Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Out and About - Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve

Last Sunday dawned fresh and sunny. There was a mountain of washing to do. Grocery lists to write and groceries to be bought. Toilets to clean and bathrooms to mop. Vacuuming to be done.

But you know what? That stuff wasn't going anywhere! We decided to through caution and domestic bliss to the wind and hop in the car and do our first Day Out in Canberra. After some debate, we decided on Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve, maybe about a half hours drive from our house.

Organised mothers would have plastic containers full of healthy, nutritious food, perhaps an esky (cooler for my vast overseas readership), at least a bottle of water. I took my camera. As you do.

There was some debate over what that line in the mountain-side was - a road? (nah, too steep), a pipeline? a landslide (my suggestion, but poo-pooed by the hubby). Still don't know what it is. What do you think?

Never let it said we take the path less travelled. If there's a sign for a lookout, we generally follow it. And overlooked the valley of the mighty Murrumbidgee River (part of the Murray Darling Basin - we're definitely not on the coast now!). It was out there on Lambrigg Station that William Farrer developed the first strains of drought resistant wheat (pretty bloody good idea, given our lack of rain).

A short drive onto the Tidbinbilla Visitors Centre (where I gratefully looked at the employees and decided I was glad I wasn't working in a Visitors Centre on Sunday and was instead out and about), where we decided to buy a annual pass for the princely sum of $30.

It was, as Visitors Centre's go, a pretty good one, which lots of great souvenirs (Jane, there's wombat poo bookmark in my wallet to head your way) and interesting displays. Science? Tick. Geography? Tick. History? Tick!!!

Endangered Green and Golden Bell frogs

Damn - can't remember what he was! A toadlet of some description!

The VC also sold food and drinks! So we bought some water and some chocolate and headed out into the wilderness. Or a big grassy paddock. Take your pick...

It's different country out here. The light is harsher. The sky wider. The geology is different (granite, for those that need to know). We named this rock Wombat Rock. You can see it, can't you?

Wombat Girl on Wombat Rock.
Because you just have to climb rocks when you are 13.
They said there would be plenty of wildlife out there. I was sceptical, because, yanno, most Aussie wildlife hides in the day and comes out at night (that's called nocturnal - I wasn't Ranger Ingi for nothing, you know). But lo and behold, there was wildlife!

Unfortunately not just native wildlife. All of a sudden, the kangaroos and the emus headed for the hills in a stampede. We wondered what the hell happened. Then we saw him - the cunning fox! And then another one! It's quite unusual to see them out in broad daylight as they are super-sneaky. But I captured him (what I pity I didn't have my gun. Apart from fact I don't own a gun).

We stopped for water and chocolate and headed back into the car (with the promise of a stop for lunch soon - real soon). Another lookout! OK, let's go check it out!

I wasn't joking about the geology. Granite. Pink granite - see!?

And a geology lesson for you. You are welcome.

We headed down to the Sanctuary, which is set up like a small scale Zealandia, that we visited in New Zealand. It's a (artificial) wetlands system, protected from foxes and other feral predators by a large fence (electrified). It has a great accessible track (wheelchair and walker friendly, which meanders around the dams (err, wetlands).

Not allowed in!

Needless to say, I didn't expect to see pelicans in Canberra, but there they were, with many other waterbirds.

And lots of lovely sculptures and words in unexpected places:

There are supposedly platypus in that creek, but given the large group of what looked like uni students actually in the creek, I didn't like our chances. Plus, in a past life (as a fluvial geomorphologist - look it up), I spent many days in and around creeks and rivers. Have never seen one in the wild. One day...

The temperature had taken a dive and the lack of lunch was getting to Video Boy, who was taking whining to new heights. But there were koalas to be seen! Everyone else wanted to head back to the cafe, arguing that you see as many koalas in the wild as you do platypus. But I said, just quickly! So we hopped out and they had very kindly set up a display with four koalas in it! They don't do much else except sleep (about 18-20 hours a day) and they are nocturnal. Nevertheless, they are pretty cute (ignore the claws):

We went for the walk around the "koala circuit" anyway. Video Boy was told that if he spotted a koala in the wild, he would get something to eat (we didn't say when, though...). Off he sprinted...Needless to say, we did not spot any wild koalas. I swear I smelt koala pee though, but no dice. Anyway, by the time we got back to the enclosure, the keeper had arrived, with fresh leaves and voila! Awake koalas!!!! I went NUTS with the camera! Enjoy!

I'm awake!

You can clearly see his scent gland on his chest!


We never did get lunch. The sausage rolls had run out by the time we got back and so we had to suffice with a bag of CCs. Corn chips never tasted so good! But despite the lack of sustenance, we had the BEST day out! All that wilderness and wildlife, just next door! We'll be back to use some more of our annual pass for sure (with food this time).

