Feral fruit between Coast – Cooma – Canberra, delicious and part of history

Dozens of apple trees dot the roadside between Canberra and the Coast. Photo: Ian Campbell.
Dozens of apple trees dot the roadside between Canberra and the Coast. Photo: Ian Campbell.

The drive between the Far South Coast, Cooma, and Canberra is dotted with sites that make your mind wander.

Dilapidated railway bridges, decaying wildlife, rows of rural letterboxes, and sparkling solar farms, all inspire thought and question for the mindful traveller or curious passenger.

Right now, mixed with the scenic vistas on this 240km stretch of road is a more seasonal point of interest – apple trees heaving with fruit. Red, yellow, green apples bending branches to the ground.

There are dozens of apple trees growing in the harshest of conditions parallel to the highway and old railway line. At some points in this golden landscape, this native from Central Asia is the only show of green life.

How did they get there?

Are they any good to eat?

Red, yellow, and green apples all bending branches to the ground. Photo: Ian Campbell.
Red, yellow, and green apples all bending branches to the ground. Photo: Ian Campbell.

Growing alongside the Snowy Mountains and Monaro Highways is not the managed orchard environment I thought apples needed – perhaps I’ve watched too many pruning videos on YouTube and forgotten that apples are a tree like any other with their own wild force of nature!

While apples are the dominant feral fruit, you’ll also notice peach, plum, and pear trees.

Bega Valley Permacultrulist Kathleen McCann has a few theories to explain this roadside fruit salad; one of which is that she believes some of the trees date back to the horse and cart days.

“People did grow fruit trees and plant tree shelters at some of the stops they made on their journey,” Kathleen says.

“Often you can see tree cover, lone pines, and fruit trees in the oddest places along our highways, seemingly in the middle of nowhere. These are where the horse or carriage needed to stop for lunch or for the night.

“In the days of horse and carriage, people were only able to cover 10 to 20 kms per day, depending on the weight they were transporting and the terrain they covered. Remember everything was a dirt track and ungraded in those days,” she says.

Often these apple trees are the only "green" in the Snowy Monaro landscape. Photo: Ian Campbell.
Often these apple trees are the only “green” in the Snowy Monaro landscape. Photo: Ian Campbell.

Apple and pear cores, plum and peach seeds, discarded by travellers are also part of the story according to Kathleen.

“You can spot fruit trees along the railway track as well. These were definitely tossed out the window as a passenger finished their prized fruit and have germinated where they fell,” she says.

“These trees have existed in the elements all on their own and are therefore very hardy.”

Our green thumb also believes birds and animals have been a factor in spreading the trees.

“Stone fruit especially could have been carried quite a distance if the seed was swallowed by a cow or horse. Apple seeds could have been carried by birds and deposited in droppings,” Kathleen says.

Weeds are spread in similar ways and are a significant problem to the region’s landholders, however, despite not being a native, the apple trees aren’t considered a pest.

“The apples certainly aren’t a problem for us,” says Brett Jones, Vegetation Management Officer, Snowy Monaro Regional Council.

“The Biosecurity Act deals with weeds which have a direct impact on the areas social, economic and environmental values, which the roadside apples certainly don’t.

“If they were identified as harbouring pests like fruit flies, then they might cause some concern but I’m not aware of any negative impact,” Brett says.

Far from it, it seems a whole variety of species are enjoying this wild harvest – birds, kangaroos, cattle, flying foxes, and humans.

Friends of About Regional report using the apples in all sorts of recipes.

Former Canberra girl, Renee Griffiths O’Reilly says, “They are cider apples so very tart and ideal for making cider. Juice them then add winemakers yeast or alternatively make apple pies with a lot of sugar.”

Akolele local, Deborah Taylor suggests an old-fashioned apple dessert: “Baked apples – cored and filled with a mix of currents, raisins, sultanas, zest and juice of two oranges, butter and brown sugar too if you want to be indulgent”, she writes.

“Bake until soft. Serve with yoghurt or cream. Leftovers are great for breakfast with muesli and yoghurt.”

People throwing apple cores from a horse, train, or car is thought to be one of the reasons these ferals are here. Photo: Ian Campbell.
People throwing apple cores from a horse, train, or car is thought to be one of the reasons these ferals are here. Photo: Ian Campbell.

Show winner, Fiona Scott suggests apple jelly and is generous enough to share her secrets.

“It’s a bit fiddly but a good way to use apples that aren’t perfect,” she writes on About Regional Facebook.

“Cut up 2 kilograms of apples into fours, skin, core and all. Put into a big pot, like a stock pot with 1cm of water in the bottom.

“Bring slowly to the boil and simmer the whole mess until soft. Cool, then (the vital step) pour the whole lot into a muslin lined colander over a large bowl.

“A clean old cloth is fine if you don’t have muslin, just rinse well so the detergent remnants don’t make the jelly taste like Cold Power!” Fiona suggests.

“Leave overnight for the juice to drain. DO NOT SQUEEZE the leftover apple, compost it or the jelly will be cloudy.

“Measure the juice and put into the stockpot and bring to the boil. Add 40% equivalent in sugar, i.e. 1 litre of juice to 400 grams sugar.

“Stir the lovely pink mess until the sugar dissolves and continue boiling until it tests as set.

“I put a teaspoon of the juice onto a cold plate and when it is cool give it a push with my finger. Highly scientific! If wrinkles form like skin the chemistry is right for the jelly to set,” she writes.

“Pour into sterilised jars, cover with a clean cloth until cool, then cap the jars. Don’t put the lid on too soon or condensation from the cooling jam will make the jelly go mouldy.

“All that effort will give you several jars of the loveliest, clear pink and slightly wobbly apple jelly.

“Now you know all my jam making secrets,” Fiona confesses.

