Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Have a Great Christmas and a Hapy New Year Everyone!

Just a quickie today as I am about to head off to Perth - the FI/FO Grandma flies again!
I'll just post a few pics from the last bush trip to show you how it looks in Christmas mode.

Waratah, my all time favourite

Myrtle and Mountain Berries
Berries and Bauera
Sorry, don't know the name of this one
Or this. I'm hoping someone will tell me as I haven't bought the plant book yet
More Myrtle

Keep safe and see you next year!

Monday, December 14, 2015

Yo, Ho, Ho - It must be that time of year again

Our Postie Spreading a bit of Christmas Cheer
It must be that time of the year again. There are carol singers in the mall and I had a nice chat with Mrs Claus down in the Cat and Fiddle. The real frenzy hasn't started yet, but give it another week.
I'd better finish getting that Christmas mail out.

Tuesday, December 01, 2015

Across the Ditch* - Another Chapter in the Annals of the FI/FO** Grandma

Leaving Tasmania and No, I am not flying this one - leaving it to Virgin
* What Tasmanians call  Bass Strait
** Means Fly In/Fly Out in Mining Speak

Just paid my annual state visit to the National Capital to see how the other half lives.  It was a bit different this time. Previous visits to my son and his lovely wife have usually involved a hectic nightlife –drinks at the Geology Bar followed by the odd party, then maybe a 2 a.m. visit to Civic to check out the trendier pubs and clubs. Even if we didn’t go out, we would sit up late to marathon the latest movies.
Now that there is an adorable new  baby in the house – the main reason for this visit, our most exciting nightime adventure was going late night grocery shopping. On the one night when we did stay up to watch a movie, we all fell asleep, which was not necessarily a reflection on the quality of the film. Not that I didn’t have an excellent time - lots of baby cuddles with that delicious new baby smell and I didn’t have to do a single nappy change. It was just a quieter sort of enjoyment which revolved around visiting the Etsy Craft Market and partaking of Canberra’s wide array of food offerings. Three of these I will mention here because they were  a bit different and not  just a way to fill a rumbling stomach.

Artist Fiona Hill stands in front of one of her pieces at the Etsy Craft Market

On the first morning for instance, we had breakfast at Strathnairn,  a historic property that used to be an artists’ collective in the seventies – ah nostalgia! Since then it has grown and expanded over time so that it now provides creative space for emerging artists – kilns, a foundry, many little studios, a cafĂ© and a gallery which has a range of ceramics, textiles, works on paper and in bronze. It is in a rustic bushland setting with lots of birdlife and art work scattered about. Even the junk looks artistic.
Al Fresco Art and Food at Strathnairn

Inside one of the Ceramic Workshops

The Woolshed retains its rustic roots, but is now a function room

Talking Heads peep out from behind the agapanthus, just one of many artworks scattered around the property

Even the sheds display a certain amount of artistic flair

Heck! Even the tree stumps are getting in on the act

Grill’d was not only a new experience in hamburgers, with emphasis on locally sourced produce and grass fed beef, but what I really liked was their commitment to promoting and supporting local charities, community groups and causes. Each purchase provides you with a number of tokens which you can choose to put into one of three jars each month e.g.  – on this occasion helping a young disabled cyclist achieve his goal of competing somewhere and the local scouts,  but they have also helped the Women’s Legal Service, youth on the streets, mothers  and families battling cancer, a non – profit food van, and so forth.

Down at the Hamlet. This little van serves a variety of milk shakes including a lemon meringue flavoured one
Another place I particularly enjoyed was the Hamlet, a repurposed warehouse which now houses an eclectic mix of food vans, small design studios, specialty bakeries and even a barber shop. The food is cheap and varied and there is a great atmosphere. Apparently it’s even better in the evenings when there is also music and entertainment. In fact, the whole area  around Lonsdale Street in Braddon, which was formerly devoted to services to the automotive industry (I had my car air conditioning repaired here last time), is rapidly turning into one of the hippest and hottest parts of town, where even the op shops are upscale.The car industry has meanwhile moved to the suburbs which are also burgeoning. Canberra is full of new subdivisions that seem to have sprung fully formed from the earth since I was here last. Now women are driving the muscle cars which have room for prams and shopping and their men are driving the small sporty ones.

The Barber at work. Evidence of the building's former life can be seen above the shop fittings

Apparently it's even more lively at night when music is added to the mix
Spirit of Free Enterprise - just had to include these two young men selling their Shackleton's iced coffee from the boot of their car outside this precinct

It was a lovely time to be in Canberra. It was still green, warm to hot during the day, but cool at night and it was a delight to catch up with my son and his little family, especially the new baby.  Nice work guys!

