This is a book I had to read. The name is derived from “an alleged 1942 WWII government plan to abandon Northern Australia in the event of a Japanese invasion”— there is nothing alleged about it. My father was a young soldier in WWII based in Melbourne when his division received the command to form The Brisbane Line. It made such an impression on him that later, when he was married, he relocated the family to Brisbane where I currently live.
I dearly wish I could discuss this novel with my late father but I do remember him reminiscing about the off-duty times and leave in tropical Far North Queensland where hi-jinks often lead to a soldier’s death. I am sure there was tension, corruption and possibly murder among the thousands of American troops stationed in Brisbane, but on the other hand I know families of young women who married GI Joe’s and went to live in US never to return.
Enigmatic protagonist, Rose, has a boyfriend who is a prisoner-of-war and she says “It’s men who cause the trouble in the first place. It’s just another hypocrisy.”
Suitable for crime readers and historians, this well-researched fictionalised story is more interesting than a text book and follows Sergeant Joe Washington, a US Military Police officer and amateur photographer who joins local police in battling crime and black market corruption. Joe also has grave suspicions of a murder cover-up.
The humid atmosphere is laced with grunge and irritability offset by guys and gals dancing the night away at the Trocadero Dance Hall. Well-known people make an appearance, for example notorious cop Frank Bischof, author Thea Astley and General Douglas MacArthur, an American who in WWII commanded the Southwest Pacific region.
The book is gritty and at times the inequality upset my 21st century sensibilities but it is based on true events. Powell has recreated a vibrant town which embraced a huge influx of strangers in uniform and the repercussions this had on Brisbane society, some of which still lingers today.
Judy Powell is an archaeologist and historian with a passion for bringing the past to life. She has worked as a high school teacher, an academic, a National Parks officer, a museum administrator and has excavated in Jordan, Cyprus and Greece as well as leading historical archaeology projects in Australia. Powell, who lives outside Brisbane, was awarded a QANZAC Fellowship by the State Library of Queensland to pursue research into, and writing of, a series of crime novels set in Brisbane during World War II.
Australia was once a continent graced by flamingos. These tall pink birds are more associated with Africa and the Americas, but a long time ago they called Australia home. For at least 20 million years, flamingos thrived on vast Australian inland lakes, until a drying of the outback ended their reign, perhaps a million years ago.
The Lake Eyre region in South Australia once had three species, more than Africa today. Altogether Australia had at least six flamingo species, including the Greater flamingo – the main flamingo in Africa. Australian museums have accumulated more of their fossils than of some regular Australian birds such as parrots. At some sites their remains lay near those of outback crocodiles, dolphins and lungfish.
Flamingos are still regarded as Australian birds, for a very tenuous reason. In 1988 a Greater flamingo dropped in on North Keeling Island, a remote Australian territory 2750km north-west of Perth, staying a couple of months. Greater flamingos are found in Asia and southern Europe as well as Africa and this one had wandered over from India or Sri Lanka.
In Adelaide Zoo you could have seen the only flamingo left in Australia, a Chilean flamingo known warmly as ‘Chile’. She was thought to have been imported in the late 1970s. For quarantine reasons flamingos are now forbidden imports, which means that Australia is destined to become a flamingo-free zone unless another long-legged pink nomad wanders over from Asia.
Sieve flour, rice flour, sugar into basin, rub in butter and knead until smooth paste formed. Turn on to floured board, make shape or shapes as desired, prick with a fork. Place on cold greased slide, cook in a slow oven ¾ hour to an hour, until a pale brown.
MY FATHER’S FAVOURITE SHORTBREAD RECIPE
Reproduced in original style from my mother’s PWMU Cookery Book 1976 Printed in Australia by Simpson Halligan Co Pty Ltd Distributed by Jolly Book Supplies, Brisbane Twenty-first edition revised and enlarged with over 200,000 copies issued
Mix 227g (1/2 lb) butter and 113g (1/4 lb) fine white sugar or icing sugar; add pinch salt and .45kg (1 lb) plain flour; knead all well together; roll out to the thickness of about half an inch, cut into rounds or finger lengths; prick with fork. Note 340g (¾ lb) flour and 113g (1/4 lb) rice flour may be substituted for .45g (1 lb) flour. Bake in slow oven about 40 minutes until fawn colour.
