Wednesday, November 30, 2011

A November Update

Last weekend was supposed to be a really busy one with Saturday taken up at a country race meeting at Moruya to watch one of Seldom Winning Trainer Bob’s horses run and a trip the next day up over the mountains to Braidwood and Bungendore for two country quilt shows.
On the Friday night a facet of my ill-spent youth revisited and I spent over an hour studying the form for the 7 race program and making my selections. Then I spent an hour explaining ‘racing’ to the co driver who was quite excited about her first ever day at the races.
But fate intervened overnight and into the morning when the heavens opened up and dumped 70mm (3inches) of rain on us in a few hours which caused the races to be cancelled.
It was even more galling that by lunchtime it was all blue sky and sunshine.
Sunday however found us early on the road and heading west to the quilt shows. I won’t go into details as the co driver has finally started a quilt blog ‘Coloring Outside the Lines’ and you can catch up with news of the shows there.
But that is typical of early summer weather here. Hot sticky days followed by thunderstorms and a cool southerly change. Last night was a corker! Hours of thunder and lightning, some simultaneous, accompanied by patches of torrential rain. And it’s amazing how localised these thunderstorm cells can be. My rain gauge showed 8.5 mm while the official weather station some 20km north recorded only 2.4mm.

Meanwhile all the cattle, including the new calves, have gone next door for a short holiday. Neighbour Bob has some paddocks full of long grass that needs eating and he appreciates the fertiliser that is deposited in the process.
The grapes are growing like triffids with all this warm wet weather and it’s been a bit of a battle to keep them under control (green pruning) as well as keep the spraying up. There doesn’t appear to be the volume of fruit on the shoots this year as in the past however.
So we are winding down for Christmas. Our only commitment for this is hosting the valley get together in a few weeks. Other than that and a visit from the daughter it will be the usual low key event.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Brooman and Batemans Bay Date Day

Between where we live on the coast and the beautifully rugged Budawangs which form part of the Great Dividing Range to the west is the Clyde River valley. This area is home to many State Forest areas as well as National Parks. It is also home to many people who want to get away from it all and live a quiet secluded rural lifestyle. Many have small acreages, hobby farms as well as larger commercial cattle enterprises.

Photo: James Lamb
The area has quite a history. Two minor gold rushes in the mid and late 1800s brought it to prominence and subsequently it was a centre of a thriving timber industry. Brooman the main centre no longer exists apart from a dilapidated road sign.
The area is serviced by some pretty rough, narrow, winding, unsealed roads and a labyrinth of fire trails. There is a definite lack of signage and it’s not too difficult to take a wrong turn and get a little lost.

The co driver’s quilt group is meeting out that way on a property for their Christmas lunch in a few weeks so we thought we would take an exploratory detour on our way to Batemans Bay for date day and lunch at Innes Boat Shed.
The road west took us out of the lush temperate rain forest country of the coastal strip and into the river valley. Turning south, we followed the very windy road along the Clyde to Shallow Crossing where we crossed the river on the water covered causeway.

From here the river widens as it heads to the old port of Nelligen and eventually spills into the ocean at Batemans Bay. The country here is tall timber, mostly spotted gums, with an understorey of cycads eg.burrawangs. It was a pleasant river drive for the most of the way. We only came across two other vehicles the two hours we were on the road.

Once in ‘the Bay’, we headed for the Boatshed for our monthly fix of fish and chips (and potato scallops). This simple place sits over the water and serves the best fresh fish and chips in the area. It has been there for 50 years. No credit cards, stand in line to order and pay, no table service, clean up after you! The local council awarded a developer a contract to redevelop the site. The locals were appalled that this institution would be pulled down and replaced by a modern glass and aluminium monstrosity but all protests and petitions were in vain. However the global financial crises apparently sent the developer to the wall.
Innes remain there on a monthly lease. We all relish this stay of execution.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Kangaroos and Wallabies

We have both in our area and both come to 'visit' us around the house most mornings and late afternoons.
What is the difference?
Not much it seems. Wallabies are always smaller and have a different colouring. While kangaroos are much the same colour all over eg, grey or red, wallabies have a more distinct colouring pattern with ours being dark brown with a yellowish tinge around the belly to the neck. They are swamp wallabies. Our kangaroos are eastern greys.
Kangaroos prefer open to lightly forested country, while wallabies prefer the thicker bushland and even swampy areas.

