Friday, September 22, 2017

Yes, It's Definitely Spring

because the masked woodswallow is back. I only see it at this time of the year and my favourite bird guide - The Field Guide to the Birds of Australia by Graham Pizzey and Frank Knight if you're interested - tells me that they are nomadic and migrate seasonally to the coast which all fits in with their regular appearance here. As you can see below they are handsome birds and I suspect it is here to breed since their main breeding period is September to December although there can be earlier and later nestings.

Adult male masked woodswallow
Photo by Peter Jacobs
 from Australia

Licensed CC BY-SA 2.0









I'm more than happy to welcome them because they are insectivorous and, as a gardener who tries not to use any sprays or poisons if at all possible, I need all the help I can get in controlling pests naturally. I'm not completely pure in this as I'm occasionally forced to use Dipel (a naturally occurring bacteria that is fatal to caterpillars like those of the Cabbage White butterfly but has no effect on anything else and I confess I did spray the swarming big headed ants (yes, that really is their name and they are a exotic and significant pest here) out on the paving a couple of days ago although I'd probably have left even them alone if they hadn't swarmed over my feet and bitten me. Mind you if they excavate much more under the paving they are likely to find me less accommodating.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Well That Was Odd

I went into the kitchen to clean up after lunch and there on top of the plate of food scraps on the bench was a small (about 2.5 cms in length) piece of brown plastic with a couple of prongs jutting out. Where it came from, or for that matter what it was, I had no idea. I couldn't think of anything it could have come from so I put it out of my mind and disposed of the scraps. Then I opened the dishwasher and there was another similar small piece of plastic on the open dishwasher door. That they appeared on opposite sides of the kitchen made it even more bewildering.

Weird, I thought. Then I noticed that the two prongs on the new one were hollow and seemed to correlate with those on the other piece. Even more odd. I pushed them together and the prongs connected and clicked into place. Then I noticed writing on the top piece. It was a brand name but as far as I know - and, as I've now felt compelled to go through every drawer in the kitchen and trawled the manufacturer's web site, I'm pretty sure - I don't have and, if I remember correctly, never have had anything that made by this particular manufacturer.

We'll probably never know where it/they came from but I have a theory - formed after living here for many years of strange things turning up without explanation. We're either located on top of a portal into another dimension or we have some very tricky fae folk, with far too much time on their hands who like to amuse themselves at our expense, living nearby. The only logical conclusions, don't you think.



Monday, September 18, 2017

Ducky Tales

So there we were a couple of days ago just about to go out when I heard a loud honking noise and I went to look. Coming along my neighbour's driveway was an Australian shelduck with four ducklings in tow. She was obviously very distressed and under attack from the resident ravens while a pair of kookaburras were looking on with definite evil intent.

Our neighbours heard the commotion and joined us as we tried to encourage her to find shelter. These ducks often nest quite a distance from water and all would have been well if we could have persuaded her to change direction so she was heading towards Lake Karrinyup which is about a five minute walk away. But she was determinedly heading in quite the wrong direction. There are other watery places in that direction - Star Swamp (misnamed as it it is actually a pretty little lake in a bushland reserve) on the other side of several very busy major roads and Lake Carine, also in bushland and over major roads. Both are about a twenty minute walk from here.

My neighbour tried to contact someone who might be able to catch and release them in a more appropriate place but could find no-one available. So things were looking pretty grim. We had an appointment and had to leave - there were five other people there by now and I figured they would be able to handle the situation and truthfully, however sad it was, I was starting to think it would be more appropriate to let nature take its harsh course.

We were coming home three hours later when we spotted a neighbour who lives five houses down standing by the side of the road staring into their neighbour's garden and stopped to see what was going on. And there was mother duck and now there were only two ducklings being dive-bombed by the ravens and kookaburras. Mother duck was still heading in the worst possible direction towards the busy roads but she suddenly veered off through their open garage. She'd spotted their swimming pool and all three dived in happily bathing. We left our neighbours working out where they could find a large enough net to try to catch them since chlorinated swimming pools do not provide much in the way of sustenance and that was the last we expected to hear of it.

Not so. Yesterday we heard that they had finally managed to catch them and taken them to our local vet when mother duck had one final surprise. Of the two remaining ducklings one was a shelduck but the other ... was not. We had noticed that it was considerably smaller than the others and much darker in colour but how mother duck ended up with it remains a mystery.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Ovenless.

After the oven caught fire a week or so ago - why, yes, it was a tad exciting but fortunately I was in the kitchen so was able to deal with it quickly - I have been left without an oven. The flu like virus I came down with shortly after has meant I haven't been able to replace it yet. I've done the research now and so it's only a matter of getting to the shops to have a look at the shortlisted ones before we - and by that I mean I, although Pisces thinks his opinion counts even though he never uses the oven - make a final decision.

