Tiny Shower Companions

Never budged as I showered. I am not sure yet of its species…

And a Green Tree Frog too.

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Shower with a friend!

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Extreme Sport

This photo of the Fitzroy river in flood under the Willare Bridge, on the road between Fitzroy Crossing and Broome, was published on FaceBook a while back.

It reminded me of when I drove that way, going to a meeting in Broome in the Holden Colorado.  The river was not so high then.   It was in the dry season.

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As I approached the bridge I saw a rental campervan parked on the verge at the end.

A young man was climbing on the parapet in the middle of the bridge and  was clearly about to jump in.  I pulled up beside him and wound down my window.  He looked nervously at the Shire logo on my Colorado, then returned my friendly smile as I said “G’day mate. Having fun?”

“Yes” he answered in a German accent.

I knew it. Tourist.

“You know that’s pretty dangerous”.  I said.

“Oh no! The water is very deep. We checked first before we started to jump”.

“Good”, I answered. “How long have you been swimming here?”

“About twenty minutes.  It is not illegal, yes?”

“Oh it is not illegal. But I am thinking you should stop. Twenty minutes should be just about enough time for the crocodiles to realise you are here. They will have heard you jumping in, with all the big splashes you must be making.”

“Crocodiles?”

“Yes. Big man-eating salties live in this river.  If it was only freshies I’d say go on and have fun. Freshies are harmless.  But salties… They eat people”.

He called out urgently to his companions below, in German.  I recognised only the word “Krokodil”.

He looked very pale as he waited for his companions to scramble up the bank..

“it is not a joke, yes?”

“No joke mate.  This area is full of crocodiles. Be very careful where you swim”.

We talked a little more. They had driven up from Perth. They were heading for Darwin.   It seemed no one had told them about the crocs in this part of the country.

Tourists.

Fighting in the Streets

I am staying in Halls Creek over the holidays, house sitting for a friend who is visiting family in Queensland.

Today I drove 368 kilometres from Halls Creek to Kununurra – and the same distance back, of course – to do a little shopping for Christmas supplies.  I was after things I can’t get cheaply locally, like asparagus, ham and turkey, or can’t get at all, like Jameson Irish Whiskey, which I planned to enjoy while on my holiday.  I have been living in a totally dry community for the last eight months.

The liquor ordinances in Kununurra are just a little kinder than those here in Halls Creek.  Here, only low alcohol beverages are available, whereas in Kunners one can buy a very limited amount of spirit (one bottle) OR a carton of full strength beer.

Usually.

The Police have the final say, it seems.  When I arrived at the liquor store today I was advised that due to some naughty behaviour by drunken people last night, the Police have declared that only limited quantities  of low alcohol beverages may be sold.  I had to come home empty handed.

I do understand that liquor is a problem for those who cannot handle it.  Believe me, I know.

I just don’t think that denying me my nightcap is going to do anything to prevent fighting in the streets.

Hey! I think the time is right for a policy revolution
Cos where I live the liquor law is compromise solution
Well, then what can a poor boy do
When there’s no liquor on hand?
‘Cause in Kununurra town there’s just no grog for a peaceful man
No!

With apologies to Messrs. Jagger and Richards.

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Food for Emu Chicks

My little emu chicks have already visibly grown. If I could find my kitchen scales, I’d weigh them. They are eating really well and today they ran around the yard very energetically. They are much more steady on their feet. They also tried eating grass and weeds. They found a little patch of quartz gravel and ate a few bits, which will help them grind their food in their crops.

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They already know what they are doing!

I have just prepared them a new food mixture which I shall freeze in batches. This mix is based on professional advice:

EMU CHICK FOOD MkII.

  • Dry dog food: 1 cup
  • chicken pellets: 1 cup
  • wheat: 1 cup,
  • Budgie seed, 1 cup
  • half a cauliflower,
  • half a broccoli,
  • 2 carrots.

All whizzed in the food processor, except the wheat which is too strong. That got pulverised in the blender then mixed in.  I am also soaking some wheat to let it sprout.

I don’t think they will be needing this for long, at the rate they are developing. When they are just a little older they wont need the food to be processed. For the Mk III version I shall just chop the veges for them and throw in the other ingredients.  I shall also add frozen peas and parrot seed mix.  .

