Check out these camel hairstyles! Proud cameleers display their abilities in various competitions from camel racing to designer shearing. Love those patterns! Camels are versatile, thriving in harsh desert conditions similar to the Australian outback. Since visiting a local camel dairy farm, I read the blog of Dr Raziq of Communities Animal Genetic Resources and Food Security to discover more about the biodiversity of original camel country. And beautiful camel hair designs. ♥Gretchen Bernet-Ward
The region of the Indo-Pak is rich with camel culture. Camel is an integral part of the heritage of the camel keepers’ communities in the region. As a source of livelihood, a camel is also a tool of recreation and entertainment also. This picture is about the haircut competition of great Thar desert. One can see the artistic theme of the designer/hair cutter.
The barbers make different designs according to the desire of the camel keepers/owners. Such designs are made by art loving, son of the soil, and very specialized barbers. The barbers are well known and have very busy days in the season. The season of the design is usually the cooler months of the year as the camel sheds his wool in the hotter months of the year. The complete design of a camel takes 2 to 5 hours, based on the size of the camel and the design of the…
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
Nasturtiums like to grow free-range in the sun with well-drained soil but I planted the seeds in an old hanging basket under the verandah and watched their lifespan over three months from warm September mornings in springtime to steamy January afternoons in summertime.
This post is not going to bore you.
It contains essential household information.
I’m recycling and happy to do it!
Here’s the REDcycle list of scrunchable plastics.
Biscuit packets (outer wrapper only)
Bread bags (without the tie)
Bubble wrap (large sheets cut into A3 size pieces)
Cat and dog food pouches (as clean and dry as possible)
Cellophane from bunches of flowers (cut into A3 size pieces)
Cereal box liners
Chip and cracker packets (silver lined)
Chocolate and snack bar wrappers
Cling Wrap – free of food residue
Dry pet food bags
Fresh produce bags
Frozen food bags
Green bags (Polypropylene Bags)
Ice cream wrappers
Large sheets of plastic that furniture comes wrapped in (cut into A3 size pieces)
Netting produce bags (any metal clips removed)
Newspaper and magazine wrap
Plastic Australia Post satchels
Plastic carrier bags from all stores
Plastic film wrap from grocery items such as nappies and toilet paper
Potting mix and compost bags – both the plastic and woven polypropylene types (cut into A3 size pieces and free of as much product as possible)
Rice bags – both plastic and the woven type (if large, cut into A3 size pieces)
Snap lock bags / zip lock bags
Squeeze pouches with lid on (e.g. yogurt/baby food)
Wine bladders – clear plastic ones only
Please make sure your plastic is dry and as empty as possible.
Any rigid plastic such as meat trays, biscuit trays or strawberry punnets
Balloons (of any kind)
Blister packs, tablets and capsule packaging
Blow up pools and pool toys – plastic or PVC
Bread bag tags
Christmas tinsel and Christmas trees
Disposable food handling gloves of any variety
Film negatives and x-rays
Foam or polystyrene of any kind
Foil / Alfoil of any kind
Laminated materials and overhead transparencies
Medical waste materials
Paper and cardboard
Paper post packs
Plastic/clear vinyl packaging from sheets and doonas etc
Plastic packaging that has contained meat
Plastic strapping used for securing boxes and pallets
Powdered milk packets, made of foil
Rubber, rubber gloves, latex
Wet plastic materials as mould is a problem for us
Wine bladders – foil based
Wrapping paper and cardboard, ribbons or bows
The “NO” items should be recycled in the usual way. Please note the REDcycle Program has been developed for post-consumer household plastic. Participating supermarkets are not obliged to accept large volumes of commercial plastic waste. Please visit http://www.redcycle.net.au/
Well, it might have been a bit boring but I bet it was helpful!
The Koala is a laidback leaf-muncher who gets hassled by the bad boys of the Aussie bush. Not by other native animals but tree-lopping developers and domestic pets. Koalas are a unique marsupial which needs human protection to survive. And eucalyptus trees, of course.
At Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary, an 18-hectare Koala conservation park in the Brisbane suburb of Fig Tree Pocket, Queensland, there is a new facility dedicated to Koala health and well-being. I paid them a visit to learn more…
The Koala (Phascolarctos cinereus, not a bear) is an arboreal herbivorous marsupial native to Australia. It is the only extant representative of the family Phascolarctidae and its closest living relatives are the wombats.
To quote the KOALA SCIENCE COMMUNITY dedicated to Research, Connect, Protect:
“United by a common purpose to conserve koalas across their range, Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary and Brisbane City Council worked together to build and establish the Brisbane Koala Science Institute, located at the sanctuary in Brisbane, Queensland. The Institute and this online community are further supported by Lone Pine’s not-for-profit organisation, the Research for Nature Foundation, which will help fund various South-East Queensland koala projects, in partnership with local scientists, researchers, and industry professionals.
At the unique Brisbane Koala Science Institute at leafy Lone Pine, I was pleasantly surprised at how much Koala information I absorbed in a short space of time. There are interactive (and multilingual) displays, research labs with public viewing areas and a koala observation area.
♥ Koalas have special teeth for grinding down eucalyptus leaves which ferment creating sleeping patterns which mean they can sleep more than 18 hours a day. ♥ Koalas have large, strong claws to help them climb smooth-barked eucalyptus trees. ♥ A Koala baby, joey, lives in the mother’s pouch for six months then grows up to become a big eater, consuming about one kilogram of eucalyptus leaves per day. ♥ Koalas front paws can grip small branches as they reach for the juiciest leaves. ♥ Koala lifespan is between 10 to 16 years which naturally depends on environmental conditions.
Although I focused on the Koala, there are many more unique Australian species to see here, from kangaroos to cockatoos, eagles to emus in a beautiful bushland setting. I recommend the following link and video highlights featuring all the wildlife residents of Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary:
These vivid flowers would be perfect at Christmas time. But, no, this spectacular red Callistemon, an Australian native Bottlebrush, flowers in springtime and early summer.It has long fluffy tubular flowers that look beautiful in gardens and taste delicious to all kinds of native birds, insects and other wildlife. The flower 'brushes' are so soft, not spiky at all.There were two Rainbow Lorikeets hiding in the branches, eating the nectar and chatting away, but they wouldn’t keep still for a snapshot.I saw this long row of flowering plants in an industrial-type setting in Brisbane yet Callistemon grows in every location, tall shady trees to knee-high potted shrubs and used as groundcover.Information from this website Australian Plants Online Flowering Callistemon indicates that I’ve photographed 'Hannah Ray' which is 4 metres high and suitable for streetscapes.It brightened my September day!♥Gretchen Bernet-Ward
You are invited to follow my pictorial efforts in home-growing mandarin trees with no experience and limited resources. Nothing by the book, just me planting seeds and hoping Mother Nature does the rest. I’m not even sure if you have to dry the seeds first!
I was unsure if my takeaway coffee cup was recyclable or not. Turns out it wasn’t. The thin liner of plastic made it non-recyclable no matter how much paper is covering the outside.
I’m going to do my bit to eliminate environmental pollution and stop landfill waste by thinking ahead.
Shops like BioMe have many alternatives to plastic products. Use your own keep-me cup, cutlery, even drinking straw.
Be like the knights and pilgrims of old who used their own plate and dagger to eat food.
Or the old-fashioned picnic when everything was brought from home in a wicker basket, and everything (except the yummy food) was taken back home. This may need to be modified but if a child can take a lunchbox to school, why can’t an adult take one to work?
I’ve always been prudent with water consumption (Australia, land of drought) and mindful of electricity usage but Craig Reucassel‘s ABCTV program War On Waste is an eye-opening indictment on the lack of thought we put into the disposal of our single-use products.
In a couple of posts, I have talked about the plastics ban and slow clothing (I’ve purchased bamboo underwear) but not really deliberated food waste. I’m going to buy a Bokashi bucket to ferment and recycle kitchen leftovers (no longer have scrap-eating chickens) and get an outdoor compost bin because I think we all have to make an effort to turn around our throwaway society.
Don’t you love being on the verge of discovering a new author, that feeling of anticipating! Look at the beautiful location where romance writer Annie Seaton is holding the book launch for her latest release Whitsunday Dawn––in the Whitsunday Islands at beautiful Coral Sea Resort.
