Monday, February 28, 2011

Rare twin koalas born on Phillip Island

Twin koalas are a rare event. At Phillip Island's Koala Conservation Centre, people looking up into the branches of a tall eucalypt thought they were seeing double!

The two heads peeping out of the mother koala's pouch were christened Venus and Mars, because of the position of the planets at that time. All went well while the joeys were small, but when they had to share time in and out of the pouch things came to a head.

One night, during a storm, Mars fell 10 m to the ground. Another female koala dashed to the rescue and climbed back up the tree with Mars on her back. In the morning the Ranger on duty noticed the mistake and gave Mars back to his real mother, who appeared not to have noticed the disappearance of one of her twins.

A couple of weeks later, Mars was found on the ground again; wet, cold and alone. He must have fallen during the night and spent several miserable hours without the warmth and security of his mother's pouch. The Ranger decided that Mars needed to be a hand-reared at a licensed Wildlife Shelter until weaning, which would take approximately 3 months. The plan was to reunite him with his twin, when he was independent.

This, unfortunately didn't happen. Mars became ill and died, and in the process almost broke the heart of his carer. Only the size of a jelly bean when born, koalas take 18 months to become fully independent. Joey koalas are especially adorable and love to cuddle their own teddy.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Walking with my dog, Major Mitchell

Over the years I've tried many different forms of relaxation: from meditation to yoga, tai chi, music, gardening, reading and walking, to name but a few. For me, the most successful is walking with my dog.

As I walk, my mind drifts into a space where, after 15 minutes or so, internal chatter dies down and calm descends. The rhythm helps, along with the pleasure of being in a natural environment.

When we live on Phillip Island (during summer and autumn) the beach is where I walk. Then, during winter and spring, I walk along the banks of the Maranoa River in Mitchell, outback Queensland.

Every day I walk for at least 30 minutes. I seem to need this space to clear my head and come up with ideas for my writing, as well as solutions to problems. Walking with my dog -- Major Mitchell -- is good for my body and mind.

The challenge of selling on eBay: for novices

Scientists say that in order to keep our brains in good working order we need to challenge ourselves with tasks that put us out of our comfort zone. That way, new pathways will enrich our brain's capability.

Selling 4 items on eBay has been one of Doug's challenges for this week, with the online auction ending today. Next time it will be easier and won't require as much assistance from our friend Richard, in Mitchell, who's an expert in such matters and generous in teaching novices like Doug.

Friday, February 25, 2011

The seashore is a celebration of our senses

Having all of my senses intact is, I realise, my good fortune. It means that as I walk along the beach with Major I feel the different textures of sand beneath my runners: hard wet sand, dry loose sand, sand spread with a carpet of soft seaweeds.

Meanwhile, gulls cry, oyster catchers utter eerie calls out on the reef, waves crash onto sand, and then slide back into the bay. The air is cool and fresh, with just a hint of salt and seaweed.

There's a rhythm along the seashore, of tides in and out, following the phases of the moon. With that rhythm comes the feeling of time; of timelessness.

On hot days I relish the feel of sand between my toes and sun on my legs and arms. The ocean is usually too cold for me to feel tempted to swim -- I'm happy to paddle up to my knees and leave the swimming to Major.

Creativity is good for the soul, espec.when unwell

It's not my habit to dwell on negative things; however, the chemical overload I experienced on Tuesday in Wonthaggi is still plaguing me.The worst aspect is unrelenting nausea.

I've had to cancel quite a few things and restrict myself to home and only light activity. It's times like these that I'm grateful for my interest in writing, learning the guitar and drawing. At the end of each day, at least I've achieved something and that's good for me psychologically.

The view over the ocean uplifts my spirit, along with Katie Siamese, and our two German shepherds -- and of course my wonderfully supportive and understanding husband, Doug. I am fortunate in all these things.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Banksias fire my imagination

My drawing challenge at present is a coast banksia (Banksia integrifolia) which grows naturally here on Phillip Island.

This banksia -- in flower, and with distinctive fruiting cones -- would have been one of the first trees seen by the English naturalist Sir Joseph Banks when he came ashore at Botany Bay in New South Wales, in late April 1770.

