Friday, September 30, 2011

Flowering cauliflowers: leeks and cabbages

A couple of Doug's cauliflowers have been left too long in the sun and have matured a little too much, developing unusual yet attractive flowers. It doesn't matter though, as they taste delicious and crunchy in a salad, and soft and sweet when cooked.

Ox heart cabbages and leeks are ready to eat too, along with parsley,, lettuces, spinach,, snow peas, silver beet, carrots -- -- -- and there are still some of the 80 or so pumpkins grown earlier in the year.

There is plenty to give away and share, and plenty to exchange for eggs and sweet potatoes.

Mitchell in outback Queensland is blessed with good soil and plenty of water and sunshine.

Mulberries, yellowbellies and yabbies: school holidays Mitchell outback Queensland

On my walk with Major this evening, I met up with a group of four young boys 'mucking around' on the banks of the Maranoa River. It's the school holidays in Mitchell, outback Queensland.

Their wide smiles and purple lips and fingers told me that the mulberry tree growing by the river was now laden with clusters of ripe black fruit hidden amongst the large heart-shaped leaves.

But it wasn't only mulberries they were feasting on. They'd caught six yellowbellies. Fishing from the footbridge they'd used worms as bait, and in addition, had yabby traps ready to be pulled.

Dressed in T-shirts, shorts and bare feet, these kids were enjoying the river and the school holidays to the full. Bikes and helmets flung carelessly on the riverbank showed their mode of transport.

How wonderful to live in a place where children can play safely -- independent of adults -- while learning resilience, hunter gatherer skills and mateship with friends.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Things happen in 3s, 4s, or even 5s

It's been one of those months when things have gone wrong in multiples exceeding the proverbial threes! Not only did I get a bad gastric upset on top of my normal gastrointestinal problem, but I got a relapse of shingles, and a bad carpal tunnel and repetitive strain problem with both wrists. So I am feeling less than well; however, much better than I did last week.

Last night I went to our weekly marimba practice for the first time in the last couple of weeks. It was fun to play again and be part of such a happy group under the leadership of Joy, our great teacher.

One of the treatments for my wrists is to soak in alternative hot and cold artesian water. I'm reminded of Mitchell's Great Artesian Spa where the hot artesian water helps in all manner of muscular and bone conditions. Many people travel thousands of kilometres to soak in Mitchell water -- and often stay for a month or so in the Major Mitchell Caravan Park.

Celebrating birthdays with friends and family

No matter what our age, it's lovely to be able to share birthdays with friends, as well as family if any are living nearby.

My special friend Sandi celebrated her birthday yesterday with friends, her daughter Mel and grandchildren Rohan and Lily.  It was a happy occasion and also a 'welcome home' (to Mitchell outback Queensland) as Sandi has recently returned from a holiday in New Zealand -- her country of birth.

My gift was a nautilus shell found on 'our' beach at Phillip Island.  This is a rare find.  A nautilus shell is the egg case of a female octopus -- a cradle, delicate with intricate ripples and patterns: a creation of rare beauty given in friendship and love.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Clean air and clean water in outback Queensland

When we were selecting a place to live in Queensland, the quality of the air and water was paramount. The small outback town of Mitchell was our choice because the town is surrounded by a sea of semi-arid cattle country. As a result, the air is dry and clean of pollution.

The town has a reticulated water supply, providing plentiful water from the Great Artesian Basin -- one of the world's largest underground water supplies.

Mitchell has two bores, with the depth of each approximately 1000 m (1 km). The water temperature averages between 30 to 50°C . The water tower's main function is to give water pressure to the town -- but it also allows the water to cool.

Mitchell's water is soft and has a unique mineral content that includes bicarbonate, sodium, chloride, potassium and magnesium. It has a pleasant taste and practically no smell -- and is wonderful in a bath or shower.

The town has an attractive spa that is open to locals and travellers alike. Many people believe it cures muscular and bone ailments as well as providing a place to socialise and relax completely.

At this time of the year the cold water is warm. Throughout the hottest months people turn off their hot water services and use the hot water tank as a place to cool the water. So the hot water tap is used for cold water and the cold water tap for hot water.

I consider it a privilege to live in a place where clean air and clean untreated water are both in abundance.

Monday, September 26, 2011

The relationship between human and dog is unique

The relationship between human and dog is unique. Over a period of 14,000 years, humans have been selectively breeding dogs for particular strengths and skills -- moulding the dog's sociable nature and extraordinary senses to make a versatile, useful and indispensable companion.

Today we have a dog breed to suit every conceivable need. There are dog breeds to suit most types of people living all sorts of lifestyles. We must remember, however, that no single breed suits everyone. Therefore, choice of breed is an important decision.