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Tasmania's Blue Fairy Wren

More Correctly - Superb Fairy Wren Malurus Cynaneus - photo with kind permission from Graeme Chapman
Passionate ornithologist, Graeme Chapman, formerly of the CSIRO's Division of Wildlife, has kindly allowed me to reproduce one of his photos here, since I had such difficulty getting a photo of these cheeky little birds  while at Narawntapu. They have a very interesting life story too, one I wasn't aware of until I read about it on Graeme's website. Nor was I aware that there were so many varieties.

See Graeme's main website for exceptional  photos and a wealth of information on Australia's amazing birds.You can even hear the birdcalls they make.

In 2004, Graeme was awarded the John Hobbs medal for his work with amateur ornithologists, especially Birds Australia which has now become

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Up at the Mayfair and all that Jazz

Not New Orleans, but sounds like it

 It isn’t often that we have free entertainment in the street/ courtyard. Today it was the Hobart Jazz Club, playing up the hill at the Mayfair. Great fun – cheap wine, cheap food and good  company, all within walking - even crawling distance of home.
Is that a bit of product placement I detect in the corner? Never mind they gave out prizes too, so I'll forgive them. Nothing like a couple of glasses of wine on a sunny afternoon to make one feel forgiving.

The Jazz Executives belt out a tune

This is the other group,   whose name I didn't catch. Excellent voice on the lead singer. At least two of the ladies from my dance class were there and when they played some of those Broadway numbers, we were up and dancing.  We had fun even though I have as yet, very little idea of the steps. Hey! They were playing our songs. Nor were we the only ones happily making fools of ourselves.

This next picture isn't at all relevant to this story and I would never get away with it in a paper, but I am going to put it in anyway because there were such superb clouds overhead while the band played

The Sky - it was windy up there
Don't expect too much sense out me this p.m.

Some Updates and how you can help our scientists

Not the Sea Urchin I saw at the Seaside Festival but one of the same Longspine type (Centrostephanus Rodgersii) kindly sent to me by Jemina Stuart -Smith at Redmap*

Update "Hunting the Wild Waterfalls- Adamson's Falls"  posted 19/11/2015

Talking to a member of Birdlife Australia at the Taroona Seaside Festival yesterday, I was able to confirm that the bird  I saw was a lyrebird  and yes, they do nest in trees at night! Birdlife Australia works for bird conservation and also runs a variety of volunteer programs. I'm looking forward to learning more about our feathered friends, maybe even getting some decent pictures, and am really pleased to have found people who are able to answer my many questions and identify some of the plants and animals I have encountered on my travels. 

Update " Narawntapu Day 2 - posted 2/11/2015

Re: The high intertidal range in the North of Tasmania (Baker's Beach) and in the Gulf of Carpentaria. Also at the Seaside Festival in Taroona, I had the opportunity to talk to Geoff, a marine scientist who added that the depth of the water also plays a role, thus here in the south where the ocean is deep, you do not get such a big tidal range. Geoff also showed me the biggest sea urchin - live, that I have ever seen dead or alive. It was almost the size of a basketball if you include its nasty spines and was a deep burgundy colour. Wish I had taken a picture, but was too astounded to think of it. Yes, I know that's rare - a bit like a member of this family being speechless. Don't handle them (sea urchins) yourself if you find a live one. The spines are smooth one way and have a serrated edge the other way that prevents them being pulled out.

Another of Jemina's Photos -this beautiful specimen is a Heliocidaris Erythrogramma

Jemima Stuart -Smith at Redmap * has also identified  some of my earlier finds at Roches Beach. If you should find anything unusual at the beach, take a photo and report it to  or get the Redmap App.

Yes. A shark egg
The test of a heart urchin
If you would like to see what a live one looks like  click here

This is most likely a Cunjevoi or Sea Squirt

*What is Redmap?

"Redmap stands for Range Extension Database and Mapping project. This project invites Australians to share sightings of marine species that are ‘uncommon’ to their local seas. Over time, Redmap will use this ‘citizen science’ data to map which Australian marine species may be extending their distribution range – a.k.a moving house - in response to changes in the marine environment, such as ocean warming.
Redmap members use their knowledge of the seas to help monitor Australia’s vast coastline. The citizen science data also highlights regions and species that may be experiencing more  distribution changes,  so that research can be focused into these areas." 
Apparently our waters are warming at twice the global average and this is having a big impact on some marine species. I love how the website says.  "A temperature rise of a few degrees doesn't sound like a lot; it actually sounds quite nice, especially if you have ever been swimming down south, " ... but even one degree causes coral bleaching and two degrees permanently kills it. I haven't checked recently but some  marine  species are now moving further south -also hitherto unknown predators and diseases, and putting Antarctic species at risk.

