In zid

Things I’m loving about New Zealand:

– the amount of farmland, and the sheer number of sheep I have seen grazing in fields, in the snow, and on seemingly sheer mountainsides. I love sheep. I am going to move here and run a sheep farm. With other people doing all the hard work – I’ll do the fun stuff, like moving stock (well, it looks like fun).

– “Sweet as”
– seeing an ad for a type of sheep dip while watching rugby on tv
– SEALS

– being able to chuck some wine and a six pack of beer in your trolley at the supermarket
– the fact that it’s not a trolley, it’s a trundler
– that the sort of weather that results in road closures is so beautiful

– the national and very enthusiastic obsession with rugby and the upcoming World Cup
– the graceful way that keas waddle towards vehicles pulling into carparks

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Down by the sea

We just spent a few days staying by the sea at Bargara, which is a small town near Bundaberg, about four or five hours drive away. We stayed in an apartment looking out onto the ocean, slept with the windows open to the sound of the waves, and spent a lot of time walking along the shore. I also played a lot of ukulele, which is really the perfect instrument to play on a balcony looking out to sea. It’s the right setting. Possibly not while playing Hotel California though.

We went and checked out some wetlands in Bundaberg, which didn’t have a huge diversity of birdlife to my amateur eyes, but did have lots of ducks, a family of swans, and a darter drying its wings in the early morning sunshine.

I am finally getting used to my new glasses, which have thicker arms than the ones I’ve had for the last 15 years or so, and initially made me feel as if I had blinkers on. I love them – I quite disliked my old glasses when I was in high school, and didn’t get any fonder of them as time passed. So it’s nice to finally have a change, after putting it off for so long.

Apart from occasionally throwing admiring glances at my spectacled reflection, I spent the rest of the holiday trying to perfect those pesky jazz chords, reading Gail Carriger’s Soulless and Robin McKinley’s Chalice, watching the first season of Six Feet Under and re-watching Sharpe episodes. The Sharpe series is where Sean Bean is charging around in the Napoleonic wars being northern, despising most of his fellow officers and having it off with just about every woman who happens upon the British army. Most entertaining.

We also set up a new recording studio area in the granny flat, so that my poor little laptop will no longer have its processing powers pushed to freezing limits. The flat has been dubbed the Rat Room, due to its current residents. They have had several lovely snacks out of my live trap without triggering it so far, the little bastards. They must think I’ve decided to provide them with a regular nightly buffet, which just happens to be plated up in a cage. I’m going to adjust the sensitivity of the door and try it again. One day, my ratty friends. One day.

Eclipse

There was a partial lunar eclipse last night, so I thought I would take some photos of the moon, which I have never done before. It’s more complicated than I had thought – my cheap 70-300mm lens didn’t cope very well (and really, I don’t think 300mm is quite long enough) and my tiny tripod was frustrating me.

Crouching on the gravel in the dark, I also had difficulties getting the exposure right. Not to mention the clouds. I ended up with about two shots I was happy with – next time I’m definitely going to use a better tripod (no more crouching) and wait for a clear night sky.

The last words

I am reaching the last few discs of Possession, which is a sad realisation. I don’t want this story to end.

I read in the same way that Randolph does – he writes in a letter to Christabel:

“I cannot bear not to know the end of a tale. I will read the most trivial things – once commenced – only out of a feverish greed to be able to swallow the ending – sweet or sour – and to be done with what I need never have embarked on. Are you in my case? Or are you a more discriminating reader? Do you lay aside the unprofitable?”

Cooinda, NT

Excerpt from my travel diary – 29 June 2009, Kakadu

We boarded the boat in the morning dimness, surrounded by hoardes of mozzies, and headed out onto the water to watch the sun rising in a blaze of colour across the horizon, lighting the still water. Wild horses grazed near the water’s edge, covered in cattle egrets, and mated in front of our boat to the awkward commentary and eventual silence of our guide

There were so many crocodiles, swimming along the surface near the boat and drifting along the edges of the water among the egrets and spoonbills picking among the reeds.

We saw rainbow bee-eaters, whistling kites, sea eagles, nankeen night herons, jacanas, jabirus on the nest, azure kingfishers, egrets, spoonbills, many cormorants and ducks, and brolgas stalking among the reeds in the distance.

The water was so still and clear, mirror-like, with bird calls echoing through the stillness.

Trip to Stanthorpe

We drove to Stanthorpe for the Queen’s Birthday long weekend recently, staying in a tiny cabin in a camping ground, with a river running along the back of the property.

Why can I never get horizons straight? Apparently I stand on angles when taking landscape shots.

We climbed up a big rock (the Pyramid walk in Girraween National Park – which is gorgeous, and I want to go back there when the wildflowers are blooming in spring)…

And admired the view. We were all wearing shorts & jumpers, and the wind was freezing. I am not terribly fond of heights, and particularly not when I’m surrounded by them while scrambling up a slippery granite slope.

We played some music while the sun went down, drank some wine and ate cheese.

Stanthorpe is overrun by wineries, but only features one dairy – an astonishing oversight. I bought lots of cheese that the husband doesn’t particularly like, and now need someone to feed cheese to. Mature cheddar, anyone?

Eagleby Wetlands

After Mum discovered the Eagleby Wetlands while browsing through the Refedex, we headed out there for a spot of birdwatching.

And while I got a bit frustrated with my zoom lens and its very noisy focussing gear (and gazed with envy at the truly enormous lenses that the more professional birdos were lugging around) I did manage to get a couple of bird shots.

Like this Scarlet Honeyeater. Isn’t he pretty? Apparently we have these on our property, but I’m yet to see them. Hopefully the new planting that Mum and Allen helped us do, with lots of grevilleas and banksias, will bring these little birds down closer to the house.

In sepia

I knew when we decided to move from a suburban block to semi-rural acreage that there would be a lot more work involved in household maintenance, but when you move into a well maintained property it’s all a bit theoretical to begin with. As time passes, however, entropy asserts itself. We don’t have access to town water, so there are water tanks and septic tanks and pumps and an increased likelihood of things breaking. There’s a “greywater system” which is not in fact a greywater system because it involves no filtering whatsoever, but instead gathers all our water into a (festeringly horrible, due to aforesaid lack of filtering) tank which then gets directed over our patch of lawn with yet another pump. And we spend a limited number of hours at home during daylight. I’m sure you get the idea.

Occasionally I feel a little overwhelmed with the never ending list of maintenance tasks that need to be done. After heavy rain some months ago, the driveway needs a truck load of gravel spread down it. One of the water tanks has sprung a slow leak and needs to be patched, before our entire water supply trickles away. The garden and the paths host endlessly renewing clumps of weeds which spend their time laughing derisively at my sporadic attempts at removal, reminding me of those nasty flowers in Through the Looking Glass.

It is all rather oppressive, not in the least because my natural state is that of genteel laziness and I would prefer not to spend my weekends on Big Jobs, the sort that chew up an entire day. However, this is the trade off. In order to spend at least some of my weekend mornings peacefully sipping coffee, looking over the dam and listening the occasional sound of human habitation (the dulcet tones of my neighbour screaming “fuuuuck orrrrf” – aaaah, the serenity), there’s Big Jobs that need to be done. A bit of quality time spent with Google has provided a solution to the leaking tank and potential suppliers of rocks for the driveway. Soothed, armed with information, and making lists – onwards, ever onwards.