Wednesday, February 27, 2013

The Last Days Of Summer

 The tragedy of a sore finger, requiring acknowledgement and sympathy (its all we really want). Zef (the elkhound)  is raiding the summer garden harvest, the little Bowerbird has rescued at tomato from his chew pile and is not impressed, she is quite the disciplinarian.


It has been a long thirsty summer in the Macedon Ranges, a summer so dry I've not been able to fully relax and enjoy, for fear of fire. A summer of constantly listening to the ABC radio, checking the Bureau of Meteorology website, and scanning through CFA alerts. Knowledge is a powerful thing, but ignorance can be bliss. I remember the days before Black Saturday, when I was not so hyper-aware of how dangerous it can be to live amongst the gum trees. A time before phone apps that highlight every single time a fire truck is called out, I assure you the sirens were blaring this summer.

I am overjoyed to see the tell tale signs of Autumn approaching.  We had a day we could don a jumper, and finally we have rain. Long heavy falls of rain to soak the earth and bring it back to life, rain that looks red on the radar.   Rain to lull me into a peaceful slumber, rain that makes me want to lie in bed all day drinking tea and reading books. Rain that smells sweet and alive. Little seedlings are emerging with the combination of heat and moisture, cornflower cotyledons are popping up amongst the straw mulch, peas are rejoicing and sending tendrils in all directions. Naked ladies (the bulbs not floozies) push their way through thick layers of newspaper and straw, determined to dance in the downpour.

The first Autumn leaves are blushing on our Sycamore tree, I have seen many deciduous trees changing colour early this year, I think they had had enough of summer, and decided to shut down until better conditions arrive.  Never have so many of our trees looked burnt and stressed, but after a few days of moisture they seem to lift a little, the parch dry lawn almost instantly turned green. My children were soaked to the bone on their journey home today and didn't mind a bit, it was such a novelty to be wet. Nothing a towel and a hot chocolate couldn't fix.

There will be more warm dry days to come, in fact the next week's forecast is full of them, but the relief in our town is palpable, there are smiles as we sigh, and be grateful that it wasn't our town in the news this summer. There are so many towns across Australia undergoing hardship, it has been a year of extremes, thankyou to all the good people that helped keep us safe, and big thankyou to lady luck. I fear with climate change, that this is how summers will always be in our neck of the woods, still beautiful but somewhat stained with worry.
 I bought two new umbrellas today, a garden of poppies for me, and a clear dome for the little Bowerbird, in excitement and preparation for the days to come.

 These old umbrellas didn't do much to keep the poor school aged Bowerbirds dry today, but it was an almighty torrent they got caught in.

Monday, February 25, 2013

White Night Festival Melbourne

After a hot and sticky day scrounging around our little town's wonderful Annual CFA Flea market, jumping on castles, face painting, gathering treasures and questionable objects, we journeyed to the city to explore Melbourne's first ever White Night Festival.

Sometimes Melbourne's big city events can sound better on paper. We have not always had a rollicking good time at Moomba, New Years Eve or Australia Day Festivals. They can be too busy, uneventful, poorly coordinated, oversubscribed, and highly commercial.
Unlike the Melbourne's Southern Star, White Night was no white elephant.

We began our journey as the sun was setting, heading underground down steep stairs into Campbell Arcade.

 There were minute spaces to peer inside, small worlds to explore, the middle Bowerbird spied nanoblocks and was hooked. An all night Zine marathon had already begun in earnest at the Sticky Institute.

 We took off our shoes and danced in an interactive soundscape, a cacophany of sounds and objects to explore, eerie masks gazing at us, dangling hands to shake, and then a generous bite of complimentary Indian desert to delight in.

 We emerged from the subway to see Swanston Street and Flinders Street filled with people, it is so wonderful to see the roads reclaimed. Although it was all thoroughly above board, the mad throng of humanity looked like anarchy. Sweet Jazz tunes called from Degraves St, asking us to explore laneways, but we headed to Fed Square which was hilariously jumping to Zumba, and then the Nutbush.
 These professional looking cleaners were ever so seriously making people brighter, shoes were vacuumed, hair brushed, nails cut.

