Seasons Greetings

Hi All,

Hope you’re all having a wonderful Christmas with friends and family

Golden Celebration

Cheers!

Summer time

Hi there,

I sit here and feel the still day with air that you think you will be able to cut with a knife because it’s oppressively hot and thick.
Sweat drips down my forehead and silently falls onto the dusty dry ground. For a second or two there’s a dark spot where the sweat fell,then it’s gone, evaporated by the sheer heat that radiates from the sun.
A cloud passes between the sun and the earth and mercifully there’s respite for a brief second where the suns rays cannot be felt. But the air is still oppressive. That’s summertime!
The minutes tick by seemingly going slower as the sun rises higher in the sky. Waves of heat rise from the ground creating a shimmering hazy effect which creates illusions, you see the oasis, but then it’s gone.
A breeze appears from nowhere, the very air itself is hot and of no relief to you. The wind brings dust stirred up from the interior of the country, stripped from dry paddocks and open land. Deposited hundreds of kilometres away and of no use to anyone.
The Cicadas start their high-pitched drone, some years worse than others but a sure sign summer is here. The birds get their work done early and then retreat into the shade to find some relief , the not so friendly snakes, browns and tigers mostly, come out to warm their cold bodies making us tread wearily through the long grass.  That’s summertime.  The kookaburra’s sit in the trees or on power lines looking and waiting for their next meal to slither into sight. The wedge tail eagles launch from their hill-side nests and lazily making circles in the sky drifting along until they catch a rising thermal which launches them high into the sky giving them a panoramic view from which they can view the earth with their all-seeing eyes. He swoops but this time he misses his target. Now the hard slog starts to get back to altitude.
Need I mention the flies which surround you like a cloud, getting in your ears, nostrils and even down your throat if you breathe in at the wrong time. That’s summertime.

You hear a crack, it’s a ball hitting a piece of willow.  Cricket, the nations game, played and revered by many throughout the Commonwealth.  Played on ovals, backyards, beaches and just about anywhere where there’s a bit of room.  Every backyard version has its own rules unique to your backyard.   A gentleman’s game, R.I.P Phil Hughes.
You hear a splash, it’s the local pool in full swing, providing a cool respite enjoyed by all ages. The air conditioning also provides a cool haven as well as the tree, providing welcoming shade.
You hear a roar, it’s the waves crashing onto the beach, the current pulls the water out, then it’s in again constantly moving yet somehow providing a calming influence. Surf and sand provides joy for many a long hour.  You hear a jingle,  it sounds like Greensleeves, it’s the Mr Whippy ice-cream van providing cold treats for everyone.  There’s a mad dash to find your parents.  Can I have some money please?

Summertime! It’s not all bad…

Hello and Goodbye

Hi There!

After deciding to go down the solar electricity route, we signed up for a system on the 17th of July.  When the installers got here finally and installed the system on our shed roof, they asked how are we connecting this to the house.  We said via the trench you have to dig and lay the appropriate cable.  “No one told us about a trench” they said.  “You contact your people” I said.  They said back “you contact your people”, okay.  My people said ” we will contact their people”, which they did, their people contacted them back then back the other way and then vice versa.  “You will have to pay for the trench and appropriate wiring” my people said to me.  “No I won’t” was my reply, the contract say’s it’s going on the shed roof, not my fault your sales team forget to mention anything about a trench to connect it to the house as was discussed with said sales people.

Trench people finally come, dig a trench make a mess, run a cable, connect it all up, test the system, do some more paperwork, oh and while trenching miss the phone, gas, mains and watering system pipes/cables but manage to clip the storm water pipe!

Said mess after trenching people left and sink holes appearing.

IMG_2950

Now we wait for the electrical inspector to come and check it all out,  which he doe’s in a timely fashion, fantastic!

Now we ring our power provider to see if they have received the paperwork so they can send someone out to reprogram our smart meter.  “Sorry, cannot connect you to our solar people today, we’re having phone problems?” or the next day or the one after.  Do they really want us going solar, me thinks not.  Finally get through, “yes have your paperwork, its wrong, have got it fixed up by the trenching people, we have lodged it with another company, they will come and adjust the smart meter”, “when?”, “oh, in the next twenty business days”  Great I say!

Today is the 14th of October, Hello Solar and Goodbye power bills.  We are generating!!!

IMG_2952

4.5 kilowatts of beautiful german made solar panels

IMG_2954

Inverter and sundry items

IMG_2955

A beautiful thing!

Cheers!

What is…….

Hi there!

What is a waste product produced by plants?

Any guess’s???

Not sure, don’t know, couldn’t care less, whatever, LOL,.

I’ll narrow it down for you with 3 multiple choice answers.

Is it,

a. mycorrhizal association with fungus

b. autumn leaves

c. oxygen

 

If you picked a or b you would be wrong.  The answer is c.  Yes I know, hard to believe, oxygen a waste product produced by plants.  Thank goodness they produce waste!

