Monthly Archives: January 2012


At 08:20 I was trying to get two cows into a paddock from off the public road. They’d run up the road from where they’re agisted, looking for the calves we’d sent to market yesterday (sniffle). The paddock into which they were supposed to go has a wide double-gate entrance, and my neighbour and I were directing the cows towards that gateway, using the sort of arm gestures adopted by police on point duty to mean “Go that way!”, and understood by cows everywhere, I presume.

It was morning rush hour on the road: three cars went past in the ten minutes I was out there; people taking their kids to school, probably, even though there’s a school bus.

And a woman in a big clean 4-wheel-drive happens along and has to slow down and nearly stop. Which was probably annoying for her, and unfortunate, and it’s a public road so the cows shouldn’t be on it, and et cetera.

But shit happens. And the only way to get the cows off the road was to get them into the paddock, the one with the aforementioned wide-open DOUBLE-GATE ENTRANCE (it’s really wide; huge, and only someone who couldn’t see or wasn’t looking would fail to notice the two gates standing open, only a metre or three from the edge of the road).

But instead of driving behind my neighbour and I, and behind the cows, and across the flat lawn-like grassland that is the verge on the non-paddock side of the road (thusly helping in our quest to clear the public road of trespassing cattle), the woman continued to drive along the bitumen road, which took her between the cows and the gateway. Which, if you’re not following along here, meant that she was in exactly the right place to stop the cows going into the gateway!

What the?! Oh, wake up, Australia!

The cows baulked and turned around, of course; because they’re not stupid, and wouldn’t willing run under a car.

After the idiotic 4WD-er had gone away, we had to start all over again. It took five more minutes to get the cows into the paddock. And it’s not like they weren’t upset enough already. Their babies are gone – gone to be sold at market today, and starved tomorrow outside the abattoir, and probably shot and carved up the day after that (I’m supposing). And after that, people like the idiotic 4wd-er will probably cook them up and serve them at their fabulous dinner parties with their like-minded idiotic friends.

I hate the 4-wheel-drivers around here. They’re universally idiotic. THIS IS MY ASSERTION AND I’M STICKING TO IT. They stay on the road, no matter what – because it’s a road, because that’s where cars drive, and they’re in a car, a big car, a car with a really high ceiling, isn’t it roomy? driving it, down the road, and it’s a road because it’s bitumen, and Hey! there shouldn’t be any cows on this road! Get out of my way, you cows! Get out of my way! Zoom! Zoom!

Everybody is an idiot right now. Everybody! Thank you and good night. Except it’s now 09:00 09:30 09:42 09:54 and I don’t have time to do the more-interesting post I was working on earlier, which I also didn’t get finished last night either, which makes me despair about ever getting anything finished ever. And today is the first sunny day we’ve had in about two weeks, after a lot of rain, which means I have a lot of work to do outside and it’s super humid right now. Bad news. Bad news. Boo hoo hoo.

So there we have it. Tuesday. You’re welcome to it, Reader.

Ledebouria socialis

This was my Ledebouria socialis when I bought it back in November 2011:

small bulbs in a pot

I split the bulbs up and put them into three pots. Now I think I probably shouldn’t have done that. Maybe it’s best to let them get through their flowering period before repotting them… I don’t know, but shortly after their repotting experience the bulbs started to look like they’d gone into dormancy or were dying. Their leaves folded up or wilted, and the bulbs shrank. I stopped watering them (thinking the roots might be rotting if I’d over-watered them before), and stopped taking them outside into the sun (they’d been getting a few hours of morning sun whenever I could be bothered ferrying them to and fro).

Since that time they’ve been sitting on a windowsill in good light, out of direct sun, getting hardly any water. In December, despite the woefulness of the parent bulb, a seed pod developed. It’s hard to see in this photo, but it’s a round thing on the flower stalk, between the vertical part of the stalk and the pot:

flower stalk falling over, with a seed pod clinging on

The seed was a little black thing, I think, like a grain of rock. I broke it free from the dried pod, and planted it in succulent mix. It sits on the same windowsill as the bulbs, out of direct sun, and every few days I mist it with water. Seven weeks later it still hasn’t sprouted yet, so maybe it’s not going to.

After the seed had gone, the parent bulb kept getting smaller and more shrivelled, until today it looked like this:

dead-looking bulbs in a pot

The roots must have rotted away, I think. In the photo below I’m holding what was the biggest bulb, and below it (to the right) are the roots, what’s left of them. (Below it to the left is another bulb, attached to the same roots):

my ridiculously pink hand holding the dead bulbs

I guess I must have watered the plant too much. Or, another possibility: looking at the close-up of the dead bulbs (the third photo), I could see strange spots. Maybe there’d been scale insects on the plant and I’d never noticed; or mealy bugs. I don’t know, though. I have trouble seeing them even in the original large photo.