You'd think that choosing an oven would be fairly simple, wouldn't you, but I've learned a few things over the years and I have some very specific requirements. Firstly it has to be self cleaning because life is too short to waste on cleaning an oven, it needs to have controls that aren't likely to snap off - ask me why I'm even thinking about that sometime and I'll be happy to fill you in - and it must have an internal grill that can be used without having the door open - again you're hearing the voice of experience. Apart from that it can be relatively simple since I don't want twenty different cooking functions  - and I've seen some that have at least that. I have no idea what you'd use most of them for and I have no intention of finding out.

In the meantime while I've been trying to slot in time to go to buy the oven I've discovered I also need to buy a new washing machine. My existing one is still working but the noises it's making are, to put it mildly, alarming and, given it's fourteen years old, it's probably wiser to buy a new one than to spend on what would obviously be an expensive repair. They says bad things come in threes so my fingers are crossed that this time nothing else is going to die on me.

As you can imagine being without an oven has limited my cooking somewhat but it has also brought back memories because when we were newlyweds and moved into our new home the first unpleasant discovery we made was that the stove didn't work. This was in the days before houses were inspected before purchase - and I'm not going to tell you how long ago that was. Luckily, since we had no money for luxury items like stoves, we had been given two electric frypans as wedding presents and that was how all our meals were cooked for the next year.

So today I've been reliving the past a bit having brought out my electric frypan - a much fancier version than my first ones - and baked a tasty meal in it. I'm not so enamoured of it that I won't be going oven shopping this week, though. Nostalgia is all very well but convenience beats it any day.

Friday, September 01, 2017

Springtime

Okay today it's officially Spring - which brings me to quote Shakespeare from As You Like It

'In springtime, the only pretty ring time,
 When birds do sing, hey ding a ding ding;
 Sweet lovers love the spring.'

Well I don't know about all that 'hey ding a ding ding' stuff but for the past three nights starting at about 10:00 PM the park magpies have settled in the tree outside my bedroom window carolling and it's lovely. There isn't a much more glorious sound than a clan of Australian magpies in full voice in my opinion and as far as I'm concerned they are welcome to keep doing it for as long as they want.

This is a pale version of what I've been hearing because there are only three of them but you can perhaps imagine how lovely it is on a night when ten or more are singing in a full moon. This video does not do magpies justice as regards to appearance either as they are soaked and looking seriously bedraggled. Actually they are very handsome birds as you can see here. This fellow is having a lot to say for himself, not only singing but also squawking and chatting unlike my nightly visitors who are simply carolling.


Thursday, August 31, 2017

Weather Worries

I've been avoiding the news as much as possible lately. Sabre rattling stupidities on every side do not make for an easy mind, do they, and I've been finding it all a bit much.

Then there are the severe weather events which seem to be happening all over the planet. While my heart goes out to those affected by Hurricane Harvey in Texas - so far there are 22 deaths reported and widespread severe and destructive flooding - they aren't the only ones in trouble. In the past few days Typhoon Hato lashed Hong Kong, Macao and southern China killing at least twelve and causing much damage and yet another severe tropical storm is heading towards the region while over 1,200 people have already lost their lives in monsoonal floods in India, Bangladesh and Nepal. It almost feels as if we are being given a nasty shake up by the Earth to remind us that we are not invulnerable which, given the number of climate change denialists out there, is probably necessary. After all it doesn't matter much what it was that started it now. What matters is what we're going to do to try and slow things down. I don't know about you but I tremble at the thought of what kind of world my grandchildren will grow up in if we - by which I mean humankind in general - don't act.

It's depressing beyond belief to think about all this but there are a few things happening that give me hope for humanity and this video of people and pets being rescued in Texas is one. It made me cry - in a good way.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

It's Been One of Those Weeks

It really has. First off last Saturday I broke a toe which has left me hobbling and hurting all week. Since there's nothing to be done about it except wait until it heals it's a case of grin and bear it - and remember not to try to walk normally because 'Owwwww!'

Then on Sunday I got a severe sore throat and by Monday had added a headache, weakness, achy muscles and total exhaustion that left me in bed for the next three days. By Tuesday Pisces had something similar but fortunately not as badly. Oh, and I now have what I would otherwise have thought was a bad cold if it hadn't developed while I was already sick.

The sore throat and other symptoms had improved somewhat by yesterday but not enough to eat anything that wasn't soft so soup seemed a good idea. And this was why I was out in the veggie patch  and how I discovered the aphid invasion I told you about. I managed to keep upright long enough to deal them a bit of a blow and ended back in bed.

Given all this I need something to cheer me up so here is part of the garden outside my back door. This photo doesn't do it justice but the poppies and anemones and the little heartsease in the front (so small they barely show up here) give me much pleasure.