Sprout Cafe in Eden is currently baking Vegan Apple Loaf and Apple Crumble Cake. Photo: Karen Lott, Sprout Eden.
Sprout Cafe in Eden is currently baking Vegan Apple Loaf and Apple Crumble Cake. Photo: Karen Lott, Sprout Eden.

Sprout Cafe in Eden builds its weekly menu around what is seasonal and what is local, and the first apples are starting to come in from growers.

Elaine O’Rourke in the kitchen at Sprout is currently baking Vegan Apple Loaf and Apple Crumble Cake, and has shared the recipes with us!

Vegan Apple Loaf (Gluten Free)

1 ½ cups gluten-free self-raising flour
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup apple sauce
½ cup Nutlex
1 tsp cinnamon
1 ¾ tsp baking powder
1 tbsp Vanilla
½ cup almond milk
2 apples – peeled, cored and diced

Beat Nutlex and 3/4 of a cup of brown sugar until creamy, add apple sauce, vanilla and milk.
Mix in flour, baking powder, and cinnamon and stir until well combined.

Mix the remaining 1/3 of a cup of brown sugar with the apple sauce and stir half the apples into the mixture.

Pour into a loaf tin approx 23cm x 13cm
Sprinkle the remaining apples on top.

Bake at 180 degrees for 20 – 35 mins until a wooden skewer comes out clean.

Apple Crumble Cake (Gluten Free)

Crumble:
1 ¼ cups gluten-free plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
100g butter
½ cup caster sugar

Apple Filling:
5 apples – peeled, cored and diced
1 tbsp butter
½ tsp cinnamon
1 tbsp sugar

Base:
100g butter
½ cup caster sugar
1 egg
1 cup gluten-free plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tbsp milk

Make crumble by mixing flour, baking powder and sugar together and rubbing in the butter.

Make the filling by cooking the apples until soft and cooling.

Make base by whipping butter and sugar together, adding the egg, flour, baking powder and milk.

Spread base into a lined pan or tray, top with filling mixture and sprinkle topping over.

Bake at 180 degrees for 40 – 50 mins until a wooden skewer comes out clean and sprinkle with icing sugar to serve.

Feral apples at home among the gum trees of the Snowy Monaro. Photo: Ian Campbell
Feral apples at home among the gum trees of the Snowy Monaro. Photo: Ian Campbell

Like the weather-beaten shearing sheds and chimneys without a house that dot the Snowy-Monaro countryside, the apple trees that grow in this soil are also a throwback to another time.

These tough local specimens of one of the world’s favourite fruits will be ready for harvest come late February – early March. Find a safe spot to pull over, grab a bag, and be a part of their ongoing connection with travellers.

*About Regional content is supported by, Snowy Monaro Regional Council, Sprout Eden, the Bega Valley Regional Learning Centre, Kylie Dummer, Kaye Johnston, Geoffrey Grigg, Robyn Kesby, Amanda Fowler, Sue and Duncan Mackinnon, and Geoff Berry.

*This article first appeared on RiotACT

Tathra’s Hobbs Corner empties out signalling a back to work

Canberra's Stuart Howard, the last to leave Hobbs Corner at Tathra this summer. Photo: Ian Campbell.
Canberra’s Stuart Howard, the last to leave Hobbs Corner at Tathra this summer. Photo: Ian Campbell.

The last camper in Hobbs Corner for the summer of 2017/18 has pleaded for Tathra’s ‘unspoilt’ character and environment to be protected as he adds his own chapter to Tathra’s history.

This has been Stuart Howard’s eighteenth summer camping just across the road from Tathra Beach.

“I just love the place, it’s a bit more laid back than Merimbula,” Stuart laughs.

Campers start to arrive at Hobbs Corner in the week leading up to Christmas. By Boxing Day its 32 grassy sites are usually full.

Having campers in Hobbs Corner says summer holidays are here, in the same way that cricket on the radio does or cicadas calling at dusk.

Tathra’s more formal campgrounds are usually enough to cope with the town’s flow of visitors, but during the summer school holidays, the extra spaces at Hobbs Corner are called in to play.

Stuart was determined to be the last to leave this year, that happened last week. In the same way that campers arriving at Hobbs Corner says “holidays”, campers packing up says “back to work”.

Slowly folding away his tarps, tents, and camp kitchen, Stuart speaks of the friendships renewed and extended over the previous three weeks.

“Three other families come up from Victoria and we camp together, this is where I met them,” Stuart says.

“You end up knowing everyone, and you watch everyone’s kids grow-up, mine included. My bloke is 16 now, he first came here when he was three months old.”

It's a slow pack up for Stuart, who is a plumbing and gas inspector for the ACT Government. Photo: Ian Campbell.
It’s a slow pack up for Stuart, who is a plumbing and gas inspector for the ACT Government. Photo: Ian Campbell.

People have been coming to Hobbs Corner to holiday since the early 1900’s. A “good road” constructed to access the steamers at Tathra Wharf meant that getting to Tathra Beach was easier than most.

According to long-term locals Ron and Doreen Stafford, Hobbs Corner was named after Bemboka shopkeeper Nick Hobbs.

“He used to set up there [Tathra] each Christmas, just on the left at the bottom of Beach Hill,” Ron remembers.

“And he built a wood-fired oven at his campsite, probably illegal but he got away with it.”

Ron and Doreen remember Nick Hobbs as a “likeable character”.

“He would have been the mayor of Bemboka if Bemboka had a Mayor,” Ron chuckles.

When his son Jack took over the business, Nick bought a house in Tathra, “He never had to camp again,” Ron says.

Local historian Jim Kelly adds to the story.

“The little house on the beach, just south of the surf club, used to be a little grocery store in summer for campers,” Jim says.

“And Mrs Caddy would set up a small hut and sell billy cans of hot water for threepence. She also sold ice creams from a canvas ice bag for as long as the ice lasted.”

