An interesting summer all round.

New South WalesWe are sort of like a pocket of calm  in the midtst of chaos – an island of sanity in a sea of madness, if you like. Bushfires, tornadoes and cyclones happen in other places. Extremes of weather (other than heat)  do not happen here. We have the occasional rain storm and high winds that can bring down trees and damage a roof or three, we do not have people being driven out of their homes and being evacuated because of floods or fire. Actually,  and thankfully, we are quite boring, really.  The local government area  incorporates some 1032.5 square klms, with the urban area being 41.2 squ.klm.  Surrounded by scrubland and sea our closest forest is some 140 klms to the east of us – Mount Remarkable National Park. It is over ten years since we had major fires there and between us and there is a little body of water called the Spencer Gulf.  Queensland has barely recovered from the devastating floods of 2011 and now it’s flooded again. Here we fluctuate between scorching and cold. I have been talking about temperatures in the high 40s and at the moment the temperature is 15c and not expected to go beyond 24c – 28c for most of this week.

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Refuses to die !!

My knowledge of Poinsettias is limited to the fact that I was given a red one two years ago by a friend and since the only thing I ever saw were Red ( common in the Garden shops over here) I made the mistaken assumption that Poinsettias were Red. It is a bit worse for ware these days but it is still with us. It went slightly strange and I took it to the garden centre who told me that I was overwatering it.  Stop the water. Neve really helped so I decided that if it wanted to live than it better do something and for my part I devastated it but cutting it back almost to the roots – getting rid of everything that looked dead. It lives and is producing new growth and fine new leaves.  I have great hopes for it. So not everything is doom and gloom.

In the morning I head off to Adelaide and the Flinders Medical Centre. I should be home late tomorrow night after stopping in at the big garden centre on the way through.

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My Man

The Queensland floods continue to get worse by the hour and the Cyclone front is moving down the coast and the big concern is that it is heading for Sydney and already the North of New South Wales is feeling the  the effects of the rain and wind. Parts of the cities of Logan and Lismore are being evacuated with the river expected to peak at 15 metres above normal. The 2011 flood peaked at 17 metres.  The city of Bundaberg is the major concern at the moment and the speed of the water is something like 77 klms  per hour. For some it is going to be a very scary night.

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Tornadoes, Cyclones and Bushfires – it’s all go around here!

White PoinsettiaI suppose all countries are strange in their own way but Australia seems to be strange in every way. South Australia is scorching, Victoria is burning, parts of New South Wales are burning, Western Australia is wet and Queensland,  battered by cyclones and a couple of  tornadoes is flooding, battered and bruised. At the Australia Day celebrations yesterday we were running a fundraising barbecue for the Royal Flying Doctor Service and just after 6pm, my son went home and got a pullover. I’m not silly, I already had one in my car so I just went and got that, and by 6:30 people were donning jackets and pullovers as the wind became stronger and colder and by the time the fireworks were set off (9pm) it was very cold. Despite that, it was a good and very busy day which stared at 1:30pm and finished at 8:30pm and everything we had was sold. I think somewhere around $900 will be added to the funds. Our small group has contributed $100,000 over four years whilst places like Roxby Downs in the far north contributes $100,000+ every year. Mind you,  it is one of the largest mining areas in Australia and they have a much greater need of the service than we have..

My  brother-in-law is back in hospital again and not very well so I will be going back down to the Flinders Medical Centre in Adelaide to see him.  I would like to go down now but it will be chaos on the roads as this is a long weekend and school starts back on Tuesday so there will be families returning from holidays, students going back to University and  school and people returning home at the end of a long weekend.  Not a good time to be ravelling. Tuesday should be much quieter. On the way home I will most probably call into the big Garden Centre  at Two Wells and see what’s available. I know — self-inflicted punishment –  but I  have this weird theory that sooner or later, something will take and my efforts will be rewarded,  then I can sit back and relax and count the pigs as they fly past.

Things seem to be going from bad to worse in Queensland and the State Government have asked the Feds. to give Army assistance because the  state emergency services can no longer cope. It’s not quite of the scale of two years ago, but getting pretty close. We are lucky in South Australia – we get hot and the temperature goes up and down like a yoyo at times, but really, we don’t get the extreme weather conditions coming in from the Pacific and Indian Oceans.   ——–A White Poinsettia – never seen one before so I bought it.

When enough is really enough!

