Saturday, 28 February 2009

Cleaning up (part of) Captain's Flat Road

So I have cleaned up this site for the 3rd consecutive year. This time I got approxmiate;y 3.5 bags of stuff, about .5 of a bag less than last year.

My estimate of the composition by weight was about 60% recyclable and 40% not. The biggest single class of crud (by weight) was empty beer bottles (mainly stubbies): when is the pathetic NSW Government going to start charging deposits on these? Needless to say McDonalds wrappers and Coca-cola bottles featured extensively in th collection.

The most noticeable decrease in crud was cigarette packets: probably means the smokers are croaking. The most most notable increase was about 15 cans of 'energy drinks' particularly a brand called 'Mothers' which I had never seen before. In the street jive use of the term, an appropriate name.

As a point of philosophy I reckon most of the recyclable crud (bottles wrappers etc) is deposited by active disassociation (ie people chuck it out of their windows - true tossers). However it seemed that most of the non-recyclable stuff was crud that had fallen off things due to unsecured loads (I rate this as passive disassociation).

Saturday, 14 February 2009


When conversing last Thursday with the pest control guy about piggy matters he commented that when he'd been cruising Taliesin (the huge station/ranch behind our place) searching for the feral grunters he had seen a whole lotta roos. So it wasn't a total surprise to find a few of them (about 40 or 50 ) on El Rancho on Saturday morning when we did our patrol.

Here are a few images.
I'll start with a panorama showing a few of them going about their business. Note the total absence of panic despite Tammy-the-rat's presence about 40 metres from them.

This is a close-up cropped from the above. We always rate joeys as unbelievably cute.

These two, some distance away from the mob above, just looked really nice standing together. Again notice the absence of hysteria induced by the dog: while she is small she is very fox shaped!

Friday, 13 February 2009

Trees and wires don't mix

The main sort of wires that don't mix with trees are those carrying electricity.

In Canberra the separation is ensured by little inspectors coming round and leaving notes in your mailbox threatening you with penalties if you don't clear the trees from your wires.

In Carwoola what happens is a pleasant guy turns up and has a chat about what needs doing and saying he'll send some lads round to fix it all up. In due the lads turn up with a cherry picker; an indstrial strength chipper; a truck; various chainsaws; and some pink gunge that stops the trees regrowing.
When they leave they are kind enough to leave some nicely sized logs here and there. Also the output of the chipper is deposited at a convenient location for transfer to one's garden.

An issue arose when I started to move this to the desired location. Some parts of the heap were a greyish colour and steaming. On consulting a fire-fighting neighbour he said that spontaneous combustion was a possibility so several barrow loads were expeditiously moved to their final location and the heap spread about a bit to dry it out. My back did not enjoy this process!

The logs are then gathered in and stored for a year or so, at which point they become fuel for the fires of Winter. I am not sure if the following image shows exactly what Fuji Industries had in mind when they designed the Forester but the car trotted around the block and gathered up 3 trailer loads of firewood this morning!

The guys came back a couple of days later and dumped off another 5 cubic metres of mulch, and did some more cutting . That didn't look much, but when I went to pick it up amounted to close to 2 more trailer loads: that means we have enough good quality firewood under cover to last us for the next two Winters!

Tuesday, 10 February 2009

Who you might run into!

I found myself riding my bicycle around Queanbeyan on 10 February. Specifically I turned onto the sidewalk (sorry about the American English, but it does seem better than the Pom 'pavement') on Crawford Street passing the Council Chambers.

The area was littered with folk in black suits, wearing white shirts and ties. This is not the usual attire of folk in beautiful downtown Queanbeyan: shorts, t-shirts and workboots are more the go. My first thought was that it was an undertakers' convention, but I continued on to the library where I had reserved a couple of books for our trip to Peru.

On emerging from the library I noticed that a couple of representatives of NSW' finest (aka 'the filth') were lurking on the far side of Crawford St. This pricked my curiosity so I asked a pleasant looking lady (also wearing black) what was occurring. Apparently it was a Regional Meeting of the State Cabinet. Amongst those I had ridden through was the Premier!

