Friday, 13 February 2009

Mudgee to Gulgong

After three days socked in by mountain mist, we opted to escape for a day to the dry western plains, specifically the towns of Mudgee and Gulgong. Mudgee lies at the centre of a thriving wine industry and the roads around it are lined with orderly rows of vines and large signs inviting passers-by to drive in and sample at the cellar door. We resisted all invitations and continued along on the Gulgong road, passing this Ned Kelly mailbox en route.



On the roadsides in this area there were many pink scabious plants in full flower, and I salvaged a few seedheads. If they grow this well in such inhospitable gravel, they will, I hope, enjoy the poor, sandy soil in our garden.




Much of Gulgong's commercial centre was built during its brief heyday as a gold rush town between 1870 and 1880, when more than 10,000 people flocked there to try their luck. A local brochure says that the town saw "the last of the small man's gold rushes" with gold close enough to the surface to be mined with hand tools rather than heavy machinery.
An image of Gulgong appeared on Australia's first 10-dollar note behind a portrait of Henry Lawson, one of the country's most famous bush poets who spent his childhood in the area during its thriving goldrush days.
We found it to be the most attractive small town we've visited in years. The buildings are very much in the Australian vernacular with wide verandahs and sweeping corrugated iron roofs. Note the palm tree in the second photo; Gulgong has a balmy climate for an interior town.




While we were there, we could not resist driving up onto Flirtation Hill, which has panoramic views over the town and surrounding grazing land. It seemed a good place to have lunch, and so we chose a convenient bench and unpacked the sandwiches we had brought with us. Immediately, a small flock of magpies materialised, and one cheeky bird managed to seize Michael's sandwich from his unwary grasp. Not the kind of flirtation we were expecting.

Wednesday, 4 February 2009

Mud Wasps

From butterflies to wasps! As we sat on our front porch eating lunch, we could hear a distant buzzing. On investigation we found mud dauber wasps making nests in two holes drilled into the top of the window frame which had obviously once held the ends of a dowel or curtain rod.

The first photos below shows one hole with a partially constructed nest.The dark-coloured wasp is barely visible at the lower left of the picture. The second photo shows the other hole with a completed nest inside.





A little research tells me that these are solitary wasps, not aggressive, only stinging if they are under threat, so we'll leave them be.
They use their sting to paralyze spiders, carrying them back to the nest and laying an egg on top of each one. When the larva hatches, it eats the spider. Seeing that most Australian spiders are dangerous to humans, mud wasps would appear to be on the whole beneficial insects. Adult wasps prefer nectar to spider meals.