Up to 25 m tall, this long-lived tree stands out in the low wind-swept coastal vegetation. Its pale yellow flower spikes resemble candles, especially when touched by the last rays of light, at sundown.

Even as a young child I loved its knobbly fruiting cones, and imagined all manner of faces within the closed and opening seeds. I used to peel away the material beneath the outer crust to reveal a chocolate brown velvety layer, a delight to my young senses.

Most Australian children grew up with May Gibbs' books 'Snugglepot and Cuddlepie', in which bad banksia men feature, along with memorable banksia inspired drawings. To close my eyes and run my fingers over a knobbly banksia cone is to enter a sensory wonderland.

Chemical overload is a problem for many people

As a direct result of yesterday's outing to Wonthaggi -- for shopping and medical appointments -- I'm feeling extremely unwell today. The reason is simple: the air I breathed yesterday had an overload of chemicals, and because I'm sensitive to chemicals and normally breathe air fresh from the ocean, my body has rebelled.

It'll take at least a couple of days for me to recover my health, meanwhile I'm suffering severe nausea and fatigue.

Everyone is affected by chemicals to some degree; everyone benefits by reducing their exposure to chemicals. There are a lot of people suffering health effects from chemical exposure without realising the cause. Sick building syndrome is a huge problem in poorly ventilated homes and shops. But enough for tonight. I need to go to bed.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Eating out a problem for coeliacs

Wonthaggi is for Phillip Island, as Roma is for Mitchell -- a large service centre within one hour of home. I prefer to live in a small town; however, I realise that large towns provide medical services and shopping choices that I need from time to time.

Over the past year, huge changes have occurred in Wonthaggi due largely to the construction of a desal plant to provide Melbourne with water. Mega Bites is our favourite cafe in Wonthaggi. It offers people on special diets the opportunity to eat out -- safely, and caters for coeliacs and those on wheat and/or gluten-free diets in particular. My choice is usually a spinach and ricotta roll with salad, along with a long black coffee.

This cafe understands that gluten-free means 100% gluten-free -- not a gluten-free cake mix baked in a dish dusted with wheat flour. This is a common enough mistake but one that leads to significant stomach pain for days on end. For me, eating out usually means a few cans of Coca-Cola. Coke settles my stomach like no other food, beverage or medication. Strange but true!

On arrival home at around 6 p.m. we found our two German shepherds waiting at the front gate, their tails swinging from side to side and happy smiles lighting their faces.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Broken promises galvanise the people of Mitchell

This morning, three phone calls from friends in Mitchell pulled me back to the heart of the outback, there to bask in its warmth: warmth of temperature and warmth from the community itself.

A mouse plague is testing the patience of all and sundry -- the result of abnormally good pasture growth and grass seeds by the trillion. But more important than mice is the council's sudden decision to close Mitchell's twenty bed aged-care hostel, known affectionately as The Retirement Village.

Upon amalgamation, Roma promised that no services would close in Mitchell; therefore, the community is outraged at this unexpected disclosure. Twenty patients have no where to go, fifteen jobs are at stake, and the flow-on effect would be considerable. The school, hospital, library, businesses, land prices -- all would be affected, in a negative way.

Apparently the community has to come up with $2-$3 million, the cost of building a new, up-to-date facility -- and before May 2011. I don't know the financial details, nor do I understand the politics behind the proposed closure. What I do know, though, is that the people of Mitchell and surrounds NEED an aged care facility within their own community: that people are united in their distress and anger over this non-caring decision.

The power and compassion of the people of Mitchell and surrounds is a much stronger force than that of mere councils and bureaucrats.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Gale force winds lash Phillip Island

With horizontal rain lashing the windows and gale force wind whipping the bay into a frenzy of white-capped waves, I'm reminded of some of the reasons we choose to spend at least half of our time in outback Queensland.

Weather like this causes the blood vessels in my heart to spasm and so produce chest pain. Therefore, no outside walk for me today. Fortunately I have an exercise bike in the sun room where I can see a wide coastal view as I peddle -- and an air conditioner for warmth. It is only 15°C, and although I know it's not cold when compared to other parts of the world where ice and snow are the norm, it feels cold to me. I long for the warmth and stillness of outback Queensland.