“Ecological impact, divided loyalties and the pristine beauty of the Whitsundays under threat, can mining spokesperson Olivia Sheridan expose the truth in time?” Author Annie Seaton brings to life a new era of romance and eco-adventure. Perfect for fans of Di Morrissey and a sun-kissed tropical lifestyle.
As WP readers will know, I’m not usually a romance reader but I’m rather taken by the beautiful location of this all-Australian story. Watch out for my review.
On her website Annie says “I am truly blessed to live by the beach on the east coast of Australia. I am following my lifelong dream of writing, and discovering that readers love reading my stories as much as I love writing them is awesome. It’s what keeps me at my desk each day when the garden and the beach are calling to me!
“You can read of the topical human and social issues I explore in Kakadu Sunset, Daintree and Diamond Sky. My latest release with Harlequin Mira WHITSUNDAY DAWN (August 2018) is an historical/contemporary story set in the Whitsunday Islands in 1943 and 2017.
“My inspiration comes from the natural beauty of our Australian landscapes and I’m passionate about raising awareness of the need to preserve the pristine areas that surround us.”
Will you be in the vicinity of the wonderful Whitsundays? Visit the launch of Annie Seaton’s newest book WHITSUNDAY DAWN being held on Friday 7 September 2018 at Coral Sea Resort Jetty, Airlie Beach, Queensland. A welcome drink then cash bar will be available with complimentary gourmet nibbles and canapes from the Coral Sea Resort kitchen. RSVP via Facebook https://www.facebook.com/AnnieSeatonAuthor/
READING: Saw the heading “The genre debate: Literary fiction” and I was hooked when Austen aficionado and author Elizabeth Edmondson said “literary fiction is just clever marketing”. and continued…
In the third of The Guardian’s series on literary definitions “Jane Austen never for a moment imagined she was writing Literature. Posterity decided that––not her, not John Murray, not even her contemporary readership. She wrote fiction, to entertain and to make money.” followed by…
“Genre fiction is a nasty phrase––when did genre turn into an adjective? But I object to the term for a different reason. It’s weasel wording, in that it conflates lit fic with literature. It was clever marketing by publishers to set certain contemporary fiction apart and declare it Literature––and therefore Important, Art and somehow better than other writing.” with mandatory…
“Which brings me to the touchy subject of literary snobbery. Perhaps I should call it LitSnob. Lit fic: good. Popular, commercial, trash and pulp fiction: bad.” there’s more…
The Guardian report is from her speech given at an Oxford Literary Festival debate and was first published Monday 21 April 2014. Sadly Elizabeth Edmondson (Aston) passed away 11 January 2016. GBW.
LOOKING:Love reading the adult works of author Nick Earls and can brag that I had tenuous, almost ethereal, contact with the man at a book-related charity event. Okay, he was in the same room and he did nod hello. By some weird default in the booking system, I was seated at the head table with Mr Earls and treated like a VIP. I kept getting covert glances from the other diners, socialites wondering who the heck I was. I felt nervous but not intimidated.
Anyway, I have just enjoyed watching a short YouTube video ofNick Earlstalking about his children’s book series “Word Hunters: The Curious Dictionary” co-written with Terry Whidborne. Also, author and bloggerKate Forsythdid a goodbook review.
Promo blurb reads “Twins Lexi and Al Hunter stumble upon an old dictionary and the world as they know it changes. They are blasted into history to hunt down words that threaten to vanish from our past and our present.” And use word nails – sorry, the video is no longer available but you can read the publishers PDF notes for teachers here. GBW.
THINKING: (My apologies because part of this post was accidentally released earlier)Reusing old books, repurposing their mellow covers and yellow pages into something other than pulp––there are good illustrations on this subject but I was musing about reusing the forgotten cotton carry bags in our car boot. Whatever we buy, potatoes, pistachios, mangoes or marshmallows, we will need to bring our own grocery bags to supermarkets in Queensland from 1st July 2018. Plastic bags are banned. The perfect opportunity to reuse single-use carry bags with huge logos on them, like the paper Folio Books bag in muted charcoal with strong handles which currently houses old draft manuscripts.
