Monday, July 26, 2010

Some Reading

By now we are well into our South Australia trip and out of range. So to prevent the blog from being dead in the water, I have pre-dated some entries that cover a few books read over the last months, some of which can be recommended.
An amusing story of Canadian couple's search for and development of a vineyard in Tuscany. Lots of quirky characters that are normal for stories like this about rural Italy and an enjoyable light read.

A light hearted account of the demise of Pluto from planet to plutoid.
It's amazing how the scientific world can get its collective knickers in such a knot and drag a great cross section of the population including children along with it. Obviously Walt Disney has a lot to answer for!
I have seen Neil deGrasse Tyson on television a few times and he writes like he talks. He is a wonderful communicator with a great sense of humour, quite the antithesis of the stereotypical boffin.
This smallish book is a quick read and gives such a simplified explanation of the structure of our solar system that it is worth reading for that alone.

A story of Australian Infantry action against the Japanese forces in New Guinea during World War II where they thwarted the enemy's attempt to take Port Moresby with a land based attack across the Owen Stanley Ranges via the Kokoda Track. From July 1942 to January 1943, they drove the Japanese back over the mountains to their landing point at Buna in some of the bloodiest fighting seen in the Pacific. This hard won victory surely prevented the Japanese from establishing a base for the invasion of Australia. The story of hardship and sacrifice and goes down in ANZAC legend along with that of Gallipoli.
This is a history book written in novel style and difficult to put down.

A detailed history of slavery and the development of the Abolition Movement in the USA up until the outbreak of the Civil War. It concentrates on the evolution of the network of escape routes, the Underground Railroad, set up by those sympathetic to the cause, that allowed thousands to find new lives in the 'free' states, albeit still fraught with danger, as well as in Canada where free actually meant free.
Some of the stories of man's inhumanity to man can be quite distressing but at the same time those of great heroism and dedication of both black and white to rid the country of "a fundamental moral evil" are inspiring .
Another history book that is character driven and extremely readable.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

An Early July Update

All the grape vine pruning has been done and the cuttings burnt. The netting has been repaired and the winter weeds in the mid rows sprayed off. We are ready for the next growing season.
The 2010 Tempranillo and Semillon have been bottled. I 'lost' the Pinot Noir again! That's two vintages in a row. I have no idea what I am doing wrong. Back to the books. The 2010 Cabernet will spend another 6 months in the tank on French oak staves.
Most of the tussock (Poa labillardierei) has also been sprayed and is dead or dying. We have started on the bracken fern (Pteridium esculentum) eradication. This will probably take another year to complete. The spray used is systemic and very slow. The plant needs to absorb it through the very waxy leaves (fronds) and 'send' it to the roots and rhizomes in order to kill itself. This takes time especially during the colder winter months when many plants virtually shut down.

A few fallen trees have been converted into supplementary firewood. Wet weather has held up a few other tasks which we can get to in the spring.
The car has been in for a major service so we are ready to hit the road for our trip to South Australia.
It will be a two day drive to get to Mildura where we will really begin our adventure. It is near here the Darling River meets up with the Murray River.

The Murray-Darling Basin covers 1,061,469 square kilometres or approximately one-seventh of the total area of Australia (7,692,024 square kilometres).
It contains over 40% of all Australian farms, which produce wool, cotton, wheat, sheep, cattle, dairy produce, rice, oil-seed, wine, fruit and vegetables for both domestic and overseas markets. As Australia's most important agricultural region, the Basin produces one third of Australia's food supply and supports over a third of Australia's total gross value of agricultural production.
The three longest rivers in Australia all run through the Murray-Darling Basin. They are the Darling (2740km approx) the Murray (2530km long) and the Murrumbidgee (1575km long).
We are also looking forward to seeing some of the outback, albeit the fringes, around Broken Hill and then via the wine region of the Clare Valley to Wilpena Pound.

From there we will head south towards the capital of South Australia, Adelaide, and then into the wine regions of the Adelaide Hills and McLaren Vale.
Then it will be onto the coast at Victor Harbour and down the Coorong to Robe. From here we will visit the important wine region of the Limestone Coast and in particular the famous 'terra rossa over limestone' strip of the Coonawarra.
We could be buying the odd bottle or two of red here.
After visiting the crater lakes at Mt. Gambier, it's onto the Great Ocean Road towards Melbourne, the capital of Victoria, and eventually home.

Monday, July 12, 2010

A Little Winter Colour

Camellias always add a splash of colour in our garden during winter.
We have Camellia japonica hybrids/cultivars:

as well as Camellia sasanqua:

And for those trivia buffs out there, the tea we drink comes from the dried leaves of Camellia sinensis.
There was another burst of colour around us, albeit quick, with a partial rainbow after a rainstorm a week or so ago.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

The Weed Inspector Visits

The local weed inspector, employed by the Shoalhaven Council, came for a 'visit' the other day.
The council has a list of noxious weeds which the law requires landowners control.
He had had a report that Giant Parramatta Grass had been seen in our vicinity and was doing the rounds to see how big the infestation was.
We walked all over our property and apart from a few juvenile blackberry plants we found nothing. I really try to keep most weeds under control even the ones not on the noxious list.
The blackberry (Rubus fruticosus) is a Weed of National Significance. It was deliberately introduced into Australia in the mid-1800s as a horticultural plant, but early on it was recognised as a serious weed. It is now regarded as one of the worst weeds in Australia because of its invasiveness, potential for spread, and economic and environmental impacts. The plant infests about 8.8 million hectares of temperate Australia.

It has invaded the banks of watercourses, roadsides, pastures, orchards, plantations, forests and bushland throughout temperate Australia. On farms blackberries reduce pasture production, restrict access to water and land, and provide food and shelter for pest animals such as foxes. Other impacts are increased fire hazards caused by the large amount of dead material present in blackberry thickets and a substantial decrease in property values where heavy infestations occur.
He was back a few hours later to say he had found Giant Parramatta Grass (Sporobolus fertilis) by the roadside and in a neighbour's property and that we should be keeping an eye out for it next season as it seeds profusely and easily.
This weed favours sites with compacted soil, such as road verges and tracks, but it will also invade pasture and sandy coastal sites. It has very low feed value, and being very tough, can loosen the teeth of stock feeding on it.

He also said there was African Lovegrass (Eragrostis curvula) in the vicinity. This weed thrives on sandy low nutrient soils, by the roadside, on reserves and over-grazed pasture. It can also invade forest along tracks. It is avoided by livestock and replaces more palatable species in grazed pasture. It is highly flammable and creates a fire hazard.

Another of his main concerns was Fireweed (Senecio madagascariensis). I had had an outbreak of this some years ago (I think it came in with hay) but had not seen it for a couple seasons. It took me three years to get rid of the outbreak. It was a matter of physically pulling out each plant during its growing season and then bagging and burning the collection.
It is toxic to stock eventually causing fatal liver damage. It is not readily grazed except by sheep and goats which tolerate the toxins better than other stock. Each plant can produce hundreds of seeds and density in pasture can become very high, greatly reducing carrying capacity.
Apparently the area around Ulladulla is the only one in the Shoalhaven now entirely free of this curse. The pasture around Nowra can be a sea of yellow during the flowering season.
Guess it will only be a matter of time until we are fighting against it on a regular basis.