Wednesday, 5 November 2008

Down by the seaside...

Avicennia marina -the Grey mangrove. This tree is on the eastern shore of Macleay Island, about 100 metres from my sister's block of land. The tide is out, but the water is still close, blue and warm. The edge of the small bay is covered with these mangroves, with small gaps between trees from which it is possible to launch one's boat to do a spot of fishing, an activity about which my sister's family is very enthusiastic.

Another tree nearby, showing the tree structure, branching out from a short stump.

This is the stump of the tree.
Leaves.
The roots growing out of the mud are called pneumatophores. They filter much of the salt from the water.
Part of a tree, showing the bark. This reminds me of the curlew, which looks like this:


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The other side...

Eucalyptus bridgesiana, Swamp apple or Swamp box. These two trees grow on the south side of my sister's block on Macleay Island in Moreton Bay, Qld, near where their proposed house will be built. The right hand tree will be removed, it is an ugly tree anyway and shows signs of insect damage, but they will keep the tree on the left which will help screen the house from the neighbour's.
These leaves are young, showing signs of being ovate. You can see some caterpillar damage on the edge of one of the leaves.
Trunk, showing bark, which is similar to the neighbouring E. microcorys. The soil here is a sandy loam which appears to be quite good. Re-seeded clumps of Themeda triandra, kangaroo grasshave sprung up on the block which has been cleared and the soil surface disturbed by considerable levelling.

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Island life...

This is Tallowwood, Eucalyptus microcorys, an interesting specimen of which is on my sister's block of land on Macleay Island in Moreton Bay in Queensland. This tree will eventually be removed, logged in fact, and probably end up as floor boards or furniture in the house they intend to build on the block. The tree is about 30m high, the butt is not quite a metre in diameter. As can be seen above the tree has just finished flowering. The flowers are usually a creamy white.

This is the tree from the front of the black. It is surprisingly straight from the ground to about 15m, before it branches. The branches are heavy at the base, but are short. There is no sign the tree sheds branches.
The tree bark is described as "rough and persistent" to the branches, with long fibres.
This is a log from a Tallow wood which was on the neighbouring block. The tree was cut down and rolled over to form part of the boundary between two blocks. The timber is apparently somewhat slippery, and difficult to work because of it. Hence tallowwood. But it apparently is a good timber for flooring and furniture. There is no reason why these logs shouldn't be sliced and diced and walked and sat upon.
Here is the next generation, most of which are going to be weeded for any garden my sister can make.

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Monday, 18 August 2008

the past is a different country...


This picture was taken in the forests east of where I live in the early 1980s. I am the one on the right with a beanie and my hands in my pockets. The tree stump is the remains of E. regnans cut many years ago. The axeman's steps are very clear in this photograph, he cut them, pushed a plank into the highest, stood on it and cut the tree down. The timber would have been used for building, flooring or fencing. This is a relatively young stump. The tallest tree ever measured on the ground in these forests was 425 feet long, and the top was said to have been damaged by lightning. Regnans needs fire to regenerate, but is not epicormic, unlike many other eucalypts.

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Acacias...

It is that time of the year again when the acacia begin to flower. We know it is late winter, and the yellow cheers us up as we go for our daily walks in the scrub in the loacl parks. The acacia seem to be in better humour than they were last year, perhaps because this winter has been colder and a lot wetter than the last. A couple of weeks ago it snowed less than 5km from this park, and for the benefit of northerners, that is very unusual. The eqivalent would be 45C in London. I think this is acacia dealbata, the silver wattle.

The odd thing about this flowering there are very few nectar eating birds about, especially the small ones. The park is called Bellbird Dell, and the bird it is named after are very aggressive and hunt out weaker less aggressive birds. They have, however, a beautiful song with a very pure tone.

I was on my way to the tram station when I saw these trees, and stopped to photograph them.

Notice the colour of the pool under this tree. This is storm water from the park and from neighbouring streets. In summer any remaining water will develope an algal bloom.

These trees seem to flower later the further south one goes. In the northern reaches of the State they would have been in blossom a month before these photos were taken-2 weeks ago-and will flower later in the higher, colder country. The Australian Alps are under a metre of snow at the moment, so it will be October before the acacia flower there.

Close up of the blossom. These flowers have quite as sweet scent. If you are asthmatic, don't stick your nose anywhere near this.
Most Australian flowering plants are great pollinators and some people believe them to be highly allergenic. The pollen is fairly heavy so is not usually carried on the wind, unlike grasses, rye grass is a particularly nasty grass, and so gets up one's nose with some difficulty. Not being allergic to anything, I like acacia, and I like particularly the idea of a movement of yellow across the countryside as the flowering front moves south.

The trunk of these trees is slightly rough, but also quite tough. The bark is thin, and was often used for tanning leather, the timber is useful though not much used.


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timber 2....


This the back of the house now. It is unfinished as yet, it hasn't been clad, although we were plastering the day I took this. Plastering is a trade that requires equanimity, it is designed to test friendships to the limit, and the sound proofing of the building. Fortunately the house is fairly soundproof, the air inside was electric some times.
Sunny winter's day, birch still leaning. There is a simple reason for this tree leaning over. Near the corner of the house was a 30m liquid amber tree, just under the piles of timber in the picture below.
This tree was removed to make room for this extension. The birch had grown up in the shade of the liquid amber, and to get to the light had to grow outwards. Only when the liquid amber was removed did the birch become a problem. Besides it was not a healthy tree, the possums had eaten the top shoots and the tree was dying from the extremities back, the core of the trunk was rotted out, and the roots were intertwined with the remnants of the liquid amber roots, which were removed by this machine.
This is a good way to make mulch.

