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.
Sunday 10 October '04
I like the back lanes of Bungendore. Most have no through traffic so they become short cut routes to walk through, for kids to play in and escape routes for whoever it is letting of those huge fireworks at night. I run outside when I hear one nearby, and just once I saw some kids run down the dark lane opposite us. (I'll surprise them sometime, and if a few more people looked out their front doors instead of cowering under their kitchen tables, we'd stop them.)

Back lanes are small DMZ strips through a polite society, quite fitting that it's the 'backyards' the go past, where things are hidden. If they're dark and a bit scary at night so be it.

I photographed these kids with their dog and what I took as a friendly alien. Then I saw the reason for the bike gear. Mum was learning to ride the son's mini motorbike. Or rather she was trying to get it to stay running when she let the clutch out. Back lanes are also good for mums learning to ride a motorbike.


While I've often 'waxed lyrical' about the pond in our back yard, as you can see from the photograph it's suffering from the drought and it is not that pretty. We used to top it up, pumping from our well, but that's been dry for about three years.  The water table has obviously dropped more than the 2 or 3 metres depth of water in the well (it's about 26 foot deep - that's er um metres). So all those big tree roots must go a long way down. With the current town water restrictions it doesn't seem a real or very neighbourly priority to keep the pond level higher. The gold fish are ok, but unless there's rain enough to fill it a bit, the frogs probably won't breed much this year.

When we moved to Bungendore nearly nine years ago, the pond was full of perch as well as gold fish and even some big marron (yabbies). We fished out the marron, and the perch died or were hunted out by birds. Each year in spring we cut the old reeds down around the edges and they soon grow again. Here's a photo of what it looked like one foggy morning in spring three years ago.

But, as anyone who has had a dam or creek that grows reeds knows, they soon encroach into the available water space.  Because today was warm, I took a sharp knife in hand, put on some old boots and waded in to clear the area. I soon gave up on the knife and grasped them as close to the roots as I could reach and pulled them up out of a foot or so of fine mud. The sharp stalks stabbed me, the sharp leaves cut me (I tried using gloves but couldn't feel the stalks as well) but they did come out. I tossed the white fleshy roots onto the bank, Jan raked up, and in a couple of hours it looked much better.

I got out looking (and smelling) distinctly like a B-movie 'swamp creature', with some fat leeches attached to the bloody bits so I stripped of and had a shower. When I came to rinse the fine mud off my clothes I found my socks covered in small seeds that wouldn't let go. I decided to throw the socks away after trying scraping and combing to no end. The other clothes weren't as bad but I did have to vacuum a cupful of seeds out of the dryer. There were hundreds of them, and if they were suspended in the mud, I had no idea where they came from.

The seeds were about the size of, and looked like a fat flea and it was only the small bits of fluff clinging to the ones in the pockets of my work trousers, that gave me a hint of where they had come from. I'd photographed the sedge grasses beside the pond in autumn, and remembered the fluffy bits that held the seeds together. So I presume that's what they are.

When you look at the seeds closely there are no hooks, just a sharp point but they stick to cotton socks somehow. They must lie dormant until the water level drops because they only grow in a few spots on the edge of the bank at water line.

There are lots of 'sedges', we have (I believe) the Umbrella sedge Cyperus eragrostis or Nutsedge. (There's a web link picture here) It's also called Galingale in the USA. It's common throughout the world and it is possibly indigenous to Australia.  Cyperus is the ancient Greek name for "rush" or "sedge." Er means "spring" and agrostis means "grass." If it's not a 'sedge' it's a 'rush' but from what I've read the seeds a too small for it to be a 'rush'.