Friday, February 18, 2011

The leap from Irish Setters to German Shepherds

Every now and then someone asks me how we made the leap from Irish setters to German shepherds. For 30 years we lived in and around Irish setters, and with our close friend Greg Browne (Eireannmada Irish setters) we bred and showed Irish.

Australian Champion Wilangi Red Alice was our most well-known dog. She won Irish Setter Bitch of the Year in 1979, 1980 and 1981, and was a regular winner at most Specialty and Royal Shows -- Australia-wide. Alice was one of those rare 'naturals': intelligent; spirited; near-perfect confirmation; and a born actress in the show ring -- even in torrential rain or gale force winds. She produced a string of excellent progeny, with Australian Champion Wilangi King Quail the best. An adorable Eireannmada English setter was also part of our family at this time.

When we moved to a sheep property on King Island in the 1980s, we bred and worked Border collies as well -- but they were kept separate to our setters, who were house dogs. Prince was our last Irish, and from him we moved on to Great Danes -- both bitches, but not at the same time. Gem was fawn with a black mask, and Opal a black and white Boston.

Macka was our 'street kid', a stray pup that wormed his way into our hearts and life. He was a Border collie cross and one of the most loyal of our dogs. Our garden here at Phillip Island holds the remains of many treasured dogs: Macka, Prince, Opal and Gem, and Gus.

Never did we consider German shepherds until an elderly friend and neighbour on the island died and we offered to take over the care of his German shepherd, Gus. By the time Gus began looking old we were completely won over by the breed, and chose Del and then four years later, Major. At this point in time we love the loyalty and tractable nature of shepherds and their ability to offer protection as well.

"You'll miss the softness of Irish," said our friend Greg, at one stage, and I have to admit I do. Softness of coat and softness of temperament are very much part of the appeal of setters; that and their outward going, spirited personality.

On King Island they flushed pheasants from hillsides of bracken, ran free along golden beaches and swam in the surf. King Island (located on the western side of Bass Strait) offered an almost perfect environment for Irish setters.

With King Island and Ireland sharing many common features this was perhaps the reason why Irish always looked so much at home. King Island is where Alice's mother was buried, and Alice and her brother Albat spent their retirement years.

I'll always have a place in my heart for setters and treasure my rich store of memories.

A blue wren minus his tail, looking like a blue mouse

Today, while watching a New Holland honey-eater land on a grevillea flower spike -- bending it almost doubled as it sipped nectar -- I noticed movement in the shrubbery below, and a flash of blue. But something looked wrong.

With its brilliant blue feathers caught in a ray of sunshine, a male blue wren pecked up tiny insects (sandflies, I hope) and then moved from the protection of the shrubbery to reveal NO tail feathers at all -- just stump, instead of his normal tall, erect feathers.

I was left wondering. Had a predator of some sort grabbed at him and instead of a bird, got a mouthful of tail feathers? Or, was the blue wren suffering an unusual moult? Clearly he looked vulnerable and out a balance -- almost like a blue mouse!

A couple of years ago we planted this group of a dozen or so grevilleas in our garden and already nectar-loving birds are visiting to feast on the blossoms and delight us with their presence.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

A 'street of lights' guides ships through Western Port Bay

For tens of thousands of years boats have travelled past Grossard Point, here on Phillip Island. First were the bark canoes of Aboriginal people. Now we see ships of all kinds pass through our seascape -- from jet skis, to wind surfers, kayaks, yachts, fishing boats, oil tankers, gas ships and oil rigs.

Aborigines came to Phillip Island in the spring and summer because they knew that every spring, hundreds of thousands of mutton birds arrived to nest on the island, and that the rocks abounded in delicacies such as abalone, mussels and other shellfish.

Kitchen middens in the dunes survive to this day, with their collections of shells and roughly shaped tools -- some of these are estimated to be 40 to 50,000 years old.

After the Bunorong people came whalers, sealers, mutton birders and explorers, resulting in many shipwrecks along the rocky coastline. Western Port Bay is a natural deep water harbour, therefore it didn't take long before large ships began using the bay and industry established itself at the closest point to Melbourne.

