Sunday, November 10, 2019

What Happened in 1946?

In the World
War Crimes Tribunal held in Nuremberg and War Crimes Trials held in Tokyo.
Bikinis go on sale on July 5th in Paris.
The USA starts Atomic Tests on Bikini Atoll.
Tupperware is introduced to U.S. consumers.
London Heathrow airport opens fully for civilian traffic
Former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill gives his famous "Iron Curtain" speech while visiting the United States.
Microwave Oven invented.
Britain announces it’s granting India’s wish for independence.

First successful motor scooter The Vespa produced.
Movies It’s a Wonderful Life and The Best Years of Our Lives released.
Robert Penn Warren’s All the King's Men, Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited and Benjamin Spock’s childcare classic published.
Thomas the Tank Engine first published.
Dolly Rebecca Parton, country singer, was born in Sevierville, Tennessee.

Donald Trump was born in NYC.
Bill Clinton was born as William J. Blythe III in Hope, Arkansas.
The beginning of the Baby Boomers generation.
In Australia 
Government introduces the major post-war immigration scheme while maintaining the so called White Australia Policy. This discriminative policy was progressively dismantled from 1949.
Today, Australia has the world's eighth largest immigrant population, with immigrants accounting for 29% of the population, a higher proportion than in any other nation with a population of over 10 million.

World champion racing driver, Alan Jones, born.
Government forms domestic airline TAA in competition with the private ANA. The former was eventually absorbed by QANTAS, the latter taken over by another privateer, Ansett which eventually went to the wall in 2002 (taking all my FF points with it).
New Zealand defeats Australia 2-0 in a Rugby Union test series (nothing changes much!).

The UN grants Australia trusteeship of the Territory of New Guinea and Territory of Papua.
I was born 10th November around 11pm by caesarean section at St. Andrews Hospital in Melbourne.

Thursday, October 24, 2019

The Drought Continues 2

You’ve probably read a lot about El Niño and the Southern Oscillation Index and its affect on Australian weather patterns.
Now read about new research on the Indian Ocean Dipole which is also having its affect.

Saturday, October 19, 2019

Highway Realignment / Wildlife Protection.

Back in July 2016 I wrote about the new highway realignment near us and how facilities to protect the wild life were put in place.
We have just received notice that government road people will monitor the success of their program over three weeks at the end of this month.
One of the species initially identified as a potential ‘resident’ was the Yellow-bellied Glider. They installed high crossing structures over the highway to help them negotiate it safely.
But now they want to confirm their presence. This animal is a nocturnal marsupial gliding possum that lives in the native eucalyptus forests of eastern Australia.
A ‘Song Meter’ survey will be carried out. This will include two tests that broadcast recorded Glider calls using a megaphone to elicit responses. It has a distinctive growling call that it uses as a means of communication. It has been recorded to have been heard up to 500m away.
We have been ‘warned’ that we may hear bird like sounds between 7pm and 10pm some nights.
There will also be abnormal activity in the area surrounding the highway as the team carries out their work.
Great they are following up.

Saturday, October 12, 2019

Cattle Yard Repairs

The previous owner had installed a considerable cattle handling facility on our property (it was much bigger when he owned it) that included yards, stalls, a crush and a loading race and ramp.
He also had a timber mill on site so the posts and rails used in construction were high quality eucalyptus hardwood.
But over the years some parts deteriorated due to rot and others to termite attack.
We replaced rails with commercial hardwood ones and posts cut from our own trees. The heavier duty posts were supplied by our firewood man, Laurey. Unfortunately (for us) he recently retired meaning a reasonable supply line has dried up.

