Showing posts from 2007

The post might get through

I have written elsewhere ( about my interface with the letter boxes of Carwoola during the election campaign. This became part of a little local storm, as a few residents decided to launch into the postie for poor service. I replied that the postie was entitled to launch into a few residents for crappy post boxes. However, being my usual conciliatory self I did allow that some of the post boxes around here are pretty good. Here is a selection (the hand is my favourite):

Grave matters on the Internet

For various reasons Frances and I found ourselves at the Australian War Memorial with a couple of hours to spare on 19th December. After having a squizz at the T E Lawrence meets the Australian Light Horse (as it turns out after 3 years fighting the same people from different directions) we had enough time to start one of their guided tours. It was highly excellent and strongly rated for any of you who have some time to spare in a North Canberra-ish dircetion.

One of the points the guide made was that all known Australian Dead are listed on the brass panels in the rememberance area. But I noticed that East Africa wasn't listed as one of the areas covered in the plaques out in the courtyard. So, knowing that there are two dead Australians buried in the Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery in Dar es Salaam I decided to check them out to see if they were listed.

To my slight surprise, and great pleasure, they were listed. There were slight inconsistencies in the listing (I suspect the orig…

White Christmas (Carwoola style)

Season'sGreetingsto you all! For a close-up of the pretty white flowers, see Kunzea ericifolia in: may also take you tosome entertaining spots!

Zymurgy (continued)

After the near disaster posted in Beer gets skittled and the previous coverage of brewing in Interesting things to do with yeast I decided that the time had come to get ready for the cooler weather of next Winter. This means a batch of Imperial Russian Stout (which takes at least 6 months, and preferably longer, to age) is needed.

My interest in this stuff started when I was in Moldova and took to drinking the dark local(ish) beers to accompany my evening meals (when I was eating alone - while Moldovan wine was very good, knocking off a bottle solo was not a good idea when the pavements were icy).

One evening the waiter offered me a Baltica #6 as a good dark beer. I jokingly said "is that the alcohol content?" at which he examined the label and pointed at the number 8 in front of the % sign sign. It was very nice, which led me, on return to Australia to investigate beers of Russia.

I don't know what they did before the Crimean War but apparently during that campai…

More flowers from the block

Following on from here are some more flowers that have emerged later in the season.

This is the "standard" Kunzea ericoides which seems to be the initial coloniser of regenerating paddocks (if the brambles and briars don't get in first). In close-up it is obviously a really spectacular flower!

Here is a long shot up the track, showing the blooming K. ericoides across a paddock, together with a passing mushroom hunter!

This is the Blue Devil Eringyium rostratum, described by Ian Fraser as "an essential component of native grasslands".

Floating on the top dam we have Ottelia ovalifolia, which is apparently a native water plant.

Beer gets skittled

My previous coverage of brewing has been detailed in: While that will be the core repository for matters zymurgic the events of 4 December were worthy of a post of their own.

In the past I have used a pipe and siphoned the beer out of the top of the vat. This became easier with a valved pipe but when I got a tap for the base of the vat I found it much easier for solo efforts to use this approach. However, earlier in the year I found that the first tap I had acquired was getting rather stiff, to the extent that when trying to turn it off it started to unthread itself. Since the problem disappeared with the acquisition of a new tap (OK, one I found at the Captain's Flat tip) I was rather happy.

However when just starting to bottle on the glorious 4th the problem of unscrewing reared its ugly head. So there I was in the laundry trying to work out how to avoid losing, or at best spreading over the laundr…

Weather 'tis better ...

I find it difficult to resist a chance for a pun like that. My previous post about the weather is under the URL

A bit over a week later, after more or less constant threats of storms but no action here at El Rancho, the radar was again largely blue and yellow on the evening of 30 November. This time it started to rain about 7:30pm. About an hour later, after steady rain producing 8mm, I could hear a strange noise from the drive. On going to look, I found that the creek was roaring across the road. I think this means that there had been a really heavy downpour up at the source (in the headwaters?) of the creek.

December Gardening

As suggested last month, this is becoming a mini series with the previous episode at Possibly with a total of three posts we are now at the "series" level.
Vegetable doings
The material covered here actually starts on November 30, when we decided that the time had come to start really picking the "eating" broad beans. (I add the qualifier to distinguish this crop from the "green manure" broad beans, which we started picking in October, because we didn't need to use them as green manure. ) The upshot of our decision was that we got 2.5kgs of beans from about 1/3rd of the plants. A couple of days later I picked the rest and estimate that i got another 4 kgs. About 5kg of these were frozen and the rest we (mainly me) have been eating with our evening meal.