Big grassy campsites at Hobbs Corner. Photo: Tathra Beachside.
Big grassy campsites at Hobbs Corner. Photo: Tathra Beachside.

Stuart is back at work this week as a plumbing and gas inspector with the ACT Department of Environment and Sustainability, but his history with Hobbs Corner looks set to continue next summer.

“We’ll bring the boat next year,” he says.

“But please, don’t wreck this place, just leave it the way it is.

“Sensible development please, it’s such a great place, it would be a shame to see it wrecked and over commercialised,” Stuart pleads.

Hobbs Corner will fill up again at Easter. In the meantime, Tathra’s population of kangaroos will have control, part of the unspoilt charm Stuart points to.

*About Regional content is supported by Tathra Beach House Appartments, Bega Valley Regional Learning Centre, Kiah Wilderness Tours, Phil Martin, Amanda Dalziel, Debra Cushion, Kelly Murray, Gabrielle Powell, Tim Holt, Robyn Amair, Wendy and Pete Gorton, Shan Watts, and Doug Reckord.

*This story was first published on RiotACT

“Keep going and see what comes” – Bombala’s Sandy Lewis

Sandy Lewis, making a new life in Bombala. Photo: Ian Campbell
Sandy Lewis, making a new life in Bombala. Photo: Ian Campbell

Sandy Lewis is putting down roots again. After a life living in all parts of Australia, this Army brat from Western Australia has settled in Bombala, with a sense of fate guiding her hand.

Mind you Sandy says she is still West Australian to her core.

“Dad was SAS (Special Air Services), so it was an interesting childhood – 16 schools,” Sandy remembers.

“When dad left the Army after Vietnam we moved up to Karratha, that was heaven on earth, that was it for me, I was never a city kid again.”

Sandy’s life is a jigsaw of experiences that all combine to shape the life she is now building in southern New South Wales.

Overseas travel to places like Iceland and Mexico are part of her story, “I like to go to places that are a little bit different,” Sandy says.

This short biography of Sandy’s life starts forty plus years ago. After abandoning study and a career in art and graphic design, Sandy’s aunt bought her a ticket to Melbourne on the Indian Pacific.

“You can’t be taught to be an artist and I just knew I didn’t have it,” Sandy says.

“Melbourne was the big smoke and I wanted to learn the hospitality trade so that I could travel.”

And so began a life that has followed opportunity, adventure, and a spirit of community.

Twelve years of family life in Canberra are at the core; two children with her first husband  – a boy and a girl, now in their mid to late thirties.

“When that marriage broke up I went back to the Pilbara licking my wounds,” Sandy says.

Time as housekeeper and cook at the Forrest families historic Minderoo Station was next.

“Yeah, I saw Twiggy a few times, not fond of the lad, bit of a spoilt boarding school brat,” Sandy laughs.

Fencing, roo shooting, and work on a fruit plantation all in North West WA followed before time on the iconic Hamersley Station.

“But that was after Lang Hancock, it was fantastic, Hamersley Gorge was our swimming hole,” Sandy says.

The Australian Army Reserve is mixed through these years, with Sandy taking up a position with the Pilbara Regiment.

“The motto of the Pilbara Regiment is ‘Mintu wanta’, which is a Western Desert Aboriginal dialect for ‘always alert’,” the Army website says.

Its work involves surveillance operations throughout the North West of Australia.

“It was a pretty incredible experience, sometimes we got to try stuff out even before the SAS or Commandoes did,” Sandy says.

And then there’s a car accident 10 years ago, Sandy is shy about having her photo taken, self-conscience of facial reconstruction surgery only she can see.

“I failed to negotiate a corner and sadly I totalled my 1952 Plymouth,” she says.

“No seat belts so when I saw that there was no way out, I ducked, straight into the glove box.

“I spent 10 days in an induced coma, two and a half weeks in ICU, a trachy in my throat all that time.

“Then a further 2 weeks in a general ward. There were a further 5 or 6 operations and much dental work. I am one lucky lady,” Sandy says.

It was love and husband number two that got Sandy back on the East Coast, the pair spending 12 months travelling in a 10 tonne D Series Ford truck across the top to Queensland.

Learning the Bombala region's history is part of Sandy's new passion. Photo: Ian Campbell.
Learning the Bombala region’s history is part of Sandy’s new passion. Photo: Ian Campbell.

“There was a bedroom in the back and two Harleys and off we went,” Sandy laughs.

A magnificent house and tropical garden on the Atherton Tablelands was the next focus.

“We had in the meantime bought a bush house in Gulf Country, 600k’s up and inland from Cairns, old gold country.”

The bush home served as Sandy’s retreat when her second marriage broke down, but the heat and humidity become too much.

“I was basically living in an air-conditioned room during summer with my dogs and a TV – that’s not a life,” Sandy says.

“I was walking the dogs at 9 o’clock at night so I could breath and their feet didn’t melt.”

Having an eye for vintage design, Sandy bought an old caravan, packed up the dogs and headed south, with no real plan or intention.

“I had a wonderful time just cruising down and ended up in Queanbeyan so I could spend Christmas [2015] with my son and granddaughter – light of my life.”

“Ten days in Queanbeyan in a sardine can had me heading to the coast through Bombala,” Sandy chuckles.

“It was January the third when I arrived [in Bombala] it was raining and I was so tired, I pulled into the caravan park, and then woke up to the most glorious day.

“I walked the dogs around the river walk and I was just hooked,” Sandy beams.

Chatting with others in the caravan park inspired Sandy to investigate Bombala a bit deeper and longer than her usual three-day stay.

“I came over to the information centre and there was a guy working here named Peter Mitchell,” Sandy says.

“I said to Peter- I’ve heard that it is pretty affordable here, could you tell me some more?

