Tag Archives: pics

Foxes and Magpies in Warrandyte

I scribbled this down yesterday, just before racing off to work:

Monday 9:40am. Saw a smallish brindle fox sprint across the back yard, pursued by 4 magpies. They were our resident magpies, and they chased that fox right off the premises…theirs & mine.

Just before jumping over the side fence the fox stopped & seemed to look straight at me, despite being inside the house & 40 metres away.

I think it heard the whistle of my kettle as it came up to boil. Whatever the truth of it, by the time I turned back to the window from the stove, the fox was gone.

I wish I could have taken a photo for you, but it all happened too quickly. Instead, I went looking for photos online and found these:

fox-brindle

The image of the brindle fox is courtesy of http://www.wildlifeonline.me.uk/red_fox.html and is exactly the odd mottled, brownish colour of the fox I saw. I love foxes but know nothing about them. Is this colour a seasonal thing? Or is it perhaps a sign of immaturity?

magpie-swooping

The image of a magpie swooping is courtesy of http://www.lifehacker.com.au/2015/09/how-to-survive-magpie-swooping-season/.

When the Offspring was little, we were both swooped by magpies while out for a walk. I was terrified [for the Offspring], but since moving out to Warrandyte I’ve learned a lot about magpies. I’ve seen them swoop the dog and the cats, but only during breeding season. The rest of the time the maggies ignore them as creatures beneath contempt. And I’ve seen maggies hound a young possum out of a tree [where there was a nest?] so I know these birds are fierce when they want to be.

But I’ve also seen my maggies conscientiously feeding and teaching their young:

baby-magpie

This image is courtesy of https://www.trevorsbirding.com/baby-magpie/

And believe me, maggies are smart. When I throw out stale bread for them, or some scraps of meat, the first one on the scene will warble an alert and in moments, their young will come to feed. Maybe that’s why they treat me like a member of the family. In loco parentis?

I’ve never been swooped out in the garden. Not even once. Somehow, the maggies whose territory I share know I’m a friend, and as the story of the fox shows, they know when to protect ‘our’ domain. Much as I love foxes I don’t want Mogi, my tiny chihuahua-cross dog to be snatched up one day when the hunting has been poor.

So yesterday I went to work with a smile on my face. There are times when I love Warrandyte so much it hurts. 🙂

cheers

Meeks

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#FFXIV – The Vault

I’ve always believed that the definition of true courage is not a lack of fear but the exact opposite – lots of fear but the courage to push ahead anyway. Sadly, I’ve been less than courageous the last six [?] months, putting off doing The Vault dungeon until I’d literally run out of anything more interesting to do. 😦

Well, my Summoner, Meeka Thara, has finally done The Vault. Twas not glorious. I died at the three quarter mark of the third boss, but luckily the rest of the party finished him off while I lay ignobly dead at their feet. -sigh- I did learn a few things that may help others though. What follows is for newbies, and is only a kind of overview and tips type thing. You should still watch videos of the fight and read up on it for the complete mechanics.

So, to the overview and tips:

  1. Unless you’re incredibly overpowered, the trash mobs are actually quite hard. Not Limit Break type hard, but hard, and they aggro from quite a distance. Party members who run ahead of the tank are stupid, plain and simple.
  2. The first two bosses [Ser Adelphel and Ser Grinnaux] start out almost easy, but when you get them down to about 20% HP they morph into much harder creatures, so don’t be lulled into a false sense of security.
  3. As per usual, the 2nd boss [Ser Grinnaux] is harder than the first and uses some mechanics that can trap the unwary. One of them is the aetherial tear [or void gate]. The Boss throws these void gates around the outer edge of the circular arena. Standing near a void gate will cause boss 2 void gatesome damage and stacks of vulnerability. Unfortunately, it’s not just a case of avoiding these gates. Every so often, the boss does an aoe knockback that sends everyone to the wall. If you get knocked back into a void gate it’s not good. As much as possible, try to position yourself so your back always faces an undamaged section of wall. I did read one forum post that advocated stacking the void gates all in one place to make it easier to avoid them but…I don’t know how you’re supposed to do that.
  4. The third and most powerful Boss [Ser Charibert] is hard right from the beginning. His mechanics include:
    1. Heavens Flames – these are circular fire aoes that target each, individual player – i.e. you will always have to be on the lookout for them,
    2. Chains – this mechanic chains two players together and keeps doing damage until the chain is snapped. If the two players are standing fairly close together when they are chained, they just have to run a short distance away from each other to snap it. If, however, the players are a long way apart when they are chained, they may not be able to put enough distance between each other to snap the chain.
    3. Knights – look like huge chess pieces and march in a row from the north of the arena to the south. Contact with one of theseboss 3 knights Knights causes damage AND a powerful Attack Speed Slow. This is not the kind of debuff you want when fighting a boss. The good thing, however, is that the Knights can be avoided, at least in the early part of the fight because they’re fairly slow and always keep to a straight line [think of them as moving line aoes].
  5. One strategy I read which worked really well during the early part of the fight is illustrated in the follow graphic: boss 3 schematicThe idea of stacking on the tank is that you automatically avoid the lines of Knights. You also have heaps more room to move if you get chained. It does work so long as you keep track of where the boss and tank are. 🙂
  6. At about 60% health, the boss disappears and returns with 2 adds – both Knights, but these ones can do line aoes. He also casts Holy Flames. There are about 6 [?] of these positioned around the outer perimeter and DPS have to kill them asap. Holy Flames are boss 3 at 60 percent holy flames followed by a room wide aoe called Pure of Heart. Now I’ve read that Pure of Heart can be followed by Sacred Flame, which is another room wide aoe. Apparently Sacred Flame depends upon whether the Holy Flames were all extinguished prior to Pure of Heart going off. We got all the Flames so I didn’t actually see this for myself. I assume it would have been bad though.
  7. In all the videos and guides, they say that after the Holy Flames/Pure of Heart sequence, everything else is ‘just’ more of the same but ‘a bit faster’ until the boss dies. Hmm….
  8. The reality is that phase 2 of the fight is when the boss throws everything at you at top speed, again and again and again. Knights charge down, chains happen along with fire aoes, and it’s all happening at once and OVERLAPS. Dodging the Knights was easy in the beginning but now with everything hitting you at once, moving and fighting at the same time becomes problematic, at least it did for me. boss 3 phase 2As you can see, a new line of Knights is forming in the top of the screen before the first lot have even passed. It’s rather chaotic and unless you’ve got your camera pulled out as far as it will go, seeing what’s happening [so you can avoid it] is difficult. This is around about where I died, probably because I was just too slow.

Given my lightning fast reflexes – chokes laughing – I should have just focused on my feet and forgotten about everything else. After all, the rest of the party managed just fine without me. Instead I tried to dodge while casting like the healer – awesome healer, by the way – and I failed.

So there you have it. Another dungeon, and a morning wasted on gated content that I hate, and no writing done, but at least I now have something more to do until the next trial in the game [Bismarck]. At this point, all I want to do is get past the gated content and reach the Dravinian Hinterlands for the crafting. After that, who knows.

cheers

Meeks

p.s. if you click on the screenshots, you should be taken to the Youtube video from which they were taken.


FFXIV, Steps of Faith – Summoner

Steps of Faith is the final trial in FFXIV, version 2.X. It came out in early 2015 and was obviously designed to be the Grand Finale for this part of the storyline. As such, it was hellishly hard, especially for those just wanting to finish the story so they could play the up coming expansion.

For the expansion – Heavensward – the Steps of Faith was nerfed. [Nerf=the weakening of a game element for some reason]. Nevertheless, the trial is still hard, and I will never, ever, EVER put up with this much pain for a game. I got through it, on the 3rd try, and I scored another commendation, but it was real skin-of-the-teeth stuff, and the stress was not at all pleasurable. The following are a few things Summoners won’t find in the guides, but they are critical:

a) Your pet is going to be next to useless – it dies with monotonous regularity,

b) You CANNOT use the cannons while your pet is out. The hotbar of the pet stops the hotbar of the cannons from displaying. You will not even see the cannon weapon skills much less use them. I don’t know if this is a glitch or what but it was extremely embarrassing to find out the hard way. Thanks, SE.

c) You will be doing very little damage as a Summoner

d) BUT – you can be vital to the group by manning the Dragonslayer harpoon up on the towers.

I cannot stress this enough. Use the mechanics. Brute force may work if it’s a very well geared group who all know what they’re doing, but Duty Finder will not give you that group. If you go through Duty Finder as I did, you will need the mechanics.

