Lazy Spring Days.

Benji at the deserted Long Beach

I have not written for a while, mainly because I was reluctant to do so until such time as I knew what was happening with this account. Well that can be summed up in a single word – nothing. I have written twice to WordPress without reply so I have – for the time being – decided to treat my spam folder as an alternate inbox. A sort of halfway house really since posts and comments do appear for a few seconds in the inbox and then dissapear

White Sands

into the spam folder. Why is it so?? I have no idea!

A few weeks ago  Benji and I went out to the garden. It was a lovely, warm spring day – about 28c -. I put up the umberella, brought out my laptop and my Filofax and intended to do some work. I had papers to sort out and a couple of emails to write for the RFDS. Benji plonked himself down on the padded bench until it became too warm for him so he slid under the table where the tablecloth and the umbrella protected him from the sun. It

Lovely Day!

was such a lovely day and I was sorry that spring and summer could not remain as this was. It will, however get hotter as the weeks go on, so I just enjoyed the day as it was.  In the time since writing, we have been back to the Port, but, sadly, not the Arid Lands Botanic Garden, we have spent quite a few afternoons at the Wetlands and a couple of afternoons out at the lighthouse.  I found some interesting birds at the Wetlands and put a photograph on line. I thought them to be pretty birds and at another part of the walk one of these birds approached me, then Benji moved and the bird walked away. I have since found out that these very pretty white birds are Feral Geese, and (so I am told) very aggresive. They seemed harmless enough to me.  The Kiosk has been opened for an afternoon, selling coffee only and trying to get some feedback before official opening, which is the 10th. October. The above photograph of Benji was taken at what used to be a very popular beach on the way to the lighthouse. It was one of the areas we used to  take all the children to fish and play – my sister’s children and my boys. Then it was decided that the point would be just right for the Santos Liquids Processing plant so much of the area was closed off for a long while. Now it is very rarely visited and even then only by people on the way to and from the lighthouse who see the expanse of white sand from the road, or people, like me, who remember it from  ages past.

Hello. What’s your name?

At the Wetlands the birds are slowly returning and we now have two pair of Black Swans. I hope the third pair will return. I did mention the Wild

The Wild Geese

(Feral) Geese and then there is this fellow and I have no idea who he is, but I have seen him a couple of times at different parts of the  area.

I have also been doing some work in the garden. There is an area that has not been neglected but it seemed that whatever I planted there – died. I decided it must be the soil, so I dug it all out, removed it and replaced it with fresh soil toppoed by potting mis and  fertilizer. Watered it all in and planted some  flowers. They lasted for two days until the next door  87,000 cats dug them up. Kind of them, I thought.. I am not giving up and have bought new plants, posts and chicken wire. We’ll see how that does.

Trip to Port Pirie Pt. 2

Having had lunch at the Tin Man, we had a bit of a walk before going back to the car and heading off to Port Augusta. He did his usual – curl up on the front seat and go to sleep – whilst I concentrated on the driving. On arrival at the Port I managed to complete the remainder of the shopping and we had a small snack and a good long walk along the Esplanade, sat down and had a bit of a break. Oddly enough, although it was  quite warm in Port Pirie, Augusta was not quite so warm and instead of the A/C I put the heater on for a bit. The drive back was uneventful and as we neared the town, I noticed a cloud of dust. As I drew near to the source of the dust I discovered that it was caused by several of the Army Tanks heading towards the live-fire area. (more on this later) The boy and I had been away since about 8am and it was now approaching 4pm, so all in we had a good day out together, The Shopping Center at Pirie was really interesting and I would liked some time to explore it. I have a ‘thing’about shopping malls and centers and find them fascinating places. It probably comes from the fact that when we were growing up in Scotland there were no shopping malls or shopping centers. In fact there weren’t  supermarkets until the mid 1970s – and they were few and far between. Most shopping was done in individual shops – Fishmongers – Fruit and Veg at the Green Grocer – Grocers,( butter, milk, cheese, bread ) Butcher, Baker and yes, we did have a Candlemaker. (Shearer of Govan) We had two big grocer shops close to us, Galbraith and the Co-op. There were probably others that I don’t remember. All-in-all, we had a really good day out – well I did, he just curled up on the front seat.

