Bush Tucker Day at Pigeon Hole

We went out to Pigeon Hole on Tuesday. Lots of families were gone due to several funerals at two communities with PH ties. The resulting low school attendance turned out to be useful, in a way, because we were able to get all the kids (lower and upper) into the two vehicles (school troopie and language centre troopie) for a bush trip on Wednesday.

First, we went down to the river to collect river mussels. We were back in time for recess.
We drove down to the river along a very rutted track, parking not far away. Everyone ran down to the river's edge. Posted by Hello
The language worker, B, waded into the river. The kids followed. Soon everybody was wet, head-to-toe, and mussels were piling up. Posted by Hello
Half a bucket of mussels were rather quickly collected by the kids and the language worker. Posted by Hello
Sticks and leaves were easily gathered up for a fire. Posted by Hello
The fire served not only to cook the mussels, but to dry out and warm up the kids who'd gone swimming in their search for the mussels. Posted by Hello
The can of mussels is put on the fire. No water is added. They cook in their own released juice. Posted by Hello
Ready to eat. Yum! Posted by Hello
Discarded shells in the remains of the fire. Posted by Hello
Ngamanburru (conkerberries). Some boys picked whole branches and brought them in the car back to school. Posted by Hello

Berry Picking Bush-style

After recess we went out for ngamanburru (conkerberries--see February blog entry). This time, the bushes were covered with fruit. The landscape is getting pretty dry; we were picking our way between great clumps of yellowing grasses (which left the hem of my dress full of seed heads) to the bushes which could be from three to five feet tall and often grow in tight groups of two or three bushes. An occasional lanky eucalypt of some sort would provide a tiny circle of shade at its base. Some wild passionfruit vines grew over some other small bushes and trees. The ripe passionfruit are no more than an inch in diameter, but the pulp sucked out of the papery yellow husk is sweet!

The blueish-black ripe conkerberries are easy to distinguish from the unripe green ones. They are tiny and sweet. There are some thorns on the bushes, but fairly easy to avoid; I got pricked less than if I'd been picking blackberries for as long.

The cheerfulness of the kids about spending a long time out in the sun (without water) is really amazing for someone who has worked recently with American kids. They didn't get whiney or bored, nor did they complain when it was time to go. They didn't fight over whose bush was whose, nobody got lost, nobody got hurt. It was just a really pleasant outing.
There are a couple of pet brolgas in Pigeon Hole. This one appeared one morning as we sat on the teacher's verandah. Posted by Hello
Brolga hunting grasshoppers on the school lawn. Posted by Hello
I heard it's called a "stick bug." Any entomologists want to identify it? Posted by Hello
computers within computers within computers...... Posted by Hello

Pictures for you

Below are a few pictures to illustrate the last posting.
Cute kid! Posted by Hello
Justin's always up for a petting zoo, or even just feeding the cows! Posted by Hello
At the snake stall. Posted by Hello
Katherine Farm and Garden Day 2005. Posted by Hello
I think this is a good candidate for a "best caption" contest. Anybody? Posted by Hello
Me with a joey whose mother got hit by a car. Posted by Hello
A bat fried on a powerline. Posted by Hello
Darwin sunset. Posted by Hello
Darwin dining! Posted by Hello

The Ides of April

I know I haven't posted in a long time; sorry.

We went to Farm and Garden Day out at the experimental station just south of town. Initially we were going to ride bikes out there, but then Justin got a flat tire and needed a new inner tube. R ended driving Justin, M and me.

There were tractors, of course, and lots of farm animals: Brahman bulls, a donkey, goats, piglets, ducks, a goose. The chook barn proved mildly entertaining. There was a baby wallaby at the wildlife rescue table, and a whole snake booth! There was a pest management booth with a various bugs and spiders in jars, as well as a live poisonous centipede about 5 inches long. We asked, "Are those around here?" The answer was "Oh, yes. That was found by our entomologist in her kitchen. She decided to keep it as a pet."

Greening Australia was there selling native trees and grasses, and we talked for a while to a farmer about sesame growing. I had never seen that plant. He was talking about different varieties and the different products derived from sesame, and I was reminded of the camel who lived at the house across from our homestay in Eritrea and spent its days walking in a circle to grind sesame seeds into oil.

Meanwhile we were serenaded by an authentic Katherine country singer; one of her original numbers was about 'mississippi moonshine' but she did also have at least one song that was actually about her dad's experience as a drover (basically an Australian cowboy). Her voice was nice, and I'm looking forward to the Katherine Country Music Muster in two weeks!

I did take a bunch of pictures there but I can't find the cable to move the pictures from the camera, so you'll just have to use your imagination!

I went to Greening Australia in the morning (only the second time I've actually volunteered there) and had a great time. We just re-potted trees all morning (aside from an extended "smoko" or morning tea), but it was fun and educational! I met interesting characters and got to hear local perspectives on various issues.