Oh, and since Sunday, it has been SNOWING up there, people! Here's a very dodgy shot from the carpark at work with my mobile:

Really, there's snow up there!
And here's a much better one courtesy of the Canberra Times:

So I'm even MORE glad we got out and enjoyed our day, because it's freaking freezing now!

Do you have any good nature reserves or National Parks near you?
Do you EVER tire of seeing koalas?
Does it snow where you live?

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Homeschool update!

I find myself in a very strange situation of being a homeschool mum who works full time. I'm not even sure if I should be admitting it in a public forum of a blog. But so far, it is mostly working for us, so we are going with it.

So, what have the kids been up to while I've been busy selling travel to eager customers?

Learning about functions and logarithms:

In general, they have been great at doing whatever work I set them. They are gaining valuable skills in self-directed learning, using the textbook and each other to help them figure out tricky questions. If in doubt though, they will wait for me to come home from work and we sit down as dinner cooks and go through harder concepts:

I was, however particularly impressed one day when they nutted out a tricky question together (and got it right!):

They've also ticked boxes in English (poetry and grammar and spelling) and Aboriginal Australia:

And they have been utilising my brochures from work to research tours around Australia for geography:

They have also been pretty enthusiastically doing their Japanese, both written and also spoken (using Mango, which we get free from our library).

We have also been doing Chemistry, through the wonderful world of lapbooking. I might do a whole post on this topic later (maybe. I'll leave you hanging for that).

Speaking of libraries, we joined our new local one and finally have free books again! Mango is also available here and we get 50 items each! The sad news is they charge overdue fees, so I'll see how I go (I'm not well known for returning my books on time and working for the library had its advantages in terms of that!). Additionally, we found were the delinquents hang out in our town centre - there were two teenage boys having a massive fight and the girls were there filming the commotion on their phones. Video Boy commented to me that he didn't miss school all that much. 

What else? Um, we didn't do Naplan, because it was all just too hard. Oh well, you do some, you don't do some! I don't think it will really matter in the big scheme of things.

They have been installing "mods" and texture packs for Minecraft and playing Magic the Gathering and Hearthstone (or something!). 

We do have lots to do on our "to do" list, including finding chess and karate replacements and exploring Canberra. But our academic life is ticking along nicely, despite my absence! 

Have you ever homeschooled without actually being at home?
Been filming many fights with your phone?
Logarithms are the inverse of what? (maths test!)

Saturday, June 14, 2014

The ups and downs of living together...

It's been a strange few months, I'll tell you that for free.

New job

Training for 3 weeks in Sydney

Living in a motel in Canberra

Living by myself in an empty shell of a house

Moving furniture (or avoiding it)

Unpacking a billionty boxes

Having half the family here in Canberra and the other half back at home (the actual 'who' of who was where varied)

Having everyone (including the dog) all moved in in Canberra together

Staying for a week in Brisbane training.

This is the first week in AGES where we are all here, all together, not moving stuff, not driving up or down the coast, not working and not having to get on a plane. Breathe out.

Now, having gone through all that, these last few months, it's interesting to sit back and ponder on things.

Because I defy any mother not to dream a little dream of "having a break" from the everyday. You know what I mean. The grocery shopping, the washing, the sorting of clothes, the vacuuming of dust bunnies, the tidying up, the cooking of meals, the making of beds. And if you have kids or husbands that you've trained up to help out, I bet you still have to do a bit of nagging. And I don't think it's just me who dreams of living in a motel/hotel, where someone else does all the domestic duties, just for a bit, and preferably by ones self.

Because, now, having recently experienced both sides of the family coin, so to speak, I can see what really drives me mental. It's the leaving of dirty dishes on the coffee table, the dining table, the kitchen bench. It's the dishwasher not put on. It's the clothes that aren't mine left on MY side of the bed. It's the shoes left in the lounge room. It's All. The. Things. that aren't mine left everywhere, not necessarily for me to pick up, but not where they are supposed to be and I swear they drive me mental. Mental, I tell you!

But, taking a deep breath and ignoring all that for a minute, not having the family around you, every day, all the time, means that you can't give them a hug. You can't have a chat about what's for dinner. You can sit at the dining table and have discussions about suffixes and prefixes (as you do). You can't snuggle up on the couch and watch TV together.

And that's the point of having a family, isn't it? It isn't the domestic drudgery, it's the being together. Living together. Loving together.

And I guess that makes up for all the other stuff.

But if someone else wanted to run the vacuum over the lounge room floor voluntarily without me asking or nagging, that would just totally make my day!

52 Ancestors - Unusual Name

In this week's post, we have been asked to look behind an "unusual name" and I've chosen my great-aunt's husband, Fred...