Thursday, 31 March 2011

Kowen Aussie, Kowen

I apologise to anyone distressed, in the current parlous situation, by the obscure link to a cricket chant!

The ANPS group went to the Kowen Escarpment overlooking Sutton Road on 30 March.   In case anyone wonders what an escarpment means wikipedia deals with the definition rather well.  Steep and rocky as predicted.

Despite it being well into Autumn (Fall, for any North Americans reading this) there were a good range of flowers around.  Here are a Helichrysum, a Brachyscome (both very common) red Astroloma and a blue Derwentia (I only saw one cluster of flowers of each of these).


I should note that the Astroloma flower is about 5mm across!  (Drawing an analogy to orchids it is closer to Microtis than Cymbidium!)

We also found 2 nice colonies of Diplodium truncatum, the Little Dumpy.  Here are three images from various perspectives.


The only fungus I noted was this bracket fungus.  I haven't yet been able to identify it.
The invertebrates were interesting (as usual).  I have really only started looking at them closely this year, and only in this week did I first notice that the rolled up leaves in spider webs had a spider living inside them.  They seem to be members of the family Araneidae.   We thought it looked a bit like a hermit crab and there appears to be one record of them using a snail shell as a retreat!
The flowers were getting visited by insects of one sort or another and  got this snap of a bee doing the business on a Leucochrysum.
 Lunch was spent beside a series of pools in a rocky outcrop on a creek.  Frances spotted some yabbies (crustaceans) gobbling scraps in the bottom of the pool, but I couldn't persuade my camera to penetrate 20cm of water to get an image.  A water strider (family Gerridae) assaulted (with extreme prejudice) a moth which had landed on the water surface.
I particularly like the visibility of the meniscus acting on the strider's feet!

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

NSW Elections The Aftermath II: Good news!!

I warned you in my last post this was going to be a series!

The election stuff started early this morning as I read the headlines in the SMH.  It is interesting how this article has changed: in the version I read about 7am someone - whether from Treasury or the ALP I cannot remember and the comment has now vanished - claimed the 4.5bn "black hole" was primarily due to including the 4th year of the cycle which is not formally part of the Budget.  Hmmm: doesn't look to me as though the Government has given this its full consideration.

But anyway it doesn't matter, because the Budget can be balanced easily.  Looking at the Electoral Commission website there are 50,062 voters on the roll.  Only 37,484 votes had been counted by mid-day Tuesday as I write this.  That leaves a "black hole' of 12,578 naughty non voters (or one heck of a lot of postal votes).  There are I think 92 electorates so fine all the twerps who didn't vote (and thus deserve the sort of Government they - and unfortunately the rest of us - will get) $500 and there is $577million.  The remaining $4bn could easily be covered by reducing the travel and entertainment budget for politicians.

On 30 March the SMH  finally covered the issue that the lovely Pauline Hanson (that link contains an image unsuitable for those of a gentle disposition) was leading the contest for the final seat in the Legislative Council.  See comments for some discussion of this.  The Herald also included a few pithy (what other sort could they be?) comments from Paul Keating.  If crafting political invective was an Olympic Sport he would be awarded the gold medal in perpetuity: while I don't agree with everything he says, this looks to be spot on.

On 1st April (I don't think the date is significant) the SMH ran a story containing the following:

Greens move into second in Balmain

April 1, 2011
THE Greens are poised to win their first lower house seat after pulling ahead in Balmain. Jamie Parker now leads Labor's Verity Firth by 203 votes, with 89 per cent of the vote counted.  The Coalition's James Falk leads on primary votes but the second-placed candidate is expected to win the seat with the distribution of preferences.
........

Monday, 28 March 2011

NSW Elections: the aftermath (pt1)

This post follows from the pre-election one.

These days all horror movies (I did have the word 'good' in there but decided it was an oxymoron) become part of a franchised series.  Perhaps the worst example of this is Friday the 13th, now apparently up to VII.    I must watch one of these so that I can allocate roles in the movie to certain NSW Politicians.