Flowers along the pathway at the Wetlands

On Friday, Annabell had medical appointments so not much doing. Saturday I spent the day working in the garden sweeping up leaves and doing a general tidy up. I bought  two new plants and will attend to them on Monday. On Sunday (today), after church and lunch the boy and I got in

The Black Swans

the car and drove down to the Wetlands. Lovely day with a nice temperature of 25c, just the job for a circuit and a half together. Flowers out and to add to the  day, the Black Swans were back again.  The Kiosk is still not open. It was supposed to be open this week but there you are – perhaps next week.

This morning (Monday) was a bit on the cool side for our morning walk. Still it is supposed to be around 28c during the course of the day. A nice day in the Arid Lands. On the subject of Arid Lands, the Arid Lands Botanic Garden is under a cloud – re. funding. The ALBG was started many years ago as an initiative of the Port Augusta City Council, but with budget being “tight” the Port might not be able to  keep  the funding going for much longer. However, having read that I have to say the recent trip to Pirie showed me the amount of redevelopment going on in the port. The Feds and the State Government will start construction on the new major bridge soon. so there will be a fair amount of work at

Not too bad looking – but who minds as long as the coffee is good and it sells scones.

Port Augusta.  I have  started extra work in the back garden and have planted three new plants – two in the front garden and one (so far) in the back. The soil here is poor and thin so I  do have three raised flower beds – two front and one back. They contain 280 ltrs of potting mix rather than soil. In the front I have  a Plumbago and a Coleonema and at the back I have a second Coleonema.  I also have a  growing Sturt Desert Rose which I will plant in a different area. I have

Native Bush from the Arid Lands B.G.

a lot of hope for this because the native plants are growing well. I would like to get time this week to  drive out to the ALBG but in order to do that I would have to leave Benji at home – and he wont like that. He does not like getting left – not at all. It’s bad enough when I have to go to away for days at a time.

Benji, sunny days and passing lanes

Despite the blood red moon today, it’s cold. Strange though, it was quite mild when Benji and I were out early (05:00 – early) because I wanted to see the blood moon – freaky.. So  we decided to go for our walk since we were out anyway. As I said it was really quite mild but as the morning progressed it got colder. I was forced at 8:30 to put the heater on.

Benji catching some rays from the winter sun.

Although today was slightly unusual  as generally  it has been cold all night and through into the morning. The days have been  mild, so much so that Benji took up residence on one of the outdoor chairs and sat facing the sun and lifting his head so the  warmth could get to his chest. It looked strange, but he sat that was for quite a bit. We had a morning out at the lighthouse and then on Wednesday we drove through to the Port and spent the morning there. No Arid Lands Botanic Garden (ALBG) because dogs are not allowed in the area,  well, in the carpark is the limit,  and since the carpark is a  fair bit away from the shop and the nursery, I wont leave him in the car for that length of time. If it is my intention to go to the ALBG then I will not take Benji with me.

I  think I did mention that my niece has come back to town. Anyway I picked her up yesterday and took her to the airport to catch a flight to Adelaide. She asked me to look after and feed her cat, a black and white cat called Felix. I agreed to do this. It’s  been great fun – and I have the blood on my ankles to prove it.  The thing attacks me from under the table and I am so glad I was wearing a track suit and not just trousers, otherwise there might have been more blood. It’s like walking into a room with a snake there – it hisses.  Generally I have no problems with cats, but this is one oddball animal.

You may remember that I talked some time ago about the Passing Lanes for the Whyalla-Port Augusta Road. Well the Feds gave most of the money for construction, the State Labor government procrastinated and delayed the project for three years.  then, just a few months before the State Election, the project was started. The intention was to boost the Government’s chances of re-election. It didn’t happen and we had a new government to pick up the mess left by the last spendthrift government. Work continued on the  bypass lanes and they were finally finished a few months ago. Almost immediately there were complaints about the quality of the new roads, great indentations where the road met the bypass lane – making it dangerous particularly for anyone on a motorbike – and after a mere three months potholes had developed. There are concerns about the quality of the road surface. The bypass lanes are partly closed, or  are very reduced speeds, until urgent repairs are carried out. I did say, when I got home, that I was not very impressed with the bypass lanes, period. I thought the surface was poor and underwhelming. Talk about cheap and cheerful. Anyway the arguing has already started regarding who pays for the  repairs – the government or the contractor. The contractor are doing what many contractors do –

Benji on the Hill

blame someone else. In the meantime the roads are partly closed.