When I find those photos I'll put one up - I'm cataloguing 100,000 plus images from CDs and there's another 100,000 on hard drives. And that's just digital format. (Someone should stop him.) so it could take a while. There's an interesting ethnobotanical note I found on the web (that's ethnic +  botanical as in 'if indigenous people used or ate them')

"On the rootlets of the sedge are small tubers, the size of dried currants. These tubers make an excellent meal, either raw or steamed. They are hard and crisp when eaten raw. These tubers taste between fresh coconut and raisins. When reduced to meal and cooked as cereal, it is both nourishing and appetizing. They can be soaked in water, then pounded to release the milky juice, which can be mixed with alcohol or water and sugar to make delicious drinks. Peeled and roasted, the tubers can be ground to become a coffee substitute or a sweet flour. The base of the stem may be eaten raw. The Yokuts in California ate the grass-nut of Cyperus species and the seeds of the same (Powers 1877). Native Americans use golden nutsedge as both
sewing and wrapping material in coiled baskets.
Nutsedge leaves were made into seats."

Fresh coconut and raisins sound worth digging one up. I'll try some and let you know.

Saturday 9 October '04
Well, that's another election out of the way, and no change to the result for Eden-Monaro. Like last time, Gary Nairn just sneaked in with preferences and the votes from the mortgage belt in Jerebombera (where I know that Gary lives in a very nice house).

Maybe Bungendore is becoming the same I thought, with Elmslea as our new mortgage belt, but no. When you look up the results for the Bungendore booth, Kel Watt the 'Country' Labour candidate managed to win 1,086 votes to Gary's 955. So we did our bit here to no avail. The Eden-Monaro results show that this year, 2004, in the two candidate preferred result, Gary managed a 0.14% improvement on last year. Kel was down the same compared to Steve Whan's total in 2001.  It's not very much is it? Hardly a giant vote of confidence in the Howard government's handling of refugees and Iraq. At least by the people in my town.

I wonder how many of those 5,000 wasted Green votes for Cecily Dignan would have gone to Labour? I'm not sure what that kind of protest vote does, maybe it just makes people feel better? Those 2001 results are here.

I just feel a bit numb about the lost opportunity and yet neither side inspired me very much, but that's not what I wanted to talk to you about. I don't talk much politics in the Diary, what I really want to talk about is hats.

As you'll notice in the photo above, the conservative parties definitely know how to dress for the occasion. Look how those election day helpers stand proud. And hatted. That's how country people behave, and long may it continue. When it stops, I'm moving out.

At the 2001 election, Gary himself took to using publicity photographs of himself in an oversize Akubra. Maybe he thought it gave him country credibilty, and the bigger it was, the more credibility he had. He didn't choose to repeat the hat this year. I'm sure people told him it looked a bit silly actually, but it prompted me to write a bit of doggerel that I was going to present at the Bungendore Country Muster Bush Poets breakfast, but I chickened out. Its refrain was..

"If I only had a hat like Gary Nairn, I could be an MP too."

Friday 2 October '04

While we're planning on eating sedge roots, I'm reminded of an excellent meal we had at Simone's restaurant in Bright. We were driving down to Melbourne delivering stuff for the two daughters there, and I stopped off at Wandiligong to see Coral Bennett who needed some help with their local history book. We were staying overnight with Jan's nephew who is a teacher at nearby Porepunkah,  so we planned a visit to this 'two hat' Restaurant I'd been reading about.

I had one meal with a large group of friends at Simone's earlier restaurant in one of the Bright motels, but the atmosphere was like ... a motel restaurant. She is now cooking in a nicely restored pair of old brick houses that used to be the doctor's surgery. The outside, with its awnings takes away the charm of the old house but inside it's nicely restored and complete with creaky old floorboards. The service was prompt, the wine list small but adequate with a few local wineries featured and some Italian ones. But you're going there for the food.

The menu is a what you'd hope to find in any good regional restaurant. Fresh local produce, all named on the menu - Yackandandah rabbit, Buckland Valley goat, Harrietville trout. I had an entrée of cannelloni stuffed with broad beans, peas & asparagus and a what might have been Milawa cheese sauce, it tasted like a mild gorgonzola. I followed it with the goat. The slow braised goat done 'cacciatore' was really good and the cannelloni very, very good. I'm chasing the recipe.

The restaurant is in what's become an 'eat street' in Bright, with lots of tourist cafe's and restaurant and jumping when we went on a Friday night during school holidays. I'm reliably informed by the local relatives that Simone's is a cut above them all.

Fred Harden    
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Bungendore Country Diary by Fred Harden