According to the Sydney Morning Herald (SMH) the forces of evil have secured 67 Assembly seats as against 17 for Labour, with 4 undecided.  The NSW Electoral Commission have given our local seat (Monaro) to the National Party so I expect to find a mining company coming up our drive any time from now.  A couple of comments on this seat are at the end of this post.

Here are the last three paragraphs in a story from the SMH on the Monday following the election (a few snappy comments follow):
"The former Liberal premier Nick Greiner said Mr O'Farrell had an unprecedented opportunity to consolidate a shift in the vote of traditional Labor areas.
''The challenge and the opportunity for Barry is to do what I certainly failed to do, which is to rework the electoral map in a permanent sense,'' he told the Herald.
"In the upper house, the Coalition is projected to win an extra four seats, bringing its total MPs to 19. It would deliver Mr O'Farrell a working majority with the votes of two Shooters and Fishers MPs and two Christian Democrats."
The best thing about Nick Greiner was his nickname - Kermit - which I suspect was due to his resemblance to the famous amphibian rather than the difficulty he found in following environmentally sensible policies.

The comment about ".. rework the electoral map ..." is a major worry.  This could mean:
  1. institute a bunch of policies that are so popular you get re-elected in perpetuity; or
  2. fiddle the electoral boundaries to give a gerrymander.
I suspect the second will prove easier to do than the first.  However since many of the electorate get most of their "information" from talk-back radio or commercial TV the results are likely to be similar.

With the Shooters having influence they are likely to get their dream of being allowed to go hunting in National Parks (and probably most everywhere else except the grounds of Parliament House).  The Christian Democrats do not like references likening them to the Spanish Inquisition.  This appears to reflect:
  • their lack of a sense of humour (so they don't like Monty Python); and 
  • the fact that Spain is not a fire-breathing evangelical Protestant country.
To paraphrase Gough Whitlam " God save the Queen, because nothing will save the State of NSW".

WRT the seat of Monaro there would seem to be several reasons for the outcome.  Before getting to them I noticed that at a booth by booth level Whan was well beaten in Queanbeyan including Jerrabombera where he lives.  The reasons:
  1. The big one must be the amount of effort which Barilaro put into the campaign.  He was certainly a major presence in the electorate for the last 6 months.  In contrast Whan was invisible at the local (ie Queanbeyan) level.
  2. Secondly would come the issue of the Labour Party in NSW being completely on the nose. I do hope the electors don't think they have got rid of all problems by electing a Liberal/National Party mob.
  3. We have had some feedback that Whan was under a cloud in some areas in the electorate affected by flooding as he didn't put in an appearance there.
  4. My final thought is that many people in Queanbeyan must have been put off by the appalling traffic system around that city in peak hour.  This would apply especially to Jerranbombera where 2000 workers try to get out through a single road with 4 km traffic jams where it hits road works.  (Personally I would put this down to Queanbeyan Council - including Barilaro - and the Stanhope Government who were responsible for the latest road works.  However I bet many voters went RTA and then NSW Government.)

Sunday, 27 March 2011

Blowing my own trumpet!

I have competed in the ACT Veterans Athletics Club (ACTVAC) Run/Walk Handicap series since about 1985 with a long break from about 1992 until 2003.  However I had never won any awards until June 2007 when I managed my handicap so as to be both eligible and win the Mt Ainslie event.  I dedicated this to the memory of our friend Richard Morcom who collapsed and died on one of our training runs but had won the event twice.

Of course, that win destroyed my handicap (as it should have done, and put it back to where it had been 4 years earlier).  There then followed a period where I kept getting injuries which made running unpleasant and ineffective.  It did have the benefit of getting my handicap back down in an honest fashion: my best efforts were such that I was finishing well down the field. 