John's PosterEverything seems to have calmed down  for the moment and the cool change has allowed the fire fighters to bring  the two major bushfires under control. This has come as a welcome relief for the fire crews. The dogs have been good these last few days and they, like us, just wanted to try and stay cool. I am going to take advantage of the cooler conditions and head off to Adelaide for the day. I will leave at about 6am in the morning and be back  late evening. I have a number of things to do and I should have enough time to get them done since they are in the city rather than the outlying areas. Well one is, Bunnings at Parafield, but I can accommodate that. I spent a good bit of time at the Garden Center and had my soil analysed and in essence it’s ok, but too compacted and not allowing water to penetrate through the soil to the roots of things I plant. I have treated the area with a wetting agent that should help to loosen the soil and allow water to get to where it’s needed. Although I have to be very honest and say that 44c really doesn’t care what plants and flowers it burns because all the wetting agent in the world will not save them – nor has it. I waited until it cooled down before I planted the flowers, used the soil wetter agent, fertilised and along comes another four days of 39-43c heat and they are struggling. Despite all the care and mulch, they are in serious trouble and I don’t think they can be saved. This is the last!  I am spending  way too much money on plants that just die despite the attention I give them, so no more. I think in the greenhouse where they were grown someone came in and left a door open for a few minutes and they didn’t die so they must be heat tolerant (On Label) and they were out side in a 25c day and they didn’t die so they must be Full Sun tolerant (Also on Label)  Full Sun in the highlands of Victoria is very different from Full Sun in  Arid South Australia’s mid-north. I have had my soil tested, I have spent  a lot on fertiliser, soil treatment, mulch, bought full sun and heat tolerant plants and nothing survives.  It’s all too, too traumatic.  I think concrete and paving stones are the way to go.

Lakes, Parks and Forest Fires.

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Glenmaggie Area

I finally spoke to the people at the garden centre to try and identify the tree outside the house and  it would appear to be a “Paperbark”, so called because  the bark peels off like sheets of paper.  I decided to consult the  Garden Shop people after someone suggested that rather than a tree it could be one leg of a giant ogre with severe dermatitis. I considered this and became concerned that it could be something that’s escaped from the Forest of Fangorn and just on the remote possibility that this might be so, I thought I had better be nice to it. I have problems enough without a  bunch of irritated ents  throwing socking great boulders everywhere. This  could upset the neighbours, not to mention frighten the horses.

I did hope by this time I would know what I was doing for the remainder of the week – going to Adelaide or not – but things are not going according to plan. Ok,  they may be going to some plan – just not mine.  I had a virus in my  office PC and I lost a lot of my files. I decided that it was probably time I-upgraded the PC anyway. This computer I am currently using is a MacBook – so no virus here. However, there are just some things I cannot view on here even with a parallels system. ( running Windows on a Mac) The temperature is heating up again and I have no intentions of wandering around the streets of Adelaide in a 43c day when I don’t have to.  Herself has suggested that I delay it until next Monday and go down then. I was thinking about Friday but I have a dental appointment – and since it is the last one so I feel I should be there rather than re-schedule.

The weather climbed to 44c here yesterday after building up for several days. The dogs were  inside for most of that time. We just make sure that hey are cool and have plenty of water. Apart from beds, I have water containers all over the place. At the moment there are two major fires burning out of control – one in the  Bundaleer Forest, some 160 klms from here and the other in South-eastern Victoria. This is the more serious one and the residents of the town of Glenmaggie have been told that it is now too late to leave since the fire front is moving too quickly. Glenmaggie is a small town (pop. 450) on the shore of Lake Gelnmaggie . The Bundaleer Forest  here in South Australia,  is one of the oldest National Parks in Australia and it is believed to be one of the most beautiful.  There are over 250 firefighters, 50 water tankers and three water bombers fighting that one.

It’s an ugly tree, but it’s my ugly tree.

SAMSUNGNow that the temperature has continued to drop (at least over here) I will try and get down to Adelaide during the course of this coming week. I have things I need to get done and my brother-in-law is back in hospital again so I would like to get out and see him. There is  quite a difference between between driving in 28c and driving in 43c temperatures even although the car has very good air-conditioning. However, there is major construction work on the roads leading to the Medical Centre and traffic crawls along there.  I don’t make a habit of using the phone in the car but I had to phone Herself and tell her  that I was barrelling along the South Road at a whole 2 klms per hour.  I don’t think I would minded half so much if it were not for the fact that snails were overtaking us.

Helen is back home and when my wife spoke to her this afternoon she says she is planning to be at church tomorrow – in a wheelchair. She still cannot walk but she will be there none-the-less. I have sent the paperwork off to Adelaide re. the Commissions, and should hear by the time I get back from the city.

To the left is an Australian Native Tree. Personally I think they are a) ugly b) messy c) not suitable for this environment (urban)  d) they are a recognisable fire hazzard and e) they  can drop branches and injure people. In some parks people are warned not to  camp near or under gum trees. They are ugly in my eyes because, well they just are and for the life of me I cannot see any redeeming qualities about them. They are messy because they constantly shed bark which is very messy and a pest in an urban setting and downright dangerous in a country setting they create massive amount of litter – that is helping to fuel the bush fires. I may not like it, but I don’t really want to see anything to happen to it. After all, it didn’t ask to be planted where it is, so it should not suffer from Council mistakes.

Our weather is grey and it rained for a little while this afternoon. Nothing much but the temperature is well down. Still having problems in NSW and I heard from family that the bushfires are being reported on the news in the UK.  The cyclone is now heading back out to sea and it seems unlikely that  there will be any  problems from that. However, there is another low pressure building up which might lead to a new cyclone.