On the coastal strip near us eg. the Bawley Point area, there are hundreds (thousands?) of kangaroos. They live among the houses and graze on the lawns and sporting ovals, in the camping grounds, in the rural properties and along the side of the road. They are even on the beach.
Some are quite big and can reach 2m (6ft) or more high. Females with babies (joeys) can be aggressive as can the males. It pays not to get too close to the bigger ones. They have very big claws on their hind feet which can do a lot of 'damage' if they strike out.
My neighbour up the back has a mob of about ten living on her property. Two of the bucks are huge!

Ours are small however and seem to have gotten quite used to us. They are not too timid and are happy to let us come within 10m or so before hopping off to a safer distance. One has just ejected her joey from her pouch. The young one seems to be enjoying the freedom, racing around the place at breakneck speed while the bemused mother looks on.
Their downside is they love to eat new grapevine shoots. This is the main reason I have permanently netted my vines. They also can be a menace on the road especially at night. Hitting a big one at speed can do great damage to a car and even the driver.
And for the trivia buff, the word 'kangaroo' is probably a derivation from the Guugu Yimidhirr Endeavour River area (North Queensland) Aborigine language, 'gaNurru' which means "large black kangaroo."

The anglicized version was first used by Captain James Cook and botanist Joseph Banks in 1770, after their first contact with the native Australian population when they were repairing their ship "Endeavour' after running it aground on the Great Barrier Reef in that area during the first white exploration of the east coast.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Calving Time

The cows usually head off into some deserted part of the property to have their calves. We sort of know 'who and approximately when' (it's all to do with udder size) so keep an eye out for their welfare when one 'disappears' for a time.
It took me ages to find my oldest cow and her new calf one rainy Saturday morning a few weeks ago as she had hidden it just over the creek in the bush where we had repaired the fence last October. I had walked past her a number of times during the search.
So it was a bit of surprise to see one giving birth out in the open while I was spraying the vines.
She seemed to be doing ok for a while until the youngster was half out. Then she was up and down quite a few times until she finally lay down and just stayed there.
We had had some trouble with this cow's calving a few years ago and she had needed assistance. Nothing much was happening so I headed off to consult with "Dr" Neighbour Bob but he was not there. Nurse Jude offered to help but by the time we got back the calf was on the ground. Mum was up but seemed a little exhausted so we helped clean out the newbie's nose and straightened out the legs a little. After that we let the mother do her thing unmolested and within 30 minutes the calf was up and tottering around.

One of the young heifers was having her first last week. She was struggling and the calf seemed 'stuck'. With Neighbour Bob in New Zealand we had to do things on our own. So after a while watching nothing happening the decision was made to help. With a little bit of pulling by the daughter and I and a lot of pushing by 'Mum' we eventually got the little bull calf into this world.

The new mother wanted nothing to do with her offspring so we had to clean him up and help him get his feet. We locked them in the cattle yard together but the mother was completely disinterested. Having had this happen before and dreading months of hand rearing, we became pro active putting the cow in the head bale and expressing milk into the calve's mouth until he got the hang of butting and sucking.

After a day in the confines of the cattle yard together, I let them both into a larger paddock and kept an eye out for some feeding activity. It seemed on the afternoon of day two she stopped kicking him away and knew he was hers and that she had to look after him.
It was good to see him with a fat little belly full of milk.
So that's five this year.
The next step will be deciding who has to go to market next autumn, apart from the bull who is an obvious contender.
The property can only carry a certain number and although this will be a good season it becomes tough when the grass stops growing and we have to supplement the available natural feed with very expensive lucerne hay.

Saturday, November 12, 2011


I hate leeches!
Not because of what they are but what they do me. A leech bite leaves a nasty red lump on me that can itch for months.
Recently the co driver found a big leech (see pic) lying in a pool of blood on the carpet. A quick inspection found that it had dropped off my leg after a day out spraying the vines. Despite wearing knee length rubber boots it had found its way in. Serves me right for not spraying my pants legs and boots with Aerogard before going out I suppose.
When conditions are right (moist), these relatives of the worm come out and hang about in grass, on bushes and in trees waiting for their victims. They do this by ‘standing’ in an upright position by means of their posterior sucker.

