Thursday, 27 December 2007

The post might get through

I have written elsewhere (http://franmart.blogspot.com/2007/11/election-2007.html) 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):

Thursday, 20 December 2007

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 original burial sites were shown rather than where they are now) which I passed on to the Memorial. They replied very promptly that they were researching the matter. To help them I had enclosed the two photos to the sides of this.


At the Memorial I had also scanned a commercial map of the Somme battlefield to see if I could pick up a reference to a village we had camped at in 1997. While camped there I had gone for a run and passed a Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery which made sense of all the lumpy dirt and fishponds around the village. Several years later similar thinking made me realise why there were a lot of round ponds beside the train line a couple of hours North of Hue in Vietnam.

However, I couldn't remember the name of the village so resolved to look it up when I got home. It turned out to be the village of Aubers and the Battle of Aubers Ridge in 1915 appears to have been one of the greatest stuff ups of WWI. Yes, I know Haig set a pretty high standard, but this seems to have have been one of his more extreme efforts at incompetence (many of the ponds in Aubers would have marked the site where deficient British shells killed British soldiers for example). Anyway:

  • back to the War Graves people and they give directions on how to find the cemetery; then
  • off to Mr Google-Earth; and
  • here is an aerial view of the cemetery (through the help of Mr Gmail)!

Monday, 17 December 2007

White Christmas (Carwoola style)

Season's Greetings to you all!
For a close-up of the pretty white flowers, see Kunzea ericifolia in: http://franmart.blogspot.com/2007/12/more-flowers-from-block.html
http://franmart.blogspot.com/2007/11/recent-changes.html may also take you to some entertaining spots!

Sunday, 9 December 2007

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.
Background

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 campaign one of the English breweries started shipping beer to the troops, and as with India pale Ale they gave it plenty of alcohol to preserve it during the long voyage. This stuff was lethal: at one point the troops rebelled as the content was cut from 12% to 10% and was, as a consequence, rated as not worth drinking.

Previous foray

Rob Ey and I went down to the best (if not only) home-brew shop left in Canberra and sought the owner's advice on how to go about this. He gave us two cans of molasses, some hops and some boss-yeast. It turned out rather fine - and I suspect Rob still has some left nearly three years later.

Current effort

I went back to the brew shop - still functioning at Kambah - and got a slightly different set up this time. The guy's opening gambit was two 3Kg cans which would have tuned out about 10% alcohol. On being asked to drop it to 8% or thereabouts he offered:

  • a 3kg can of ESB Extra Special Stout (from Sydney);

  • a 1.5kg can of Black Rock Malt extract (from NZ); and

  • a Belgian yeast pack to replace the stuff with the ESB (since that would cease to function at about 5%, while that offered would go up to 10%, if the carbohtdrate was around).


I made this up on 9 December 2007, with no apparent grief except that after mixing up it was still at 30 degrees C, which is a tad warmer than recommended for yeast. However I have brewed in Adelaide with an ambient temperature up to 42 degrees and 30 was room temperature at the time, so rather than wait around for several hours for it to cool I lobbed the yeast in. Within 15 minutes it was bubbling well.

In fact it went rather ballistic and did a very good impersonation of a volcanic mud pot for about the next week. It then calmed down to a steady splut whenever looked at until I decided to bottle it on 29 December. The image to the left show the condition of the fermenter once the goodies had been extracted. Note especially the traces of the ruption on the outside of the vat.

I will offer a report on the outcome in about 6 months time.



Having bottled this I reassessed the level of ongoing current slurp stocks and decided that a honey-wheat was indicated fairly urgently. So, also on 29 December a Morgans wheat beer was duly fired up with some Coles generic honey to give it the required sweetness. Probably reflecting the lower level of fermentable product this started to bubble nicely the next day.

A further re-assessment of stocks was made on 7 January. The news continued bad, primarily because two weeks had come out of the cycle for no short term quenching of the thirst, so the Morgans was bottled and a serve of Thomas Coopers Brewmaster Wheat Beer was fired up. Since the honey supply was also low (due to it being used for the good purpose of marinating wings) the batch has got malt extract.

Saturday, 8 December 2007

More flowers from the block

Following on from http://franmart.blogspot.com/2007/09/orchids.html 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.

Tuesday, 4 December 2007

Beer gets skittled

My previous coverage of brewing has been detailed in:
http://franmart.blogspot.com/2007/10/interesting-things-to-do-with-yeast.html. 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 laundry floor, all 23 litres of Dark Ale and not worrying at all about repeating myself in the matter of profanity. Frances came along and between the two of us and a gripper cloth we managed to only waste about a litre (assuming the other 22 litres survived the rougher than usual handling).

At least it was only the laundry floor (OK and the washing machine) which took a bath on this occasion. As covered in the previous post, once before - when I used glass rather than plastic - a bottle exploded on me and the consequent bloodbath covered most of the walls as well.

I'm not going to make this blog a report on my daily activities, but with the chance to combine a pun and a metaphor in just 3 words I had to use the title.

Saturday, 1 December 2007

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 http://franmart.blogspot.com/2007/11/on-radar.html.

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 http://franmart.blogspot.com/2007/11/november-gardening.html. 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 tomatoes in this area is to get fruit before Christmas, I think we are well in front of the game. Let's hope that the wire roofing keeps the possums out of the area.

Fruity matters
We inherited a number of fruit trees of unknown varieties, several grape vines and a few small olive trees (that had been browsed vigorously by the kangaroos). I've covered elsewhere the acquisition of some additional olives and the pruning of the vines. We now seem to have:


  • Pear trees, heavily fruited up by the washing line;


  • apple trees (in the main vegetable garden - vigorously pruned by the reclining yellow box, but really laden with fruit);

  • one almond tree (that seem to be resisting setting fruit);


  • a plum tree:

    an apricot tree; and (in front of the kitchen window)

  • a peach tree!




As well as the olives we purchased some currants (black and red) which are producing well. We purchased a passionfruit that seems to be going OK and 2 female and one male kiwifruit. One of the females got munched early on but the other two are doing very nicely. In addition to all of this we were given by various nice people:







  • Raspberries (doing very well, and are probably going to need some hefty bondage and other forms of discipline in the near future); and

  • Rhubarb (one of which - described by the donor as the best rhubarb in the world - is already producing and being eaten with ice cream).
Flowers


The main business at the moment is roses of various varieties. We have had mauve ones (that got transplanted from in front of my study) many red ones including this wonderful specimen and some nice white ones. In addition we have a couple of floribunda climbers on two sides of our deck.





Frances has planed a lot of dahlias here and there around the garden and I had got some cuttings from a pink tree dahlia from the Eys. The latter all rotted for some reason, but a white one which I acquired at the Melbourne garden Expo seems to be developing rather nicely. Watch for some images as the season develops.
While we were staying at the Eys in January Frances took some cuttings of fuschias. The two images below show what they look like now.