Saturday, July 18, 2009

A certain resemblance??

Just got home and Jeannie dug around in the archives to find these pics. Does anyone else notice a certain similarity here? Or do all recently squashed babies look the same?

Two days after arrival, 1977.

Within a week of arrival.
And who's the chick with all the rich dark hair?

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Stop Press!! Tuesday, Tuesday

"I said it first", said Little Fuzzipeg.

Tuesday Martyn Tango etc has arrived!

All well, very thankful.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

A certain curtain (and Elna the Mighty)

Visitors to the shack will know that the wet weather drives straight into the side of the house, and that on more than one occasion water has got under the sliding doors, soaking the bottom of the long curtains there and staining them.

While I was away gallivanting with the science teachers diligent Jeannie set to work to replace the curtains. This is a big job, apparently, with much careful measuring, anxious cutting and endless modifications to cope with curtain rods that aren't quite horizontal. She completed the two big ones while I was away and looks set fair to finish the other two today, before we head home tomorrow.

The sewing room

The seamstress

New curtains in place
(And check out the weather!)

And I should put in a plug for Elna the Mighty, Jeannie's little sewing machine, which has done sterling work on this and so many other projects in its career of well over thirty years. It even went to Pakistan with Sue Morton, as well as being lugged all over the place by us. Statutory declaration: we receive no favours from the Elna company for this endorsement.

Elna the Mighty

CONASTA at Cradle Mountain

"Look at me posting!", said Piglet.

(And there's more to come.)

Part of the reason for the current visit to the shack was my involvement in an excursion for science teachers at Cradle Mountain. Their society is called CONASTA (you can work out the acronym for yourselves) and the conference proper had been in Launceston, but on Wednesday they came by bus (via Marakoopa Cave) to Cradle Mountain, where I met them at the Lodge.

Cradle Mountain Lodge

Cradle Mountain and Dove Lake

Cradle Mountain in July is a bit of a gamble, but in the event the weather was well nigh perfect. It had snowed the day before, but for our field day on Thursday it was bright and sunny, with almost no wind. In the morning we took them round Dove Lake, a six kilometre walk, but pretty flat, and everyone made it, including the person who had just had knee surgery, and they were all very pleased.

Intrepid leader and happy science teachers

After lunch I had to give a lecture, and given a) that they had had an energetic morning, b) that they had just had lunch and c) that the room was very warm, it's not surprising that a few eyelids drooped (nothing to do with the lecturer, of course, who incidentally was still wearing his thermal underwear and sweating like a ....). So it was a relief to get out again, to go and sample some freshwater invertebrates in Pencil Pine Creek, even though the water was very cold.

AMMR using a Surber sampler in Pencil Pine Creek
Water temperature: 3.6C!

On the first evening we all went up the road to "Devils @ Cradle", where there was a very good display of Tasmanian Devils, and their slightly smaller relatives, the spotted-tailed quoll. Everyone got to see (and hear) the devils' charming feeding habits.

Dinner time at the Devil park

Spotted-tailed Quolls are excellent climbers

The Lodge was comfortable, luxurious even, though the neatly stacked pile of firewood in my room was a little incongruous, given that the "wood fire" was actually a faux gas one!

My room at Cradle Mountain Lodge
The un-needed wood is in the corner by the chair.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Minor works (for some)

The thing about shacks is that there is always something to be done. Always the grass to be cut, but also those small maintenance jobs that are a breeze for some people (a pleasure, even), but that for me are a challenge.

The new deck goes over the downstairs door, and we needed to have some shelter there to make a dry doorstep and to keep the ready-use wood supply dry. The old deck had a sheet of cement board and so it seemed sensible to replace it. After some measuring and drawing we went into Stubbs Hardware in Wynyard and tried to convey to the man there what we were planning. That was surprisingly difficult until we produced a sketch, then he sold us two sheets of cement sheet, the necessary fixers and the strip to join them together. The first thing I discovered was that cement sheet is very heavy, and the second was that my measurements of the inside of the car were only just right. But with help from the shop man and with the driver's seat well forward, we got them home.

Threatening cement sheet, waiting to be fixed up

I had a restless night wondering how we were going to manage to hold those sheets up and fix them in place, but somewhere in the small hours I decided that the easiest thing would be to cut them in half. When we looked at the area again we decided that we didn't really need to protect quite so much, so one sheet was duly sawn in half, giving two pieces that we could just about manage. We also thought it important to have some slope on the sheet so that rainwater would drain away from the house and not soak into the deck joists. I was going to use stacks of washers between the sheet and the joists to achieve this (are you paying attention?), but how to get them in place, especially in the middle of the sheet? Jeannie had a brainwave: stick them together and them stick them to the sheet, over pre-drilled holes!