It possibly says something about my attention to local issues, and certainly says something about the public relations activities of the NSW Government that I didn't recognise one of these characters! However, it is good to find that in Australia one can get this close to the power brokers: in the US one would not have got so close to Dubya (although Hizzoner Bloomberg was more confident of his constituency, and Guvnor Arnie would probably not be fazed by someone - other than a cyborg - on a bike).

Monday, 9 February 2009

Flowers of late(r) Summer

The flower garden has gone a bit quiet, although these flowers have put in their usual flashy appearance. They are formally known as Belladonna lilies, but in Australia their habit of appearing sans leaves has led to the appellation n@ked l@dies.

Sorry about the obfuscation but I really don't want to have to bother with the sort of people who reckon:
  • they can supply me with n@ked l@dies of a less vegetative nature; or
  • wish to persuade that I will burn in eternal fires for even thinking about n@ked l@dies.

Sunday, 8 February 2009

Birds of February

We have had a bit of hot weather (over 40C) recently. That has been attracting a fair slew of birds to a couple of small ponds in the corner of the lawn. As well as the water there have been many insects hovering on the sludge so they have been able to eat and drink.

The images are of Red-browed Finches (which used to be called Red-browed Firetails in honour of their red bums) and a Spotted Pardalote - which turns out to be a tautology since "pardalote" is derived from a Greek word meaning 'spotted'

Saturday, 7 February 2009

Lead, kindly light ..

.. because hopefully the Sentoro ain't Luminoso any more.

It is possible that I have overachieved on obfuscation on this one. But here are some background notes.

  • In keeping with my normal style we'll start at the end and work forwards. At least one member of this list speaks good Spanish and is familiar with recent South American politics. Thus they will be thinking "Why is Martin writing about the Shining Path: is he going to Peru?" The short answer is yes: more on this below.
  • It seems that DFAT are not confident that the Shining Path have retired as they warn about possible issues with recidivist elements. However assuming that they have gone we'll need a light to show the way. Thus the phrase in the title entered the active area of my brain: hopefully it will shortly be joined by the Spanish I learnt through the UN while in New York.
  • On googling the phrase it turns out to be the first words of a hymn written by Cardinal Newman while stuck, for a week, in a fog bank between Corsica and Sardinia. Lima is a very foggy place, due to the cold current running up the ocean, but I don't think it is that bad.
This is actually a holiday trip being led by Ian Fraser from Envronment Tours in Canberra, with focuses on birds, mammals, orchids and Inca history. We'll be covering Cusco, Mattu Pichu and the Inca Trail and the manu Biosphere reserve. Quite a bit of travelling by canoe on tributaries of the Amazon. We leave on September 25, stopping for a couple of days in Santiago before the formal tour begins and returning on 16 October. We haven't yet told the rat that she is going to the kennels for three weeks!

Here are a few photos from my mission to Peru in 2005.

The coast at Miraflores, where we will be staying for the last night.

A Civic Park along the top of the cliffs in the previous photo.

A mixture of the old and new somewhere in Lima.

This establishment is possibly very familiar with the works of Cardinal Newman.

These signs were everywhere. However it is only now that I have spotted the amusing juxtaposition of Calle Colon and a sign about no doggie -doo! Proving that some of the Spanish is re-emerging - with the aid of context - the sign says "Be clean".

Updates will be provided as they arise. Just as a small teaser, I usually have some difficulty coming up with a consistent title for the trip report so this time will try to log the various manifestations. Yesterday Frances and I were talking about food on the trip and she thought Baccala (salted cod) could be on the agenda. My view was that the most likely piscine dish would be "pirranha and chips". So that is version 1.

Friday, 6 February 2009

Vegie Gardening (again)

Despite the fact that it has been a very hot summer, we got a good lot of rain early in the season. Taken in conjunction with a slow leak in our nearby, snake-infested dam has meant that the vegetable garden is producing bigtime. (It is also of course producing a motza of weeds which Frances is just keeping on top of. Compost shortage is never an issue by the end of Summer.)

