Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Watching the Trees Breathe

On chilly mornings, especially after there's been a bit of rain, the gum trees release a wonderful and mysterious-looking vapor when the sunlight strikes them. It's gorgeous to watch the steam rise from the ground and from the tree trunks, slowly rising into the air. It's a little like seeing your own breath on frosty mornings - as if the trees are exhaling, and I suppose they are.

I'm writing this on Tuesday night - and the weather people are predicting that temps here will drop below freezing tonight. Brrr! Today was sunny, and tomorrow is supposed to be sunny, too. Will the trees be steaming in the morning?  Don't know... but I'll be finding out!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Pictures from the Book: Page 13 (Pakshi)

Pakshi was my first macaw. I laugh at myself now because I remember that when I first got him I thought he was HUGE! Now I think of him as petite.

It was Pakshi who taught me the important lesson that many parrots, especially macaws, need to have 10-12 hours of quiet and darkness in order to get adequate sleep. He was the first bird that had a separate "sleep cage" away from the living area of the house. He went to bed about 8:30 (and would scream like a monster if I wasn't prompt about that) and got up at 6:30 with me in the morning.

A Hahns Macaw, Pakshi's species is the smallest of the macaws - only about 12 inches from beak to the tip of his tail. He was a loving little guy but could be quite nippy. He gave me the worst parrot bite I've had to-date. He pierced through the fingernail on my right-hand ring finger. It was a wound inflicted to punish me for failing to focus on HIM while I was holding him; he was intensely jealous of me and demanded my full attention.

He could also be fairly aggressive toward the other birds. Below is the first photo taken of Jesse, the Catalina Macaw we had in Ohio. I had just taken her out of her carrier and was holding her - Stephen snapped this photo just as Pakshi (who was out of his cage at the time) flew at us in rage. I never dreamed he'd attack something so much larger than himself. The photos is blurred because I was pulling back - but you can see a green blur just above my left hand - that's Pakshi - and look at the terrified look on poor Jesse's face!

I stepped aside quickly and prevented Pakshi from landing on us. Stephen put the camera down in a hurry and scooped my little green devil up and promptly put him in his cage.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Pictures from the Book: Page 13 (Forte Soleil)

Stephen had not been exposed to birds as companions much before he met me. But he's made up for lost time - and now enjoys interacting with our own birds and the wild ones that visit us every day. This is one of my favorite photos of him, taken when we were still living in Ohio:

Forte Soleil is a female sun conure. She was a very tame, sweet little thing, and quickly selected Stephen as her "preferred human". She loved to climb around inside his sweater, poking her head out and looking around before diving back down in. I am pretty sure she thought his sweater was a nest box - as she would defend the territory quite fiercely.

We loved her and hated to give her up, but are in agreement on one thing: we'll never own another sun conure. Why? If you ever get to hear one screeching, oh.... lordy... it's bad. She didn't have the volume of a macaw, of course, but her scream was piercing in it's own way.

One of my favorite bird books is "Birds Off the Perch" by Grindol, Lachman, and Kocher. In their book, the authors have a table comparing the traits of various birds. The table includes a "Loudness" rating, and here's what they say about sun conures and macaws:

Blue and Gold Macaw: Loud
Sun Conure: Extremely Loud

Friday, June 8, 2012



I love wool.

I live in a country where some of the most gorgeous wool garments are in shops everywhere. It's a wool-lover's paradise.

I love wool.

Wool, however, does not love me back. It seems I'm going to have to accept the fact that I cannot wear wool.

Is there anything so sad as unrequited love?

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

And as winter closes in, I'm reminded...

May in Australia is roughly the equivelant of Novermber in the northern hemisphere. Because our temperatures here on Mt. Dandenong are generally 4-5C lower than the city below, well, it gets chilly here before anywhere else.We don't see much snow (THANK HEAVENS!), but the continual rain and wind can drive the chill into your bones all the same.

I'd like to report an observation about differences in how people relate to the changes in temperatures here (as opposed to the US). I come from Ohio where it can get pretty darned cold (not as cold as some places, I'll agree, but cold all the same). Ohioan's (and I suspect others in the US) tend to like temps toasty - 72 F was always considered the ideal summer day temp. And I remember well the national campaign trying to get people to turn their thermostats down to 68 F  - and even lower during periods when their homes were unoccupied. I always found 68 F a bit, well, too cool for me.

But then again, I was raised in Ohio where we cranked up the furnace and didn't really put on a lot of heavy sweaters ("jumpers" in Australia) or other clothes to compensate. Oh, sure, the shops all had thermal underwear, and I guess it sold well, but I remember well in my office building that 70-72 F was considered good and anything lower would bring complaints.

In Australia, people are a lot hardier.

I was at the grocery today - a day when I was wearing a thick sweater and a lightweight coat. It was rainy and roughly 55F (maybe a tad lower). Ahead of me was a woman in a thick sweater, but wearing garden shoes (you know  - those hideous rubber scuffs with holes in them) and no socks. It happens more than you'd think. On a day when the temps dip well into the 50's, you'll still find people here in flip-flops (in Oz we call them "thongs"), sitting in outdoor cafes, enjoying a coffee and a chat. I keep my house warmer than anybody I know here - but even so am learning, year after year, to adjust to and appreciate lower internal temps in winter.

Swing to summer, you see the same differences.  I know very few people here who have A/C. Very few. And in the places where it's used, it's used sparingly. In Ohio, I had trouble during summer with chest colds brought on by overly-aggressive use of A/C. You'd go in from 90F to 70F - and back out again - AND the air inside a heated building could become incredibly dry. The shock to the lungs is, well, those of you in the states know what I'm talking about.

Here, A/C units are used to take the edge off - not to completely cool a space to the (US-loved) standard of 70F or so. And I've yet to have gone into any store or shopping center and thought "oh, gee, it's cold in here" during summer.