Outside of the well-lit Melbourne Central Business District, Australians generally don’t enjoy walking at night. Way back in the day before our rural adventures commenced, the editor and I lived in an inner suburb of Melbourne which was a mere four kilometres (2.5 miles) north of that city. It was a great area to live in as there was so much to see in and around that area. The old gas works site dating back from the days before the supply of electricity had been converted into a park. One of the local pubs was even named The Gasometer and I wonder now how many people would even realise the origins of that name?
At one stage an old steam locomotive sat alone and forlorn in the park. It sat on a very short section of what remained of the now disused and dismantled railway. There was even an old fenced off timber railway footbridge perched high in the air and missing many treads. Both were removed possibly because of public safety (i.e. liability) concerns and who knows what their eventual fate was?
As an interesting side note, the site adjacent to the old gas works had always been set aside as a large park. In the late 19th century, the gardeners of that park laid walking paths and planted elms which have since grown into huge mature trees providing valuable shade over the long hot summers. At night those trees also provide habitat to the many marsupial possums that call the park home. The possums are only ever active at night and that is when a person can see and hear their activities whilst the possums get up to whatever mischief possums do. If you’ve ever had the pleasure of hearing a full-on possum fight, then you will know that the sounds that they make are truly blood curdling. And should the possum population ever be so unfortunate as to build up to unsustainable levels, then a canny Powerful Owl will leave the forests surrounding the city and take a short trip into those city parks and totally decimate the possum population before moving on again. At night, I’ve seen and heard those Powerful Owls at work in the city parks and all I can say is that they are a force to be reckoned with and possums (and possibly small Scritchy bosses) are nervous.
The housing in that surrounding area was constructed in the 19th century to provide homes along the many tram lines and railways for the people that worked in the old gas works and other heavy industry surrounding that area (the granite quarry and shot tower are both still visible today). Walking around at night, the editor and I used to enjoy the eclectic range of old houses. Many of the larger and grander houses surrounding the park were clearly built to house the owners and managers of the gas works. And as you walked the streets further away from the park, there were smaller houses which had been constructed to house the families of the people who worked in that area.
All of this could be seen by simply walking around and looking and observing.
Nowadays, the editor and I still walk at night. However, instead of observing the hand of man, we see nature. Most of the animals in this corner of the planet are active at night. This may be a result of many thousands of years of selection by the Aboriginals or possibly because it is cooler at night during summer. Whatever the reason may be, night-time is the time to spot the many animals that live here on the farm.
On our walks, the marsupial bats fly around chasing insects whilst making a “zip, zip, zip” sound. Sugar gliders are impossible to spot but you can definitely hear them making "clicking" sounds high up in the tall trees. Possums in fight mode are simply blood curdling (just like their city cousins). Kangaroos usually quietly munch the grass but occasionally grunt loudly as they fight their rivals for a choice bit of green pick. Wallabies rip and tear chunks off our fruit trees. And the roar of an enraged – and possibly quite drunk on toxic leaves – bull Koala bear is awesome.
This week however, one of the wombats that live here has decided to regularly play a trick on the editor and I. This particular wombat hides in a clump of foliage and as we approach closely, without warning she suddenly growls and hisses and furiously shakes the foliage that she is hiding in. And then… Nothing. The wombat – after raising my blood pressure several notches – simply gives me this look which says: “You may admire me now”.
|The wombat with the good hair who has been playing tricks on us in recent times|
In the more fashionable western end of the mountain range there are a number of very well established gardens where the wildlife is often excluded by fencing. The difficult thing for those animals is that whilst they live in the forest surrounding those gardens, there is very little for them to eat within the forest itself. Traditionally the animals consume vegetation from the many clearings within the forest. Over in that part of the mountain range I have heard of reports that the local marsupials have the skin condition “mange”, which removes the fur in patches leaving irritated skin. The mange can get so bad that the animal does not recover and eventually die. Despite being only a small distance away, I have never seen any signs of mange on the well fed animals that live here.