However by working at the exercises prescribed by my excellent physio I seemed to be getting better late last year.  The November handicap was run on a day of pouring rain on a grass course.  This seemed to put other folk off, so plugging along at my customary pace got me a Silver medal.  Because of the bad weather my time wasn't great so my handicap didn't get too badly massacred.

The next two monthly events were ordinary for one reason or another, but on my most recent training runs I seemed to be going OK so I decided that I would give things a nudge in the March event and see what happened.

The course was at Stromlo Forest Park and is, in my opinion, a fairly tough number.  Half the course is on a lawn (see image in preceding link - what wimpo elite athletes call a cross-country course) and the other half on some rather run down fire-trails - more like what I call a cross country course, although there was not a ploughed paddock or unhappy livestock which a proper course would have.  It also undulates a bit, especially the final 2 km, most of which undulates upwards with a lot of bends.  There was also a small puddle near the 4km point which seemed to cause other people some issues.

I seemed to be going OK and by the time I got to the final 2km reckoned there about 6 folk in front of me.  I seemed to keep running rather well (although I was finding it necessary to keep a lot of mental focus on the job at hand) and as I got to the top of the hill (about 300m flat - slightly downhill and very open -  to go) could hear other people yelling "Go for it Kelly" so I knew someone was coming from behind.  With about 100m to go a bloke came past me but said something like "I'm not eligible keep going" so I found a bit more and just held off Kelly to be first eligible runner home.

GOLD, Gold Gold!

Here is a snap of my Curtain Rod of Fame: the RH 3 medals are my Vets medals.
I have a suspicion that the handicap system will do something unpleasant to me.  However I got this gong honestly and my time was 3 minutes faster than last year and about 10 seconds faster than 2 years ago when I had run with my friend Jill.  Woo-hoo!

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

The fungus season begins to get some steam up!

There are starting to be a good crop of fungi around the area generally.  On our morning walks I have noticed a good array of Rooting shanks (Oudmansiella radicata) and Fairy-ring Champignons (Marasmius oreades).  This morning we found a small crop of the ones imaged below, which I had not seen before but believe to be Amanita umbrinella.  This is based upon the description in Fuhrer's Field Guide to Australian Fungi, noting the striated annulus (see second image).

When I use the word 'crop' I was merely searching for a collective noun.  I am not about to start munching on something which I suspect to be an amanite!

On a trip to Tallaganda SF later in the day I noticed one large clump of Gymnopilus junonius growing beside the road,  I also found the following weird item growing in a moist gully.  As I haven't really been able to get close to identifying it I am now wondering if it is something other than a fungus (but have no idea what).  It was growing in soil as far as I could tell.  The comment by Denis Wilson shows this to be Podoscypha petalodes, a bracket fungus growing on a subterranean wood substrate.

In April myself and the small dog walked around the lake formed by the weir in Quanbeyan.  When we got back level with the weir I noticed this huge fungus about 3m up a very large eucalypt.  My guess is the fungus was at least 250m across at the widest point.  It has been identified as Laetiporus portentosus or White punk.

Monday, 21 March 2011

NSW Elections 2011

We are heading for a State Election on Saturday 26 March.  According to the media this is going to be a slaughter of a similar magnitude to the Canadian Election in 1993 in which the Government went from a majority of the House to 2 seats.  The linked article is informative but astonishing in that it manages to avoid blaming the defeat on Mulroney.  We lived in Canada in 1991 and I recall a crowd circling the building containing the Prime Minister's Office chanting "Hi,-hi, ho-ho.  Lyin' Brian's gotta go."

There are a few aspects of the NSW event, at the local level, that are interesting.

One small point is that in what follows I spell Labour including a 'u'.  The 5 character version of the name is abhorrent to me!

A first point is that for the first time in quite a while I have no active role in this election.This is not because I am not interested but because despite my offering late last year to assist the sitting member (Steve Whan, Country Labour) he has not called upon my services.  Perhaps he
  1. prefers to have members of his party work for him (I'm not a member of any political party); or 
  2. has heard of my record in working for losing candidates (but I backed a winner in the last Australian election)!