I’m sure my grandmother’s 1950s wicker shopping basket is in the garage somewhere. It’s the original multiple-use item. Imagine me with the arched handle hooked over my arm, resting in the crook of my elbow, as I peruse the iceberg lettuces for just the right one. A chip off the old block? That’s how my grandmother used to shop with nary a polyethylene-sealed item in sight.
Here’s to the olden days and onward to a cleaner, healthier environment! GBW.
Remember, one post with three acts READING, LOOKING, THINKING an idea started by Book Jotter, innovative blogger Paula Bardell-Hedley. Her invitation to participate offers a slight change from ‘Thinking’ to ‘Doing’ if that suits your purpose but I’m sticking with the first format. I can love, like or loathe in three short bursts!
Are you participating in Earth Hour? Join the largest global movement for the environment. On Saturday 24 March 2018 switch off – then do it again every year. Make an earth-friendly statement towards our planet’s future. Commit to a sustainable world!
Have a cosy night in.
Light all the candles you can find.
Turn off all your lights.
Turn off the television.
Turn off the phone.
Turn off all electronic devices.
Sit in your favourite place.
Talk, laugh, eat and relax.
Be aware of the darkness of night.
Gaze into the candle flames.
Feel drowsy, feel peaceful.
One hour goes fast.
Maybe sit there a bit longer…
In Australia, Earth Hour will start at 8:30pm. Join millions of people in over 180 countries who are switching off their lights for Earth Hour as a symbolic gesture to show the need for stronger climate action. Are you ready to join the movement? It’s time to switch off and #Connect2Earth.
Earth Hour ambassador, Lucas Handley, says “For me, Earth hour isn’t just about saving energy for that one hour – it’s a visual recognition that we are all part of an interconnected community; capable and committed to finding a more sustainable and earth-friendly direction for our society.” Q&A with Lucas Handley
Maybe it’s because I was brought up by post-war parents that I am shocked at the staggering amount of food waste in Brisbane. I could not understand why our local Government has joined the world-wide campaign Love Food Hate Waste. Surely you only buy, cook and eat what you need and freeze leftovers?
Apparently for millions of households, it’s not that simple!
The Council brochure states “Love Food Hate Waste was launched in 2007 by Waste and Resources Action Program (WRAP) in the United Kingdom followed by New Zealand, Canada and Australia. With food waste making up 37% of the average Brisbane rubbish bin, 1 in 5 shopping bags of food ends up in the bin. That’s 97,000 tonnes of food thrown away every year. There are simple and practical changes which residents can make in the kitchen to reduce food waste; planning, preparation and storage of food will make a big difference to your wallet and keep Brisbane clean, green and sustainable.”
Scramble over the mat, don’t trip on the dog, here’s a tasty listicle of Council wisdom prepared earlier:
Plan meals ahead – create a meal plan based on what is already in your fridge, freezer and pantry.
Shop mindfully – stick to your shopping list!
Store food correctly – Learn how to store food to ensure it lasts as long as possible and check your refrigerator is functioning at maximum efficiency.
Cook with care – Without controlling portions, we tend to waste food when we prepare or cook too much. Remember fruit and vegetables ripen quickly and are best consumed daily.
Love your leftovers – Freeze leftovers to use for lunches, keep for snacks, or add to another main meal.
Consider composting – Turn your kitchen scraps into rich nutrients for your garden, get a Bokashi bucket, consider owning pets like chickens or guinea pigs.
Join a community garden – Composting hubs operate in selected community gardens.
Six-week food waste challenge – Every week the Council will provide step-by-step information on how you can reduce food waste in your home. Seriously.
We are over-stocked, over-fed and over-indulgent of our taste buds. Or as my dear mother would say “Your eyes are bigger than your stomach.”
When I discovered this link to Karlie Noon and her life as an Indigenous scientist, I also learned about predicting the weather from a moon halo.