As part of the RSL Queensland’s ‘Light up the Dawn’ campaign, all residents are encouraged to say The Ode and take the pledge by standing in your driveway, on your balcony or in your living room at 6am on ANZAC Day to remember all those who have served. You can learn more on the link below.
Submissions are open for ‘Bedtime Yarns and Ballads from the Australian Bush’ in 2020 Share Your Story.
Here’s what coordinator, author and literary entrepreneur, Michelle Worthington has to say in her newsletter: ‘This year’s theme ‘Bedtime Yarns and Ballads from the Australian Bush’ will have judges looking for creative, engaging short stories or poems inspired by life in Australia, Australian animals, the Outback or overcoming adversity which will appeal to children aged 0 to 12 years to be read at bedtime.’
A ‘yarn’ is a rambling story, particularly one that is implausible, and poetry must be in traditional Australian ballad format. Michelle encourages writers to think of a modern version of Blinky Bill, Banjo Patterson, Dorothea Mackellar, ‘Wombat Stew’ (I add my own personal favourite ‘Snugglepot and Cuddlepie’) for a new generation of readers.
Michelle Worthington goes on to say ‘We would love aspiring authors of all ages to have the chance to be published in our next Anthology to raise money for Aussie’s doing it tough, with proceeds donated to the NSW Rural Fire Service’.
NOTE: ‘The winning entries will be included in an Anthology to be launched in October 2020, and all successful authors and illustrators will be invited as VIP Guests to the Pyjama Party Book Launch at the Queensland Children’s Hospital and locations around Australia during the launch month.’
Entries open 1 Feb 2020 and close 9pm 30 April 2020
For competition guidelines and entry requirements, visit the website to sign up for Share Your Story newsletter
Michelle Worthington is an international award-winning author and business woman. As Founder of Share Your Story Australia, she waves her wand to coach aspiring authors and illustrators all over the world to achieve their dreams of publication. Michelle is also available for speaking engagements, book signings and school visits. She runs diverse workshops, and if you are thinking of becoming a writer, check out Share Your Story or visit Facebook or contact Michelle for further information.
The book title is a typical Darwin expression with good connotations, and Mocco says she is an optimist, she lives on hope and in hope. Originally from Germany, she worked hard with what she had, overcame obstacles and adapted to Australian life with her Aussie-born daughters Susan and Kim and beloved husband Niclas.
The other love in her life is Darwin, 1950s Darwin, at the Top End of Northern Territory. No supermarkets, no fancy restaurants, definitely no air-conditioning, miles and miles of dirt roads, and at that time populated by about 8,000 people. Tough, rough and ready people at that.
The strength of a woman when put to the test reverberates powerfully through Mocco Wollert’s narrative. From good, bad and ugly circumstances, Mocco’s words shine. She comes across as forthright in her opinions, honest, funny, emotional, grumpy yet ultimately loveable. She certainly faced challenging circumstances, some which made me wince and some which would have seen me walk away, but not Mocco!
The chapters of Mocco’s book are grouped under headings, for example ‘Beginning the Adventure’, ‘Career Change’ (actually a couple of career changes) ‘Health Matters’ and ‘Decision Time’ all of which prepared me for her decade of thought-provoking reading.
Understandably there are heart-rending moments like depression in ‘A Night of Gin’ and the 1974 Cyclone Tracy devastation.
I remember sitting under our ceiling fan watching the ABCTV news on Boxing Day, 26th December, as black and white film footage showed our nation the flattened landscape which was once Darwin. On a lighter note, it was rebuilt and continues to thrive, as did Mocco. Small moments often stick and I enjoyed Mocco’s recollection of wigs and frizz hair-related matters in ‘Hairdressers’ where men were taboo.
