Wednesday, April 23, 2014

What is it Wednesday

Well here is my first WIIW in ages.
What on earth do you think this is?

Monday, April 21, 2014

Wildlife and sleep

Well our young dingo is still around. It seems to have taken to howling at all hours just up the hill behind our house.
I suspect it is trying to carve out its own little territory between those of other dogs.
Or maybe it doesn't know the etiquette yet? 

I like to hear it is around, but random howling in the dark of night is not good for my sleep.

Speaking of sleep... last night there was a noise something like a fizzing-chattering noise (if that makes sense) coming from the roof of our back porch.

I had to investigate and this is what I found.

No, this sweet little creature is not a mouse. She (and I am fairly sure it was a she) was arguing with this fellow.

What are they?
They are Antechinus, probably Brown Antechinus (Antechinus stuartii). Despite their mouse-like appearance they are actually a marsupial (like kangaroos, koalas, wombats and other Oz animals).

They are common in Oz forests, but most Aussies have never seen one (or perhaps realised they have). They live in forests and are nocturnal and mostly people who see one think they have seen a mouse. Hence they don't really have a common name and get stuck with their scientific moniker.

So how does an Aussie tell the difference?
Well these guys are a little bigger than a mouse, their ears are rounder and they have much pointier noses.
Plus in terms of behaviour they are like mice on speed!
They leap and bounce around as if they have no tomorrow. Which is kind of true, male antechinus only live a single year dying of stress related disease before their first birthday.

Unlike mice they do not gnaw. Instead of the big incisors mice have, these guys have a mouth full of little needle like teeth. They make their living as predators, mostly eating insects and spiders.

Oh and they don't squeak! They fizz and hiss at each other far more loudly than such a little creature should.
Here's to an unbroken night's sleep.

Another Dog

First up thank you all for your supportive comments about yesterday's post.

Today's post is also about a dog.
Again Lilli is not the topic of conversation, but this time it is a real animal rather than a metaphor.

I have caught glimpses of this young Dingo (Canis lupus dingo) around our place a couple of times but only as a streak disappearing into the rainforest .

This time it didn't realise I was around and I got close enough to get some piccies.

When I was younger dingoes were very rare around here. Oz has been very enlightened about native animals with nearly all listed as protected species for many decades.

Dingoes were seen as damaging to livestock and were listed as pests except inside national parks. In earlier times there were quite substantial bounties offered for dingo scalps. Farmers and trappers, trapped, shot and poisoned so by the 1970s they were very rare in this area.

But things have changed in this area. While these animals are still listed as pests the traditional farming community has declined. Much farmland has either been sold to more 'alternative' incomers, or converted from pastoral land to forestry plantations.

The net result is local dingoes have been left comparatively un-molested.

Things are changing even in the 1990's it was rare to see or hear them.
Now though their numbers have crept up to where on a night of a full moon we can often hear a dozen or more howling along the ranges. An eerie and simultaneously thrilling sound.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Tale of a Black Dog

Despite the title this post is not about our Labrador Lilli.

It is instead about me and why I haven’t been posting for sooooo long.

Since before Christmas, I have been battling an episode of depression. Hence the title of this post, Winston Churchill called his bouts of depression a “black dog”.  The sad truth is posting has been a casualty of my illness.

What follows is an account of what I have been going through.

It will be somewhat personal so you can of course stop reading now.

Still reading?
Well here is some of my story:-

I suffered with repeated episodes of major depression (clinical depression)  from my teens until my mid to late thirties - to the extent that I was frequently suicidal. Fortunately, I never attempted, because I always retained some inkling of what my death would do to those around me. I did the typical male thing and hid much of what I was going through all that time.

Then around 2000 I was introduced to a psychotherapy called cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) and achieved amazing results - from about 2001 - 2002 until recently I had been well. I was essentially controlling my illness using CBT techniques.But I guess like a recovering alcoholic there is always the risk of a relapse...

Then, as readers of my blog will know, I have been putting myself under a fair bit of stress with a new job (ironically working in mental health) and rebuilding our house etc. etc.
The final straw was my mum getting very ill. We have always been very close and her condition deteriorated to the point where I thought we were going to lose her.
The end result was last year I became unwell. Perhaps surprisingly given my history it took me some time to realise that I was ill again.

It was quite a strange experience.
I knew depression well and it seemed that my bag of mental tricks was still working. I experienced nothing like the despair I had known in the past.
What I did experience was a growing sense of anxiety, which got so bad that it became virtually crippling. As an example I spent 36 hours worrying about how to cancel an appointment.  Oddly, at the same time I was still positive. I didn't understand what was happening but I knew I had beaten mental illness before, so I assumed I could do it again.