Karlie Noon, interviewed by Marc Fennell on NITV Australia/SBS The Feed, was the first Indigenous woman in NSW to graduate with a double degree in mathematics and physics… but Indigenous Australians have been practicing science long before universities were teaching it. There is evidence in the form of rock art depicting Indigenous knowledge before Galileo, Newton or Kepler made their discoveries.
This video delves into Karlie’s early life, visits the instrumentation building for space exploration and explains the reading of a moon halo.
Darin Jenneskens, 11, reads through the first few pages of a Hardy Boys mystery while relaxing against an aisle of books at the new Plummer Public Library. The new facility opened to the public Monday.
Initially I was gathering images for a compilation to promote reading but, instead, my gallery became a montage of book-reading men and boys over the last two centuries, photographed and painted, famous or otherwise. With every viewing, the images reshuffle. A montage of book-reading women and girls can be found under Part One.
Initially I was gathering images for a compilation to promote reading but, instead, my gallery became a montage of book-reading women and girls over the last two centuries, photographed, painted, and one carved in marble. With every viewing, the images reshuffle. A montage of book-reading men and boys can be found under Part Two.
September and spring is emerging in the southern hemisphere. And my garden!
I have just found out what Crocosmia means! Small, brightly coloured funnel-shaped blooms, sword-shaped foliage, grown from bulbs similar to the Iris family. Grouped together they make ideal, butterfly-friendly floral displays. Such a variety of colours and shapes to gladden the heart of any artistic gardener.
On Gardenia Creating Gardens website, companion planting with Crocosmia is reminiscent of English cottage gardens (see below) although they are natives of South Africa. I haven’t planted Crocosmia, I should, they tolerate Brisbane’s subtropical climate, humidity, heat and current drought-like conditions.
Since Queensland won’t be getting tropical rainfall for a couple of months yet, I will satisfy myself with what I can photograph in my own meagre garden; and add excerpts from some famous poems about springtime.
For the last 20 years my lawn have been maintained by a variety of lawn mower men. You might say I’m an expert in using and losing lawn mower men. Some were franchised, many were independent, two were uni students, and my current bloke is the son of a former lawn mowing man. They all have one thing in common, they have stories to tell. From tyre-like snakes to the ubiquitous naked housewife, they would arrive from their last job, either wide-eyed or totally unmoved at what people do or generally don’t do in their gardens.
An interesting fact, little documented, is that lawn mowing men are commonly escaping the grind of an intense and soul-destroying job. They like the fresh air, the physical aspect, their own timetable and the odd cash in hand. I have heard about their families, their weekend activities and their apologies for why they have to charge me more for trimming the edges. I’ve given up querying those five minute extras. Some have used a whipper-snipper over the whole garden and one modern man used a ride-on mower. The noise and the results were equally bad but they didn’t come back. Which is a blessed relief. You can read about my suburban garden in Garden Notes.
In the beginning I used to offer these men a cold drink on a hot day but increasingly I have noticed they bring their own beverages. Once I offered a craggy old fellow a yoghurt ice-cream on a stick, thinking it would be cooling, but he refused telling me he didn’t like that sort of stuff. The stories are real but I have used pseudonyms throughout so let’s call him Doug. Doug had experienced “that sort of stuff” before. Without yoghurt but involving a Naked Lady.
Doug was mowing the front lawn when he glanced up and saw the homeowner standing naked in the front window. She was unperturbed but he was flustered. At the end of his job, Doug went to the door and it was flung open before he could knock. The now scantily clad homeowner ushered him inside, offered him coffee, sat close on the sofa and introduced him to her girlfriend. Apparently they wanted a baby together and he seemed the perfect candidate. Doug was a happily married grandfather and “wouldn’t have a bar of it”. In other words, the answer was “no”.
The Egg Basket was one of Doug’s more humorous stories. Doug was mowing the back lawn of a regular customer, being careful not to scare the free range hens, when he came across fresh laid eggs. He picked them up and placed them out of harm’s way in the peg basket swinging on the clothes line. Next visit, the homeowner told Doug “the funniest thing had happened” and his “chooks must be acrobats” because they laid their eggs in the peg basket. Doug laughed and explained what he had done. The homeowner was relieved since he couldn’t understand how the hens had balanced.
