Cold blooded visitor

My cat found this little guy in the back yard yesterday. He didn’t harm it as I think it scared him as much as he scared the baby blue tongue lizard.

It was only around four degree at the time and the poor lizard was barely moving. I was afraid it might not make it to warmish cover before the real chill of the night settled in so I popped it in an old fish tank and brought it in next to the heater for the night. I wasn’t sure it would survive but this morning it was perky and very zealous in its hisses towards me so I’ve released it again near were we found it.

I hope he survives the winter.

The eyes are a window of the soul.
The eyes are a window of the soul.

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The volcano carter I live in

When I was young, I had read books about volcano’s and the story of Pompeii fascinated me while being the scariest horror story I ever heard.

Needless to say; the thought of living near an extinct volcano scared the hell out of me.

However I did and thankfully, all these years later, it hasn’t gurgled never lone rumbled and the truth remains I live on the edge of what a million or more years ago was a volcano.

I had a visual reminder of this fact when I had the opportunity to look at the view of the valley from a small hill just below what locals call the plug of the old volcano, Duri Peak.

The peak itself comes to an obvious point on its northern side and its shear basalt rock face is 2,170ft/662m in height. Not exactly Everest, it only rates at 312th highest in NSW, but it is still high for these parts. It is a landmark, a reference point for aviators and the sheer drop on its north face doesn’t boast a lot of plant growth.

However, it is when you turn your back to it and look from north to west that the extent of the extinct crater can be visualised. The basalt rock, a basic volcanic by-product, is the reason the region I live in is so agriculturally fertile and there were lumps of it lying around on the top of the ridge I took in the view of the valley from. It was just beautiful and not scary at all.

I couldn’t have driven the four wheel drive track to get there but I am lucky I have a friend that could. This is his office after all. I’m jealous even if he is living and working on top of an old volcano.

Small acts of kindness.

A moment of compassion during a visit to a farm of a friend bought a tear to my eye and reminded me there are good people and good deeds done in the world.

As I am on a couple of weeks holidays at home he invited me out to his property where photo opportunities abound.

He took me on a tour and introduced me to the locals, his merino dorper cross flock of sheep which he breeds for meat rather than wool and some Black Angus cattle before the 4pm arrival of the truck he was loading up with barley grain.  In the meantime, he indulged me by letting me wander around some old buildings and machinery photographic gems.

As we were trekking across a field to one such tired and crumbling building, the first double brick house built in the district back in the late 50 to early 60’s, my keen eyed friend spotted a small bearded dragon lizard on top of the tall grass so he picked it up; as you do apparently.

It would have been a beautiful home when it was built but sadly now the walls are crumbling.
It would have been a beautiful home when it was built but sadly now the walls are crumbling.

I’m no authority on lizards but even I know they hibernate in winter and for this little critter to be so desperate to attempt to find warmth in the sun on a cold winter day something has to be wrong. Without saying a word my friend wrapped it in his work scarred hand in an attempt to warm it up and proceeded on our walk.

Now you have to bear in mind during my mini tour we came across carcasses in different stages of decay. Most were ewes who died lambing in hill paddocks. I’ve been around farmers long enough to know some losses are expected and wasn’t surprised by his dismissal of the death and strong reassurance that predators were not involved. This is why I found his concern for the lizard curious.

We didn’t make it to the house before he suggested we look at it after the grain is loaded as the truck would be arriving soon.

When we got back to his Toyota ute he tested the temperature of the bonnet and then opened it. He then tested the temperature of the top of the radiator which was still warm so he gently placed the lizard on the warm surface and stroked it with his finger. He was trying to warm it up enough for it to find some food, and hopefully the strength to burrow and hibernate for the winter.

A bit of warmth on a cold day
A bit of warmth on a cold day
The bearded dragon lizard wasn't in good condition for a winter hibernation.
The bearded dragon lizard wasn’t in good condition for a winter hibernation.

I don’t know why this act surprised me into a small tear but it did. Earlier that afternoon I watched as he hand fed the sheep he had reared from young with Weetbix biscuits and asked if he had any sheep dogs to help with the flock. He doesn’t, he said having their trust made handling them easier.

