under a grove of Elm trees and there were lots of small shoots popping up everywhere from the seeds that the trees had dropped. I love collecting such shoots and have done so over the years, with the result that we’ve had some lovely trees growing in our yard in Melbourne. So once again I collected one of these shoots, wrapped it in damp paper towel and put it in a plastic bag for our trip home. It was placed in a small pot and later into a large one, and left there until this year, even though I had intentions to plant it some years ago. This year I decided to plant it properly and give it a real chance to prosper.
I’ve been writing and photographing quite a lot about Mossvale Park over the last few years and what I’ve written and photographed, I kind of equate to the old adage of ‘Can’t see the forest for the trees’. I’ve been looking more at the detail, rather than the big picture, though generally for valid reasons, so I want to rectify that situation and write about the broader aspects of Mossvale Park, how it came to be and where it’s possibly heading in the future. I also want to cover what makes Mossvale Park so important, not only from a local perspective, but from a national and, in some ways, a global one as well.