“And he said – I am actually thinking of selling my cottage, come with me.”

Sandy fell in love with the place and a cuppa at closing time sealed the deal, by April Sandy and her five motorbikes and two dogs were moving in.

Having sold his house, Peter’s job at the Bombala Information Centre came up and before too long Sandy had picked up where Peter had left off.

“When I found out I’d got the job I cried,” Sandy says.

“I was a blow in, I thought a local would get the job.”

A sense of pride and purpose had been restored for Sandy after a difficult break-up.

“My son knew Bombala a bit because he’s a mad keen fisherman, but I didn’t really know Bombala at all,” Sandy says.

Two years on and just about to turn 61, Sandy is enjoying being close to her granddaughter in Canberra, as well as the coast and the snow.

“Skiing is not like riding a bike,” Sandy chuckles.

Sandy says a stubbornness and a determination to “make it work” has guided her life and it’s twists and turns, a sense of “keep going and see what comes.”

Her travels and agility are now being used to guide, inspire, and welcome fellow travellers, a role Sandy seems to revel in.

“And I’ve needed to immerse myself in the region and get to know it – I love that,” Sandy says.

Researching the skeletons in Cathcart’s history has been a highlight

“And my own house, it was a grocers store, built in 1865,” she says.

“I like being kept fascinated, I am like a dog with a bone, learning more and more about this area.”

Locals and visitors can see that and have started throwing Sandy questions to research and explore.

Part of her mission is to also remind locals of the riches around them.

“When I was living in the Pilbara, I backed on to Ningaloo Reef – I never went to Ningaloo Reef, that’s nuts, I was on its doorstep for years,” Sandy laughs.

“But the thing is, there are fifteen hundred people in this town that don’t need me, but I need them.

“I am too old to be a local now, but there is such a great sense of community here, you’ve gotta get involved and try and give back and meet like-minded people,” Sandy says.

Sandy works most Mondays and Saturdays at the Bombala Information Centre, the museum next door is part of her work and passion, drop by and see where a conversation will take you.

Bombala, on the southern Monaro. Photo: Google Maps
Bombala, on the southern Monaro. Photo: Google Maps

*About Regional content is supported by Julie Rutherford Real Estate at Bermagui, Bega Valley Commemorative Civic Centre, Sprout Cafe and Local Produce Store in Eden, Jeanette Westmore, Patrick and Meagan O’Halloran AKA Oh’Allmhurain Films, Claire Blewett and Neroli Dickson, Kate Liston-Mills, Fay Deveril, Shane O’Leary, Fiona Cullen, Nancy Blindell, Jo Riley-Fitzer, and Jenny Anderson. Thank you.

New citizens formalise their place in Bega Valley community.

Sittikai Henchaichone, Kannaphat Henchaichone, Deerana Kuskel, Brittany McConnell, Jason Badham, Saul Nightingale, Pavan Tenali, Dr Krishnankutty Rajesh, Parvathy Rajesh, Kiran Rajesh, Jennifer Watson. Photo: Ian Campbell
Sittikai Henchaichone, Kannaphat Henchaichone, Deerana Kuskel, Brittany McConnell, Jason Badham, Saul Nightingale, Pavan Tenali, Dr Krishnankutty Rajesh, Parvathy Rajesh, Kiran Rajesh, Jennifer Watson. Photo: Ian Campbell

Giving up your citizenship is a hard thing to get your head around if you were born in Australia.

Generally speaking, being born in Australia is the Wonka Golden Ticket of citizenship.

I guess there are Australian’s that renounce their citizenship – Rupert Murdoch comes to mind, but Aussie’s choosing citizenship of another country over the green and gold isn’t something you come across or hear about.

Other people becoming or wanting to become an Australian citizen is much easier to understand.

Around this great southland, 13,000 people made a pledge to Australia and its people on January 26, 11 of those in Bega, people born at all points of the global compass.

Nationally, people of Indian descent were the second largest group to take part in citizenship ceremonies on Australia Day behind the British, something that was reflected locally.

Indian born Bega residents, Dr Krishnankutty Rajesh, Parvathy Rajesh, and Kiran Rajesh, along with Cobargo’s Pavan Tenali are now Australian citizens.

Cobargo's Pavan Tenali. Photo: Ian Campbell
Cobargo’s Pavan Tenali. Photo: Ian Campbell

“This is a lovely community and very peaceful, a good place to stay,” Pavan says.

With Australian Crawl’s hit “Boys Light Up” playing in the background, Pavan tells me he has been in Australia for 10 years, in recent years working at the Cobargo Service Station.

“India is a good place too, but now I live here and the feeling is good,” he says.

Skype helps Pavan keep in touch with his large family in India, he says they are very happy for him and support his decision to become an Australian citizen.

“It was a big decision, but I am very happy, my family have peace of mind.”

India and the United Kindom weren’t the only nations represented in Bega, others pledging loyalty to Australia’s democratic beliefs, rights, liberties, and laws came from Thailand and the United States.

Bermagui's Saul Nightingale. Photo: Ian Campbell.
Bermagui’s Saul Nightingale. Photo: Ian Campbell.

With the day’s soundtrack moving along to Men at Work, Saul Nightingale says his heart has always been Australian.

“I moved here when I was five, that’s forty years ago,” Saul smiles.

“Mum and Dad are from the UK and they just saw the way things were going there, they thought this is not a place to bring up a family, in terms of opportunity, safety, and employment.

Saul calls Bermagui home now and when he isn’t playing music he works for the not-for-profit training organisation – The Centre for Community Welfare Training.

“My earliest memory of Australia was pulling into Sydney Harbour on the P&O Canberra on a stunningly beautiful day, Sydney was showing off, Australia made a pretty good first impression,” Saul laughs.

While becoming an Australian citizen was a formality for Saul, it was something that came with a sense of duty.

