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10 November 2018 / leggypeggy

Poppies remember war losses


Poppies at Australian War Memorial

Poppies at War Memorial with Lone Pine on the right (see notes at bottom)

Poppies at Aussie War Memorial

Yellow honours Aborigines, white honours nurses and purple honours animals

World War I—also referred to as The Great War—ended 100 years ago tomorrow. In the lead-up to that sobering anniversary, our Australian War Memorial has hosted a display of 62,000 wool poppies that honour the Aussie soldiers who never came home.

The display had its start five years ago when fibre artists and sisters-in-law, Lynn Berry and Margaret Knight, set out to create 120 poppies to be laid at the Shrine of Remembrance in Melbourne. These were to serve as a tribute to their fathers—Wal Beasley and Stan Knight—who fought in World War II.

Poppy display

I’ve taken many knitting classes and still can’t cast on. Could I make these?

Their gesture sparked an outpouring of interest. From across the world, people knitted and contributed their own hand-made flowers. One day, 4000 poppies arrived from an anonymous contributor. Canberra volunteers knitted about 5000.

Many of the flowers have included personal notes and items, such as buttons from soldiers’ tunics. Some are entwined with yellow stitching as a tribute Aboriginal soldiers, while others include swathes of white, for nurses, and purple, in honour of animals involved in the war.

A field of poppies in Australia

Poppies with the tall Lone Pine on the right

Poppies with buttons

Poppies with buttons

This poppy field, designed by architect Philip Johnson, is part of a wider series of public events known as the 5000 Poppies project.

An estimated 1 million poppies have been crafted by people from around the world, for displays not only in Australia, but also England and France. Prior to coming to Canberra, many of the poppies have been displayed at London’s Chelsea Flower Show and at Cobbers Memorial in Fromelle, France.

Another 270,000 poppies have been spread out in front of our Australian Parliament House. They’ll be on display for another week and I’ll try to get up there for another pic.

Fellow blogger—boomingon—also did a great post on this display. You can see it here.

Sir John Monash statue

Keeping things tidy around the statue of Sir General John Monash

P.S. My heart goes out to you if you lost a family member in that ‘great’ or any other war. When will we learn?

P.P.S. A brief comment about the Lone Pine (mentioned in captions). In 1915, there was a huge battle over Lone Pine Ridge in Gallipoli. An Aussie soldier found a cone on one of the branches used by the Turks as overhead cover for their trenches. He sent the cone to his mother. She planted it and raised a tree that she presented to the War Memorial in honour of her son and others who fell at Lone Pine.

P.P.P.S. Another comment about Sir General John Monash (the statue shown above). He is often considered to be one of Australia’s most outstanding military and civilian leaders, and one of the greatest commanders of the Great War.

Field of poppies

More than 62,000 knitted poppies honour Australias fallen soldiers

3 November 2018 / leggypeggy

Love old wheels? Check out Yass

1937 Packard 120 Business Coupe

1937 Packard 120 Business Coupe

1939 Buick Business Coupe

1939 Buick Business Coupe

1924 Ford Model T Speedster

1924 Ford Model T Speedster

If you’re quick and anywhere near Yass in New South Wales, you still have time to check out Classic Yass, the annual vintage motor show. It’s on today, 3 November, with almost 350 entrants spread across Banjo Patterson and Riverside Parks.

My friend, Maggie, and I stopped by this morning. We went early and got the second-best parking place in town.

Hundreds of people (and quite a few dogs) were there to enjoy the cars and billy cart (go cart) races. Maggie said there had been a plan to cancel the races, but there had been a public outcry. Race organiser, the Rotary Club, said they needed more volunteers for the races to go ahead. That worked because most of Yass offered to help.

The day has plenty of other activities. There are plenty of food stalls, a vintage fashion parade, various music and dance performances, an art display, a book sale (on Sunday too), Devonshire teas and a dance to finish off the evening.

