Sunday, February 22, 2015

The Milton Show 2015

It's that time of year again. SHOWTIME!
I won't go into much detail as I blogged about the 2014 show and it's pretty much the same every year.
Rain, as usual, was predicted but it was sunny, hot and sticky the morning we went.
The co driver entered six quilts and won four firsts and one second.

I entered 4 wines but with no luck.
We enjoyed the produce and handicraft exhibits as well as art and photography. Maybe I will have a try at the art competition next year.

We spent a little time at the dairy cow judging and watching some kids and their horses go through their dressage routines.

 An enjoyable morning, as usual.

Friday, February 20, 2015


I have blogged before about the tick problem we can have when working around the place at certain times of the year.
We usually spray personal repellants before extended time outside but this does not always work especially if you get hot and sweaty and don't reapply.
Normally we just pull the ticks off when we find them.
I get a much more severe reaction to their bites than does the co driver ie. a big red itchy lump that can hang around for weeks.
The other night on TV there was a program about ticks and their relationship to people who have red meat allergies or mammalian meat allergy (MMA).
It appears that ticks who have fed on mammals, other than humans, pick up Alpha-gal (a sugar) which is then bound to a protein in the tick's system. This sugar does not occur in humans (or great apes and Old World monkeys).
When the tick then bites a human this complex is injected into the bloodstream. While the immune system would normally attack the tick protein, not the sugar if separate, it now attacks the sugar-protein complex. So the immune system becomes trained to attack the sugar as well.
As all red met contains the sugar, eating it can produce a severe allergic reaction, sometimes causing death.
Regarding tick bites in general, no one becomes immune to them. Those who have had little or no reaction can suddenly become dangerously allergic.
This was all a bit scarey.
Apparently pulling off a tick either by hand or with tweezers is a big no no. This just results in a bigger injection of toxin especially if the latter is not done precisely. Other methods such as using vaseline to smother the insect is also an "old wives' tale".
The suggested method was, for larger ticks, to use a spray containing ether like Wart Off or Medi Freeze Skin Tag Remover then wait 10 minutes until the tick is dead then just brush it off.
'Freeze it, don't squeeze it' was the catch phrase.
For smaller seed ticks a cream used to treat scabies (permethrin based) was the most effective.
We will certainly be doing this from now on.
The whole story can be read here.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Preparing for Bali

When I first started travelling overseas, way back when, it was mandatory to have shots eg. smallpox, cholera, typhoid etc.
It was necessary to carry a 'little yellow book' to prove to border authorities in certain countries your shots were up to date.
But as world health improved this practice became pretty much obsolete except for a few cases eg. yellow fever.
But it was always suggested that when visiting off the beaten path places in developing countries it was best to be protected.
I visited Asian countries a lot for many decades but as it was mostly their capital cities I didn't bother much about keeping shots up to date.
Plus I really HATE needles.

We are travelling to Bali in June for the daughter's wedding.
She is well versed at what goes down there and insisted (in cohorts with the co driver) I get the necessary suggested shots.
Reading the travel advice is enough to put you off getting on the plane but nearly one million Australian tourists visit Bali every year, the vast majority without too much trauma.
So I am in the process of getting tetanus, hepatitis A and B and typhoid vaccines. Seeing the tetanus shot comes in combo with whooping cough and diphtheria I am getting those two as a bonus.
Apparently there is an oral vaccine for cholera. Whoopee!
I know, working in a farm environment, I should have had a tetanus booster every 10 years but that just didn't happen.
I must admit that the process so far has been pretty much painless (if you don't look) and know I have been a wuss.
Now who mentioned malaria and dengue fever?

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

The Australian Flag

The Australian flag resulted from a competition run by the newly formed Commonwealth government after Federation in 1901.
That competition attracted 32,823 entries, five of which almost identical designs shared first prize.
The design incorporates the Union Jack (acknowledging the history of British settlement) with the large Commonwealth Star underneath (it has seven points representing the unity of the six states and the territories) together with the five stars of the Southern Cross. This constellation can be seen only from the southern hemisphere and is a reminder of Australia’s geography.

