Friday, February 28, 2014

Sepia Saturday: Venus Baths

The theme photo for Sepia Saturday this week features people sitting on rocks. So I selected half a dozen photos to post ... and then decided to just go with one.

My parents, Mavis and Angus Wyllie, are in the photo - dad standing with his hands on his hips and mum sitting at his feet with me on her knee - as well as dad's mother, his two sisters (Barbara and Dorothy) and mum's sister, Betty, with my cousin Rex on her knee. So it's easy to date the photo to 1950.

Wyllies and Smiths at Venus Baths, Grampians 
The location is also easy. It's Venus Baths near Halls Gap in the Grampians, Victoria. Here's a modern photo taken in the same location.
Venus Baths, Grampains
For over a hundred years the Venus Baths has been a very popular spot, a short walk from Halls Gap and very pretty. I've been there lots of times because the Grampians mountain range has always been a family holiday and day visit spot, and a walk to the Baths was often included. In 1950 all of the people in the photo were living in and around the Minyip area of the Wimmera, an hour or so to the north. Later we all moved from Minyip but were still living close enough to visit the Grampians. We loved it and so did lots of other people. It's now a very popular National Park.

Nature has given the Grampians a bit of a battering in the last few years - several major fires including one a few weeks ago, and a severe rainstorm that damaged a lot of the major walking tracks and infrastructure. Venus Baths was also a casualty. The rock pools themselves were unscathed but the course of the creek was changed by rockfalls and slips, there was a lot of erosion and the track and footbridges were extensively damaged. The track was closed until everything could be repaired. I haven't been there since it was reopened but is on my list of things to do, and when I go I must remember to sit in the same spot for another photo.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Sepia Saturday: Mallee

Bring back the hats, I say. Aren't they fabulous? So for this week's Sepia Saturday theme photo I had to go searching through my albums for photos of men in hats. It turns out I have quite a few but somehow one stood out, and it's taking me off on a tangent.

Uncle Jack Larkin has lived most of his 90 years in the north-west of Victoria, Australia. He farmed wheat in an area that we call the mallee. Mallee is dry sandy country that supports mallee eucalypt trees that are short and multi-stemmed. Uncle Jack developed a strong conservation ethic at a time when it was unusual and loved every aspect of his natural and social environment.

Here he is (with folded arms) in the middle of some mallee with a mate and I'm on theme because they're both wearing the obligatory hats. Hats were also essential because the summers in the north of Victoria are extremely long and hot.  They are standing next to a malleefowl nest.

Jack Larkin and a mate admiring a malleefowl nest in Victoria's mallee.
And this is where I go off on a tangent because I'm going to talk about malleefowls. They are astonishing birds.

Malleefowls live in the mallee and are about the size of a large domestic chicken. In winter the male starts to build a nest on the ground. He scrapes out a hole about a metre across and deep and then starts to fill it with organic material - leaves, bark and sticks - gleaned from the surrounding area. He mounds the organic material then covers the whole lot with a layer of sand. After it rains he turns and mixes the material and the female lays two or three eggs which are covered with the material. The birds don't sit on the eggs at all. The male continues to add sand to the top layer as the temperature increases in summer and the rotting vegetation creates its own heat. The remarkable thing is that the temperature of the nest is regulated every day by the removal or addition of sand and organic matter The male tests the temperature with his tongue and he maintains it at a temperature of 33 degrees centigrade. After about 100 days the newly-hatched chicks dig their way out - not an easy job and it takes from 2 to 15 hours! And, after all the effort by the male during the incubation, the adults have nothing to do with them after they've emerged. They're on their own. You can read more about these fascinating birds here.

All of this for two or three eggs.

So there you are. Nothing to do with hats at all, but you can see what others have written about hats over on the Sepia Saturday page.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Sepia Saturday: Rhythms of childhood

Musical performance is the Sepia Saturday theme this week - pianos in particular.  Well, even though pianos and music have been a feature of our family's life in the past, I don't have any photos to prove it.

It seemed that almost every home had a piano or an organ and piano lessons went hand-in-hand with that. My mother, Mavis, played organ in church as does my mother-in-law, Shirley. Shirley also taught piano for many years. And their mothers were pianists and organists as well. My grandparents, Pop and Gran Smith, had a pianola that we kids found very entertaining - I wonder where it is now?

Our three children played musical instruments right through school and beyond, in various bands and concert bands. Here they are in about 1984 in our garden  - Kerrie has my acoustic guitar (that she couldn't play) and Gemma and Glenn are providing the percussion.

Gemma and Glenn had a few years of piano lessons, and I found one scratchy scanned photo of Glenn actually sitting at the piano, but they went on to other instruments once they joined the school band. Kerrie played flute, Gemma the oboe and Glenn the trombone.

Gemma studied music performance as a subject at school as well as doing the usual music exams. In her final year at school we went on a family camping holiday to Broken Hill in outback New South Wales. Gemma practiced every day, because her final exam was looming, and it is an abiding memory for me. The sound of the oboe in the dry Australian desert was awe-inspiring and very moving. Here she is playing under the Red Gums beside Menindee Lake.

Kerrie playing the cymbals in a school band performance at Barwon Park, Winchelsea. 
Gemma conducting the school band in her final year.
Glenn playing the trombone (at home)
Glenn now lives in Switzerland and plays euphonium in a community band that performs at end-of-winter street festivals in villages around Zurich. There are several YouTube videos of their street performances but I think you might enjoy this video of a different type of performance by his band. [Note: I don't think this plug-in will work with Chrome on Android. This link might work ]

In our home we have a piano that is rarely opened now because I don't/can't play any more, but our grandchildren like to bash the notes when they visit. Here's Craig encouraging teddy to play.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Sepia Saturday: Ready for school

Suitcases or travel is the theme this week over at Sepia Saturday. Well, I can't find a family photo featuring a suit case but I have found a couple with another type of case. It's a school case. I used to have one of these in the 1950s but these photos are from a generation earlier.

Lena Alford ready for school c1930.
Lena (left) and Mary Alford ready for high school.


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