Over the years, we've enjoyed the companionship of Irish setters, Labradors, Great Danes and German shepherds. We've also bred and worked Border collies as sheep dogs. At this point in time, though, two German shepherds are our chosen breed.

German shepherds are an intelligent active breed that need a lot of exercise, and plenty of mental stimulation and companionship. A cardboard box full of toys gives hours and hours of pleasure. Of course, we enjoy the play too, frequently laughing and smiling at our dogs' antics. Major is greedy with his toys, snatching them from Del if he sees her with something he wants. Tugs of war usually see Major as the winner.

Major's favourite toys are his soft puppies, whereas Del's favourite is a tennis ball. Many years ago Del initiated a game whereby she threw the ball to me and I kicked it back to her. It's a game we have every day with her concentration lasting up to 10 minutes.

One of the first things that Doug and I found we had in common was a love of dogs. I knew I could never be truly content without the companionship of a dog, and Doug felt likewise. So we're grateful to be in a position where we can both enjoy their companionship -- Del for Doug, and Major for me!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Nature offers an escape from bodily discomfort

The Queensland bush orchid (Cymbidium caniculatum) growing on a dead tree trunk in our garden here at Mitchell, has opened up its first flower!

With over 30 flower spikes (each containing up to 40 small flowers) growing from a dense clump of tough leaves, I think this year's flowering will be the best ever.

When it's in full bloom I'll take another photo to share with you. Meanwhile I'll show you the development to date -- including a photo of the first flower.

Beauty abounds in Nature and offers all of our senses the opportunity to escape from bodily discomfort.

No matter where you live, to have a love of Nature is a priceless gift.

And yes, I am feeling much better today, thank you for your good wishes.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Red Dog is a great film

Yesterday, my one and only achievement (because I'm still recovering from being sick) was to go with Doug to Roma to see the film Red Dog.

Roma (a large mining town and our closest service town) is a car journey of about one hour east of Mitchell, on the Warrego Highway.

For everyone who loves dogs and the Australian outback, the film Red Dog is sure to please and bring more than tears to your eyes. With strong human stories as well as that of a very famous kelpie dog who won the hearts of a whole community, Red Dog is about independence, dependence, loyalty and tolerance.

Based on the legendary true story of a red kelpie who united a local mining community -- while roaming the Australian outback in search of his long lost master -- Red Dog brings to life the iron-ore mining town of Dampier in the north-west of Western Australia.

Red Dog travels enormous distances: from Perth to Darwin; even hitching a ride to Japan and back again. Tragically he dies of strychnine poisoning but manages to stagger to the graveside of his long lost master.

I look forward to reading the book and recommend this film to everyone who loves dogs and the Australian outback.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

A Bobook owl calls out to me -- rest in the calm

Every evening, a Bobook owl calls from a river red gum growing alongside the Maranoa River -- over the road from our home. I love its distinct 'mo-poke' call and believe that the sound carries for several kilometres. It is a strange mixture of soft sound and loud.

One of our friends painted a beautiful watercolour of a bobook owl which we bought recently at a local charity art auction. Elizabeth Gearey's painting (as shown in the photographs) show the large golden-yellow eyes of the owl, and from its position in our kitchen, I often feel it watching over me.

I'm glad I'm not a mouse, sparrow, moth or beetle!

In the velvety hush of the evening, beneath a vast star-studded sky, the mournful hoot of the owl reminds me of the good and the bad. Every day I'm feeling a little better; however, my feelings of frustration at not been able to do much (because of almost constant nausea) threaten to overwhelm me at times.

This the owl knows. He tells me to be patient and rest in the stillness and calm of the outback. I will try.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Life can seem too difficult at times

Sometimes life throws up illness that seems to drain away strength, and all you can do is 'crash' somewhere and wait until the worst passes.

The past week has been this way for me with nasty nausea and vomiting, as well as a flare-up of shingles and problems with both my wrists. But I am recovering, even though slowly. As always, Doug has been supportive, caring and loving. Major, my shepherd has chosen to lie beside me in the sun room, and Katie Siamese has slept cuddled up beside me. So I know I am fortunate.

Talking books have been a great comfort with Mitchell Library an excellent source. With my mind transferred elsewhere, bodily aches and pains seen more bearable, and the passing of time becomes less of an issue.

My sympathy goes to all who are not feeling well, at this point of time.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Vibrant colour and life in outback Australia

Most people think of outback Australia as a wide yawning space when nothing much grows, hardly anyone lives and things rarely happen. Certainly it's true that population density dwindles rapidly the further inland you travel, but for me that's a plus.