Jeannie's invention

Halfway there. It's hard, working above your head

And, mirabile dictu, it all worked! Another wrinkle was the outside light, which Craig the builder had moved from its old position, but it was quite easy to cut a hole for it in the sheet with the jigsaw. We still have a spare sheet which we can use to extend the protected area if we want.

Finished job

The hole for the light.
So professional.

And finally, a couple of shots of the old wood cutter and a critter from the woodpile. The four skinks that came out of another log had already made their escape.

The axeman of Morton Street

Slightly stunned log froggie

Beautiful evening too.

Sunday, July 5, 2009


Listeners who are listening will remember that we took part in the summer wader count, six months or so ago, involving a long walk to the end of Anthony's Beach near Stanley. Well this weekend was the less-desirable winter wader count and I was allocated to the other end of the same beach.

Anthony's Beach, looking west

Given her cold, the weather and the length of the walk, Jeannie declined the invitation, so I met up with another birdo and we had a pleasant enough day, even though we had to start a bit early (well, 7.45). Generally we expect far fewer birds in the winter, given that most of them have sensibly headed for Siberia and Alaska, but we do get one weird "lateral" winter migrant, the double-banded plover, which breeds in New Zealand and then flies across the Tasman to spend the winter with us (no doubt getting away from that endless Kiwi fixation with rugby). And we found a happy little band of 300 or so, which made the walk worthwhile.

But the walk was interesting for other things, and significantly shorter that walking the other way, so Jeannie was keen to do it too. I was happy to go again, so we went back again today and this is what we saw.

The beach was very flat and a recent storm has cut fiercely into the dunes. And huge drifts of tiny shells (a little mussel, I think) have been washed up, along with lots of other shells, and flotsam of all kinds (except, mercifully, plastic: we only saw two or three pieces on the whole beach).

Billions of little mussels

Gorgeous pheasant shell

An exotic clam

A sponge

A few months ago a pod of whales stranded not far away on Perkins Island, but the storm had re-floated several of these and their rancid remains were scattered along the beach. The carcasses were just blubber, but ribs, vertebrae and a couple of skulls were also lying about. I thought they were supposed to be sperm whales, but the skulls showed no signs of teeth. The Icelandic phrase for a happy chance event is "a stranded whale", but I think they must have found them at an earlier stage than the ones we saw today.

Better stand upwind
Whale skull

Whale vertebra

We pottered our way to the end of the beach, picking up specimen shells and then discarding them for a better one. It would have been well nigh perfect but for the @#$%! trail bikes and 4WDs that drive the length of the beach, apparently just because it's there. They managed to drive off the plovers just as we were getting close to them, but a few stayed to give Jeannie a look at their smart, but fading, breeding plumage.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

New Age of Heating

Now we are not having a baby, or walking the SW Coastal Path, but for want of something better to blog let me tell you about our new heaters! (And yes, I know, you guys up there in the northern half of the planet are all sweltering, but down here it's cold, trust me). For the best part of 35 years we have relied on a couple of massive Hobart-built, off-peak storage heaters to keep the winter cold away. The one in the family room is strategically placed and many bottom-hours have been accumulated on it. Jean well remembers how Jo and Hugh would spend time perched on it, de-briefing after school. And it is still the natural place for me to park when I come in.
The old heater in the family room

Not quite bum prints, but you can see where they slid on and off!

But storage heaters, of their nature, are slow to heat up and slow to cool down, and that does not suit our changeable climate well. What's more the one in the corridor gave up the ghost with a flash of flame recently, which set me thinking about the fluff that must have accumulated inside and the fire hazard that it might pose. So after a little research we decided to get some programmable panel heaters installed instead.

The electrician worked hard all day yesterday and completed the installation a bit after dark, and to my pleasant surprise you don't need an IT degree to work the programmer. So now we just need to work out when the heat is best applied, and how much. Used strategically I hope they will be more efficient and even a bit cheaper that the old storage heaters.

Old and New
The old heater weighs a ton and has to be dismantled to move it.

New heater in corridor: so much room!

Smaller heater in front room.
Not programmable, this one, Just for a quick boost.

There. Wasn't that interesting?