Under the subheading ‘Sport’ on page 211, I think this paragraph typifies the tenacity of Darwinites and perhaps a large area of northern Australia. “In spite of the heat and humidity, people played sport. Golf was Niclas’ passion and he became quite a good golfer with a handicap of 16. Watching today’s golf tournaments on television, I marvel at the green fairways and manicured greens. There was none of this in Darwin. The fairways were rough and, in the dry season, as dusty as a (cattle) station in drought. The ‘greens’ were sandy plains without a blade of grass.”
There are 47 photographs throughout the book, vivid examples of the era, and a pictorial of Darwin homelife which includes Mocco in weather so scorching she wore a bikini to hang washing on the Hills Hoist. And there is a great little story behind the snapshot of her small daughter meeting Queen Elizabeth II. Not telling, you’ll have to read the book!
‘Bloody Bastard Beautiful’ is Mocco Wollert’s tribute to Darwin, an intimate recollection of a more rugged time in 20th century Australia, told openly and honestly, and ultimately life-affirming.
Born in Germany but a true-blue Darwinite by 1960, Mocco Wollert is now a recognised poet and author who lives in Brisbane, Australia.
Mocco has nine poetry books published as well as winning prizes for poems published in newspapers and anthologies.
Late last year at Brisbane GenreCon, I said hello to Darren Koziol, mastermind behind Australian comic books DarkOz. His display table was beside ours and I was lured over by the bright yet disturbing cover of the Retro Sci-Fi Tales Christmas Special #1 December 2019. I purchased a copy and three quirky Christmas cards were thrown into the deal.
After chatting to Darren and learning about his creative skills and the help he gives budding comic book creators, I expressed interest in ‘The Comic Book Manifesto: Making Comic Books In Australia’.
Even coming from a non-comic book person like me, I feel this booklet gets to the essence of creating artwork and design and offers inspiration for those interested in furthering their artistic abilities.
It’s a small volume which packs a punch; under the heading Influences & Individuality, Mike Speakman says ‘Seek out advice from your peers, listen to it all, but remember to put your own spin on things.’
It was a week before I managed to fully read my copy of this idiosyncratic Christmas Special but I loved the tall tales and clever retro illustrations. Inside, two wacky characters Bruno and Maggie feature in three comics—the one I particularly liked was ‘Space Elevator’. Original, creepy, humorous with a twist in the alien tale. Being retro, the slant was towards American-style comics but I was pleased to see ‘Great Australian Bight Bite’, short, sweet, deadly.
When I was a kid, the exaggerated reactions and cryptic comments from characters in comic books never really appealed. Like most people, I seem to remember Lee Falk’s ‘The Phantom’ in our daily newspaper alongside the funnies but I think for over ten years Charles Schulz and ‘Peanuts’ blitzed all else for me. Now I have greater respect for the patience, skill and hard work involved in comic book production.
Comic books have come a long way! Or have they? Happily the tradition lives on.
Bushfire devastation across rural Australia, everything and everyone is at risk, rain is desperately needed, it will arrive too late for many, let’s pray many thousands will be spared the burning embers ♥Gretchen Bernet-Ward
Trees are dropping leaves to survive and the ground is like iron. Just the other morning I watered my Dendrobium orchid and the long buds were tightly closed. Drought conditions have sent the ants in all directions in search of sustenance but even they were absent.
In the afternoon I returned from lunch with friends and à la voile! There was my tree orchid in full bloom!
Springtime is not properly acknowledged in my garden until this orchid flowers. It is always my September spectacular.
Australian orchidstend to be small, for instance the Cooktown Orchid which is the floral emblem of Queensland, but this species is large and robust. The dull afternoon light does not do justice to its display.
A semi deciduous pink-flowering orchid, it is ‘probably’ native to Australia, a Dendrobium Nobile, and in this case has been grown as an epiphyte – tree hugger. It has been in the family for over forty years and needs basically no care at all. The blooms have a very faint fragrance.
Why I say ‘probably’ native to Australia is because I always thought it came from the Pacific region. In fact, originally its forebears came from northern India/southern China where it would have been quite used to extremes in temperature.