Vegetation-wise, the variety of plants that grow in the harsh climatic conditions of the inland is extraordinary. The colour of the vegetation is vibrant, especially when compared to the rich red dirt in which it grows.

The animals and birds that live in the outback continue to fascinate me: from tiny ants creating artistic masterpieces in red dirt, to huge red 'roos bounding over spinifex grasses.

As for nothing much happening, it's been my experience that MORE seems to happen in small outback communities. The reason is most likely to be the fact that everyone knows everyone and everything. As far as I'm concerned, however, this makes life more interesting.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Knowing my limitations: a hard pill to swallow

With three unrelated health problems flaring up at the same time, I'm feeling less than 100 per cent. Consequently, I'm having to juggle my activities, giving up some I really enjoy (for example marimbas and the opening of the most recent art exhibition in Mitchell) in order to have enough energy to attend others such as a one day art workshop.

The art workshop -- run by artist Joan Hurtado -- was an enjoyable day I shared with eight others. We were taught numerous drawing techniques and used a wide variety of materials to create interesting designs and effects. Freeing up the creative process was the theme.

Joan's exhibition 'Reflections on the Outback' was officially opened on Friday night, along with pottery created by Patrick Taylor. Mitchell's Maranoa Gallery is the venue displaying the work by these two talented artists.

My blog is also affected by my current health problems and this I regret; however, I will continue whenever possible because I have many loyal followers.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Doug's pride and joy: his 1940 Plymouth sedan

One of the side-benefits of owning and restoring an old car is the social aspect. Most men (and quite a few women too) can't resist the old girl, and will pour over her with great reverence and interest, discussing her body and mechanics, and using language which is often quite foreign to me.

It's the sort of project that's perfect for Doug, in that he can do small things whenever he has a few spare minutes, or more major work whenever extra time is available. And being outside or in his shed gives him the space that he needs.

The process of restoration is slow and steady -- but always enjoyable.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

A home that says, "Welcome".

No matter how humble the home, an opportunity exists to create an entrance that says, Welcome.

A collection of pots spilling with colourful blooms, a fleshy-leafed jade, a display of interesting succulents, a table and chairs -- -- -- -- these things suggest a place of open friendliness.

Both Doug and I love having people visit, but I have to admit I prefer people to leave before I start thinking, "I'm tired, I wish they would go."

As a visitor, the trick is to leave before your host starts thinking this way!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

A new library for Mitchell State School

With the recent demolition of an old building and construction of a new library about to begin, things are happening at Mitchell State School.

Part of the old bell-tower has been restored and now sits proudly at the front of the school. The building site for the new library lies behind the bell-tower. The plan is to make the library the true heart of the school -- an attractive space with a tempting selection of new books aimed at creating a love of books and reading, while at the same time generating the flow of new ideas and expanding horizons.

These children of the outback are resilient, eager to learn and have many unique talents. They deserve every chance in the world.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Ferals grow along the banks of the Maranoa River at Mitchell

The ancient meandering riverbed of the Maranoa is bordered by natives such as river red gums, acacias and white cedars, as well as feral plants -- good and bad.

The ferals are the result of flood waters that sweep down this mighty river, distributing weed species far and wide. Thistles and burrs are the most obvious and troublesome, with Noogoora burrs (as shown in the photo) one of the worst.

When a Noogoora burr presses its way between the pads of Major's foot, he stops immediately, holds his paw up and waits for me to pull out the offending barb. For people running sheep and cattle enterprises, thistles, burrs and other noxious weeds are a huge problem.

On the other hand, branches torn from fruit trees -- upstream -- sometimes lodge in the bank, there to mature into fruit-bearing trees. The mulberry tree by the bridge is an example, along with a peach tree (also shown in a photo) that grows on the riverbank near our home. This is the same tree that produced masses of pink blossom in August.

Unfortunately, fruit fly often spoils the fruit from the peach, but the mulberry is usually unblemished -- and delicious!

Palm tree fronds lighting up like a lantern

Next door to our home here in Mitchell, in outback Queensland, grows a tall palm tree. It towers above every other tree in the neighbourhood and as a result, is a distinct landmark.

By day, its fronds bask in the sunshine that falls so generously from a wide blue sky. By night, the full moon bathes its fronds in a silvery sheen.

When westerly winds whip across inland Australia, gathering their load of pollen and dust particles from the Channel Country, they arrive in Mitchell unwanted, unloved. Hayfever and other allergies escalate: the fronds of 'my' palm tree toss with anxiety -- but do not break.

What I love most of all, however, occurs at sunrise -- also sunset. 'My' palm tree captures the first and last rays of the sun, lighting up like a lantern -- welcoming the new day, and farewelling the last few moments of daylight.