Christmas is a confused time Down Under. The realities of the hot summer climate just don’t seem to match the traditional Christmas imagery. On the other hand, I do have a very soft side for the completely outrageous displays of Christmas lights. Yes I know, it’s complex!
The day before Christmas Eve, I visited a display of Christmas lights in the nearby town of Sunbury, which is to the south of here – purely for research purposes for this blog of course – and took the camera along with me. And this is what I saw:
|A team of reindeer pull Santa’s sleigh|
As a general observation of that traditional Christmas imagery, I would have to suggest that the reindeer would probably have dropped dead of heat stroke in the 35’C (95’F) temperatures on Christmas day this year. Certainly Santa would have been very hot in the heavy red suit. There have also been reports that one of the reindeer has a very red nose, which may suggest some sort of heat stroke!
|The reindeer team are missing Santa, whilst a suitably kitted out kangaroo and emu look on|
In the above photo of Christmas lights, which incidentally also incorporate city views, you can see that Santa has abandoned the sleigh – possibly due to heat exhaustion – leaving a few presents in the sleigh. Santa suffering from heat exhaustion is a very likely possibility because both October and December have produced record breaking heat waves in this corner of the planet. With Santa missing in action, the reindeer have sensibly commenced having a bit of a feed and you can see two of them cropping the grass. Not that there is much fresh green grass available for the reindeer because regular readers would know that in the past 14 weeks only 123.6mm (just under 5 inches) of rain has fallen in this area. It is instructive to see in the photo above that a kangaroo and emu – both of whom are wearing Christmas hats – are looking at the reindeer and perhaps are offering a helping hand? Or they may be conspiring to steal the presents in the sleigh? I’m not quite sure of their intentions.
|Kangaroos are again chasing off reindeer|
Another house continued the theme of kangaroos chasing off the reindeer – or perhaps the lights were some sort of dream sequence where the kangaroos were chasing deer off my apple trees, but yet again I’m not quite sure? Maybe, the reindeer had discovered the kangaroos nefarious intentions to steal the Christmas presents in Santa’s sleigh and decided to flee off into the night? Who knows what it all means, but wow does it look good or what?
|Pay up or the penguin cops it!|
The award for the most confused Christmas light display of them all goes to this poor penguin who appears to have been cable tied to a small tree and looks like a hostage. Every time I thought about that poor penguin a voice popped into my head saying – imagine a 1920’s US gangster accent – Pay up or the penguin cops it!
Christmas day this year was very hot and very windy. I enjoyed Christmas day with friends who live in a giant greenhouse which is about the size of an aircraft hangar. Without doubt, it was the most enjoyable Christmas day ever because after a heavy meal of excellent turkey and ham, they brought out masses of water balloons and pelted everyone. Within minutes everyone metamorphosed from sluggish and sleepy consumers of a heavy meal and good wines to rabid warriors seeking only to settle various scores.
Not everyone in this corner of the globe enjoyed a peaceful Christmas day as various fires escalated beyond control. There was a fire to the south of here just out of Sunbury, not far from where the outstanding Christmas lights are. But it was the Otway Ranges to the South West of here that really bore the brunt of that hot and windy day. A lightning strike had apparently started a fire in that very steep and inaccessible mountain range several days before Christmas day, but the hot and windy conditions on the day accelerated the fire out of control and into the sleepy town of Wye River which is along the Great Ocean Road in the Otway Ranges. By the end of that day, nearly one third of all houses in the town had been destroyed. Some commenters have asked what that possibly means and I came across this short video which is the best that I have ever seen of a local person describing their feelings after such a disaster: Victorian bushfires: Locals 'grateful' no lives were lost
That Otway Ranges fire is still not out and it is expected to burn for the entire summer.
In other parts of the country, Tasmania which is the massive island to the south of the continent reached a record high Christmas day: Cool change sweeps Tasmania after Hobart's Christmas Day record high temperature
But in the very north of the country they have serious and pressing concerns after a tropical low dumped more than 600mm (23.6 inches) of rainfall in some parts: Northern Territory floods: Main highway cut as crocodile warning issued for population centres
Back to this south eastern corner and as the Christmas day wore on into Boxing day, the tail of that huge tropical low reached all the way from the northern side of this continent and brought with it 35mm (1.37 inches) of rainfall. The air cooled and the water tanks refilled to about 90% full. And I could breathe a sigh of relief as the rainfall was a brief reprieve from this incredibly hot summer.
