Friday, 30 August 2013

Garden development (part1)

I wasn't as involved in the gardening last year as I should have been.  As a result the weeds had infested the areas we didn't really cultivate last year.  In turn this presented a challenge for getting the vegetable garden ready for the coming year.  Digging by hand was going to be a major issue so we decided to invest in a bit of temporary technology.

Fortunately the Stoney Creek Gazette came to our assistance with an advert for Rural Hire.  They were able to provide a rotary hoe.
Here it is in work.
For reasons that escape me now (and that phrase probably contains the explanation) I didn't do a "before" photograph but the areas under the plum tree and between the photographer and me give an idea of what we were dealing with. (Bear in mind that I had also given these areas a good going over with my brush cutter first!)
The rest of the area is 'after'.  I covered that area in about 30 minutes, as opposed to several hours of back-breaking digging.

We had sown a bot of green manure.
That got dug in in somewhat less than 10 minutes!

Having achieved this we decided to also try the machine out on a few other areas where Frances wanted to plant things of a more decorative nature.  Wonderful!  Then it was the Great Trudge back to the loading area.
This was necessary because the loading ramps (kindly provided by Rural Hire) got a bit slippery when on a down hill slope, so I unloaded on a bank which I knew worked well from experience with our ride-on mower.  Here is the beast heading back into our trailer.
We were extremely happy with what we achieved.  Looked at from an economic rationalist point of view (and I love economic rationalists like brothers) for the alternative approach (hand digging) to work out cheaper I would have to value my time at about $3.00 an hour.  When I worked it was actually closer to $100.00 an hour so the decision is a no-brainer.

Some other life-forms were also happy with our endeavours.
The Magpie family and a couple of Pied Currawongs were greatly enjoying themselves in the freshly-turned soil.  I suppose the beetle grubs which they were hunting were less happy about the situation but you can't please everyone.

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

ANPS Points Hut

A top walk.  Brilliant weather, lotsa pretty flowers and three species of bird breeding (and one pair of insects attempting to).

I'll begin with some habitat shots.  First off. a panorama of the Brindabellas from Point Hut.  Thanks again Roger for alerting me to this facility in the camera.
 The Murrumbidgee was quite still around the start.
 It was well decorated with Acacia sp. as we moved North.
As the rapids (or at less 'less-slows') showed here, despite the recent dry period there was a good flow in the river.
 This gave rise to some interesting foam patterns in the water.
 To plants!  We found several very large clumps of Lissanthe strigosa.
 A few flowers were out in one specimen.
The ground near the mornos spot was well endowed with these tiny flowers.  Unfortunately no-one could attach any Latin (nor even any Strine) to them.
 During the ingestion of morning tea a large patch of white was spotted up the hill.  So I staggered upto get some Leucopogon attenuatus which turned out to carpet areas much closer to the track further on!
 Cryptandra amara was initially just in snowball buds ...
 .. but was eventually found in flower.
 Another Cryptandra: C. speciosa.
 Hovea heterophylla
 The first of the Grevilleas: G. lanigera.
 There were a number of well developed bushes of G lanigera.  Surprisingly they were not infested with nectar feeding insects nor honeyeaters.
 After a brief zone of what were thought to be hybrids we then encountered a good array of G. juniperina.
 Hakea microcarpa showing the carpels to indeed be pretty small!
 The award for most typo-prone name of the day went to Phebalium squamulosum ozothamnoides.
 This is the very rare Muehlenbeckia tuggeranong.
 As a change from worrying about the mistletoe species in eucalypts, today we were treated to a good array of the Casuarina cunninghamiana-mimicking Amyema cambagei.
At lunch some members pointed out some flowering mistletoe well up in a she-oke.  A 40X zoom got a bit of an image.
 Then one was spotted at head height about 1m off the path!
 Birds were pretty good also with 26 species written down.