The north wall of the house is 4m to roof, double glazed and with several layers of wall insulation under the plaster. The large overhang is supposed to shade the wall in summer. We will see. The metal sheet cladding is not on yet. The black lining is 18mm chipboard, painted with bituminous paint for water proofing.
This day a man and a machine pulled up at the neighbour's house.
The sun came out for awhile...
A man began to climb the tree...
Higher...
And then he started his chain saw...
Down came the tree, branches first...
Then gradually the trunk was whittled back...
More and more. The rain had set in by now...
Not much to go...
Going, going...

Gone.

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timber...

This what I have being doing for most of the year, apart from recovering from a broken marriage. For obvious reasons I have left my previous vocation-house husband-and ventured out into some sort of paid employment. I have been the labourer for a friend who took long service leave, and leave of his senses, to demolish the rear of his house, and rebuild it. Demolition took a week as it was hot, work was all by hand, and the section of the house was held together by a large number of nails. There was a dead possum in the ceiling space-if fell on someone's head-and a lot of filth accumulated over the last 30 years. This shot shows the result of the demolition: half a house.
We then built the form work for the waffle slab he was laying. Note the leaning birch over the side fence.
The sab is ready for concrete. 100m2, about 15 cubic metres.

Freshly poured and finished. The concreters did the levelling and smoothing by hand and eye.

Sometime later the framework is up. The birch is still leaning. Next post.....

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Friday, 11 April 2008

the horrors...

Just found this English site. The same happens here in Australia where I live; in the leafy eastern suburbs of Melbourne as well as everywhere else.

I've been busy lately so haven't been posting. I have been working for a friend who is rebuilding the back of his house; renovating is the great Australian hobby, more than fishing and drinking beer, and we have been using a lot of timber. Soon I will post a few pictures to show the demolition and framework.

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Monday, 7 January 2008

Tower Hill is a nested maar type of dormant volcano, notice it isn't extinct. More here. The treed area in the centre of the picture are a number of volcanic cones, the flat area in the foreground is part of the crater, and in wetter times is a large lake. Apparently the area was occupied by humans at the tme of the most recent eruptions between 20 and 30000 years ago. This area is part of a significant volcanic zone stretching from the south east of South Australia to central Victoria, within which the most recent eruptions were around Mt Gambier in SA about 4800 years ago. Tower Hill was declared a National Park in 1892. It was painted by a number of important artists including Eugen von Guerard, whose painting of 1855 is considered accurate enough to be used as a document of vegetation types, and which has guided revegetation from the 1950s onwards. Some where along the line they introduced this little animal.
This koala (Phascolarctos cinereus) is sitting in a tree in the Tower Hill National park near Koroit in Victoria's south west. I climbed the highest of the peaks in the park one day and on the way down was directed by some other visitors to this rather cute sight. We all take great pleasure in watching these animals, which are protected both by the law and national sentiment. Even when they piss on Ministers of the Government and ruin their expensive suits, we laugh, then hand a few over to zoos elsewhere in the world.
Koalas like a small subset of the 800 odd species of eucalypts and related trees. Manna gum (E. viminalis) and Swamp gum (E. ovata) are the main components of their diet, although they are known to browse up to 50 species and even eat from other tree species. They are fairly territorial and have favourite trees, they are social, but they eat up to a kilogram of leaves a day, and eucalypts are not thickly leaved trees, so they can quickly denude a tree. They were not in the park in an earlier European incarnation as grazing land and quarry. They now have eaten out the trees they like, there are vastly greater numbers and the park authorities are playing the ring a roses game of moving numbers to other locations to ease congestion. This is a common problem. I grew up on Kangaroo Island, where a colony of koalas was established in the early 1920s from French Island in Victoria, where, according to Tim Low in his book The New Nature, ISBN 0143001949, they had been taken in 1898. When I was a kid we had to drive a long way over some very rough dirt roads to see a koala, and I remember seeing a couple on one such excursion in the 50s.
This is the environment the koala (centre of picture) is living in. The light coloured trees are food trees. This animal is eating itself out of house and home. Further to the French Island and Kangaroo Island stories, where the animals have also eaten themselves out of trees, according to Lowe one person
on French Island in the 20s counted 2300 koalas on a 5 miles stretch of road. 15000 animals have been relocated from French and adjacent Phillip Islands so far, with little net result. The 18 koalas taken to Kangaroo Island had multiplied to more than 5000 70 years later. The locals wanted a cull, they got expensive and selective sterilisation. Koalas were then released up a tree, still eating their way out of house and home. The problem is two fold, political and sentimental. The pollies are gutless, they don't want to do the sensible thing, cull, because it would look bad in the media especially overseas. They won't fund the awareness campaigns to raise the level of debate above the cuteness and national icon level, so we can deal with the problem we created by not managing animal numbers. These animals were food once to the original Australians, they kept numbers in check by roasting them. Kangaroos, emus, possums were also eaten, and now they are all largely protected. I have eaten roo and emu meat, nutritious, low cholesterol meats both. Possums? Give us an open season on the buggers, three days is all we need, let me shoot fat Freddy who lives in my roof, pisses on my ceiling, shits in my nice warm insulation. Save the kangaroo? Save the koala? Only by managing the numbers, like humans once did.Thanks to Tim Low, who opened my eyes.

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