It wasn’t just me breathing a sigh of relief though, as the conditions changed from scorching hot to freezing cold and wet in only a matter of hours, and the dogs decided that the cold conditions were sub fluffy optimal and spent some hours dozing in peace.
|The cool change brought sub fluffy optimal conditions and the dogs decided to spend the hours catching up on lost sleep|
The cooler weather conditions are a perfect time to preserve the summer harvest. The stove top bottling (canning) hot water bath produces a huge amount of heat inside the house as it runs for hours. In the photo below I am busily cutting apricots – which I purchased as seconds from an organic orchard – and after a few hours of cutting, half a year’s supply of apricot fruit had been preserved. On cold winters mornings, six months from now I’ll hopefully be enjoying that fruit.
|The author cutting half a year’s supply of apricot fruit and preserving in glass bottles|
I wasn’t the only one feeling heat stressed this week. A very large tree next to the old chicken run and shed decided to drop a huge limb onto that area. The scary thing was that I was planning to work in that area on that particular day, but the heat forced me back inside the house. I’m also glad that the chickens are no longer underneath such a large tree.
|A heat stressed very large tree decided to drop a massive branch onto the old chicken run|
And just to show the readers how far that massive branch fell from the very top of the tree…
|The massive branch fell from the very top of this very large Eucalyptus Obliqua tree|
On a more positive note, it was nice of that tree to provide me with some additional firewood which I harvested!
Over the past couple of days I have started converting the old chicken shed, where that large branch fell, into a brand new fire wood shed. As part of that project, I wanted to salvage the materials in the old chicken run. That meant recovering the treated pine poles (which I have a future use for) from the structural grade cement holding them into the ground. After almost a day with the electric (solar powered) jackhammer, I was regretting using such heavy duty structural grade concrete (edit - Chris is an over-engineering enthusiast). Eventually after much labour all of the treated pine poles were recovered.
|The electric jackhammer was used to break up the cement so that the treated pine poles could be recovered|
The next job was to replace the old plywood door with a much stronger and more fire and weather resistant metal door. This is what the old chicken shed looked like at the start of that work:
|The old chicken shed prior to being converted into a brand new fire wood shed|
All of the steel cladding on that side of the old shed was removed and many of the gaps were filled . Observant readers will note that the steel corrugated cladding now extends to meet the steel roof of that shed.
|The old chicken shed is now starting to look like a brand new firewood shed|
In removing the old steel corrugated cladding I upset many huge huntsman spiders (edit - google images of them if you dare) who were only too happy to let me know exactly how annoyed they were with this new project. Tomorrow, I’m planning on completing the re-cladding of the outside of that shed and may even get a chance to commence the internal steel lining.
Not every night over summer is a hot, scorching and windy experience. Some nights it can be quite cool to cold and the air is so still that you can hear Boo Bok Owls calling to each other with their distinctive calls, meanwhile the bats are zipping around overhead catching huge moths which are attracted to any and all lights. It is on those nights that the editor and I will sit in the courtyard (and sometimes with visitors), talk rubbish and toast ourselves in front of the coals of the brazier. The old brazier was a dodgy construction of thin sheet metal which was clearly in for a good time but not a long time. So the other day I was picking up a supply of manure at the local sand and soil supplier and spotted these beautifully manufactured heavy duty steel fire braziers. The story was that a local company that produces tanker trucks (with rounded ends) realised that they could use their pressing machines to produce really heavy duty fire braziers and so they have started constructing and supplying them. I knew that I was looking at outstanding bit of engineering and so I did a once in a decade spontaneous purchase and the editor and I have been enjoying the new brazier ever since. It sure beats watching television!
|A new heavy duty steel brazier enjoys pride of place in the courtyard|
The recent heat and rainfall from the tropical low has produced very lush growth in the herb garden and the courtyard smells of stunning perfumes from the mix of all of the flowers:
|The recent heat and rainfall from the tropical low have produced very lush growth in the herb garden|
From the right hand side to the left hand side an observant person may spot the following flowers: Feverfew; Lemon Balm; Sage; Soap Wort; Yarrow; Geraniums; and Evening Primrose.
The heat has forced the ripening of many of the fruits on the fruit trees here and I now have the first of the apricot crop:
|The apricots commenced ripening this week|
I haven’t enjoyed the heat, but the insects certainly have and there is greater diversity in the number and type of insects that arrive here every single year. Today, I spotted this Blue Banded Bee (which is a native bee I believe) on a Salvia flower.
|A Blue Banded Bee enjoys a Salvia flower|
The temperature outside now at about 9.00pm is an enjoyable, overcast and very cool 13.6'C degrees Celsius (56.5’F). So far this year there has been 740.0mm (29.1 inches) of rainfall which is up from last week's total 702.8mm (27.7 inches).