Life gets in the way of Life with a blackdog

I’ve been an absentee blogger, sadly.  Real life got in the way in the form of a new job – my first real full time role in 15 years. Yes, having children was a choice and it meant changes and compromises and I’m pretty happy with the results – two beautiful children who I can say bring me joy every day.

But getting back on the chain gang has been a challenge. The life logistics got even more complicated – who needed to be where when and with what packed in a bag?  Evening meals got more simple (simpler?) – being a very plain cook, I wasn’t sure that was possible, but it was. Food as fuel.

The dog has continued to be walked of course, but starting the job mid-winter has meant very little time for wider forays into the public art scene in Canberra.  Now that spring is upon us though and the days are longer, I have plans to get out amongst it all again.  That’s a promise I will try to keep!

In the meantime, here are some pics of our adventures, some close by, some a bit further away.

garden dog Letterbox Seed pods  Suburban swing Tilly and the banksia rosesShoes make a pillow

Who you callin' a dummy (One of these dogs is not a statue!)


It moves, but never gets off the ground

When I first saw Dinornis Maximus I thought it was an actual wind measuring instrument, something that the Weather Bureau had put up to test which way the wind was blowing, or how fast – a kind of new-fangled wind sock. Or maybe a new wind turbine for generating electricity.  But no, it’s a kinetic sculpture.

Tall wind sculpture Tilly

It has grown on me – I regularly drive past it en route through Woden – and I find I am now less distracted by it than previously. Initially I thought the blades might fly off.  Up close, though it seems pretty stable.

Upwards wind sculpture

The day we went to take a look, it was freezing cold, but there was no wind, which is why I felt able to get so close.

Tilly base wind sculpture

Dinornis was the giant moa, a flightless bird, from New Zealand.  Extinct now of course, and thought to stand more than three metres tall.  This sculpture is 11 metres tall, and its arms rotate every which way, whatever way the wind takes it.  A bit like life, really.

Dinorsis long view Dinornis Plaque

The artist is Phil Price, a NZ sculptor.  I do like the irony of the artist naming this sculpture with swinging arms after a flightless bird.  It moves and moves, but never gets off the ground.

Here’s a quick film on YouTube of the sculpture’s arms moving about.

To the trig and back

Once the rain cleared yesterday morning, Tilly the blackdog and I headed out for a longer walk.  She deserved it, and I needed it too.  We drove over to Narrabundah Hill, at the top of Duffy, an old haunt from the days of blackdog version 1.0.

When we walked there, way back in the early 1990s, it was a pine forest, dense and dark with hidden corners and large puddles.  Entering from the Mount Stromlo end of the forest, we would walk along the flat path, past the wild blackberries and the cattle grazing in the paddocks over the fence.  Once we’d rounded the corner, been blasted by the wind coming up from the south, and taken in the vista of the Tidbinbillas , Whitby (version 1.0) would take off – she was an excellent off-lead dog, who rarely went anywhere too far away … unless there was a puddle to loll about in.  And that was where she always headed.  Straight down the hill and splash, flat out on her tummy, drinking the muddy water.

All that was well and good, unless she had the kong in her mouth at the same time.


Because kongs have a hole in their top and bottom, and guess what?  They don’t float.  So if she landed in the middle of the puddle, well, finding the kong again was a job for “super partner” and the rake.  The next day.  Early, the next day.  Ah, the memories.

But these days, we head into the forest from the south, near the water tower.  The vegetation is slowly recovering, although it’s no longer a working pine forest after the devestation the 2003 bushfires caused. But it is still well loved by walkers, with or without dogs, and like us, people were making the most of the sunshine returning.

Trees on Narrabundah Hill

Leaves eaten


The wind was up, whipping my face, and we did a good hour, heading south and then west in a loop up to the trig station.

Wide view trig

Once up there, I realise it’s been several years since I was there last, and the view has opened up with all the pine trees gone.

View to molonglo

The new suburbs of the Molonglo development fall away in the distance, and there are new buildings up at the astronomy observatory on Mount Stromlo.

Jessie 2

But at the base of the trig station tower is a little box, bearing the name Jessie, and the message “You were truly man’s best friend”, with a collar inside. Evidence that it’s a special place to many.

Tilly and trig

I give Tilly the blackdog a special pat – she’s a bit annoyed at all this camera-ing and wants to head off .  But I pause to take in the whole view again before we head back down the hill.

Wooden smiles

This time last year I was embarking on a three week trip in the US and Canada with my mum.  It was an amazing experience, and we managed to visit quite a few cultural and historical sites.

The scenery was awesome in the true sense of the word, not just some overused adjective.  But the reason I started thinking about the trip was in relation to the word “face” for a photography challenge; and these images popped instantly into my head.

Oar face Horse head Face 1

I was completely captivated by the various masks I saw throughout the journey; some are from the north west coast of British Columbia, near the town of Prince Rupert.  The museum there was small, but very interesting with lots of statues, masks, and tools.

Red mask

And the Museum of Anthropology in Vancouver was overwhelming, with a comprehensive collection of artefacts from indigenous communities all over the world.

Totem 3 Totem 2 Totem 1 Totem 4

But the faces on the totems are in many ways the most striking, particularly the brightly painted ones.  I wonder what the originals were like as the artists surely didn’t have access to such strong colours.  I wish I had taken more notice of their stories, but as usual, I was more interested in framing the shot and getting to the next spot.