For few decades now there have been rumblings to change the flag, namely to get rid of the Union Jack which to many is an unnecessary symbol of our colonial past.
Of course this has met with major opposition from the traditionalists who maintain our past is an essential element to be recognized. Also the Queen of the United Kingdom being Queen of Australia ie. our ceremonial head of state, is another important reason to maintain the current flag.
A referendum in 1999 to break our final tie with the UK ie.remove the Queen's sovereignty, and become a republic was defeated 55:45.
But recent shenanigans by our conservative government headed by an English born monarchist Prime Minister in reintroducing knighthoods (after their abolition 30 years ago) for pre-eminent Australians and then awarding one of two to a foreigner ie. the Duke of Edinburgh  (the Queen's husband) on Australia Day upset more than a few people and once again fanned the almost dead embers of the republic/flag debates.
Fiji  recently decided to do away with the Union Jack in their flag and the New Zealand government will be putting a new flag referendum to its people in 2015 and, depending on that result, again in 2016 (theirs is almost identical to ours).
Current New Zealand Flag
If the latter gets up and the decision is to do away with the Union Jack this would leave only us and the tiny Pacific island nation of Tuvalu with this colonial relic on their national flags.
Most of the other 50 plus Commonwealth of Nations (formerly British Commonwealth) countries eg. Canada, made the move years ago and the world didn't stop turning.
My feeling?
I think it is time to make a change.
To what?
I would be more than happy with the Eureka flag but that symbol has been hijacked so many times for what people consider unworthy causes it would never be accepted.
Eureka Flag

As a compromise I would be happy just to simply have the stars of the current flag on the blue background.
Others think replacing the Union Jack with the Aboriginal flag has some legs.
There have been a few competitions run to design a new flag over the years.
While many have had some merit others have been truly dreadful. A few reflect our sense of humour. 
The truth is, however, that I don't think this or the republican question will ever be settled in my lifetime.
UPDATE 24/03/16: New Zealand voted 56.6% to 43.2% to retain their current flag.

Friday, February 06, 2015

Wanting to be an Painter

Getting older one tends to think back and have some regrets about not doing a few things in life.
For me one is not being able to play a musical instrument. My mother, a piano player (by ear), organized lessons when I was young but it was obvious, at the time, I had little interest.
Now I would give my eye teeth to play piano like Richard Dworsky (Prairie Home Companion) or Marcia Ball.
I would have also liked to have been a painter or a potter. Regular readers of my blog would have noticed that we visit many art galleries around the world on our travels and I get inspired particularly by the artists of the Impressionist Movement, including some Australians eg. Arthur Streeton. This not to say I don't appreciate the Renaissance, Baroque and Romantic art periods but they don't 'do' as much for me.
I have had a number of aborted attempts over the years at channeling this desire, all pretty much ending as quickly as they started.
Recently we were watching a BSkyB program called "Portrait Artist of the Year", a competition between various artists from the UK who paint portraits in public under pretty severe time restraints. It was interesting to watch the artists' various techniques and with some of them I thought to myself, "I could do that".

The co driver has connections to a local artist who gives lessons and thought I should have another 'go'. 
I mulled it over for a few months and then we both decided to give it a try.
So far we have done two 3 hour sessions with a group of others who are in various stages of progress and I am enjoying the process.
Our teacher, Jules, says the first step in being an artist is the ability to draw well and has me copying simple line drawings in pencil from a book. 
Sounds easy? 
No it's not. 
My first attempt at drawing a rabbit turned out looking like a very deformed sheep.
But I am doing regular 'homework' every day copying chosen drawings from the Internet, sometimes to scale or, if I am feeling brave, scaled up.  I set myself a target of two drawings which is probably one to two hour's work.
They are usually pretty simple but it is an exercise in observation where getting the proportions right is the main aim.
At times it can be frustrating (my rubber eraser to Americans, gets a good workout) but as the saying goes, practice makes perfect. 
So far, so good.

Sunday, February 01, 2015

South Coast Wine Show 2015

The 16th annual South Coast Wine Show was judged on the 22nd January.
Eighty two entries from 16 vineyards and wineries in the South Coast Wine Zone which includes two official wine regions, the Shoalhaven Coast and Southern Highlands, were submitted for evaluation.
43 medals were awarded, 9 gold, 8 silver and 26 bronze.
Wines are divided in categories eg. variety, style, blends, age etc.
Up to 3 points for colour, 7 for nose and 10 for palate are allocated by each judge. Depending on the average of those scores, medals are awarded.
Gold medal 18.5 – 20.0 points
Silver medal 17.0 – 18.4 points
Bronze medal 15.5 – 16.9 points

The judging panel of three plus an associate was again headed by David Morris of Morris Wines, Rutherglen in Victoria.
A public tasting of all entries took place the next evening and was well attended. A couple of hours before this function, all entrants had the chance to discuss their submitted wines and scores with the judges.
This is one way for many of the smaller wineries to improve their wine making skills.
Following on from this, it was disappointing that there was such a low number of entries in the Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon class and not one medal was awarded. Some of the scores were extremely low. It would appear that more work needs to be done in the region with these classic red wine grapes.
Or just maybe wineries making good examples don't bother entering.
More details can be found on the show's web site.