Another Country Diary his and hers gumboots
Another Country Diary


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13 June '02
The 'new' Tuza horse float. Same old dogs.There's a large object outside our bedroom window that is blocking the morning light. We've lent Kate the money to buy a horse-float, ending a five year nag (no pun there) that I'd managed to put off because we don't have a car big enough to pull one safely.

She's talked her boyfriend into buying a short wheel base 4WD Patrol with plenty of grunt to pull a float, so we've been through the anguish of trying to buy a second hand one for the last few weeks. The Internet, Horse Deals magazine, classifieds and Trading Post's all turned up good leads miles away or those that had sold the day they were listed. Seems like there's a big demand out there.

I came back from the store and mentioned that I'd seen a new listing for a second hand float on the notice board. Kate jumped into her car immediately and raced to get the details. She rang and found that it was only a few blocks away and convinced me to go after dinner to see it. We walked across the railway line in the cold and it looked pretty good in the torch light. We said we were interested.

We had a better look at it the next day, I asked Craig at the garage for some 'buyers beware' tips, and told Jan to get a bank cheque that afternoon. So now it's living in our yard. Most attractive.

Other than the undeniable fact that we're now branded as having a horse and that we cart it around, the best bit of the story was John, the guy who sold it. He's working on a small property outside Goulburn and was really only using the float to carry sliced bread for the pigs. He's leaving Bungendore this weekend to take a station hand job at a big horse stud outside Cooma, a position he applied for along with 25 others. He said he was on a short list of 5 because the owners didn't use motorbikes to round up the horses, and all the others didn't want to have to ride that much. He said he didn't mind. Talking with him, he seemed like a nice guy, aged about 35, living with a local Bungendore girl and driving to Goulburn each day. He must have impressed the bosses as well, because he got the job.

In a world were the pony clubs are booming and the horses around me are mostly expensive pets owned by horse infatuated young girls, I felt good that there were still some real station hands working traditionally, with real horses.
14 June '02
Osage 'oranges' in the Lynwood cafe.Last weekend we went to the Lynwood Cafe in Collector for my birthday lunch. There's more below about the cafe, but while I was there, this bowl of nobbly fruit called my attention. I was told that they were  Osage oranges, from an old tree growing locally. "Don't eat them, they're poisonous" and "sniff them, don't they have a nice smell?" were all I could learn about them until I got back home to the Web.

The Osage tree is named after the Osage Indians who lived near the Arkansas River (Osage is actually a bastardised mishearing of their name Wazhazhe apparently meaning "war people") and the tree was discovered in the push to open up the prairies beyond the Mississippi. It was identified as early as 1804 (on the famous Lewis and Clark expedition).

The Indians used its tough springy wood for bows and war clubs, leading early French settlers to call it 'Bois d'arc' which became 'Bodark' to the settlers in St Louis who quickly recognised it's unique qualities. The tree is tough and thorny and when saplings are planted close together (they even planted them on an angle so that they intertwined) they grow quickly to a strong impenetrable hedge that was perfect for retaining stock in the days before barbed wire. It had the reputation for being "horse-high, bull-strong, and hog-tight" after only four years. If it isn't kept trimmed it grows into a tree over 20 meters (60ft) tall and around 2 meters thick.

The wood is hard and durable with natural resistance to fungus and insects. Even when the advent of barbed wire opened up larger areas of land, the Osage wood was used for fence posts. The posts lasted at least 50 years in the ground. Its density means that it will sink in water and even the green wood burns very hot.

The attractive green fruit are about the size of an orange, and have a distinctive almost citrus smell, but the tree is closer to a mulberry (and silk worms will eat its leaves). The fruit is a complex compound of separate fruiting parts with their own seeds and they form a pithy whole that bleeds a white bitter sap when cut.  Squirrels and other animals can eat them with out ill-effect, they were even called 'horse-apples'.

The Latin name is Macluria Pomifera, a name reached after some apparent friction with a famous American botanist called  Rafinesque who first described it in 1817. The name Macluria comes from William Maclure who was described as the father of American geology, (and who I found was part if an interesting 'utopian' religious community in Indiana called New Harmony.)

Osage Orange illustration from Alabama Forestry There are a number of web pages all of scrappy quality about the startling Osage orange, so I've saved a PDF from Alabama Forestry here that has more information and the illustration at left. There are some nice pictures of the cut fruit and leaves on www.kaweahoaks.com and of the thorns and an old tree here. Doing a web search I found an Australian craft wood supplier that sold the seasoned wood for turning and craft construction. The wood also seems to be used for musical instruments and is still preferred for archery bows. 

I'll try and track the local tree down and photograph it.
(The osage story continues in a later diary entry here)


Larkhill cool climate resiling With such a wide range of good local wines, it's an embarrassment to admit that we only drink them on special occasions at home, and dining out. It's such a change to the culture of places such as in Italy. When we were in Montefalco in Umbria, the local wine is drunk in preference, and all outside varieties disparaged. Maybe given another few hundred years of everyone setting up vineyards at the current rate, we'll have the same approach.

