Saturday, April 4, 2009

The Snake's Nest

A cool change has come through and temperatures have dropped from the low 90s to the mid 70s. With cooler weather we decided to go for a short hike down the ridge facing Granny's house. The ridge is part of a nature reserve with low scrub and a dry red earth path zig-zagging from the road down to the valley floor.

Here is the hiking party (minus the photographer) on Granny's road.

We set off from the road and followed the path on a long traverse. Wren walked all on his own with many warnings not to walk on the crumbled outer bank where he could tumble down the hillside. Roy, Mum's cairn terrier puppy came with us. He and Wren have a slightly strained relationship because Wren's noise and sudden motion scares Roy and Roy has sharp teeth and can be jumpy. Mum or I planned to walk in front in case there were snakes on the path but Frost found the pace too slow and went a bit ahead.

As we came to a slight rocky bend in the trail I noticed that Frost was passing a large moulted snake skin. It was lying on the grass and more of it trailed into a cavity in the pile of rocks. It was a very snaky place. I picked up the snakeskin and reminded Frost to be on the lookout for snakes because this was a sign they were about. Then I said we should move on because this rock pile looked "snaky" and we shouldn't let Wren and Roy hang out by the "snakes nest".

The snakeskin on my keyboard.

At that point Frost became very quiet. We walked on a few steps and then Frost said we should go home. Shortly afterwards he said he felt sick, was exhausted, was sleepy, was hungry and very hot and thirsty and we really needed to go home NOW.

We sat down for a snack to help some of his complaints but he wasn't happy. I think the idea of the snakey nest on the trail unsettled him. Wren wanted to see the snakeskin but Frost was not that keen.

I explained how my parents had scared me with all their comments and warnings about snakes, terrorists, flash-floods in our cave campsites, burglers, spiders etc but that I had never had any of those bad things happen. Mum added that she was about 99.9% sure he would NOT see a snake during his visit.

He felt a bit better and we made it to the bottom of the hill. The return trail was a near-vertical scramble up from the lower boundary of Mum and Mervyn's land. There is no trail so we pulled ourselves up hanging onto olive branches and stray shrubs. The dried grass lying down was very slippery and it was hard to keep our footing, especially pushing Wren's big heavy self up ahead. Frost did best. Wren kept saying "I can do it! We are doing it!"

Eventually we made it back to the house and Frost was proud to tell the story.

We have set a tent up in the garden and the kids are enjoying lounging in it even in the overcast weather.

Friday, April 3, 2009

The kids are acting up

Frost and Wren are enjoying the new rules of holiday - more 'lollies' and 'screen time' at lunch.

While I did yoga this morning, Frost confided to Granny that "If I nag, Shannon gives in after about 14 or 15 times nagging. She gives me candy or screen time."

For his part, Wren has started to threaten "going to have 'nother tantie!!" when he gets frustrated or upset with me. This brings me running to help because his tanties are very noisy and often involve throwing heavy objects.

Mining Limestone by Frost

Today we went mining for limestone. We didn't know what it was at first so we had to take some bits to my Grandad. He is a geologist and biologist so we took it to him. He said it wasn't limestone. He said it was a white chalky substance. So we went and dug some more. Eventually we found a big cave of it and we took some off and put vinegar on it and it fizzed and bubbled and you could see tiny bubbles. If you put it close to your ear you could hear it fizz. Only limestone fizzes and bubbles. The first limestone we found was white and powdery. But then WREN found that another rock that was grey is also limestone and it fizzes and bubbles better.

The pictures below show Wren and me at the rocks. We hammered them out. Wren hammered the rocks on the ground and then imagined he broke them. He is on granny's PRIVATE road. Shannon is looking over us.

This next picture is Wren being a geologist. He pours vinegar, listens to the fizzing and hammers his rocks.

Pouring vinegar:

Laying out the rock collection and seeing bubbles:

Listening for fizzing:

I have a ph and chlorine tester. It turns out that normal has a 7 rating but Granny's water has a 7.2 rating which means its a bit alkaline because it is over 7. Their water comes from a well and water with crushed up limestone in it has somewhere between 7.8 and 8.2 rating. Probably about an 8 rating. That is quite alkaline. We crushed up the white limestone, put it in the small tube and then put 5 drops of the red Ph test in the small tube and then we shook it up and looked at the colors. It looked about an 8. I subtracted 2 from the 8.2 and added 2 from the 7.8 because it was between them. See. Here is a picture of my test for the experiment with the limestone.

The Terrible Worm Squash
This morning Wren found a millipede inside and was looking at it. Frost decided to keep it in a box and feed it. He asked Mervyn what they ate because he is studying invetebrates then he went outside and began collecting food for the millipede.

While outside Wren put the millipede inside a book and squashed it. "I go snip snap and he is squash!" said Wren.

Frost was in tears. He is still too upset to talk about it.

That is why I cannot write more about it on this blog post (per Frost's instructions). Wren is in the doghouse but shouts triumphantly "I SQUASH 'IM!"