Sailors on Western Port Bay today are guided by a 'street of lights' -- a series of buoys and navigational beacons which allow craft of all kinds to enter and travel safely through Western Port.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Island beach etiquette is largely unwritten

It's unwritten beach etiquette on Phillip Island that shoes, beach towels, surfboards etc. left above the high water mark are not taken -- that they remain safely in place until their owner returns.

In a similar manner, and on King Island where we lived in the 1980s, long strands of bull kelp pulled from the water and left to dry above high water mark belonged to the person who pulled them out. No one ever touched anyone else's kelp, and with each strand having a value of approximately $10, the temptation may have been there for some people. Bull kelp is one of the world's largest algae species and is remarkable for its strength; able to cling to rocks in surf that could crush a boat in minutes. Its honeycomb structure gives it buoyancy to stretch and float, and it is rich in alginates which are used to thicken foods such as ice cream and many other commercial products.

With dogs, people have them on leads when others are on the beach, and free when the beach is empty of people and dogs. Picking up dog droppings is another of those beach etiquette habits that makes the beach pleasant for everyone.

Saying, 'Hi' or 'G'day' to anyone approaching you along the beach is a friendly habit practised by most people on the island. People from 'away' seem reluctant to meet your eye, are inclined to walk by as if everyone else on the beach is invisible. This habit makes it abundantly clear that these people are from the city, and I always feel a stab of sadness at their lack of trust and friendship.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Lizards enjoy water play on hot days

Just as humans and dogs enjoy playing in water on hot days, so do lizards! Today, with the temperature 28°C, Stego (my 40-year-old pet stumpy-tailed lizard) splashed about in his large shallow water container, clearly enjoying the feel of cool water soaking into his scales. Also evident was the fun he had, splashing in the water.

When we live in Mitchell (outback Queensland) I need to give Stego water play more frequently because the climate is hotter and drier. He needs the extra moisture in order to shed his skin properly, especially around his little toes.

What I love about Stego is the fact that every day I learn more about his intelligence, personality and now, his ability to play. As humans, we tend to underestimate the feelings and intelligence of other creatures, especially reptiles.

While paddling along the sea-shore this evening -- with Major -- I was reminded of Stego and shared with him and my young German shepherd the pleasure of cool water on bare skin, and the fun of splashing. Animals teach me pleasure in simple things

Monday, February 14, 2011

Dressing to make the best of your genes

Some people have the knack of dressing in clothes that accentuate the good features of both their physical form and personality. However, this is a skill that most of us need help in, from time to time; especially if working in a career in the corporate world.

"It took three hours and I tried on everything in my wardrobe," said my friend, "and Marianne put the clothing into two piles -- the ones to keep, and those for the Op shop or to resell."

A recent promotion has motivated my friend to seek help in the clothes department. Marianne is a professional who works in Melbourne and offers a personal service helping women dress to suit their personality and the occasion. My friend's next step is a shopping expedition (with Marianne) to fill in the gaps of her wardrobe.

"We talked about my body shape and the colour of my eyes, hair and skin. How to make the most of what I have -- warm colours, no black; v necks, not round -- -- --".

"Did you agree with her comments?"

"Yes, she was spot-on."

Motivated by my friend's makeover I plan to take a critical look at my own wardrobe -- which clothes do I feel good in, which strike the wrong chord? There are clothes in my wardrobe that have hung there for years and I've never even worn! Then there are those that don't fit well, or are of a colour that looks dated.

I have a system. Try on the garment, only looking in a mirror when everything is in place. A quick look. Okay or not? Trust that first impression; no use thinking I'll get used to it or it cost a lot. That first impression is what counts. I plan to be a ruthless -- and begin next week. That's a promise!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Alone or in company, beachcombing is a meditation

Although I love walking alone along the beach (with a dog, of course!), having other human company can enrich the experience. Today our close friends Helena and Dave visited for the day and it was with them that we shared a walk around Grossard Point, beachcombing as we talked and walked.

Sea eggs, sponges of all shapes and sizes, brilliant green sea lettuce, cuttlefish bones, abalone shells, pieces of silver driftwood -- treasures the waves had tossed onto the sand for us to find and marvel over. With eyes focused on the flotsam, sunshine falling warm on our backs and feet treading the soft golden sand, beachcombing became a meditation -- one that freed the mind and allowed the exchange meaningful and sometimes intimate conversations.

