Sunday, September 14, 2014

An Answer: Cute and Sad

Well there were a number of guesses for this  week’s WIIW.

Some were way off, some pretty close and one basically right on the money.

 Susan guessed: “Hmmm, a close-up of some flowering vines growing on a rock?”

Sorry Susan that is way off beam.

 Marcy guessed: “I was going to say a close up of some animal's skin...?”

It is a close up of an animal’s skin. I can award that 75%.

 Lisa Guessed: “I thought animal hide but the purple is throwing me off.”
Well hide probably earns 75% too. 

Linda Guessed, “My first thought was the skin of some animal. Hmm. Not sure what kind, though. Some sort of reptile? “

It is an animal and it is skin, but the reptile guess loses you points so 50%

Kristen M (a zoologist) guessed “It looks like maybe an animal nose?”

I guess I have to pay that guess 100%. It is indeed a nose.
So what is the critter in question?

Recently we have had some work done on our track out to civilization. Along the edges where the soil has been disturbed the Blue-Gums are doing what they do best, taking over.

In many spots the disturbed ground is being covered by seedlings already competing to race for the sky.
Blue-gums are one of the favoured foods of a much loved Oz icon.

One night coming home just after dark I spotted this guy to one side taking advantage of the tender new growth.
Perhaps it was dazzled by my car headlights, but whatever the reason it let me get out and get really close. 
A less charitable idea is that it didn't quite understand what was happening. Average Oz marsupials are intellectual midgets. Many deal with a low energy environment by having very small brains (brains are energy hungry ours account for about 20% of our calorie use).
The bulk of Oz has poor soils and dry conditions, meaning little plant food available to form the basis of  local food-chains. Koalas are almost literally "empty-headed" when compared to their closet living relative the wombats. 

Of course where Deb and I live is unusual being a rainforest area.

I had a Deb’s pocket camera with me so I had to use the flash (it was really dark in the forest) hence the odd appearance of the eyes.
Despite the flash going off in its eyes it continued eating, letting me get off a few more shots
Then it had enough, turned 
and shot up a nearby tree.
A real treat.

Usually you never see much of koalas in the bush. At best they are usually a furry lump right up near the top of a 200 foot high tree.

Now to the sad part of the post.
Although in areas like where we live koala populations are undisturbed and strong. In much of Oz, particularly South East Queensland, the spread of suburbia and farming has destroyed much koala habitat.
Some conservationists argue koalas are becoming endangered. A sad truth is around 4,000 are killed each year from being hit by cars or being attacked by people’s pet dogs.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Old Routines?

Well this makes two posts in two days.

I am keeping this short because my writing is calling (I am nearing the end of a revision of my current novel Veil of Iron).

But before I move on, a quick thank you to those of you who commented welcoming me back.

Now for the first time in months a "What is it Wednesday".

What on earth do you think this might be?
(I am not sure how hard this one is my only test subject got it half right)

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Long time no see

Well, it has been around two months since my last post.

I never wanted to abandon the blog so here I go again.

Tonight is a "Super Moon", I didn't have a tripod with me so unfortunately this isn't perfect, but I just had to try.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Well it is a bit more than a week since I last posted, but at least it hasn't been months this time.

My brother Ian has come home from England for his first visit in 18 years, so I have been rather busy catching up.

One thing we have been doing is getting out in the bush, something he has missed.

 Ian and I were out and about soon after dawn yesterday. Winter has finally really bitten down this way so it was cold and frosty.

One of the things I pointed my camera at was this grass in an attempt to catch the icy feel.

I also caught some extreme close-ups of the frost crystals coating the grass.

And even closer

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Trying again

Well it is once again weeks since I last posted.

Life has been hectic since then.
I was sick (with the cold/flu/bronchitis whatever it was) for nearly four weeks in total.

Then my mum had to go back into hospital for a few days (thank goodness for the universal health care we  have in Oz).

Since she has been out Deb and I have been spending a lot of time helping mum and Stan (mum's husband) with basic chores like meals etc.

On the plus side, my mental health continues to improve. My depression/anxiety is almost under control. Apart from the occasional moment (usually quickly controlled with my CBT techniques) I am pretty much well.

