Inspiration for Planning the Ultimate Road Trip to Margaret River
By Cathy Howard • 23.05.2022
By Cathy Howard • 26.02.2023
The Noongar people are the traditional owners of the South West of Western Australia, and for the Wadandi dialect group, the Busselton- Margaret River region where Whicher Ridge Wines is located, is known as Wadandi Boodja (Saltwater People’s Country).
The Noongar people follow an ancestral six seasons calendar which guides them to live in harmony with the land, and determines where to forage, gather, hunt and camp. Each of the six seasons has a plant indicator that flowers in advance of each change. Plants, animals and weather patterns coincide with each season, which runs for the duration of every second full moon.
The Noongar seasonal calendar includes six different seasons in a yearly cycle. These are Birak, Bunuru, Djeran, Makuru, Djilba and Kambarang.
Birak season sees the rains ease up and the warm weather really start to take hold. The warmer days are cooled by the afternoon and evening breezes from the south.
An almost clockwork style of easterly winds in the morning and sea breezes in the afternoon, meant that traditionally this was the burning time of year for Noongar people. They would burn the country in mosaic patterns to increase the grazing areas for some animals, to aid in seed germination for some plants and for ease of mobility across the country.
Whicher Ridge comes alive with baby animals and birds literally everywhere! Fledgling birds are now venturing out of nests, accompanied by their parents. Reptiles are looking to shed their old skin for a new one. Kangaroos and emus are seen out and about their new offspring. The rising temperatures and decreasing rainfall, it’s also time for the baby frogs to complete their transformation into adulthood.
Our wine sensory garden bursts into a riot of colour of flowering and fruiting plants as the ground warms up.
One of the most striking displays of flowers to be seen during this season will be the “Mooja”, or Western Australian Christmas Tree (Nuytsia). The bright orange/yellow flowers signal that heat is on its way.
Bunuru is the hottest time of the year with little to no rain. Hot easterly winds continue with a cooling sea breeze most afternoons close to the coast. It is the time of the year when our paddocks dry off, and the farm animals and wildlife seek shady spots to rest during the heat of the day.
For the Wadandi people, traditionally this was, and still is, a great time for living and fishing by the coast, rivers and estuaries.
Bunuru is the time of the white flowers with Jarrah, marri and ghost gums in full bloom. The flowering of the marri (redgum) is keenly watched and waited for by grapegrowers as it is crucial in keeping the marauding flocks of hungry silvereye birds out of the grapes and out feeding on the gum flower nectar instead.
Bunuru heralds the start of vintage in the Margaret River and Geographe wine regions, and wineries start to take in and process grapes. Chardonnay is one of the first grape varieties harvested, closely followed by Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon. The key to making the very best wine, is picking the grapes at just the right time!
During the hot weather in Bunuru, our farm hosts large and noisy flocks of whitetail Carnaby and Baudin black cockatoos, as well as smaller family groups of redtail black forest cockatoos. These large birds visit our farm several times a day to drink from our farm troughs. Our troughs also provide much needed water not only for our sheep and horses, but also emus, kangaroos, a huge variety of birds and reptiles.
Another striking flower that you may notice is the female Zamia (Macrozamia riedlei). The female plant is much larger than its male counterpart, and the huge cones emerge from the centre of the plant with masses of a cotton wool like substance. As the hot, dry weather continues the seed upon the cones change from green to bright red, indicating they’re ripening and becoming more attractive to animals, particularly the emu.
Djeran season at last sees a break in the really hot weather. A key indicator of the change of season is the cool nights that once again bring a dewy start to the day. The winds have also changed, especially in their intensity, with lighter breezes generally coming in from southerly directions (i.e. southeast to southwest). Many flying ants can be seen cruising around in the light winds.