Then I discovered hybrids have been produced. These can be subdivided into two types, the ‘English’ and ‘Japanese’ type, and later I read this historical document courtesy of The Shambles, a country garden at Montville in south-east Queensland:
Dendrobium nobileReliable soft cane epiphytic orchid. We have many unnamed flower colour varieties from mauve, pink and white range. A trouble-free orchid flowering in spring. Introduced to Britain c.1836 by Loddiges’ Nursery. Requested from Loddiges’ Nursery on 1st February 1849 for Camden Park NSW Australia and obtained from them, brought out from England by Captain P. P. King in that year. India www.qos.org.au 1A.1885, 13.1900/1,15.Camden Orchid walk, West Garden, near back stairs, Blue trellis garden, Rain forest walk.
After reading the Wagga Orchid Society PDF (link below) and using a bit of guesstimation, years later my orchid could have been transported from the Riverina region of New South Wales, Australia, on consignment to a Brisbane plant nursery.
I now look at my tree orchid in awe and wonderment – such a lineage.
The following shot was taken a few days later in much better sunlight. There was a bee hovering around but it refused to be photographed.
P.S. If you are interested in lovely flowers and picturesque settings in rural countryside, I can recommend a visit to the website and blogspot of The Shambles country garden, Montville, Queensland.
It was a nice surprise to discover an older piece of writing I’d forgotten, particularly when it still holds up.
My overview of Fiona McIntosh’s historical fiction “Tapestry” was penned for Top 40 Book Club Reads 2015, a regular Brisbane City Council Library Service booklet written and compiled by unacknowledged library staff.
The book—billed as timeslip fiction—has a layered plot and it was hard to write a 100 word description without sounding too stilted. McIntosh chose settings in two countries, Australia and Britain, in two different eras of history. I particularly liked the second half in 1715 within the Tower of London.
After visiting the Tower of London to research her book, McIntosh had “An unforgettable day and I attribute much of the story’s atmosphere to that marvellous afternoon and evening in the Tower of London with the Dannatts when the tale of Lady Nithsdale and my own Tapestry came alive in my imagination.”
Author Fiona McIntosh has written quite a stack of books set in many parts of the world, and in different genres: Non-Fiction, Historical Romantic-Adventure, Timeslip, Fantasy – Adult, Fantasy – Children, and Crime.
Check your local library catalogue in person or online.
In order of appearance, the Brisbane Libraries Top 40 book club recommendations for 2015—I have not read Poe Ballantine’s chilling tale “Love and Terror on the Howling Plains of Nowhere” and I may never read it—See how many titles you’ve read!
The Visionist; Moriarty; Tapestry; The Bone Clocks; California; Z – Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald; The Mandarin Code; Merciless Gods; Upstairs at the Party; Friendship; Birdsong; Heat and Light; Time and Time Again; What Was Promised; The Austen Project; The Paying Guests; The Exile – An Outlander Graphic Novel; Lost and Found; Amnesia; Cop Town; Mr Mac and Me; Nora Webster; The Girl Who Saved the King of Sweden; Inspector McLean – Dead Men’s Bones; The Soul of Discretion; We Were Liars; Stone Mattress – Nine Tales; Family Secrets; South of Darkness; The Claimant; This House of Grief; She Left Me the Gun; Mona Lisa – A Life Discovered; The Silver Moon; Revolution; Love and Terror on the Howling Plains of Nowhere; What Days Are For; Mistress; Warning – The Story of Cyclone Tracy; The Birth of Korean Cool.
Here are my notes from the book review I presented at my local Crime And Mystery Book Club which meets once a month in our local library. Most of the participants had similar reviews. ♥Gretchen Bernet-Ward.
It is said Jimmy Barnes is the heart and soul of Australian rock and roll…if you like his style. His rasping voice was the sound of the Eighties and everyone knew his song lyrics. Four decades later and he’s still going strong.
James Dixon ‘Jimmy’ Barnes (né Swan) was born in Glasgow, Scotland on 28 April 1956 and raised in Elizabeth, South Australia. His career as the lead vocalist with the rock band Cold Chisel, and later as a solo performer, has made him one of the most popular and best-selling Australian music artists of all time.