Over the last few years, the yard deterioration accelerated and a major overhaul became necessary.
When I priced the hardwood rails and posts, I suffered a severe case of sticker shock.
It’s not that we will use the yards to any great extent as our cows are here to stay but it’s good to have them in reasonable condition.
So after some discussion with more experienced cattle men, it was decided that we could go with the significantly cheaper heavy duty H4 CCA treated pine posts and rails. Apart from the much better price, they are simpler to work with being lighter and much easier to drill for bolting or coach screwing especially as we use 130mm and sometimes 150mm M10s. We only snapped one drill bit! And that was in an old hardwood post.
My friend Stirls came down to help and for 5 days we removed and replaced posts and rails.
Getting some of the big old rotting posts out was not an easy job especially when their bases were still in good condition and dug 1m into the ground. Neither was resetting good but heavy hardwood rails to the new pine posts.

So at times it was slow work. With one rain interrupted day, we didn’t get all the planned chores done.
But the essentials are in now in place and the remainder (mostly the race) can be done another time.
We celebrated our achievements, on Stirl’s last day, with a nice lunch of fish, chips and potato scallops at Innes Wharf at Batemans Bay, a favourite of his, thirty minutes drive south.
Neighbour Bob will help me swing a gate off a replacement post sometime next week and all will be good.

Wednesday, October 02, 2019

Daylight Saving Time

Early on this Sunday morning we go onto daylight saving time.
When I say ‘we’, I mean New South Wales and some other Australian states and territories.
But not all.
DST has been around for quite a while.
During World I and II all states and territories observed the time change under defence acts of the constitution.
In 1968, Tasmania became the first state post war to introduce the practice.
In 1971 all states and territories except West Australia and the Northern Territory followed suit. Queensland abandoned the change in 1972.
Australia: UTC Time Zones During DST
 The two recalcitrant states have run trials with DST over the last 40 years.
Public opinion in Queensland is geographically divided with the no’s in the north and west of the state ie. predominantly rural, and the yes’s in the metropolitan south east.
Western Australia had a referendum in 2009 on the issue after a lengthy trial and the no’s won 55:45.
So the upshot is we will have 5 time zones in the country instead of 3 from next weekend until early April 2020.
But the really stupid thing is there will be a time difference between states on the same longitude.
But we have all learnt to live with that. 

Tuesday, September 24, 2019


Strawberry season in Australia starts in July when the farms in the warmer northern parts of the country start sending their fruit to market. It then continues until the following February as warmer weather heads south.
The height of the season seems to be August to October when the huge southern Queensland farms are at their peak production. Fruit quality is excellent and prices are cheap, around $4/kg.

Last year however disaster struck.
Someone was inserting needles into the berries.
This lead to consumers boycotting the product and farmers having to dump tonnes of fruit.
It sent many producers to the wall.

After an intense investigation police found the culprit (a disgruntled employee) and as well as a few copy catters and the industry put in protocols to stop this happening again eg. metal detectors.

Yesterday we had reports that a needle had again been found.
What is wrong with people?
Last time we didn’t boycott, we just cut the berries to be sure they were safe.
Now we will start doing the same.

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Spring Bushfires

The ongoing drought has left much of the country extremely dry.
During winter we experienced a higher than normal number of bushfires.
There were a few in our local area, some quite close.
Now in the first weeks of spring it seems like nearly the whole east coast of the country is on fire.

Currently 52 fires are burning in New South Wales with 18 uncontained.
Property has been lost.
Seventy fires are burning in Queensland, again with property loss.
Even rainforest areas are alight for the first time in living memory.
Sadly it seems some of these fires have been deliberately lit.

Thankfully, south of Sydney, we have been spared so far.
Days of high, dry winds that we have experienced over the last weeks would has caused unstoppable firestorms.
All this doesn’t augur well for summer when temperatures are forecasted to be higher than normal and rainfall minimal.

