Tuesday, May 22, 2018

The Royal Wedding

It was quite spectacular, wasn't it. The bride looked beautiful and the groom's smile as his bride came down the aisle was full of emotion - all just as it should be. I confess that by the time of the great day I was just about royalled out. Not that I didn't wish them all happiness. Of course, I did and do wish them that - and I enjoyed watching a happy couple making their vows. What was driving me nuts was the media driven hype. The inane commentary and the pursuit of every sniff of scandal appalled me. Why we - and as consumers of this stuff we, the public, are complicit and just as guilty as the media - feel entitled to pry into private matters I do not understand. Personally I am not interested in anything that is private unless it affects the public good and is therefore in the public interest and I avoid gossip about the famous - which includes the royal family - at all costs.

Because of that I tried very hard to avoid the hype. I was not very successful. If it wasn’t programs about the various royals it was advertisements for those programs and the forthcoming wedding or hordes of reporters - and I use the term reporter loosely - descending on the UK in search of a story, any story (like those wandering around London with a couple of unconvincing royal impersonators - really) and not so much reporting as making desperate attempts to fill their programs or other media with something, anything, however irrelevant. When I mentioned this on Facebook some folk assumed I was anti-royal and that’s not the case. I really have no problem with the royal family. The British model of a constitutional monarchy seems to work very successfully and I admire the Queen greatly for the way she has carried out her obligations. Personally, though, I think it seems a pretty thankless task and all the designer clothes, jewellery and palaces would not compensate for the lack of a private life. It’s certainly not a job I’d like.


Saturday, May 19, 2018

No Smoke Today

so I've been out in the garden - of course. On our way home from the doctor's yesterday - I've just had my annual flu shot - Pisces was persuaded to make a detour to the garden centre so I could invest in a few seedlings. Actually I was in search of some marjoram - one of my absolutely favourite herbs - after mine suddenly turned up its toes and expired. I grow a lot of herbs to use in my cooking and I still have plenty of others to choose from but nothing quite does it for me like marjoram and I've been looking for some for some months. We did a circuit of the herb section and there was no sign of any - lots of different thymes, oregano and mints to name a few but only golden marjoram which tastes quite different from the old fashioned kind.

I was feeling a bit frustrated by then and so I headed to the vegetable seedlings. I'm trying to remember to plant in succession this year, something I tend not to be very good at, so I wanted some more lettuce seedlings - and I might have accidentally on purpose invested in some more onions, dwarf French beans, beetroot and pak choi which are now nicely tucked up in the veggie garden beds. And then it happened. I was wandering along the seedling display picking up this and that and there they were in the middle of the veggies - a couple of containers of marjoram seedlings.Whoopee! One of them is now waiting to be potted up and sent to join the other herb pots in the garden and I can hardly wait until they're big enough to use.

Monday, May 14, 2018

Convoy by C. W. McCall

A reference to this novelty song came up on my Facebook newsfeed. Brought back some memories of when nonsense songs were all the rage I can tell you. There were so many. Does Your Chewing Gum Lose Its Flavour by Lonny Donnegan, The Purple People Eater by Sheb Wooley, Star Trekkin by The Firm and so many more. Closer to home who in Australia will ever forget John Williamson's Old Man Emu or Slim Dusty's Pub With No Beer?

For those who who want relive Convoy - or those who have never heard it - here it is in all its glory complete with lyrics.

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Smoke!

We're in the middle of the controlled burning season here - and that means today the air is thick with smoke. While I understand the rationale behind these burns - it gets rid of the build up of flammable material in the forests so decreasing the risks of severe bushfires, many of our native plants have evolved to need fire to grow and, of course, in many ways controlled burns are not unlike the 60,000 or so years of fire stick farming by our indigenous people which was brought to a halt following European settlement - there are consequences.

Those of us affected by smoke (it's pretty grim to be asthmatic for instance) struggle when dense smoke fills the air as it is this morning. The advice is to stay inside and keep doors and windows closed - and at least these days we do receive warnings in the news bulletins. When I was younger this didn't happen and you'd wake coughing and wheezing in a smoke filled house. Shutting up the house is all well and good but smoke seeps in no matter how careful you are and it's not always feasible to stay shut inside, is it. For one thing people have to go to work, don't they, and for some that means being outside all day. Then there is the inevitable death and injury to wildlife which is heart breaking.

Some folk are perturbed by fact that CO2 is released by burning. After all we're used to seeing reports of the clearing by burning taking place in various parts of the world (the Amazon rain forests are of particular concern) with the effect this is having on climate change. This is not quite the same thing, though. The clearing of the rain forest is just that. The forest is destroyed. These burns certainly release CO2 but it's far less than a wild fire would produce and, if done properly, there's no loss of human life or damage to property and the forest is not destroyed. Yes, sometimes they do get out of hand - fortunately infrequently - and now we farm instead of relying on hunting so creating fresh vegetation for prey species and safe ways to travel no longer applies but that said, on balance it seems regular burning like this does more good than harm.

