Wednesday, January 30, 2013

short rides

I am being disciplined and riding to work without the training run, which is exactly 5km each way on the most direct route. I love my rides, but yesterdays 35 kms to work knocked me around a bit, and I need to be sensible. But even though I had a short ride this morning, it had its rewards. I saw my first ever sun bonnet Jim! I don't know if OKATB ever comes by here these days, but when he was cycling he would always tally up the sun bonnets he saw and I would chuckle at the weirdness in America. Now I realise that Australia was just lagging a bit behind (like about 100 years!)

I also had a pair of pale headed rosellas fly with me through a wooded gully. That made me happy all day. It seems a bit cooler this evening, I am happy to get by with the fan and a bit of sweat. Hopefully a proper ride tomorrow.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

HOT and the garden


Holy Moley it is hot. It was this hot back in 1995, but in November, which is the build up to the wet. Very odd (and humidly uncomfortable) to have this heat in January. As I see it, it is because the ex-cyclone from up north has traveled south, and I have observed the circulation going clockwise, so that means the weather dragged over us from the west and north, when we should have easterlies off the Coral Sea this time of year. I shall be submitting this research for publication and my PhD. (not)

So we are cowering inside, which is normal if you are in Canada, but really weird if you are in the tropics. I can't hear any birds over the air conditioning, and it rained last night and I couldn't smell it. I don't like this but it shouldn't last too long, fingers crossed.

Meanwhile, TJ of Florida commented on my planters, and I thank him for admiring them. They are custom made, but only because I couldn't find an old water tank to repurpose. I think they are beautiful, the possums can't seem to climb them, and it is nice to know that dogs have not piddled on your herbs. However, I am struggling with the soil.
worst parsley ever
This has been fertilised with Seasol and pelletized chicken manure, but you would never guess.  I am aware that gum leaves suppress growth, but we have always had them without this result. When we got these planters we spent weeks filling them up with rough garden waste, then topping them up generously with garden soil (purchased) and compost. The first few years were really good, but now it seems there is no good organic stuff in there, too many parasites, and it is just bad.
I add about a bale of sugarcane mulch a year to these beds, and there is almost no organic matter to be seen. They were full, but now they are down a foot or more. This is my second planting of green manure. I sow cheap bird seed, let it grow a foot or so high, dig it under and plant again.
my eggplant struggles on, but really, it isn't doing great.

I am going to fight though. I am getting some bio-fertilizer from a project at the Uni. It cost 30 bucks for a 15 litre jug, which includes 4 refills, so you get 75 litres of fertilizer, which you have to dilute by at least 10 to 1, which is A LOT. I have had to purchase some compost, which is sad, but mine is just not producing well at all. So when it cools down a bit I will revamp, add rich compost and use my magic juice and grow a ton of marigolds and green manure crops, and hope for better food production come March. It is way easier to garden soil that is flash frozen every year!!!!

Do I hope the weather breaks? because that will require a cyclone or such. 

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

it has come

A colleague at work who keeps her bike at my house so she can drive and ride from my most excellent location phoned this morning and offered to drive me to work. Yes please and Thanks muchly!!
typical radar image today

and it isn't just us, the whole north is copping it

*sigh* I hope mint and coriander can breathe under water

Not generating a lot of power today! I think we made 70 cents.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

the rain is coming

...and coming and coming... we have had this weather pattern since Friday ffs and it never rains. A huge mass of moisture swirls towards the coast and hits the force field that is Townsville (named after a noble slaver named Towns) and it is dark, windy and dry. We are supposed to get a couple of hundred mm of rain in the next 36 hours. We'll see.

 I didn't ride all weekend, which is unusual, but I had a bad feeling about Saturdays ride, and behold, there was a crash in the group. So I ran instead. Then we gave up on the ever approaching rain and went out to look at birds on the town common.


Brolgas are magnificent creatures. I haven't had a chance to stand next to one, but they are probably taller than I am.

We do like a bit of twitching

I love this landscape, it speaks to my heart even though I was not raised here.

It was hot and the shade in the bird hide was welcome

The shells of fledged ciccadas, but it was strangely quiet. That empty, marching army reminded me of the terracotta warriors in China. There has been fire through here, and the smell of smoke and sweet grass and dry was amazing.
And so this morning I rode. It seemed the last chance to get a dry run in. The sky was dark and the wind was mad. I suffered the headwind out to the dam, and then I turned and I flew. I flew on the wings of a storm wind and it was amazing, I was super. I geared down, and down, and down and I wound it up to more than 40kms/hr and I was covered in gooseflesh with the thrill of a fast ride. How did you ride to work today?

