Another Country Diary gumboots
Another Country Diary

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1 January -11 January '03.
Back from Melbourne, New Years Eve was a movie (Lord of the Rings II) then a snack at home with champagne and the fireworks on TV. Dull? Jan thinks so but hasn't ever planned a party or really wanted to attend one. For me, it's another marker that I'll nod towards and get on with things.  That's '98 vintage Bollinger with the J&B and Stones Green Ginger wine bottles in the recycling at Bungendore tip. (Thanks Doug.) Like that investigative journalism period where celebrities garbage was spread across pages in popular magazines, the tip offers an insight into the lives of the people of Bungendore. Do they mix that stuff? Does she drink Stone's, he J&B?
The panforte is nearly gone. I've been having dyslexic attempts at the name I've always pronounced the name pan-fort-ah but Jan's knowledgeable Italian correction sent me into indecision, and I almost resorted to calling it Sienna cake, frightened to say it wrong. It's pronounced pan-fort-ay. So get it right ok.
The first stamens of the artichoke flowers poke  out almost tentatively, but even then they're coated with pollen. The stamens are pale, individually almost translucent but en masse they form a luminescent purple flower head.
When fully open, the bees are most attentive...
..their leg pouches stuffed, bodies coated with balls of pollen, they find it hard to stop, lifting off and backing away and then returning.
Especially in summer, when people head to the coast, Saturday morning on the King's Highway is packed with traffic. Because the road from Queanbeyan is mostly a single lane, a slow car with a boat trailer can dramatically bunch up the traffic going through town. This makes getting through on the cross the streets difficult (or just mildly irritating depending on your level of impatience). We're on the south side , the other side of the highway to the shops so it's easier for us to turn left into the highway and then make a right hand turn in a gap as someone slows down to sightsee. Or you walk down to the shops.
On that main street/highway just next to Taylors Hardware, Summit Crafts opened just before Christmas. It all became clear after watching the lovely old building being carefully renovated for over a year. The subtle heritage colour scheme and white walls went through a sudden garish change just before it opened. I expected a house and then feared a gallery.
I asked the owners Kim and Kate (?) how the business had been so far, and they were pleased at the visitors they'd had. It seems as if one of them has an interest in hand made stationery and they have a large selection of paper, stamps and inks. That gives them a point of difference to the other craft shops around town, so I wished them luck. The building would make a lovely residence even with its main street frontage. I can't find it on the historical maps so I don't know if it was ever a shop in a past life.
At Taylors where Kate buys her lucerne hay for her horses and we get our general hardware, they've had a run on straw for garden mulch. All of us are trying to make every bit of moisture stay in the ground, and the advantage of straw is that it is an attractive mulch. It helps get the most out of the evening hour and a half's water restriction time.
Along the highway almost everyday there have been trucks loaded with new hay coming from down south. The hay sheds that you pass on the roads are being depleted quickly and the point where stock is sold or the farmer has to totally hand fed has been reached. Traveling to Sydney now along the 'back' road, there are paddocks in the area between Tarago and Goulburn that would have hundreds of sheep on them at this time of year, but are now grassless and  empty. A few sad blocks have dirty sheep scraping almost bare ground, dotted with tussocks. The area is usually so lush and green and I've photos of it packed with sheep. I'd taken the photos almost unbelieving in the fecundity. I'm having trouble forcing myself to document the dry.
The boys seem to be working in the store fulltime now, accompanied by Molly an old blue-healer. I'm sure she appreciates the sentiment on the sign near the door even if she can't spell also.
A great grape crop this year in spite of the blister mites. There are fresh green leaves and the sulphur spray seems to have slowed the damage. The bunches are not tightly packed as in commercial product and I suspect it's to do with water even though we've been trying to keep a drip of water going to both the vines.
Dry weather and strong winds and the gums are shedding their bark all over the yard. We raked it all into a heap and ran the mower over it. After the dust cleared there was nothing left. Magic eh?
Taking the sprinkler head off the watering can, I disturbed this redback spider. This redback, Latrodectus hasselti is probably an immature male, the adult females don't have the white markings. (The Latrodectus appears Australia wide and has 20 different genera and 80 species.) The male can't bite deeply and it's the female that causes the hundreds of bites a year that are now treated with antivenin. Growing up in the country in a time when there really were redbacks in the dunny, we were taught very early how to identify and avoid disturbing them. I haven't been bitten yet and I've uncovered dozens, but they're timid so it's mostly when you don't see them that people get bitten. The species is closely related to the American Black Widow and the female has the same predilection for killing the males after mating.
The tops are dying on the white onions, we've been using them up but the little ones might have to go into vinegar even though we hardly eat pickled onions. The last jar of small brown ones was opened a couple of mealtimes but the vinegar goes cloudy and looks unattractive. I'll add some spices this year and see what the take-up is.
I chased the cockatoos out of the walnut tree but they'd only sampled a few nuts. They're so bitter that unless you had cockatoo knowledge that there was a soft nut inside, it's a good protection. Even better is the net we've now draped over it.
Fred Harden  
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