Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Date Day / Didn't Go As Planned

The electricity supply company is replacing all the wooden transmission poles in our area with bushfire proof ones. This means we will be without power for the whole day for a few days over the coming weeks.
For the first powerless day we planned a date day in Batemans Bay, about 30 minutes drive to the south, including a lunch of fish and chips (and potato scallops) at Innes Boatshed which, according to us and a few of our visitors, are the best in the world.

We set off early for a sit in the sun and a read at South Durras in the Murramarang National Park.
This is a lovely area with a small village, beautiful beaches and plenty of wildlife.
Lots of winter wildflowers were in bloom and we had company also enjoying the sunshine on a warm 21 degree day.

Then at midday it was onto 'the Bay'.
We made it only as far as the north side of the Clyde River.
The major highway (Highway 1 which circumnavigates the entire Australian continent) crosses the Clyde into Batemans Bay via a lift bridge. It opens twice a day to let bigger boats through. Today it had opened on time, then stuck in the open position.

Technicians were working feverishly to get it fixed while traffic banked up on both sides of the river.
We sat for a while but it was obvious that no one knew how long it was going to take.
So we turned around and headed back to our local area, had a nice lunch at Annabell's Cafe' in Milton (a usual haunt) and another sit in the sun and read at Mollymook Beach.

We will try again for 'the Bay' another day.
"The best laid plans of mice and men often go astray".
Thank you, Mr. Burns (the Scottish  poet, not The Simpsons character)

Saturday, August 10, 2013

In Building Mode

The stables have a tack room attached to them. I hadn't been inside since the daughter's horse, Tayah, died over 8 years ago. But I was looking for something in there and found more than I bargained for.
Termites had invaded and built a huge nest from the floor to the ceiling.
I could  poke my finger through the wooden interior wall lining.
Neighbour Bob is an all round handy man and was looking for a job so he volunteered to help me do some remedial work.
We stripped all the corrugated iron outer wall off the frame and were met with the sight of a huge infestation and what appeared to be lots of damage.

So off came the affected wall lining and up came the suspended floor boards.
One hardwood corner post had been completely eaten out and a number of rails too.
The termites had tried in a number of other areas which had proven too tough so it was not a complete disaster.
The main nest was under the floor. It was a huge ball of chewed and 'glued" wood about 1m into the ground.

We had built a fire to burn the damaged timber so the nest, complete with inhabitants, was carefully removed to prevent any disturbance and committed to the flames.
We didn't need another tack room so the space was repaired as a storage unit for hay.
New posts, rails and recycled timber for the floor were put together and the corrugated iron reattached. All that is missing now is a wire gate for the front which is being custom made.
As work continued, Bob began referring to the project as the 'stable complex'. In the end it had become the 'Equine Centre'. But no equines around here, however, only bovines.
Termites (white ants) are a real problem in Australia. We get a house inspection done every few years and the beginnings of an invasion were discovered a little time back and quickly dealt with.
Thankfully we don't have the problem with them on the coast as they have in the outback. Nests can grow to an amazing size and height.

It was obviously a working with timber week. The road into our valley is a private one and is unsealed. The residents maintain it. This is a matter of filling in potholes, grading with a tractor and making sure the drainage system is kept clear and working.
A lot of wet weather can cause a fair amount of damage.
There is also the bridge across the creek. Ours is a classic wooden beam bridge design with four huge logs covered by planks spanning the water way. The timber planks tend to rot out over time and need to be replaced. These are large and heavy hardwood, usually iron bark. The old ones have to be lifted out and the new ones inserted.

Luckily we have a few tractors around with front end loaders to help with this.
But a fair amount of manual labour is always required. Everyone pitches in and it takes a few hours to get things done. This time we only had 11 to do.
The old timbers are cut up and used for firewood.
Now the bridge is OK for a few more years.

Thursday, August 01, 2013


I noticed, while in the supermarket the other day, they were selling wild rabbits (meat) for around $20.
Neighbour Gail, up the back, breeds rabbits for meat and sells them at a good price too.
As one who grew up learning about the rabbit scourge and then having to deal with them on the farm, I was quite amazed at this development.
From hated pest to gourmet food?
Rabbit was a common food way back when, both in the country where they were plentiful (actually in plague proportions) and in the cities in the less affluent parts. Rabbitos used to hawk around the streets with them.
But we never had them at home when I was a kid.. My mother would disdainfully say "Depression food!"  and that was that.
Rabbits are not native to Australia.
They were introduced to the country in the 18th century by the first settlers as a food source.
Some were even imported from the UK as wild food for another perennial imported pest, the fox, so the gentlemen of the day could pursue their 'sport' of hunting.
Thomas Austin is credited with releasing 24 wild rabbits at his Barwon Park property near Geelong in Victoria in 1859. This small population exploded to cover Victoria and New South Wales by 1886. By 1900, rabbits had reached the Northern Territory and Western Australia.

Rabbits cause millions of dollars of damage to agricultural crops, pastureland and the bushland, reducing regeneration of vulnerable native plant species which encourages erosion and changes the landscape forever.
They actively compete with domestic livestock and can alter pasture composition by selectively grazing on more palatable and nutritious plants. Seven to ten rabbits eat the equivalent of one adult sheep.
Their presence has also led to the demise of many native marsupial species such as the bilby and the bandicoot as their feed sources were consumed by marauding rabbits.
They can also cause structural damage to buildings, fences, roads and railway lines by undermining them with their burrows.
Various control methods are available to landholders which includes shooting, trapping, poisoning, fumigation and warren destruction techniques such as ripping and using explosives.
In 1907 a rabbit proof fence was built in Western Australia in an attempt to contain the rabbits.
There are three fences in Western Australia. The original No. 1 Fence crosses the state from north to south, the No. 2 Fence which is smaller and further west, and the smaller east-west running No. 3 fence. The fences took six years to build. When completed all three fences stretched 3,253 km (2,021 miles) across the state.

Biological controls, such as the rabbit calici virus and myxomatosis, have been released into the population to help keep it in check.
We had a rabbit problem when I first moved onto our property. By law the land owner has to keep the population under control by warren and burrow destruction. The Rural Lands Protection Board had the right to inspect properties and fines were imposed for non compliance.
We were limited to the fumigation method where all but one entrance to burrows were blocked up and a gas pellet put down the remaining one which was then sealed. A lot of hard work that never seemed to have much affect.
Every now and then, myxomatosis would come through the area and pretty much decimate the population but resistance to this virus was building and its affect began to diminish.
Then the CSIRO found that the calici virus might be a solution. In Europe this has a lethal affect on the wild and pet rabbit population and animals need to be vaccinated against it.
Long term tests to ascertain the affect of this virus on native wild life were carried out on a remote island off South Australia. Reports were that it had no affect on local animals but having had biological controls "go wrong" before eg. the cane toad, the government was very conservative in their approach.
But some people would not wait. Mysteriously the virus was released onto the mainland.
The affect was immediate. Rabbits began dying in their millions.
It took around 3 years for the virus to reach us and within a year the rabbits were gone.
The countryside began to change. Native plants thought to be extinct began to reappear.
The rabbit shortage became so acute that the famous Australian felt hat maker, Akrubra, had to start importing rabbit fur from overseas.
While we seldom see a rabbit these days it has become apparent in other parts of the country that resistance to the calici virus is now building and rabbit populations are again on the increase.
Research for a permanent solution continues.