Australian Ravens are not rare but this one displayed its hackles rather well.
 A Pied Currawong was busy building its nest at Point Hut.
This snap of a Wedge-tailed Eagle is a bit blurry, but it was several 100m up in the air and soaring quite briskly so I reckon its a fair record shot.
At Pine Island a nesting White-winged Chough was spotted.   (There was a second nest about 5m away from this one, which I suspect was last years work. )
 A member spotted a curious red insect.  In fact it is a mite (probably  velvet mite -Trombidium spand thus an arachnid rather than an insect.  Whatever: there were two of them and I suspect quite a few more will be in the offing , should the female stop running away!
This was the first image I took, but I thought putting it first might turn people off!  Nice art, poor door closer!
Thanks to Mike for taking this one of a geriatric Sundance Kid in the Leucopogon!

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Matters natural and un-natural

Warning: this post contains images of an ex-snake.

I will begins with some matters not to do with natural history.  These are to do with the pre-poll arrangements in Queanbeyan.

If the election was declared on the number of placards on Morrisset St, Mike Kelly would be a good bit front.  Judging by the number of people who just took one party's cards I'd say it is a very close call.
These posters were in the window of the polling station.
Just about all of the artisitic images seemed designed to appeal to indigenous folk (from the desert or the tropical coast).  A little surprising as according to ABS Table Builder  2.9% of the people in Queanbeyan identify as being of Aboringinal or Torres Strait Islander origin.  Very little up on the Australian value of 2.56 %.

I have slightly adulterated this image of a sign on a nearby building site.
The following Monday I was back again.  A very pleasant two hours with good company provided by the other two major parties.  A first point of interest came from the Staffie (I think a male) left tied to one of the Liberal A-frame signs.
It looked probable that the sign could be relocated somewhere else, so the Liberal guy ended up holding the lead for about 10 minutes while the pooch's owner was doing some thing in the building (not voting).

A little after this we started to smell smoke and we all kept looking up in the sky but couldn't see anything that offered an explanation.  Then the lady from the Greens looked down: some idiot had chucked a dog-end into the ashtray without stubbing it out.
500ml of water was rapidly administered which left a puddle on the pavement but reduced the air pollution!

Getting back home after the first day I went down to check on some pine trees.  On the way I noticed these colourful rocks.
I also noticed that a 1m long Eastern Brown Snake had been out and about.
It appeared from the puncture wounds about 15cm and 75cm behind its head that it had met a raptor or possibly a Kookaburra.  The latter have been very vocal here recently so I think we have a rating of "Well done that Kingfisher!  (Given the way a Grey Currawong chased off a Kooka this morning, I don't think that the praise is universally endorsed.)

The eyes are not as bright as they are in life, but the scale pattern is still attractive.
 I went to visit the pines to collect some fallen - OK thrown down - cones to contribute to the fire lighting situation.
 These feathers gives a hint as to what had been throwing the cones down!

Sunday, 25 August 2013

Running Vets running

As folk will know I compete with the ACT Veterans Athletics Club.  One of the rules is that everyone has to help out at one event a year.  For reasons that escape me this has resulted in me being an event organiser.

This is not that big a deal and mainly involves me contacting about 20 other members and allocating them jobs.  I also walk the course beforehand with the other organiser (my colleague Roger) who does the set-out of the course.  No big deal and my efforts seem to be appreciated by the punters.

Today was the day for this year.  Brilliant weather: nicely cool but sunny.  Here follow some snaps.  But frst here is a map of the course.
Apparently the mob getting close to the start line meant that some folk - especially newbies - found it difficult to hear the starters instructions.  So we put in an extra line of magic cones to keep the chattering classes at bay.  They worked!
 Here is a wide shot of the start.  In total we had 161 starters over the three events (Long and short runs and a walk).
 There was a rocky patch after 500m but Roger had done a good job of marking it as out of bounds.  The admirable people from St Johns Ambulance had no customers on the day.
As I jogged back from checking the rocky area the walkers were heading off up - and I mean UP - from the start.
Some of the long course people were still starting.  And sufficiently confident that they started a good metre behind the line!
 Here we have the first two to finish the long course.  The front guy not only finished first across the line but was also first eligible so got a medal and the shield.  He will also get a less pleasing reward from the handicappers in due course!
The handicap system is designed to, in theory, get everyone across the line at the same time.  Of course, that doesn't happen but there is a big peak of activity in the midle of the ruck.