“I have a responsibility to have a say politically, as all Australians do,” he says.

“It’s all very well to talk about politics and to support certain causes but if you can’t actually put a vote to that then there’s a level of hypocrisy there.”

Merimbula's Brittany McConnell. Photo: Ian Campbell
Merimbula’s Brittany McConnell. Photo: Ian Campbell

Merimbula’s Brittany McConnell has been in Australia for six and half years with her Australian husband, her background is a jumble of the United States and England.

“It is a big decision to take Australian citizenship, but now I just feel so happy and proud, it feels amazing,” Brittany says.

Like Saul, this nurse from Pambula Hospital is looking forward to having her say.

“Back home you don’t actually have to participate [vote] if you don’t want to, so it’s quite nice to feel that obligation and be involved in decisions and feel like you have a voice,” she says.

As the band starts with Mondo Rock, I chat to Jason Badham who was born in the United States and has found love, life, and work in the Bega Valley.

Wolumla's Jason Badham. Photo: Ian Campbell.
Wolumla’s Jason Badham. Photo: Ian Campbell.

Living in Wolumla, Jason is a website designer with 2pi Software.

“I’ve been thinking about taking out citizenship for almost eight years, but the final decision came at the end of January 2017, ” Jason says.

The Trump inauguration seems to have played a part in Jason’s decision but more so the influence of his Australian partner Kirsten.

“I was in the States and I discovered my wife here in Australia because she was breeding the same kind of parrots that I was, I found her website and it was an encyclopedia of information,” Jason says.

“One thing led to another, I helped her build a website, we started having a friendship and I decided to come over here – it’s the best choice I ever made.”

Australia Day remains a tangle of issues yet to be sorted, but the role the citizenship ceremony plays is beyond question. Those who already have Australian citizenship are reminded by those who are new to it why Australia is such a good place to be and why diversity makes us stronger.

*About Regional content happens through the support of members – thank you to The Crossing Land Education Trust at Bermagui, 2pi Software, Snowy Monaro Regional Council, Fiona Firth, Scott Halfpenny, Bruce and Julie Williamson, Sue Hill, Robert Hartemink, Maureen Searson, Bruce Morrison, and Kerry Newlin. Thank you!

Podcast 21 – A lesson in the art of rock balancing with Michael Grab

Today’s conversation is with Michael Grab.

Michael’s rock balancing art stops the world dead, and in the same way that breathing just happens, your mind automatically asks, “How the hell does he do that?”

The gallery of photo and videos on his Gravity Glue website is extraordinary.

Canadian born Michael has been on the Far South Coast of New South Wales over summer, bringing his brand of land art to Picnic Point and Goalen Head, a magic bit of coastline between Bermagui and Tathra.

His work defies gravity, at least how the rest of us understand gravity, but Michael seems to have an ability to tap into and read this invisible earth force – something he describes as “gravity glue“.

How does he do it? Press play and find out…

Or listen and subscribe via AudioBoom, Bitesz.com, or Apple Podcasts.

 

A shout out to those who support local storytelling – Julie Rutherford Real Estate Bermagui, the Bega Valley Commemorative Civic Centre, and Kiah Wilderness Tours.

Thanks for listening.
Ian

Bombala kids shape design of all abilities playground

A vision for Bombala's new all abilities playground by students at St Joseph's. Photo: Snowy Monaro Regional Council
A vision for Bombala’s new all abilities playground by students at St Joseph’s. Photo: Snowy Monaro Regional Council

Buddy benches and reflection ponds are just a couple of the bright ideas Bombala students have come up with as part of their studies into playground design.

Students from St Joseph’s Primary School have just presented a range of thoughtful and captivating 3D playground models, paving the way for future playground construction in Bombala.

Following months of hard work, their final playground designs have been pitched to staff from Snowy Monaro Regional Council – Major Projects Manager Linda Nicholson, and Recreation and Property Technical Officer Jane Kanowski, as well as family and friends.

“All the students should be very proud of their efforts,” Linda says.

The students designed and built a playground space that incorporated elements of physical, social, mental, and spiritual well-being for people of all ages and abilities – community gardens, slides, handball courts, picnic areas, and bright, colourful equipment, were all part of their vision.

“The designs are very exciting, it was a pleasure working alongside the students – a great community partnership,” Linda says.

Dylan and Alexander Bruce make their pitch to classmates, Council, and family and friends. Photo: Snowy Monaro Regional Council.
Dylan and Alexander Bruce make their pitch to classmates, Council, and family and friends. Photo: Snowy Monaro Regional Council.

A number of valuable skills were picked up along the way, including team work, communication, public speaking, engineering, and building.

A terrific example of project-based learning.

Council staff presented students with a certificate of achievement for their outstanding efforts.

The students will continue their involvement throughout the design and construction of an all-abilities playground in Bombala during 2018.

About Regional Pop-Up Newsroom – what a great day in Bermagui!

The first About Regional Pop-Up Newsroom landed in Bermagui this week, based out of Julie Rutherford Real Estate we uncovered some of the untold stories of this town.