The biggest deterrent is cost. Small vineyards, small picking in a cold climate makes for an expensive wine. None of the local wines sell under $15, (usually for $25 or so a bottle), and our 'regular drinking' budget is about $10 a bottle. But on special occasions like lunch at the Lynwood Caf´┐Ż, it was time for the Larkhill Reisling. We've had it before and on the limited (and reasonably priced) wine list it stood out. I rang earlier to see if they were licensed, thinking I'd take the bottle of Montefalco Sagrantino that Carol from Living Italy gave me (which prompted that thought above). They said they charge $2.50 per head corkage but with only two drinkers (18 year olds Kate and Kial are still on P's and were driving later and Aurore is 16 and just 'tasting') I decided to leave it at home for another time.

I'd driven through Collector a few times and stopped there once for petrol, but the most we'd heard about the Lynwood Cafehad come from the Sydney food publications. All of whom gave it the thumbs up. It's about forty minutes drive from Bungendore and the cafe was packed when we arrived at mid-day. It cleared within minutes, obviously coffee and cake customers going on to Canberra.

I liked the Lynwood Cafe. The menu sticks to a limited range of simple food, with seasonal specials, it's well cooked and served by fresh faced, friendly (and attractively rounded) local girls in warm and slightly rough at the edges surroundings. No pretension, just right. The prices were about right for the food quality and sizes, and the meal with desserts and coffees for five of us with a bottle of wine was about $150. Not country pub prices, but what you'd expect to pay to keep a place like the Lynwood open. I've some pictures of it here.
(Approx 4x25k images x 2 popup pages)

15 June '02
Metalmart Fyshwick pretending to be grandNo it's not the Parthenon silly, it's Metalmart in Fyshwick. The frieze around the top is a bit clunky with the putti particularly awkward but the trompe l'oeil shadows on the bricks, get me every time. We're finally re-roofing the rear shed, I'm sick of having things I've stored destroyed by damp. So I was buying my corrugated zincalume. What's the difference between zinc galvanised and the cheaper zincalume I asked? Mark said you can't use zincalume against concrete because of the aluminium content, it corrodes. And it's not good for chook sheds because the chook poo corrodes it as well. But it's ok for anything like my shed roof. So now you know. 
16 June '02
Crested Pigeons, click for slightly larger imageWe usually see Crested Pigeons individually or in pairs feeding on the ground, but here were all these in a row. All fluffed up because of the  cold winter's day. They're also called a bronzewing or topknot pigeon because of their very cartoon-like crests (and bronze wings). The bird books say they're usually in groups of five or six (why?) but that they're very shy in the wild and you'll only see a group like this in urban surrounds. The crested pigeons favourite feed is apparently the seeds of Paterson's Curse, followed by barley grass, wild heliotrope, saffron and star thistles. 

This affinity for 'exotic' seeds has helped them adapt to almost all of the Australian mainland except a fringe across most of Victoria and up into the NSW coast, the West Australian peninsula and the northern tips of Queensland and Northern Territory.

I like the noise they make when they are surprised and take off, an explosion with a sharp edge to it. They're also noisy on the wing with a burst of rattling wing beats then a glide with their wings out, then more flapping. For years I had a wind- up plastic and bamboo toy bird that I bought from a sidewalk vendor in Paris. It used a rubber band to flap the wings, and it flew in circles and made the same noise as these pigeons. Somewhere in the archive there's some Super 8 of a winter's afternoon's golden light catching  spiraling, flapping plastic birds, in front of a dark brown Eiffel Tower. 
17 June '02
Dead kangaroo, Kings HwyIn the six years I've been traveling the Bungendore roads I've wanted to photograph the dead kangaroos. In all that time, these are my first images.

I don't know why this is. Perhaps it's the speed I pass them that makes it difficult to stop, and then not remembering where they were so I could pull over safely on the return trip, but there must be more to it. I've watched these dead creatures (and smelt them in summer) with as much attention as anything I look at. When I traveled the road every day to work, there were times when the sense of doom from the blood soaked and splattered carcasses that smeared the roads, was like a vision of Armageddon. 

There is everything from the pathetic to the beautiful in these dead bodies. One I remember clearly was a dark, almost black carcass that had fallen in a group of tussocks that had been sprayed with bright purple weed killer. Some of them just appear in your headlights looking like a crumpled overcoat and are gone next day. Small ones that fall in the road, seen on a trip in the morning, are pieces of hide and bone when returning. (A few dozen transports running over you has that effect). Others like this one above are quickly attacked by crows and get pulled apart. You watch pieces disappear over days, feeding foxes and an occasional farm dog. It even gets a bit Peter Greenway (Z and Two Noughts) at times, when the bodies are marked with big red spray-painted crosses that mean the WIRES people have checked that it's dead, and there are no joeys in a pouch.

Peter Purvis, one of the founders of Oxford Scientific Films (who do a lot of the special lens, rigs and stop motion work for the best BBC wildlife documentaries), did an amazing time-lapse sequence of a mouse carcass decomposing. You see the maggots working together so their juices help breakdown the tissue, traveling in waves from head to tail and back again. He was asked what he'd like to film most and said his 'magnum opus' would be to film the decay and disappearance of an elephant. Maybe I should plan a roadside edge documentation of a dead kangaroo over time. It would be a nice Australian statement ... about something.

If you're up to it, there's a large image here that shows some of the distress that I feel about seeing these creatures every day.
700 pixels wide, 170k. 

 

Fred Harden  
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