1934 Chevrolet Standard Roadster

1934 Chevrolet Standard Roadster

1936 Armstrong Siddeley 12 Plus TT Sports

1936 Armstrong Siddeley 12 Plus TT Sports

1951 Riley RMB

1951 Riley RMB

But getting back to cars. I don’t care much about vehicles in general. Mine gets me from A to B. But I love looking at vintage ones. It’s especially fun to see those I remember from my childhood.

We lived on a busy street and the next-door neighbour’s son, David, and I used to sit on the front porch and name the car makes as they cruised by.

1958 Wolseley 1500 MK I

1958 Wolseley 1500 MK I

1956 Armstrong Siddeley Sapphire

1956 Armstrong Siddeley Sapphire

1954 Swallow Doretti Roadster

1954 Swallow Doretti Roadster

The neighbours behind us collected Packards. I think they had five—with three up on blocks in the backyard. David’s dad had a Studebaker and sometimes he gave us a lift to school. My dad had an ancient blue Dodge van and a pale green 1953 Chrysler.

One of our friends in Burma collected cars. I rode in his Lagonda and Edsel. Another time, I had rides in a Daimler, a Rolls Royce and a Jaguar. And in the early 1970s, I owned a Cougar, the one that was named Car of the Year in 1967.

1958 Lambretta

1958 Lambretta with sidecar

By the way, see the motorbike and sidecar just above. I drove out to Yass yesterday in a downpour. I can’t be 100 per cent sure, but on the way I saw a rider with his bright red motorbike and sidecar sheltering under a tree.

Have a look at some of the other gems that were on display in Yass today. Do you have a favourite vintage car?

1954 Daimler Conquest

1954 Daimler Conquest

1959 Jaguar XK150 FHC

1959 Jaguar XK150 FHC

28 October 2018 / leggypeggy

Now for a stroll in my garden


The only orchid I’ve managed to keep

Hellebores (winter rose)

Hellebores also known as winter roses

Mock orange

Mock orange

We’ve been traipsing around the wonderful national parks of western USA, but we’re home now. I promise to share many more posts about the parks, but it’s spring in Australia and I have to share what’s going on in my backyard.

Actually this post covers three backyards.

Most pics are from my backyard in Canberra. Another is from our bush garden at the coast in Rosedale. A few others are from a front garden in Yass. Once a week, I drive to Yass to stay with my friend, Maggie.

Male fairy blue wren

Male fairy blue wren at Maggie’s

Maggie's irises

Maggie’s irises

Maggie's banksia rose

Maggie’s banksia rose

There’s not much by way of explanation. Just pics and captions (where possible) for you to enjoy.

As an aside, these last few days have been Australia’s annual bird survey. People are asked to watch (in blocks of 20 minutes) to see what birds visit their garden, local park, neighbourhood or any other address they choose.

You can count birds you hear (but can’t see) if you know their calls. You can count birds that fly overhead if you can recognise them.

I watched for a total of 100 minutes over five days and saw more than 25 different birds. Obviously, I didn’t get to photograph all of them.

House sparrow

House sparrow

Yellow bunny rose

Yellow bunny rose

Peace rose

Peace rose

Honeyeater at Rosedale

Honeyeater at Rosedale

26 October 2018 / leggypeggy

Let’s take a stroll down Park Avenue

Park Avenue, Arches National Park

The south entrance to Park Avenue with a wall of ‘skyscrapers’ on the rgiht

I’m not talking about New York City’s famous street, but the aptly named scenic trail in part of Arches National Park in Utah.

Early travellers noticed the similarities between the sandstone walls and spires and the skyscrapers along New York’s Park Avenue. The name has stuck. Of course, the main difference is that these western ‘skyscrapers’ have been sculpted by Mother Nature.

The trail is only a mile long and we were lucky enough to start at the south end, which meant the route was downhill all the way. It starts with a few stairs and a concrete path that turns into an unsurfaced, but well-defined trail.