Monday, January 14, 2013

powering up

After much procrastination and deep soul searching we have installed a 5kw solar system. We don't use a lot of power by normal standards, and we had solar hot water already. We were troubled by the return on the power to the grid, which is about double normal wholesale to the power company, so effectively it seems that those too poor to go solar subsidize those wealthy enough to get it installed. But then there was a deadline and we had to act now or never, so we did it and I am feeling guilty but there ya go.  



It should take about 5 years to pay it off, and then we can hopefully enjoy free electricity in our old age. I am altruistic enough to hope that enough roof panels on enough houses can keep another coal fired power plant at bay, to the benefit of the whole planet, not just my little dot on the map. The summer we are having makes you think about a hotter world, and what it will be like to live at 2 degrees more as an average. There would be fewer nice cycling days! Aaaccck!! 

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

new toys

It is a bike work station, ready 24/7 to help fix your problems, including pumping up a tire. I think it is very cool and the  crew from the Estate Office have done a great job installing it. Everyone seems to think it will get wrecked and the tools stolen but I don't think so. I think it will be appreciated and used.

At the entry to the campus is the Medical Precinct, where they are getting an end of ride facility built where there used to be cooling plant. I think the new central cooling is the best thing ever : )

There is another work station in there, trust me, you just can't see it very well. I am very excited to get these in place with money from grants and fund raising. I will have to get some people together and do a launch. What fun!! Now to add them to the cycling maps for the campus!!



Saturday, January 5, 2013

Calanthe australasica, Common Christmas Orchid


After much googling I found the best site for keying out plants ever, and of course it is at JCU, which houses the Tropical Herbarium. It was easy to find my plant even though I am not a botanist and didn't recognise many of the terms. I just filled in what I could and found 11 matches, looked at the photos and compared with my own and there ya go. I swear I haven't been on the computer all day, just a fair chunk of it. I did go for a 50km ride this morning, and I have done the minimum allowable cleaning, and a dove flew through the living room to prove that I am sort of outside, but in the shade when in the house.



Friday, January 4, 2013

camping at Paluma

When friends invited us to join them after the New Year for a bit of camping we jumped at the chance. It was a chance to turn the stubborn return of hot dry weather into a bonus.
we use our fantastic VW camper to it's full potential way too seldom.  I am not really big on NYs resolutions, but we  really should get away a lot more in 2013. 

I also resolve to harden up and overcome my terror of mountain biking.  Look how lovely, but I wimped out after just a few kms! 

While it is pretty hot down on the coastal plain (32-33 C) it was only around 27 in the high rainforest, and the sky was so blue! I gave Scott a nice pair of binoculars for Christmas (the cheap ones he got from Canadian Tyre 30 years ago are shot) so we were able to confirm sightings of 4 new birds against our rather loosely documented life list. We date and locate birds in the margins of the field guide we bought when we first arrived in Australia as tourists, but we are not systematic about it.

We went for a fantastic hike, and I swear I saw 6 or more different orchids.  We will be returning a few times in winter hoping to see some in bloom!

Lots of damaged big trees remain a legacy of Cyclone Yassi, but the up side is canopy plants brought down to ground level for admiration

We tried to imagine how long it must have taken the field crews to clear this trail. It must have been heartbreaking for the Parks Staff to see so many down. 

I don't know if this is an orchid or a lily, still trying to find a good reference book...  may have to cheat and ask a  friend

Thanks to the new marked trails we safely found our way to a magnificent lookoff .  I'll admit my legs are sore today, but it was so worth it. 
 So that was a lucky bit of timing before the Monsoon trough makes its way down to our region. The hike would have been difficult to dangerous in wet conditions. I rode my MTN bike on the bikeway today to try and start to make friends with it. Small beginnings.


Tuesday, January 1, 2013

...and a happy new year

I suppose people are wondering what wonderful and amazing things are going on over the holidays. Well the fruit in the garden has been pretty terrific

 I have eaten way too much good food and drunk way over the recommended daily dose of wine and champagne. Of course this included the full turkey monty.
 And then, since it is too darn hot to ride the bike much, and you can only spend so many hours a day cowering in the shade and airconditioning before you get really bored, we took on the project of painting an entire apartment between Christmas and New Years. We got started a bit late, so we just finished today, after 4 days of really hard work. My legs feel like I climbed mountains after what seems like a mile of painting baseboards.

It looks great though (if I don't say so myself), and we are getting some cooling storms at last, and off to go camping tomorrow. Hopefully I'll get a bike ride in and get started on my 2013 mileage. I have been sliding downhill with my numbers, must get serious here.