Monday, 30 March 2015


With Easter coming up I was reflecting on a two night stay I had a few years ago on Easter Island. I was returning from a wondrous trip to Antarctica. The island was discovered by the Dutch explorer Jacob Roggeveenis on Sunday, April 5, 1722 — which just happened to be Easter that year on the Christian calendar. The island covers 63 square miles and is the most isolated in the world being 2,150 miles west of South America and 1,300 miles east of Pitcairn Island - its nearest inhabited neighbor.

I don't have any of my own pictures on digital so here are some photos of the extraordinary moai which dot the island. They range in height from 4 to 33 feet and in weight to more than 80 tons
Standing proud and tall over the centuries
A treeless island - with moai guarding the entire island
Showing no disrespect, it also made me reflect on the life of our our former Prime Minister - the late Malcolm Fraser who was often depicted by cartoonists as resembling a moai. I watched his funeral with a friend last Friday and was reminded of the statesman he was. Without his involvement in allowing so many Vietnamese boat-people into the country - our society would be a less multi-cultural one. (what a pity we now don't welcome those fleeing atrocities to our shores) And his work with our indigenous people and with Care Australia - just to name a few.   The funeral was touching and very personal - as close to a family farewell as a former Prime Minister can have. In the cartoon below - created many years ago - it somehow seems fitting that it should have a tear in the eye.
Malcolm Fraser - by the cartoonist Prior

Vale Malcolm Fraser - a true statesman 'of the world' -
So after rambling across the globe I wish you a safe and happy Easter break. Don't eat too many chocolates and spare a thought for the chocolate bunnies as you munch through them!
Pardon?! (
And getting older this is what we're all up against!!

Monday, 23 March 2015

The Maclura Pomifera

A friend dropped some Maclura Pomifera off to me the other day! It is commonly called the Osage Orange. It doesn't look or taste like an orange and you won't find it at your local farmers market - or any other fruit and vegetable market!
A bowl of Monkey Balls!
It's often called the Hedge Apple or the Horse Apple or the Monkey Ball - with ne're a mention of an orange! When I was 'googling' it I discovered that Martha Stewart was very excited that her sherpa  gardener (!) had just picked her first orange. In her blog (here) she states that 'The Osage orange is native to a small area in eastern Texas, southeastern Oklahoma, and southwestern Arkansas. This region was home to the Native American Osage Indian tribe, hence the name of the fruit'. 
I can't think what it reminds me of!
The mention of Osage takes me back to the extraordinary Pullitza prize-winning play August: Osage County I saw a few years ago starring our very own Robyn Nevin - you can read Alison Croggon's review here. Many of you will have seen the film starring Meryl Streep (see link here). Talk about a disfunctional family - they took it to great heights - but with actors like Robyn and Meryl - well....

Weird 'apple green' oranges!
Anyway enough of that diversion - the Osage Orange is a strange beast. It apparantly makes a terrific hedge. So if you are looking for something quirky to hedge your plot then why not try the Maclura Pomifera!

I'm just happy to have it decorate my kitchen table!

Had you heard of it? Have you seen it? Would you plant it?

Tuesday, 17 March 2015

A rarity - the double-yolker!

Cracking an egg and finding a double-yolker when I was growing up was a pretty common occurance. It was also very exciting (well very is perhaps a little exaggerated) it could be the highlight of the day before heading off to school (I've never been a cereal girl - it's like eating chaff to me!)

A friend co-ordinates a monthly market in the country town of Avenel just over an hour from Melbourne. One of her tasks is to buy eggs from the local supplier and on-sell the most enormous eggs. The difference in the size leaves the largest old supermarket ones for dead. I felt confident that perhaps a good old double-yolker would appear as I ate my way through my supply. But sadly no. 
A gaggle of googie eggs! And nare a double-yolker in sight!
So imagine my surprise recently when I cracked my ordinary morning free-range supermarket egg and there was a double-yolker. I couldn't believe it. They still exist. I enjoyed it with reverence!
Seeing is believing!
Did you know that a double-yolker means someone you know will be getting married or having twins? Or both! As an only child I always wished I was a twin! So much for superstition.

Have you been lucky enough to have a double-yolker recently or are they, like so many things, becoming a thing of the past? 

