Another Country Diary
After about a week of these diary entries,
they go to the
Tuesday 21 December '04
the Atlantic Giant pumpkins grow as quickly as the plant, I'm going to be
a winner at the
Pumpkin Festival in May. The last Diary entries showed it three weeks
ago, look at it now. There is one pumpkin about the size of a tennis ball
that is shriveling up, but lots of flowers and some other small
fruit. I'll choose one and pull off all the rest.
currants are ripe, they're always 'tart' but they look so pretty. Glowing
and translucent. I'm happy to grow them for their looks until I can get enough
to make some jam or preserves. I'll
pick some for Christmas.
deco leek seed heads I mentioned last week have flowered and this one is so heavy, it's fallen
over into the beetroot.
cockatoos haven't worked out yet that I don't care how many pears they eat
from the huge pear tree in the back yard. I've never pruned the tree, and
the fruit are so small I don't mind if they feed the local birds and
possums. The cockies fly away screeching when you come near and they're
suspicious of the camera pointed at them. Careful or I'll shoot.
Wednesday 22 December '04
crested pigeon is just to show that I can take a sharp picture of a bird.
(See below) I've mentioned the pigeons before in the Diary and they're
common around the area. That said, I'm always surprised/pleased at their
takeoff and flight, a small explosion and 'clattering'.
blurry image is really what I wanted to show you. I've brightened it up a
lot but it was a half second exposure on my telephoto lens taken in the
evening dusk. I've been trying to photograph this secretive bird for a few
weeks. Each time I get the camera out and stalk it in the high branches of
trees around us, it gets chased off by another bird. Currawongs, magpie
larks and magpies all fly at it aggressively and chase it off. It's an
Indian koel, Eudynamys scolopacea I reckon, more common up the
tropical northern coastline and it usually avoids towns and people but
there's no avoiding it around our neighbourhood at the moment. It's about
the size of a magpie, with a scalloped tail that you can just see in the
photograph, and when it flies away.
All day and into the night (I've heard it at 3 am) it calls loudly and
with a monotonous single call, a sharp "cooeee" (hence its onomatopoetic
name). The bird book says it comes down from New Guinea and breeds in
Australia's top northern rainforests. They're known as 'vagrants' when
they come this far south and this seems to be a lone bird, I haven't seen
a pair. They're also called a black cuckoo, cooee-bird, Flinder's cuckoo
and rain bird. The koel doesn't make its own nest, but lays its eggs in
nests such as the magpie lark. Female koels are more 'silent and retiring'
and lay a single egg in up to three nests of birds that have similar
coloured eggs. The chick hatches and monopolises the food brought by the
foster parents and even tosses the other chicks out of the nest.
If I take a better picture, I'll put it up.
Wednesday 22 December '04
was invited to Sydney to the Digital Mechanics Christmas lunch at Frattini
even though I'm more an honorary Mechanic these days.
We started a bit late, (I got lost in Leichardt again), but the restaurant
was full and busy and lunch went on until 4.00.
is a regular haunt for Doug who owns Digital Mechanics and as I've been
invited more than a few times, we've got to know the owners and their
children and spouses who work there.
meal ended traditionally with a chilled limoncello and they presented us
with little Christmas boxes of panettone. Except for Anna who is producer
and den mother at Digital Mechanics. She received this large tinned version
in an (English) retro container.
Thanks DM again for the invite.
You can take the boy out of the country (and feed him a good lunch) but
you can't take the country out of the boy. Coming home late that afternoon, I
drove through drizzling rain until about Goulburn. Then it stopped and the
low clouds hung around
the hills and at one stage it was all so beautiful I just had to stop and record it.
Thursday 23 December '04
picked this small bowl of youngberries and currants and they travelled
with us to Melbourne for Christmas. Daughter Jackie found them way to
sour, but Aurore the youngest, polished them off. My contribution to the
Christmas meal ended up as decoration. Tomorrow, Christmas Eve we're driving to Melbourne with
the two dogs -what fun (because we didn't want to leave them in kennels
for a week when we were only expecting to be away for three days - they
close for pickups over the break so they're stuck there).
Saturday 25 December '04
not Santa after a low-GI diet. It's Jan's dad Jack (Pa) and he's in his
'presents handing out' position. The family traditional Christmas has
everyone open their gifts before the lunch. As the extended family
size has grown we all agreed to limit presents to our own kids, to the parents and a
maybe small gift to the brothers and sisters. The extended nieces
miss out, although the new grand-nieces and nephews score something.