Lawn mowing men are wizards with a mower but rarely are they trained horticulturists, arborists or landscapers. The same goes for a sub-branch called treeloppers but that’s another story. Some mower men are billed as gardeners but often become vague about availability when you ask if they can weed the back garden. Or even more vague when you ask if they have time to remove a pile of garden waste. Their astute move with garden waste is to tote-up how many other householders want rubbish removed, coordinate the same day collection, slug each of us the disposal fee and do a one-stop drop at the council tip.
One thing I have noticed (apologies, I have yet to see a female mower person) is that, to a man, they have their mobile phones in their top left pocket, button undone ready to take calls. They don’t write these calls down so, inevitably, at some point they have to ring the caller back to confirm appointment details. The good ones leave a business card in my letterbox with the next mowing day and the more lax ones fade away.
On the subject of workwear, I have observed that lawn mower men do not go in for burdensome things like high visibility vests or safety glasses. On the plus side, they do wear working boots with heavy khaki socks which match their heavy khaki shirts. Accessories include cheap sunglasses and, depending on the age of the wearer, a sweaty cap or straw-weave hat. Protective gloves rarely make an appearance and I can only put that down to the subtropical heat.
Wally certainly needed all the help he could get. He was always keen to lend a helping hand (even building our budgie aviary) but he had an obsession for removing wasps and spiders. We told him that the big spider over our driveway was our pet and he was to leave it alone. But Wally took a dislike to a wasps nest and attacked it until he was chased around and around the garden, flyspray can in hand. I was on the side of the wasps. And Wally didn’t know it but I had seen him surreptitiously snipping bits off my conifer tree because it got in his way.
Once Wally told me about a customer who came outside complaining because he was using a leaf blower instead of a broom. He also told me of clothes left hanging on drying lines for months, barbecue crockery left out for weeks and large rocks abandoned in strange places. Regarding rocks, Wally had flicked up stones which had broken windows. The best way to identify a novice lawn mower man like Wally is to watch his attention to detail. Does he bring in your empty wheelie bin? Does he shut the gate? Does he make sure nothing has been missed, e.g. palm fronds on the path? If the answers are “no” then you can assume he is experienced; the old hand creating a tsunami of leaves in the far corner of your yard.
Another sign of the more experienced lawn mowing man is the Second Job. Usually this is unrelated, like the chap who hinted that my balcony railing looked unsafe and gave me the number of his carpentry business. Go with your instincts. In this instance, I should have taken note because a year later the carpenter who subsequently did the job was pretty slap-dash and cost me money. On the subject of money, let me tell you about Enrico.
Enrico’s customers are a mixed bag when it comes to paying the bill. Those who live in big houses with big cars take months to pay. There are customers who pay him online and he’s never met them. One customer paid him with lots and lots of coins, and another disappeared owing money. Sounds like an average business day to me. Enrico has three pet peeves. First, the bossy client who dictates how they want the job done then stands with hands on hips to watch. The second is chatty old ladies/men who want to follow him around. And third, the classic Neighbour Across The Street who asks for his business card then angles for a “good” deal.
I think of young Johnno as more of a wildlife ranger. He always had a tale to tell about an animal encounter, from guinea pig wrangling to accidentally letting dogs out, to scaring a goat. One day he was requested to do a garden tidy for a couple who had taken ill. He recommenced where they had left off and scooped up a large pile of leaves and twigs. It wasn’t until he had disposed of the bundle in his Ute trailer that he realised it was full of black fuzzy caterpillars. And they were on his clothes. He did a war dance and hosed himself down but still came up in a rash wherever they had crawled, mainly down his neckline.
Johnno by far had the biggest snake encounters, from a python asleep in a veggie patch to a green tree snake in my begonia hanging basket. One morning he saw a big brown snake sunning on our driveway and he took a spade to it. I was horrified, first because he wanted to kill it but second, because he sent it under the fence into the children’s play area. It was never found.
I believe a lawn mower man does not appreciate the pressure he puts the lawn mowee under. We have to lock up the dog, do a poop patrol, clear away any washing and raise the Hills Hoist, pick up toys, cover the budgies (in case of those flying rocks) remove fallen branches and make sure the area is free of trip-and-fall hazards. It is imperative that I place my herbs and tender potted plants in a safe place and have learned from bitter experience to build a fortress around new shrubs. My prize pomegranate was lopped off at the base and has taken years to reassert itself.