To enable some supplementary watering of various things I dug the first half of our spud crop today. It was quite impressive to get 20Kgs of nice ovoids (and a few deviants). They have been temporarily stored in plastic racks to dry off before long term storage. Of course, being a cheapskate I have also gathered in as much as I can of the straw we use to hummock the plants: some of this stuff will get applied for the third year in a row next year.

The images above are from the second digging. This resulted in a further 23+ kgs of spuds. The '+' reflects the omission of the ones that I speared during harvest from the weigh-in. They were sent directly to the kitchen and many of them have already been transformed into chips! Yummo! You will also notice, in the RH image, a sack: last year I purchased 3 sacks @ $5 a pop. This year I found a dozen sacks in the Bungendore tip @$0!

We currently have excellent crops of capsicums (banana and conventional) and hot chillies. These are shown above. The latter are particularly useful since I use hot chillies in my usual bread recipe. (A parenthesis: I conversed about bread with a check-out chick at Woolies recently and she reckoned putting a lump of cheese in bread is the way to go- watch this space.)

For the first time ever we seem to have a good lot of flowers on our aubergines, the zucchinis and cucumbers are doing the right thing and the pumpkins look to be striving (as usual) for world domination. Corn is going well, and while not quite "as high as an elephants eye" will keep our barbecue happy for several evenings.

Fruit is also happening. We are getting an excellent crop of plums - I think some readers of this will already be flinching when they see Frances or I approach with a bulging plastic bag. This is attributable to severe pruning and subsequent netting of the trees. Apples are far from ready yet, but look to be offering a good supply of fruit in due course. Strawberries continue onwards and the raspberries are re-entering the fray with the Autumn crop. It is also likely that we will get a good crop of grapes: at present this is indicated by the vines busting out of the netting.

The tomatoes are beginning to hit their straps in a large way. We have a good mixture of colours and the taste is proving to be excellent. As someone said, with many vegs the taste difference between shop and grown isn't great , but with tomatoes it is an order of magnitude bettert grow your own.

When I orginally set up this post I said "When Blogger and Firefox decide to talk to each other I will bang a few suitable pictures up here. That didn't seem to happen so I went with the Dark Side and used IE! Shlock horror!" Since then the desired conversation has happened so Mr Gates is back in his box!


This is not an early posting about the upcoming National Folk Festival. Rather it is the opening entry in a saga about feral animals and plants.

The most obvious ones recently have been the wabbits, which featured to some extent in the Rodent wars page. They have got completely out of order - the snakes and foxes are obviously falling down on their job - so I have been supplementing their feed with some commercial petfood. That was very popular and I am now trying them out on a different flavour: Oats avec Pindone! In 10 days time there should start being a few less of the little mongrels around the place annoying the dog!

In fact that seems to be happening. By 21 February we have dropped from up to 6 bunnies on the lawn in the evenings to just two or none.

Of more consequence is the appearance of some feral pigs. We had a small patch of grubbed up grass after heavy rain in December and then in early February I spotted 4 full sized grunters emerging from the large station behind us and running around on our neighbour's place from where I chased them. An email was duly despatched to a few folk in the 'hood whose email addresses I had and then seemed to get copied everywhere! We have now contacted the Pest Animal folk to see what can be done to improve these little charmers.

The guy from the Pest Animals had a bit of a prowl around Taliesin (the big property) and couldn't find anything significant. His conclusion was that the pigs I spotted were just young folk out exploring. However, the caretaker for Taliesin is a pig hunter in his spare time and will give his dogs some exercise.

The worst feral plants on offer are Serrated Tussock. This is always talked about in hushed tones as it is quite difficult to spot (until one gets one's eye in) and a bugger to remove. We had some friends with good botanical skills walk our place and they found quite a lot. So we acquired some spray that specifically targets this species and have thus far spent about 4 hours spot spraying. All we need now is 30mm of rain to get the stuff into the soil and being taken up by the roots of the tussocks.

Wednesday, 4 February 2009

Wildlife (various, mainly invertebrate)

This will be a collection of various wildlife things that have occurred over the month.

