Wednesday, 7 November 2007

While you are at it....

Try this site too, as much for its variety as for the tree. Go down the page to the right hand side, three pages on trees. Mark, great stuff!!

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Oft it happens on a stormy night...

Type your summary here?

This tragedy was repeated the other day, and seems to be an event almost as common in Australia as a crocodile attack or snake bite.

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An old farm boy's worst nightmare...

This article doesn't surprise me. In the 1870s many farmers claimed rain followed the plough and tried to grow wheat at Farina in South Australia, 1000km north of where it will grow, and where Goyder said it would. He marked a line on a map, the 10" rainfall isohyet, as the northern most limits of successful agriculture in South Australia. The 1870s were very wet, so cropping took place well north of this line, Farina was its most optimistic expression. Come the dry seasons in 1879-1880, it was a very rapid retreat staged by the farmers, to where Goyder had suggested. Really what this article is suggesting, is not that rain follows the plough but flees the axe. And the axe has been very busy in this country, and farmers are very protective of their right to use it. South Australia passed legislation many years ago protecting forest and woodland remnants-scrub-and the bulldozers were at wotk day and night in the weeks and months before the legislation became law. Now we have some science to show that right for what it is. Bob Hawke, as Prime Minister, wanted to plant a billion trees in the 1980s, 50 billion, perhaps 100 billion, should have been the aim. The photo shows Mount Misery on Yorke Peninsula, in the middle of a very large area sewn to barley. Once the whole area was scrub like that still on the mount. These very large cleared areas sewn to crops give many parts of South Australia a low, smooth, and rolling appearance, little interrupted by trees. It is aesthetic that is very particular to that place.

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Here, read this, it is important....

This article is in the latest ALR, sort of Times review of books for us down here. This is a good article on trees and blow-ins. I have a few more of these, so watch out.

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Tuesday, 6 November 2007

Mallee, again...

On my way back from Port Lincoln, you can do it either by driving 700km around the top of Spencer's Gulf -named by Matthew Flinders after an ancestor of Princess Di, the 2nd Lord Spencer, who was Lord of the Admiralty in 1801,-to Adelaide which is only 250km east, or by taking the car ferry at Cowell, and cutting off 4-5 hours driving at the cost of about AUD140, I stopped for a constitutional near a silo. This is cropping country, like Yorke Peninsula, but the crops are not as good this year as those on Yorke Peninsula. This is mallee country, like most of South Australia's good cropping country. When I say good, it is not the European or American sense of heavy yielding. Here good means 1-2 tonnes an acre. This is the mallee, a small one, that is common in these parts.

Young fruit, red twigs, very similar to E. calycogona, but I don't think this one is that species. These trees were not flowering.

Old fruit, dark twigs.
Another specimen.
This is the other side of the road. These silos are the only places along this road where mobile telephone reception is any good. They also provide landmarks of towns, in an othersie very flat landscape.

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Brachychiton 2...

This my aunt's front yard in Port Lincoln, on South Australia's Eyre Peninsula. The tall tree on the right is Brachychiton acerifolius, Illawarra Flame tree. Unfortunately it is not flaming at the moment, although it is almost the early summer of its purported flowering. This tree is a relative of B. populneus, mentioned in an earlier post. The flowers are particularly startling, bright red flowers on bare branches.

Leaves under shade are large, lobed palmately, bright green and very shady. On the sunny side, the leaves suffer some damage from dry winds and too much sun.
The trunk of this tree, showing the bark. These are good, solid trees, quite unsuitable for timber because the trunk begins branching low down.
Old fruit, very like B. populneus, is encased in a similar leathery capsule. The fruit appears to ripen once the capsule has hit the ground. The seeds are small-hlf a cm- and pea like. Didn't taste them. Not likely too, but other animals might be keener. They call this type of fruit drupes, for obvious reasons. My aunt is very fond of this tree, and says she can see it in her garden from many streets away when it is in flower.

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Brewer's ruins...

This is the house my forefathers built sometime before the first war. It was only lived in for 30 years, and was my father's childhood home, and has since become the ruin it is now. I am not sure who built the place, the land was taken up by my great grandmother in 1912, although the family had been in the district since the early 1880s when they moved from Melrose, and my great grandfather died in 1899. It may have been built by and my grandfather and my great uncle Ted, who lived in another, similar house, about 400m south with my great grandmother. The house was built of limestone gathered from the square mile the family bought as their farm. The stones are cemented together with a weak mix of cement, sand and earth, a sort of marl. The floors were marl about 3/4th inch thick on levelled earth, and the roof was galvanised iron on 3x4s, with no ceiling apparent although hessian bags were often used in these vernacular houses. The house consisted of a kitchen with iron stove, a sitting room with painted marl walls, two bedrooms, and a small addition, a parlor, or third bedroom, beside the hallway. Behind this house was a series of lean-to sheds that were used for horses, farm machinery, tractors, and cars. Water was gathered in an in-ground stone tank lined with cement. The tank is still there although the lining has deteriorated to the extent it will no longer hold water. A much larger tank, 4m deep, of the same construction is about 200m away, near the road. This tank held about 50000 litres, or 10000 gallons. This is by way of a back story.

This is an ancient almond tree standing in the middle of a paddock of two row barley. Behind the tree is the wreckage of an old pine on the left, and the ruins of the house, and a mulberry tree of the same vintage.
Some years ago this area was burnt in a fire. The pines died, the almond survives, just. This was the only fruit I could see, a single nut within an arm's reach.
The branches are covered in bright yellow lichen. New branches have come through the lichen, complicating the tree's structure to the point it would be almost impossible to prune except severely.
This is the other dead pine. These trees are all of approximately the same age, some 80-90 years. In the background are mature examples of E. calycogona, mentioned in a previous post about Brewer's corner.
Closer to home is the mulberry, a mature tree probably as old as the other trees mentioned above. This one appears quite fruitful, as it is in bountiful flower. Immediately behind the tree is the in-ground tank that serviced the house, holding about 5000 gallons of water. The back door of the house would have been just to the right of the tree, where the stonework ends. (I think it was the back door, as the view above suggests the front of the house, but it faces away from the road. There is evidence of a front porch of some kind near the door.) The room on the right was the parlor, or third bedroom. My father had 2 sisters and a brother, and they also had plenty of family visitors, so there was a need for bedrooms.
The base of the mulberry. These seem to be slow growing trees. The oldest exotic tree in South Australia is a mulberry planted on Kangaroo Island in 1835-6, which was still productive in the 1950s and 60s when I was a kid, because in mulberry season we kids would sometimes spend an afternoon pigging out on fruit while our parents were in town. The tree was probably three the size of this one.
Mulberry flowers. The tree was covered in flowers, which points to a good season. They will, of course, be wasted by everyone except the birds and bees.
The lichen on the trunk of the tree. This is a quite thick and well developed covering of the older braches of the tree. it has been quite dry in recent years but the occasional rains would be enough to ensure the plant lives on.
Behind the barley is this mountain, Mount Misery, a terrifyingly jagged peak of unclimbable heights. The Mount formed the shared inner corner of the farm. I suspect the name was given either in jest or as a warning. My family went bankrupt on this land during the Great Depression, and moved away. But the names of families, places, the times, still inhabit me from my childhood when my father used to talk about his childhood. He was about 24 when they left the district, some 6 years after the farm was sold from under them by the State Bank of SA, now known by its fatuously modern business name of BankSA. The barley, this is the great barley growing area of Australia, is the best in Australia. If you want good beer, here is where you get the barley for the malt. This crop will go into many appreciative stomachs over the next year or so. Skoll.

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