Nefertiti's Head, Park Avenue, Arches National Park

Nefertiti’s Head is unmistakable at the south end of Park Avenue

Some of the landmarks along and near Park Avenue are Nefertiti’s Head, the Courthouse Towers, Baby Arch, Ring Arch, the Tower of Babel, the Three Gossips and the Organ. Except for Nefertiti’s Head, which is so darn obvious, I didn’t know any of these names when we were there. Of course, that meant I had no idea what I was photographing. As an aside, we saw the famous Nefertiti bust in a museum in Berlin, but no photos were allowed.

The signage was helpful and explained that Park Avenue is a wonderful example of Entrada Sandstone, something I’d never hear of. In addition to Utah, it occurs in Colorado, Wyoming, New Mexico and Arizona.


It seems that Entrada Sandstone began forming more than 150 million years ago (the Jurassic period) as tidal mudflats, sand dunes and beaches. Over time, layers of rock, perhaps a mile thick, covered these deposits. The tremendous pressure from these layers compressed the buried sand into sandstone and cracked it.

Erosion eventually removed the rock layers and the Entrada began to weather. Over the past two million years, erosion of the cracks in the Entrada has left vertical slabs (called fins) like the rock wall that lines this Park Avenue.

The youngest layer (shown in yellow on the info board below) is called the Moab Tongue. The middle layer (orange) is called Slick Rock Member and the oldest layer (red) is called Dewey Bridge Member.

Explanation of Entrada Sandstone

This info board shows the layers of Entrada Sandstone on Park Avenue

A wall of Entrada Sandstone, Park Avenue, Arches National Park

See the info board above for an idea of the layers in the Entrada Sandstone at Park Avenue

In addition to the rock formations, we saw plenty of plant life, but no animals except bugs. Luckily we didn’t get bitten by any mosquitos, and the best thing was I could enjoy the beauty of this Park Avenue in camping clothes and tennis shoes—not some swanky outfit and high heels.


Park Avenue, Arches National Park

Park Avenue, Arches National Park

Admiring the view

11 October 2018 / leggypeggy

Joy and sadness packed into two weeks


Could you drop a piece of the meat you’re chopping?

Time for a little break from the beauty of western USA—more soon.

We’re back in Australia and have been on an emotional roller coaster over the last few weeks. I was overjoyed to have our daughters, Libby and Petra, home for a landmark birthday. More importantly, I was happy Petra was home to spend two weeks with her amazing rescue dog, Jake.

Petra moved to Vietnam last year for the Australian government. She thought about taking Jake but, once there, realised it wouldn’t be at all fun for him to live in an apartment with no garden, so he stayed with us.

Dogs in the garden

Jake and friends chill in our backyard

Jake and Indi (our dog) are great mates, and it was so easy to have him.

Earlier this year, when we were touring the wonderful national parks in the USA, we had a collection of wonderful people looking after the house and dogs. Back in June, Jake had his first major nose bleed.

Carers jumped on the issue. Jake was examined by the vet, got antibiotics and seemed fine. But another nose bleed happened…and another. More trips to the vet and things seemed to calm down.

Dog shaking hands

Feeling well enough to shake for a treat

We got home and another bleed happened. There was a surgery. Two masses were removed from his nostrils, a biopsy was done and the result was benign. That said, the diagnosis was nasal angiofibroma. This is a rare disease. What to do next?

To cut a long story short (feel free to ask questions if we can help your situation), we needed to do a CT scan. In Australia that costs about $3000, including specialist consultations. 

Smiling dog

A smile from Jake

We waited. Petra was coming home soon. Jake seemed happy enough and not in pain. He still bounced around and loved his food, walks and treats, but one look in his eyes and you knew something was wrong.

There were intermittent small bleeds that I could bring under control within a few minutes using a cold compress (namely, a bag of peas wrapped in a tea towel). Just before Petra got home, Jake’s breathing became laboured and he had another major bleed. I scheduled the CT scan for the day after she got home.