In the arvo (afternoon), I worked on the library at the language centre. I think it was my sixth day doing that. I don't love doing it, so I won't say more about it.

J and I are encouraging each other to write stuff to submit to the Northern Territory Literary Awards, so we met at a local cafe to share progress. I'd never been to this cafe before (it's really not quite a cafe in the sense of that word that you might have if you live anywhere bigger than Katherine, but it's also closer to a cafe than anything else here, and it has "cafe" in its name), but knew the owner has a reputation of being a talker. He did not, however, interrupt us or start talking to us at length until we saw him doing some hand-calculating from some figures on a computer screen. I asked why he didn't use a spreadsheet program for that, and he said that he'd forgotten how to do the formulas. So, I ended up showing him how to use formulas in excel. It was nice to feel useful!

Last Weekend
I went up to Darwin with R. Three markets. Hanging out with nice people (his friends), sometimes on their verandah, which was really an outdoor living room (they also had an outdoor shower next to their garden, the whole thing surrounded by lots of tropical greenness). It was great to be around people who are just reflexively environmentally aware ("Here's a plate and fork to take down to the market"), but I was also shocked to realize that I hadn't thought of bringing my own dishes although there was a time when I would never eat food in throwaway containers. It was a good reminder!

What other pleasures did Darwin offer? A mango daiquiri at a beachside bar as the sky lit up with an amazing sunset. A great, tiny, non-mall bookstore, open till 10 pm! A funny little neighborhood bar called the Mississippi Queen (outdoor seating: tables in what clearly used to be a driveway, with fairy lights and potted plants, a pond with lilies next door and the very loud sound of frogs; you walk through that to get to an actual old skinny train car which is outfitted as a bar inside; red velvet and brass being my dominant recollections) with a cranky old gay proprietor.

Meanwhile, Justin went on an interesting bush trip with B.H. (For a travel agent's well-written description of traveling with BH, try this.) It was a good trip, and I wish you could hear him tell about it. BH suggested that Justin bring me the next time, which I'm excited about. There were some harrowing bits, but that's part of the adventure. (For example, the house where Justin stayed had a mean dog which had to be chained to a bed while they were there and barked ferociously every time anyone walked past the doorway; there were also three pet pythons living uncaged at the foot of another bed; some of the bush trip involved people riding on the roof rack of the troopie; etc.)

Well, that's the update! We're heading off to the 20th anniversary celebration at the Katherine History Museum today, so stay tuned!
My life seems busy lately. After that 4-day Easter weekend chock full of activities (and I forgot to mention playing soccer in the park), last weekend was also eventful.

Saturday: morning trip out to the Fruit & Veg Market (it's not a farmers market, but a wholesaler that also retails), a languorous afternoon of swimming and talking at W & P's place on the knob (AKA 'the pool on the hill').

In the evening: the first Katherine Tick Market of the season (kinda like a flea market or swap meet): tables of people selling used books, handicrafts, some info tables, and several food stalls, including the ubiquitous sausage sizzle, but also including--yay!--Thai or at least Thai-ish food made by authentic means (a mortar and pestle were in use). R, M, and I all got green pawpaw (papaya) salad, 'medium' hot which turned out to be a couple of notches hotter than comfortable, but was incredibly yummy and fresh. I went back for plain white rice (to cool my mouth) and a fruit smoothie (which turned out to have more ice cream than fruit, but whatever, I wasn't complaining).

Oh yeah, I also got to HOLD a baby wallaby! It nibbled on the buttons of my dress.

Next, we headed to thebase, Katherine's only nightclub (I went there for the first time fairly recently; I think I forgot to blog about it) to see Cat Empire, a wholly unexpectedly cool act to be appearing in Katherine. To read a short description of them, check out the world cafe site. To see some photos and read an interview, check this out. They're a great live band, eclectic and energetic, and most of us danced our little hearts out.

Sunday: I attended two writing workshops led by a playwright down from Darwin. The morning was poetry, the afternoon short stories. Very short and not too in-depth, but inspiring nevertheless. I also met a few new people.

One attendee was a grandmother from South Africa, of Indian descent, who is living out in a small community with her son who is a teacher there. She has written a book about herbal remedies, and another book about the history of the Indian population in the area of South Africa where she lived. She's now interested in writing about similarities she sees between Aboriginal traditional practices and Indian ones.

Another attendee is part of the local Katherine lore, being I think the third generation from an important ranching family of the area. It was interesting to meet her and hear a little bit about her family.

Overall, quite a stimulating weekend!

To top that off, I started working a few hours at the language centre, trying to help tame the beast that is their library. I worked Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday afternoons, about 3 hours each.

I've also had some interesting (good) encounters with indigenous people who sit on the path where I walk every morning. I'll have to tell more about that another time!
Greg, guitar, inspiration! (At R & J's house) Posted by Hello
Edith Falls, seen from one of the swimming entry points. Posted by Hello
Justin, deep in a conversation with F about linguistics. Really. Posted by Hello