The second point is that the sitting member seems to have been very laid back in his approach  A few posters have begun to appear but the Nationals candidate has had his face around for ages.  According to a friend who listens to AM radio more than I do, when interviewed Whan has been optimistic about holding his seat.  Given that he has a margin of about 6% and some folk with margins of 15% are seen as under threat this might be described as hubris!

Thirdly I am usually interested to see what the bookies have to say.  In the case of Monaro the answer is "nothing" from Centrebet.  They are not quoting a market for this electorate!  This can only mean that no-one has approached them with a proposition.  After the election we started to receive, again, the Bungendore Mirror (see below for a discussion of delivery mechanisms).  They commented that in the last week Whan really started to firm in the market offered by Sportsbet.  Possibly this was because his campaign started to actually do something!

I have just consulted the State Electoral Commission website to see who is standing and we have Labour, Nationals, Greens, an Independent and the Fred Nile Bigots group.  At least it is easy to see who goes last!  The two most interesting issues raised by the candidates list are:
  1. each candidate has to present a declaration allowing a search for a criminal record relating to child sex and violence offences.  Que?  This is nasty stuff, but why don't they have to have a full criminal records search?  I suspect this is some window dressing to keep one of the loonier members of the Legislative Council quiet.
  2. the candidate for the Nationals has no contact details listed.  No email address, mobile phone number or landline: this should be a big red warning sign for electors!
At the Federal level the members of the Upper House are quite well known, while in NSW politics this is not the case.  I have just looked at the list of parties etc standing for election to this body and it is a worry.  There are 16 groups of candidates (mainly single-issue groups - eg the No Parking Meters Party) and 18 individuals.  I suspect the Donkey vote could be an issue and really hope above the line is an option.
I consulted the Labour Party list and had not heard of any of them.

We have now been and voted.  The lower house was quite normal but the upper house form was astonishing in size.  This is simply a matter of fitting 17 columns  of up to 21 names on a single bit of paper.  Attempting to vote below the line is obviously a nonsense but I suppose someone has a view of democracy which says electors vote for the person not the Party.  I'd love to see that tested: the questions to addressed could include:
  • How many folk vote above the line as against below the line;
  • What proportion of below the line votes are informal;
  • What proportion of below the line votes are erroneously tallied due to the counting staff  finding it difficult to handle bed-sheet sized forms.
Other issues to be addressed:
  • the financial cost of having such a vast bit of paper created;
  • the environmental cost of having such a vast piece of paper created for such an ephemeral purpose.
An issue of concern to me, and possibly a few others in Carwoola is the apparent actions of the postal contractor.   This person is very erratic in their work (possibly because they rely on a subcontractor for some of it) but it seems that they have not delivered at least some of the material from the Greens and possibly not some of that from the Labour Party.  We have got quite a lot from the Nationals candidate.  Given how tight I expect this seat to be, the one or two votes such bias (whether the fault of the parties or the delivery person) could be crucial.  The local newspapers - the Bulletin and the Mirror - have not been delivered for two or three weeks, but at this stage it isn't clear to me if that is down to the postal contractor or another criminal.  This is particularly important since they each contained a 4 page article with the Greens candidate outlining his policies: as I say a handful of votes could be important.  It now appears that the same contractor was responsible for both mail and local newspapers.  The underlying problem seems to have been that the she didn't pay the subcontractors so they either quit or didn't do their work.  Apparently we now have a new contractor.  It is perhaps a coincidence that the day I found out about this (the day after we voted) we received two items from the Labour candidate.

Well, it is 9pm on the night of the election.  It looks like the forces of conservatism are getting a landslide.  And there will be a lot of them around as the mining companies go more feral, the Shooters Party are allowed into the National Parks and the Environment agencies are gutted.  I would be astonished if our sitting member gets back: with 88% of the votes counted he needs something like all the votes from the Green and and at least half those from the Independent.  The only good thing about this election in our electorate is that the Fred Nile candidate came last.