The hand raised sheep, all of which have names, come when they are called and I watched with amusement as they followed him along an embankment track as if he was playing a flute only they and the rest of the flock could hear. Don’t for a second think this is a hobby farm, it is a profit making producer of meat for one of Australia’s major supermarket chains as well as producing barley, wheat and canola crops.

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Even the ram wanted in on the Weetbix
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Cheeky Dolly was looking for a free ride back to the house.
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After weeks of bottle feeding this little girl is just starting on solids.

He does eat lamb meat but he can’t bring himself to buy it from the supermarket chain he sells to.

He is a patient man who travelled the world extensively before settling down and finally realising his dream of owning land near the hills he grew up around.

The patchwork land looking towards our blue hills
The patchwork land looking towards our blue hills

I’ve known him for almost 40 years as a kind and caring person, always willing to help and ask nothing in return. He is a bugger to buy presents for because he doesn’t want for possessions but he does have a chocolate habit that a diagnosis of type two diabetes by his doctor brought him the closest to tears I’ve ever seen him.

I met him when I was in my early teens. I only got to know him because he was interested in my sister and he treated me like his kid sister in the process. He would be the most genuine and caring male I know, other than my dad, and although my sister didn’t choose him to spend her life with he has always remained a friend and big brother to me. I am thankful for that.

Loading barley for shipment
Loading barley for shipment

Last but not least. The last days of 2014

I’ve managed to do more posts in one week than I did all year. Wow, it is amazing what a bit of down time can do for a person. As such; here is my final post to wrap up the horrible year that has just gone, December memories.

All in all this month went too fast and the ongoing work stress and getting things ready to take time off increased my getting ready for the season stress. Long days away from home didn’t help my hate for last minute shopping which I was trying to conduct while also trying to meet the demands others were putting on me. I was physically and mentally exhausted when I finished up work six days before Christmas day. Actually I was at a point that I was finding it difficult to form complete spoken sentences by 6.30 each night of December even after I finished up work so yes, I was a little run down by the time the clock ticked over to 2015.

Over and above that however I did manage to be social and the scolding hot days were finally broken with rain and storms. Christmas was made so much better because it rained on the day. This was the best gift for everyone in my drought stricken region.

Let’s now get on with 2015, may it be better for everyone.

An interruption of play at the Christmas party didn't last long
An interruption of play at the Christmas party didn’t last long
After the rain everything seem so much fresher.
After the rain everything seem so much fresher.
Putting the star on top of the tree. It doesn't seem that long ago my boy needed a chair to reach  the top but now I almost need to put the tree on a chair to make it look bigger.
Putting the star on top of the tree. It doesn’t seem that long ago my boy needed a chair to reach the top but now I almost need to put the tree on a chair to make it look bigger.
In case you are wondering after the February adventure, yes, I still have the cat in December.
In case you are wondering after the February adventure, yes, I still have the cat in December.
There is a name for this type of cloud but I can't think of it. I do know their formation is usually a precursor of rain as these were.
There is a name for this type of cloud but I can’t think of it. I do know their formation is usually a precursor of rain as these were.
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My youngest celebrates his birthday in December. I love the smile on his face here while he was opening his birthday presents.
The view from my work window and when the news editor says quick a plane is coming in under the cloud bank, that will make a great photo, you take a photo. Darn not having a wide angle or larger telescopic lens that would have really allowed me to capture the moment.
The view from my work window and when the news editor says quick a plane is coming in under the cloud bank, that will make a great photo, you take a photo. Darn not having a wide angle or larger telescopic lens that would have really allowed me to capture the moment.
The city below the low clouds that was the start of some really decent rainfall.
The city below the low clouds that was the start of some really decent rainfall.
How my front yard looked in December after some rain. Check the February post for a comparison shot. The December storm moisture really makes a difference.
How my front yard looked in December after some rain. Check the February post for a comparison shot. The December storm moisture really makes a difference.

Remember November

I was reminded of a lot of things in November. These included what it was like to hear rain on the roof, what news writing is all about and a promise I made in January to my boys and a friend.