Friday, September 06, 2019

The Lyrebird

There are two species of the ground-dwelling lyrebird in Australia, the Superb and Albert's.
They are well known for the beauty of the male bird's huge tail when it is fanned out in courtship display and their ability to mimic natural and artificial sounds from their environment.
They are among Australia's best-known native birds.
The superb lyrebird is found in areas of rain forest in Victoria, New South Wales, and south-east Queensland. They are apparently in our area but have never seen one.
Albert's lyrebird is found only in a small area of Southern Queensland rain forest. 
They are shy and difficult to approach so not a lot information is known about their behaviour.
We know they feed on the ground and as individuals taking a range of invertebrates as prey including insects.
Lyrebirds are long-lived birds with a life span as long as thirty years. Female superb lyrebirds start breeding at the age of five or six, and males at the age of six to eight.
Males defend territories from other males. These may contain the breeding territories of up to eight females. Within the male territories, the males create or use display platforms. For the superb lyrebird, this is a simple mound of bare soil.
     Male and Female Lyrebirds 

On these mounds they sing and dance in courtship display for potential mates. The male lyrebird can have several. The female builds an untidy nest where she lays a single egg. The egg is incubated over 50 days solely by the female who also fosters the chick alone.
Lyrebirds sing throughout the year, but the peak of the breeding season, from June to August, is when they sing with the most intensity. During this peak they may sing for four hours of the day, almost half the hours of daylight. The song of the superb lyrebird is a mixture of elements of its own song and any number of other mimicked songs and noises. Lyrebirds mimic with great accuracy the individual songs of other birds and the chatter of flocks of birds as well as other animals such as koalas and dingoes. They are also capable of imitating almost any sound and have been recorded mimicking human sounds such as a mill whistle, a cross-cut saw, chainsaws, car engines and car alarms, fire alarms, rifle-shots, camera shutters, dogs barking, crying babies, music, mobile phone ring tones, and even the human voice. But while the mimicry of human noises is widely reported, the extent to which it happens tends to be exaggerated and the phenomenon is unusual.
If this video doesn't play, try this link and this one
As a young boy, my family used to drive up into the Dandenong ranges behind Melbourne for picnics. We could always hear these birds (along with many others) and sometimes see one. Sixty years on this area is now well developed and the bird's habitat has suffered accordingly.
The lyrebird has been featured as a symbol and emblem many times.
It is on the reverse of the Australian 10-cent coin.

A stylized superb lyrebird appears in the transparent window of the Australian 100 dollar note.
A silhouette of a male superb lyrebird is the logo of the Australian Film Commission.
An illustration of a male superb lyrebird, in courtship display, is the emblem of the New South Wales National Parks and Wildlife Service.

Friday, August 02, 2019

The End of an Era

Just over 25 years ago I planted my first block of grape vines.
They were 100 Cabernet Sauvignon cuttings I obtained from the University of Sydney vineyard on their Orange, NSW campus where I was studying horticulture and where I became interested in viticulture.
Well there were actually 96 Cab Sauv plus 4 Chardonnay which somehow made it into the mix. Despite many unsuccessful efforts to convert them over to Cab Sauv by  grafting, the four remain there today.
As time went on, I increased the vine number to around 400, establishing another two blocks to include Pinot Noir, Tempranillo and Semillon.
Relatively New Cabernet Sauvignon Block in the '90s

Growing wine in our warm maritime climate was always a challenge with fungus diseases always being a threat due to humidity and wet weather, the latter especially, at harvest time.
But with regular spraying of preventative fungicides, and a one in seven good season, we were always in with a chance of having a successful vintage.
Of course that didn’t always happen. To see a year’s work rotting on the vines due to 3 weeks continual rain at vintage time was always a bit depressing.
And not so good wine made from less than good quality grapes due also to wet weather was always disappointing.
Thankfully insect pests were never much of a problem. I don’t think I ever sprayed an insecticide. This allowed the build up of ‘good guy’ predator insect populations in the vineyard that took care of any unwanted invader.
Of course we had problems with birds which we took care of by netting the blocks. And a few years ago we started to have kangaroo problems which have increased substantially as time went on.
Last vintage I was fungicide spraying on a regular basis, not to mention doing green pruning, weed spraying and inter row maintenance and it was taking a toll physically.
Then there was harvest and wine making to consider.
The heat and humidity of summer plus some back problems got me to thinking that it was maybe time to call it a day.
I didn’t harvest the 2019 crop at all and came to the decision during the early part of this year it was time.
Early Days / Pinot Noir & Cabernet

