Another Country Diary gumboots
Another Country Diary

Links to images and other pages are in blue, mouse-over pop-up comments when I have them are burgundy. 
8 August '02

Urban roadkill. Dead rabbit in Gibralter St.I thought it was great when I first moved here, that there were rabbits and hares running in the streets around me. I still see them sometimes in the headlights as I come home late. There are noticeably fewer hares now, and we occasionally hear a single gunshot at night that probably accounts for another one. I didn't consider them a real pest to our garden, but I did see a small rabbit for a few days that scuttled away each time I went to the back of the yard. The dogs would run in circles, sniffing and making excited yips but they never uncovered where it was hiding. 

A bigger problem was when we were planting the new trees for the primary school and the hares destroyed a lot of the young tasty plants. The tree guards that were put up had to be made more rabbit proof but there was talk of baits and traps, neither of which had much support.

The town traffic is usually so sparse at night that I'd never seen one as road kill before. This one was just outside the Church of England in Gibralter Street and looked pretty healthy (for a dead rabbit). Clear eyed, full fur and no sign of calicivirus or myxomatosis. Having wild rabbits that can come into suburban yards means that when Kate had a big friendly pet rabbit for a couple of years, it had to be immunised every year at some expense. She used to let it out of it's hutch to run around the chook pen, which it did wildly, glad to be able to stretch. We made that a way to make her feel guilty about caging it (along with the fact that she hated cleaning up the rabbit poo and was scared of spiders living around the hutch I made). The hatch was very big with a wire mesh floor and we moved it around the yard onto fresh grass. When the dogs would run past the cage, the rabbit used to leap around as well, as if wanting to play. It was big enough to chase off the cat but I think the 'play' with the dogs wouldn't have lasted long.

When she'd forgotten to water it for a few days and didn't feel like cleaning it when we asked one weekend, we gave the ultimatum to take it back to the pet shop. She was relieved I think. Now she can 'interact' with the wild ones in her car at night.

When I was growing up, we lived on the Murray River at Walwa. My younger brother and I had a number of rabbit traps that we set (and that my parents made me check, morning and night so that I didn't leave caught animals suffering). I remember being glad when I found them already dead, but if alive I became adept at breaking their necks with a quick stretch. As a kid I had no idea of them dying in pain but in later years I couldn't do it. About ten years ago I set some traps to stop rabbits digging under a garden fence on a bush block, but that was a traumatic experience for some other telling.

My brother and I sold the ones we couldn't eat to the local pub for two shillings (20c) a pair. It seemed good money to me for the time, as a kid of nine or ten years old. When the first wave of myxomatosis hit the area, the numbers dropped dramatically. The affected ones could be quite healthy looking but with runny and cloudy eyes (they eventually go blind) that was a sure sign they were affected. It doesn't affect humans when they eat the flesh, but I remember rubbing the occasional rabbit's face in the dust before I sold them. For cosmetic reasons only of course. I don't know if it ever fooled anyone.

The rabbit plagues around here in Bungendore, saw a thriving meat industry between the wars, and there are some great photos of the Bungendore Railway Station with racks of rabbits, going off by rail  freezers for sale in the city.

10 August '02 
View to Brindabella's from FairlightI've been doing some more photography for the Nats website. This time it's was organised by the Queanbeyan office and they couldn't get the people we'd talked about together so, we ended up doing what were mostly promotional images for the local member for Monaro, Peter Webb. While we won't be able to use them on the website, I managed to get a few more 'generic' ones and I did get to see Peter's family property, Fairlight.

Roadsign near FairlightIt was beautiful sunny day, spring felt imminent and I didn't mind being out in it at all. I really warmed to Peter and had a great time traveling with him in his car, and hearing his local stories and knowledge of the area. The Webb family property is huge, fronting on the Murrumbidgee River on the back road to Yass and Wee Jasper from the Cotter Dam turnoff.

As we approached the T intersection just near the property we noticed the flock of ibis in the paddock. "That's a sure sign we'll get a storm, probably hail" said Peter, "we think they're the ones that hang around the Bungendore area and they flock here when the weather is going to be bad". (Sure enough, two days later we had some big storms with rain and hail in Bungendore).

