Cactus is Fractus

December 27, 2009

cactus2901.jpgWell, it is fractus (there is one for your Scrabble games) out on Miss Betty’s place, even if you do see it flourishing elsewhere in the state. Over the years prickly pear has been managed quite well and the family property is pretty much free of it. But given she is now managing it on her own a few plants have been creeping back. So part of our efforts in SA were directed at knocking these things off. First drive a hole into each pad and into the trunk of the plant. Just as Chris is doing here. Then fill the hole with undiluted Roundup. Then spray a mark on it – it can get pretty confusing out here and you don’t want to cover old ground. (It is a method a whole lot safer than the original treatment methods which involved boiling an arsenic mixture and letting the fumes drift into the weeds!) More than 200 plants were so treated, much to Miss Betty’s relief.

Apart from overrunning vast amounts of land the cactus spines get into the sheep wool making it a problem to handle come shearing time. In fact some shearers refuse to shear sheep known to be farmed in country with cactus. The spines will penetrate clean through a hand and leather boots are no protection. Hence Chris attacking this plant with a specially crafted spear – it allows him to stand off and drill the holes for the Roundup.

( A little bit of Prickly Pear disaster/success story in NSW here)

A Country Finger

December 26, 2009

driving-finger290.jpgRarely is the gesture of a single finger ever interpreted as anything except someone wishing the worst things to happen to you or your mother. Or both. Regardless of culture, language or age. Except in the country where a single, brief wave of a finger off the steering wheel is understood by rural folk to mean something completely different again. In some respects it is akin a secret handshake.  Read more

Kinked Back Shingleback

December 2, 2009

shingleback290.jpgThe short stick in the dusty distance moves in the heat and you are not sure if it is the shimmering haze off the gravel tricking your eyes. Then it moves again and a little more determinedly albeit awkwardly.  You slow down and get ready to swerve to avoid whatever it is. The stick waddles with a little more purpose as you apply brakes, and as you get closer it moves forward with the appearance of having a stiff back, slipped disk or some other spinal disability. Turns out on closer inspection to be this very determined little fellow who stands up to the Canon poked in his face – gaping his mouth wide and presenting a slightly bizarre blue tongue. Potentially dangerous for him if our curiosity is any guide – we are more inquisitive than deterred.

Bulyninnie, and this part of South Australia in general seems to be full of these lizards, related to the Blue Tongue, one of which alarmed one of my kids once by climbing into bed with her. All she saw was its scaly back and imagined a snake had come on board. She had the good sense to lie still but still managed to convey her alarm through the whole house. Poor lizard.

This guy settled down after a few minutes (put his blue tongue away, stopped hissing and lowered himself down from his aggressive posture) and hunkered down behind his lunch (they are herbivores) and watched the camera. I am not sure if he looks like a little old man or a baby. Either way they are quite endearing in their own way, shuffling about in the desert doing their own thing. The minute you think there  is nothing alive in the desert except 40 squillion flies (half of which are using your back as a layover) one of these guys shuffles onto the track in front of you to remind you it is not quite as desolate a place as you imagined.