Sunday, 25 November 2012

Thankful Thoughts

During this Thanksgiving week, I'm feeling especially thankful for the dry sclerophyll open forest that we get to walk through each day and for the physical ability to make those walks. Our canine companion encourages us.

Walking the dog in dry sclerophyll forest
Something has eaten almost all the leaves of our orchid collection growing on stones at ground level in front of the house. No blossoms from those orchids this year. I just hope they survive. Plans are afoot to transplant them into hanging pots.

Nature provided a welcome surprise during our daily walk. Eagle-eyed Jerry noticed this native orchid in bloom, maybe twenty feet up in an ironbark gumtree. Amazing abundance in a harsh environment and canny enough to avoid ground level.

Queensland native orchid in ironbark gumtree
A neighbour who raises chickens (and other birds) stopped by to give us fresh eggs. Why, Thanks! She doesn't engage in craftwork, so I gave her a couple of my hand-knitted dishcloths. The yolks of the eggs are incredibly yellow, in comparison to the eggs from the supermarket. We made a batch of yummy deviled eggs. They didn't last long... but we do know where the chickens live.... 

Over the past week we had almost daily thunderstorms along with a smattering of rain. We appreciate any rain at all as it has been very dry. We unplug the computer and the landline phone during thunderstorms and that unsettles us. Thunder also makes the dog very nervous. We can avoid sedating her if we stick to a routine but that curtails our own activities and results in not much else getting done. We figure it's worth the effort and we're thankful that it works.

Lemon scented gumtree reaching for rain
Each afternoon our eyes turn skyward in search of clouds and we take note of wind direction. I examine online weather forecasts. I feel more than ready for the end of the Dry Season... and I'd be grateful for more rain than thunder, thanks.

Post by M in JaM
Photos by J in JaM

Sunday, 18 November 2012

Total Solar Eclipse: 14 November 2012

Total Solar Eclipse on 14 November 2012

We live just outside the track for solar eclipse totality that occurred this past week. Neither of us had ever seen a total solar eclipse. We decided that we couldn't let the chance of a lifetime slip past. In the weeks leading up to the eclipse, we kept our eyes out for a possible viewing spot within the track of totality and also within reasonable driving distance from our home. We spotted a farmer's paddock on the other side of the Atherton Tablelands. There was a bit of room between the highway and the paddock suitable for parking and providing a clear view to the southeast. Totality for the location would occur around 6:40 a.m.

As the day of the eclipse grew nearer, a gloomy weatherman began predicting cloudy days and warned that our region might miss out on seeing the eclipse. Warnings in the media about traffic congestion and delays increased as massive numbers of visitors began arriving in the region. More people began to consider driving further inland where clear skies were more assured. But inland roads and facilities are very limited. 

We heard that one station owner got a phone call asking if he would be willing to accommodate some Japanese tourists who were arriving in Australia for the event and leaving the day after. The property owner liked the idea of earning some easy money and said, sure, how many? “3000.” Oh, said the property owner, well, I do have five tents....

We rose before dawn on the day of the eclipse. It was cloudy. We drove toward our selected spot as the day began to get light. We encountered light sprinkles of rain which increased by the time we reached the halfway point in our journey. Traffic also increased. We got delayed by roadworks. In spite of growing uncertainty, we pressed on.

Fortune favoured us. The clouds cleared by the time we reached the farmer's paddock where another four or five cars were already parked, including one belonging to a friend. People stood wearing special glasses as they gazed toward the sun.

We hadn't found any of the special glasses to buy at local stores. To protect our eyes, Jerry had prepared a pinhole projector for viewing the eclipse. He cut a hole in large piece of cardboard and taped aluminium foil across the hole. Using a needle, he punched a small, smooth hole in the aluminium foil. The image of the growing eclipse was projected and focused onto a sheet of white paper fastened to a clipboard leaning against the wheel of the car. Not exactly elegant, but it worked perfectly.

He was arranging the set-up when another car pulled in beside us and a young woman's three sons hopped out as she tended to extracting an infant. They didn't have special eclipse glasses either. The boys clustered about Jerry as he pointed out the projected eclipse image and explained the set-up. Science in action. The five year old grew excited and said he had a piece of white paper and a clipboard in the car. He ran to get it. When he returned, Jerry solemnly put the boy's paper and clipboard in position in front of ours. The boys crouched beside the clipboard and watched the image of the slowly changing eclipse. Ownership does give learning an edge.

