Wednesday, November 28, 2012

"It's a wolf"; new bridge; acid beetle bite; Mitchell QLD

The construction of the new bridge over the Maranoa River continues.  This past week has seen the arrival of more big machinery, the building of a dirt road across the river (with nine pipes through which to direct the water) and a series of office buildings.  Every evening Major and I note the changes.

On arrival at the bridge yesterday evening, I heard a group of young girls splashing about in the river.  I waited until they'd finished their swim before making my way down the steep sandy bank.  

Looking up, one of the girls screamed and then called out, "It's a wolf!"

I assured her that Major was not a wolf, that he was on a lead and he was very friendly.  Whereupon the girls were all over him, hugging and stroking.

For 10 minutes or so the girls threw sticks into the river for Major to retrieve.  Before they left, two of the girls gave me a demo of the song and dance they will be performing tonight at their school breakup presentation night.  Then, with bright smiling faces they headed up the steep bank and home.

After Major unsuccessfully tried to pull a very large log out of the river, we did likewise.

I love this river, the mighty Maranoa.

On another subject, we have a pair of Willie wagtails nesting in a tree in our front garden.  Their eggs have hatched so now is a busy time.  It's estimated that a mouthful of food passed from a Willie wagtail to its chick contains around 300 insects.  What an extraordinary contribution these birds make towards keeping insect numbers in check.

Currently I have an acid beetle bite on the inside of my elbow.  Unfortunately it's become badly infected, requiring antibiotic treatment.  I hope our Willie wagtails are gobbling up all the acid beetles living in and around our house!

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Culture in Outback Queensland; new bridge: woody pear

On Saturday morning Doug and I met four friends at the Mitchell on Maranoa Gallery and then spent a very pleasant hour looking at an exhibition of excellent photographs and stories created by local woman Jennie Bucknall.

With the theme 'Women of the Land', most of the photos include local rural women immersed in many and varied activities -- some pleasant, some not!  Recognising familiar faces and talking about the various incidents captured on camera made for a stimulating conversation, and later, coffee at Krystal's 'Lemon Pie' cafe rounded off the morning to perfection.

On my walk along the river with Major and two young friends Ben and Locky, I discovered evidence -- in the form of a dump of steel and heavy machinery -- that the new bridge over the Maranoa River is about to begin construction.  This bridge was damaged in the February 2012 floods and and is the only road bridge that crosses the Maranoa River on the Warrego Highway; a vital highway linking Brisbane and the east coast of Australia to Mount Isa and Darwin in the Northern Territory.

Unfortunately, we're going to lose the colourful murals painted on the pylons of the old bridge.  Also, the mulberry tree and some of the magnificent river red gums that grow along the bank.  A couple of bottle trees are also in the path of the new bridge, however, I hope these will be dug up and relocated.

On the way back from the bridge, Ben and Locky had fun on the Musical Stock Grid -- as shown in the photo.

This week's botanical art project is to paint a group of woody pear seed pods.  My challenge is to achieve the lovely rounded shape, and also to reproduce the varying shades of greys and browns.  Gradually I'm becoming more confident in using a brush and watercolour paints rather than watercolour pencils, and I believe the final product looks better too.  Add to that the fact that the process is more enjoyable.  So it's all good!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Nature in a rush: new novel begun: woody pear

After a day of softly falling rain and a burst of heat (around 35°C most days) spring is progressing at a galloping pace.  You get the impression that Nature thinks there's not a moment to lose with flowers turning into seeds, grasses coming to a head and every night, hundreds of flying foxes arriving in Mitchell to feast on the last of the cadaghi (Corymbia torelliana) blossoms.

My regular evening walk along the river with Major is one of the highlights of my day.  Time out to plan the novel I've just begun -- set on King Island where we used to live and own a sheep property -- time out to dream.

Meanwhile our showy tipuana (Pride of Bolivia, Tipu Tree) is in full golden flower.  The slightest breeze causes a shower of brilliant orange yellow blossoms to fall from the tree to the ground.  Raining gold. Large winged seeds follow the flowers. This deciduous tree grows fast, gives excellent shade and provides a pleasant outlook from our kitchen window.

My next botanical art challenge is to use watercolour to paint woody pear seed pods.  My transition from using watercolour pencils to watercolour paint and brushes is progressing slowly but surely. From circles, to apples, to woody pear seed pods -- that's the plan.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Dance Concert, cadaghi blossoms and frogs

The WOW Dance group of Mitchell provided last Saturday night's entertainment in the Memorial Hall.   The dancers included young children, teenagers and adults  --  all locals, many of whom we know.  

It was fun dancing wrapped around the story of Cinderella, following the traditional tale, but with a local twist. There was plenty of 'good feel' humour, popular classical music, colourful costumes and smiling faces. In addition, Mitchell's adult Line Dancers put on two performances, to enthusiastic applause.  It was a good night and well attended; a credit to the performers, their teachers and  many supporters. Unfortunately I forgot to take my camera.

Early November is the peak of blossom time in Mitchell.  Consequently, honey-eaters and flying foxes are here in large numbers, chattering and squabbling in the treetops over the choicest nectar.  These 'blossom nomads' are always welcome in our garden and along the banks of the Maranoa River.  

At present, cadaghi's (Corymbia torelliana) are the main focus of their attention, with their large cream blossoms.  Although not native to this part of Queensland (they belong in tropical coastal Queensland) cadaghi's do very well in Mitchell, surviving droughts and floods with equal ease.  Some people criticise them as they tend to drop branches and leaves; however, I think they are a pleasing addition to the bottle trees that line our streets.

The cadaghi  growing alongside our back verandah is literally humming with bees and beetles; fluttering with butterflies; and  alive (by day) with parrots (including red-winged parrots) and honey-eaters (including Friar birds); and by night, with squabbling chattering flying foxes.  It's a large tree so the activity in and around it has been and still is, a source of great interest.

Three days ago, as I lifted the lid of the toilet, my eyes fell on the glistening, pulsing body of a green tree frog.  This is the first green tree frog to visit our toilet since we moved here in July.  After taking his photo I carried him out into the garden and released him in lush shrubbery.  It will be interesting to see if he returns to live in the toilet!

Our cannas are flowering.  Without knowledge of this garden or cannas, we didn't know what colours the flowers would be. Therefore, it's been exciting to discover the colours. So far we have  pure yellow, pure orange, and a mix of orange and yellow.  Together with their foliage, they make a colourful display.