Update  "Still on the Road to Narawntapu " posted 1/11/2015

Still on the B. Road to Narawntapu and yes, I do finally get there

- See more at:

Still on the B. Road to Narawntapu and yes, I do finally get there

- See more at:

Still on the B. Road to Narawntapu and yes, I do finally get there

- See more at:

Still on the B. Road to Narawntapu and yes, I do finally get there

- See more at:
Sad to say the pretty white shrub below which I thought was a cottonwood has the unfortunate name of Stinkwood (Zieria arborescens) according to Bob and Joy Coghlan at the Society for Growing Australian Plants.

The tall yellow one behind it is apparently a smooth parrot pea (Dillwynia glaberrima)

The daisy bush is most likely  Olearia stellulata

They have also recommended a good guide book:

  "A Guide to Flowers and Plants of Tasmania" by the Launceston Field Naturalists Club, available direct from them if you can't find it in a bookstore. There is a comprehensive list of guidebooks at"

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Hunting the Wild Waterfalls 3 - Billy Brown's Falls

This is an awesome waterfall

Billy Brown's Waterfall proved to be somewhat elusive. There were supposed to be hand written signs somewhere, but I didn’t see those and drove clear through Judbury and Lonnavale before coming upon someone who knew where it was. Not that the trip up the valley alongside the Huon River was wasted - the grass was high and green, hay making was in progress complete with the luscious the smell of of freshly mown grass. There were sleek horses in paddocks along with alpacas with that enigmatic smile they have when they are just about to bite someone. Baby goats (kids) leapt into the air with all four hooves as only young goats can to express the sheer joy of life.

This is a magnificent waterfall, but now I know why I have never seen it on any tourist map. It is not for the faint - hearted. This road, when I finally found it, was even worse than the one I was on yesterday, the more so because it was longer,  steeper, and  rockier.  And yes, there are even bigger potholes around than those I saw at Narawntapu. Here I had to stop every now and then to dip them in case they were too deep for my car. I also moved some of the pointier rocks which lay loose on the road. There wasn't much I could do about the tree branches. If ever there is a next time, I will bring an axe. Please don’t try this in a normal car.  I went very, very,  slowly.  At regular intervals, especially at the river crossing, I  felt very tempted to do the Mongolian thing where the drivers walk around a stone cairn three times to offer a prayer to the Gods before launching themselves over particularly hair-raising passes.

Shame it's such a hard road to get there*
 Around 10 Km and ten years later, I arrived at the nicely painted sign for the falls. "1.5  hrs.return." That didn’t sound too bad. It didn’t say it was going to be 700m straight uphill, followed by the same distance clambering down the other side, slipping and sliding, dodging fallen trees, rockfalls and swamps.It comes into the category of  a challenge. i.e. not something I would willingly do again. I was glad my friend had gone home. She would not have survived the first ascent. I barely did. The only thing that kept me going was knowing that this surely had to end at some point. There is some natural law about this. Something to the effect that the further you go and the more you have invested in something, the surer you are that you must be near the conclusion.
I have also added a new bit of equipment to my kit. It's low tech. It’s the traditional forky stick that bushmen have always used in case they encounter snakes. I didn’t fortunately, but it was handy to stop me sliding down the muddy bits, or for hauling myself over steep ones. Has anyone tried a taser on snakes or pepper spray/ bear spray/ or a hopper stopper? Not that I want to hurt them, but I wouldn’t mind being able to keep them away or stopping them from biting.

When you see tree ferns, expect it to be wet underfoot
There is some pretty rainforest along the way and the photos do not in anyway do justice to these falls which tumble from a cleft in the rock far, far above and then drop in several cascades into a pool below. Definitely a sleeper, if only access was easier.

The downhill (Eastern) side has some lovely rainforest
*It is possible that there is another way to these falls. While researching I read of someone driving from Plenty, near New Norfolk without a 4x4 and finding it quite reasonable, and a smooth - looking dirt road does come in just before the falls track. If so, then access is via a gated road, further along the Lonnavale Road, but which is closed when logging is in progress. I didn't try it on the way back as similar spur roads enter the track at several intervals and could lead anywhere. Waiting to hear from a member of the 4x4 Club on that. Meanwhile, it's so long Billy Brown. Lovely to have met you, but I'm going home to tend my wounds and rest my weary bones.
Too bad about Adamson's. I suppose as Meatloaf says, "Two out of Three Ain't Bad."