Tuesday, 27 December 2011

Season's Greetings

Busy as a Leaf Cutter Bee

Holiday preparations, enjoyment of Christmas Day and now recovery conspire with thunderstorms to keep us offline at present. We had a wonderful Christmas. We trust your holidays are special as well. Happy New Year.

Resolve to keep happy and your joy and you shall form an invincible host against difficulties.
--Helen Keller

photos by J in JaM

Sunday, 18 December 2011

Goanna (aka Lace Monitor)

Goanna ornamenting our tree

We live in topical highlands where heat and humidity are less oppressive than on the tropical coast. I am a wimp when it comes to either high heat and humidity or very low temperatures. Like Goldilocks, I feel best when things are Just Right.

Each morning of summer, we throw open doors and windows to capture as much early morning cool as possible. As the day warms, we close up the house to retain that coolness. Fans stir the air as the coolness disappears. At the end of the day, when the temperature drops and darkness takes over, we feel torn between opening the house for cooler air and keeping the house closed against the multitude of insects attracted to any lights. We've switched to yellow lights for the summer but even those attract some insects.

Since we took the dog off her diet of mince laced with sulfites, she isn't reacting as frantically to thunderstorms. We've developed additional strategies to deal with her nervousness. She calms down a bit if we attach her lead to her collar and turn on classical ABC radio. She settles then at our feet. I usually settle down to knit or spin while keeping her company. J settles to ponder, pencil in hand, over his clipboard notes related to his online AI class or his latest project.

Recently, the three of us took up this familiar routine. Settling in. After a bit I stood up to go to the Shed for something. No worries. J and dog not disturbed. I opened the kitchen door, pausing as usual to scan the path for snakes before stepping outside. A large goanna paused in mid-stride only a few feet away, as surprised as I was. Big goanna! I yelped. The dog picked up on my tone and began barking madly. Goanna (3 feet long and 20 pounds) bolted for nearby tree (trunk 12" in diameter) and went up it in a flash.

An ancient war exists between dogs and reptiles, similar to the one between dogs and donkeys. Donkeys can hold their own, but I'm afraid roaming dogs give goannas grief. We don't see many large goannas. J restrained our dog and handed her over to me as he grabbed the camera.

The goanna looked safe up the tree. Then the birds noticed him. That's another ancient war.

Our friends upriver had goannas regularly dropping by their kitchen area for meat scraps (photo taken in December 2009). Look closely to see a hungry young goanna at the far edge of the step:

Hand feeding goannas is not recommended. Unlike your domesticated dog, the goanna doesn't distinguish between your thumb and a meat scrap. 

Another view of the young goanna at Goanna Tree Junction
What a treat in the lead up to Christmas - getting to see a large adult goanna up close... and feeling glad to know they continue to live in our area. Makes the world feel Just Right.

Respect the Claw!
photos by J in JaM
post and image editing by M in JaM

Monday, 12 December 2011

Silly Season

Poinciana provides colours of the season
The Silly Season has arrived. That means I've developed an anxious, hectic feeling of too much to do (such silly high expectations) while too hot and limp to do anything about it. As my Mom would put it: stewing in your own juices. My solution has two parts:

  1. Get up REALLY early, while it's cool and before the brain goes soggy. 
  2. Accept the rapid rate at which items are falling off my priority list. 
Tropical Priority Lists??? I think I may need A Cup of Tea, a Bex and A Good Lie Down.

Our bedroom lies a short distance from the house. There's no electricity in the bedroom. We use torches (flashlights) to light our way to bed and to avoid accidentally stepping on any snakes that might be out in this warm weather.

Recently, we've begun encountering a frogmouth. We, in the process of retiring, frogmouth in the process of hunting and perched at about our head height in a small tree. Last night, a small tail hanging from her beak, the frogmouth froze, crouched on the ground beside our track. Ah, diligent hunter and careless geckoe. We paused and restrained our old dog, who didn't show any actual interest, until frogmouth flew to safety.

Though not a true owl, frogmouths enchant me. Observe how cleverly she turns into a broken, dead branch during the day. Masterful camouflage.

Frogmouth in daytime
We didn't see the total lunar eclipse. Instead we had thunder, lightning and overcast skies, until it finally rained during the night, obscuring the eclipse. The good news: the roof didn't leak. Looks like the recent fix did the job. Yay! Now... I can't resist... what else is on that list.......

photos by J in JaM
post and photo editing by M in JaM

Monday, 5 December 2011


Gum trees shed bark this time of year. As the bark gradually peels away and drops onto the ground, the smooth trunk changes colour on exposure to the sunlight. I love the way the colours blend, subtle and magical.

You know it's summer when the brain starts to go limp and soggy with sweat by 9 a.m. We lie down and endure the hottest part of the day, like the roos who settle in patches of mottled shade in the open eucalypt forest.

Chores get done in the cool of morning, otherwise, forget it. By midmorning I retreat to the darkest and coolest part of the house. Lately, I sit at the computer there, working on graphics. When it gets too hot for even that, I lie on a mat on the cool concrete floor, turn on a fan and read or nap. I sometimes attempt a little knitting, small projects that don't hang down onto my lap. And sometimes I spin cotton or silk on a supported spindle. But, limp brain syndrome really doesn't want to know about Craft Goals. Limp brain can't be bothered. It only wants to know: When is it going to cool down? When is it going to rain?

During the dry, hot days, a xanthorrhoea bloomed and butterflies appeared.

A hungry grasshopper also showed up.

In Australia, December 1st marks the First Day of Summer. We finally got summer rain, hurrah, accompanied by thunder and lightning. The heady smell of lemon scented gums permeated the damp air this morning and the blossoms of a native orchid opened. Frog eggs float on the surface of billabongs along Moon Creek. The harsh, dry conditions have eased and lifeforms respond, even me.

Cooktown orchid

It's only the start of summer, so we expect more hot days. We remind ourselves that it's ok to slow down (and stay hydrated), during a holiday season, though it goes against the grain of someone born in the Northern Hemisphere. Now, would someone remind me to celebrate Christmas in June next year? That's such a brilliant idea. When it's Winter in the Southern Hemisphere.... that's when my brain feels most sprightly and I have the most energy. Oh, right, the main drawback? I am not the only Centre of the Universe.

post by M in JaM
pix by J in JaM, pix edited by M