Our group of 8 comprised 3 n00bs, including me, and we wiped on our first attempt because yours truly couldn’t use the cannons [had my pet out] and the attack was generally disorganized.

We didn’t wipe on the second attempt, but we did fail. Vishap [the Boss] had something like 50% health left by the last barrier.

Why? Because no one was using the Dragonslayer harpoons, that’s why. Either everyone forgot about them, or thought they could just burn their way through by brute force. Wrong.

On the third attempt, I decided I was next to useless anyway so I might as well give the Dragonslayer harpoon a try. If I messed up we’d be no worse off. I didn’t bother with my pet, just cast all my debuffs on Vishap before running for the tower.

I don’t know whether I got the first harpoon off or not because one of the mini-bosses followed me up the tower and killed me just as I clicked the harpoon. I rezzed [came back to life] and ran back to the fight.

My timing was out with the second harpoon but I know I got the third one. It took a nice big chunk of life from Vishap and also made the difference between success and failure as we only took the Boss down at the very last possible moment. It was so close I thought we’d failed again. Without the harpoon damage, we would have failed for sure.

So let’s look at the mechanics. The graphic below shows the basic structure of the fight:

ffxiv SoF map

Apologies for the amateurish graphic but it gets the job done. As you can see, the trial is in 4 parts, each part separated by a glowing blue barrier [it represents a magic ward]. The first part contains:

  • 2 pairs of cannon
  • 1 tower with the Dragonslayer harpoon on top

The purpose of the cannon is to kill the adds so the group can dps the Boss without getting killed.

The purpose of the Dragonslayer harpoon is to take a big chunk of the Boss’ life. The harpoon looks like this:

harpoon target zone

The harpoon gun is to your right as you go up the stairs of the tower. Do NOT interact with it until the Boss is more or less over the big orange circle on the ground. The harpoon has no hotbar button. As soon as you click on it, the gun will fire. It hits just the one spot and cannot be aimed

In the remaining sections, you must not fire the harpoon gun until the Boss is in position AND the players on the cannons have triggered the snares.

The snares, [shown below] look a bit like orange crystals, or lamps. The cue to trigger the snares is when the Boss uses his big, rectangular AOE. Once triggered, the snares throw chains over the Boss so the harpoon can hit it. Without the chains, the Boss will dodge the harpoon.

snares

Once the Boss destroys the last pair of cannons in a section, everyone, including healers, should be dpsing the Boss with everything they have. You won’t stop him destroying the barrier, but you can reduce his life quite a bit.

[Note: if you die, don’t wait to be rezzed. Go back to the beginning and use the shortcut portal to get back into the fight]

The final mechanic is the pile of explosive barrels. They are there as a last ditch boost to your group’s damage. But there is also one last harpoon gun available. You can see one of the snares circled in yellow in the screenshot below.

last phase

The players on the cannons have to stop the adds from destroying the barrels. Then, when the Boss gets there, they hit the remaining barrels with weapon skill 1 on the cannon hotbar.

I haven’t mentioned any of the mini-bosses that spawn because lots of guides talk about those, and you can find a good one here:

http://ffxiv.consolegameswiki.com/wiki/The_Steps_of_Faith

You can also find MrHappy’s walkthrough video guide here:

[Note: all screenshots are taken from MrHappy’s video guide]

Well, that’s it. The last game how-to. Now I can give Square Enix some more money to buy and play the expansion. It better be worth it because I haven’t had any fun doing this.

cheers,

Meeks

 

 

 


Christmas postmortem

Now that Christmas 2014 has come and gone, I can safely say I’m glad it’s over. I tried to eat normal amounts, truly I did, but I doubt anyone will be surprised when I say I failed.

It started with Christmas Eve dinner. We spent it with relatives, and seeing them all was lovely, but I could easily have made a meal of just the antipasto! That was followed by turkey, pork and ham, and rounded off with pudding and Strawberries Romanov.

The next day, Christmas Day, was relatively quiet on the food front but I did make this….

christmas 2014 cake 1

Chocolate Mousse cake with dark chocolate shavings on top

A closeup of the layers

A closeup of the layers

Yes, you guessed it, a chocolate mousse cake. For those interested, I’ve updated the recipe with these photos, together with a description of how to mold it up. The actual cake, however, was all gone by Boxing Day. -sigh- Then last night, the Daughter and I made the apricot cake out of Silvia Colloca’s fantastic ‘Made in Italy’ cookbook. Delicious.