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The reason for only half a broccoli and cauli is that they are bloody expensive out here, and I have to eat too.

Emulating Dad

I now have two emu chicks. It seems that more than one were captured when their parent was killed.  Whoever got this second one decided not to keep it so it was brought to me.  I was quite glad to get a second chick.  The birds are plainly very social, and because I cannot be with Brittany every hour, it is good for her to have a sibling as a companion.

I have named it Eric, of course.  I have no idea of its gender though, any more than I do of Brittany’s.  They are far too young to have gender roles imposed on them anyway.

Baby emus follow their dad around for up to two years.  I am still wondering what that might mean for me and just what I may have gotten myself into.  I mentioned before that the female emu has nothing to do with parenting her offspring. That is dad’s job. Once she has laid her eggs she buggers off and leaves the male to sit on the eggs until they hatch. Incubation takes up to ten weeks. Dad won’t leave the eggs in that time and survives on his stored body fat. He is very attentive and turns the eggs several times a day.  At least I don’t have to do that.  On the other hand, ten weeks surviving on my body fat might be desirable.

My first problem, as I mentioned previously, was what to feed the chicks.  Emus are omnivores and like grasshoppers, small arthropods, grasses, leaves, seeds and fruit. I started out feeding my little charges on a mixture of dog food, chicken food and muesli, plus some minced meat, all dampened with water.

While dining on a light lunch of Ramen noodles and canned tuna I had a bit of a brainwave and offered some to the chicks.   They were pretty keen on it and I  realised the  ramen was visually stimulating for them.  I suppose it looks a bit wormy.  By mixing a sloppy blend of dog food, chicken food, seeds and cooked ramen noodles (without the sauce and stock  sachets)  I have come up with a hopefully balanced nutritious diet that they seem to like.

The next problem was to teach them to browse. They are not going to spend all their lives in a cage eating from a container.  They need to be able to forage and fend for themselves.   As soon as they are big enough that the crows won’t take them, I shall allow them to be free – probably with my chickens when they arrive.

As it turned out I had no problems letting them wander around the back yard while I stood guard.  They followed me around dutifully as I made “Dook Dook” noises and dropped food for them to find.

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I suddenly gained an unexpected ally.  Sally the goat, curious as always, came over to see what was going on.  She sniffed the birds and the food I was dropping for them. Detecting the scent of meat, she ignored the noodles and started foraging in the grass.  The chicks, seeing her eating, transferred their attention to her and followed her around the garden investigating whatever she was interested in.  Sally cheerfully tolerated them as they hung around her, even when they got under her ears. She even took care not to step on them.

It was plain the little birds were definitely getting the idea of exploring the grass for tidbits.  As they did I seeded the ground nearby with food so their searching would not be in vain.

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I need not have worried about the chicks transferring their affection to Sally. As soon as I called them with my ‘dook dook” dad emulation they ran straight to me.  looks like they have accepted me.  Having only two legs probably helps.

I was very wary of the crows waiting around on the fence.  They may have just wanted to collect the bits of food missed by the chicks, but I have no doubt they would carry one of the little birds off if they had the opportunity.  Molly the dog and I stayed close by to keep the crows at bay.

Molly was very well behaved.  After a single stern warning, she did not try to eat the little emus’ food.  She is already perfectly at ease with the chicks and makes no effort to bother them except for a sniff and a lick.  I think I am making progress with her training too.

A New Responsibility

Today I received a visit from one of the community families.  They have a baby emu, whose mother (CORRECTION: it seems that emu chicks are hatched and raised by the father.  After laying her eggs the mother has no further responsibility) so, whose parent is dead.  The unfortunate one is orphaned because her previous carer was even as we spoke being cooked for Sunday dinner.  That is the way of the outback.  However, no one wants a little chick to die just because its parent is delicious.

Would I like to raise it as my own?

What do baby emus eat?  I asked.

Grasshoppers.

I am not sure I will be able to fulfill that sort of obligation.  But there must be alternatives to grasshoppers?    I gave it a thought for a few seconds.  OK. I shall try.  Challenge accepted.

Her name is Brittany.

It would be!   OK, I can live with that.  I definitely would have called her Eric though, if I had first choice.