From 1973–present, Barnes career has spanned singer-songwriter-musician with vocals, guitar, harmonica and flute and he has received tonnes of music awards (and two Australian Book Industry awards) been inducted twice into the ARIAHall of Fame and presented with the Order Of Australia medal.
Underneath the gravelly vocals and rough exterior, Jimmy Barnes struggled with an inferiority complex which manifested itself in alcohol and drug addiction for many years. The question on everyone’s lips was ‘How did he survive?’ Barnes wrote two autobiographies ‘Working Class Boy’ and ‘Working Class Man’ to answer this question.
I doubt his first book ‘Working Class Boy’ (published 2016) was fully edited. Raw and basic, it is a litany of hope, fear, addiction and the search for acceptance. Acceptance from his violent father, his mates and his audience. He writes about childhood abuse, how he ran amok through the towns of Elizabeth and Adelaide and later the Australian east coast, singing, drinking, finding a dealer, finding a girl and not sleeping for 24 hours or more. A son, performer David Campbell, is the result of a fling in his teenage years. Barnes’ second father, the man whose name he adopted, was a mentor of sorts until rock music became the epicentre of his life.
Barnes second book, a sequel titled ‘Working Class Man’ (published 2017) chronicles his thoughts of suicide and his continuous drug-taking and excessive alcohol consumption to the point of tedium. A horrible thing to say when I think of the mental and physical torment he was trying to escape. Still, it didn’t stop him singing—albeit clutching a Vodka bottle on stage every night—nor did it stop him gaining more and more success and greater financial stability as his music career took off. He began to live the life of a rock star.
Then Jimmy Barnes body let him down. After surgery, he tried to calm down and write his life story. It’s not a pretty read, examining old memories, but it’s honest. There are plenty of photographs and name-dropping, and Barnes talks about his wife Jane Mahoney, their children and extended family. He is now a grandfather and this shocked me the most!
“If you want to write a memoir, you’ve got to be ready to bare your soul” Jimmy Barnes
No rating because of the ‘chicken and egg’ situation, did his fame boost the books or did the books boost his fame?
Coming out of a hot dry summer, March weather is beginning to soften the sky and offer the cooler, more gentle mornings of autumn. There is no definite change of season, just a calmness, almost a feeling of relief after the insistent tropical heat.
Apart from, whack, an insect, there’s something serene and relaxing about strolling through a garden, touching leaves, sniffing flowers, following a creek and hearing the splash of a small waterfall through the trees.
To quote Rudyard Kipling “The Glory of the Garden it shall never pass away!” so…
Here’s what I experienced one lovely morning…
Arriving early at the Brisbane Mt Coot-tha Botanic Gardens, I strolled through a cool, green gully and thought it was strange to be in a capital city yet hear no traffic sounds. I floated along, enjoying the stillness, until my personal calm was shattered when the garden crew came on duty and the leaf- blowing brigade roared into action. I had to wait until one fellow walked out of shot to photograph Xanthorrhoea australis, the Grass-trees (below; left). The atmosphere shuffled its feathers and tranquility returned.
Wooden bridges and flowing streams…
Leisurely, I followed the meandering paths across bridges and green lawns, enjoying the mild sunshine. Strolling down a slope, I came to a bracken-lined watercourse then walked up a gentle incline towards king ferns, piccabeen palms and towering hoop pines. I’ve never fully traversed the 56 hectare (138 acre) area which displays mainly eastern Australian plants.
You can spot Eastern Water Dragons (lizards) and geckos as they scurry out of sight or get a giggle watching the many varieties of water fowl, ducking and diving in the lake. Feeding wildlife is not allowed and I couldn’t entice them into an appealing photograph.
Sculptural features are ‘casually’ placed throughout the gardens and I think the most alluring is a silver fern seat (below; left) with interesting support.
Beside the pond and beneath the trees…
The Japanese Garden (below; entrance and pond) offers soothing symmetry and a waterlily’s single bloom. Nearby the concert bandstand has grass seating surrounded by trees with foliage of different patterns and colours. Around me, there’s a multitude of subtropical shrubs, cycads and flowers with names I never remember. You will notice that I do not attempted to be horticultural! A bit further along, in the arid zone, resides a sci-fi concoction of exotic cacti. The culinary, fragrant and medicinal herb gardens are pure indulgence. But if herbs aren’t your thing, the pungent eucalypt is my favourite and walking the Aboriginal Plant Trail with its edible food plants.