The news was terrible—the growths were not benign after all. An invasive cancer had consumed Jake’s right nasal passage and was invading the left. Nothing could be done, except to love him as much as we could for the next 12 days and have him put down the day before Petra went home. That way he wouldn’t have to watch her pack and see her leave.

Dogs on bed

Indi and Jake keep an eye on the neighbourhood

Instead there were extra walks, extra treats, extra bones, no furniture was off limits and the hugs were abundant. He even got a few stuffed toys to dismember. Mostly his breathing was quite good. Over those last days, many people stopped by to farewell Jake. He had a huge following.

Last Friday, the vet came to the house and Poor John took Indi for a walk. Jake slipped away peacefully and you can imagine the floods of tears that saw him off.

He’s over the Rainbow Bridge now and I hope he’s running with the dogs we’ve had to let go before him. Jake was a gorgeous, big-hearted, loveable dog. He will be hugely missed.

Many people have sent condolences to Petra. One included a link to some of the most beautiful prose, written in the 1940s by playwright Eugene O’Neill. It’s a farewell message from his dog. I hope you love it as much as I do.

P.S. All the pics here have been taken since August 2017. Jake loved the beach at Rosedale.

Dogs at the beach

Jake and Indi at the beach. The link just above is to a short video


8 October 2018 / leggypeggy

A breathtaking stop at Monument Valley

Panorama of Monument Valley

A sweeping view of Monument Valley from the North Window overlook (I think)

John Ford Point, Monument Valley

This famous lookout point is named to honour movie director, John Ford

There’s no mistaking Monument Valley Tribal Park.

As you approach you realise you’ve seen it many times before—in advertisements, holiday brochures, television and movies, especially American westerns.

Director John Ford used the location in about 10 of his films, including Stagecoach, which won two Academy Awards and made John Wayne a star. Ford once said Monument Valley was the ‘most complete, beautiful and peaceful place on earth’.

The valley is featured in more than 20 other movies. Forrest Gump ended his cross-country run there. Or maybe you recognise it from 2001: A space odyssey or Back to the future III or Thelma and Louise.

View of Monument Valley

Cars are parked where Forrest Gump ended his cross-country run in the movie of the same name

No matter how many times you’ve seen it, the real treat is being there in person. It’s breathtaking to see the striking red mesas, buttes and spires surrounded by 92,000 acres of flat and mostly empty sandy desert.

Our group hired a Navajo guide and 4WD so we could travel along the 17-mile loop that weaves through the park.

Navaho guides are allowed to take you off the main track, so our excursion included some wonderful bonuses. We knew dinner was included—Indian fry bread, steak, salads and more. But we didn’t know we’d get to see the Sun’s Eye and nearby ancient rock art.

Next stop was a sort of rock amphitheatre where we were treated a ‘concert’. Our guide brought his traditional flute and played several haunting tunes. The enormous stone backdrops created perfect acoustics. 

Sun's Eye, Monument Valley

The Sun’s Eye where we saw the rock art


I was struck by how much the towering buttes, sweeping desert and rough scrub reminded me of Australia’s Red Centre and its massive sandstone monolith, Uluru.

As an aside, not all the pics have captions. As usual, I was in a quandary choosing which pics to share.


A little more about the valley
Monument Valley Tribal Park is part of the Colorado Plateau. In the Navajo language it’s called Tsé Biiʼ Ndzisgaii, which means ‘valley of the rocks’.

Of course, the place isn’t a valley in the conventional sense, but a wide flat, sometimes desolate landscape, with the crumbling formations that rise up to 1000 feet (300 metres), the last remnants of the sandstone layers that once covered the entire region.

Monument Valley is part of the much larger Navajo Nation Reservation, which covers about 17.5 million acres (71,000 square kilometres) in parts of Arizona, Utah and New Mexico. It is the largest land area retained by a Native American tribe, and has a population of about 350,000.

