Monday, 28 January 2013

January, month of fires and floods. And a snake alert.

Two weeks ago we watched in horror as Victoria and southern NSW were engulfed in fire. Today dreadful floods engulf Queensland and northern NSW. Our Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, is today visiting Victoria where fires are still burning, and at the same time she is explaining measures the government is taking to support those losing their homes and businesses in the floods. Between the fires and the floods hundreds of houses, many thousands of hectares of forest and pasture lands, possibly millions of animals, both farm stock and native wildlife, have been lost.
Eucalypt shedding bark, providing fire fuel but looking really beautiful. Stunning colours.

During the extreme heat it was impossible to be unaware of the fire danger. Living surrounded by bushland, with huge eucalypts towering over our house, makes me uneasy. I wouldn't live without them, of course, because they are so beautiful, but I did find myself checking my NSW Rural Fire Brigade app "Fires near Me"quite often. Not only for my own area but those of my family and friends. We didn't have a fire, but temperatures of 46C/114F have scorched the garden and it all looks rather sad right now.
Monstera, Agapanthus, native ferns, Begonias, all burnt. Even plants in the shade were singed, the air was so hot. As if that wasn't bad enough, the orchard was attacked by the Red Shouldered Leaf Beetle (Monolepta australis) and in a very short space of time they skeletonised all the new leaves on the stone fruit. This was a new pest to our garden and we weren't impressed. Tiny yellow beetles swarmed over us when we moved in close enough to look.
Yesterday the rain moved down the east coast of Australia and is giving us a generous drenching. This coastal region is quite swampy (read mosquito ridden) and enough rain causes local flooding. We should be okay, but the university campus grounds will probably go under. A dragonfly has taken refuge on my screen door, safe from the rain. Wing span of 12cm.
I generally welcome the visitors, including this little Krefft's Dwarf Snake. We often fish them out of the swimming pool but this fellow was just curled up in the sun. Snakes are protected in Australia so we put them in the bush with admonitions to stay put. The adult Krefft's Dwarf is small,  only about 30cm/12", as this one was, and although venomous, will not strike, even when provoked. I'm not sure who provokes a snake deliberately, but I'm quite pleased to know that this little snake isn't interested in biting anything other than a food source, such as lizards. I know snakes creep some people out but trust me, this one is a sweetheart.
The children were blessed with a little dog at Christmas time. The two younger kids were very nervous with dogs so this was quite a lot for them to cope with but after a couple of days they fell in love with her and she with them. Her name is Peggy and she's a Jack Russell, very fast and absolutely so busy looking for ... anything that moves, really. Our concern is that she will nose out a dangerous snake, like a Brown, and that could be terrible, but hopefully all her snuffling and digging may make the snakes move elsewhere. Fingers crossed. So here is Peggy, and Eddie on the tennis court. The children are learning ball skills. And whacking skills.
I have a tenor ukelele - a Christmas present from my girls. Now I need to learn to play it... I have a few apps that explain chords etc., but I suspect I need Ukelele for Dummies, which I think also comes as an app. There are Uke groups all over the place, obviously a very popular instrument. My parents could play guitar, banjo, mandolin and ukelele. Why did none of that talent rub off on me? Perhaps it did - I won't know until I try, will I?
Now, I seem to have turned my blog into a personal stream of consciousness, with illustrations. Not really what my plan is for this blog. In future I'll try to get back to creating - whether books, art or rusty stuff. I'll leave you with a link to Seth Apter's fantastic Art Blog Directory.