This year I followed the day in detail, including the cooking and serving of the food. You'll probably
see these pop up on the
website, but here's just a visual taste.
the food is apportioned with those who like peas or don't eat pumpkin all
accommodated. The plates are then reheated in the oven.
a shop bought cold ham, cold turkey home roasted the day before, hot roast
potatoes and pumpkin, peas and broccoli for the non-pea eaters. There's a
bread-crumbed baked tomato and it's all served with gravy, bowls of bread
sauce and with a nod to modern tradition, cranberry sauce for the turkey.
hire a trestle table for the day and add it to the end of the big dining
room table and somehow manage to fit about fourteen people around it. We
have Christmas crackers with the dumb jokes, silly paper hats and weird
plastic toy inside.
desert is Sheila's (Nanny) homemade pudding that she's had curing for a
few months. We've given up pouring brandy over it and setting it alight,
so here are the Bungendore berries as decoration. The pudding is served
with brandy cream (traditionally made in the morning with everyone tasting
it and saying 'a bit more brandy I think', and whipped fresh cream.
money inside the pudding, pre decimal silver coins, sixpences, shillings
and two-shillings. The higher silver content makes them safe to use and
there's a ritual handing back of the ones you find to Pa, who gives you a
there's a lot of sitting around and talking, with cups of tea or coffee
and if there is room, you can have one of Nanny's shortbreads and
People then drift off and see the other side of their partners families,
and a late dinner of cold leftovers is served for those remaining. I'm
sure this is all pretty much the same process at your place too. The
weather was unseasonably cool, instead of sweltering it was very
comfortable. Last year we had Christmas here at Bungendore and I think,
even though everyone helps, Jack and Sheila are finding it a strain to
host the lunch. That's one of the reasons I took lots of photographs, this
may be the last big Christmas at the house were Jan and her brother and
sister grew up.
lunch I went to pick up my daughter Aurore who has Christmas with her mum
and grandparents (she's an only granddaughter and special). That evening
we went out to Ringwood to visit my brother and his wife and daughter
Katherine (about the same age as Aurore).
They suggested we drive a couple of streets over on the way home and see
the Christmas lights on a neighbours house. I'm sure you'd see the glow
from space it was both amazing and hideous, we all stood with mouths open.
There was a strange sound of ethereal music as some of the decorations
(this photo is just a tiny corner) had those tiny sound chips and were
playing carols in tinny multilayered cacophony, all in a quite Ringwood
street. It was surprising because it was away from any main road or a
neighbourhood of similar decorations with people trying to outdo each
other - as they usually are.
Bungendore has a competition for the best Christmas lights, I must take
some pictures for the Diary. Merry Christmas to you all.
Monday 27 December '04
was not a lot happening in Bungendore on our return. The supermarket
closed early and caught us by surprise, the traffic to the coast slowed us
down crossing the highway but on this public holiday there was still a dog
waiting for his master outside the bottom pub.
been trying to take a view, clear of cars photograph of the Royal, and
today was the day. No dogs on the footpath here.
taxes at work, part 2345. Damn, I missed it. This small patch of asphalt
is the site of the most expensive dispute in Bungendore street history. It
used to have a tree and tree guard there, like the one beyond it, but it's
been knocked down, run over, and I suspect deliberately destroyed on a
number of occasions. That's because it is inconveniently where the
semi-trailers need to unload for the Produce store & Aquarium and Pet
supplies. (I don't think it's an aquarium supplies issue, more the hay and
feed bags that get unloaded by forklift.)
Someone on council must have flipped out at the problem of replacing the
tree, and setup four huge yellow bollards. I couldn't believe it when I
first saw them, and should have rushed for my camera but this looked like
a permanent and ongoing solution to the problem. I could take the photo
some other time. It then acquired a belt of plastic fence material around
it and didn't look very attractive.
In the week before Christmas, they disappeared, and this small square
of asphalt remains. I know Greg at the Bungendore Motel was a champion of
the trees but I know he was stunned at the size of the 'protective'
solution that was installed. I'm sure we'll both sigh over the loss of the
trees, but commonsense seems to have won out. Maybe the Bungendore Produce
store can take on the task of nurturing the remaining trees as a good will
Tuesday 28 December '04
don't appear in this Diary's photographs very often, once a year is
probably enough. But I had the lights setup to record the sour cherry jam
making process and after sitting there for three hours pipping cherries I
asked Jan to point the camera at me to record my stoicism.
I'd picked some of the cherries and stored them in the fridge while we
were away. The others
ripe and although 'netted' the blackbirds were flying in underneath so I
picked the last ones.
We usually get around three kilos of pitted fruit, this year was slightly
under but still enough to make jam for us, and some to give away. The sour
cherry jam was what won the best exhibit in the jam category at the
show last year, and it's looking just as good again this time but I'll give
someone else a chance :-). When I found out that they don't taste the
jams, it didn't seem to be a real competition. I make jam to be eaten, I
can do any amount of special effects to make it look good.
the narcissistic animal featured here, has been following us around while
we've been working in the vegetable garden. He managed to find a small
patch of rye grass and got a seed inside his ear. He rushed around rubbing
it against whatever he could find, driving it further inside. He was
obviously distressed, whining and scratching at it, and we couldn't see
what the problem was, so we rang the vet. The local one was closed for the
holidays and so Jan had to take him into the emergency animal hospital in
Braddon. She had to leave him to be sedated and they removed it. I picked
him up a few hours later and he was back to normal, and it only cost a
couple of hundred dollars and half a day of time. Pampered pets I hear you
say? Absolutely I reply.