The change of scene in my work place also herald a change in the outside weather, at least I remember it that way. We had storms which provided me with photo opportunities I hadn’t had since getting my new camera. I love a good rain storm and the challenge of capturing lightning strike images.

I’m not a storm chaser but the storm that was the start of things to come rolled in when I was waiting to pick up one of my sons after work. I’ve never stared down a rolling beast like it with a camera before and although it tested my nerves the dash I made to protect the car from hail damage got the blood pumping. Good times and very invigorating.

November is also the month the Relay for Life is held to raise money for cancer research. I’ve participated twice in this event while my best friend was fighting the hard fight but I have never attended the evening remembrance service. I couldn’t bring myself to relay this year, it seemed futile, however I made a promise to myself that I would attend the candle light service at the relay field after saying goodbye to my friend for the last time.

Attending was harder than I thought it would be but luckily my boys came with me to also remember their Aunt Daphne. I was going well until my youngest gave me a cuddle, then I fell apart. I miss not being able to talk to my friend and I guess I still had/have a few more tears to shed. The service was beautiful however and I wasn’t alone in my outpouring of grief.

The sunset on the Replay for Life.
The sunset on the Replay for Life.
Yes, we remember.
Yes, we remember.
November 2014 IMG_5358
The roll cloud that herald the first storm for months, if not years, arrival. The green tinge to the clouds was a indication to expect hail from them.
A dusty rainbow before the main storms.
A dusty rainbow, and a small lightning strike, before a bigger storm rolled in later that evening. 
A spectacular light show on the hills helped me with the slow development of my photography skills.
A spectacular light show on the hills helped me with the slow development of my photography skills.
This cheeky willy wagtail turned into an unwilling model for me as he cooled off in the bird bath. I love his eyebrows.
This cheeky willy wagtail turned into an unwilling model for me as he cooled off in the bird bath. I love his eyebrows.
The view from the kitchen window at work which created quite a bit of excitement.  it was only a shower of rain but it was the first we had seen in months.
The view from the kitchen window at work which created quite a bit of excitement. it was only a shower of rain but it was the first we had seen in months.

It was a little dry all round in October 2014.

My dad celebrated his 94th birthday in October. It was a low key affair. I think once you have had as many birthday’s as him you don’t want too much of a fuss but my boys and I still popped up to see him and sing him that all important song.

This was when I found out their world was about to be turned upside down as their landlords planned to give the house a big spruce up. This included a new roof and gutters, the painting of the outside and, where the trouble really started, inside along with new floor coverings. They feel safe in their home of over 60 years and any intrusion on it and their routine is not handled well at their ages so I knew it was going to be a rough ride during the work. The first thing on the agenda however was to make the tradesmen’s jobs easier by temporarily removing most of the treasures they have on display and stored in the house. My mother really doesn’t like anyone touching her things, not even us, so I knew this wasn’t going to be easy. I couldn’t get up there after work but I spent my weekends buying storage boxes and bubble wrap, packing said boxes , toting them to my car and transporting them to my place where I proceeded to play Tetris with them to make them all fit into my shed.

All the while my mother was rediscovering lost treasures and insisting the tradesmen could just move the items as they go while my dad kept telling me to take it to the rubbish dump. With their sense of humour totally dried up their squabbles didn’t make the work easier. The only help I received through the whole process was one of my sons who recognised how exhausted I was with this weekend activity and we ran out of time to clear the place. Apparently the workmen still complained about what they had to move. I exited stage right at this stage; it was all a bit to much to handle with everything else that was going on.

At my place of employment matters declined dramatically. I was now officially a journalist which removed the barrier that prevented me from being part of the editorial team so I was moved from the sales floor to the editorial floor. Believe it or not, it is a much calmer environment to work in however the difference a set of stairs make to communication is unbelievable. While now receiving wonderful instruction and assistance with my writing and work projects an invisible barricade seemed to establish itself between the people I had worked closely with for four years, and I considered my friends, and I. Apparently I changed. That hurt but these same people were also under more stress than usual because of internal upheaval.

