Friday, 18 January 2008

More Brickbats and Bouquets

This follows on from

I'm surprised there has been so long between posting on this topic: I must be getting mellow (or less discerning). However this month there have been a few incidents worthy of recording and donation of awards.

Yer stove

The first brickbat (in fact brickPRAT would be a better word) goes to M A Butterfield. It starts when I went to Leeton on a birding trip in November.

As I was camping I took along our high-tech Mountain Safety Research (MSR) cooking stove, primarily to brew myself some coffee in the morning. We hadn't used this while in the States but my memory was that it was great. So when I got to Leeton I got it out of the bag and it didn't look right. As can be seen in the image to the right there is a rather large wick evident, which didn't used to be there. It looked as though something had fallen off.

The immediate problem - caffeine shortage the next morning - was remedied by a long black and a read of the local rag in a cafe in one of the main streets of Leeton. It was however a puzzle how I could have lost a substantial part of the stove without, as far as I could recall, opening the bag it was in for about 2 years. Perhaps I had got the optional Houdini add-on?
So anyway after a few weeks prevarication we were going to be near a camping gear shop so I thought I would take it in there and see what they could do for me. The first place I went to - Camping World in Philip - earnt itself a small hod when the fat boy (why are nearly all incompetent people overweight?) who came to attend to me didn't recognise it as an MSR stove and basically could do zip.
So off we go to Jurkewitz in Fyshwick (where we had bought the beast). Initially I thought I was destined to be handled on this day by gooses, because the person there looked young and blond (and male). However he did at least know to head for a MSR display and was able to work out which model I'd got. While trying to work out which bit was missing he tugged on the yellow tube emerging from the stove.

He then said "I don't think you're missing anything" since after the tug it looked like the image to the left. Talk about embarrassment. We awarded them a bouquet, bought some fly-veils for Ingrid and slunk out.


I have for many years had a cheap and nasty whipper-snipper for trimming grass and such like things. However I was using it recently and the motor suddenly revved like a winner at SummerNats while the cord stopped rotating. On applying various spanners and screwdrivers it turned out the drive mechanism was a twisted wire rope and had been asked to do more than it could handle. A new device was needed.
My first port of call was the Stihl dealer in Queanbeyan. They had some good stuff but it all seemed to get a bit expensive so I went to the Husqvarna dealer down the street. He offered me a deal for similar things, but about $100 cheaper: since I really like Huskie products - my chainsaw is still going strong after 25 years - I did the business including a weedwakka attachment which I was assured was easy to to fit.
When it came time to fit the wakka it didn't fit - quite clearly. Back to the shop to explain this. Oh dear he would speak to the manufacturer (a local company), who said he would drop by and check it out. He did this and the salesprat was able to show how me to get it to fit. Unfortunately the required retaining nut etc was not available. It turned out that had to ordered separately from Husqvarna as did the guard. I was not happy and muttered (OK, said loudly) a word that sounded a bit like "Duck": several times. Order the bits I said. OK they said.

About a week later got a call to say the bits had arrived and would cost $12.38, which sounded cheap. In fact that was the price of the nut and washer: they had not ordered the guard. Duck, duck, duck. One huge brickbat to Landmark Queanbeyan

So off to Bungendore Rural Services (BRS) - part of the same chain - to get it ordered again. This actually happened and BRS were staring at a large bunch of flowers: then it turned out they added on $10 for freight so got some attitude (which they handled pretty well - cut the order back to 6 roses).

Mower tales
As I have got back into mowing the lawn I have found that the mower was running slower and rougher (OK down the lawn but a real struggle to get back up). This seemed to indicate that a service was needed which required that the mower visit BRS. A first issue was how to get it over there. It turned out that an old metal gate was just what was needed as a ramp. (One of the joys of rural living is all the crap that previous owners/tenants have left around the place. It is quite astonishing how many problems can be resolved by remembering where one saw a convenient length of polypipe or a length of cyclone fencing.)
Here is the mower on the trailer. (I must point out that my shirt is VERY blousy: that is not me filling it out.)
It emerged that the main problem was a wasp's nest in the muffler, but the guy at BRS did a lot of other stuff so it now runs really nicely. Another bouquet for them.