At least we have had the benefit of living in Colorado for a year during the first Reagan Presidency so we shouldn't be surprised at what is to come.






    Sunday, 20 March 2011

    Enlightened Canberra

    I decided that the organisers of this Festival had done such a good pun I wouldn't try to top them!  Instead here is an image.
    The background to the tale is that those responsible for tourism in Canberra decided that there needed to be an Autumn equivalent to the hugely successful Floriade.  This event was the outcome, which  combines much of the old Canberra Festival but has as its key point the illumination of a number of the National landmark buildings.  The organisers quote a number of past hits, of which we had only seen, in the lumens, the NGA 25th birthday event.  That had been good enough to get us along to check out this one!

    In essence images are displayed on the façade of the buildings.  This time they had 'lit up' four buildings.

    The first we went to was Old Parliament House.  This is now the Museum of Australian Democracy but was, when we first arrived the Parliament.  The images tend to speak for themselves, but for the benefit of overseas readers, the photos in the first image are of Prime Ministers.


    We particularly like the effect of a row of terrace houses in the third image.

    The next stop was the National Library of Australia.


    The third image here shows a technique quite popular with punters of taking someone silhouetted against the illuminated building! Concept good, subject excellent, execution leaves a bit to be desired!

    After a pause (see below) we weaved our way across to the National Gallery of Australia, avoiding the area where Frankie Valli was going to perform.  As well as the actual building being illuminated with images from the current Ballets Russe exhibition the 'suspended globe' was also lit up.

    The fourth building was the Parliament of Australia.  Strangely they had set this one up so that punters could walk through the light beam and cast large shadows on the façade.  An interesting effect with some symbolism available for the thinking person.

    One of the other traditions of a Canberra Festival is a fireworks display.  We haven't been to one of these for yonks (in fact the last fireworks display we had attended was the Macy's event 4 July 2006 in New York).  As we were in the area we gave it a look.  It was really good, and the crowds of folk enhanced the event.

    On our peregrinations we also passed by what is referred to as the Aboriginal Embassy. As well as the fire and the indigenous flags the image captures the (normally) lit up Australian War Memorial a couple of kilometres away across Lake Burley Griffin.
    To  finish the story off, it should be noted that we tend not to go out at night a great deal.  This is partly because we don't see the need for this as we have things to entertain ourselves at home and partly because the amount of wildlife on the roads makes it a tad hazardous.  When we do emerge, we run a competition on how many kangaroos we see in the last 4km.  This night Frances picked 3 and I picked 4.  We saw 3 'roos, so Frances won despite my efforts to (post-hoc) change the rules to marsupials.  That meant I would have won as a wombat poddled out in front of us!  The stupid thing stopped in the middle of the road, posed with its foot in the air and then proceeded on.

    Tuesday, 15 March 2011

    Migration of Yellow-faced Honeyeaters

    The catalyst for this post was a message to the COG email discussion group reporting a small flock of Yellow-faced Honeyeaters (Lichenostomus chrysops) heading North on 13 March and wondering if this was early (for the start of the migration).

    This species is notoriously difficult to handle in the COG Garden Bird Survey (GBS) as a result of a range of procedures being used at various times by observers (and deemed acceptable by the various Coordinators of the Survey).  Most of the difficulty comes about by some observers - mainly in the early years of the GBS - accumulating the number of migrating honeyeaters seen throughout a week rather than reporting the largest single flock.  To mitigate these problems I decided to create an indicator by counting the number of reported observations of flocks of 5 or more birds of this species by GBS week around the "migration period".  (Outside the migration period the species is typically reported as single birds or flocks of 2 or 3.)

    In what follows I have defined the study period as GBS weeks 9 to 24 (on the calendar, 26 February to 17 June).  The current week - and that of the catalysing message - is week 11.  As always, click on an image to see a larger version.