The next hour or so was spent preparing a blended mixture of chicken food (obtained in Kununurra on Friday in preparation for the soon-expected flock)  dog food, and minced beef.  Then convincing Brittany to eat it.   By mixing it with water and making it sloppy, as I did with Eric the duck’s first meals, I finally got her eating quite heartily.  I think we have that problem solved.  If she eats and drinks, she probably will live.  Basic tenet of faith.

Brittany now has a cup of water and a cup of dry food suspended in her cat-box cage and a tray of sloppy mix immediately below.  Once she figures out how to eat the dry food the tray should no longer be required.

Molly the dog gave her a friendly lick, and seemed to understand Brittany was too little to play with. She has been charged with her protection from other dogs.  Sally the goat also showed friendly curiosity, or perhaps was just interested in the chicken feed.

I hope when the chickens arrive she will be able to live with them.  She is going to outgrow this catbox in no time.

 

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Taistealaí and Troopy

I am taking some boys on a camping and football trip and my Shire troopy* is not yet repaired.  So Lachy drove down to meet me half way along the Tanami with the Youth Town Troopy so I could use it for the trip. He took my own Taistealaí back to Halls Creek. Taistealaí is not covered by Shire insurance for transporting kids.  Australia does not have an ACC system.  Here we need public liability insurance and face litigation over traffic accidents, sport accidents or even work accidents in some cases.

It is because I did not have private health insurance, and did not injure myself at work, that my left arm is now partly disabled.  Had I lied about how I injured my arm, I might be a nearly whole man today.  I was not covered for prompt treatment or for compensation. It was a year between the injury and the operation, by which time it was too late.  That would not have been a problem in NZ but I did not know this about Australia until too late.

But I digress.

The town troopy is much cleaner and tidier than mine!   Note to self….

It was quite illuminating to drive a 4.2 litre six cylinder diesel up the road for an hour, and immediately switch to a 4.8 litre V8 diesel going back over the same route.  That extra .4 of a litre and two cylinders  of the troopy does make quite a difference  in the feel of the vehicle. Definitely more power there.  I had not noticed it so much before because there had been a longer period between driving one or the other. I am not at all concerned that the six is less powerful, because it is much more economical on fuel, and in any case it still has all the power I am ever likely to need. Even if I end up in the future as a grey nomad towing my home behind me it will not be a huge affair, just a little caravan or camper trailer.

Also on the plus side, I realised that the suspension and ride in Taistealaí is more comfortable.

Both cars handle really well on the rough Tanami.  So nice to have a good vehicle.  I realise now just how inadequate the Holden Colorado was.  Particularly if one drives thse roads regularly.

One thing I have learned in the time I have been up here, is the value of a good 4WD on rough unpaved roads.  When I first got here I wrote somewhere on my blog that some locals were quite proud of the fact they drove down the Tanami and Duncan roads without ever engaging four wheel drive. I even did it myself in the Colorado.  What a dick.  I have since learned, both by training and experience, that this refusal to engage 4WD on unpaved roads is a foolish and wrong attitude. It is dangerous.  The reasoning most people give for staying in 2WD unless they are likely to get bogged, is the dubious claim that there is less wear and tear on the vehicle when running in two wheel drive only, and the probably reasonably valid argument that fuel economy is improved.  However valid these assertions may be, they are strongly counterbalanced by the incontrovertible fact that traction, control and handling, and stability are far greater on rough roads when in four wheel drive.  Therefore it is safer! When conditions can change from shingle to sand to bulldust to rock within a few metres, control is necessary at all times    Safety is paramount on these roads.  It is a bloody long way to hospital, if you’re badly injured it will seem a very long time until help arrives -assuming there is some way to call for assistance, or that someone finds you before you bleed out.  A serious accident will require helicopter evacuation because ambulances do not travel these roads.  Anyone who feels that saving a few dollars on maintenance or fuel is more important than the lives of the occupants of the vehicle, or is more significant than the increased chance the vehicle itself might be wrecked in an accident, is not thinking clearly.

And that is all I have to say about that.

*For my overseas reader(s) – a Troopy is a Toyota Landcruiser “Troop Carrier”  A vehicle that I am told was developed specifically for Australia.  It has a long wheel base and long range fuel tanks.  It seats ten to fourteen on a front bench seat and on two long seats along either side at the back.     Troopies have been the pick for people movers around the outback for years.  Now they are no longer in production many people are wondering what can replace them.  

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A Troopy
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Not a Troopy