Sharing Nature's beauty with friends is one of life's greatest joys.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Mutton birds are faithful to just one mate

While walking through the mutton bird rookery this afternoon, my thoughts back-tracked to yesterday when we celebrated our 44th wedding anniversary -- and then to the mutton birds that can live from 35 to 40 years of age, and who are faithful to just one mate.

This remarkable fact is based on information gathered from mutton birds tagged on Fisher Island, in Bass Strait, by Dr Vincent Serventy. At this age, a mutton bird would have flown about 1.05 million km -- a trip to the moon and back is not that far!

Hundreds of thousands of muttonbirds migrate from Phillip Island to Alaska and the Bering Sea every April, returning at the end of September. That they meet up with their mate after such a long migration flight, at the entrance of the same burrow, on the same island, within days of each other, every year -- is amazing.

The fact that mutton birds are so long-lived, faithful to one mate and put all their energy into rearing only one chick per season, perhaps offers us some hints about survival.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Married 44 years today and still in love

To mark the occasion of our 44th wedding anniversary, Doug and I drove over the bridge and east into Gippsland to an art gallery at Fish Creek.

In 1974, renowned botanical artist Celia Rosser embarked on a project to record all of Australia's known banksia species -- around 76 -- using watercolour painting of extraordinary detail and accuracy. Twenty-five years later she'd created 3 volumes, but she kept going.

A collection of Celia's original paintings and limited edition prints now hang at Fish Creek in a Gallery and Banksia Cafe built by her son Andrew, who has also crafted banksia timber (sourced from fallen trees) into stylish furniture and picture frames.

To mark the occasion of our anniversary, we chose a framed limited addition print of a banksia named in honour of Celia: Banksia rosserae. This banksia was discovered in 2002, in remote country in north-west Australia. The opportunity to talk with Celia added to this special treat. We heard wonderful stories of the people she met and the country she explored while sketching and painting banksias throughout Australia.

Now in her 80s, Celia is bright-eyed, passionate about banksias and still paints exquisite watercolours of extraordinary detail. Each painting takes at least three months, from start to finish. Celia describes her work as taking a lot of patience. "It becomes a form of meditation concentration," she told me, quietly, and after the limited experience I've had with drawing native plants, I agreed wholeheartedly.

Doug and I are fortunate to be each other's best friend and also be in love after 44 years of marriage. We are also fortunate to share many common interests, most of which centre around animals, the environment and art. Meeting Celia Rosser today was an inspiration.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

A regular sight on our seascape: the 'Iron Monarch'

Of all the shipping that passes by our seascape, the Iron Monarch is my favourite.

This ship, with its distinctive white funnels and black hull looks dramatic against the steel blue water of Western Port Bay. At night, the throb of its diesel engines alerts us to its presence, and on foggy autumn mornings, its eerie fog horn warns shipping of its bulky presence.

This ship travels between Port Kembla (New South Wales) and Hastings in Western Port Bay, carrying blocks of steel to the rolling mill at Hastings where it is converted into steel used for roofing iron, rods, pipes and flat steel.

Bridges are symbolic of connection -- and division

Our two homes -- Phillip Island and Mitchell in Queensland -- each have a significant bridge that connects us to the outside world.

The small outback town of Mitchell nestles in a loop of the Maranoa River, with the concrete pylons of its bridge spray-painted with colourful impressions of the town's history, natural attractions and people. It's as if the bridge guards the town. It is a memorable experience to stand beneath the bridge and feel the vibrations as a road train thunders overhead.

Our shepherds are incredibly bold, stable dogs that never flinch when confronted with loud noises and strange places. For this I commend their breeders who have kept this aspect of their temperament in mind. Guns, stock whips, fireworks, thunder and lightning produce no anxiety.

Phillip Island is connected to the Australian mainland by means of a road bridge that spans a glittering expanse of sea -- to the south, Bass Strait; to the north, Western Port Bay. This three lane bridge struggles to deal with the traffic that streams on and off the island when major events such as the motorcycle Grand Prix take place.