In a nutshell, humour had dried up everywhere and October was a dark month with hot tempers as well as outside temperatures.

The positive of the month was the local air show and a friend who also has a camera and wants to learn how to us it. We spent a morning at the airport snapping away and, for me at least, enjoying an escape from the housework, work and personal worries.

September and spring sprung while it had a chance.

The mind bobbling pace of 2014 again left me little time for myself and I seem to have existed between three places; work, the supermarket and home where I did a bad job of completing the unpaid work.

Flowers began to bloom in the garden and I began practicing close up shots of them as I could fit that in with trying to keep up with the house chores that were building up. Although I’m allergic to bees I persisted in trying to catch one or two photographically as I saw this as my next challenge. I don’t know if using a long lens, because I didn’t want to get bitten and land in hospital again, and zooming as much as possible is the correct way to photograph insects but I did get a couple of shots I was really happy with.

I even optimistically planted some new plants in September. I potted some colourful flowers and some veggies up rather than plant them in the garden as the continuing lack of rain meant it would not be long before water restrictions would be put in place. Lugging buckets full of water around the yard isn’t my idea of fun so my new plantings were positioned in my back shaded area to enable easy watering.

September was a month of all things new however, not just in the garden. The place I seem to have spent the most time, work, was becoming more and more unpleasant to attend.

Uncertainty is a horrible state for a mind to be in and when a collective group of minds are placed in that condition it seems to lead to a very volatile environment that brings out the worse in people. I saw some very surprising sides of people I thought I knew during September, a lot of these sides I didn’t like and it upset me greatly. But work had to be completed, the job had to be done and the next deadline had to met and was as far as I could see. It seemed safer to be that way.

I could go on and on about this but the purpose of these posts is to highlight the good things in 2014. I justify mentioning it however so you can understand the positive moment in September. You see I picked up my efforts to find other employment during this time because of this mentally unhealthy environment and the ongoing uncertainty of the media industry. It is simple, I can’t not have work when the inevitable axe falls on my current position.

My efforts were in vein however, I got knock back after knock back, and I felt myself slipping into the same state of mind that was changing personalities around me. However the industry uncertainty finally saw me achieve a goal I set 10 years ago.

You see the HR department notified me that I was to be employed as a journalist. While putting all their ducks in a row for the coming rounds of retrenchments to meet the restructure of the company a review was finally conducted of my duties. Word from an insider involved in the process was that neither of my local managers wanted to comment on what I do as it would have disrupted their precarious wages budgets so, with a job description I put together myself as my position was classified unique to the company, the HR department made the call. I was to continue business as usual and the change would take effect from October 1. Much to the relief to the editorial department this meant no wage rise for me, I was always paid out of their budget under a clerical award anyway, and they matched my current wage to a grade one even though I’ve been doing this job for four years and stories and editorial for a total of about eight. I’m not bitter however as I can finally say I’m a journalist.

A September sunset. Symbolic to the dawn of a new stage of my career.
A September sunset. Symbolic to the dawn of a new stage of my career.

When it comes to highlights however my parents and I met my great niece for the first time, we also celebrated Fathers Day and I got to take some photos of my beautiful region while teaching my son to drive. Okay, that sounds wrong and distracting for the learner driver but let’s move on to some photos.

I thought I had been busy but then August came along.

Please don’t miss out on the other photos in this post as August brought more opportunities to practice with my camera. A number are included here as I’m a big believer in practice makes perfect and one day I hope to get it right.

The days started to get warm again, not that they really got cold this year. I think the heater got turned on about a dozen times through what was our winter this year. I’m not sure if this was a result of global warming or just the fact the effects of my own “change of life” kept me warm with ongoing hot flushes.

I was determined to try to de-stress as work conditions got more difficult and demanding and because I missed my Sunday coffee catch ups with my best friend more and more so I was out and about. Lucky a few things were happening around town which offered great photo opportunities.