So there you have it, a gastronomic extravaganza that’s left me feeling like the Goodyear blimp! I swear I’ll do better next year. -wink-

Meeks

 


Warrandyte is dry

In the wetter years since 2009, I had to get the grass cut before Christmas because the alpacas couldn’t keep up. This year we’ve had to start supplementary feeding early because the alpacas have mowed the grass down already.

warrandyte dec 2014 1

In this first photo, I’m standing in my paddock, taking a photo of my neighbours’ paddocks. The three of us share the four alpacas.

warrandyte dec 2014 5

This next photo shows a small, fenced off area [roughly 2 metres by 3] that used to be one of the alpacas’ favourite poop spots. Once they start using a spot they become very attached to it, and refuse to stop pooping there.

Unfortunately, this particular spot is really close to both the pool and the house, and the odd, gentle breeze can bring tears to your eyes. I’ve been trying to get rid of this spot for years, without much success. My latest plan has been to dig up the poop [and put it on the compost], dig up the soil underneath [to get rid of their scent], replace it with mushroom compost and plant something they love to eat [Lucerne].  Fingers crossed it works this time.

One area where I have had some success is with my ornamental ponds. One is less than a metre long, and the other is about 2.5 metres long, so both are quite small but the local frogs love them!

This next photo is of the larger pond and shows clusters of strange, white bubbles in amongst the water lilies and duck weed. Those, my friends, are frog eggs!

warrandyte dec 2014 3

What’s that you say? You can’t see them? Hold on…

warrandyte dec 2014 4

Tah duh!

I don’t really know why the frogs like my pond so much, but I’m thrilled that they do. It contains water cress and a host of other water plants so maybe I got the mix right without knowing it.

I hope my Aussie friends have had a great weekend, and I hope my international friends are still enjoying theirs. 🙂

cheers

Meeks

p.s. Apologies if this post looks a bit strange. WordPress have made changes, again, and my blog won’t work at all in Opera. It works in IE, except for the preview function, so I won’t know what it looks like until I publish. I’m resisting the urge the rant. 😦


I have my U back!

I meant to write like crazy these school holidays, but instead I’ve done a lot of physical work – building new rockeries in the garden, spring cleaning the house, messing around with my computers, and cooking. You have no idea how much cooking I’ve done, and not for pleasure either.

But that rant is for another post. This post is about me, cleaning the keyboard of my computer… on the inside. Yes,you heard me. This is what came out of my keyboard :

keyboard 3

If you feel weak at the sight of what was hiding under my keys, take a stiff brandy before you continue.

Moving right along. I really would like to blame the cats for all that mess, but mixed in with the fluff were crumbs, lots and lots of crumbs. My work, I’m afraid. Nonetheless, the trigger that sent me into techie mode was that I spilt some coffee on the keyboard.

<<picture of woman madly shaking white coffee with one sugar out of her keyboard>>

It didn’t work. By the next day, the letter U had seized up. I either got ‘bt’ or ‘buuuuuuuuuuuuut’, ‘yo’ or ‘youuuuuuuuuuuuuu’. Not a happy state of affairs. Something had to be done. After doing some online research, I gathered my trusty tools and set to work :

keyboard 4

I’ve had those teensy weensy screwdrivers for about 20 years, but you should still be able to get them at a computer shop. The tweezers I stole from the Daughter. Sorry dear. 🙂

DISCLAIMER : I have not tried doing this with the keys of a laptop. I highly recommend taking your laptop to a professional for repairs! 

Now, the first key is always the hardest to get off because space is at a premium. If you don’t have the teensy weensy screwdrivers, try using an ordinary dinner knife. Place the tip of the knife in the gap between the right hand CTRL key and the base, and wiggle until the key pops off. Once you have that first key off, you can attack the rest of the keys fairly easily.

Whatever you do, though, don’t pull everything off in one hit unless you have a photographic memory. I took the keys off row by row, lining them up in the order in which they would have to go back :

keyboard 5

You can now use the tweezers to pull out the gunge, or you can use a small paint brush to sweep out the dirt, but whatever you do, do NOT use the vacuum cleaner. Inside those exposed keys are the doohikkies that make them go up and down. If you use the vacuum, the suction could possibly hoover up the most important parts of the keyboard. So be warned!