Do I enjoy the thought of animals being caught up in these fires? Of course not. Do I enjoy having to spend days shut in the house wheezing and coughing? No, I do not. Do we need to find other ways to manage our forest? Probably in the long term we do. All these things disturb me but as things are at the moment I don't see an alternative. If climate change continues at the rate it is the prospect of severe bushfires will only increase and I live in a dry country already very prone to such disasters. We have to do what we can to prevent them - and this is one method. Yes, we definitely need more research into alternatives but in the mean time we can only do what we can and controlled burns are one way we cope.

Sunday, May 06, 2018

Confusing?

I'll say. It's the beginning of May and that means we still have nearly a month of Autumn to go and the garden is in a state of total confusion.  For a start the paper white jonquils are in flower. See?





And that was before the more ordinary cream jonquils in the front yard were even showing above the ground. There are a few shoots of those visible now but they're usually the first to arrive, not the last. The grape hyacinths, which usually don't even shoot until the end of May, have been up for nearly a month as have the yellow jonquils. On top of that I went out this morning and discovered that the red poppies which also don't usually emerge until into June are already appearing in the garden where I still have pumpkins growing and fruiting. Yes, I know most people don't grow pumpkins in flower beds but they came up as volunteers and who am I to argue with a gift from Nature.

It's not surprising the plants don't have a clue, though, because temperatures have been going crazy. On Thursday our maximum was 20.1° C followed on Friday by 21.7° C, then yesterday, after dropping to 7.6° C overnight, it reached a top of 28.7° C and the rest of the week is more of the same. It's a rollercoaster ride I can tell you with the winter bedclothes going on and off so often I now just fold them and leave them at the foot of the bed.

I'm not really complaining, though. It's been a long, hot, dry summer and cooler days are more than welcome. I just wish it would be a little more consistent - and I'm guessing the plants feel the same.

Wednesday, May 02, 2018

It's May

and here it's time to plant the winter garden. Actually what spurred me into action is in part due to my friend, Carol, who has been posting about her newly set up vegetable garden. I'm still picking some summer crops - Lebanese cucumbers and a few zucchinis are coming on as well as some butternut squash plus lettuces, rainbow chard, basil (and other herbs) and spring onions - and this means that I've had limited space to plant anything new but it's time - and not only in the veggie patch. The flower beds have been looking somewhat stressed, too, to the point that last week I pulled out most of the annuals and dug the beds over ready to plant.

I haven't been able to garden as much as I would like this summer, thanks to a foot fracture followed almost as soon as I was out of the 'boot' that required for several months by a painful soft tissue injury to the same foot which has taken nearly two months to heal - but last weekend I decided it was time to deal with the garden. I persuaded Pisces that I needed to visit a garden centre - not that he was all that hard  to convince since it adjoins our local Bunnings hardware store which was quite a sweetener. I started with 100 daffodil bulbs and some scarlet tulips and some annual seedlings - and that was before I got to the vegetable seedlings.

We arrived home with two cartons of seedlings which then, of course, I needed to plant. Yesterday I set out the daffodil bulbs, planted up some hanging baskets with strawberries and started getting the vegetable garden ready to plant. We have sandy soil here that easily becomes water resistant during the summer so the first step was to break up the soil and then to spread around some soil wetting agent and water it in. Luckily it rained overnight and this morning so today was the day. It was a somewhat dampening experience as I dodged showers but at least all the plants - and some of the seeds are in.

So now we have a veritable feast to look forward to, don't we, with new beds of red onions, pak choi, kale, broccoli, coriander, beetroot, dwarf French beans, snow peas and sugar snap peas. I still have a few other plants I want to get and put in. Better get out the seed packets, hadn't I. Hmm, maybe tomorrow.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Lest We Forget



Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae was a Canadian soldier, doctor and poet who wrote the beautiful poem 'In Flanders Fields' in war torn France sometime in 1915. It speaks to us about the waste of life that took place on all sides in what then was believed to be war to end all wars. Those optimists were horribly mistaken as it turns out because only twenty one years later the world was once again embroiled in war. You can hear a touching reading of McCrae's poem here. It brought me to tears.

When World War One (then known as the Great War) began men from all over the then British Empire volunteered to fight (and with them came women as nurses). Australia sent a total of 416,809 men from a total population of less than five million people. More than 60,000 of them died according to the Australian War Memorial and inevitably others were left with injuries that affected them for the rest of their lives. The effect that this loss of life and injury of such a high proportion of the young men of a small nation is hard to comprehend.

In the war's aftermath there were few Australian families that had not been touched by the loss or injury of loved ones including my own family. My great uncle, Captain Horace Chamberlain King MC, was one of the many killed in this war. That he was only twenty two when he died makes it even more poignant as does the fact that only twenty one years later the world was engaged in yet another horrific worldwide conflict. Peace had not lasted long and before the end of that war my family had lost yet more members, two of my uncles who died within a few months of each other in 1944. Anzac Day commemorates them all and so it should.

We will remember them.