Chemical sensors and vibration are used to detect an approaching host, usually mammals or humans. As the unsuspecting victim moves past they attach themselves with their anterior sucker. Once on, they make their way to a suitable vein near the skin surface, often around the ankle, upper foot or calf.
The Australian land leech (Gnatbobdellida libbata) has two jaws and makes a V-shaped incision which distinguishes it from other leeches in the world which have three jaws leaving a Y shaped incision.

Blood is prevented from clotting via an anticoagulant and a histamine with improves blood flow directly into the leech. Once the attached leech is fill-up with blood, perhaps tripling its size, they drop off the victim and find a suitable place to digest their meal.
This one didn't get a chance to enjoy its lunch, however.
Pass the Itch-X!

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

The Co-Driver / Back in Aus

Last one from the co-driver for a while! (Just helping the ol’ guy out a little with some extra posts.)
Here are a few of my current projects:
I do a little sewing on the side for our local quilt shop – her samples and such. Here are a few that I finished last week:

And this one is a quilt that I made from fabric I purchased on our trip around South Australia last year – it’s a Moda line that I fell in love with. The block patterns are from the book JapaneseTaupe Quilt

And finally, this is a project that our quilt group has started. It’s a Block-of-the-Month from the Vignette Magazine.
I’m using my fabric vomit (Kaffe & Amy Butler) collection. As it’s summer here, it’s a great project for working on in front of the TV as it’s too bloody hot to have a quilt on my lap.

And now, I need to get back to my BIG project.
Spring Cleaning 2011!!!

Sunday, November 06, 2011

The Daughter's Bali, 2011

It all started last year when I was on my way home from a month in Europe and had stopped in Singapore to see my old housemate and gorgeous friend Ms. Froggie. Both devoted yogis we decided that we would head to Bali this year to spend some time furthering our skills at a yoga retreat in the lush mountains of Ubud and also spend some champagne and girl time at a beach side resort. We both had the same requirements – no crowds, touts or bogans and we wanted serious luxury accommodation on the beach.

I have been to Bali many times – the first when I was a mere 15 years old with my school for an art excursion up until my early 20’s when I followed my then surfer boyfriend around the island as a dedicated towel and wax minder. I got to see amazing hidden gems off the beaten track during these trips and I have always had an unexplainable affinity with the small Indonesian island. From the moment the plane begins descending through the tropical clouds I feel like I have arrived “home”.
Most people associate Bali with the horrific terrorist bombings of 2002 and 2005 and the hedonistic and embarrassing antics of some Western tourists as they ignore and disrespect the quiet customs of the beautiful Balinese people who are lucky enough to call Bali their home. To me, it is a place of great spirituality, emotion and beautiful customs.

I wanted to steer clear of the tacky streets of Kuta, Legian and Seminyak so after some research found the village of Canggu and the amazing Tugu Bali Hotel. Filled with excitement, I was driven through the dark incense laden streets on a sultry August night to meet Ms. Froggie at our hotel. With a bottle of Champagne in my hand I made my way to her suite where we sat on her spacious sea view balcony, waves crashing onto the black sand beach just beyond the hotel’s garden gossiping and laughing like only old friends can.
We spent the next 2 days walking miles on the black sand beach and eating our way through the amazing menu choices the hotel offered, all the while never running out of conversation. Ms. Froggie is possibly one of the only people in the world that I can travel with and never get sick of. We are both extremely independent, well travelled and introverted so know how to get along without even trying. I think previously living and travelled together a lot also helps.

Finally the day came to make our way to the green mountains of Ubud to our 6 day yoga retreat. I was really looking forward working with the Australian yoga teacher who is very well known in yoga circles and seeing if I could push myself to new areas (freestanding headstands perhaps? Yikes!). Our hillside retreat was gorgeous and overlooked the rice terraces that Bali is famous for. The ringing of wind chimes was soothing as we unpacked our bags and headed to our first yoga session with the group of 20 other yogis.

Over the next 6 days we were woken early and stretched to our limits in our open air yoga pavilion overlooking a small river. It was beautiful watching the sun rise over the jungle as we “downward dogged” and “warriored” until our muscles felt like they were beyond stretched. We were fed the most amazing semi-vegetarian food every day and I have never felt so healthy.