Once the loose dirt is cleared away, spray a little ordinary window cleaner ON A COTTON BUD [not directly into the keyboard please!]. Give the inside of each row a good clean with the cotton bud and allow to dry before replacing the keys.

As you were pulling off the keys, you may have noticed that some keys, including the SPACEBAR,come with an extra little locking doohikkie. The following are two photos I took of the locking mechanism under the spacebar :

keyboard 6 red outline

I outlined the locking mechanism in red as it’s very hard to see. The two ‘horns’ at either end are currently in the down position, but they swivel up and down as shown in the next picture :

keyboard 7 in the up position

And just in case you still can’t make head nor tail of the photos, the following is a diagram I created showing the two halves of the mechanism – i.e. the bit that stays in the keyboard, and the bit that goes inside the spacebar :

keyboard 2

Please do not say ‘oh but my keyboard doesn’t look anything like that’. Of course it doesn’t, this is a schematic thingie, okay? The point my picture is trying to convey is that the tongue and groove arrangement has to be in place before the locking bits in the middle can snap into place. Do not be daunted! This is how you do it :

keyboard 1

As you can see, the little rods do not snap into place, they slip into the hole shapes from below.

Once the tips of the rods are in place, tilt the key forward slightly in order to get the two box shaped locking bits to fit together. Once they do, you will hear a click, and the key will be back, and popping up and down quite happily.

All the ordinary keys just snap into place without any drama.

I didn’t clean under the numeric key pad, or the arrow keys as I don’t use them much [and couldn’t be bothered]. I also did not take out the function keys [F1, F2, F3 etc] as I have no idea how the key mechanism works with them [and the coffee seems to have missed them]. You mess with the rest of the keyboard at your peril – i.e. don’t blame me if something goes horribly wrong. 😦

With the cleaning all finished, I plugged my keyboard back into the pc and crossed my fingers. It worked! And the proof is this post. Look…

‘but’ ‘you’ ‘up’ ‘under’

I have my ‘U’ back. 🙂

Conclusion : Honestly? This job was nowhere near as hard as I thought it might be, and by tackling it myself, I avoided having to buy another, expensive keyboard. That said, I probably would not have been motivated to try this if I had lots of money to throw around. So if you’re in the same boat, give it a try and give your wallet a break. Your self confidence will receive a huge boost too. 😀

cheers

Meeks

 


Agapanthus – a much maligned plant

Photo from Plants Online  Sydney

Photo from Plants Online
Sydney

I was burning off a huge pile of garden waste this morning when I discovered something interesting about the lowly agapanthus plant. That’s it there, on the left.

Originally from South Africa, the agapanthus grows wild here in Warrandyte, and is considered a noxious weed by Nillumbik Council.

I have always had a less purist attitude to non-natives than the local Council, but even so, I have never found the agapanthus to be a particularly attractive plant. I have it in my garden, but I have never felt kindly towards it, until now.

“Why this sudden change of heart,” you ask.

“It’s because the bloody plant doesn’t want to burn,” say I. [And we all know how paranoid I am about bushfires, don’t we?]

Rather than bore you to tears with words, let me bore you to tears with some pictures. 😀

First up we have a picture of a pile of hot ash. It was taken at 9.26 am, and is the result of almost 3 hours of burning off, so it is still very, very hot.

agapantus 1 at 9.26am

Next we have a picture of some gum leaves and small branches bursting into flames on top of the pile of hot ash. Time – 9.29 am.

agapantus 2 at 9.29am

I did not strike a match, or a lighter or anything else to get the gum leaves to burn again. The residual heat of the ash was all it took. I’d also like to point out that we had a lot of rain 2 days ago.

Picture no.3 is of a small agapanthus I pulled up by the roots and threw on the barely smoldering fire. Time – 9.30 am.

agapantus 3 at 9.30am

Basically I was trying to see how long the agapanthus would take to burn. I literally used the stop watch function on my mobile phone for the job. After 3 minutes and 25 secs, something flared and a small section of the agapanthus burned for approximately 3 seconds. Then the flames went out. Time – 9.35 am.

agapantus 4 at 9.35am

There was another flareup approximately 4 minutes later, but by the time I’d stopped the stopwatch function, changed to camera function and returned to the fire, this second flareup had gone out as well. The timestamp on the camera says 9.39 am.

agapantus 5 at 9.39am

As you can see, the poor agapanthus is getting scorched, but a) it’s taking a long time and b) only the dried out extremities of the plant burn. As soon as the dried out sections burn off, the flames reach a wet, green section and immediately go out.