How is this possible?  Without getting too technical, during the process of photosynthesis(plants making food for themselves using sunlight, carbon dioxide and water) the chloroplasts(specialised structures) inside leaves contain chlorophyll(green pigment that makes leaves green) which absorb energy from sunlight.  This absorbed energy is used to join the carbon dioxide and water together to form glucose.  The plant then uses this glucose as its energy source.  The oxygen which is a waste product from this chemical reaction is then released into the atmosphere.  Who would have thought!!

Plant a few and look after them….

Cheers!

Mt. Kosciuszko

Hi There!

It may have seemed that I had disappeared into thin air for the last couple of months, but after Christmas/New Year, shopping for a new car, a new job and trying to get the garden back into shape, I’m back!  A few weeks back we made our way to the highest point on this continent/Island/The land down under/Australia/Home or whatever you want to call it.  Mt Kosciuszko is 2228m tall and was named after the famous Polish freedom fighter.  On the 15th of February 1840 the polish explore Paul Edmond Strzelecki ascended this mountain and named it.  It is highly unlikely that he was the first person to do so because Aboriginals from different parts came here for thousands of years to feast on the Bogong moths that congregate here in summer.  Stockmen also climbed in this area in the 1830’s looking for grazing land.

IMG_0761

This is the easy way up from Thredbo before you start the 6.5km walk to the top.

IMG_0763

Well, here we stand contemplating the sign.  Do we go to the lookout or do we go all the way?  Lets go all the way!

IMG_0799_1

It’s a very interesting and spectacular place which is quite rocky and barren.  But when you look closely the plains are covered with alpine grasses and plants.  Mt Kosciuszko can be seen in the above photo.  It’s the little bump behind the big bump.  4.5km’s to go!

IMG_0773

IMG_0779

IMG_0769_1

So you can see that plant life is quite abundant and typical of alpine climates, hugging the ground.

IMG_0781

Look how this shrub is hugging the granite boulders.  Almost creeping over  them like a groundcover.  This may be the Alpine mint bush, Prostanthera cuneata.

IMG_0811

Here’s the highest lake in Australia, Lake Cootapatamba.  Only small but the highest.

IMG_0810

And the path go’s on and on and on and….  Notice how its a raised steel grid, this is to protect the delicate environment up here where literally thousands of people walk every year to get to the top.

IMG_0798

IMG_0822

Rawson’s Pass, finish line nearly in site!

IMG_0823

IMG_0831

Ah Yes!  That’s me at the front looking enthralled while our youngest child enjoys the easy way up.

IMG_0842

Here we are at the top, I know it’s not very high at 2228m but we can’t go any higher on this great southern land.

IMG_0843

IMG_0838

All the hordes of people at the top taking a breather, Charlotte pass track can be seen on the ridge.

IMG_0860

On the way down.  I like how the hills just roll away in the distance.  Black hill in the middle left of photo is where there was a bushfire in 2003.  White trunks of dead gums left standing.

IMG_0876

Here’s some wildflowers, this one is Chionogentias muelleriana subsp. alpestris also known as the Mountain Gentian which only occurs here in the Kosciuszko National Park.

IMG_0814

Above are Leucochrysum albicans subsp. alpinum which are also known as Alpine Sunrays, these were quite prevalent the higher you got, beautiful!

IMG_0866

IMG_0786

This is Celmisia longifolia, quite beautiful as well.

IMG_0767

On the way back down across the plateau.

We camped the other side of Thredbo at a little campground called Ngarigo beside the Thredbo River, quite beautiful serene and peaceful.

IMG_0685

IMG_0647

IMG_0752

Here’s a gum tree with quite remarkable trunk colour.  Anyone who know’s about Australian folklore will know about Brumbies(wild horses basically) and on the way home not far from Thredbo is Dead Horse Gap which is a well-known sighting spot of Brumbies.  This is what we saw!

IMG_0892

There was a pure black one as well but he wasn’t co-operating with me.

IMG_0897

Ah well!  Time to go home….

Cheers.

Lake Catani and other things

Hi there!

Lake Catani is a beautiful artificial lake on the Mt Buffalo plateau sitting at an altitude of about 1300m.  We escaped here to take a breather from the recent run of hot weather and for a relaxing afternoon and a nice cool swim.

IMG_0573

You can even hire a canoe for a pleasant paddle on the lake.  We didn’t get one, that’s another whole story nearly!  Here’s some kids having a wonderful time.

IMG_0572

Someone’s left their thongs in the water.

IMG_0568

Water was very clean until it was stirred up, not to cold either.  Temperature at this altitude was about 30 celsius as opposed to 36 in the valley.  There were lots of wildflowers still out and one should come here in spring I think for quite a good show.

IMG_0588

IMG_0591

Lake Catani in the distance

IMG_0584

Above is Wahlenbergia gloriosa

IMG_0587

Not a great example but above is Stylidium montanum.  Also known as a Trigger plant.