Last year, we were fortunate to survive an almost head-on collision when an oncoming car suddenly veered into our lane -- the driver suffered an epileptic seizure. Doug swerved and avoided the car by a fraction, but the taxi behind hit head-on. There was nowhere to go! The slow speed of all cars involved in the pile-up minimised injuries, but it was a close and frightening episode and blocked the bridge for many hours.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

As intelligent as cats, eat termites and lay eggs

It's not everyday I see an echidna, but today I saw two. One was on the track to the beach, feasting on ants; and the other was in our back yard, using its armour of spikes to deter our two shepherds.

When it's time to mate, echidnas form ' trains' of up to 10 males following one female in season. We've seen these ' trains' on Phillip Island as well as in Mitchell, Queensland. Echidnas lay eggs, keep their puggle (baby) in a fold of the mother's belly flesh, and feed it milk -- but not through a nipple. The milk seeps from the mothers echidna's chest.

As monotremes, echidnas are regarded as the most primitive of mammals, yet have one of the largest and most complex brains, performing well in standard intelligence tests. Unlike other mammals, however, echidnas don't move their eyeballs when they sleep; don't use dreaming to process memories and new experiences. The echidna's complex brain gives it the ability to deal with past and present realities without the need for dreaming.

Several friends in Mitchell have echidnas living beneath their houses to control termites, which are a serious timber-eating pest. These people don't need to use dangerous chemical sprays because echidnas perform the role of natural pest control -- to perfection!

Monday, February 7, 2011

Doug's dog was a delinquent pup

When we had Irish setters and Border collies they shared their loyalty and affection equally between the two of us. Our two Great Danes were more one person dogs -- and mine. Our two German shepherds are also one person dogs, with Del Doug's, and Major mine.

Del locked on to Doug from day one and proved to be the most difficult pup we'd ever encountered. At eight weeks of age, all previous pups have slept in a box beside our bed, with my arm dangling in for security. But not Del! She threw herself out of the box and went to sleep with our old German shepherd on the back verandah. As a 12 week old she was a delinquent and uncontrollable and is the only pup we've owned that's required the services of a professional dog trainer -- even though we've have had experience in training dogs to work sheep, perform in the show ring and compete in obedience trials.

Four years down the track and Doug has a loyal, obedient and tractable dog, but it's taken time and patience. Expertise in tracking and finding hidden objects are things that come naturally to Del, with hidden objects in particular providing the most fun. Del has stretched us to the limit and beyond, yet is totally stable with not a shred of aggression. And Doug loves her deliquent streak!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Footsteps in the sand telling a story

Due to flood waters blocking the main highway between Melbourne and Phillip Island, there weren't as many people on the island this weekend.

Consequently, on my walk this evening I saw no other people and no other dogs. Having the beach to myself is always a thrill, especially when the tide is low. Major found a set of footprints to follow: an adult person and a medium-sized dog. Plunging his nose into the other dog's paw print I have no doubt he gained much more information than I could gather: size, sex, breed, age, mood -- -- --. One of my greatest pleasures is wandering along the shore with Major, who never strays and who adores swimming in the sea. He's a very strong swimmer, even in waves.

Living in our front and back garden are at least six wild rabbits who've been flirting with death ever since our return in December. Today one wasn't so lucky. Major proudly carried his kill to the back door and dropped it at our feet. He didn't want to eat it and since rabbits are in plague numbers on the island, and feral, there was no point in growling at him. I suspect Del and Major worked as a team to make the kill, in the same way they catch mice in Mitchell.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Charles Darwin felt awe and wonder in all things natural

When I was offered the challenge of writing a book about Charles Darwin -- for 8 to 12 year olds -- by Hyland House in Melbourne, I thought I understood the theory of evolution and the man behind it. Two and a half years later I found myself beginning to understand and a year later I handed over a manuscript.

Charles Darwin's Big Idea was the most important book I've ever researched and written because of the way it expanded my own knowledge and appreciation of the natural world and my part in it. Now, every time I see a cliff-face I think fossils and Charles Darwin; every time I see barnacles along the seashore I remember Charles Darwin's 10 year study of these marine creatures. In fact, never a day goes by that I don't think Charles Darwin in relation to something in the natural world.

Charles Darwin had a keen curiosity, an open mind, a great deal of courage and patience, and the capacity to think outside established patterns. He was a man who, by thinking differently, changed our view of natural history. As a role model, I believe Charles Darwin is an inspiration for anyone interested in adventure, new ideas and wonder in all things natural.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Mobiles on beaches?