The warmer days, and interesting things to see, also encouraged my parents to come along with me on a couple of adventures. Dad stood for a good while watching the bat colony and we had no choice but wait for the steam train that was visiting town as it kept it’s own schedule. They had also waited 60 years for my eldest sister to turn that age and a get together organised by her friends saw us all have a night out.

To the bat tree. The
To the bat tree.
In full flight.
In full flight.
Taking the high road or should I say rail. The steam train make for an impressive sight.
Taking the high road or should I say rail. The steam train make for an impressive sight.
All a board. Waiting at the main station. The love of  steam trains is a sensory thing. The sight, the sound and the smell.
All a board. Waiting at the main station. The love of steam trains is a sensory thing. The sight, the sound and the smell.
My dad and my eldest niece at her mothers birthday celebration.
My dad and my eldest niece at her mother’s birthday celebration.
Hanging in there. The flying foxes have stripped the trees and are really noisy.
Hanging in there. The flying foxes have stripped the trees and are really noisy.
Good food and lots of laughs. That is what life is about.
Good food and lots of laughs. That is what life is about.
When I picked up my parents this little guy was sitting in their tree in their front yard. Apparently he was a spring regular to their garden.
When I picked up my parents this little guy was sitting in their tree in their front yard. Apparently he was a spring regular to their garden.
One of the old pumping stations along the river. As the drought hasn't let up they were just put back to work to pump water from the river for the city last month.
One of the old pumping stations along the river. As the drought hasn’t let up they were just put back to work to pump water from the river for the city last month.

The start of the Australian new financial year, July 2014

The tax man was added to the list of people who I needed to pay attention to at this time of year. Thankfully with my income and no investments he was easy to please. I got my records in order and submitted everything to the accountant in good time this year which is a plus and it also meant I got the piles of paper work that had been accumulating on my desk into some sort of order. It is amazing what you can do when you have to isn’t it?

In April or May an old school friend resurfaced on my social media feed that had been absent for a while. To my distress he had been away for a good reason and one that makes me pull out my soap box to scream the unfair stigma towards it. He had finally been diagnosed with bipolar disorder after reaching rock bottom and loosing just about everything, including his life, to it.

His open honesty about his illness and his determination to lift himself out of its dark depths is inspiring, especially as I have seen the side of suffers who refuse to acknowledge there is a problem. To raise awareness of his condition and in an effort to try to reduce the stigma attached to it he started a Facebook page that took off in popularity at an incredible rate. It is as much about helping him as helping others and its popularity continues to steadily grow on social media.

He invited me to help him as an admin on his page, which I have to admit I have been very slack at over the past couple of months of the year as I didn’t even have time to say I didn’t have time. I got together with him and the others he invited to assist him with his mission to raise awareness of mental health problems in June and took some publicity shots. I really like the one I’ve posted here, the blue healer dog is a representation of Sir Winston Churchill’s black dog that was always biting at his heals. Check out https://www.facebook.com/kickingtheblackdog if you are interested.

My dad’s health declined in July too and he was admitted to hospital after a long wait in the emergency department as his congenital heart disease problem raised it’s ugly head again. Between visiting my best friend and my own emergency I had already spent too much time at the hospital in 2014  but I was back there again. There is something about sitting in a room in the ER for hours on end that makes you re-evaluate life. Dad only stayed over night and at 94 years of age he is doing well to be still living in his own home but none of us have a choice in that, he refuses to live anywhere else. This is of ongoing concern to everyone as my mother is showing the early signs of dementia, she is some 12 years younger than him, and work obligations for those of their children that are still in town make it difficult to check in on them regularly.

I did try to take them on one of my trips with the camera but they declined due to the cold weather in July which was a shame. Instead I printed a couple of the photos I took of the amazing sunset by the river for them.

A clear winter evening sky at a beautiful spot only minutes for the town CBD.
A clear winter evening sky at a beautiful spot only minutes for the town CBD.
A dusty dry winter sunset. Practicing my camera skills in different lighting conditions.
A dusty dry winter sunset. Practicing my camera skills in different lighting conditions.
My friend who is trying hard to come to terms with the black dog nipping at his heals.
My friend who is trying hard to come to terms with the black dog nipping at his heals.