Monday, March 29, 2010

A March Update

A few trips to Sydney this month due to our visitor and a birthday party. A few more next month too due to a 65th, a medical appointment and our visitor's departure. I think that is more trips up that way in a month than is usual for the whole year!
Anyway, we have had the opportunity to confirm that living down the south coast is far more preferable than in the city......any city.

The daughter had a lovely 30th at Ripples on Chowder Bay with 16 of her closest friends and family. During the weekend, we showed Crystal around some of the northern harbourside suburbs and the CBD, particularly Circular Quay and The Rocks ie. the original Sydney. The daughter took her to a couple of southern city beaches , including Bondi, and managed to fit in some Sydney nightlife the following weekend. They apparently ran the gauntlet of a few bars between the gay end of town and the red light district! But seriously, Kings Cross/Darlinghurst is not as 'bad' as it used to be and the carnal activities are concentrated in one area and generally can be avoided. And there are always plenty of people around until the late wee hours.
During the last weekend while the girls 'played', we headed up to "Uncle" Stirls place at Umina and investigated a bit more of the Central Coast while he was at work. The Entrance is an old fashioned Australian sea side town and they have done a lot to preserve that atmosphere. We enjoyed fish and chips and a hamburger by the water and watched the world go by.

On the wine scene we have picked the Cabernet. It came in at 12.0 Baume which is satisfactory. We had some additional help with this last harvest of the year which made things easier and had it all done before lunch. It was good timing as the rain set in once we returned from the 'big smoke'.
The must is currently bubbling away in the fermenter.

Monday, March 22, 2010

'My' Tree Has Gone

Across the highway from us is Meroo National Park. It used to be Termeil State Forest and had been logged for many years previous to its change of status, so much in fact, there is little old growth forest left.
Timber is a major industry in our part of the world with the main wood harvested coming from the spotted gum or Eucalyptus maculata. Left to its own devices the tree can grow up to 50 metres in height and 1.4 metres in diameter. It is normally tall and straight and easily recognised by its smooth, dimpled bark which is shed in summer, producing a mottled cream and grey 'spotted' appearance.
The timber makes good tool handles because it is very strong and is able to take shock. It is also ideal for heavy construction work in housing, piles, power poles, shipbuilding, weatherboards and flooring.
On the road into Meroo Head opposite our road stood a very big example of this type of tree. I often admired it as a survivor because it was obviously old growth but had been spared the axe and chainsaw. This was due perhaps to to its very peculiar shape that made it pretty useless as timber.
But the other morning I saw it had come down over the road and had been cut up to allow traffic through. The dreaded borers had finally done it irrepairable damage.
I got out the tape measure and found it had a radius of around 1.1 meters. Averaging out the width of the growth rings and doing some mathematics I estimated it to have been around 250 + years old.

Sad to see it lying there in pieces now but the road to Meroo Head will suddenly have a pretty imposing gateway well into the future

Friday, March 19, 2010

"Our" Beach

Just about opposite the entrance to our road, across the highway, is the track to Meroo Head and Termeil Beach which are part of the Meroo National Park. Considered 'our' beach, we hardly ever go there due to the chronic poor state of the road and the usually dangerous swimming conditions.
But it is a pretty beach, very wide, quite isolated and quiet except during holiday times when the campers descend on the place in their hundreds.
At the northern end behind the sandhills lies Termeil Lake into which our creek empties, when it is running that is. Over the headland to the south is Meroo Lake. Both are part of the estaurine lake system that is an important part of the south coast environment.
Within the headland is a secret cove. It is a great place to be during the winter when the southerly winds are blowing. Facing north it captures the sun for most of the day and turns into a virtual oven which is great on those cold days. It is protected from the surf by a small reef littered with deep rockpools.

We took Crystal for a visit and enjoyed a few hours soaking up the sun and walking the beach.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Another Day, Another Beach

Today we headed for my favourite beach. Known to surfers of the area as 'Sandmines' because of an old and now long gone sand mining operation in the vicinity, it is more properly known as Racecourse Beach.
South of Bawley Point and quite a walk in from the road, it is a great year round surfing spot. In summer, the nor' easter blows off shore and the sand banks here can hold a wave of good size. I have ridden it at 3m (10ft). It usually has both left and right peaks and sometimes these extend down the beach from the headland.
Today only a few surfers were there and the swell had increased considerably since yesterday. Despite not being a top class surf most were having fun.
The beach is on the southern fringes of the Murramarang Aboriginal Area of 60 ha and comprises the headland of Murramarang Point, sand dunes along Murramarang Beach to the north and part of a small lagoon.
The Aboriginal area protects the largest complex of middens on the south coast and is one of only three archaeological sites on the south coast dated to the Ice Age. It contains a dense concentration of stone artifacts and shell, mammal, fish and bird bones. The variety of tool types including rare bone tools illustrate a long history of occupation.