So this winter I will ‘mothball’ all three blocks rather than grub the vines out.
This will allow someone in the future, with some work, to get the vines ‘up and running’ again.
There are a number of ways of doing this and I have chosen the minimal pruning method.
This means cutting the vines back a minimal level rather than prune them right back to a crop producing level. Then the vines will produce lots of small shoots from the numerous dormant buds left on the multiple canes rather than a few strong shoots from two bud canes (spurs) and grow out of control. Over time the vines will self regulate and remain somewhat relatively compact.
The only maintenance then required is mid row mowing to stop them being a snake hiding place.
Sure, the new shoots will be subjected to fungus attack but that will be the price paid.
Then it will be a matter of making sure all the wine making equipment is cleaned well and protected from the environment.
And then that will be that.

Sunday, July 28, 2019

The Drought Continues 1

Back in July 2018  I wrote about the drought that was affecting 99% of our state and linked it to a photo essay from The Guardian that showed how desperate things were for our farmers.
A year on a follow up photo essay shows that things have not improved.
New South Wales Drought Map July 2019

Here on the South Coast we have had minimal rainfall over the last year. 
Despite the odd heavy storm related downpour, our creek is still not running and our dams are still looking a sorry sight.
We have once again started hand feeding our small herd of cattle with $28/bale hay over winter.
Now, while our livelihood does not depend on weather, thirty years of living in a rural environment tends to make one more than sympathetic for the plight of those where it does.
Meanwhile climate change scepticism within much of world leadership runs rampant and they continue to fiddle while Rome (and the Arctic) burns.

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

There's a New Bird in Town

We throw out vegetative kitchen scraps on the garden outside the little house to become compost.
Not much of it makes it that far.
The area has become a gathering place for kangaroos, wallabies and birds, mainly currawongs, magpies and satin birds who enjoy an easy meal.
Lately a large group of black birds has descended on the bounty, scaring away the others in a show of force.
They are larger than a crow, have a white flash on their wings and bright red eyes
A quick Google established that they are the white-winged chough (Corcorax melanorhamphos) which is one of only two surviving members of the Australian mud-nest builders family.

It is only distantly related to the European choughs that it closely resembles in shape, and for which it was named. 
They are easily mistaken for "crows"
Those red eyes become swollen and brighter in colour when the bird is excited.
White-winged choughs are not particularly strong or agile fliers and spend the great majority of their time on the ground, foraging methodically through leaf litter for worms, insects, grain, and snails in a loose group.

A rich find is the cause of general excitement and all come running in to share in it.
This is the behaviour we are witnessing.
They live in flocks of from about 4 up to about 20 birds, usually all the offspring of a single pair.
So they are new around here and we expect to see more of them.

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Our 2019 USA Trip / Part 9 / South Dakota and Home

Previous visits to the Bro's at Lake Hendricks have proven unfruitful fishing wise to the point of our renaming it Lake Disappointment.
This time, armed with a South Dakota fishing licence as a change of luck charm, we hit the water to try again. Previously I had purchased Minnesota licences (cheaper!) as the states' border dissects the lake.
We fished from his swish pontoon boat and from his dock. We fished with varying rigs eg. crappie which I had not seen in Australia and different baits (minnows, worms, leeches). We fished trolling with lures. We fished at all times of the day and night. We fished all over that lake.
Crappie rig

Result (after an estimated 30+ hours fishing time) : Bro 2 Blogger 1
Lake Disappointment had once more lived up to its reputation.