Friday, 11 January 2008

More animals

One of the common sights of Carwoola over summer has been the Eastern Blue-tongued lizards crossing the road. Some of them make it all the way, and as far as I am aware there have been no accidents involving motorists brakng for them (although the motorists do brake!!

The lizards are quite attractive when seen close up. Apparently they do quite a number on the bugs around the place so we're very pleased to have them.

We're less pleased to have these, but I thought this one was quite attractive and it gave me a chance to practise with the zoom function of my camera. It was a reasonable size - perhaps 1cm from proboscis to tail - but not as big as the March flies which can occur.

We now move to animals I really don't want: feral cats. I had let a female and her kitten go for a while in the hope that they would diminish the rabbit population. However I think they have mainly done a number on the local wrens so it was off to the RSPCA to rent a pussy trap. After baiting it with cat sardines overnight we had a winner.

The image of the kitten doesn't show what a pretty kitty it was.

The image above also doesn't show its attitude issues. Perhaps you get the idea from the industrial strength gloves I am wearing as I take it to load into the car! After another 5 days the mummy had not turned up and the sardine bait was very rancid so I gave up, but will try again later in the year..

Wednesday, 9 January 2008

A short walk to the Queanbeyan River

As I have decided to do a bit more biking this year, and my friend Peter was still on vacation, I suggested to him that a ride down Woolcara lane would be a good idea. He agreed so we parked our car at the end of the near(ish)by Sugarloaf Ridge Road and took off.

There was some slight concern that Peter's tyres were a tad underdone as they were slicks which had performed well on the paths beside the Danube a year ago, and the track in mind wasn't quite that smooth or flat. After 7 km this proved to be accurate as a fair sized hole appeared after a reasonably rapid passage over some rocks. The spare tube turned out to function well and we progressed (with somewhat greater decorum on the more jagged bits).

At 14km I found what I thought was the track down to the Queanbeyan River and we set off to visit same with some hope of seeing a platypus. There were lots of wildflowers including this spectacular fringed lily (Thysanotus tuberosus) as well as some orchids.

We found the way towards the river well endowed with Kunzea, Bursaria and Leptospermum scrub. In fact it was rather over-endowed from the perspective of easy walking. This is a shot of the track we had followed after it had closed over behind us. I was heard to comment that the area could benefit from fatter kangaroos to leave wider tracks.

We got to the river, which was platypus deficient but as Peter found, when he went for a wade in it, silt enhanced.

He had kept his shoes on which we decided was a smart move in view of the amount of glass littering the ground as we walked back to the main track. It is close to Queanbeyan after all. As well as leaving their empty stubbies behind some one left their truck: possibly after finishing off a few stubbies.

Back to the bikes, noting that the trip back involved much less bush bashing (and distance from the road) than the way in. On riding back - with continued high decorum - we had dome 28km on the bikes and my guess was abut 3 km of walking. A hoot.

Saturday, 5 January 2008

January Gardening: Pt 3 Vines

In a previous posting ( - go to the end) I showed us, and our friends Rob and Carol Ey, pruning our vines. Well was that ever a success. We have had massive growth on the vines and lots of grapes under the leaves. The following collection of photos show:

  • the original growth;
  • some of the fruit
  • Frances sewing up one of the lengths of netting; and
  • the net effect.

January Gardening: Pt 2 Fruit and Veg

We are not yet yet at the season of mists, but the mellow fruitfulness seems to be happening.

A typical carrot, now that they seem to be going down, rather than forking about in the top couple of inches of soil. An onion - see below - and some purple beans (again below).