The area was a meeting place for a number of Aboriginal tribes until after settlement of the country by Europeans and is part of a cultural landscape linked to other places along the south coast. Burials took place on the headland and the area is said to have been the site of a massacre during the late nineteenth century. The Aboriginal area has very high traditional and contemporary cultural significance to Aboriginal people and is managed in accordance with the wishes of the Aboriginal community to protect this significance.
A walking track has been built through the area and a detailed interpretive brochure is available. It is an interesting place to spend a few hours. But we chose not to do the walk this time round as I have found it to be a little bit 'snakey' during the summer and Crystal is not orientated quite yet to deal with all Australian wildlife.
However we enjoyed a few hours watching the guys do their thing before heading home.
By the way this is the place where my ashes will be scattered when the time comes, just off the rocks in the above picture.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

A Favourite Beach

We have around 20 beaches to choose from, all within a 20 minute drive from home. We usually choose one based on swell and wind direction. Most are deserted during non holiday time.

We have been visiting a few with Crystal during her stay with us. Shell Beach is one of my favourites. Protected from the north easterly sea breeze that predominates during summer, the water always seem bluer and the sand whiter than others. And the surf is usually pretty good too. The rocky headland has plenty of rockpools to explore with lots of sealife. This is where we went on Wednesday afternoon.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

March So Far

The co-driver is a quilter. Before meeting her I didn't know much about quilting apart from what I had seen in the movie "How to Make an American Quilt".
But in South Dakota pretty much all her family and friends are involved. And I must know just about every quilt shop in that state plus those in Northern Iowa and Nebraska, Minnesota and even Grey Bull, Wyoming! And of course when travelling around Australia we are always armed with a list of quilting stores on the route we are taking.
Anyway, the point of this story is that about 7 years ago she began a quilt that was influenced by the colours and light of her adopted country. It is finally finished and it is beautiful!
Niece Crystal arrived a week ago from co driverland and we have been introducing her to the quiet life we lead.
Despite the weather being a little uncooperative at the beginning of her visit (we refuse to complain about the rain), we have beached it a few days and introduced her to ocean swimming and the surf. We have also found some native animals to be up close and personal with as well as investigated some of the shops in the towns in our vicinity. She has also been trying out a few typically Australian food items including meat pies and hot crossed buns and even tried an oyster. The latter did get the thumbs down. However a traditional roast lamb dinner passed with flying colours. And whether she likes it or not she has been subjected to quite a few rugby games.

My wine stash has also been taking a bit of a beating but there is plenty left in the tanks. All the new wines are looking good. No joy at the Milton Show as far as wine awards this year however will try harder next time. I think the 2010 Tempranillo looks like an exceptionally good one.
The five bulls went off to market with little drama. The 'girls' don't seem to miss them. Average price was $1.05 kg so was satisfied with that.
This weekend we are heading to Sydney for the daughter's birthday and a bit of sight seeing around Sydney.
This will give the two ladies a chance to do some real shopping!

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Winter Olympics Wrap-up

We have been somewhat glued to the TV watching seventeen days of Winter Olympics.
The coverage we received from our four dedicated satellite channels was outstanding. We got every event 'live' during our day from early in the morning and replays during our evening, all commercial free. They even gave us the option of watching the four channels at once on a split screen. This was, even for us, a little OTT.
The co driver really enjoyed all forms of figure skating although I think at the end she had bit of blade indigestion. But then again she was almost immovable for the final "Gala Event". I liked some of it although I found the ice dancing a bit repetitive. Lots of arm waving.
We also liked the downhill, ski jumping, ski cross, board cross, aerials and half pipe. Despite the tragic beginning to the luge/bobsleigh events this was probably the most exciting for me. The skeleton riders must be some of the bravest athletes in the world.
I struggled with the hockey but guess you have to grow up with it to be a real fan. I got a very distraught e-mail from a Canadian friend after the USA beat them in the initial round.
Luckily the Canadians eventually won the gold medal so I didn't have to put him on suicide watch!

Now an admission. I was enthralled by curling! Loved every moment. High drama in slow motion. To some it's like watching paint dry or grass grow but not to me.
How did Australia do?
Two golds, Torah Bright in the half pipe and Lydia Lassila in the aerials, and a silver for Dale Begg-Smith (an ex Canadian) in the moguls.
There were also nine top-10 performances in what will go down as Australia's most successful Winter Olympics.
Not too bad a result.
The Australian Institute of Sport is an Australian Government sponsored body set up to train elite athletes. It offers 38 sport programs in 29 sports, with a varying number of scholarships offered annually to Australia’s finest sportsmen and sportswomen. In 1998 it set up a winter sports program which has resulted in the country having some success, albeit small, in the Winter Olympics and associated Winter World Cup events.
Vancouver did a wonderful job and the mountain areas looked stunning most days before the weather closed in.
Now we can’t wait until 2012 for the London Summer Olympics but first, there is the Rugby World Cup in New Zealand in 2011.