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Remote Control Guy

On 'dump day' when people left out their household rubbish for collection we collected a few remote controlled cars (and a collection of remotes). Due to dead batteries we haven't tested them but Wren is very possessive of his collection of remote controls. He carries them around with us and transports them in the dump truck. Here were are going out with remotes:

Cleland Wildlife Park - Adelaide Hills

Yesterday we visited the Cleland Wildlife Park in the Adelaide Hills. It is a wonderful sanctuary for Australian animals - many are in enclosures you can walk through and feed them by hand. The entrance takes you past the souvenir shop and Frost told the woman at the counter "I am from America" and then "Can I buy some souvenirs? I am collecting souvenirs." This is very funny to me. I feel like a local returning to a sometime home but Frost is an unapologetic tourist buying funny stuffed koalas with flags.

Kangaroo feeding
Wren & Frost loved the kangaroos. Here is a picture of Frost feeding a big red kangaroo who was basking in the sun.
The kangaroos were grazing over a wide area and others lying in the sun. The trees in the paddock were all fenced to prevent 'wild' koala from climbing up them. This was kind of funny because in Seattle we see trees encased like this to protect them from beaver attack and with metal bands around to stop squirrel climbing up.

Can I touch the joey in its mother's pouch?"
Frost is all about extreme sports - even in the animal petting department. After he had fed a number of kangaroos he sidled up to a eastern grey mother kangaroo with a large baby in its pouch. The baby's legs were poking out. The kangaroo was a bit skittish and turned its head away instead of eating so Granny said not to touch it. Frost really really wanted to touch the baby joey. I sat down next to the kangaroo with him and he reached out very tentatively and stroked the legs of the baby joey. The legs were the only things sticking out.

Here is Wren being a Kangaroo next to the mother with the joey. Wren enjoyed chasing the kangaroos although they did not seem to mind.

Do we need to see the Koalas? We have them in the garden.
Here is Wren standing in his stroller by the koala exhibit. Each little enclosure has at least one koala up in the shade. From time to time one climbs down and runs to the next 'tree' to find fresh leaves which are provided daily.

Potteroos in the Bushes
On the way out Frost noticed an animal in the bushes. It was a family of potteroos running wild. Apparently they do very well at Cleland which is fenced and kept free of predators like fox and feral domestic cats. Here the boys try and feed the potteroos kangaroo food. I am calling them potteroos but they may be Bettongs. I have been studying the guide to Australian animals for a while and still cannot differentiate the various small pouched things. I overheard an American tourist saying loudly "all these Australian animals are like versions of the kangaroo. They are all different sized kangaroos."

Apparently I have been very UN-Australian in my pronounciation of Emu. I have been calling them e-moos not e-MEWS. I am on notice to improve my accent. It is odd, but when I am in the US I am considered South African / Australian but when I am in those countries I am clearly Not-From-Here.

Last time we saw emus we had a problem with them trying to mate with us. I mentioned this to Stewart, a family friend, and he said that if they bother you you should raise a hand in the air like a long neck with your wrist bent for form a head. This stops the emu from its attack.

These emus did not attack or try to mate with us. They walked around making strange booming noises in their throats, like people drumming very fast.

Here is Wren looking up in the sky to see a big black goana that has climbed up a tree.

There is a reptile house at the park and it contained a number of the snakes including the brown snake which occurs in the Adelaide Hills. We saw "a really nasty snake" called a Mulga snake (one of the largest venomous snakes) and the inland Taipan which is one of the world's most venomous snakes.

We were interested to learn that snakes can be rated for their danger as well as with the LD50 rating of their venom (LD50 is the amount of a material, given all at once, which causes the death of 50% (one half) of a group of test animals. The LD50 is one way to measure the short-term poisoning potential (acute toxicity) of a material.) The brown snake was given a rating of 14 for overall danger - a combination of venom toxicity, position of fangs, aggression, amount of venom and frequency of bites occuring. I have not been able to find out any more about this general rating but it was fun for Frost to have a number for the snake.

We are now going shopping (another post coming on that) and we have to go.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Walk to the Gate

Every morning we all walk up the private road from Mum's house to the gate and back. Its about a 1/3 of a mile each way. At the gate we collect the newspaper. Yesterday, Wren walked with us but today I pushed him in his stroller because he was too tired (snuffy nose). Here are some of the adventures on the morning walk.

Tree gum
Frost and Wren are very excited by the hardened gum oozing from a tree on the road up. When I called it 'gum' Wren wanted to eat it so then I called it resin. Frost tried to smash some off the tree with a piece of sandstone but the sandstone broke. I managed to twist a few pieces off. Frost wanted them too so Wren wanted them even more. He carried them home and hid them in a copper urn near the front door. Frost is going to write about the resin in his journal.

Roy Chasing Seedpods downhill
You walk uphill to the gate and downhill back. On the return trip Mervyn and Mum roll big gumnuts downhill for Roy to chase. He scuttles down after them as they bounce and roll. HEre are Frost and Wren running downhill with Roy. Wren wants to be first to catch the gum nut so he can throw it. Frost wants to catch and throw it too.