But really it’s all about the fishing, not the fish. And it’s a beautiful area to contemplate in while waiting for a bite with plenty of wild life to see. Plus the sunsets can be stunning. And the 'fishing lodge' ain't bad either.
Inspecting a trap line was an unusual experience. The state is paying money to reduce the increased vermin population.
From there, one very foggy morning, we visited the Fagen Fighters WW11 Museum in Granite Falls MN and on the way home stopped by the Brau Bros Brewery in Marshall for lunch and good beer.
The donuts in the Hendricks bakery are great (get there early or they sell out!) as are the very small movie theatre, the golf club bar and surrounding small towns eg, Taunton and Ivanhoe.
I spent some time at my old haunt, The Royal River Casino at Flandreu. They are spending a lot of money on extensions and improvements. They didn't get much of mine!
From Elkton, I had the opportunity of visiting the family farm travelling over Buffalo Ridge with its numerous wind turbines stretching north and south into the distance. It is beautiful country. Pity it has been so wet this season which has put a lot of strain on the planting schedule.
In Trent we visited Steve's Bar and Grill for our usual jalapeno burger and a few beers and had a nice birthday get together at 'home' with various wines from all over. I guess the wine must have influenced the hilarity when we played Watch Ya Mouth (Adult version).
But try it sometime. It's fun!
Finally our time was up and we headed for the airport.
Our little plane out of FSD arrived late then had a small technical problem which delayed departure.
Some tape had come loose on the landing gear and needed to be replaced.
Tape? On the landing gear? The plane is held together with duct tape?
Well, no, as I found out later it's speed tape and is used for non structural temporary repairs on aircraft.
It was a long trip home with two four hour layovers in Denver and San Francisco then the 15 hours across the Pacific.
Unfortunately that latter plane was 100% full and I had a large guy next to me and we 'fought' for shoulder room the whole trip. I got little sleep.
No problems with formalities or baggage in Sydney and the car started first try after being parked at the airport for six weeks.
We stopped for coffee a couple of times on the way down the coast to ward off the tiredness so it was good to eventually arrive.
Everything was in order with the property (no storm damage, healthy cattle, no mice (thanks for the inspections, Annabelle!)) and we began our 5 day battle with jet lag (15 hours time difference) while getting our lives back into our normal domestic routine.

Sunday, June 23, 2019

Our 2019 USA Trip / Part 8 / South Dakota / Road Trip 2

If anything the rain and wind had increased overnight.
From Fort Pierre we travelled across the rolling green hills of the National Grassland towards the I90 with the Badlands National Park as our destination.
With ever worsening conditions on the freeway we debated whether to abandon our plans and turn back east.
During a potty break at Murdo, I randomly checked my iPad and found I had an Internet connection.
The weather forecast for Wall, near our destination, was for clearing conditions in two hours.
We decided to carry on.
As we arrived at the NP gates, the rain stopped!
But the wind didn’t.

When I got out at the first Badlands overlook  I estimated the temperature to be below 0℃ with windchill and the occasional slap of sleet in the face confirmed that. The co driver stayed in the car!
This was my second trip here, the first many years ago being a quick drive around ‘the loop’. This time would be a lot slower.
What an amazing place.
Deep multi coloured canyons bordered by the flattest prairie land.
We stopped at many overlooks, walked some boardwalks and then descended into the valley to the visitors centre.
The centre offers an indoor theater, interactive exhibits, an orientation film plus a bookstore.
The exhibits focus on the cultural history, prairie ecology, and paleontology of the Badlands.
There is a clear explanation of the deposition and erosion process that formed of the Badlands and began around 70 million years ago.
From there we drove through the canyons and then climbed back up to the prairie. We saw some wild life eg. prairie dogs and big horned sheep, but no bison.
Photos and videos don't do this area justice.
From the NP exit it was only a short drive to Wall and the famous Wall Drug which is a shopping mall consisting of a drug store, gift shop, restaurants and various other stores.
This is a bizarre place with an interesting history. Very popular with tourists and full of kitsch. We had lunch of buffalo hot dogs and fries at the 'intimate' 530 seat cafe.
Then it was east back down the I90 to Oacoma just across the Missouri from Chamberlain and Indian tacos for dinner (supper) at Al's Oasis.
Crossing the river next morning we visited the Akta Lakota Museum & Cultural Center which is committed to promoting the knowledge and understanding of the Northern Plains Indian.
The proper name for the people commonly known as the Sioux is Oceti Sakowin, (Och-et-eeshak-oh-win) meaning Seven Council Fires and here their culture past, present and future is presented through the preservation of historical artifacts and contemporary works of art.