Flinders Drive and the entrance to the Medical Center

Towards the end of this week we will have Yogi again. No idea at this stage how long for but it might be a while until they return from Adelaide and Jim recovers from the operation at

Flinders Medical Centre. He is very casual about it, which I suppose is a good thing, but it seems to me that having a cancerous liver removed is not casual thing – but then, perhaps that’s just me. I don’t mean that you should  make yourself ill by worrying but I just think it requires a little more “respect”.

I have lost several posts. I contacted the people concerned and they tell me that I am still with them and they are still sending to me, but I am not getting anything. Of all the UK posts I only have one remaining. My computer guru ( No. 1 Son) has gone thought my Outlook Express account and can find no changes, so I don’t know what’s happening.

The Port and the Arid Lands Gardens.

Looking toward the Joy Baluch Bridge

Talk about “Back to the Future” as once again I made the journey out to the Port for the same reasons as last week. I was supposed to head out on

Big W. Department Store.

Tuesday but late Monday afternoon I received a telephone call from the Doctor Surgery reminding me I had an appointment on Tuesday afternoon. I probably could have still  gone to the Port and been back in time, but I decided to leave it until Wednesday. So, Wednesday morning I headed off to Port Augusta and the Bank.  My business at the bank was completed a lot quicker that I had anticipated so I was able to spent some time at Big W, then The Office Shop before heading to the Arid Lands Botanic Garden.  I bought three new native plants before heading off for a wander at the Lookout area. There are some really nice walking paths and they would be great to take Benji, but as I said, dogs are not allowed. Yes, I agree they could make a ruling that dogs have to be kept on a leash at all times but there will always be the drongo(s) that believe that rules don’t apply to them and put the native wildlife in danger. I have to say that the weather was lovely, but too warm to leave Benji in the car for any length of time. The Joy Baluch Bridge is the main crossing point of the Upper Spencer Gulf but there is another crossing a bit further up. This is Yorkeys Crossing and is supposed to be the route for heavy vehicles, which are reluctant to use it and instead use the main bridge. There was a pedestrian bridge but due to structural damage

Yorkeys Crossing Bridge

this was closed,  so pedestrians are forced to use a narrow pathway on the main bridge. The Federal MP has highlighted this and shown how close  the trucks come  to people using the narrow walkway, but nothing was ever done.  The reason drivers are reluctant to use Yorkeys Crossing is that it is a long detour and the road between the crossing and the main highway, is an unsealed, dirt road on either side, so for big vehicles it can present problems. It also puts added pressure on the main bridge, which, because it is now used by pedestrians, the speed limit is 40KPH over the bridge.  The Port Augusta Council have been asking for the State Government to seal the road, and repair the pedestrian crossing, but the previous  state government was more concerned with extending a motorway in Adelaide to get people home by cutting four minutes off the traveling time. We really hope the new government can do something about the problems around the state outside of Adelaide.

I spent much of the morning walking the trail towards Yorkeys Crossing and up to the top of the escarpment. I find the view quite pleasant with

Looking back towards the Shop and other buildings

the Flinders Ranges in the distance. Looking back towards the Gardens and the Shop area is quite interesting. Way beyond the hills in the distance  is part of the way home. and between where I am standing and where I am going there is nothing – no houses nor people – mind you, there’s no water either. Coming back down from the escarpment to the carpark I had a chat with some visitors from Germany. Driving back to the main road I stopped and pulled off road as best as I could so that I could get out and photograph a family of emu. In the early paragraph of this post I mentioned the problems with allowing dogs in the area – even on leash – because some people would believe the rules don’t apply to them – this was brought home to me as I was photographing  the Emu. For obvious reasons, the speed limit in and around the area is 40KPH with restrictions that the wildlife has right of way. As I was parked a white sedan came from the opposite direction and  passed me at about 60+, despite the fact that there were Emu in the area – rules didn’t apply to him.

Anyway, I have decided that I need a new camera. My Nikon is getting old and is really overdue for replacement. Think I might have to talk nicely to “She who must be Obeyed”.

Part of a family of Emu at the Arid Lands B.G.

