When a person walks through the jungle that is the streets of the city of Melbourne, that person has to keep alert for dangerous animals, as you never know when they’ll bite you.
On weekday afternoons in the streets of the city, the sidewalks can be full of people, whilst just off those sidewalks the bicycle riders zip past the slow moving vehicle traffic. In the centre of the roads, Melbourne’s iconic trams make their way between one stop and the next. All the while in the background there is the constant noise from all of those many people and their activities, the vehicles and the unmistakable sounds of construction. It is a busy and bustling city.
When the wind occasionally blows in the city streets and lanes, dust and pollen can be blown along with that wind. But that same wind also blows the many fine smells of exotic cuisines from far distant lands. Some of the streets are even lined with tall trees competing with the tall buildings to see who can capture the most sunlight.
In order to stay alive in that city, you have to know the law of the jungle. And as I approached the intersection of La Trobe and Elizabeth and Streets on foot one afternoon, my sixth sense alerted me to the dangers of a stealthy predator who was taking a special interest in me. The synthetic green t-shirt, clipboard held casually in one arm, and the lanyard dangling around the neck were all indicators that I was about to be accosted by the most fierce city predator of them all: The Chugger.
The nickname: Chugger; refers to a Charity Mugger. I’m sure you’ve met plenty of them in your time. Chugger’s don’t know that I know the law of the jungle, and I can despatch the average Chugger with a menacing look or a witty retort which few can counter such as: “Piss Off!”
On one particular afternoon though, I was wondering why anyone would be wearing such a bright synthetic green t-shirt and what that all meant, when the Chugger took advantage of my momentary stupefaction and landed the first blow. “Are you aware of the coral bleaching on the Great Barrier Reef?” BAM! The Chugger landed a solid blow and the champ was against the ropes. I replied with a rather pathetic sounding: “Yeah” as I intellectually staggered from the first blow and tried to recover my wits. It was a low blow too because: who doesn’t love the Great Barrier Reef?
As I was reeling and trying to gather my wits the Chugger went on to identify himself as working for an environmental organisation the name of which begins with “Green” (thus the bizarre shade of synthetic t-shirt) and he began his usual script in an attempt to land further blows and shake me down for money for said organisation.
The Chugger failed to understand that in his attempt to run the usual shake down procedure from a new client he would confront the lessons learned from the maxims of the Ancient Chinese master of war, Sun Tzu. Now Sun Tzu was a smart bloke and he would advocate to seize control of the situation from the enemy and to do the unexpected. And so I ignored the usual script that was being churned out by the Chugger and instead directed his attention to a nearby vehicle and said: “You represent an environmental group. How sustainable do you reckon that vehicle over there is?” BAM! The underdog threw a solid one-two and the Chugger felt the pain but was not giving up the fight just yet.
The Chugger came back with a hard intellectual blow and the words: “Aren’t you concerned about climate change?” It was a dirty tactic as he was trying to recapture the lost initiative. And so I dropped the hammer blow on the Chugger and said: “I live on an organic farm, I produce a fair bit of my own food, collect my own water, and am not even connected to the mains electricity grid. What are you personally doing about climate change and how much of all of this stuff that you see around you is even sustainable!” That was the knock-out blow because as he physically recoiled from me and said: “I feel sorry for you dude.” And unfortunately, I’ve now been left wondering what the guy meant by that rather obscure comment. What did he mean by that?
Anyway, as you may have guessed, I don’t much like Chugger’s. This does not mean that I do not donate money to charities, it is just that I do not like being accosted on the streets. Being a white male, tall and with muscular arms I don’t generally get hassled by Chugger’s or other strange people on the streets. However, the other week I had an unusual experience with Chugger’s which gave me an insight into the female experience of interactions with them.
The editor and I were crossing Elizabeth Street in the city heading towards the Queen Victoria Market. On the other side of the road I noticed that we were approaching a couple of Chugger’s who were accosting people on the street corner. I know the law of the jungle so I positioned myself between the Chugger’s and the editor and I gave the Chugger’s a rather menacing and threatening look. And seeing that menacing look they left both of us alone so that we could get on with our business at the market.
I didn’t think any further about the incident, but it was the editor who brought the matter to my attention and said to me what a different and peaceful experience it was for her by having me around to act like a rooster protecting the hen.
After the editor and I visited the market, we ventured a little bit further out of the city, and over an excellent cappuccino and muffin, she told me of her experiences with Chugger’s. With females, Chugger’s – who are often males – stand in the path of the females and wave their hands theatrically in a manner that makes it physically difficult to get around the Chugger’s. And the Chugger's often have cohorts. And in the interactions between Chugger’s and females, generally the words “No thanks” are treated as a minor obstacle to be gotten around and then they persist with their interactions.
I was aghast at the claims of the editor. To that end we observed the actions of a group of Chugger’s on a street corner and sure enough the claims of the editor were if anything understating the problem.