This time I did the right thing, talked to Deb about it, made an appointment with a GP and got a referral to a psychologist.  After discussion with the GP and Alice (my psychologist) we decided not to medicate, but to hit me with CBT.  After all I am an expert at using CBT on myself after all these years.

I was seeing Alice nearly weekly from December until February and have dropped the frequency of visits now. In terms of diagnosis, Alice has plumped for depression rather than anxiety. I have some of the other symptoms such as exhaustion, lethargy etc (hence no blogging) so she argues it is the best fit.  I am not quite sure I agree, because my experience of depression was always agonising despair. And as I said I have felt surprisingly positive the whole time, I guess that part of CBT never stopped working for me. In any case CBT seems to be working for this new species of dog I have had visiting me. I would not say I am well again, but I am very much on the mend.

I am back at work and more or less functional there.

We have the house to the point where it is comfortable enough to allow me to ease up on it. There is still a lot to do, but we won't freeze in the coming winter and the kitchen and bathroom are fully functional. In fact I have barely touched it for weeks.

We have also been deliberately taking it easier, making trips so I can point my camera at things, visiting our girls who live only a couple of hours away now, spending more time with mum while I still have her (her health is improved at the moment). 
Dangar Falls (near where we live)
 Speaking of mum, I have been more involved with her medical journey. That has, I think, been positive. I think when it happens it will be "simply" grief. Part of my problem has been grieving in advance.
As a measure of my improved mental state I am even thinking about my writing again!  I haven't written a word for months, but the creative juices are beginning to churn.  I think I have worked out how to solve the problems I was having with my book Veil of Iron. I have also been composing this return to my blog.
So for me, it is a case of one step at a time, and hopefully most of those will be forwards.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

And Happy New Year!

Deb and I are back from our holiday with the girls at Yamba.
It was a relaxing time a fair bit of lazing around, going to the beach and hanging with the girls. I love the fact that in Oz our Christmas break is in summer!
One of the things Deb and I did do was to get back to our old pastime of jumping in the car and going for an explore.
We chose to have a look around the lower reaches of the Clarence River. As I have mentioned before Yamba is on the Pacific Ocean at the mouth of the Clarence, and the Clarence is an impressive river.
The first leg of our trip was to head upstream 18km (about 12 miles) to the little town of Maclean where we crossed this Nineteenth Century bridge across the south arm of the Clarence onto Woodford Island
From there we followed Lawrence road about 10km (6 miles) across the island to the Bluff Point Ferry . 
For that whole 10km you are crossing an island in the river. No wonder they call the area “Big River Country”
I snapped this on the ferry crossing the river. The NSW Roads and Traffic Authority runs the ferry 24 hours/seven days a week and its free!
From Lawrence we turned off the main road to follow back roads along the North Arm of the River.
I just had to pause to capture these abandoned dairy bales.  
Like many regional areas the rural industries have been in decline.
On one of the side channels I spotted a beautiful Brolga (Grus rubicunda).
Unfortunately,  as I stalked closer to get a good shot a couple of ducks I hadn’t noticed took flight and spooked the Brolga, so all I caught was some shots as it flew away.
A truly beautiful bird.
About ten minutes later we came across this fellow about to cross the road.
At about 90cm (3 feet) this Lace Goanna (Varanus varius) is about half grown. 
I went as close as I was comfortable to capture some nice shots.
But not too close, these guys are versatile predators and even a smallish one like this is armed with razor sharp inch-inch long claws.
If I was silly enough to hassle it, it would show me it was a bad idea.
Having said that, their defensive tactic is usually to run up a nearby tree.
Unfortunately, not being very smart, if there is no tree they have been known to panic and run up the nearest vertical object, that is the person they are afraid of!

Then it was further along the river to the Ulmarra Ferry where we crossed back to the south side before heading back to Yamba.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Merry Christmas!

Deb and I are away again, this time not for work,  but to spend Chrissie with our girls down on the coast at Yamba.

So tonight I will just post a quick piccie of the dawn of this Christmas Eve and wish you all a Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Away again, but a quick WIIW anyway.

I am away in New England at the moment (the Australian New England, not the American region) so I will keep this quick.

A couple of weeks ago I posted this WIIW.
For those of you who said "feet" - well you were half right.

The feet are Lu's (my youngest)
As to what she was standing on - it is a tree root.
The tree is a lovely old (maybe 300 years) Blackbutt (Eucalyptus pilularis)  that leans out over Coffs Harbour Creek. Lu kindly agreed to be a scale.

Which leads to this week's WIIW.
What on Earth do you think this might be?