This is a fine historical and cultural museum and worth a few hours.
Then, after a quilt shop visit it was up to the Missouri Overlook to check out the amazing sculpture Dignity, (a.k.a. Dignity of Earth & Sky).
The 15.24m (50ft) high stainless steel statue by South Dakota artist laureate Dale Lamphere depicts an indigenous woman in Plains-style dress receiving a star quilt. The Lone Star design (also called the Star of Bethlehem), is a variation on Morning Star designs that had been featured on Native American clothing and other items for centuries. According to Lamphere, the sculpture honors the culture of the Lakota and Dakota peoples who are indigenous to South Dakota.

Lamphere's latest project involves the construction of a sculpture, The Arc of Dreams that will span the Big Sioux River in downtown Sioux Falls. It was in the process of being erected the week we left.
From Chamberlain it was back to Sioux Falls via Mitchell (lunch at Culvers!) for our traditional SD date night.

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Our 2019 USA Trip / Part 7 / South Dakota / Road Trip 1

Rain and wind and more rain!
Our road trip out west was not going to be an easy drive.
Instead of taking the interstate, we decided state highway 34 would be more interesting and it would be an easy linkup to the Native American Scenic Byway at Fort Thompson.
The rain eased a little when we stopped at Wessington Springs. The main attraction here appears to be, of all things, the Shakespeare Garden and Anne Hathaway Cottage. But we were just interested in a coffee and donuts at Sweet Grass Bakery which came with a good reputation. And good they both were too.
But a little further down the road, weather conditions deteriorated considerably and we abandoned our Scenic Byway plans and headed directly to the South Dakota capital Pierre.
At least we got glimpses of the Missouri River towards the end of this leg although it was obvious that it was the upper reaches  of the Lake Sharpe dam. We were now on the Lewis and Clark trail and I wondered what they would think of the current state of this once mighty river.
Pierre has a population of around 14000 making it the second least populated capital in the USA.
Founded in 1880 on the east bank of the Missouri River opposite Fort Pierre it has been the state capital since South Dakota gained statehood on November 2, 1889. Fort Pierre was named after Pierre Chouteau, Jr., a major American fur trader from St. Louis, Missouri, who was of colonial French origin.
Despite the weather, the town was busy with traffic and people going places.
We had a good Mexican lunch at a crowded Guadalajara.
Two of the major attractions here are the State Capitol and the South Dakota Cultural Heritage Center. The visitors car park for the former was too far a walk in the torrential rain so we opted for the latter.
The Center opened in 1989 to preserve and interpret the heritage and culture of the people of South Dakota beginning with the stories of Native tribes who inhabited the land before statehood and to follow the state's history into the 21st century.
It is an impressive building nestled into a bluff north of the capitol.

The 63,000 sq ft (5850㎡) underground building serves as a reminder of the earth-berm lodges of the Arikara Indians who historically lived throughout the Missouri River Valley. The building is covered with native prairie sod from Jones County and landscaped with native grasses and plants just like the sod houses and dugouts of early prairie settlers.

The Museum’s main exhibit, ‘’The South Dakota Experience’’, includes three galleries that illustrate the history of the state from its earliest inhabitants to present day.
Oyate Tawicoḣ’aŋ: The Ways of the People explores the history, heritage, and culture of the Oceti Ṡakowiŋ (The Seven Council Fires), more commonly known as the Sioux.