At the core of the problem the Chugger’s are abusing social niceties. And social niceties are the generally understood code of conduct with which we all interact. Those social niceties are basically in place to stop us from killing each other!
But then I have read articles in the newspapers recently saying that Chugger’s work huge hours in all weather conditions for very little pay. The Chugger’s are also apparently under quite serious pressure to achieve sales / donation targets. I understand that there was a Chugger recently that for whatever reason allegedly committed suicide. After reading all of that I learned that the business of the Chugger appears like a ruthless industry to work in, so it is little wonder that they apparently employ such aggressive collection techniques. The conditions that the Chugger’s work under promote a sense that it is either "them or us" – and I’m uncomfortable with that sort of culture. And I also wondered whether those charities that employ the Chugger’s actually cared that much about the Great Barrier Reef? And I still don't know - why did the green t-shirt dude feel sorry for me? Perhaps it was because my t-shirt was black, and perhaps was more cool than his snot green one.
On breaking rare bird sighting news… A reasonably rare and endangered pair of Yellow-Tailed Black Cockatoo’s visited the farm. How cool is that? It is nice to see that rare and endangered wildlife gives this farm the thumbs up (or claw, beak, paw etc.) The cockatoos enjoy meals of the large wood boring grubs which are only found in larger and older eucalyptus trees – which I have here.
|One of the reasonably rare and endangered pair of Yellow-Tailed Black Cockatoo’s visited the farm today|
On Friday the weather turned very cold and fortunately we had been busy the day before in the sun putting away more firewood for the winter. There are only about three or four more days before that job is finished for the season.
|The firewood shed is rapidly filling up and by my clothes (and Toothy's) you can see how cold the weather has been here lately.|
We are always trying to find new ways to use electricity. The downsides of having solar power but not being connected to the mains electricity grid is that excess electricity that cannot be used or stored in the house batteries simply disappears. So when the editor and I were at the Seymour Alternative Farming Expo last week we spotted a quality electric hedge trimmer. The local farm machine bloke had one on hand and we took it off him and have been putting the ultra sharp machine to good use.
|We picked up an electric hedge trimmer and used it to prune all of the many herbs|
All of the cuttings are composted by adding them onto a new garden bed. I then throw on top of those cuttings, soiled bedding straw from the chicken enclosure and then let nature do the hard yards by breaking all of the material down into very rich soil. Easy. And the machine has opened up the various paths and stairs that had recently become choked with thick plant growth. It really was getting feral out there and I have to keep an eye out for possible Triffid attack. Alas for the Triffids as I know the law of the jungle.
|Scritchy and Toothy enjoy the stairs which are now clear of feral plant growth|
|Pathways in the garden are now easier to walk around|
This has been the first summer that the green furry outer coating on one of the almonds split open. That is usually the indicator to let you know that the nut inside that green casing is ripe. With this in mind I picked all of the remaining almonds. I may leave them ripen off the tree for a few weeks just to see what happens to them as I’ve never harvested almonds before.
|One of the green furry outer coatings on an almond split open, so I picked the remaining nuts|
I picked some more apples and they taste even better than they look.
|I picked some more apples and they taste even better than they look|
Whilst I wasn't looking, the editor harvested the mysterious melon this week and it looks remarkably to us like a cantaloupe. The mysterious melon was a bit under ripe still so we have collected the seeds in order to plant them out next year. We are feeding the melon to the chickens, who are enjoying it.
|The mysterious melon was harvested and we believe it may be a cantaloupe|
The thornless blackberries which may be the Waldo variety have begun to ripen this week and they are large and superb tasting. (Where's Waldo? - in my stomach!). We have plans to extend the berry bed over the next few months.
|The thornless Waldo blackberries have begun to ripen this week|
The olives on the many olive trees are slowly starting to swell in size. Olives are amazingly hardy and productive fruit trees.
|The olive on the many olive trees are slowly starting to swell in size|
Long term readers may be interested to know that the area that was subject to landslip earlier this year is now full of plants which are slowly becoming established.
|The area that was subject to landslip earlier this year is now full of plants which are slowly becoming established|
The cool and damp summer has produced excellent growth in the new fern gully which was established to capture water from the road above the gully.
|The cool and damp summer has produced excellent growth in the new fern gully|
At this time of year the Golden Orb spiders fly in from afar on their webs. They are an interesting spider because when they are small they spin a long single web and any wind takes that spider and its web on a journey to somewhere else. And when the spiders finally land, they spin intricate webs as can be seen on this gorse plant which is up on the road.
|Golden Orb spiders spin intricate webs as can be seen on this gorse plant|
I like to end the blog with a few flower photos for people up in the cold Northern hemisphere who may enjoy these glimpses into summer:
|Chicory produces huge numbers of blue flowers and they are a common plant around these parts|
|Salvia’s have the most vivid flowers and they love the heat and sun of the summer down under|
|The best summer flower award goes to the bush roses which produce huge bunches of roses for months|