A personal diary about life in a country town, Bungendore NSW Australia

Another Country Diary gumboots
Another Country Diary

After about a week of these diary entries, they go to the archive.
Thursday 30 September '04
I'm adding this entry almost two weeks after the event and it's more for its gossip value then anything 'Country'. But this is my diary and I share a lot of things here.

The Vittoria Australian Food Media Awards, 2004 is run by the Food Media Club, and industry group of food and wine writers and invited food industry people who run these annual awards to promote quality food journalism and television. They have a website that tells you more about their activities.

Mark Kelly, who I knew from my days at Murdoch Magazines, invited me to the event and suggested that I might like to take some photographs for the Regional Food website. It was a chance to catch up with some people such as food editor Jo Anne Calabria who I worked with on some really early prototypes for an interactive magazine website at Murdoch Magazines. Jo Anne is the club's Steering Committee chair.

In those 'good old days' I remember taking home large quantities of the food she prepared for photo shoots, as we did  'now can we have that warmed up again for the close-ups' with my single Hi-8 camera. We were doing web video in 1995.
Jo always made more, fresh, so we filled the freezer at home and the girls had after-school snacks for weeks.

Images: Top - Bill Granger (of bills and bills2 restaurants and cookbooks) and Lyndey Milan (Aust. Women's Weekly, Channel 9 ). Middle: Jo Anne Calabria. Bottom: 'H.G. Nelson', a sponsor, Kylie Kwong and Jo Anne.
25 September '04
Cleavers - Galium aparineCleavers? Bedstraw? Coachweed? Sticky willy? Goose grass?

Nope. Didn't mean anything to me either but this irritating (literally) little weed has been a problem in our garden for years. Identifying it would be a lot easier in summer, then it has small white flowers and very testicle like seed pods that have small hooks and stick to your socks (and the dogs).

We'd asked a few of the expert  gardeners we've had helping us at times, what the plant was, they all knew it but didn't know a name. I asked someone again today, and decide it was time to find out for myself (and you).

I've an old copy of Weeds in Australia that I've used for years to identify those 'weeds' that are always more interesting than the 'good' plants around them. In fact the introduction gives the definition of a weed as a 'useful plant growing in the wrong place'. The book is a small hardback whose slip cover is long gone and looking a bit dog-eared. I bought it at least thirty years ago because it featured the photographs of one of the instructors at the RMIT Photography School when I was there, Edward 'Ted' Rotherham. I even helped him one day as he showed me a small flash setup he used, to photograph a few plant samples that he'd collected on the weekend and brought to school in a plastic bag. Years later I met him by chance while hiking with friends in the mountains, and he was still photographing plants for another book I have on Alpine wildflowers.

Cleavers The problem with the book is that the images are small, the colour reproduction lousy and unless you know the plant taxonomy, the only way to identify something is to turn every page. I'd obviously skipped the ones called Cleavers before, but that's what it is, Galium aparine. Clicking on a few online links brought up much better images, like these that helped positively identify it. That's one example of way the Web has changed publishing forever. Colour reproduction onscreen is so cheap. But there's still the problem of getting that definitive photograph.

That's why illustration worked so well for botanical texts. This one for example shows that the Cleavers stem is square with spikes, it shows the seed pods with hooks, and the flower petal shape. Those are things that refine an identification when you're getting closer. I'd love to see some photographic equivalents of those illustrations (I've tried) but it would be a great labour of love and too 'time expensive' to do commercially.

The Cleavers plant isn't hard to pull up, with fine long roots that come out of the ground easily when it's damp. They're a problem however in grain crops where they wrap themselves around the stalks and they use herbicides to control it. Cleavers belong to the family Rubiaceae and that 'ruby' bit refers to some of it's members ability to dye things red. It's been long know as a medicinal plant (here's a list of its active chemical ingredients).

It has a high tannin content and Jan is allergic to it and uses gloves when weeding it out. Its juice has been know to cause contact dermatitis. Cleavers Latin name, Galium, is from gala, Greek for 'milk' because the juice of Galium verum was used to curdle milk. Apparently in Scandinavia, masses of the stems are used as filters for milk.

As for its common names I can see why it's called sticky willy because its fine hairs cling to your skin and clothes, but why would it get called 'bedstraw'?