Also I am writing again, working on revisions of my second novel Veil of Iron. It is going slowly because life is so busy, but it is going again.

The novel is part of the reason this blog has been on hold. I have been loath to spend my precious writing time anywhere other than on the book.

So where to from here?

Well I am going to try posing here at least once a week (hopefully more often).

Finally I want to share a few piccies I took this evening.

Late this afternoon we had a shower of rain. that soon cleared off.
Then as the sun got close to the horizon our valley began to fill with mist.
It began to be a wonderful display so of course I had to get the camera out.

This is a sample of what I caught

Then as the sun sank lower it created some amazing patterns of light through the Blue Gums on the western side of our paddock.

This final shot as a moment later, but wider to show how deep blue the sky above the mist was getting.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Still here

Given my post of a couple of weeks ago I thought I should find the energy to explain my sudden silence.

In fact my mental health continues to improve, but since mid last week both Deb and I have been struck down by a nasty virus.

I hope to be back on deck over the next few days.

Before I go I have to say something about Lilli.
Lilli the Labrador
A usual family joke has been that she is called Lilli because she is lilly-livered.
Well she seems to have discovered that we have a dingo around (weeks after we first spotted it).
Somehow Lilli has decided she is in fact a guard dog and has taken to patrolling the garden fence and barking at said wild animal.
Something that has been totally out of character before. In the past she has been only too happy to flee dangerous animals - like kittens.
Patrolling the perimeter

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

An answer (and more wildlife)

Well it is Tuesday so I had better get round to answering last week's WIIW.

Linda G. Guessed: "An extreme close-up of a camel? (Hey, a girl can hope!)"
It certainly is camel colour, but as much as I enjoy your camel posts it is a much smaller creature!
Ann said: "A woolly mammoth"
What a creative guess, but it is not elephant sized.
Well this image came from this extreme close up piccie
Still can't see?
Well does this help? Isn't it odd looking?
Here it is, a moth lured out of the rainforest by our lights. As you can see it is excellently camouflaged for hiding in a forest.
It doesn't work quite as well on our fly-screen! 


Sunday, April 27, 2014

The Centauress

Just a quick post tonight as I have spent all weekend at the Inaugural Dorrigo Grassroots Writers' Festival and am rather tired.

But I wanted to say my friend Kathleen Jones  and long time commenter on this blog has just published her latest book the Centauress on Kindle 

 I haven't had a chance to read this work yet, but I have read her biography 
Katherine Mansfield: The Story-Teller  and her previous novel The Sun's Companion  and to say I loved them would be an understatement!

Friday, April 25, 2014

ANZAC, Ghost town and a tunnel

Today is ANZAC day in Oz.

Held on the 25th of April it commemorates the day in 1915 when soldiers of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZACs) went into action in the ill fated Dardanelles Campaign of World War One.

A mere 14 years after Australian Federation the casualties that fell in that campaign and the rest who fell before the end scarred our fledgling nation. Of a population of just over 4 million people in 1914, 330,000 Aussie soldiers served (all volunteers). Of those 330,000 who served 221,000 were killed or seriously wounded.

Deb and I went for a drive along the Old Glen Innes Road which runs from Grafton one of our local towns up through the Nymboida Valley to Glen Innes.

The road has been bypassed by the new highway further north so it is pretty much in the same state as it was when it was opened in1867.

Much of the way it runs along a cutting perched above the Nymboida River.
At one point where a spur comes down to the river side it dives through a tunnel that was excavated by hand!

I paused at the other end to catch this piccie of a vehicle coming through. To give an idea of the size of the tunnel and just how narrow this old road is.

Further along we turned off up a side track which took us up to "Tommy's Lookout"
The view from about 1,000 feet above the river gives an idea of what the country is like. You can't see the road from up there but it snakes along parallel to the river.

The track up to the look out is suitable for 4x4 vehicles only and is not for the faint hearted.
Deb snapped this piccie through the windscreen on the way back down.

Back to the subject of ANZAC day. At the ghost town of Boyd Newton stands a lonely ANZAC memorial.
The local tale is that all the military age men volunteered and not one returned. Whatever happened the village was abandoned soon after, leaving nothing but the memorial.

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.