Even the small birds (wrens and honey eaters) that live here enjoy full access to the compost fed gardens and they consume most insect pests that are silly enough to attempt to try and eat the various plants.
|A small fairy wren and her cohorts consume most of the insect pests around here|
I’m shamed to admit it but even Poopy's fur is benefiting from the insect consuming act. Poopy with the good hair? At this time of year, the very large (and edible) Bogong moths turn up whenever I leave a light on outside the house.
|A Bogong moth basking in the night-time glow from a light on the outside of the house|
Unfortunately, Poopy has acquired a taste for the Bogong moths and consumes them wherever he finds them. Mind you, Poopy does have a very nice coat of fur as can be seen in the next photo.
|Poopy has recently acquired a taste for Bogong moths which are apparently a useful source of various proteins and fats|
Recently, a new bird has begun to call this property home. Like Poopy it is also enjoying the regular feed of Bogong moths and other insects drawn to the lights. That bird is an Australian Owlet-nightjar and I only noticed its presence because whilst walking outside at night I noticed that the outside lights were intermittently dimming. I always try to investigate odd incidences and it was then that we noticed the bird swooping in front of the lights to catch the unsuspecting moths and before landing in a nearby tree waiting for the next unsuspecting snack.
It rained quite heavily over the past few days and unlike Poopy who is sensible enough to avoid getting wet, Sir Scruffy has other ideas, and after a brief voluntary walk in the rain, he looked like a drowned rat. He most certainly doesn’t have good hair for such experiences!
|Sir Scruffy looks quite bedraggled due to his exposure to the recent heavy rain|
The days leading up to the heavy rain were unexpectedly quite warm for this time of year and one morning the clouds put on an exceptional display. Maybe they were imitating the famous trademarked ribbon device?
|The days leading up to the big storm were marked by unexpectedly warm days and strange ribbon like clouds in the atmosphere|
Long time readers will know by now that I grow a huge selection of flowers and this week, despite the warm weather and heavy rains, the Chrysanthemums put on a good show. It was a good thing because we thought those plants had died during the previous summer!:
|The Chrysanthemums put on a good show this week|
Also the Nasturtiums are providing plenty of food for us, the honeyeater birds and the European honey bees this week.
|The Nasturtiums are providing plenty of feed for us, the honeyeater birds and the European honey bees|
This week, two of three very rusty steel raised vegetable beds were destroyed as the steel had almost collapsed and was paper thin. It was a surprisingly quick job to cut them up and redistribute the excellent soil. Observant readers will be able to spot Toothy with the good hair in the photo below! Toothy may also secretly be consuming Bogong moths.
|Toothy with the good hair watches on whilst I destroy the very rusty raised garden bed|
There was surprisingly little steel left over from that rusty raised garden bed.
|There was surprisingly little steel left over from that rusty raised garden bed|
All of the raised garden beds were pruned and weeded this week in preparation for the winter vegetable seeds which have now been sown. It is looking quite neat and the asparagus has grown massively this year too.
|The raised garden beds were pruned and weeded this week in preparation for the crop of winter vegetables|
Prunings are valuable compostable material and some of those prunings were dumped into a hole in the orchard. I then ran over the prunings with a motor mower in order to increase the surface area of all of that material. Increased surface area will ensure that the material breaks down into soil more quickly than it otherwise would. Over that mess, I added some compost and then bedding material from the chicken enclosure which is full of chicken manure and seeds.
|The prunings from the raised vegetable beds were dumped into a hole in the orchard. Compost and material from the chicken enclosure was then added|
That process is an effective form of composting and requires very little further effort on my part. After a few weeks it will look like the photo below which is from an earlier pile.
|After a few weeks grass, peas and other plants will quickly grow in the compost mix|
The rain was an opportunity to do some indoors activities. After another half a day’s work, the new freestanding island bench in the kitchen is almost complete. The manmade stone benchtop has been ordered and will arrive in a week or two.
|The new freestanding cupboards in the kitchen were almost complete, with a temporary scrap plywood benchtop of course|
Also, the construction of the new freestanding steel support for the solar panels has almost been completed this week and in another day or so it should be fully painted.
|The construction of the new freestanding steel support for the solar panels has almost been completed this week|