Proving Up: shares the experiences of explorers, trappers, settlers, miners, and immigrants to a remote territory and how pioneers and statesmen established a booming state.

Changing Times: examines the changes and challenges the people of South Dakota faced during the 20th century and follows the state’s history from the boom of the railroads and automobile to the bust of the drought and Depression. This  gallery highlights the introduction of power on the plains, telephone communication, and the shrinking of space between neighbours with the construction of highways and interstates.

This is a warts and all exhibition covering the dispossession of Native American land and subsequent treaty violations with resultant conflict to the struggles the pioneers endured with the environment to
progress stemming from mechanisation and advances in technology.
We spent a couple of hours here.
Highly recommended for adults and for kids with many interactive exhibits to play with (like milk a cow!).
We stayed in Fort Pierre across the river in another time zone (Mountain time) which is thankfully conveniently ignored and where I got another Lewis and Clark ‘fix’.
A major encounter which affected the destiny of all inhabitants of the region occurred in Fort Pierre on September 24-28, 1804. At the mouth of the Bad River, in present-day Fischers Lilly Park, members of Lewis and Clark’s Corps of Discovery met for the first time with the Lakota people, known to them as the Teton Sioux. Differences in trade objectives, diplomacy, and the lack of an interpreter lead to an armed confrontation, the closest Lewis and Clark came to a premature end to their expedition.
The confrontation was diffused, largely through the efforts of Chief Black Buffalo, and the expedition continued. The flag of the United States was flown for the first time over present-day South Dakota at this council with the Lakota.
Dinner for us that night was at the Cattleman's Club Steakhouse which came highly recommended by numerous sources.
The place was jumping despite the atrocious weather and we had to wait 30 minutes for a table.
Well worth it, however, with the best prime rib (medium rare) I have ever tasted and an introduction to Meiomi Californian Pinot Noir.

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Our 2019 USA Trip / Part 6 / South Dakota

Flights from New York to Sioux Falls via Chicago went without a hitch.
We picked up our rental at the airport and headed out!
I guess now is the time to discuss briefly the weather we experienced during our four week stay.
The fact that it snowed on us on day one when driving from Sioux Falls to Elkton should have been a warning.
The region had experienced a lot of rain before we arrived and this continued. Some days it was very windy and cold, some were very rainy and cold and others were very rainy, windy.....and cold.
In fact it was so wet that farmers in many areas could not get onto their fields to plant and the corn crop for the year was looking to be in jeopardy. I travelled into Minnesota with Mark to look at soil conditions on the family farm there and it was obviously very boggy. Many fields in the area were virtual lakes.This is a major problem for all mid west USA.

At least we got to do a little bit of machine maintenance (well he did, I just held stuff) as well as buy seed in case conditions improved.
I had never seen the Big Sioux River so high and in flood in so many places and the Falls carrying such a torrent.
Then strangely on a few days in between it was sunny, warm and very still.
Things improved in the last week of our visit and it looks like the beans will get in the ground before the seasonal 'deadline'.
Of course our main purpose being there was to catch up with family and friends.
And this we did by moving around various locations as well as participating in family get togethers.
The Memorial Day grave run was fun as was the Christmas in June get together with both kids and adults enjoying the traditional greed game, eating good food and catching up.
The co driver caught up with a long term friend from Las Vegas, attended a Cher concert and did a quilt retreat in Canton.
We did the Sioux Falls sculpture walk and again enjoyed the diversity of work.
It is the largest and most recognized annual exhibit of public art sculptures in the country.
Our 'must do' restaurant and fast food list was mostly covered with a new find being Crave in the Hilton Garden Inn in Sioux Falls.
Caribou coffee at their dedicated store was as good as ever and their coffee bagel combo at Einstein Bros Bagels was terrific as well.
Sadly the Phillips Ave Diner and Coffea Roasterie downtown missed out this time around. 
Our date night at Morries Steakhouse was as outstanding as ever with excellent food, wine and service.The encyclopedic wine list is always a pleasure to scan.
Wine shopping was interesting as usual. Supermarket Hy-Vee had an excellent range as did the Brookings Liquor Store. Sadly higher end Australian wine was hard to find. [Yellowtail] and cheaper export brands seem to dominate the shelves.