Djeran is a time of red flowers especially from the red flowering gum (Corimbia ficifolia), as well as the smaller and more petite flowers of the Summer Flame (Beaufortia aestiva). The red ‘rust’ and seed cones form on the male and female Sheoaks (Allocasuarina fraseriana). Banksias start to display their flowers, ensuring that there are nectar food sources for the many small mammals and birds.
As the season progresses, the nights will become cooler and damper along with some cool and rainy days.
It’s the season when we harvest our red grapes, such as Malbec, Mourvedre, Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz and Petit Verdot.
Makaru sees the coldest and wettest time of the year come into full swing. For the Wadandi people, traditionally, this was a good time of the year to move back inland from the coast as the winds turned to the west and south bringing the cold weather, rain and occasionally snow on the peaks of the Stirling and Porongurup Ranges.
As the waterways and catchments started to fill, people were able to move about their country with ease and thus their food sources changed from sea, estuarine and lake foods to those of the lands in particular the grazing animals such as the kangaroo.
At Whicher Ridge, our vines lose their leaves and enter their dormant stage. Our farm paddocks green up again, and bulbs that have been dormant in the gardens, burst into life.
Makuru is also a time for many animals and birds to be pairing up in preparation for breeding in the coming season. Upon the lakes and rivers of the Southwest, you’ll also start to see a large influx of the Black Swan or ‘Mali’ as they too prepare to nest and breed.
Flowers that will start to emerge include the blues and purples of the Blueberry Lilly (Dianella Revoluta) and the Purple Flags (Patersonia Occidentalis). As this season comes to a close, you should also start to notice the white flowers of the weeping peppermint (Agonis Flexuosa) as the blues start to make way for the white and cream flowers of Djilba.
Djilba season is a time to look for the yellow and cream flowers. Djilba is a transitional time of the year, with some very cold and clear days combining with warmer, rainy and windy days mixing with the occasional sunny day or two.
This is the start of the massive flowering explosion that happens in the South West, which starts with the yellow flowering plants such as the Acacias. Other colours that are around at this time of year are creams, combined with some vivid and striking blues.
For the Wadandi people, traditionally, the main food sources included many of the land based grazing animals as in the season before. These included the Yongar (kangaroo), the Waitj (emu) and the Koomal (possum).
As the days start to warm up, the first of the newborns are now out with the parents providing them with food, guiding them through foraging tasks, and protecting their family units from predatory animals and birds.
The woodland birds will still be nest bound, hence the swooping protective behavior of the Koolbardi (Magpie) starts to ramp up and so to do the Djidi Djidi (Willy Wag Tails) and the Chuck-a-luck (Wattle Birds) to name a couple of others.
It is teh time for our vineyard to start budburst, and the new shoots, with the promise of great things to come are bursting into life.
As the season progresses and the temperatures continue to rise, we’ll start to see the flower stalks of the Balgas (Grass Trees) emerging in preparation for the coming Kambarang season.
The Second Spring – October-November
During the Kambarang season, there is an abundance of colours and flowers exploding all around. The yellows of many of the Acacias continue, along with some of the Banksias and many other smaller delicate flowering plants including the Kangaroo Paw and Orchids. The Balgas (grass trees) will also start to flower, especially if they’ve been burnt in the past year or closely shaved.
October is also the most likely time of the year that you’ll encounter a snake as the reptiles start to awaken from their hibernation and look to make the most of the warm to assist them in getting enough energy to look for food. It’s also a time that many young birds will be singing out for their parents to feed them. Koolbardies (Magpies) will also be out protecting their nests and their babies.
Many things are undergoing transformation with the warm change in the weather. The longer, dry periods are accompanied by a definite warming trend.
Kambarang sees our vines starting to flower and set, which is when you get an idea how much crop of each variety is potentially going to be picked in the following year, and the anticipation and excitement starts to build for the new vintage.
Whicher Ridge acknowledges the people of the Noongar Land and recognises their connection to culture, community and Country. We pay our respects to their elders, past and present. Whicher Ridge supports the Uluru Statement.