The Dump-day Go-Kart
Australia has a fabulous tradition of an annual large household garbage collection. People throw out all kinds of things over the weekend - stoves through kids toys - and leave them on the curb for collection on Monday. Mum noticed an old wooden go-kart and brought it home for Frost. He rolls down the last part of the road very slowly. It steers well but there are no brakes.

Bees and Stinging Things
There is a beehive about half way up the hill in a crevasse. If you look closely you can see the honeycomb and the bees on it. Frost was interested and slightly concerned. He wondered if the honey tasted good. Unfortunately, there are also a large number of Europeon Wasps in the area and these bother us when we eat outside. Mum and Mervyn have a wasp trap loaded with meat to lure them but this evening there were 4 wasps indoors. Frost also found a scorpion in the bathroom so he has become very wary of stinging things like wasps, bees, flies (buzzing noise) and scorpions. He asked me to come into the bathroom with him in case there was another scorpion.
When we return from morning walk it is time for breakfast! This morning I went for a run with Wren - about 4km - so I needed a few extra breakfasts to restore my energy.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Showering with a cow

This is Frost eating nutella chocolate spread for breakfast.

Heat and Beach (again)
We woke to another hot day in Adelaide and were at the beach by 10am. We went to Brighton where a sea breeze made the day seem cooler. At night, as the temperature falls, wind rushes up the gully, rattling doors in the dark and rustling in the gums trees around the house but the wind mainly affects the Adelaide Hills so we don't know what conditions are like at the beach . With temperatures in the mid-thirties (90 degrees) today, I was still not too keen on swimming but Frost lured me in and even Wren splashed in the tiny waves.

We did collect many neotrigonias at the tide-line. These are bivalves are from a family of ancient shells and are normally only found in deep water. Due to dredging they are sometimes washed up on the shore at Brighton. These are pictures from yesterday at Henley Beach - we arrived at 7.30am - dawn!

(above) At Henley Beach yesterday, rather early.

Shark Patrol
As we waded out on the shallow sandbank far from shore, Frost remarked about how far out we were. Mum has rather ruined my enjoyment of the long shallows by pointing out a helicopter flying up and down the coast. This is the shark patrol. It flies over the swimming beaches looking for great white, white pointer sharks which are seen from time to time and like to eat people disguised as seal.

Wren needs the stingoes
While wandering through the seeweed on the beach Wren cried out that he had an owie and needed a bandaid. I couldn't see anything on his foot but he continued to cry until i noticed a white welt and a spreading red rash on the upper surface of his foot. I think he was stung by something, perhaps a blue-bottle. It is a bit of a joke that everything is poisonous in Australia but I have no idea what actually stung him. Thankfully, Mum had some stingoes (equivalent) in her bag and it seemed to reduce his discomfit pretty quickly.

For the rest of the morning Frost was asking me questions about blue-bottles and jelly fish and what they looked like. He has developed a similar concern about snakes, sharing his reassuring hypothesis that "snakes don't look like sticks and they are noisy and would go HISSSSS and move so I would see them."

No. I said. They are still, small, look a bit like sticks and do not hiss at you before you step on them.

Of course, here I am putting the same rather irrational dread in his heart that I hold against a South African park ranger who made me believe that there were venomous snakes falling from the trees in the local parkland.

The Outside Shower
After the beach I had an outside shower in the little courtyard formed by a passionfruit twined fence and the corner of the house. While I showered I imagined I was a celebrity being stalked by paparazzi from the sparse eucalypt scrub on the hillside opposite. Where would they hide? Would I appear as a boobie shot in a tabloid?

Just at that moment I was startled by a large shadow passing by the fence. Papparazi!!! No, a cow. My admirer added to the ambience but not my celebrity.

Frost also loves the outside shower which has a very wide rain-nozzle so that Frost and I can shower together without undue competition for moisture.

I think Wren may have a tiny cold. This would excuse him for his awful sleep last night - trying to wake for the day at 3.45am and calling "Daddy, Daddy, Daddy" and "get up" for a long while. Here is Wren riding his favorite toy - a digger borrowed from the local toy library.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Is 4.15am morning?

Another 30 minute time zone change has done in Wren's 5am wake time. This morning it was "I want get up. All done nap time?" at 4.15am. We stayed in the bedroom till 5.15am but it is not day by any stretch of the imagination.

Wren is sitting on Mum's ride-on digger (rented from a toy library) and noticed the lights of the city below.

"What is that there?" he asked.
"Those of the lights of the city," I said.
"Want go there"
"We will go to the beach on the other side of the city. But its too early. Its dark."
"Want to go beach now, right now. NOT TOO DARK."

I wish I could show you how dark it is. It is mid-winter dark with all the lights on. Its not even half light.

"I got that sun in my eyes!" adds Wren, rubbing them.
"There is no sun. Its dark" I emphasize.
"No, I got that sun in my eyes!"