    This first chart covers all 29 years since the start of the GBS. 
    I have plotted both the raw count of the number reports and adjusted that to allow for the fact that some weeks may have had greater or lesser amounts of observer effort (probably related to the dates of school holidays).  The 'adjustment' was to divide the count of sightings by the number of sites active in the week giving a result similar to the indicator F cited in the Annual Bird Reports).

    Looking at this Chart suggest that the number of larger flocks has increased a little by week 11 but starts to really kick up (sorry about the technical term) after week 12.  I would suggest that for this species, the "migration period is closer to weeks 12  to 20. 

    Thus my answer to the question "is this early?" would be "possibly a little, but one flock doesn't make a migration".  It also shows that when looking at a single data series the level of observer effort is quite stable and certainly is unlikely to outweigh the "noise in the system" from other sources.

    There have however been some events in the Canberra area over the last 29 years which have been suggested as likely to affect, significantly, the migration.  The two that I have considered are:
    • the building of the new suburbs of Southern Tuggeranong around the key migration point through Point Hutt Crossing on the Murrumbidge River; and 
    • the bushfires in December 2001 which burnt the pine forests to the North of Cotter Road.  (I had a feeling that these, rather than the more catastrophic fires of January 2003, disrupted the honeyeater migration as recorded in the GBS).
    I took the first of these as affecting the migration after year 10 (ie 1991 - 92) when the suburbs of Conder and Banks commenced.  The second possibly affected migration after year 21.  We thus have a 10 year period to be compared with an 11 year period and an 8 year period. Obviously the indicator of frequency is required to balance this different number of years.   Here is a second Chart.
    The broad comment is that the three series show a pretty consistent overall pattern. So in terms of TIMING of the migration I don't think the events suggested have greatly influenced the outcome.  (I make no comment, because the data wouldn't support it, on the magnitude of the movement.)  The higher rate of reported observations of larger flocks of this species apparent in the earliest series could well be explained by a change in observer behaviour away from accumulation. 

    Monday, 14 March 2011

    Second invertebrate post for March

    The first post started with spot the spider.  This one begins with a slightly extended game of "spot the grasshopper".  That should be enough of a warning for acridophobes to avoid the page.  (I was astonished to find that googling for 'fear of grasshoppers' got 6740 results!  Some people must get very alarmed driving through a locust swarm!)

    These were all spotted while in the vegetable garden on 14 March.  Some of them were quite camouflaged, others less so.  I will present them in order of challenge:
     If you are brown and want to hide, a trombacini leaf is not a good idea.
    A bit of green and a bit of brown on old grass stalks isn't bad ....
    ... but all green on fresh grass is very difficult to spot.  Until the beast jumps when it becomes quite easy to spot.  Since this isn't an interactive site I suggest click to enlarge and then peer closely!

    Moving back to bugs I scored an image of a 4th instar nymph (how convoluted is that?) of the Gum Tree Shield Bug (Theseus modestus).  I would query this since I found the beast on a Buddleia not a gum tree but the following image matches very closely that on the Brisbane insects site  So I am making a call.
    I have finally found a ladybird. This is a Transverse Ladybird (Coccinella transversalism) - thank you Chew family!  Given the number of aphids on our Fuschias we could do with a lot more of them. The two shots show it climbing a grass them and then, after being dislodged by a klutz, scurrying along the ground.


    A great big dragonfly was found posing on some grass stems.  It was only when looking at the image that I noticed the beautiful patterning on the side of the abdomen.
    I also found some ants busy attending to a pupa (and possibly some nearby lerps: if anyone reckons they can work out what ants are up to  ....).  Only one ant hung around long enough to get its photo taken!
    Let us revert to caterpillars.  First up a green jobbie found munching on some Vietnamese Mint.  The amount of hairs suggests it isn't a cabbage white that has got misplaced.
    The next image was taken at London Bridge rather than Carwoola but is worth showing due to the hairiness and the size (about 10cm) of this caterpillar marching up a Brittle Gum (Eucalyptus mannifera).
    Proving that this blog is not leg-ist. here is a snap of a centipede (only one pair of legs per segment so not a millipede).  This was found on the road leading in to London Bridge.