Kelly Eastwood from River Cottage Australia dropped in to share her plans for a deli and cooking school…

The About Regional Pop-Up Newsroom is in #Bermagui upstairs at the harbour at Julie Rutherford Real Estate.This time chatting to Kelly Eastwood about her new deli and cooking school.Drop by with your story between now and 2pm.CheersIan

Posted by About Regional on Tuesday, 5 December 2017

 

Longtime Bermagui fisherman Allan Broadhurst talked about his life on the ocean…

Can't come to #Bermagui and not talk to a real fisherman! Here's one – Allan Broadhurst.The About Regional Pop-Up Newsroom at Julie Rutherford Real Estate.Drop by with your story before 2pm.Thanks for tuning in.Ian

Posted by About Regional on Tuesday, 5 December 2017

 

The team at Marine Rescue Bermagui reinforced my longheld view that “the hills around here” hide some interesting people…

The About Regional Pop-Up Newsroom moves to Marine Rescue Bermagui, chatting to Alec and Richard.What's your story? Drop by Julie Rutherford Real Estate before 2!Thanks for tuning in.Ian

Posted by About Regional on Tuesday, 5 December 2017

 

And then there’s Bruce Frost, a life of volunteering, beekeeping and managing MS, one of the region’s great men…

The About Regional Pop-Up Newsroom is at Julie Rutherford Real Estate, upstairs at #Bermagui Harbour until 2ish. Drop by and share your story.Chatting to Bruce Frost right now talking volunteering, beekeeping, life with MS, and who knows!Thanks for tuning in.Ian

Posted by About Regional on Tuesday, 5 December 2017

 

What a great day! The About Regional Pop-Up Newsroom will happen again in 2018, somewhere in South East NSW.

Cheers

Ian

European Carp making a home in Snowy Monaro waters, but…

European or Common Carp. Photo: Flickr L Church via CSIRO
European or Common Carp. Photo: Flickr L Church via CSIRO

European Carp have been using the warmer water temperatures of spring to move across the Snowy Monaro, bringing their destructive ways into new habitats.

Since the 1850’s, Carp have been spreading out into low land waterways like the Murray-Darling Basin, but in the last ten years, these ferals have been moving into higher elevations, places once thought too cold for them.

Carp were introduced to Australia in an attempt to imitate a European environment – some nice cheese and wine could have done the job!

Despite being a native of Central Asia, carp are extensively farmed in Europe and the Middle East and are a popular angling fish in Europe. Eating carp is also a Christmas tradition in some cultures.

Carp in North America and Canada are also considered a significant pest.

Cooma Region Waterwatch Coordinator, Antia Brademann has eaten carp but doesn’t recommend it. Her interest is working with the community to build knowledge and share information and use it as part of locally tailored control programs.

Posted by Lauren Van Dyke on Sunday, 29 October 2017

 

The Carp Love 20 degrees campaign is key to those ambitions and is helping build a local profile of the fish. The program asks people to report carp sightings to the Feral Fish Scan website.

“Carp have a temperature trigger, so as water temperature gets to 20 degrees, that’s their spawning trigger, they need (and indeed love) that nice warm temperature,” Antia says.

Cooler water temperatures have perhaps slowed the pest’s progress across the Snowy Monaro, that is no longer the case with carp fanning out through the Upper Murrumbidgee River Catchment including the Bredbo and Numeralla Rivers, Cooma Creek, and into Canberra.

“They are moving, looking for suitable spawning habitat, “Antia says.

Locally that habitat looks different to what has been considered normal or ideal carp spawning areas – off stream wetlands, like those of the Lachlan River system, where large amounts of water gathers in shallow areas.

“In the Upper Murrumbidgee, we don’t have those big off stream wetlands, so we weren’t sure what the ideal spawning habitat looked like locally,” Antia says.

“Unfortunately from Carp Love 20 over the last three years, we are finding that carp spawning locally is opportunistic and variable.”

Carp spawning in the Upper Murrumbidgee catchment

Conditions are perfect to spot carp breeding. Anyone can do it! Waterwatch needs your help to better manage this pest species. #carplove20

Posted by ACT Landcare and Waterwatch on Thursday, 2 November 2017

 

A 6kg female can lay up to 1.5 million sticky eggs, attaching them to submerged vegetation or rocks in shallow water where they wait for a male to fertilise.

“We think that carp in this part of the world might have a number of spawning runs outside the traditional October to December window, because of the variability of local temperatures during spring,” Antia explains.

“And in the Upper Murrumbidgee Catchment, carp spawning is unlike the spawning of any other fish.

“You are listening for vigorous splashing, it will be very noticeable,” she says.

Fishing clubs at Numeralla and Bredbo have also been important players in the citizen science underway.

“We’ve found schools of carp that are less than 10cm long in Cooma Creek which tells us that’s a nursery habitat,” Antia says.

“By recording all these sightings and the anecdotal information, we are starting to build a picture of what’s happening in our catchment.”

Apart from scientific satisfaction, those taking part are also encouraged with free Carp Love 20 t-shirts!

Sadly, carp are now the most abundant large freshwater fish in some areas, including most of the Murray-Darling Basin. They have contributed to the degradation of large sections of natural aquatic ecosystems.

The NSW Department of Primary Industries points to the species destructive feeding practices leading to increased turbidity which in turn reduces light penetration, making it difficult for native fish that rely on sight to feed.

“Carp have this way of eating called, mumbling,” Anita says.

“They tear-out a bit of mud, and they suck out the macro-invertebrates and algae, and then they expel that mud out of their gills.”

Reduced light decreases plant growth, while suspended sediments smother plants and clog fishes’ gills.

Anita describes them as “ecosystem engineers” who undermine river banks to create the shallow sludgy environment they prefer.

Australia, meet the Caprinator

Australia – meet The Carpinator. He's going to rid our waterways of carp, by spreading the herpes virus.

Posted by Barnaby Joyce on Monday, 5 June 2017

 

But carp aren’t the only creatures responsible, poor catchment management practices by people have had a more substantial affect, carp have been clever and have been able to move into already degraded environments and build a lifestyle.

Many native species, including Golden Perch, Murray Cod, Silver Perch and Freshwater Catfish were already in decline before the introduction of these ferals into Australian waterways.

The presence of carp in terms of competition for food and the damage they inflict on freshwater habitats makes it difficult for native fish to re-establish.

In the man-made world, carp are also famous for choking water pumps and swamping irrigation channels.