Biodiversity and water reflections…
The stillness of the morning created pleasing reflections on the lagoon which is fed by rainwater captured from the hills. You can choose between typical heathland or wetland regions made easily accessible for suburban folk. The Conservation Collection includes rare and endangered species in their natural habitats and I entered the steamy, geodesic hothouse (below; left) where equatorial plants are nurtured. My face beads in sweat, it’s not a place for humans to linger too long. Time for an ice-cream!
Tropical Display Dome at Brisbane Botanic Gardens, Mt Coot-tha, is a large lattice structure (geodesic) displaying plants from the tropics. A pathway winds upwards through the dome building, wrapping around a central pond with water plants.
Look outside the Botanic Gardens…
Outside the entry are several buildings of interest: Sir Thomas Brisbane Planetarium (below; saved from extinction by a vocal community uprising) large carpark, small art studio, specialist library and auditorium providing a variety of events. I have booked a place in a workshop Monoprinting Australian Native Plants, so a blog post may be forthcoming. The new Visitor Information centre offers guided walks and Gardens Café has the ice-cream. The two white-coated fellows outside the café are entomologists, surviving statues from World Expo 88.
Pandas and children have a special treat…
The Mt Coot-tha Botanic Gardens Children’s Trail is a hide-and-seek ramble through the shady rainforest garden with special works of art dotted along the way and I couldn’t resist following it myself. Check out the wacky weathervane! And a log for native stingless Sugarbag bees. Mother and baby Panda bears enjoy the bamboo; they are a special fabrication of laser-cut aluminium by Australian sculptor Mark Andrews.
Parks and gardens change with horticultural trends. The smaller City Botanic Gardens are older and more formal, in keeping with the style of previous centuries, but I prefer the softness of Mt Coot-tha Botanic Gardens. As the world becomes more populated and natural plant life decreases, Brisbane city dwellers like me need our botanical gardens to nourish and refresh our screen-dependant interior lives.
Tropical lagoon and green algae swirls at Mt Coot-tha Botanic Gardens, Brisbane, Australia 2019
Today 11/11/2018 is the Centenary of Armistice and Remembrance Day in Australia.
We remember those who fought and those who died––
At 11am on 11 November 1918 the armistice treaty, which Germany had signed earlier that morning, came into effect. The Great War, the ‘war to end all wars’ which had begun on 28 July 1914 was finally over.
Like millions of other Australians, I’ll follow tradition and observe a two-minute silence at 11am (no matter where I am) to honour the 420,000 men who enlisted and the 62,000 who didn’t return.
In Flanders Fields
Poem by Dr John McCrae, May 1915
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
A local newspaper notice attracted my attention. Did I read that correctly? A camel farm excursion? Here is the true story of my expedition into camel territory.
I’d heard about camel milk and wanted to know more, so I contacted the organiser National Seniors secretary. Of course, they had me at “camels” but when I see meals included, I’m there. The itinerary read “East Coast Coach depart 9am and arrive Summer Land Camel Farm, Harrisville, morning tea and guided farm tour. Lunch at Commercial Hotel (adjoining Thirsty Camel bottleshop) before travelling home via scenic route 4pm.” Hooked and booked!
On boarding the coach, I was given a warm National Seniors welcome, and on disembarking the coach 45 minutes later, the first thing I noticed was the vast blue sky over Summer Land Camel Farm. A rolling vista spread out around me. In the distance the smudged outline of the Scenic Rim, part of the Great Dividing Range, and in the foreground hundreds of camels! It was an odd sight, camels of different sizes grazing in the paddocks, until I realised they were at home in the landscape.
Now, first let’s clear up some camel falsehoods. Camels do not spit but alpacas do. Camel footpads are better suited to protect vegetation than cows and horses. Of course, it’s common knowledge that a camel can walk over a hundred kilometres without water and carry heavier loads than a horse. But did you know that they are excellent swimmers? Who’d have thought but it’s true.
