Another Country Diary gumboots
Another Country Diary

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12 January -17 January '03.
In the January Bungendore Bulletin, Greg has added the line "Galahstop before the ACT" to his Bungendore Motel advertisement. I suspect a studied quirkiness there, and it doesn't refer to what wildlife is attracted by his birdseed tray on the old motel sign. I've always liked the Budget Motel and when the previous owners dropped the 'budget' I worried about them changing the signs. Greg has tidied the place up and seems to appreciate it's charm. I've made a record here (popup window, 3 x 350pixel images) just in case.
This old Ford ute attracted a lot of attention over the time of the two trips I made to the tip. The following weekend it had gone, so perhaps it's  headed for restoration, the body was in solid, if rusty, condition.
On the next trip I brought the camera back and I've made a page of images (popup window, 5 x 350 pixel images). What a great space age influenced steering wheel and fantastic numbers on it's speedometer! It had been a working ute, there was a name on the side door J.A.FISHER, GENERAL MERCHANT CARGO. Long may it run.
Kate stepped out the front door and recoiled from this insect (she's like that). I picked it up and set it out of the way and it stayed put until I got the camera. I think it's a grasshopper nymph. In their nymph stage they don't have wings but those big antennae are not grasshopper like, so maybe it's a young bush cricket. It was about 2 inches (50cm) long.
Another of my favourite garden objects of seduction. The ripe plums, with that soft purple dust that smudges when you brush it even lightly with your fingertips. You can't pick one without breaking that perfect bloom. 
The parrots or galahs have been sitting on the nets and eating through them where the net is pulled tight over the fruit. I wasn't worried because the peaches were still hard, but I cut one open and decided it was time to start picking. It's a process that takes about two weeks from the first to the last, and the pressure is on. If you haven't eaten or preserved them within a week, they'll be overripe and soft. Last year I bottled desperately at the last moment and they were tasty but didn't look that good in the bottles.
This is Brown Rot, a fungus. There was some last year but I didn't recognise it, thinking that there were just bruises. The first symptoms look like that and then they develop these classic concentric rings of mould 'pustules'. Because it didn't get to that stage until I'd almost finished picking last year I thought it might just be the wetter season we had. I also wasn't careful to destroy the affected fruit, we left some on the ground and I even left some of the dried up fruit on the high branches. The rotting fruit dries out quickly and shrivels up. This year it seems to happen most where I haven't thinned the clumps of fruit and they're touching each other. Apparently air circulating helps stop it as do some sprays but we've never used anything other than Kocide (copper sulphate) on the bare branches before bud burst to try and stop leaf curl (which it did finally this year or maybe it's just the dry weather). I'll try a bout of garden hygiene. It's just laziness not too.  
Because the parrots, cockies and galahs are around the fruit trees, their feathers are fluffed around the garden. one of us will often pick up a pretty one and bring them inside for show-and-tell.
The marigolds Jan planted around the edge are not the big African ones that most books recommend but these are now so well established that we've left them. As the petals drop and the seed heads form, they have these tendrils that are like coarse saffron.
They drop off as they dry, and the seed pods open out with an intricate structure, almost like a warm toned line engraving. I'm planning on some larger photographs in the next year of this diary, a trade-off for not having to have the 'click for a bigger image' on every picture.
The small apricot tree got hit by high wind and rain just as it blossomed and set about 10 fruit. Each one of them was carefully wrapped in bird netting and checked daily. This one is ready but unlike last year you don't get enough for a feast. Just a taste and that's enough to be grateful for.
This glossy black snail seemed to defy logic and was avoiding the wet garden areas under the sprinkler and heading straight up the dry trunk of the little elm tree. Snail crunching trips to the vegetable garden are a regular feature after rain. We haven't been out once this year, the few that come under the tomatoes where the drip sprinklers keep it wet are easy to remove. We used to fling them over the fence to the chooks who loved the sport. Now it's a firm strong boot. I can handle the bad karma. 
Never go down to the garden without a pocket knife or a bucket at this time of year. I'll often stuff a plastic bag in my pocket and I've got a new folding single bladed stockman's knife that works fine for cutting bird net and slicing zucchini stalks. Because we were starting on the peaches, we also collected this cornucopia. Now we just need the tomatoes to start.
We won't get as far as picking hazelnuts this year. I came out one morning for my regular before work check and the cockatoos had stripped the tree of nuts. I was really angry and upset when I stomped inside but I'll know next year. They must be finding it tough to get food as everything dries.
Smoky days as the fires out south west of the ACT and in the mountains blow in with the westerlies. They're almost all started by lightning and are burning through State forest.
This 'Be a good neighbour control serrated tussock' sticker is one of my favourites. It was on one of the Captains Flat residents cars and I'd noticed it before. The driver doesn't indicate, changes lanes abruptly, speeds up and slows down erratically to get into pole position going up the Queanbeyan hill but he controls his tussocks just fine, neighbour.
More smoke from the mountain fires and along with the gritty eyes, the rooms in the house now smell of shut-in smoke. We don't have air-conditioning and leave the windows open at night to cool the house. We've had 30-40 C days but the temperature can drop to below 10C at night. Which is how I like it if I have to have hot weather, at least you sleep comfortably. 
The moonlight is heavily filtered, and while you get used to warm afternoon colours in sunlight, walking down to the garden in the night under a yellow glow isn't natural. It makes you feel edgy.
Fred Harden  
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