 

Heatwave, Flowers and Eagles

When the temperature hits the mid to high 40c it very rarely lasts for more than two days – three tops. But even those two days are enough to do a lot of damage. The north of the State,

Wild flowers grasses and Emus
Flinders flowers

the Flinders Ranges and beyond change from arid lands into desert landscape. In the spring these areas are alive with grasses and wildflowers – the area becomes a sea of colour – wonderful to behold. People come from all over Australia and  beyond to photograph the Flinders  wildflowers. Yet, within a short space of time, spring changes into summer, the sun starts to bight and burns up the grasses and the wildflowers and the dry, brown desert land returns. We are, the driest area in the driest state of the driest continent.  We have one river, to the west of the state, the Murray and that’s being done to death slowly. All the lakes you see to the north and west of the state are all dry salt lakes – so big they even have world landspeed races and records on them. Water is pumped from the Murry some 300 miles away and without that much of South Australia would simply cease to exist. The Murry Pipeline is the umbilical cord of the north on which much of the settlement of the state  beyond Port Wakefield relies. If we have a really warm and prolonged summer we start to eat into the water reserves and we have to ration water. No watering of gardens is allowed except under certain conditions. However since we have a spendthrift government, we built a water desalination plant – a couple of $billion, but who’s counting – which was put

More dead than alive

into mothballs because  in the time it took to build – delays, cost blow-outs, over-runs, usual SA Govt. project- we had several wetter than usual winters and the catchment

dying plants

areas were all at capacity so water was no longer an issue. But despite all the precautions and the special Mandevilla Fertilizer, a day and a half of  46/47c  heat is enough to undo all the careful tendering that you may have done over the late winter and spring to little more than dead brown leaves. Both the  Frangipani didn’t fare all that much better. Two days undid all the work and expense of months. I came home at midnight from Adelaide, played with Benji, had a chat with Annabell then close to 1am went out and watered all the plants before going to bed, but by then the damage was probably already done and the Friday was even hotter. I had great hope for the Mandevilla but I think they have gone too far to be saved now. – Update – I have been told by the garden people not to dig up or pull out what appears to be dead plants. I should keep on tending to them because it is very likely that the extreme heat has killed and burned the surface shoots and leaves, but it is  more than possible that the plant itself is still alive and will respond to care, attention and watering. Ok I can do that and we’ll see what happens.

At the moment it’s too hot to go wandering so although I have been thinking about the Arid Lands Botanic Garden (ALBG)and getting native plants that probably would survive the heat in this area, I’ll leave  the 150 klm drive off for the moment. I think I have said before that dogs are banned at the ALBG – which is understandable given the nature of the gardens and the native  small reptiles  ( mainly harmless lizards)  that roam freely around the place.

Wedge-Tail Eagle ( Not my photograph)

Not sure if  I mentioned this before but my son had to have a meeting with the Environment /Wildlife Officer of the  Mine. A few days before, he was called out for a problem at one of the areas and was on his way to the mine. An Eagle, chasing prey, mistimed and miscalculated its attack and flew into the side mirror of Andrew’s Vehicle, killing the bird and smashing the side mirror. The report was sent by the company to the Environment Officer and although no blame was attached  to Andrew it was considered unfortunate in that the  Environment and Wildlife people had been running a program to re-introduce the Wedge-Tails (Eagles) back into the area. The damage to the vehicle and the replacement of the side mirror cost over $700. Sad but at the same time fortunate for Andrew that it was not a fully grown adult – these birds are BIG with a wingspan of up to 9 feet.

Cool Benji washing the Lighthouse !!

Not quite, but close

Been a

The Entrance to the A L B G

good week – really. Annabell is hosting the ladies coffee on a Tuesday evening and the ladies coffee morning on the Wednesday morning.  That said, Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday of this month, are tied up:  Monday and Tuesday I help her clean, polish and set things up – Wednesday afternoon I help her put things away. This week – of course – is her last week. I think I have mentioned this before that they each pay a small fee, some of which is used for tea, coffee and so forth, but the bulk of it – other than a couple of dollars,  (to keep the account open) goes to charity and last year they gave three thousand dollars – a thousand of which went, via me, to the RFDS. The other two thousand went to two other support groups.

Now, I wanted some more native plants so I decided that on Thursday I would take a run through to the Arid Lands Botanic Garden (ALBG) and take Benji with me.  I expect you have heard the saying, “The best laid plans of mice and men gang aft agley (often go astray)” and that’s what happened here. Decided to help Annabell with the washing before I left. Got the washing in the machine, it filled up with water – then died. It’s been acting strange for a while now ;  we decided there and then to get rid of it and buy a new machine. So we went out to look for a new machine, but she has this thing about front loaders because she can’t reach down into a top loading machine to get the washing out at the bottom. Anyway, bought the machine, they delivered and installed it and took away the old machine that same afternoon, and by the time they did that, it was much to late to go to the ALBG. Might try again for this coming Thursday :o)

On our way.