The next two piccies show baskets of produce with lots of onions, garlic and shallots plus a few radishes and yet more beans. I think I have commented before that we have two seasons: 'Winter' and 'when we don't go to the fruit shops'.

Here are some beans in their habitatand a sample of plums. The latter are interesting in that we are trying to keep them on the tree (and safe from bird attack, but in putting some netting up I knocked about a dozen semi-ripe fruit onto the ground. Some chutney may be in our future.

The final element of this segment is a reference to the Year of the Potato! Frances went bandicooting on 5 January and came up with a rather poor specimen of spud. This was not good news, as not only had we paid good folding stuff for the seed potatoes but we had bought several bales of straw to keep the tubers heading in the correct direction.

However on 6 January I applied a fork to another plant and got some very nice looking tubers. Following a bit of work on a BBQ (in the matter of lamb chops) I can report that the pink spuds tasted damn fine. The meal was also accompanied by a totally home grown salad - including our first Carwoola tomatoes!!!!

This image shows some of our small onions having been given the pickling treatment. The mustard seed makes it look very nice (if you can pick them up at this scale).

Friday, 4 January 2008

January Gardening: Pt 1 Flowers

As previously noted gardening seems to be a bit of a theme in this blog with almost monthly entries. This is not a total surprise to me, as one of our objectives for buying a big place was to have a big garden so we could grow lots of stuff. This month there will be at least 3 pages covering various aspects of this activity.

I will begin with flowers, both in the garden and on the deck. The first image shows a day lily (which despite its name has been enhancing the view from my study for some little time). This is followed by a catus dahlia with some white and red Asiatic lilies.

Now we have a close up of the white Asiatic lilies and some basic white daisies with the yellow flag iris fronds in the background.

At one point last summer Frances commented that she wasn't going to fill the decks with lots of pot plants. Yeah, right, a theory. With her ability to strike cuttings (and we will not go into detail about the acquisition process) we have a really great set of Fuschias outside all our windows. Here are a couple of the really good ones. The first image is of a double 'La Rosita" while the second is one from some friends stock, we believe to be called "Don Juan".

In addition to this exotic stuff the yellow box trees have decided to celebrate a year of more or less decent rainfall be flowering rather dramatically, Here is a close-up of one of the flowers and an unopened bud that landed on the lawn. In real life it is about 5mm across.

Tuesday, 1 January 2008

Welcome to '08

The title is self-explanatory. Depending upon how things go a "You're" may get added to the title, but for now let hang with the positive!
The main business here is a review of 2007 against various semi-important headings. (The important headings - health, marriage, family etc are all very satisfactory so don't need to be covered.)

Exercise: I managed 1680 km running, plus 1135 on various bikes (= 189km running) plus 1120 exercise walking (= 358 running). This is about 2% better than achieved in 2006.

Birding: I didn't get out of Australia for the first time in about 15 years so the list was a trifle short. 238 birds for the year and 169 species in the ACT. I did manage 77 species for my home site which was pretty good for 11 months.

Finances: We still have some, despite the efforts of Dubya Bush and his buddies to transfer the entire wealth of the world to Exxon etc.

Travel: We bought a new Subaru when we got back from New York and in the first 12 months managed to cover 30,820kms at an average of 90.26 l/100kms or 30.22 miles per IMPERIAL gallon. The rather impressive total (approximately double what we used to achieve when living and working in Canberra) can be explained in part by 2 trips to Adelaide at 3,000km a pop and two more to Melbourne @ 2,000. The most interesting bit is that the fuel consumption has dropped by about 5% once we stopped taking trailer loads of tyres down to the Captains Flat tip!

Rain: The good news from 2007 was that we got some (in fact we totalled 735mm). Apparently for Canberra Airport it was still about 5% below average but what we got in Carwoola was nice. The graph below shows the actuall fall and a smoothed version of the line using a 4th order polynomial (which I bet impresses the heck out of you).