The next photo shows a small scrap of paper getting nicely scorched next to the remains of the agapanthus. The purpose of the paper was to test the heat of the ash pile – i.e. to test if the agapanthus was not burning because the ash pile had cooled down too much. As the photo shows, the pile was still quite hot. Time – 9.44 am.

agapantus 6 at 9.44am

40 minutes after beginning the experiment, I pulled the agapanthus from the ash pile and let it cool down so I could get a better look at it – and take a better photo. You have no idea how hot I got while taking photos close to the ash pile!

The final photo shows that despite being reduced to a blackened stump, the agapanthus still retains some green at the base of its stems [?]. Time – 10.10 am.

agapantus 7 at 10.10am

Now I’m not saying the agapanthus won’t burn at all – clearly it will – but I do want to make the point that this plant is remarkably resistant to fire. In massed plantings it may even slow the rate at which a bushfire advances on your house, or mine. As such, I think it’s time we stopped thinking of this plant as the ‘enemy’, and embrace it as an appropriate plant for bushfire prone areas.

Have a great weekend,

Meeks

 


Boring pictures from a lazy blogger

Apologies for being so slack lately. I have had an attack of domestic 20/20 vision…and what I saw was not pretty. I have people coming over for Christmas Eve dinner, and suddenly the dirty windows, clutter, dust, muddy paw prints, dust bunnies etc etc etc. sent me into a panic of cleaning. Sadly, the more I do, the more mess I see. With the clock ticking, I’ve had no energy left over for writing.

Anyway, I thought you might like to see some pics I took from the outside.

big pond drain 1

This is a drain I dug around my big[ger] fish pond to stop sediment washing in during heavy rains.

big pond drain 2

This is the same drain half filled in. Down the bottom of the drain is a flexible, black plastic agricultural pipe [aggi pipe in the local parlance]. It connects to a drainage layer protecting the retaining wall at the top of the pic. On top of the pipe is a thick layer of scoria, and on top of that are the beautiful river pebbles.

2 pond pic

Tah Dah – the ‘after’ picture. If you look carefully you can see the second, small pond I finished putting in less than a week ago. No fish in this one, just water lilies, although I’m sure the frogs claiming the big pond will soon migrate over. 🙂

pool pond and alpaca

The two ponds featuring in the previous pic are tucked in behind the retaining wall you can see in the fore front. One of the alpacas decided to get in on the photo shoot. Behind, and to the left of the alpaca is a section of the Clark pool that isn’t hidden by the pool fence. The small, bright blue thingie hard up against the house is my greywater tank. Water from the laundry and the shower is plumbed into the tank. The greywater usually flows straight through to the terraced area in the middle of the picture. During high fire danger days I close the tap off so the greywater fills the tank and becomes another source of firefighting water.

wine cellar 1

This is my, um… wine cellar. -cough- It looks a bit like an igloo and the whole structure is buried into the hillside.

wine cellar 2

This is an inside shot of the wine cellar showing the inner doorway and the yellow ladder leading down [about 1/2 a metre] into the main area.

wine cellar 3

Last but not least, this is a shot of the cellar with its protective covering of soil and rocks. The plants directly around the cellar are all succulents. The black plastic water tank in the background belongs to my neighbour.

Okay, I think that’s probably enough photography for one day. I’ll try and take some pics of the inside of the house before it degenerates into its normal, comfortable clutter again. Until then, do what I say, not what I do, and have a relaxing weekend. 😉

cheers

Meeks


Fire season, alpacas – and the things that burn

A few weeks ago I did a series of burns to prepare my block for fire season. I kept these bonfires very small for fear they’d get out of control, even with everything so damp. As a result, I had to struggle to keep my fires going, yet even so I learned some interesting things about what does, and does not, burn in my part of Australia.

As expected, the dry leaves and twiggy branches of gum trees burn very nicely, thank you very much. However I also discovered that even relatively fresh gum leaves will burn. As these leaves contain highly volatile oils, I should not have been surprised by this either.

Still on the subject of leaves and volatile oils, I threw some lemon tree prunings onto the fire and took a big step backwards, expecting the branches to explode into flames. The leaves did burn quite nicely but the branches seemed to burn no better than any other green wood.