Nana’s gramma pie

What’s a gramma pie, she asks?

Heaven, I say.  Heaven on a stick.



But what is it?


Yes.  I’ve never heard of it.

Well, you’re just showing your age, or should I say, your youth.  But I believe gramma is a type of pumpkin, it’s bright orange.  And my grandmother used to make pies for us all when we got together. It’s a really big pumpkin, so you get lots of servings out of it. Was probably popular during the depression and during the war because it was cheap, and could grow easily in backyard gardens.

So it’s a pumpkin pie.

No.  No. Not at all. Pumpkin pie is American.  This is a gramma pie.  True blue Aussie pie.



I don’t know my cousins very well, they’re all male, and a good 15 years older than me, and for the most part, we lived very separate childhoods, and now we’re all living very different lives.  But when we get together at funerals these days, there is one topic of conversation that unites us:  Nana’s gramma pie.

I was probably seven or eight before I understood that it wasn’t “Granma’s” pie, ie, pie that a grandmother makes, but “gramma”, and that IT is the pie filling.  (I was glad when this was cleared up because our grandmother was always referred to as Nana – you can see why I was confused.)

Nana’s gramma pie is, however, legendary – at least in our family – probably because we didn’t get it anywhere else, just at Nana’s. And she always made it when we all got together. So it was very special, because we didn’t get together often.

Pumpkin pie is not so common in Australia, even today, although it is becoming more popular.  And we do love our pumpkin soup and pumpkin as a vegie in our baked dinners; and who can go past a pumpkin scone?

I can remember living in Leeds in the UK in 1991 and going searching for pumpkin when we wanted to have a baked dinner, an unusual occurrence in itself, as there was too much to see and do to be at home cooking.

Leeds Corn Exchange markets were great, and had a wonderful array of fruit and vegies that we didn’t get at home – mainly different varieties especially of potatoes and apples and pears.  But no pumpkin in the outside stalls.  But inside the market there was a West Indian stall, with a whole range of goods, including pumpkin.  And the women there welcomed me every couple of weeks when I stopped by to buy a piece of pumpkin from them. Being different can have its advantages.

Last weekend in Collector, in the southern highlands of NSW, they held the Collector Pumpkin Festival; you can read all about it in this great blog, In the Taratory, and here is a news report.

But there’s no mention of gramma though.

I miss my Nana’s gramma pie. The filling was sweet, and fragrant, and smooth. And now she’s gone, who will make it?


Here’s a great gramma pie recipe, via 702ABC.  Of course, I am going to try it out, once I get myself some gramma.  Let me know if you have a go too!

You can try to buy gramma seeds – I am going to give it a go from one of these suppliers:

Grammar pic

No reservations about Tidbinbilla open day

We had much fun at the Tidbinbilla Extravaganza today.  The glorious autumn weather resulted in a good turn out for the event, which is designed to encourage families to become more familiar with the Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve.  Along with its fantastic interactive playground, the ACT Parks and Conservation Services puts on a range of child-focussed activities and entertainment each year.

BBQs were popular at Tidbinbill

The free BBQs were well used, and picnics were another popular choice for families, backed up by some hot food options that were for sale.

The entertainment included Questacon’s Excited Particles show, one of its popular outreach programs that explains science in every day language.  They really do a great job of keeping it real. Exploring the topic of energy, apparently there are 101 uses for liquid nitrogen: freezing an onion with liquid nitrogen, then smashing it with a hammer; mixing liquid nitrogen with detergent and water, to produce large amounts of froth; and a demonstration of the injection of liquid nitrogen into a balloon. Guess what, it pops!

Excited particles 1

Excited particles 2

Also popular was the reptile talk and sing along, aimed to foster respect for, rather than fear of, reptiles.  Several “brave” volunteers held snakes and patted a baby crocodile. The message was clear – staying away from them is the best way for us all to keep safe.

Crocs 1

Crocs 2

ACT Parks and Conservation Service has a program of activities designed to educate the community about indigenous history and use of land in and around Canberra.  Rangers were on hand to talk about some of the local foods, plants, animals and history.

Snake arms

Snake body painting was very popular, and they also had samples of emu, wallaby and possum from their BBQ, which were very tasty.

Announced today was the donation of an all-terrain wheelchair to the ACT community, by the National Parks Association of the ACT.  The wheelchair operates on one, centrally located wheel, and is designed to be steered by at least two people.  The aim is for people with a mobility impairment to use the wheelchair out on the tracks in the ACT’s conservation reserves, opening up opportunities for them to experience the Territory’s natural environment.

Mobility wheelchair 1

Mobility wheelchair 2

Autumn is a really pleasant time to be outside in the ACT – it’s not baking hot, and it’s not really cold (although I don’t mind the latter).  Today was a cracker of a day – 26 degrees C – and by the look of it, lots of Canberrans agreed with me that the Tidbinbilla Extravaganza was the place to be.

Summer’s end

As autumn starts in Canberra, our paper daisies are coming to an end.

Paper daisies 1  PAper daisies 4

The highlight of our recently planted front garden, these little flowers bring me joy every day.

They are tough and hardy, but so delicate at the same time. The bracts (not petals!) are waxy to touch, and sharp on the pointy ends.

Botanical name is Xerochrysum bracteatum and further information is available here .

Paper daisies 2

I’ll be sad to see them go as winter approaches, but I’m already looking forward to their flowering next summer.