Monday, December 20, 2010

While shepherds washed.....

Our neighbour Jo has been troubled for some time with water under her house, to the extent that her backyard has become a swamp. After some time, and an attempt to shift the blame to her downpipes, Southern Water turned up this afternoon to deal with it (and in a typically Tasmanian way the guy in charge was the brother of Jo's ex-housemate).

The water main runs along the edge of the footpath, just in our gardens and to Marty's intense delight an orange digger came to expose it. In truth it was only a baby digger, but it was impressive enough to Marty, and when he was invited to sit in the driver's seat..... well!

What Marty wants to do when he grows up

At the bottom of a deep hole they struck water and traced it back to a leak that was actually in the neighbour's garden (not ours, thankfully, since when they are on the hunt for a leak they just keep going, garden or no garden).

There goes the front garden

The water had to pumped out into the gutter and Marty (who likes a good drain) enjoyed watching it disappear through the grating. Later they had to flush the pipes and Marty got happily wet in what was now Wombara Rivulet, rather reminiscent of the streets of Truro.


What an exciting afternoon!

And a Merry Christmas to all our readers.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Rejuvenated Shack

Our little shack has been looking weary and unloved for quite a while (it's over a year since Hugh helped me to replace the rotten weatherboards on the windward side), but in the last few weeks great leaps forward have been made.

The flashings around the roof have all been covered in metal, thus rendering them weatherproof for ever, effectively. The walls have all been painted and new doors upstairs and down are being fabricated from uPVC as I write. We hope to have them fitted in a month or less. And that will pretty much complete what needs to be done outside for quite a while.

Incidentally, the pics below are a little misleading; they were taken in a brief window of sunshine that has since closed again. At least it's not raining now, but the gale is now blowing from the north west instead of the north east.

Brilliant new shack.
Window frames and old chimney piece now white.

New Fuchsia bed on the eastern side.
The brick blue is not quite as blue as this appears.

Shack from below.
The brick blue is less intense in the shadow of the deck.

Shack from west.
So tidy!

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Retrospective Miscellany

How's that for a blog title?

What it means, of course, is that I haven't posted for a while and I'm cobbling together something to make amends. There are two themes: food, and the shack at Boat Harbour.

While the Cuisine de Jeannie may not be as exotic as some to which this blog is linked, she does do some Very Good Things. For a long time I have carried the memory of a steak and kidney pudding (and yes, that's pudding, not pie) that she once made, and she was recently persuaded to do it again. Oh so good, and my excuse to the Heart Foundation is that we don't eat like that very often. Steak and kidney pudding may well be what robust Australian Shiraz was designed for in heaven: the perfect accompaniment.

Jeannie's steak & kidney pud.
Seriously luscious.

Once upon a time I had to use my wiles to persuade innocent students to come on field trips and spend a day digging up burrowing crayfish in the rain. It was generally hard to get anyone to come twice, but one factor that greatly increased the chance was to offer a slice of Jean's egg and bacon layered pie. Seen here in its "just out of the oven" mode, it is perhaps even better cold the next day.

Egg & bacon layered pie.

So much for food. I write this from Boat Harbour, where the rain is pouring down on our trim, re-painted and refurbished shack. More of this in a later post, but our two previous trips involved care and maintenance, and a little respite for Jo and Marty Roo while Jac was away in the US.

We hired a 4 cubic metre skip and spent a couple of days dealing with the excess vegetation (including the kiwi fruit on the bottom fence which had been trimmed, without invitation, by a neighbour). While I did the heavy lifting, Jean did a wonderful job trimming the debris into small lengths to maximise the carrying capacity of the skip. The guy who collected was so impressed he said he was going to take it back to the depot to show them what could be achieved with care.

The shed with associated debris.
The shed was almost invisible under the jasmine & kiwi fruit.

Jeannie's skip.
Not much spare space in there.

Jo and Marty came up at tulip time, and the little fellow generally had a great time, apart from being mown down by an errant toddler, thus collecting a mouthful of rich basalt soil and a graze on the cheek.

Tulip fields forever?
Table Cape, just west of Wynyard.

Off to see the tulips.
Marty, Jeannie and Jo.

This is fun!

Well, fun most of the time.
Slightly scarred Roo.

But generally, life's good.
In the laundry basket in Granma & Papa's bedroom.

Friday, August 27, 2010

A day in the life

I've had a few requests for more "every day" business on this blog, and particularly some information on Grandsons 1 and 2, Angus and George, so I thought I'd tell you about our recent Thursdays.

Hugh teaches on Thursday and Friday, and for the last eight weeks or so Jess has had work placements at rural health centres, so Budda and Granma have been looking after the boys on a Thursday (Jess's Mum, Kym, aka "Bamma", has them on Friday). It's easiest for the boys to be at home, so we go to their place in time to see Jess off and stay at least until Hugh and Jess get home, and usually for dinner.

Georgie Jacket has a midday sleep, but Angus is on the go pretty much all day, so we get a good work out, especially since a lot of the activity is at ground level. Toy cars figure largely in indoor activities; Angus has a rug in his bedroom with printed roads and buildings and he and I spend a lot of time running bus services and repairing the roads. Georgie J is learning fast and although he wails if Angus shuts him out of our bedroom play, he will occupy himself with the cars quite happily for ages. And I have to say that Angus is very good at sharing the toys, at least when he hasn't got something special planned with Budda.

Georgie Jacket

Georgie absorbed with his toys.

An undemanding little fellow.

Jeannie introduced Angus to Plasticene and it has become another favourite play, stretching my creative talents to the limits.