I need to buy a magnifying glass so I can actually see small things again.

Anyway, apart from all that, in the last week or two the other bulbs have started to resuscitate. I don’t know why, and presumably it’s nothing I’ve done. Maybe it’s the weather. It’s been raining and cool for about 500 years now. Maybe they appreciate that sort of summer as much as I do, and feel revived.

Here they are, with newly green and perky leaves:

greening bulbs in a container, and one bulb with exposed new-looking roots

I repotted them today. Here is what they looked like out of the soil – one bulb with leaves and the other without:

bare bulbs on my gloved hand

They’re now in terracotta pots. I’ll let them sit for a few days before watering the soil.

leafy bulbs in a pot

I don’t know whether I’m supposed to cut off the old flower spikes or not, so I’ll try doing that for one pot to see if it makes any difference.

And now: I wanted to include some information about the origins of the plant – where it comes from and what that place looks like. But after searching the web for about six hours today I still don’t know the basics.

Apparently Ledebouria socialis is native to the summer-rainfall regions of South Africa, maybe; probably in Eastern Cape, but maybe also in KwaZulu-Natal; or Western Cape, too – even though that’s a winter-rainfall region and thus presumably completely wrong for the plant. It probably lives in valley bushveld, but I couldn’t find a description of what that is; and if it’s not the same thing as thickets, we have a conflict.

There was one piece of pretty specific information: the plant grows at an altitude of between 155 and 350 metres – which I presume means it’s found back from the coast; probably up the river valleys quite a distance, unless they rise steeply.

And this was good: a first-person account of Ledebouria socialis in the wild by someone who has years of experience in the field:

I have seen this little bulb in habitat in the Eastern Cape – it is easily missed. It grows in thicket vegetation, in the leaf litter underneath large bushes. That sort of place is difficult for photography!

If I remember correctly, growing below the ground [where the bulbs are covered up instead of sitting above the soil] is not an option because it grows in steep rocky places without much depth of soil, but much moss. It would be showered with leaf debris each year and partially buried, but was essentially above ground.

– Derek Tribble (Apicra), Re: Ledebouria socialis…in habitat? Discussion Forum, The British Cactus & Succulent Society, 26 June 2011

I’m going to change some categories and tags around, Reader, so if that causes the feed to republish the affected posts, please just ignore them.

Channel-billed Cuckoo

Today I saw a Channel-billed Cuckoo (Scythrops novaehollandiae). I didn’t know what it was; I don’t remember ever seeing one before. I was alerted to it by the sound of the crows in the pine tree protesting about something, then there was a bird sound that was unusual: the bird book describes it as a raucous “oik” or “awk”.

I grabbed the binoculars and was able to get quite a good view of the bird from the kitchen window – which was lucky, because when I tried to go outside to take a photo, he or she flew away as soon as I opened the door. Also lucky, it had a large hooked beak which is pretty unusual around here, and thusly I was able to remember it (usually I can’t keep an image in my head). It took only a quick flick through the bird book to find a picture that matched it.

According to the Wikipedia article, it’s the world’s largest cuckoo. Plus, this is pretty funny:

Channel-billed Cuckoos are brood parasites; instead of raising their own young, they lay eggs in the nests of other birds. […Pairs] work together in order to aid the laying of eggs in host nests; the male will fly over the nest in order to provoke the nest occupants into a mobbing response, whereupon the female will slip into the nest and lay an egg.

The article even shows a photo of a baby cuckoo being fed by a pied currawong. What’s not funny is that apparently the baby cuckoo will monopolise the feeding and the host parents’ chicks will probably die. (I wonder why the host parents don’t realise what’s going on, though? That seems strange.)

Surveillance and reconnaissance

An idea I never would have thought of, but seemed obvious as soon as I read something that suggested it: forming an army and an army reserve allows a nation to have lots of eyes and ears right across the country. (Presumably the army reserve would be especially useful for surveillance duties, seeing its members live and work as civilians.) The defence force’s job is defend the nation, after all, so I guess that includes keeping an ear to the ground and an eye on the community. And the army’s bureaucratic structure might help information get filtered and passed to the right place; presumably those on the lowest ranks would report to someone higher up, who has to weigh the information before passing it along to someone above them.

This is all guesswork on my part, so maybe it’s rubbish. But I do think it makes sense. If I was ruler of the world, it’s something I’d want working for me.