Saturday 18 September
It's blossom time around here.
The (warmer) air is full of a sensuous perfume, as you walk the town or even from front to back in our garden, there's scents that cross and mix.

I was at a meeting at Madew winery this weekend and stopped to photograph this row of (I presume apple trees) that line the old highway road now running beside the lake and dual carriageway Federal Highway, and leading to the wineries tucked against the hillside facing Lake George.

It's a bit like all the tourists to the outback taking hundreds of photos of hundreds of spectacular sunsets, they can't help themselves. 'It must be possible to capture this' they think, and the next evening there's another one even more colourful. Then, when they get the prints back, they wonder why they took so many. Sometimes the camera just makes an uninspired record and you have to let your memory fill in the missing bits.

There's a long avenue of oaks along that winery road that in autumn also look impressive. I sat and stared one late afternoon, caught travelling without my camera just as a huge flock of cockatoos were feeding on the acorns on the road. The leaves were backlit, the cockatoos covered the road and as a car approached, they took off, screeching and catching the light. That was years ago and I've never been able to be in the same place in the same conditions with camera in hand, but I'm sure the cockatoos and the autumn leaves do their stuff every year.

The blossom is worth a moment's pause if you're driving past.

This is Wentworth Avenue near Kingston Foreshore development (and the Bus Depot Markets) and it always puts on a spring display. When I worked in the area I took pictures every year. The flowering plums are planted alternately with evergreens, and in leaf they form a pleasing variegated corridor, but in blossom, they take over the show completely.

..and the yearly record wouldn't be complete without the nectarine tree in our back yard. It gets the outback tourist routine every year, long shot, mid shot, close ups and even reflections in the pond.

That's it for the blossom, sorry for the raving, you can relax now.

Meanwhile, back at the Japanese maple, the bright red twigs are now sporting pale green feathery leaves, there's something reminiscent of crab claws, but it's soft and delicate.

This is one of my favourite trees and it's outside our bedroom window so gets the attention it deserves. Year round.

Out of immediate sight from the house however are two blue gums in the back yard, planted long enough ago to be two BIG blue gums, with all that entails. (Such as neighbours complaining about the branches that overhang their chook shed.) They're inherently messy trees, dropping leaves and branches. In winter I collect a handful of twigs each time I go past, used for starting the open fire. Each time it is windy or even when it's not, the twigs seem to fall and cover the ground, and the thin ones are all the same length. They're about the length of my hand, there must be some grand evolutionary plan in that, but I can't think what. It makes for a neat bunch of kindling however.

I know I said that's enough about the blossom but the gums are in flower at the moment (my excuse is that native blossom is not as soppy and decadent as European 'introduced' fruit blossom and therefore patriotically correct and you'll want to see it).

It was the red stalks that attracted me, just like the maple I thought. Then I got distracted by the flowers and the gum nuts. Sometimes my gardening activities get sidetracked into photography activities. But hey, that's part of my pleasure in this country life.

And just to round this 'florid' section off, the Derek Jarman flowers are looking great (It seemed to me that Jarman was always writing about buying hellebores to plant at Prospect Cottage in his diaries. So I've called them those 'Jarman flowers' when I couldn't remember their name.) We've been picking some for a vase inside, they hold their heads down in the garden but up on a bench, they are attractive in an 'old-fashioned'. Next year we'll plant even more hellebores, and I'll remember their name.
Wednesday 8 September '04
That's Jan shaking hands with Gary (Humphries) at the Telstra Business Women's Awards at the Hyatt. Jan was a finalist in one of the  categories. I didn't know most of the businesses and quasi government businesses represented but I clapped loudly when Fiona Wright who owns Waters Edge restaurant skited about her two hats in the latest Good Food Guide.

Jan was upset that the edited brochure blurb on her was completely wrong, misrepresenting her and the agencies current client list. I know she was disappointed not to win but it was nice to see a well dressed, attractive older woman amongst the mostly high power younger ones. (But then I'm biased :-) There were a lot of finalists going up to the stage who didn't seem to care much about presenting themselves well. Maybe self presentation is just an advertising business thing. Or was it 'politically correct Canberra' to look daggy?) The agency took a table and came along to support her and that was nice. The Telstra press release is here.

Fred Harden    
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Bungendore Country Diary by Fred Harden