Tuesday, April 30, 2013

It’s back to the fish

Yellow-Eye Rockfish (sketch by SBK)

It’s back to the fish for me! (For those of you just popping in, I’ve been working on a new piece that will be covered with fish.) On my long flights to and from Australia this month, I had lots of time to sketch more fish. Here they are. I’m hoping to do some painting in the next few days, and will post when I do. I also have several more posts on my Australia trip coming up.

Danube Sturgeon (sketch by SBK)

Giant Guitarfish (sketch by SBK)

Greasy Grouper (sketch by SBK)

Piper Gurnard (sketch by SBK)

Sydney Skate (sketch by SBK)

Thresher Shark (sketch by SBK)

I will leave you with a few good fish quotes:

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Melbourne trees

I was very interested in the Australian trees, and wished I had a botanist to take me around the city! I had never seen many of the tree species, and could not identify them without doing some research. According to the City of Mebourne website, there are “more than 25,000 native trees and 25,000 exotic (non-native trees) in streets and parks around the municipality.” 

I took many photos of the trees in Carleton Gardens that line the sidewalk leading to the Royal Exhibition Building (see photo above). They had leaves like our southern Magnolia, and the bark and shapes of the lower trunks and buttress roots reminded me of elephants! They are actually Moreton Bay Fig (Ficus macrophylla) trees, a large evergreen banyan tree native to the eastern Australian coast. It can reach 200 feet tall.

The gum trees were especially intriguing. “Gum” is a common name for eucalyptus trees. The name comes from the fact that the trees ooze lots of sap if they are cut. They are not related to the Sweet Gum tree found in the U.S. or the Black Gum. Nearly all gum trees are native to Australia. they are the primary food of koalas. 

Most Americans know about gum trees from the 1932 song by Marion Sinclair (composed for a competition held by the Victorian Girl Guides):
Kookaburra sits on the old gum tree,
Merry merry king of the bush is he.
Laugh, Kookaburra, laugh, Kookaburra,
Gay your life must be!
Kookaburra sits on the old gum tree,
Eating all the gum drops he can see.
Stop Kookaburra, stop Kookaburra
Save some there for me!
Kookaburra sits on the old gum tree,
Counting all the monkeys he can see.
Laugh Kookaburra, laugh Kookaburra
That's not a monkey, that's me!

The are in the family Myrtaceae (Myrtle) and in three genera within this family: Eucalyptus, Angophora and Corymbia. Oil from the leaves is used in many medications, including Vicks salve and coughdrops. 

The Blue Gum can grow to 230 feet tall! I think this is the variety I saw when riding back to Melbourne from the Healsville Sanctuary. They were so huge that they looked wrong or artificial to my eye.
I'm not sure what species this is, but it is some sort of gum. The bark was very smooth and creamy white, and the leaves a beautiful silver green. It was just outside my hotel room. This photo shows the buds, with one flower emerging:


The photo below shows the gum tree in bloom. If you look toward the lower right, you can see one bloom that is pushing off its little cap from the bud!


Once the bloom is spent, the base of the bloom remains as the little shreds of the flower fall out:

It hardens and turns into a pod:

Here is another interesting tree I found in St. Kilda. Its flowers were similar to the ones mentioned in a previous post (whose spent blooms looked like corn cobs), but it was on a taller tree (about 10' tall). This is the bud:

This is the bloom:

After the bloom is spent, it dries out and turns a darker tan color. And then it dries out more and turns into a seed pod:

The seed pod has little slits in it to release the seeds:

Saturday, April 27, 2013

More of Melbourne: Flinders Street Station, Victoria Barracks, Queen Victoria Market

This is a continuation of my recent posts about my trip to Australia. I took these photos on Tuesday, April 23, when I was out and about in Melbourne with my friend Alison. This yellow and red building is Flinders Street Station, a stop for trains in the main downtown part of Melbourne. It is beautiful, no?

It stands at the corner of Flinders and Swanston Street. The main building was completed in 1909. It was the first railway station in an Australian city. The wide arching entrance is an iconic symbol of Melbourne, and the line of clocks, all showing departure times of the next trains, date to the 1860s.

This bike, with its moving advertisement, was parked out front:

These next two photos show a view kitty-corner from the station: the spires of St. Paul’s Cathedral, and the next block up:

St. Paul’s is an Anglican cathedral built between 1990 and 1891, and designed by English architect William Butterfield. Right now, I am kicking myself for not taking the time to go inside, because the photos on the internet look amazing. The photo below is a great illustration of the wonderfully eclectic mix of old and new that is Melbourne:

I took this shot from inside Flinders Street Station, which has a lovely art nouveau window and gorgeous ceiling. Commuting through this entryway would be a joy, wouldn’t it?

Here is a shot showing the scale of the station, which takes up several city blocks!

Alison stands in front of Pie Face, a chain of stores that sell small pies (mostly meat pies, I think). I love their logo and storefront!

Here is Alison with a soldier selling souvenirs for Anzac Day; profits support programs for veterans. Anzac Day – an acronym for Australian and New Zealand Army Corps – is a national day for remembering the Australians and New Zealanders who “served and died in all wars, conflicts and peacekeeping operations,” and “the contribution and suffering of all those who have served.” Similar to our Memorial Day. It is always held on April 25. I bought a souvenir and told the soldier that I appreciated his country’s standing with my country in so many conflicts and peacekeeping missions. 

Alison and I got off our tram to take a closer look at this complex: the Victoria Barracks. At once point, I approached the gate to take a closer look at the stonework and was told (politely but very firmly) by a security officer that I could only take photos from the sidewalk. I apologized and complied quickly; I didn’t want to start an international incident!

Two huge cedar trees guard the entrance. Part of the building was covered with a vine that had turned brilliant red in the cool autumn weather:

Queen Victoria Market was the next stop. Don’t you love the fact that there are live animals and dead ones (skulls) on the facade?

It is an indoor/outdoor marketplace that sells fresh fish, meat, poultry, cheese and dairy products, fruits and vegetables, and souvenirs. Here is just a tiny bit of what I saw:

I can’t begin to tell you how many times I have bemoaned the fact that the U.S. did not convert to the metric system (as we were promised in second grade when we studied it). A kg (kilogram) is about 2.2 pounds. All this switching back and forth when you are out of the U.S. is for the birds. The coral trout above is $28.50 a kilogram (in Australian dollars, which are pretty close right now to U.S. dollars), or about $13 a pound. I found most food to be more expensive in Melbourne than in Charlotte. The prices for food, goods, and housing are more in line with major American cities like New York City or Los Angeles.

The front of a sausage and cheese shop:

Kangaroo sausages:

Love the name of this cheese shop: The Dainty/Curds & Whey, Cheddar Specialists.

The outdoor produce market:

 Large persimmons:

I had never seen feijoa – a tropical fruit – before. (I think the sign has them misspelled.) They are also known as Pineapple Guava or Guavasteen, and come from an evergreen shrub/tree and are grown in parts of South America, as well as Azerbaijan, Georgia, and New Zealand. The fruit is about the size of an egg. 

Look at all the beautiful teapots, creamers and sugar jars in this window. Swoon!

From Victoria Market, I walked back to my hotel. It was a hike, but I enjoyed my last look at the city before heading home on Wednesday. The green trolley in this photo is a free tourist shuttle around the city, and reminded me very much of the trolleys in Pittsburgh, PA, where I grew up (made famous by the trolley on Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood children's TV show).

This tree in the park near the Royal Exhibition Building was one of my favorites. It looks like two trees that have grown together, and are locked in a fond embrace:

My next post will include more bits and pieces from my trip.