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. 
24 August '02
A spring Saturday and unusually still for late August. I've been waiting for the chance to spray the fruit trees when the wind dropped. But before I could spray I had to prune and it turned into a full day of fruit tree work in the garden. It finished with the task of chipping the prunings in our ridiculous electric chipper/ mulcher. 

Never buy a small mulcher! This one will take a branch of about 30mm or so thick and does a fair job of chopping it, but feeding two or three twigs at a time makes it a long task, hardly worth the effort. You do feel more virtuous than just dumping them at the green area of the tip, but it's a much harder slog than it needs to be.

Before we bought the chipper we would pile up the branches for a few months and then hire a petrol driven, trailer mounted model from the rural hire company in Queanbeyan. Somehow it always seemed to be a hot day and the noise, dust and vibration on top of that made the task a real chore. But it ate small trees in a continuous, arm scratching, bone shaking gulp. Because we only had it for a day, we were forced to keep going. At least with your own machine you can stop when you get tired or bored. After paying $90 a day to hire one we decided to buy this current one, a Masport 2500 (it cost around $400) and since our trees won't be going away, I figure a larger model will be justifiable purchase. It's one of those items that should be shared around the neighbours in the village but that's a thought from another era.

We spray mostly for curly leaf on the stone fruits using Kocide. This is basically powdered copper sulphate, a time tested chemical in orchards. It's safe for the fish if washed into the pond (although heavy metals build up in silt over time), and if I remember to spray again after the blossom, it does cut back the leaf damage. 

It was one of those days when I had to have the camera with me as I worked. You see small things because you're there paying attention longer than just on a regular walk around. Like the mizuna lettuce that had gone to seed and was attracting lots of bees. We planted a few rows of mixed 'oriental salad' in late summer and staggered the planting times. We had some late salad but the mizuna was the only thing that survived the frosts through the winter. Encouraged by that toughness we'll plant more and use a plastic cloche to see if we can keep some salad greens going.

The catkins of the hazelnut and filbert are light coloured and fluffy in the sunlight. These ones were silhouetted against the wattle at the end of the yard. I also photographed the small red-brown 'cones' on the native pines beside the pond. I've walked past this tree hundreds of times, cut grass beneath them, trimmed branches but I'd never noticed the round spiky seed heads before. That's why I like being out in the garden for hours, it forces you to pay attention. Working together we point things out to each other. You can come inside tired but there's a sense of achievement at the end of the day, despite that piss weak little pile of wood chips.

28 August '02
Foggy mountain ride. Mt. Fairy hills.I'll be taking the train to Sydney until the car is repaired, and it means I'll leave a little later than usual. The fog had lifted to the tops of the hills around the Mt. Fairy road, and the light was creeping underneath. I saw a group of five deer, one a fawn so there must still be a stag somewhere, although these looked to be all females. I haven't seen any young males in the groups or the big stag that I photographed for months now. I hope they're still around.

I had a meeting in Grey Sydney and stepped from the taxi in North Sydney with minutes to spare. it was a day of heavy meetings and I didn't stick around to have a drink with them, and headed back over to Doug's office in Ultimo.

It actually reads as OX but I flipped this.We were meeting Doug's wife Susan at XO in Kings Cross, Neil Perry's Asian themed restaurant. I'd eaten at the restaurant in a couple of it's previous incarnations (Biba) and this one seemed to hit it just right. We shared some entree's and main courses and still had room for sharing two great deserts. I don't eat deserts much, but the warm creamy sago pudding with mango and passionfruit and the sweet black sticky rice drew all our approvals. Accompanied by a glass of aged Spanish sherry from the Jerez de la Frontera, it's one of those dining tastes you file away under 'aren't we lucky'.
29 August '02
Frogmouth owl on a St.Ives lamp post.Doug noticed the owl first as he turned into his driveway. From the shape and colouring I assumed it was a boobook owl and I know that they sit like this one did, side-on and pretend that you can't see them. They let you (and other birds and animals) come quite close. I got out of the car with camera in hand and tried for a long slow exposure, but gave up and used the flash. Then I came closer and tried again, then still closer and managed to take a few shots getting the framing better each time in the dark. The owl was still there when I went inside. When I was looking through the bird books at home, I realised that it was a frogmouth, a tawny frogmouth I assume, as the patterning isn't like the examples in the book. The only question in my mind is that frogmouths don't sit like that and are much more wary. There's a bigger image here (700 pixels wide, 80k) that shows the different frogmouth beak and plumes above it, something the boobook doesn't have. 

The boobook owl is commonly called the mopoke and that sound is part of my childhood. Lying in bed on hot summer nights, the louvre windows open, I'd listen to their calls as the flew among the trees along the river bank. Frogmouths apparently make a softer 'oooo' sound and I don't think I've ever heard one. I do remember vividly however, the blood curdling screams of another common Australian owl, the Barking Owl. They usually make a call that's a pleasant 'wook wook' , but at some times of the year they make a call that gave them the name of 'screaming woman' owl. If you're alone in the bush at night, it can be very unnerving, even if you tell yourself that it's just a bird.

The SBW Independant Theatre, Miller St. Nth.SydneyWhen I lived in Kirribilli and was working at Murdoch Magazines, I used to walk past the Independant Theatre in Miller Street, North Sydney. It's a heritage building stretching back to vaudeville times.  It was being renovated almost continually over the years as I passed. Now it's about a 300 seat hall with a balcony and nice foyer, function rooms and bar area. Given my normal pattern of country life and city visits, I didn't think I'd ever see the inside of it.

Doug was producing a corporate- sponsored short video and cutting some commercials from it, for the 2002 Mathy Awards, a vocalists competition run by the Australian Singing Competition. The finals are in Perth on the 26th October and it will be broadcast by ABC-TV. I dropped in while they were shooting the last hour of the semi-finals competition this evening.

Trying to capture peak moments of someone singing with my camera is near impossible, requiring you to anticipate when they'll look good and be expressive. Much easier was a filler item at the end while the adjudicators were conferring. The Suzuki music school had a group of cute kids playing violin. There was a tiny five year old girl and ages up to twelve. All of them terribly intense, and concentrated. Here's a pop-up window of a few of the pictures of the Theatre and from the night
 (five images total 100k, 350 pixels wide)

Fred Harden  
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