Osage orange tree on the Webb property.As we came through the Fairlight gates the first thing I noticed were the Osage oranges on the ground. Peter complemented me on my identification (not knowing the recent extensive Osage events) and said the tree had been there long before his time, and that they'd planted a few in some of the windbreak rows around the property. 
The locals chatWe talked about how, as family farms change hands because the children don't want to continue on the properties, the local knowledge is the biggest loss. Weather patterns, growing conditions, soil types are never passed on with a bill of sale. Peter's brother Tim is looking after the property while Peter is absorbed in his National Party role. Tim isn't married (yet) so they've been talking about 'succession' and whose sons and daughters might be interested to keep that 'knowledge' and property going. Tim was in the middle of shearing, and helped us bring in some sheep for some photographs. 
Counting sheepI didn't feel that Peter needed to shear a sheep to prove his country authenticity, and that it was heading into cliché but they wanted some photos so I obliged. He did a creditable job and at the classing table we talked about micron sizes, springy belly wool and some 'black patches' that required the wool being sorted into the different bales. 
Inside Fairlight's shearing shedI told them of my first 'wool cheque' when I was a kid, about ten years old. My parents had a single friend whose farm we visited and he allowed us to pick up all the scrap wool, the bits caught in barbed fences, the daggy bits on the woolshed floor and we eventually had enough for a bale full. It went of to auction and I remember getting a cheque, in an envelope with the address written in an almost copperplate script, to Masters Fred & Phillip Harden from Goldsborough Mort & Co some months later. It was a big buzz even if it was a small amount.

It was dark by the time I got home, but I like some of the pictures I took. I also had a new tree to investigate on the web. There was a soft white flowered bush by one of the gates, as we had moved from the sheep on into the cattle paddocks. 

Tagaste, tree lucerneWhen I asked Peter, he said it was Tree Lucerne and that it was also used as feed in dry areas. Theirs were a lush, relatively low (about 4 metres high) planting, used as a windbreak.
Its botanical name is Tagasaste (Cytisus proliferus) a species native to the Canary Islands. Like a lot of introduced plants, it is one of those species that if controlled, is great fodder crop for permaculture but let loose in wetter areas, is invasive of native bushland and roadsides. It blooms at this time of the year, between July and October, and has small white flowers that look like pea flowers. It also develops a seed pod. I've some larger images in a popup window here. 2 x 350pixels wide jpegs.
11 August '02 
Sunday morning bikes outside Gib Street CafeSunday mornings (not too early, about 8.30am), the local bikers converge on the street outside the pub. They then turn their backs on the boozer and walk into the Gib Street Cafe for breakfast and espresso coffees. When they take their helmets off, in amongst the gray hair are a few bald heads but there's not a torn denim vest or a tattoo in sight. These are the modern designer bikies and many of them are my age. One of the regular columns in the Bungendore Bulletin, 'our local rag', is the Motorcycle News. It's written by Charlie Robinson, an avid (and older) biker who also writes the local gardening column and has a great vegetable garden. Feeling the tension between the two journalistic fields, he calls himself Charlie Rumblebum when he writes the motor bike stuff. Both columns are funny and interesting, a polarity that suits the town and its residents.

While I've enjoyed riding trail bikes over the years, I don't feel the need to get a big bike and drive fast round country bends. But I understand the attraction. My Sydney mate Doug has just bought (or some more long term financial arrangement) a big BMW bike. He traded in his yellow Honda which was big enough. Doug tells a story of being out on one of his morning rides and turning into a rutted driveway of one of the better country restaurants to appraise it for a possible lunch. Looking around he didn't notice a hole and dropped the bike over at slow speed. No damage but when these bikes lay down, you need two people to lift them. He got to check out the restaurant in the end, because the only activity around was in the kitchen and he had to ask for help from the chef and his assistant to lift the bike upright. He was too embarrassed to then eat there, so he said 'thanks' and had a pie down the street.

Doug has promised to visit us on his bike soon, while the weather is cold, because he can't test properly his electric handle grip warmers in Sydney.
Fred Harden  
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