Next I tried the dry stalks and flower heads of agapanthus. [Picture courtesy of wiki]

Once these flowerheads and stalks dry off, they burn like paper. The green leaves however took a long time to dry out and eventually burn. For me, the lesson here was that clumps of well maintained agapanthus may help extinguish embers. At a certain temperature, however, anything can and will burn.

While cutting out the dry agapanthus stalks, I also trimmed back some branches of a very hardy, invasive and hard to eradicate shrub whose name I don’t know. I remember finding pictures of it  once, as part of a listing of ‘weeds’ in the Warrandyte area.

I took the two pictures below in the hope that someone would recognize it and name it. [Thanks for the camera tip Metan!]

The reason I want to name and shame this plant is that it snap, crackles and pops on the fire… even when it’s fresh and very green. This thing seems to burn even better than gum leaves, and in a bushfire I can imagine it merrily shooting off burning embers in all directions.

I know Nillumbik Shire Council considers it to be a noxious weed because it is not indigenous to the area, but they have done nothing to force residents to eradicate it. Nor have they, themselves, eradicated it from roadsides and other public places. This stuff should be attacked without mercy because it burns so well, not because of any airy, fairy conservationist principles.

Now that I know how dangerous this unnamed plant truly is, I’ll be blitzing it with a vengeance. If you know what it’s called please let me know asap!

The most welcome thing I learned from my burning off was that I can discourage the alpacas from pooping close to the house by :

a) relocating their poop piles and

b) burning off on the spot where the piles used to be.  I suspect the smell of the ash and charcoal masks the smells that tell the alpacas  ‘Here be  the toilet’.

For those who haven’t been following my adventures with alpacas, these big, woolly lawn-mowers like to leave their poop in neat piles. Unfortunately a couple of their preferred toilet spots are rather close to the house. That is a problem because, although the smell isn’t really all that bad, the green volcanos that grow up around them are both unsightly and difficult to mow by hand. Trust me, you do not want to accidentally mow into a pile of wet poop. 😦

I’ve tried sprinkling lemon oil over these unwanted piles but it didn’t work as a deterrent. The burns will work, so long as you repeat the process until the alpacas ‘forget’ and move on to somewhere else. They can be rather stubborn so even this is not a magic bullet.

As always, I would love to see my fellow residents taking a more proactive part in keeping Warrandyte safe[r] from bushfires.

cheers

Meeks


Alpacas and other friends

I’ve mentioned the alpacas in passing before, usually in connection with their role as lawnmowers, so as they seemed to steal the show I decided to dedicate a post to the weird four-legs who share this place with us. And I have photos!

Duh...you rang?

This bright fellow is Andy. He was born here and is still a cria [baby alpaca]. He is the most curious, and playful one of the herd but we’re  not quite sure whether that is a sign of intelligence or not as he really isn’t terribly smart in other ways. So far he’s wandered into the fish pond at least three times and still seems to have identity issues.

 

Can't you see I'm eating?

Allow me to introduce Andy’s mum. Like all three of the adult alpacas [2 females and 1 male] she is not a snuggly. They tolerate us humans, especially when we come bearing gifts of lucerne but none of them can understand why roses are off limits. Their penchant for snacking on roses, thorns and all, has forced me to fence off the special areas where I’ve actually managed to grow something other than grass.

In the two years we’ve had them the alpacas and I have forged an uneasy partnership. They eat the grass, poop and act as guard beasts and I bring out the lucerne or yell at them. What can I say? It works.

Damn paparazzi....

You’re going to have to look closely at this photo to see the echidna [porcupine] disappearing behind my neighbour’s chook shed [chicken coop?]. Despite being about the size of a small dog and not built for sprinting [s]he managed to avoid my camera with real style. You can see by the quills all over his back why this guy has managed to avoid being lunch for the local foxes and/or dogs. Cute but definitely not a snuggly!

 

And now for some photos of my very snuggly babies! And before everyone groans and clicks away they all have four legs and really are cute!

Mogi - our new baby

This tiny bundle of ears and fur is Mogi [short for Mogwai], the newest addition to our family. I’m including this photo because it shows just how very small she was at 3 months. It also shows the strange 3 colour fur she had back then. Black at the tips, pale in the middle and tan near the body. Perhaps it was mother nature advertising her chihuahua/maltese/shi tzu pedigree? She was an adorable but odd looking puppy that’s for sure.

3/4 profile?