Today (Sunday) was a bit cool. Sun was shining and it looked nice outside. The reality is that you can’t see the wind, but we took a drive out to the

The Lighthouse

lighthouse (30 klm away)  and had a wander  around – back to town and then a trip to the beach before driving home. Benji loves being in the car but he is not a “stick your head out of the window” dog and he is happy to curl up on the front seat. I have never been able to take a photograph of Benji sitting at the lighthouse. He will sit down no

This is so true.

bother, but as soon as I move away, he follows. I tell him to “stay” but he wont. However, not knowing his background before I adopted him, perhaps there is some abandonment issues there somewhere. He is much the same in the house – I move, he follows and if I really have to leave him and go out, I get a look that haunts me  right up until I get home again. However, to be fair I do take him with me most times and he so loves going out in the car.

Friday sees the Official First Day of Spring. The weather over the last few days has been fairly good, so if this keeps up and I get away, it should be a nice day for me and my Associate to drive to the ALBG and Better Homes and Gardens. If I do get to go over to the ALBG I will see how close I can get to the main buildings and decide if I can leave the man in the car or if it’s too warm to do so even with the windows open.

It’s been a long week.

This weekend – or at least part of it – will be a busy time for the RFDS. On Friday we will be involved in the “Meet and Greet” Barbecue for the new owner of Arrium and on Saturday we have a Barbecue at Stratco Hardware Store.  I’ve had “fun” this week organising teams for both functions – a double team for Friday since this is expected to be big and busy, and the usual four team for Stratco on the Saturday. Since the AGM in June and the handing over of our cheque for $37,000 to Central Operations, we have been fairly busy and have accumulated a healthy balance.

The Sands of Time

Today is Sunday 27th December – four more days and we reach the year’s end. I suspect the year may not be the only thing that will end in four days.

Benji, sand and sea
Benji, sand and sea

I love my dog to bits and I would not change him for anything but I do miss Chienne and I expect that in the “fullness of time” I will stop – in  off moments –  calling him

We paddled in the Gulf
We paddled in the Gulf

Chienne and  perhaps giving the poor lad a complex. Unlike Chi. Benji loves the car so we have been going places, mainly to the Wetlands and a walk around the site. (2.4 klm)  He loves those walks – or is it the hot dogs and coffee  we get at the end. Provided it’s not  hot I’m quite happy to take him with me when I go out.

Early in the New Year I will start to recover much of what has been lost this year, i.e. the garden. However I find that I am no orphan in this regard and as many of the new houses are experiencing the fact that it only takes a drop of water and the weeds take over. I go out and pull weeds, use environmental friendly weed killer, but you pull out one weed and five take its place. I spent a lot getting the front garden the way I wanted it – coloured wood chip is not cheap, but all that will have to be redone. Between me ending last year in hospital,  restricted for several months until things were sorted out, then driving all over the State like a demented will-o’-the-wisp,  the area has  just become weed central. Time to get the grader back,  clean the whole area  and start over again.

Took Benji back  over to the Wetlands  again and had a walk around the ponds and gardens. By the looks of things foundations are being made for a  small footbridge over to the largest of the islands. Sadly I did not have my camera with me but if it’s not too hot we may go down again  in a day or so. I have yet to take him down to the beach and introduce him to the water. It’s an interesting area – a good defined path round the gardens and lakes,  human  drinking fountains and two dog drinking fountains, a play area for children, a good grassed area for  ball sports and a good barbecue area,  with a standing covered pergola. There is no permanent cafe but the temporary one can make hot-dogs and coffee. There are also male and female rest areas.

Yesterday – Tuesday – I drove from the wetlands to the beach and introduced Benji to the sea. After parking the car I took off

The end of the road
The end of the road

my sneakers and walked down the sand and into the water and he followed after me and the two of us happily splashed  our way along the shore. He was quite content and seemed to enjoy the experience. Certainly today (Wednesday) is a bit warmer but I think we will go back down tonight and have another paddle – probably followed by a hot-dog and a coffee. A pleasant way to end the year – and anything else.