Thursday, July 28, 2016

Flying Foxes

There are four species of flying foxes native to Australia.
The one we see around here is the grey headed flying fox and is found in the temperate south-eastern forested areas of Australia, principally east of the Great Dividing Range ie. the coastal strip between Bundaberg in Queensland south to Geelong in Victoria.
Adults have an average wingspan up to 1m (3.3 ft) and can weigh up to 1kg (2.2 lb).
They live in a variety of habitats including rain forests, woodlands and swamps. During the day, individuals reside in large roosts called colonies or 'camps' that can consist of hundreds to tens of thousands of individuals.
Grey-headed flying foxes form two different roosting camps, summer and winter.
Summer camps are used from September to April. In these camps, they establish territories, mate and reproduce.

Winter camps are used from April to September. Here the sexes are separated and most behaviour is characterized by mutual grooming. Summer camps are considered "main camps", while winter camps are referred to as "transit camps".
Around dusk, the flying foxes leave the roost and travel up to 50 km a night to feed on pollen, nectar and fruit from around 190 plant species.
Grey-headed flying foxes, along with the three other Australian flying fox species, fulfill a very important ecological role by dispersing the pollen and seeds of a wide range of native Australian plants.
They are now a subject of serious conservation concern.
Early in the last century, the species was considered abundant, with numbers estimated in the many millions. In recent years, however, evidence has been coming to light that the species is in serious decline.
They face several threats, including loss of foraging and roosting habitat as well as mass die-offs caused by extreme temperature events.
As well their roosting and foraging habits bring the species into conflict with humans where they suffer from direct killing in orchards and harassment and destruction of roosts.

Why am I talking about this?
Well sometimes these animals decide to set up their camps in urban areas.
There was once a big one in the Sydney Botanical Gardens in the CBD (downtown).
Unfortunately for some of the inhabitants of Batemans Bay, a major town just to the south of us, the flying foxes set up camp in and around a golf course and a man made parkland area filled with native trees in the middle of suburbia. Numbers were estimated at 100,000 ie. about a quarter to a fifth of the entire national population.
The noise, the smell and the continual 'rain' of guano made life very difficult for a large number of residents.
They obviously wanted them 'moved on'.
This of course brought out the 'green army' who wanted the status quo preserved. Obviously they didn't live in the area affected.
However the federal government, after some delay, enacted special environmental powers to solve the problem and the state government contributed $2.5million to set a dispersal plan in motion.
Apart from removing the vegetation from the 'camp' area, extremely loud industrial noise combined with smoke and bright lights has been employed in an effort to make the area where the flying foxes roost to be as 'uncomfortable' as possible
It's early days yet but that plan, so far, seems to be working.
We just hope they don't move up this way although we are aware there has been a 'camp' in the Brooman Forest a fair distance away to the south west of us for some time.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Things That Make You Smile

We all get through life using a lot of 'things'.
Some we take for granted and others we don't know what we would do without them.
I have a few of the latter eg. the ride on mower, chainsaw, fence wire twitcher and iPad.

The co driver has her Pfaff and  iPod.
Some of these are obviously expensive.
But there are a few things we use that were cheap and, for us, indispensable.
The co driver has her needle threading 'machine' and her brass quilting stiletto.

Mine is my jar opener.
Most of us have struggled opening jar lids. To prevent strained wrists we have all used the tap with a knife or run under hot water methods.
And there are a whole lot of fancy devices, some quite expensive, to get the job done.
But we found a plastic lever action 'tool' for under $10.
Called a Jarkey, just fit it under the lip of the lid and tweak.
The seal is instantly broken and the lid easily unscrews.
Haven't come across a jar yet that has resisted this method.
Every time I use it, it makes me smile.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Our New Highway Section / Wildlife Protection

I have mentioned in previous posts that the major highway at the end of our road was going through a $21m reconstruction with the removal of a dangerous curve and the building of a new 100 year flood bridge.
After eighteen months, of what turned out to be minor disruption, work is virtually complete. It makes the section a lot safer and, even better, we now have a dedicated turn off lane onto our road.
We were puzzled by some strange looking structures that were included in the work.
All has now been revealed thanks to some investigative reporting by Jessica McInerney from of our local paper the Milton Ulladulla Times.
Our valley is surrounded by national park which the highway runs through. As part of the upgrade, fauna crossings have been built to provide safe passage for wildlife.
A fauna underpass at the northern end of the project has been designed to provide a safe crossing for kangaroos, wallabies, bandicoots and echidnas.
A fauna fence has been built on both sides to funnel the animals towards the underpass.
Photos: Jessica McInerney (MUT)