This is Mogi at one. She is still tiny and won’t get any bigger but she thinks she’s a real dog and guards the cats [and us] with the dedication of a doberman pinzer. She even tries to herd the alpacas but they just ignore her, except for Andy who wants to play soccer with her. He hasn’t scored any goals yet – she’s much too quick!

And now to segue into the feline members of the household, I give you Pippi and Mogi, getting some well earned rest on my recliner.

Pippi and her pillow..ahem I mean her dog

Pippi is the matriarch of the cats and the mother of Buffa, Golly, Harry and Pixie [sadly no longer with us]. We got her as a scrawny, scruffy abandonned 5 week old kitten desperate for a home. She was so desperate for affection that she charmed our two old dogs into accepting her into their pack. That was one reason we allowed her to have a litter. The reason we kept the whole litter was that… bah never mind.

Pippi is still needy but as you can see she now has a dog to call her own again. 🙂

And now in alphabetical order are da boyz.

Buffa making a point

Meet Buffa. He is the smartest and most generous of all the cats. We call him the Momma Poppa with good reason. When he and Harry went off together to lose their crown jewels I asked that the vet put them in the same cage after the operation. Harry was traumatized and hid under a blanket. Buffa cuddled up to him and groomed him despite having just had the chop himself. And when Golly was knocked over by a car and suffered brain damage, Buffa was the first one to accept him, despite poor Golly’s ‘strange’ behaviour. Once Golly had learned to feed himself and walk in a straight line again it was Buffa who decided that he must be taught how to hunt, so that was when he began bringing live mice into the house and dropping them at Golly’s feet. It took quite a while and more scampering mice than I care to think about but now that brain damaged cat who is about 80% blind can catch mice himself.

The one bad moment we have had with Buffa was when we first introduced him to Mogi. Now you have to understand that Buffa is big enough and strong enough to catch [and eat] baby rabbits [only the wild kind!]. When he saw Mogi with her bats ears flattened against her head she must have looked just like a rabbit because he went into pounce mode. But just as we were about to dive to the rescue he sniffed her and relaxed. Since that inauspicious beginning they have become best buddies. Except when it comes to Mogi’s big fluffy pillow [seen to the right of the photo]. Buffa wants that pillow. He wants it bad and grabs it whenever he can, ignoring all of Mogi’s requests to ‘get the hell out of my bed!’. When I snapped this shot Mogi was in possession of the pillow and so Buffa shoe-horned himself into her old and very small basket to show how inappropriate their bedding arrangements were!

Come hither...

This is Harry. In some ways he has always been my favourite because he is so loving. Unfortunately when Golly came back after the accident Harry was just freaked out and he has stayed freaked out ever since.  The arrival of Mogi did not help. Harry loved our old dogs but they were slow and gentle. Mogi is as quick as a ferret and her idea of play is to chase the cats around the yard and chew on their whiskers. So now Harry only comes in at dinner time and is hard to catch with the camera which is why this photo is a shot from his teenage years.

Golly - doing what a cat's gotta do

And last but by no means least is Golly. A black cat half hidden by a black jacket on a black chair… I know, I know, I’m a lousy photographer but Golly seems to disappear into the background no matter where he is!

Golly is my miracle boy. He was hit by a car just outside our property at 10 o’clock one night. He was left there in the middle of the road. Then a true Good Samaritan came along with her daughter and they took him to the local vet. When the vet found the microchip he rang me. We got there in five minutes flat.

Despite having fractured hips and a nasty blow to the head Golly still knew me and that was all I needed to know. After losing so many of my furkids to that damn road I was not going to lose this one. So Golly had xrays and was put on a drip. He was given a special drug to help the swelling in his brain to go down. For a week he teetered on the brink and then he started to get better.

When I came to pick Golly up, Jen our lovely vet nurse joked that Golly was a child with special needs. Well he was that and more. For a month after he came home I had to push food into his mouth and give him water through a syringe. He could walk but only in circles. Yet through it all he snuggled whenever I picked him up, purring the whole time like a jet engine.

Now 18 months later Golly can jump up on things, run and even catch mice. He is a healthy, beautiful, incredibly loving boy with a fierce will to live. All of my furkids are special but Golly is unique. He may be brain-damaged and almost completely blind but you’d never know it just by looking at him. More importantly he is a happy chappie who proves the old adage that while there is life there is hope.  That’s a lesson I won’t forget.

Cheers All!

 


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