Massages and decadent spa treatments were offered daily as well as excursions to temples and bike rides through the surrounding villages. There was a day of enforced silence where we spent 24 hours without speaking or interacting with anyone (slightly difficult when sharing a room – Ms. Froggie and I perfected the art of miming with much hilarity).

It was with sadness we left our new friends for a few final days back at the Tugu Bali Hotel. Ms. Froggie and I soon fell back into our beach walk/eat/swim/eat/beach walk/sleep routine until it was time for me to farewell her as she headed onto another part of the island while I flew back to Sydney.

It had been 10 years since I had been to Bali and before I left for this trip I had wondered if perhaps I had imagined the magic it held for me. Maybe nostalgia had made my memories sweeter that what was reality? I can honestly say, I fell more in love with it. I now know that it will always be “home”. I can’t wait to go back again soon.

Friday, November 04, 2011

The Co-Driver's USA Report / Part 2

The Co-driver again….

While I was back in the USA, I had several quilts quilted by my sister and niece. They are commercial quilters with the business of Charmed I’m Sure. Since arriving home, I’ve sewn the binding onto all three of them. I’ve also attached a sleeve to two of them as I intend to hang them in our house.

This one is a simple log cabin that I made years ago with left over fabrics from a friendship quilt exchange. This will hang over the ‘wine laboratory bench’ in the little house. Carin quilted this with a pantograph.

The second one is a quilt that Kay pieced for me for my birthday. Again, Carin quilted it with a pantograph. Isn’t she good?

And this one – well, if you’re a regular reader of Mr. W’s blog, you’ve seen it before…’s my Australia quilt that took….oh….10 years or so to finish. It has probably over 150 different fabrics in it. I started collecting colors for this quilt after my first visit to Australia in 2001.

Check out the quilting…..Kay did a frickin’ fantabulous job on it. Every time I look at it I see something different. My favorite part is the pebbles.
I’m going to put it in the local show early next year. It’s a long shot that it will win but it’s a winner in my book so I don’t really much care what others think of it.

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

The Co-Driver's USA Report / Part 1

The Co-driver here!
Thought I’d share a couple more things that were happenin’ in South Dakota after Mr. W went home.
Firstly, we had a fabulous JAM session.
Gramcraker made us jam every year for Christmas. As a way to honor her life, all the women folk got together and had a Raspberry-Rhubarb jam making day at Kelly’s in her swish new kitchen. Kay thought ahead and had aprons in various colors made for all (I think there were 11 of us).

Carin had given me a frame with a photo of Gramcraker’s hands so that sat among us while we all took turns measuring, stirring, washing & bossing. No such thing as too many cooks spoiling the jam – it was DELISH! I even 'smuggled' some back to Australia with me.
As I don’t wear an apron much, I’ve tied it to a chair in my little house;
Looks cute, doesn’t it?

The weekend after Mr. W left, 12 gals headed to Adams, Minnesota for a quilt retreat at Whispering Willows Cottage.
O-M-G, it is an absolute gem of a facility. I highly recommend it. There was absolutely nothing that we could have wanted for, other than perhaps an extra bed (one of them was supposed to be for 2 people but they would have had to be miniature people to be comfortable in the bed).
So, for 3 nights and 3 1/2 days, 12 women sewed and crafted and laughed and ate and drank and played games and had massages and ate and drank and gambled and shopped…..oh, and did I mention that we ate and drank? It was such a nice weekend. There was a bit of concern that 12 estrogen dependent women might struggle to get along for that long but no worries….other than a little niggle or two, there were no problems. One night we even had The Quilt Goddesses in residence……they were a hoot!

I also spent quite a bit of time doing yoga while I was back in hopes of staying in my ‘zen zone’. It worked. I stayed in my ZZ the entire trip (well, pretty much so). I found a delightful little studio called EastbankYoga in Sioux Falls.
Gina and Cena are great teachers. I also took a class from Mary at The Butterfly Rainbow Center and she was wonderful. My only regret is that I didn’t have enough time to join Cena for that glass of wine she offered.
The best part was spending some quality time with family and friends. It gets to be a long dry spell between visits and although my home is in Australia, I dearly miss my family and friends in the USA - Skype, phone calls, emails and snail mail just don’t quite hit the mark.