Tuesday, 10 March 2015

Road carnage

The powers that be seem to herald a drop in the number of persons killed each year on our roads and yet it doesn't quite tell the whole story. After yet another spate of fatal accidents over the holiday weekend and cyclists being 'doored' (is this a new word in the dictionary?) and pushed into passing trucks it seems that we just ain't getting anywhere. Our roads are more crowded and our public transport system is going backwards and no new train/tram lines are being built. Things are only going to get worse. But that's another story.

Whenever I read that there has been another fatal accident I always think about the number of passengers who may have been seriously hurt but are never mentioned in any official figures. It would seem to me that including those in the list may - just may - make people take a little more care on the roads. Of course many believe they are invincible and take the attitude that it's 'not going to happen to me'. Well hopefully it isn't but we are often in the hands of those on the roads who take that view.  
A reminder along the way

But what to do about it? Well I think South Australia (my home state) goes someway to addressing the issue. When driving in the countryside you often pass a clump of posts. Red posts are for those injured in an accident and black posts are for those who died. What always amazes me is that they are often out in the open road, no bends in the road, no dangerous crossings, no visual reasons for what has happened and changed the lives of those involved and their families and friends forever. This is what you will find throughout the state.
They tell a pretty graphic story
Crash markers also operate in Tasmania (since 2002) where these standard roadside guideposts are placed adjacent to where a fatal or serious injury crash has occurred. I was pleased to read that the South Australian Government did a backflip on its decision to remove roadside crash marker posts from roads in 2014. I was interested to see that Google even publishes a map of the crash markers in SA. See link here

I think they are so much better and safer and less distracting than many that we pass on the roads.
I guess it's easy for me to say - they are not my family (
A long straight road - and just that one tree... (
To be reminded while we drive is a good thing. But to be reminded of those who received serious injuries is why I am in favour of the red and black markers. What do you think?

Tuesday, 3 March 2015

A surprise - beautiful Begonias

On a recent trip to Daylesford in Victoria's Spa country we visited the spectacular Wombat Hill Botanic Gardens in order to have lunch at Wombat Hill House the cafe run by renowned two-hatted chef Alla Wolf Tasker (she of The Lake House at Daylesford fame). What a lovely adventure it was. The cafe was charming and the food delicious as one would expect. And the setting was lovely. We sat in the cafe garden and if I closed my eyes and dreamt I could have been in Italy or the South of France. Gravel underfoot, lovely quirky tables and the lushest of lush herb gardens made it the perfect setting on a lovely late summers day. 
A lovely outside garden - I could have been in Europe!
Yes I know - too dark - sorry -  but the inside of the cafe is quirky and interesting
The wonderfully named Wombat Hill Botanic Gardens are a delight with some magnificent old trees and plantings as well as lush green lawns - what a cool delight on hot day. You have a birds-eye-view of Daylesford and the surrounding countryside. 
Lovely Wombat Botanic Gardens
But it was a hothouse of begonias that really 'blew me away'. I must say I have never had much time for the old fashioned begonia. They kindled up images of little old ladies and gents potting their plants in the 'fernery'. But these were just amazing. It made me want to visit the Ballarat Begonia Festival which just happens to be on this weekend (7-9 March 2015). 
The Alf Headland Conservatory - what a sight to come upon
And so a little history. In 1690, Charles Plumier, a Franciscan Monk and botanist, discovered 6 new plants in the West Indies. He dedicated the new genus to his patron, Michel Bergon, who had a strong interest in botany, and was at that time Governor of Haiti in the Antilles. (I bet you didn't know that!)
Beautiful Begonias
The Wombat Botanic Garden collection was started by W. Gascoine, Curator from 1885 - 89 - a Frenchman and experienced horticulturist, who grew tuberous begonias in the Conservatory. The plants were grown again in the 1930's in a new glasshouse. The curator Bill Greville obtained 45 plants from the Ballarat City Council and 30 from Queens Park in Essendon and soon had 250 tubers including a 'lost' one named Daylesford. When Alf Headland was appointed part-time caretaker in 1956 he found tubers in the woodshed. He became an expert in their cultivation. The Conservatory is named after him.   
Gorgeous colours
They look like full blown roses
Sometimes in life one happens upon a lovely surprise. Wombat Hill Botanic Gardens, Wombat Hill House and the amazing Begonias on display was one of those happenstance surprises. So take a drive to Daylesford and spend some time at the Wombat Botanic Gardens, have lunch in the cafe and press your nose to the glass in the Conservatory hothouse - just go between March and May (although I went in February!)