We strolled to the beautiful old Queenslander homestead where a spread of fresh scones, homemade jam and cream awaited. Then we realised what we were eating. The white fromage cream I dobbed on my scones and the milk in my coffee were not from a dairy cow but a camel. Delicious! And, as we subsequently found out, very good for our digestive tract. Camel milk is like an immune boost, an anti-inflammatory which can benefit our gut, skin and hair.
I loved meeting the camels at the fence, talking to them as they blinked their long eyelashes, obviously assessing if I had anything edible in my hand. When they saw the camera, I believe they actually posed, holding quite still while I took full advantage of this photo opportunity. See the camel on the right smiling! Everything was peaceful and the air smelt fresh. No camel aroma wafting on the breeze. Then my models wheeled away to check out an inviting dust bath.
In Australia we have dromedary camels, one hump. The dromedary is the smaller of the two species of camel and female gestation period is 13-14 months or around 410 days. I saw a baby camel, 24-hours old, all spindly legs, wobbling and flopping yet determined to stand. I asked if I could sponsor a camel, an adorable critter to watch grow up. Not yet, but one day this may be possible. In the meantime I joined the Summer Land Camels Club and harbour happy thoughts of riding a camel on my next visit.
Our group walked to a vast shed where the cheese, cream and milk are tested and processed. We sat in the breezeway while Jeff Flood, biochemist and immunotherapist, delivered an intelligent, informative and heartfelt talk on all things camel. Even biomes got a mention, and Jeff is very open about the farm operations. I wished my school days had involved such an absorbing field trip.
A passionate cameleer from a farming background, Jeff Flood is CEO and co-founder of Summer Land Camel Farm, the largest of its kind in Australia. Apart from playing rugby and completing several scientific degrees, he discovered that the immune protein and nutritional content of camel milk has healing benefits, showing positive results when used to treat his young son’s eczema.
Then onward to the open-air camel dairy, where we learned the long road to milking. Camel milk and by-products are not high volume in Australia but its the largest commercial-scale camel dairy operation outside the Middle East and the third largest of its kind in the world. Jeff and co-founder Paul Martin are training wild camels, breeding, researching, testing and pioneering the way. Not only for Australia but the rest of the world. Why can’t camel milk sit in the fridge next to other beverage flavourings? Camellatté has a nice ring to it.
Jeff is concerned for the welfare of camels and told us some horrible yet true stories of the brutal decimation of the wild camel population in Australia. The camel is a neglected animal among the policymakers. Incorrect data is perpetuated to this day, mainly through ignorance and government propaganda.
During the tour, it became obvious to me that camels have been given a raw deal. They are well-suited to our Australian climate and in some ways more beneficial than imported European farm animals. A bit of racism involved here? Camels do not have top teeth yet they like rugged food; they can eat feral weed plants such as prickly pear and they don’t need lush green pastures to thrive. During drought years, companion-herds of camels and cows survive better. Camels can act as watchdogs, they have the intelligence of a six year-old child which is greater than a dog. Plus they can take you on very, very long walks!
Back at the homestead, we enjoyed some taste-testing and Summer Land Camel Farm staff excelled with their hospitality. Unlike almond milk or soy milk, I had an instant attraction to camel milk. It suited my palate without the “I’ll get used to it” phase. Being lactose-intolerant, that’s a blessing. I perused items for sale; from camel milk and cheeses through to soap, hand-cream and artwork by Fiona. If you forget the Esky, cold bags can be purchased for a nominal amount and my Camel Persian Feta and other goodies were safely tucked away.
Time to head off down the road and partake of a pub lunch at the Commercial Hotel in Harrisville. After our meal, we strolled around the small township. I looked left and right before crossing the road but it wasn’t really necessary.
The coach swayed gently as we headed homeward, and I was pondering this enjoyable day out when my thoughts reached a conclusion. I had looked into the eyes of a camel and seen a friendly, interested gaze. I think the world needs more friendly interest in camels. And more camel milk in coffee!