In conclusion, I would say that most of the lawn mower men I’ve employed seemed happy with their work. It’s an early start and early knock-off, and their weekends are free. They seem fit and healthy, none I’ve known have ever set foot in a gym. Of course, sunstroke taught them to drink plenty of water. I am sure I have contributed to their holiday funds in a positive way and they, in turn, have allowed me to walk across my lawn without using a machete.
Grey clouds raced across the sky and cold wind ruffled Paul’s hair.
He gazed with sadness at Grandpa’s new tree.
It looked sick.
Its leaves were brown and crispy and some had fallen on the grass.
Paul grabbed the garden hose and watered the earth around the tree.
A large puddle circled the trunk but nothing happened.
Paul thought it needed some food. “What do trees eat?” he asked the sky.
In the garden shed, Paul foraged among lots of interesting containers.
On the bench he saw Grandpa’s half eaten sandwich and took it to the tree. Crunch! He picked up the dog’s smelly bone and gave that to the tree. Cackle! The hens followed a trail of grain as it trickled along behind him.
Paul was sure the cat wouldn’t miss her bowl of fish-flavoured treats.
From the kitchen, vegetable scraps joined a plate of leftover breakfast bits.
Paul stuffed an apple and a banana on top and ran back to the tree. Icky! He pulled a fuzzy lollipop out of his pocket and tossed it on the pile. Gloop! He found a jar of honey and poured that around the base. Woof, cluck, meow, buzz! Everyone enjoyed the food except the tree.
“You still don’t look right,” said Paul.
A leaf fluttered down, then another and another until the branches were bare.
Paul felt a tiny ache inside.
He walked slowly into the house – then thought of an idea!
With his coloured pencils and sheets of paper he drew and drew and drew.
His scissors cut and cut and cut until he had a handful of leafy shapes.
It was a big job threading these leaves on to the branches.
He stood on tip-toe and just reached the highest twigs.
Paul knew it wouldn’t fool Grandpa, but he did want to make him smile.
He tugged Grandpa by the hand, outside and all the way to the tree.
“What’s this?” said Grandpa. “A Christmas tree?”
Paul shuffled uncomfortably. “No.”
“A tree eating all our food?” said Grandpa as his boots squelched in honey.
Paul hung his head. “Grandpa, your tree is sick. I tried to make it better.”
Grandpa’s eyes twinkled.
“You did a great job, Paul. The leaves look better than ever.”
Paul’s stomach did a happy flip.
Grandpa patted his shoulder.
“This tree will lose its leaves for winter and will grow new ones in the spring.”
Paul was relieved. “You mean it’s just taking a nap?”
Laughter rumbled out of Grandpa. “Exactly.”
Grandpa explained how the ground and the sun and the rain helped it grow.
Paul looked up at Grandpa.
“When it grows taller next year, I’ll need help with the paper leaves.”
Grandpa gave Paul a big, warm handshake.
At that moment Paul was surprised to see him wink.
“Don’t forget,” said Grandpa, “next year you’ll be taller too.”
“Put away your plastics” urges Peppermint Magazine “France made history by becoming the first country in the world to ban the use of plastic crockery, cutlery and plates. From 2020 onwards, all French disposable dinnerware will have to be compostable and made from biological instead of petroleum-based material. Because plastic never truly goes away, our over-reliance on it is filling the world’s oceans with eight million tonnes of plastic waste every year, which kills around 100,000 marine creatures annually. In the wake of recent plastic bag bans in many US cities, France’s momentous move is surely a positive sign of things to come – here’s hoping we ditch those single-use synthetics Down Under before too long. Au revoir, plastic!” Page 23, Issue 32 Summer 2016, Peppermint Magazine.
At work I use my own cup, cutlery and plate; a small start but a start nonetheless.
Note: Peppermint Magazine is an independent sustainability magazine published quarterly by The Peppermint Publishing Trust, Brisbane Australia. Peppermint Lifestyle Magazine