Over the past few weeks I've seen a man surf fishing, hand to ear, talking on his mobile; a young woman jogging along the beach, talking on her mobile; two bikini-clad teenagers sprawled on the sand, both talking on their phones.

I doubt these conversations were urgent and felt sadness for the people involved. Surely everyone has the right to 'time out', time to ' live in the moment' in a beautiful place without interruption from a mobile call. I acknowledge that mobile phones have a place in modern society; however, I believe their use to be in the extreme.

Carrying a mobile is good insurance in case of accident or emergency, but it doesn't need to be turned on, except if you're a doctor on call or you are in the midst of some personal emergency.

Being on call to family and friends 24/7 is -- for most of us -- unnecessary and I believe impacts on our personal space and freedom.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Doug can fix anything and build most things

Anything that needs fixing, my husband Doug can fix using bits and pieces he has stored in his large shed out the back.

Doug's shed is an amazing place: neither super-tidy nor super-messy yet crammed full of mechanical and electrical fittings, tools, scrap metal and timber -- as well as his pride and joy, several old English motorcycles.

Today I wanted him to replace some parts in the dinner chimes that came from my old family home. Within 15 minutes the chimes were back in the house in top working order -- thanks to Doug's expertise, tools and collection of bits and pieces.

By comparing the four notes on the chimes to those on the guitar, I found an A, C sharp, E and another A, making it an A major instrument. Mum bought it to call my father to meals, but for some reason, my father refused to be summoned this way, so the chimes were put away in a cupboard. Now, both Doug and and I enjoy having a play every time we walked past. They have a beautiful deep melodious tone and remind me of the marimba (which Doug built) we have in Mitchell, and the fun we have playing in the local band.

Yesterday an elderly neighbour called in to ask Doug's advice about a recalcitrant lawnmower. After sharing a cup of tea with us, Doug went back with our neighbour to his house and fixed the mower. I'm not good at mechanical things nor am I good at fixing things so I appreciate having a husband who is good at both, and who's always willing and cheerful as a bonus!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Warmth, humidity and greenery equal a sandfly's heaven

At this time of the year (mid-summer) sand flies are a problem for dogs and humans alike. For dogs, sandflies that congregate in green grass cause the most trouble as the flies burrow into the dogs fur and then bite repeatedly causing an intense itch.

Consequently, we try to limit the time Del and Major spend on grass, but this is difficult because they love nothing better than gnawing on their bones while lying on grass.

For humans, walking through the low coastal vegetation lining the track to the beach almost always results in some bites. Whenever I'm bitten, each and every bite forms a large lump of intense itchiness. I feel sympathy for the dogs who don't understand the cause/effect and tend to scratch to the degree of damaging their skin -- which can lead to bacterial infection.

Phillip Island in southern Victoria and Mitchell in outback Queensland -- although so far apart -- both have a sandfly problem at this time of the year; but in Mitchell it's more severe.

Like all Australians we await the arrival of the worst-ever cyclone to hit our coastline. One of my brothers lives alone in the mountains behind Cooktown and when I spoke to him this morning he was both philosophical and fatalistic. Tonight is the night when the worst will happen. We hold our breath and keep in mind the safety of loved ones.

Closing the Melbourne chapter of my life

A family of Cape Barren geese saw us off to Melbourne this morning. With five well-grown chicks, the parents have a territory that includes a valley of lush green grasses about half a kilometre from our home.

The purpose of today's trip to Melbourne was to meet up with three of my four brothers and their wives, and my 92-year-old mother at our family home of 70 years -- which was recently sold. Dividing up the family furniture and memorabilia was the aim, and this was achieved in an amicable way. For me it was easy, because I didn't want anything. Therefore, the few bits and pieces I did take were a bonus: a thermometer/barometer set, dinner chimes, a couple of framed family portraits, pure wool blankets and a china ornament that has been in our family for three generations.

Today I helped divide my mother's possessions amongst her many descendants -- and all in a civilised manner with no crosswords, greediness or bad humour. In addition, I reconnected with family and said a final, 'Goodbye' to childhood. It feels great!