    .

    Vertebrates of March

    It has been a bit tricky to get bird photos this month.  However while out by Whiskers Creek I became aware of a large avian ruckus by the Captains Flat Rd (about 1.5km away).  The usual rule when hearing magpies and lapwings getting excited is to look for an eagle.   Sure enough one duly soared into view taking an up-draft along the line of the Creek.

    I think it took about 5 minutes to get to me, but as it performed about 4 circles as it came it must have covered at least 5 kilometres rather than the straight line.  This suggests the wind was really shifting it along since I couldn't see its wings move.  It was noticeable that its soaring flight was as fast as the magpies' attempts -in flapping flight - to swoop it
    That image shows the wedge-tail rather well and gives an impression of the angle of the wings..  Since I couldn't pick up any brown on the bird I think it was a full adult.  It is I suspect moulting at the moment or had been getting a real battering from the magpies, as it primaries were looking very tatty. 
    Unfortunately it didn't descend to munch any wabbits.

    I have also been interested that later in the month our bird bath has been seeing some more action.  A White-browed scrubwren has visited a couple of times in the last few days but in the early evening it was visited by a juvenile Crimson Rosella, a Grey Fantail, Superb Fairy-wren and again a scrubbie.  As the light was not good, and I was trying to take photos through a dusty window, only the Rosella has been recorded for posterity.
    I shall add cleaning the window to my list of chores.

    Sunday, 13 March 2011

    How does your garden grow?

    I thought this would be a simple allusion to a nursery rhyme with which I grew up.  Alas, it seems full of controversy.  Moving on from such matters my response has nothing about cockleshells or nuns, but answers the question with "finally, not too badly". 

    This has without a doubt been the worst cropping year, for many fruit and veg since we moved to Carwoola.  Our potatoes basically vanished in the deluges of early Summer.  Our grapes have done nothing: one variety has got some fruit but that seems to be falling off the vine before it is ripe.

    The star performer at the moment is a pear tree.  All the fruit has come off it (mainly self propelled) so we are munching pears, are drying pears and have given some away.  Here is the crop:
    Strawberries have done pretty well.  They have had the odd pause in production but this is what I pcked this morning.
    In the vegetable department we are achieving diversity, with various forms of zucchini getting some volume.  Here is what I picked this morning.
    • Cucumbers have done very well: many have been given away.
    • Tomatoes are finally delivering, but in very modest amounts.
    • Banana capsicums are doing well - we have a fridge drawer full, and the conventional capsicums are producing a few fruit.
    • Green beans are OK, but something has eaten through the vines on most of the wigwams.
    • Zucchinis (especially in the 'amusing' trombacini form) are going berserk - to the point that I gave some away to total strangers at Bungendore last week.  Fruit above. here are the vines.
    Note the orange of some poti marron pumpkins lurking in the background!

    We have got a fair crop of chilis but the weather has not been hot enough to get them going red yet.
    We have got a very healthy lot of fruit on some Hanbanero so if the frost stays away for a few weeks there will be some good chili con carne lurking around.
    For fruit, we have had a good crop of pears and some nice apples are ripening.  The big pleasure has been getting some peaches (4) for the first time since we moved here!
    By early April the apple trees seemed to have got their act into order.


    The damage evident in the image of the picked fruit was caused by Crimson Rosellas perching on, and pecking through, the bird netting. that was the catalyst for picking the most vulnerable fruit.

    In terms of flowers the most striking array is a lot of 'standard' dahlias that greet visitors (and us) as one first gets to the house.
    Some 'cactus' dahlias provide a splash of colour outside our bedroom.
    We have had two successes this year.  Frances has brought many Acanthus from Adelaide but although they grow elsewhere in the region ours have failed.  Until now:
    Some canna foliage was evident when we first moved in but it had not flowered at all until a few days ago.