As soon as the eclipse was total, we all turned around and looked at the eclipsed sun. Words fail. I felt completely gob-smacked. I felt joyous, like I was witnessing a birth. What a privilege to witness such an event.

The twin grandsons, now two years old and living on the coast, likewise got a terrific view of the totality. When it ended, they demanded, “More!”

From the mouths of babes....

Post by M in JaM
Photo by J in JaM

Monday, 12 November 2012

Happy As Larry

Content Codger here and now: Jerry opted for a quiet birthday celebration this year, rising at dawn as usual, spending the day at home periodically relaxing in his new rocker, getting served cappuccino with homemade Anzac bisquits, finalising and sending file to Guy who immediately used his MakerBot to generate the ABS plastic shell for the new and improved LED clock – AND - ending the day with a glass of Australian wine.

The sun continues to shift southwards. This week we get to see the total eclipse of the sun, weather permitting. The sun's current position allows it to illuminate the Chinese holiday mobile that's been hanging in front of this window of our home since last Christmas. I love the way coloured light gets thrown around the room as the gentlest air currents make the mobile move.

Common Green Treefrog
I trust the common green treefrog knows something about the weather. We could use some rain. Everything is very dry. The frog lives in the shower/laundry area, spending the days hidden in a partially open pipe where the washing machine drains. Pipes make great amplifiers for frog calls. Lately, we've been finding him perched on the top rail of the gate that we close each night in order to keep the neighbour's goats out of the shower and shed proper. Twice the wandering mama goat and her two kids appeared and insisted on moving right into the house, but the upset dog drew the line despite being no match at all for mama goat.

3 ply handspun; 30% baby alpaca, 55% superfine merino, 15% silk
blended roving ("Sandstone") from Freelance Fibres
I wanted a break from spinning white cotton. Also wanting yarn to knit another pair of fingerless gloves, I dug through my fibre stash and found the last of a blended roving of alpaca, superfine merino and silk, surely enough for my plan. Listening to an audio book, I settled at my Ashford Traditional wheel whenever I had a chance and it didn't seem to take long to spin three singles over the next few days. I placed the three bobbins on my Lazy Kate and began plying. Soon I had created my first 3 ply yarn (not counting “Navajo-ply” which creates a 3 ply out of one single). I like the look and texture of the final yarn. The alpaca adds warmth, the silk adds shine, the merino I can't resist... and I had the chance to try something new.

Make that Two Content Codgers.

Post by M in JaM
Photos by J in JaM

Sunday, 4 November 2012

It's That Time of Year

The native sandpaper figs are fruiting.

Someone has mowed around the schoolbus stop, a facility built by local residents for their children. Mowing reduces fire hazards and accidental snake encounters.

School bus stop
Last week, in the evening of the same day as my close encounter with a huntsman spider, Jerry discovered what he thought was a small python slithering along the shelves above his computer. Both of us admire pythons though I wouldn't be comfortable with a big one on the loose in the house. When I took a torch to have a closer look at the snake, we realised it wasn't a python. It was a night tiger... and a ready biter. The night tiger didn't like the spot light and retreated behind a small box. As the evening went on, Jerry periodically located the snake which always moved away from the light of the torch, thus he slowly wrangled the snake along the open shelves around the perimeter of the room and toward the kitchen door. Finally reaching the frame of the open door, the snake hesitated. Jerry gave an encouraging vigorous shove with a soft pushbroom. The snake climbed on board the broom bristles. Luckily, it didn't race up the broom handle, but waited until offered escape into a nearby shrub.

We had another unexpected encounter as well. Having finished our shopping day in town, we headed home, then stopped along the way at a little roadside park with a stream running through it. Two ducks were swimming on the small pond. We parked under a gorgeous paperbark gumtree and unpacked a thermos of coffee to fortify us for the drive ahead. Sipping from our cups, we scanned the park and noted a number of other people had similar ideas to us. Suddenly, Jerry exclaimed, “That's an echidna!”

Can you see the claw on the back foot?
In the 25 years I've been living here, I had never encountered an echidna in the wild... or in a little roadside park with people strolling here and there. This solitary echidna busily dug in the ground, maybe 50 feet away from us, totally unconcerned about the presence of people. Jerry grabbed the camera and began taking photos. He got quite close to the echidna... who continued digging for ants, termites or something edible. Sometimes you get lucky.

Did you know that an echidna baby is called a puggle? Have a look at an echidna puggle at Taronga Zoo.

Post by M in JaM
Photos by J in JaM