It has also been interesting to see that we have fruit on two of our tomato plants. Since one of the traditional challenges of growing tomatoe…

Yer actual monotreme

On 30 November I was called out of the shower as an echidna (aka spiny ant-eater) was exploring under our deck. A few photos were taken.

This is the long view to give an idea of where it was at the start of the episode (just to the right of the steps).

Close up 1 - it looks to be 3/4 asleep to me!

Close-up 2 - getting ready for movement.

For reasons that escape me, Frances thought it worth taking this image of me assessing the beast's progress under the deck. It was aware of my presence so had done the usual "ostrich act" and dug itself in against the foundations. When we checked again 30 minutes later it had taken itself off.

Recent changes (since Nov 28)

This page will be a log of what's been did - nothin' will be hid - since 28 November. It will hopefully assist the reader to follow what is going on! Needless to say folk are welcome to go back through the older stuff as well (where an entry continues an old posting a backwards link is usually provided).

New pages

This one!!! an echidna visits us An arguable title. Disaster just avoided.

Major updates ad…

Election 2007

As those with a biological approach will know the photo to the left is of a weasel.

Lets start the narrative off with a quote from "The Australian" at 16:14 on election day.
"PUNTERS have rallied to back Prime Minister John Howard to win his seat, but Labor is still a raging favourite with bookmakers to win the election.
"Centrebet's Neil Evans said Mr Howard's price closed at $1.50 today after two punters helped themselves to $1.72 overnight with two separate bets of $10,000 on the big boss. Mr Howard, however, was a drifter overall after opening at $1.18.
"Labor's star candidate in Bennelong Maxine McKew on the other hand was firmer after after being backed in from $4.25 to close at $2.40, he said.
"Head-to-head, Labor finished at a miserly $1.28 with Centrebet to win the election, after opening at $2.75 when Kevin Rudd took over as opposition leader in December last year.
"By contrast, the Coalition blew like a gale over the same period to …

On the radar

When we first came back from New York there was quite a lot of conversation about the drought in Australia. That tended to die down as a result of a lot of storms in January - March although a few Hanrahans started muttering about floods. Then it went dry again until a deluge in June (followed by dry in July to October).

November has decided to make up for things a bit: by the 22nd we were up to 71mm for the month and it started raining in the afternoon. At 17:20 this is what the Met Bureau radar looked like - the system is basically moving down the screen (ie South) and X marks our house!

We ended up getting 22mm of rain out of this storm, which nicely topped up the rainwater tank, and removed the need to use the bore for lawn watering!

This was the radar image at noon on 7 December. I think the December total is going to get a bit of a boost this afternoon.

'Tis the season ..

.. to be jolly HOT!

This post is written about events while Frances was in Adelaide visiting her family, so she will not feature greatly in it!

After a couple of days birding in Western NSW, with the temperature over 37 degrees Centigrade it was nice to be back in canberra, where it was still well over 30C. This led me to spend a couple of hours sitting on our verandah with a cooling glass or 3 of honey wheat home brew. This was totally peaceful, with only birdsong and the rumbling of thunderstorms (see below) to disturb me.

{A parenthesis: While so relaxing I was reading "Dark Victory" by David Marr and Marian Wilkinson about the immigration crisis of 2001. We missed most of this as we were in Tanzania at the time, but it should be compulsory reading for anyone who wants to understand Australia and why Little Johnny Weasel (our current, but hopefully only for another week as I write, Prime Minister) is the foulest bum on the face of the planet - possibly excluding Dubya, but a…

November Gardening

This could possibly be part of a series, with the first being an October entry In fact with two related posts it is already a mini-series!

This could well be contrasted with the pre-weeding of the onions and garlic photo in the earlier posting. As is usually the case Frances is doing the weeding.

The aim of the exercise. The garlic was pulled because it looked a bit over the hill; we have more peas than a diabetic dachshund; and the best crop of strawberries we have ever grown. I have decided there are only two seasons: Winter and when we don't buy vegies!