Two canopy rope bridges and several glider poles have been installed to connect either side of the road.
Research has shown these bridges band poles have been successful in helping animals including the yellow-bellied and squirrel gliders safely cross other major highways.
Photos: Jessica McInerney (MUT)

Eighty six nest boxes have been installed to compensate for the loss of 36 trees during the construction.
These are designed to provide potential habitat for some species including microbats, gliders, possums and birds and will be monitored for five years.
Photo: Jessica McInerney (MUT)

Glider experts from the Southern Cross University were engaged throughout the project to advise on the design, location and height of the canopy rope bridges and glider poles.
Nice to see that the fury and not so fury are being looked after although it is a pity the foxes and rabbits will also be able to take advantage.
We see plenty of roadkill on a daily basis around this way so any reduction is welcome.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

A Trip to Sydney

The daughter and Nick are moving to New York. They fell in love with the place a year ago on their honeymoon and decided to see if they could move there for a time. Australia has an agreement with the USA whereby those with suitable qualifications and skills can work in the country. Nick has already been there for a few weeks, finding an apartment in Brooklyn, and working on an E3 visa.
The daughter leaves next week on her E3D visa. She has a few USCIS hoops to jump through but will eventually be allowed to work as well.
We went up to Sydney to say goodbye and to help a little with some moving chores. Everything is going into storage although we did score a few fancy appliances to 'look after'.
The visit turned into a bit of a dining out fest.
For lunch we went back to Sake on the Rocks.
This restaurant specializes in modern Japanese cuisine.

We decided to sit at the bar for our meal and watch the talented kitchen staff go about their craft. The sushi chefs have amazing knife skills.
Our meal consisted of:
-Sashimi appetizer
-White-soy snapper thin slices of sashimi snapper | sesame seeds chives yuzu juice | white-soy dressing.
-Steamed prawn dumplings shumai | spicy ponzu
-Wagyu dumplings ginger | chive | spicy sour dipping sauce
-Pan seared ocean barramundi cone bay ocean barramundi butter soy sweet ponzu | buckwheat | tomato salsa
This was all washed down with a glass of Jim Barry's Clare Valley Riesling.

It was a hugely enjoyable meal with attentive service in very pleasant surroundings.
The Rocks is the area of original settlement of Sydney and is now a popular tourist precinct filled with hotels, pubs, bars, coffee shops, restaurants and the inevitable souvenir shops. Lots of the old buildings and warehouses remain. There is also a really good market with high quality hand made goods set up at weekends.The place was really buzzing especially since the very large cruise ship, Carnival Spirit, was moored right 'next door' at the international terminal in Sydney Cove.

That night we headed into the newly 'revived' inner Sydney suburb of Chippendale to LP's Quality Meats.
American Bar B Q restaurants are a relatively new addition to the Sydney foodie scene. This is one of the best.
Luke Powell (the LP) has worked at some of the best restaurants in Australia and overseas. It was at Blue Hill at Stone Barns in upstate New York, USA that Luke became fascinated with the smoking and curing of meat and decided to bring that skill to Sydney diners.
A Southern Pride Smoker shipped straight from Tennessee is their production unit and it sure does serve up some mighty fine dishes.
We selected:
-Applewood smoked ocean trout with crème fraîche, dill and capers.
-Smoked Beef short rib
-BBQ chicken with paprika and dill rub (only a half!)
Mash and gravy plus roasted carrots with harissa and almonds were the sides
The dessert to die for was pouding chomeur with vanilla ice cream.
Roll us outta there!!!

They had a very eclectic wine list with the vast majority of makers unknown to me.
We selected a Between Five Bells wine.This winery is owned by a group of guys with various wine backgrounds. Their inspiration is a) "the classic field-blend red wines of California, with their flare, deliciousness and wild, rich flavours" and b) "the wines of the central and southern Rhone Valley, where, if you look past the big names, reside some of the most natural, rustic, slurpable Shiraz and Grenache based wines anywhere in the world".
The 2014 H-cote is a blend of the Italian varieties Nero d’Avola and Negroamaro from a Heathcote (Victoria) vineyard which was fermented on their skins as well as skins of Pinot Gris.