The mapping of carp hotspots across the Upper Murrumbidgee Catchment is important for understanding behaviour and identifying opportunities for control.

The annual Mud Marlin (AKA carp) Fishing Competition run by the Numeralla Fishing Club is a great example of the control effort to date. Over the 13 years of the event, thousands of carp have been fished out of local waterways and disposed of humanely.

Similar events have also been held at Bredbo and Cooma.

Habitat like fallen trees and stumps which were once common in the Numeralla River have been put back in place by local Landcare to provide valuable feeding and breeding areas, as well as protection against predators. Photo: Landcare Australia.
Habitat like fallen trees and stumps which were once common in the Numeralla River have been put back in place by local Landcare to provide valuable feeding and breeding areas, as well as protection against predators. Photo: Landcare Australia.

Local Landcare volunteers have then moved in to restore habitat that better supports restocking with native fish species like Murray Cod and Golden Perch.

Carp warriors across the Snowy Monaro are now gearing up for the next phase in their attack – the carp herpes virus, which will bring on a “carpageddon” according to Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce.

Matt Barwick, Coordinator of the National Carp Control Plan (NCCP) says, “This virus is found in over 33 countries around the world and is specific to carp.”

“Research from the CSIRO over the last eight years has looked at all sorts of different fish species, birds, mammals, reptiles, amphibians, crustaceans – the only thing that gets disease from this virus is the common carp.”

The $11 million program will culminate with the release of the virus towards the end of 2018, the aim is to reduce carp density below levels known to cause environmental harm.

The NCCP is about to undertake a community briefing session flagging a possible local release. South East Local  Land Services is co-hosting a session at Goulburn Soldiers Club on Monday, December 18 from 6-8pm.

In the meantime, Antia Braddeman is calling on the community to continue making their contribution.

“Certainly if I am fishing I would not put a carp back, if people do catch carp we just ask that they humanely dispose of them,” Anita says.

“We are certainly finding out some interesting stuff about carp through community reports and observations, which helps with the control programs to come.”

Download the Feral Fish Scan App HERE to add your sightings to the database.

*About Regional stories happen because people become members – thank you to Snowy Monaro Regional Council, Robert Hartemink, Maureen Searson, Bruce Morrison and Kerry Newlin, Julie Klugman
Jeanie and David Leser, Maria Linkenbagh, Jenny and Arthur Robb, Nigel Catchlove, and Cathy Griff.

 

Take a drone flight over Dignams Creek roadworks

Looking north over existing highway, July 2017. Photo: RMS
Looking north over the existing highway. Photo: RMS

The roadworks at Dignams Creek, south of Narooma are a real talking point for motorists negotiating the Princes Highway at the moment – the scale of the project is epic.

Twenty-five large pieces of machinery are currently onsite supporting the work of 80 people, who during August, September, October shifted 100,000 cubic meters of earth.

At one point in your journey north or south, you end up in the middle of the worksite under the control of high-viz lollypop people who are dwarfed by the massive wheels and earthmoving blades cutting a wider, safer, straighter roadway through what was once a lush floodplain and a forest of eucalypt and tree ferns.

“This section of road was identified by the State Coronial Inquest 10 years ago as having a very real need to be upgraded,” Member for Bega, Andrew Constance says.

“In that 10 years there have been 26 accidents on this section of highway and unfortunately one life has been lost.”

Looking north over what will be the new bridge over Dignams Creek. Photo: RMS
Looking north over what will be the new bridge over Dignams Creek. Photo: RMS

The end result of this $45 million upgrade will be a widening of the current highway for about 800 metres leading into two-kilometres of new roadway built to current highway standards. There will also be new bridges erected over Dignams Creek and Dignams Creek Road.

“The narrow approach to the bridge and the twists and turns of the road where built to standards that are 70 years old,” Mr Constnace says.

“Modern-day traffic travels quicker and there are more heavy vehicles on the road – it’s important we get on and fix roads like this.

“To see the project progressing now is very pleasing,” he says.

The purple tracks the route of the new highway, to the west of the current bridge and roadway. Photo: RMS
The purple tracks the route of the new highway, to the west of the current bridge and roadway. Photo: RMS

The signs you whizz past on either side of the road point to competition in mid-2019.

In the run-up to Christmas 2017, extra hours have been added to the work schedule, a move welcomed by residents keen to see the finish flag fall.

Crews are now working 6 days a week including Saturdays from 8am till 6pm.

John Cursley and his partner Maggie live 200 metres from the new section of highway, “It’s dusty and the noise at times is quite disrupting, but in defense of them [York Civil Road Engineers] they have tried to address the problem,” Mr Cursley says.

“They changed the beeper on the reversing trucks to a squawker.

“These trucks don’t seem to ever go forward,” Mr Cursley laughs.

Paul Munro and his partner Sally are 100 meters away and pump drinking water from the creek, “Our pipes and basins have been turning blue,” Mr Munro says.

“I think it points to a change in the pH and acidity of our water.

“We’ve been here over 30 years and its the first time we’ve seen these signs,” Mr Munro says.

Rising water levels downstream in the salty Wallaga Lake might also be influencing the water table and makeup of the Munro’s creek water.

Mr Munro doesn’t believe the water is toxic or harmful and has consulted the project’s environmental officer.

“Somethings changed, but there is a lot happening in the catchment – dust, earthworks, new drainage, so its hard to know where the change has come from, we’ll be keeping an eye on water quality,” Mr Munro says.

Both men also have concerns about flooding while works take place, worried what will happen if an East Coast Low forms and drops a lot of rain while the ground is open and exposed.

“The quicker they get the job done the better,” Mr Cursley says.

“It is what it is, we just have to see it out,” Mr Munro says.

Andrew Constance says he is particularly grateful for the input and understanding of local residents.

“At the end of the day, we’ve got to put community safety first, and I am confident the end result will address all concerns,” Mr Constance says.

