The Kangaroo Mob Recovers

I couldn’t leave you with the kangaroos dying from the mosquito-borne disease. Here’s the video that follows up with the mob 10 months later, when the survivors are rebuilding their lives.

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Kangaroos and Mosquito Plague

Nature is amazing, but it is not always kind or easy. In this video, a kangaroo mob is besieged by disease-carrying mosquitoes. While the mob will recover in time, it is sad to see them suffer–and while I realize that death is often a key part of how nature keeps itself strong, it still makes me want to spray the whole place with DDT.

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Kangaroos in the Outback

While I find koalas interesting, the Aussie animals I love most are kangaroos and wallabies. Such remarkable creatures. I’ve discovered a splendid BBC series on kangaroos in particular, and I thought it worth sharing. Note that a group of kangaroos is generally referred to as a mob, and if you listened to the video I posted last January about magpies, you’ll recognize their caroling in the background of this video.

Clearly, it’s not easy being a ‘roo in the back of beyond.

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Why Koalas Hug Trees

A very interesting fact about koalas just popped up in a video from SciShow — a series that offers scientific explanations for various phenomena. Someone had asked why koalas hugged trees, and researchers have now found out why. Fun stuff.

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Midwest Maize

This is not about Australia–but it is about why I left the corporate world and went to Australia–to transform my life into that of a writer. Today is the official publication day of my book, Midwest Maize: How Corn Shaped the U.S. Heartland. Books have actually been shipping for about a week now–all those that were pre-ordered–but now the book will start to go to bookstores and libraries.

The book is a food history–where corn/maize came from, how it diversified and spread, and ultimately how it created the U.S. region known as the Midwest–not just the farms, but the cities, as well–cities that would vanish if they weren’t supported by the region’s sprawling farmlands. But it is also a history of agriculture, of food preparation, of the contributions of different ethnic groups to the food culture of the region, of fairs and celebrations, and of people who raise, work with, trade, process, and cook corn today.

There is more information, plus a few early reviews, on the University of Illinois website, if you’re interested. Plus I’ve started a blog, to relate all the traveling I did and discoveries I made as I drove around the Midwest, pursuing the stories that fill the book. That blog is also named, not too surprisingly, Midwest Maize. I’d love it if you bought the book, maybe even “liked” the Midwest Maize Facebook page, but if all you do is enjoy a bit of the fun I had exploring the Midwest, that would be okay, too.
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Tee Off Down Under

I don’t actually play golf. That’s a sport that belonged to my dad and brother. Their passion and skill, however, led to my having an appreciation of the game and of the courses on which it is played. I used to walk the course with my dad, and I’d often watch tournaments with him. So even without having played more than three times in my life, I do understand what makes a great course — and what makes a crazy course. While I know for a fact that there are many splendid courses in Australia, and some great golfers, I have of late learned that there are also a few really outlandish courses — as one would expect in Australia. I imagine it is only because I never considered a golf holiday in Oz that I never heard of them until now, but simply because of what they reflect of the Australian personality — especially humor and determination — I thought they were worth passing along, now that I do know about them.

The lunar landscape of Coober Pedy in South Australia is home to the 18-hole, 72-par course of the Opal Fields Golf Club. There is no grass at all, just sand and rock, and the “greens” are simply oiled sand, to make them smooth. One golfing site relates: “The grassless fairways create a lot of roll and the oiled sand greens create a surprisingly smooth putt.”

The longest course in the world is also in South Australia — or, rather, starts in South Australia. The 848-mile Nullarbor Links actually stretches across a couple of states and takes about four days to play. But at least there is grass — some of the time.

Hope this gives a few of you golfers out there something to add to your bucket lists.

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Australia’s on the Wallaby

Another of my personal favorites from Slim Dusty is “Australia’s on the Wallaby.”

“The Wallaby” in the title is short for the Wallaby Track–which really is no track at all, but refers to the roads and wilderness walked by itinerant works and dispossessed families in search of work. The term dates to the 1800s, and was even the title of a poignant painting –On the wallaby track — created in 1896 by Australian artist Frederick McCubbin. The painting shows a young family alone in the bush, with the wife holding an infant and her husband boiling the billy can over a small fire. So the term predates the Great Depression — but during the Great Depression, people again took to the Wallaby Track, though in greater numbers than ever before.

During the Great Depression, 1 in 3 Australians became jobless, and so a stunningly large percentage of the population was wandering in search of any kind of work that paid. Australia was, indeed, on the Wallaby. A book titled On the wallaby: a true story about the Great Depression in Australia in the 1930s, by William Kidman, reinforces the identification of the term with this period.

The “cooee” in the song is a cry used in the Australian bush to connect with other wanderers, to attract attention, or to indicate one’s location.

This particular video is not in particularly good shape, but you can hear the song clearly. I hope you enjoy it as much as I always have. The song is, like most Australians, cheerful despite difficulties being faced.

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