This a very straight forward but drinkable wine that went well with the strong flavours of the food. They say it is a wine that shows silk, spice, savoury and gulp-able flavours. We couldn't argue with that.
So next morning, after breakfast and a bit more furniture dismantling, we said our goodbyes and headed back home.
We are planning to visit New York in May next year to catch up with the kids.

Wednesday, July 06, 2016

Book Reviews / July 2016

Duke Kahanamoku was always considered the father of Australian surfing having ridden his heavy redwood board in front of hundreds of amazed spectators at Freshwater Beach, Sydney in 1914.
But Phil Jarratt dispels this myth and many others in That Summer at Boomerang.
Written in the style of a non-fiction novel the book covers Kahanamoku's early life in a Hawaii where his tiny community of Waikiki "eked out a living from the sea or in small market gardens'' while a small number of planter barons built their mansions.
This was the end of the 19th century with the world of Hawaiian royalty fading and indignities endured as control of their islands was wrested from them.
The book covers his prowess as world record breaking and Olympic champion swimmer (he competed in three) and his life as a lifeguard, actor and finally long term Honolulu sheriff.
The bulk of the book, however, deals with his visit to Australia and New Zealand for three months in 1914.

It covers the well known legend of his association with the young Australian beach girl Isabel Letham and the moment when she rides the wave with Kahanamoku which is immortalized in standard surf histories as well as his exhausting swimming competition tour through both countries.
                           The Duke at Waikiki and Freshwater Beach                                        

Surfing was my choice of recreation for over 40 years so whenever I am in Honolulu I always wander down to the Duke's statue at Waikiki ( I know it's facing the wrong way) to pay my respects. When reading this book I was surprised to find out there is also a statue at Freshwater. And the USA government has issued a stamp in his memory which I have in safe keeping.

Whether you liked or loathed his politics, liked or loathed his movies, John Wayne stands out as a dominant Hollywood star of his era and is unquestioningly king of "the Western" genre with a career spanning 50 years and more than 175 movies. 
John Wayne: The Life and Legend is lengthy biography well researched, detailed and basically non judgmental.
It traces the life of Marion Robert Morrison from his birth in 1907 in Winterset, Iowa (Bridges of Madison County country) through his nomadic childhood and 'apprenticeship' in minor roles to his stardom in Stagecoach and the dozens of other films that followed.
Apparently he altered his life's story, claiming to have become an actor almost by accident when really he had studied drama and wanted to act for most of his youth.

Many family members as well as friends and associates have offered previously unpublished reminiscences for this biography. In addition details from his production company's activities shed light on Wayne's business affairs.
And of course he married three times, all to Latina women, and conducted a lengthy affair with Marlene Dietrich.
The detailed analysis of Wayne's relationship with John Ford, the director with whom he's most associated and who made some of Wayne's greatest films is particularly interesting for the film buff.
A long book but never a tedious one.
As follow up to the above I came cross Company of Heroes by Harry Carey Jr., an actor who worked closely with both Wayne and Ford. His name might not ring a bell but the face is surely familiar.
Coming from an acting family, parents Harry and Olive Carey, he appeared in over ninety films and numerous TV series.

It is an interesting insider's look at Hollywood by someone who is not a big star but was privy to all that went on, off and on the screen.
Another one for the movie buff.
The Road from Coorain is an autobiography of the early life of Australian born Jill Ker Conway.
Brought up on an isolated 12900ha (32,000 acre) sheep station (ranch) in far western New South Wales with only two brothers for company, she became, by age seven, an important member of the workforce. She herded and tended the sheep, checked boundary fencing and lugged heavy farm supplies around. She was schooled entirely by her mother and a country governess.
Life was tough there especially during the seven years of drought. Following the accidental death of her father, her mother struggled on for another three years before the family moved to Sydney.

There Jill  immersed herself in academia while dealing with an ever increasingly emotionally volatile mother and other family tragedies.
On graduation she found that the Australia of the late 1950s was not ready for women to take a leading role in business, academic or diplomatic positions so she set off for the United States where she achieved great success at institutions such as Harvard, MIT and Smith College and on boards of major commercial businesses.
She has received thirty-eight honorary degrees and awards from North American and Australian colleges, universities and women's organizations.
This is a fascinating book about life in rural and city Australia in the mid 20th century.
Unreservedly recommended.

The picture above is from Google and shows the type of country the beginning of this book is set in.
'Flat" is a word that comes to mind. We have driven over similar country when heading west from Sydney to Adelaide. You swear you can see the curvature of the earth especially on the Hay Plains.
It is also reminiscent of the prairie country of the western Dakotas.