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Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Microwave Birds and Tap Dancing Dogs? It sounds like Australia.

Australia has some wonderful and distinctive bird life. The other morning I woke to a neighbouring house alarm. Only, it wasn’t a house alarm at all, it was a bird that sounds like a house alarm, and like a house alarm, it went on all morning.


I love the birds here, they have such interesting calls. If birds were classified by their sounds there would be the Microwave Bird, the Rat Bird and the 60’s Theme Tune Bird. There is one that echoes as if it is calling through a long tunnel and one that brings to mind an angry duck.

There are colourful parrots with colourful calls and musical magpies which are a favourite that remind me of the New Zealand bush. The laughing kookaburra is an Australian icon, as are the chattering pink and grey Galahs, who gather in colourful flocks and play noisy games.

I remember a woman in the remote countryside of the organic farm where I stayed who complained about the cat that called all night; probably a bat that I would like to rename the cat bird. Then there are the birds that sound like chattering monkeys and others that bring to mind a child’s squeaky toy.

This morning I woke up to the more gentle sound of a flock of cooing pigeons outside my window, ..... and the sound of tap dancing dogs in my room. The floor here is polished wood and one of the little Maltese Terriers I am looking after is already busy. She paces the floor under and around the bed, her little toes pattering on the floorboards like some sort of Fred Astaire impersonation.

Did I mention I love Australia? You bet I do.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Turkeys in the garden, carpet in the bush and sausage trees

I am house-sitting for the next few weeks in a lovely neighbourhood near Brisbane. I look after two little white fluffy puffballs and take them for walks in the local area. I love to explore Australian parks and the local one is quite surprising.

As well as a children’s playground and a very nice little bridge, it has its own small flock of wild turkeys. They forage in the bush and add some charm to an otherwise insignificant park.

The bridge spans a small ravine which is a shortcut from one street to another. I decided to explore under the bridge the other day and imagine my amazement when I found that they had laid pieces of carpet along the track. It looked like it even had underlay in places.

At one end it is gold and at the other it looks like grey loop pile. It’s hard to tell because it is worn and rotting. The photos didn’t come out too well but they do show the texture.

I did wonder if it was laid by the same person that left an old armchair behind a nearby tree.

As if that wasn’t enough I walked a bit further yesterday and found a group of what can only be called sausage trees. They are covered in long dangly strings with bulbous sausage like pods hanging on them.

Every day is another reminder that the world is full of interesting things. What have you discovered?

Feel free to share your most surprising discoveries in the comments section.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Ants in my Pants - Brisbane South

Somewhere in Brisbane there is a green bike helmet strapped to a tree with a plastic egg inside. It is also home to several earwigs and a colony of big black ants that bite. I know this from personal experience, because after finding this particular geocache* I still had an ant climbing around under my jeans ten minutes later.

I am house sitting two adorable little Maltese Terriers that look like little balls of fluff on legs, so I took them for a long walk to a local park this morning. I was trying to look inconspicuous while poking around under the park trees searching for the geocache, and they were barking up a storm because there were birds nearby. And dogs. And people. And puffs of wind. Lovely dogs and so easily excited.

We walked back past the adjacent complex that houses hundreds of animals the SPCA has up for adoption and a paddock of horses. The dogs went wild and I had to carry one of them for a bit to let her calm down.

I love Australia.

Where else can you hear a house alarm screech all morning before you realise it is just the annoying sound one of the local birds makes?

Where else can you watch crows devour the insides of an enormous dead rat like marsupial?

Where else can you find ants that are big enough to wander off with a loaf of bread?

Okay maybe not that big …. but big enough. I never tire of the amazing wildlife here.

*Read my blog about Geocaching to learn more

Monday, June 21, 2010

The Cheapest Accommodation in Brisbane

I am staying in a lovely home in an outer suburb of Brisbane. I have my own comfortable bedroom with a queen sized bed and reading lamp. There is everything I need here, including a pool, and a wide screen TV and for this I pay nothing.

Next week I move to a home just several minutes from the centre of Brisbane city and as well as all the usual benefits of a lovely home, the food is included, yet still I pay nothing.

It’s called house sitting and I am fairly new to this but I love it.

My first house sitting role came with a wonderful assortment of feathered visitors. If you have seen the bird photos on my website Surprising Australia, most of those photos were taken at this house. Cockatoos, parakeets, magpies, lorikeets and pigeons; that place had them all, along with three adorable dogs with great personalities. They were so much fun to take for walks.

Next month, I will spend two weeks on a farm in outer Brisbane with a friendly old dog, a miniature horse and a few heavy and serious looking steer.

It is a real bonus of the job that most of the house sits come with animals to look after.

There are two dogs where I am now and as I write this they have their little faces pressed up against the glass. They are so cute that is quite hard to concentrate. My next home has two little fluffy terriers and after the farm I head out to a cat home.

Most people want a house sitter because they have pets that need caring for, but sometimes the family just wants someone to be there for security or to keep the grass cut and mailbox from overflowing.

I have just written an introduction to House Sitting so if you want to know more, check it out my Squidoo page. Maybe you can be a house sitter. It’s lots of fun and a great way to see the country.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Winter in Queensland is harsh....

It’s the middle of winter here in Queensland Australia, and so cold that yesterday I had to put a long sleeved t-shirt on over my shorts. Brrrrr ...... lol.

Spare a thought for the poor Queenslander. We can only go swimming on the clear sunny days and we need a jumper in the evening if we go for a walk.
Yesterday a neighbour said “Isn’t it cold?” and I thought …. No. Not really.

It is cold in Wellington, New Zealand where they recently had five days of rain in a row, and it is extremely cold in the Antarctic where my friend lived for 18 months. Queenslanders are lucky.

Here is it is midwinter and the temperature ranges all the way from 20C down to 9C on a cold night. When I am cold, I only have to remember my last winter in wet and windy Wellington, New Zealand, and it puts a warm smile on my face.

I love this about Queensland, but then I started thinking about all those of you who are not so lucky to be in this climate and so I decided to write about the disadvantages of winter here. Just for you.

Well, let's see. .....  There is advertising on the lawn. Yes really. In Wellington everything is wrapped in plastic and stuffed carefully into your letterbox because of the wind and rain. Here they deliver newspapers and junk mail by throwing it from a car. Since it is rolled into a log big enough to stun someone with it is quite a hazard.

And ... ummm ... well that’s all I can think of.

Winter in Queensland? It’s awesome!!