It starts with a couple of lepidopterous entries. This is mainly because I haven't done much on them before as they are hard to photograph. (A friend, who was a professional entomologist, suggested it is easier to get them on a cold day. After spending some frustrating time trying to snap some, I thought it might be easier after they'd had an encounter with Mortein!)

This moth was hanging out on a piece of polypipe leading from our gutters to the catch tank. I thought it an interesting example of protective coloration.

The butterfly to the left was imaged on Chalet Rd up in the Brindabellas. It is clearly a Brown and I concluded from reading of behaviour that a Banks' Brown was most likely (although the Common Brown has a meaningful name). If anyone has a different view a comment would be welcome.

Clearly this is a reptile not a butterfly. It is a skink , Pseudemoia spenceri, captured by a conservationist friend, again on Chalet Rd. Such a little beauty is worth a bit of space on this page. Possibly a bit harsh for the identifier to add "....even though it is a poor image to go on ...."

The following are all spiders. The first one I have no idea of its name but the other two are golden orbs.

Sunday, 1 February 2009

A few more brickbats and bouquets

It has been a while since I did one of these but I am feeling a bit cranky in the heat so it is time.

A first bouquet goes to Country Energy. They are our provider of electricity and are generally excellent people to deal with. The particular episode that gets them a bouquet was when our supply crapped out in a thunderstorm. It was a big storm so they had lots of folk to attend to, but their guys turned up at 23:15 and after working through a few options found that the problem was a circuit breaker not being reset (by me). No aggro just a pleasant "there is nothing on the breaker to tell you how to reset it , see you later". Excellent work ethic and PR. They have been included in a "Thank you" note to CE (to which they gave a very nice rply).

The first brickbat goes to whoever manufactured said circuit breaker. As far as I can see no-one else in the area has ones that require the switch to be flicked fully down to reset it.

Needless to say petrol companies get a large serve for setting the price of unleaded at $1.249 per litre on the weekend of 1 February. I presume they have realised that a lot of folk will be getting back from hols with ACT schools starting on Monday and are gouging as per usual.

Also on the petrol front Woolworths get a large bouquet. I got an email from them saying that due to a promotion I'd got a 7c a litre discount voucher loaded to my loyalty card. There were two problems with this:
  • I hadn't taken part in the program in question; and (perhaps not surprisingly)
  • the voucher hadn't been loaded to my card!
However, on raising this with Woolies (thinking the email might have been a virus transmitter) they said "oops sorry our mistake" and then gave me the discount voucher anyway!

My ISP (Netspace) and TELSTRA get a joint faecal award. Our landline crapped out shortly after the thunderstorm which caused the electricity issue. I reported this to Netspace (from whom we also purchase voice services) on 23 January. They said there would be a delay because of the public holiday on 26 January. On 1 February I was eventually able to find out from Netspace that a TELSTRA techo would be round on 3 February to investigate the issue. Far Canal: if said techo finds out it is a problem inside the house we will have further delays in trying to get a techo to come and service our bit of the system.

This causes me to think that the CEO of TELSTRA is a guy called Sol with slicked hair and a Fuhrer style mo. Castrol used to use an ad featuring a mafioso and a dumb offsider. The mafioso had slicked hair and a Fuhrer style mo while the stupid offsider was called Sol. Obviously the genetic engineering module of TELSTRA has combined some attributes of the two entities - not including the mob connection - to create their CEO.

This leads on to a HUGE BOQUET for Ray Crome, of Crome Electronics. He was the techo we asked to come and check things out after Telsttra and Netspace couldn't find a problem on their bit. ray fronted within 18 hours of being contacted (rather than the 13 days it took Telstra) and in an hour had found the problem and fixed it. He also charged very reasonably. What a King!

A further bouquet goes to Craig Wisdom of Kingston Physiotherapy. After two months of gradually increasing decripitude - getting to me not being able to run for more than 100m without my hamstring seizing up - I took myself off to Craig. After a bit of massage and some good advice about stretching I was able to run 3km for the ACT Vets Handicap on 22 February and come across the line first (unfortunately not being eligible for any awards in that event).!