 I found my dear friend Kathy Holowko and the beautiful caravan she made in the Atrium.  There was already a huge queue to visit Amoment so we peered inside the peep holes, wondered at what was happening inside, chatted and moved on.

 As the sun went down Melbourne exploded into a technicolour Moroccan feast. It was joyous to see our otherwise beige and grey buildings lit up so royally.


 We ventured inside The Forum to discover a 3D psychadelic world of lights and sound.  The Big Bowerbird had to wear a wrist band to show that she wasn't 18, I smiled in wonder that there could be any question of her youth, she is getting so big, we now meet eye to eye. The night was sultry, like a Darwin holiday, this was a great spot for a cool drink and a rest.

 Everywhere we turned there was music, art and something magical. We had no plan for the evening, but the city unfolded joys to us at every turn. I had the White Night app but never referred to it.

The musical fountain on the Yarra  "From the Deep" which we waited patiently, and then a little impatiently for (there is only so long you want to watch fruit bat antics) was divine, and a highlight for the children, "mum its incredible, its like a squid, like a tentacle".

The only unpleasant part of the evening was battling the 300,000 strong crowd to get to the Arts Centre, some people can be so incredibly pushy shovey and it became a scary space to navigate three children safely through. Amazingly the little Bowerbird went from being thoroughly animated and excited, to asleep in our arms as we passed the Spiegeltent.

I was so relieved to lay the little Bowerbird's heavy body down on the floor of the NGV's Great Hall as we watched foam dance and pour. Art gazers could not resist the urge to lift the security rope to touch the foam and launch it flying through the air. The gallery has never felt so busy or laid back, people were sprawled over the entrance floor doing graffiti. The atmosphere in the Great Hall was electric, like we were part of something special. I must confess we didn't leave without feeling a little foam, such a tactile sculpture, who could resist? I hope French artist, Michel Blazy didn't mind us touching his work.

At this stage all that was left to do was to get back home, there was no suggestion of carrying that heavy sleeping little one any further than necessary, at 11pm the other Bowerbirds were also looking very bleary eyed, it was close to 1am by the time we caught a tram back to our car and drove home. It was such a spectacular evening, I would have liked to stay all night and explore the never-ending nooks and crannies, to listen to music, and frolic. However, it was wonderful to share White Night with three wide eyed, children. Looking forward to doing it all again next year, maybe with a place to stay in the city so we could do some shifts with the kids. There was so much I would have liked to see but missed, thankyou to the organisers for this magical evening dedicated to the arts.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

No more standby - Saving Energy

This week a friendly backpacker came and installed (plugged in) these two devices in my house for free, they arrived after I responded to an add in the local paper. Now, if the telly has been on for an hour, it suddenly (and still unexpectedly) turns itself off, you can change this setting to a longer watching period but I quite like the heavy handed reminder that we've been sitting still for too long. When the computer is turned off all its associated equipment is shut down too.  No more sucking energy for no good reason.

This program does seem like quite an extravagant government initiative, and a boon to backpackers.  I would have been prepared to contribute something to pay for the device. I wonder if the money could have been invested more wisely, perhaps in green technology research, but I am grateful for this little helpful freebie, reducing our bills and using less electricity is a win win for us.

Some other things we've been doing to save energy.

I've been experimenting with turning off our hot water service for a couple of days at a time, it seems that we have enough hot water in our tank to last at least three days, so it need not be reheating itself every night.

I've been using our solar rocket a bit more this month and we boil the kettle and then fill a Thermos only once or twice a day to make our cuppas.

Our new bigger front load washing machine (it's quite a beast), that we bought after our last front loader died, uses more energy than its smaller counterpart, but I am doing far less loads so I think this may be kinder on our energy and water use. A huge upside to our dry summer is the ease in which everything dries on the line.

It will be interesting to see if our small changes are noticeable on our next power bill, I'll keep you informed.