The dogs are certainly enjoying the cooler conditions and I have  not had to carry the little man during our morning walks. Behind the town there is a Levy Bank, about nine feet high.  Many, many years ago it was built to protect the settlement from floods. The weather patterns were also different then. I used to take the dogs for a walk alond the length of the levy bank and it was a good quiet walk. No so  these days, – it has become the haunt of trail bikes.  I took the dogs out for their walk at 6:30 this morning and (true!!) I had a pullover on. It was positively chilly.  I might take advantage of the cooler weather to get some things planted in the garden and hope that they get established before we have any more really hot weather. I might even get the garden shop to identify the above tree. —– PS I think I write too much…..

So far – so good!

2013-01-05 19.57.00The interesting thing about Australia, in general, is the many contrasts and the way things can change so quickly – from normal to catastrophic in the blink of an eye. Only a  month or so ago, we were having heavy rain and thunderstorms – now we are in heatwave conditions with homes and property being destroyed. So how are we today – Friday 11th January – well, parts of South Australia and the Northern Territory are in heatwave conditions, large parts of the Eastern States, Tasmania, Victoria and New South Wales (NSW),  are struggling with serious bush fires and over in Western Australia they are bracing themselves for the onset of a Category 4 (and increasing) Hurricane  ( Cyclone in this part of the world) and in some parts of the Highlands, snow has fallen. It’s a strange country, that due to its geographical position, can change so quickly. In Scotland , where I came from, we have pretty miserable weather most of the time, but we never had any conditions where the temperature can drop 23 degrees overnight – i.e. today 47.9 , tomorrow 24.9. In some parts of Scotland if the temperature fell 23 degrees overnight, you would freeze to death. As I said the other day, we went from a record 47.9c down to 26c the following day.

Tourist: ” What’s that special Scottish name for when the weather is cold, grey, wet and miserable?”

Resident:  “Summer”

NSW are bracing for record temperatures again tomorrow as the exhausted firefighters battle some 130 fires burning across the state. To add to this volatile situation three fires were deliberately started and the arsonists have been arrested. All three are teenagers who thought is was a bit of a lark and their stupid parents agree even attacking the  media as they reported the  story. I continue to take comfort from the words of Charles de Gaulle ” The more people I meet, the more I like my dogs”.

Saturday 12th.: Was wakened up by a very strange noise at 4am this morning. I thought someone was coming in through the roof . Got out of bed and put the light on and realised what the strange noise was –  it was raining!. Went to check on the  dogs and they were still asleep. I went back to bed. When I  finally got up at 6:30 the rain had gone and all was quiet. A short while later I took the dogs out for their walk and it was positively cool. I checked the thermometer and found  the temperature was a mere 19c. The little man started off as usual, full of energy,  and the interesting thing is that he maintained most of that energy for the whole time we were out and most of the time he was running ahead to the full extent of the retractable lead. The temperature today is supposed to be 28c. and it looks as if the change in weather pattern is pushing the  Cyclone back out to sea, away from Western Australia although it is still close enough to bring wind and some heavy rain. So far, it’s good that we have managed to escape any bushfires this time round. —– Photograph is a part of my back yard.

Change is good – or so I am told.

stressMy life has undergone a bit of a change. On 31st. December we  locked up the church and the hall, made our farewell to the Session Clerk and set off home. We had only just finished lunch when we had a telephone call to tell us that the Session Clerk, Mrs. Mashford, had had an accident and was waiting transportation  by the Air Ambulance to the Royal Adelaide Hospital, some 450 klms away, where she would undergo emergency surgery. It seems she had fallen at the back of her house and had broken both legs and injured her back. At least that was what they thought – one was definitely broken but the other one was too badly swollen to tell and x-ray. The Royal Flying Doctor (RFDS) Air Ambulance arrived at 5:20 that evening and she was transported to Adelaide. She was made comfortable and they did the operation the following morning. She has fragmented one ankle and that required the parts to be brought back together, plates inserted and screwed into place. Her back is just badly bruised so no problem there. The other leg is very badly swollen and they still cannot tell but they suspect that it also broken.   So why does that mean changes for me? Simply we are a small church without a minister and the day to day running of the church and the services are undertaken , in turn, by the three elders – Mrs. Mashford, myself and my wife.  My wife is unable to travel so she does not go outside of town. Helen is the Commissioner for the General Assembly and I am the Commissioner for the Presbytery. With Helen out of action, the rotation becomes one service every other week instead of every third week. At a bedside meeting, I was elected as the Commissioner for both Assembly and Presbytery – as allowed for by the Code of Practice. Between that and having to take a service every other week, really adds “interest” to things.

The dogs are still inside but with the installation of the  magnetic flyscreen across the door, we are able to leave the door open and let them wander in and out as they wish without attracting a horde of flies. The little man had no problems and simply head-butted his way through once he saw me walk through it. Chienna was very reluctant to try it so  I had to work with her a few times and let her watch the little man do his thing before she was comfortable enough to push her way through on her own. The magnets ensure that the screen closes – like a door – behind them.

I am finding that more often than not these days, I have to carry the little one for part of our morning walk. He is 12/13  and although he starts off well, full of energy and enthusiasm, he begins to fade after a while. Like the song says – He’s not heavy, he’s my brother. He is one of my associates and if he needs a bit of a rest, well that’s ok, he’s not heavy.