On 5 November I was roused from my computer by Frances yelling for me to go to where she was. As she wanted me to hurry I guessed this was not another fallen tree (since they, traditionally, don't move too much once they're recumbent).

In fact it was the photographed mini-lobster walking down the concrete path in the vegetable garden. It was not a happy camper due to the attention of a large number of ants. After lobbing it into a bucket and thence into our dam it was much happier. I don't think the ants were so jovial: they seemed to make a strategic error in heading for the centre of the water rather than the side.

It could be noted that after getting 51mm of rain in the last few days the dam is now full. It could also be noted that the presence of yabbies may explain why the dam leaks a little bit!

Weekend stuff

Frances and I spent some of this weekend out in the bush (about 1200m above sea level) on birding duties. There has been a very dry spell for about 3 months, but we re now getting some rain.

To recycle a cliche there is good news and bad news.
The bad news first. Australia is the home of the bush fly. What is known as "the great Aussie salute" is a constant motion in which the hand is swept across in front of the face to fan away the flies. We have been told this weekend that as a result of the drought (last 5 years, not the last few months) the population of beetles that bury cattle poop has dropped drastically: thus more poop = more flies. Here is a shot of Frances supporting this research finding. The good news (well the photogenic news at least) is that the rains have led the marsupials to start continued foetal development. (When things get dry the foeti just get put into suspended animation until food and water become available again. Don't ask me how this happens, bu…

Garden situation, late October

We have inherited a good lot of irises from the previous owners, of which these are the lairiest,

These pale ones also have a subtle charm!

We were kindly given some yellow flags by a friend and despite most of the water exiting the pond in which we placed them we now have some beautiful flowers to look at across the lawn.

In the vegie department we have a good crop of onions beginning to appear as well as several varieties of garlic. Needless to say there are also weeds which Frances removes!

This is an overview of the legume area. It was under the yellow box shown in is really a remarkable recovery. Notice that the supervisor is still on the job!

We have several varieties of peas and they are all producing heavily. This is far and away the best we have ever done with them, despite their pounding from the fallen tree. This section are snow peas. The potatoes are really hitting their straps. They are growing faster than w…

Various recent birds

The image below is of a great egret. I had hoped to get one of it sitting in a dead willow, but it flew as the shutter went, giving a much better shot!

This is an image of the Bar-tailed Godwit seen in and near Kelly's Swamp on 25 October 2007

On 24 October I was unsuccesfully searching the Australian National Botanic Garden for an alleged Spangled Drongo. Instead I found some flowering grass trees (Xanthorrhea sp) which were being thoroughly investigated by Red Wattlebirds. I don't know if this was a search for nectar or insects but the images are OK.

Interesting things to do with yeast

I am sure there are a very wide range of things to do with yeast. The two main uses I make of this product are baking bread (basic simple stuff in a bread machine) and brewing beer. However for the sake of completeness this post will also note some other people's efforts in the latter direction.

Vey little more will be said about the former. I use one of Lauke's mixes (usually the German grains one) for the bread and do not muck about adding fruit etc. As we live some 22kms from the nearest shop it is really good to have a fresh loaf available in the kitchen whenever we want one (and remember to fire the machine up the previous night). Although I am not greatly into 'sensory' things the smell of the baking bread is also quite pleasant on a cold winter morning.

Beer making
There are a couple of ways of beer making. The first is to delegate the task to someone else and just drink the stuff. This will be covered by commentary on various ales I have purchased and sampled. For…

Marathon trip

This is essentially recording some stuff around our trip to Melbourne which had the purpose of me running the marathon. The sub-text of that is that I had found that the time I ran in New York (10 months earlier) would have put me at #15 in the ACT Vets 60 – 65 age group. As I turned 60 (or as Frances put it, depressingly, entered my 7th decade) 2 days before the race this seemed to be my best chance of additional fame.

Day 1 was a drive from Carwoola to Marlo on the East Coast of Victoria. This started by confirming that the shortcut through Captains Flat and Jerangle actually cut 20 minutes (as well as 50km) off the trip. The highlight of the drive was seeing a lot of echidnas wandering around. We have seen them in the past but this year they seem to be everywhere.

We started touristing at the Bemm River rainforest walk where there were a lot of birds calling, but as usual in rainforest, none were visible. We moved on to Cape Conran, taking a photo of a young person boogie-boarding an…