“Look this work needed doing, the bridge is too narrow and the corner too steep,” Mr Cursley says.

Looking south over the new section of highway at the northern end. Photo: RMS
Looking south over the new section of highway at the northern end. Photo: RMS

Motorists will be moved to a new 800-metre temporary road at the northern end of the project from Monday November 27 until mid-2018, and work will be put on hold between December 16 and January 8 in order to keep holiday traffic moving.

“And motorists need to remember there are 80 people working on this site, and they need to go home to their families each night,” Mr Constance says.

“So please drive with patience, observe the reduced speed limits and traffic controls.”

*About Regional content is supported by the contribution of members, thank you to – Julie Rutherford Real Estate Bermagui, Fiona Cullen, Nancy Blindell, Jo Riley-Fitzer, Jenny Anderson, Ali Oakley, Julia Stiles, and Patrick Reubinson.

Dual sex sea creatures swamp Far South Coast beaches

Bluebottles at North Durras. Photo: Christa White Facebook
Bluebottles at North Durras. Photo: Christa White Facebook

Locals and visitors have been returning beaches along the Eurobodalla and Bega Valley coastline, the chill of winter replaced with the temptation of a swim under big, bright, blue skies.

But that springtime enthusiasm has been tempered on some beaches with the mass arrival of familiar but alien looking creatures – Bluebottles.

Not one creature but many, these duel sex visitors to Far South Coast beaches are a collegiate group each with a job to do before being blown ashore.

“I love bluebottles, they’re awesome,” says Kerryn Wood, Manager of the Sapphire Coast Marine Discovery Centre in Eden.

“They’re actually a colony of several animals, all with specialised functions – feeding, catching prey, and reproduction.

“Fascinating!” Kerryn says.

A tangle of Bluebottles. Photo: Colin Eacott Facebook
A tangle of Bluebottles. Photo: Colin Eacott Facebook

According to the Australian Museum, the Bluebottle is a colony of four kinds of highly modified individuals known as zooids, and come from the same family of life that includes coral and sea anemones.

“The zooids are dependent on one another for survival.

“The float (pneumatophore) is a single individual and supports the rest of the colony.

“The tentacles (dactylozooids) are polyps concerned with the detection and capture of food and convey their prey to the digestive polyps (gastrozooids).

“Reproduction is carried out by the gonozooids, another type of polyp,” The Museum says.

Generally speaking, northerly winds bring Bluebottles onto local beaches.

“There have also been some pretty big seas lately,” Ms Wood says.

The beauty of Bluebotlles. Photo: Jackie Saunders Facebook
The beauty of Bluebotlles. Photo: Jackie Saunders Facebook

The Bluebottles famous float can grow to over 15cm, it’s job is to sail the colony across the ocean surface capturing the breeze with its aerodynamic shape. A degree of muscular contraction in its crest gives the Bluebottle a sense and skill similar to a holidaying windsurfer.

Local surfboat crews training for January’s George Bass Surfboat Marathon are reporting large “schools” of Bluebottles bobbing about at sea.

“The float may project either to the left or to the right; the left-handed forms sail to the right of the wind and vice versa,” The Australian Museum explains.

“Thus, if the sailing angle of one form leads to its stranding on the shore, the others sailing to the opposite side of the wind may escape.”

A neat survival trick that maintains the population even when Far South Coast beaches are blanketed in dried and popping specimens.

Food and reproduction drive life and Bluebottles have some impressive tools to call on.

Their stinging tentacles drift downwind for up to one metre capturing food in their wake, responding swiftly to the presence of food, they twist and tangle prey, and “become all mouth” to digest their meal.

A range of enzymes are deployed to break down proteins, carbs, and fats across a menu of small crustaceans and surface plankton.

Reproduction is another impressive Bluebottle trick that helps it’s species survive on the high-seas.

Bluebottles are hermaphrodites, they carry female and male parts.

“Awesome, I love that so many marine creatures are hermaphrodites,” Ms Wood says.

“And sometimes they’ll wash up on the beach with a variety of other really beautiful ‘blue’ animals like Glacus atlanticus or the Blue Sea Dragon – also hermaphrodites.

“The Glaucus atlanticus actually eat blue bottles and ‘steal’ their poison, making them even more poisonous!” Ms Wood says.

The Glaucus atlanticus, AKA Blue Dragon, eats Bluebottles. Photo: Commons Wikki
The Glaucus atlanticus, AKA Blue Dragon, eats Bluebottles. Photo: Commons Wikki

All this is very interesting but from a human perspective, avoiding the stingers and knowing what to do if stung is front of mind during a day at the beach.

Andrew Edmunds from the Far South Coast Surf Lifesaving Association says northeasterly winds and swells in particular bring Bluebottles on to beaches between Batemans Bay and Eden.

“Avoiding north-east facing beaches in those conditions might help families dodge Bluebottles,” Mr Edmunds says.

“The best treatment for a sting is hot water, a shower as hot as you can without burning does the trick.

“And if hot water isn’t available ice is a good alternative in relieving the pain after you have washed the tentacles away,” Mr Edmunds advises.

“Swimming at a patrolled beach this summer will ensure that first aid is close at hand from lifesavers.”

And be aware beachcombers, as thousands of Bluebottles lay shipwrecked on local beaches the toxic mixture they use to immobilise and digest their prey is still active and can sting you, however the contractions that trap their marine victims becomes inactive.

Bluebottles are awesome, the sting they can inject into a day at the beach instinctively demands our respect, but so to should their survival skills.

*Become a member of About Regional and support local news and stories, thank you to the Bega Valley Regional Learning Centre, Linda Albertson, Julia Stiles, Ali Oakley, Rosemary Lord, and Simon Marnie.

*Large elements of this article originally appeared on Riot ACT.