Late winter in Tasmania doesn't encourage a lot of outside play, but there are the chickens to be fed and checked for eggs, and when it's dry Angus has a garden bed where he can do some earth moving. Small boy's energy can be worked off on the trampoline and there's a nice walk down the creek to its little estuary and finally a small beach on North West Bay.

From Hugh and Jess's back step, looking across the yard to Snug Primary School.

The Girls, as Jeannie calls them.
One of the white ones has become an escapologist.

Angus, earthmoving.
The folded towel is for Budda's knees.

Angus, preparing for his career in the circus.

Pretty good on the trampoline, too.

Jeannie and Angus.
With other houses going up all around, there's always something to watch out of the window.

So we have a happy day; Angus always has things he wants to do and Georgie Jacket is so good-natured and obliging.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

The Katy Trail

In my last couple of days in Missouri I hired a car and drove not very far from Columbia to Rocheport, a quaint little town on the Big Muddy, but also one of the access points to the Katy Trail.

The Missouri River, or Big Muddy, at Rocheport.

Church at Rocheport.
(What's happened to my verticals?)

House at Rocheport.

Way back in the 1800s the Missouri, Kansas and Texas Railway (=MKT, hence Katy, geddit?) ran from St Louis down into Texas, but in the second half of the Twentieth century it gradually lost steam, and the last freight train ran along it in the 1980s. But thanks to a local visionary and philanthropist, Ted Jones, the State of Missouri was able to buy up the track bed, and turn it into a bike trail and State park, one of the longest rail-trails in the US.

At Rocheport I was able to hire a bike and pedal off, binoculars round my neck, balancing the muscular effort against the cooling breeze. On the first day I went north to New Franklin, and one the second the other way to a bit beyond MacBaine.

Bridge on the Katy Trail.

The northern trip ran alongside wetlands at first, then through rather uninspiring corn fields, though there were always things to see. I almost ran over a little colourful snake, and a deer watched me approaching for a long while, apparently unable to work out what the strange creature was until I was just 30 m or so away. When I reached New Franklin I met the only other cyclist I saw all day. Perhaps this was because of the weather, since by now the clouds were building up and thunder was rolling around. As I cycled back one storm was moving ahead of my and another coming up behind, but they never got closer than a couple of miles, which was probably just as well on some of the exposed stretches of trail.

These flowers are common.
Hummingbirds like them.

Tunnel just north of Rocheport.
The only one on the Katy Trail.

The next day's southward run was more interesting as it was almost all right beside the river, under high limestone bluffs. Lewis and Clark passed this way in 1804 and noted "verry fine" indian pictographs on the cliffs made from pigments and inlaid mussel shells. Sadly the MKT engineers blasted alomost all of them away to form the railway, but a tiny fragment remains at one point. The weather was better today and many more people were out cycling. The Katy Trail is a major tourist attraction, and people cycle the while 300+ km.

Limestone bluffs along the trail.

Fragment of Indian pictograph.
The originals must have been spectacular.

MKT explosives store under the bluff.
That's what happened to the pictographs.

Burr Oak near the trail.
Included because it was the only place where I fell off!

The whole visit to Missouri went very well, and it was good to get to know another small part of the US, and one quite different from Texas.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Visiting the Ozarks

I'm sure the Ozark Mountains have many claims to fame, but perhaps their crayfish fauna is not the one that immediately springs to mind. For most people, that is..... I, on the other hand, saw a conference presentation about them many years ago and vowed that I'd get to visit them one day, and that ambition has been achieved, thanks to Bob DiStefano, the guy who gave that conference talk.

Following the crayfish conference in Columbia, twelve of us went off on a two day tour of the Ozarks, visiting some nice little creeks, seeing lots of crayfish (and fish, and frogs, and turtles, and even some snakes) and having a day-long "float"in canoes down a wild river.

Fourche Renault Creek.
Water temperature? Well over 25°C.

Lots of crayfish.

Fish too.
This is a bullhead.

We left Columbia very early in a small convoy and drove south for a couple of hours, then made a series of stops in crayfish creeks, and in the little town of Arcadia for lunch at Aunt Mary's, where I had a catfish sandwich.

Aunt Mary's, Arcadia.
Run by an Italian lady.

Lunch at Aunt Mary's.

The last stop was to walk down through oak and hickory woodland to a very large spring, gushing out from the limestone. But underground water runs more or less at the annual average temperature, in this case about 12°C, very much colder than the streams we had been wading in all day. Hardier souls than I went swimming; I just paddled.

Greer Spring.
Fast and cold.

Young people don't feel the cold.

Now you see him, now you don't!

We spent the night in a roadside motel that advertised clean rooms and waffles. We had to sign a declaration that we would not keep pets in our rooms.

The Honeysuckle Motel, Mountain View, Mo.

My waffle for breakfast.
Made it myself!

This was next door to the motel.
What could it be?

Where vending machines go to die.

The following day we took the canoes to the Jack Fork River and descended, two to a canoe. Once we had mastered the steering the rest of the day was idyllic: perfect weather, and warm clear water in which we could see fish, turtles etc. The river is shallow and without any serious rapids; in fact in one of two places we had to get out and haul the canoe over shallows. We stopped regularly to catch crayfish, swim and to visit a large cave in the bluff along the river.

Jack Fork River.
Canoes to go.

Jack Fork River.
Idyllic cruising.

Gently down the stream.

That's how they catch crayfish in Missouri.

Cave on the Jack Fork.

Strange, pale cave creature.

We were on the river for 6-7 hours, and in that time saw just one other party on the river bank. This is in sharp contrast to several other rivers in the area, where "outfitters" rent canoes and run fleets of yellow school buses to pick people up from downstream. In these places a cooler for the beer is apparently and essential part of the equipment.

The Jack Fork supports many different fish species.