IMG_0578

Brachyscome spathulata

IMG_0593

Eucalyptus delegatensis. Also known as Alpine Ash.

IMG_0594

Eurobin Falls with not much water falling down.

IMG_0596

Lady bath Falls with just a trickle coming down in the top left hand corner.

IMG_0598

Just a trickle.  After rain this is an absolute torrent.

IMG_0595

Crystal clear water at Lady bath falls.  Some deep pools here too for a nice refreshing swim.  Refreshing may not be the correct word!

IMG_0600

For those who don’t know Mt Buffalo, it’s a square-shaped(roughly speaking) mountain plateau with an altitude of 1723m.  Situated in the north-east of Victoria roughly between Myrtleford and Bright.  First seen by Hume and Hovell in 1824 and named so because it looked like a sleeping Buffalo.  Over 550 species of plants can be found here with the majority being from the sub alpine and alpine plant communities.  It has some impressive waterfalls, particularly after rain events.  The water thunders down the huge granite slabs.  It’s an easy drive up to the plateau and you can walk up to the top of the Horn which is the highest point for magnificent 360 degree views of the Victorian Alps.

IMG_0605

IMG_0609

A log slowly decaying

IMG_0613

A well camouflage fellow getting around

Along came a spider..

Hi there!

Hope you have all survived the start of the new year and broken all those new year resolutions you have made.  Here’s a tip, they can be made anytime of the year and need to be followed through.  Don’t procrastinate like me!  To the matter at hand then.

Latrodectus hasseltii

is the scientific name for a certain type of spider which is quite common in this country and likes to live close to humans.  It loves to build nests in dry spots like kids toys, old tyres, sheds, empty tins and under metal, dry spots anywhere really and in the outhouse of course.  Please check under that toilet seat!  I’m pretty sure by now you know that I’m talking about the Redback Spider.

IMG_0438

It was quite common to find them in the Outhouse(outside toilet).  Historical data shows that bites were common on the genitalia of victims until toilets were moved into houses.  Ouch! Data shows that now most bites are on the fingertips then arms and thighs, trunk and then head and neck.  Bites on the head and neck have increased since the use of safety helmets and earmuffs.  Make sure you check them before putting on!!!!

I found somewhere between 4-8 under a kids slide the other day.  I wasn’t concerned about the exact number, just wanted to get rid of them all. The Redback and its relatives in the genus Lactrodectus are among the most dangerous spiders alongside the Funnel Webs and others.  Well wouldn’t you know it we have both those here.  The Redback is responsible every year for more poisonous bites than any other venomous creature in Australia, and yes we do have lots of nasty creatures.  Estimates are over 2000 bites per year and nearly all of these are caused by the female because of its large size in comparison to the male Redback.  Here’s a female below lurking under a slide.

IMG_0358

Here’s the good news.  Since the antivenom was introduced in 1956, no human has died directly from a bite.  Although 12 people have been killed prior to 1956 due to Redback bites.  The female has a body about 1cm long with the first pair of legs longer than the rest.  The round abdomen is black(sometimes brown) with a red stripe(sometimes orange).  The male in comparison is only 3-4mm long and light brown in colour with white marks on the upper surface of the abdomen and a pale hourglass mark on the underside.  Females always get the looks don’t they!  Redbacks are mostly nocturnal and remain concealed during the day with the female spinning her web during the night.  Females also usually remain in the one location for the majority of their adult life.  The web is an irregular tangle of fine strong silk.  The rear part of the web forms a funnel, this is where you will find the spider and its egg sacs.  You can sort of see the funnel shape below behind the unsuspecting insects who are no more.

IMG_0435

Redbacks like to feast on insects, sometimes larger animals are ensnared in the web.  Once trapped in the web, the victim is sprayed with a substance a bit like superglue to immobilize it.  It is then repeatedly bitten and trussed and taken into the web where its liquified insides are sucked out.  Here’s another view of the spider.

IMG_0430

Redbacks are one of only two known animals where the male actively assists the female in its death during mating.  During mating the male moves its abdomen over the females mouthparts.  In most cases the male is consumed while mating.  Those males that are not eaten during mating die soon after from their injuries.  Hmmmm.  This is a dangerous beast!

IMG_0362

These little beasts have now been found in small colonies in parts of New Zealand.  They have also been seen in United Arab Emirates, greenhouses in Belgium, Preston in England.  Two were discovered in an Iranian port city.  Some observations indicate that they could be present in New Guinea, India and the Philippines.  Osaka, Japan have colonies, also Fukuoka city.  Many hundreds have been found at the container terminal in Fukuoka.

IMG_0433

Yes, it’s a scary looking creature, yes, it’s a dangerous creature, yes, it’s a fascinating creature, and yes, you should wear gloves in the garden.  Remember this, no one has died from this spider since 1956 but you may be a little sore and sorry though if you do get bitten.  Watch out!!

IMG_0356

IMG_0439

Cheers!