Saturday, June 15, 2019

Our 2019 USA Trip / Part 5 / New York Days 4-6

Sunday dawned again wet and windy.
The co driver had a day’s basket weaving class in Brooklyn and I was having a father/daughter day also beginning in Brooklyn.
So chancing our luck with the revised weekend subway timetables, we set off from a station some distance away from what had become our usual one, transferred, rode 4 stops passed our desired station (downtowns were not stopping there this weekend), transferred and rode back on an uptown which did stop where we wanted to get off.
Made it! Phew!
I also made it back to the daughters, inspected their new apartment and the building’s facilities (very nice), walked in heavy rain around Brooklyn Heights to get a feel of the place (much nicer than Fort Greene) and then we subwayed it into Times Square for a taco lunch at Los Tacos No.1.
No cards, stand up at a communal tiled bench to eat, clean up after yourself. Best tacos ever!

The daughter had booked to see the revival of Rogers and Hammerstein’s Oklahoma! on Broadway.
She had seen the show during its Off Broadway tryout late last year and liked it.
It has been a favourite of mine since the late 1950s when I saw it as a movie. I can’t count the number of times I have seen it since in that form as well as live on stage. This stripped down revival was a radical departure from the traditional but it had the approval of the R&H Trust so I had confidence that although I might be challenged, I would like it.
The Circle in the Square Theatre was small and almost ‘in the round’ so the audience was close to the action.
To say it was ‘different’ is an understatement. It was at times raw and confronting. But I enjoyed it immensely. The only quibbles I had were with Jud’s demise, not quite the accident portrayed in the original story, and the strange and almost irrelevant dream sequence.
But all in all, an amazing experience with a brilliant 12 member cast and an exceptional 7 piece band.
Just goes to prove that no  matter what the setting, Oklahoma!’s book, lyrics and music still hold their own, even 76 years on from its debut.
The show just received two Tonys. One for Best Musical Revival and one for Best Featured Actress in a Musical to wheelchair confined Ali Stroker for her role as Ado Annie.

And they served the audience chilli and corn bread (see red crockpots on the tables) on stage during interval. How good is that?
This review which I agree with 99.9% says it all better than I can.
Back onto the rainy streets and then an extremely crowded subway, we headed for Williamsburg and a favourite restaurant of the new New Yorkers.
Called Have & Meyer, it specialises in Italian cuisine and
‘natural’ wine from grapes mostly native to Italy made by small producers. All are available by the glass, over 100 of them! I tried some good wines that I could rarely afford a bottle of and slipped into oenophile mode for a while.

Monday and the sun is finally shining!
Subway to Grand Central Station for breakfast and then a train ninety minutes up the Hudson River Valley as far as Cold Spring.

The further you get away from the city, the more leafy, green and rural it gets. This small tourist town was still gearing up for the season and was pretty quiet. Many shops were still closed.
The main street could have been a movie set for a small town USA saga.

We had probably the worst cappuccino ever at a local cafe but lunch at Hudson Hil’s was excellent. We browsed the shops and eventually sat by the river and enjoyed a quiet break in the sunshine.

Back to the city late afternoon for a quick shop at Purl Soho for thread and yarn, drinks again at Cocette and a meal at Pinch Chinese.
Nicko ordered for us all and his Chinese heritage enabled us to experience dishes we would normally not consider. They were all great.

A fitting end to our short New York City adventure.
Thanks, guys for looking after us!
Next morning we were up at 4am to catch an early flight from Newark to Sioux Falls via Chicago.