Spearhead Mesa, Monument Valley

Spearhead Mesa is near the park’s visitor centre and hotel

The valley is not a national park, like nearby Canyonlands in Utah and the Grand Canyon in Arizona, but one of six Navajo-owned tribal parks. What’s more, the valley floor is still inhabited by Navajo—30 to 100 people, depending on the season, who live in houses without running water or electricity.

Valley residents rely on local natural springs for drinking and cleaning, and for watering their livestock and vegetable gardens. Water also plays a important role in Navajo daily and ceremonial life. Clan and community names often refer to water.

Plants, such as wolfberry and Indian ricegrass, grow around the springs. They provide forage for animals, and help to stabilise the sand and dirt. While plants such as snakeweed are used in Navajo ceremonies. Coyotes are central figures in Navajo life and culture. As an aside, I reckon coyotes figure much more widely in American life and culture. Poor John recently finished a book that says every single person in the USA lives within one mile of a coyote.


The Navajo Code Talkers
The visitor centre at Monument Valley has a wonderful display about the Navajo Code Talkers of World War II. There’s another display at a local fast food outlet.

Between 1942 and 1945, Navajo Marines spoke in a code forged from their native language. The tactic amazed American troops and completely baffled the Japanese, and helped to win World World II in the Pacific.

While Native American language had been used during World War I, the more recent effort began in 1942 with a pilot project that involved an original 29 Navajo Code Talkers. They initially developed more than 200 terms for the English alphabet, general vocabulary, ranks of officers, countries, military equipment and munitions. By the end of the war, the code included more than 800 terms and involved 400 talkers.

Navajo Code Talkers served in all six US Marine divisions. They provided the most sophisticated, accurate, fast and secure means of military communication during World War II. Their code was used to send combat coordinates, troop movements, orders and highly classified messages. They served on the front line, on ships and aircraft, with the US Marine Raiders, reconnaissance, and underwater demolition teams.

Their efforts were featured in the 2002 film Windtalkers. A documentary, The Code Talkers: a secret code of honour, was produced in 2003. In it, cast and crew from Windtalkers share their feelings about their service during the war and in the making of the film.

The Totem Pole, Monument Valley

The Totem Pole on the left

Camel Butte, Monument Valley

I’m pretty sure this is Camel Butte

The Mittens and Merrick Butte, Monument Valley

The Mittens (West Mitten on the left) and Merrick Butte (on the right)

24 September 2018 / leggypeggy

A bonus stop at the Navajo National Monument

Betatakin cliffs dwellings in the Navajo National Monument

The south-facing Betatakin cliff dwellings in the Navajo National Monument. 

Betatakin, Navajo National MonumentLuckily for us, our western USA camping tour included a brief stop at a site not mentioned on the original itinerary—the Navajo National Monument.

Named for the people who now occupy the region, the monument protects Betatakin, Keet Seel and Inscription House—three well-preserved collections of dwellings that were built hundreds of years ago by Ancestral Puebloans (sometimes called Anasazi).

About 800 years ago, the land surrounding the national monument was dotted with Ancestral Puebloan farms. Their villages were nearby and they traded in goods such as cotton, turquoise, sea shell and parrot feathers. Rainfall was scarce back then and the Puebloans were eventually forced to move on or relocate to the cliffs.

Betatakin, Navajo National Monument

The Betatakin cliffs and dwellings were what we visited. Well sort of. We hiked the 1.3-mile Sandal Trail that took us to a spot where we overlooked those dwellings.

As an aside, Inscription House is closed to the public and getting to Keet Seel takes many, many hours.

The Ancestral Puebloans lived in Betatakin from about 1250 to 1300. Their agricultural fields were on the canyon rims and floors, but they lived in the cliff face’s alcove. The alcove was deep enough to provide shelter from bad weather and, because it faced south, was able to make the most of sunshine in summer and winter.

Archeologists think about 125 people lived in Betatakin in the Puebloan heyday. They reckon the people spent most of their time outdoors, tending fields. About 135 rooms—used for food storage, living and ceremonies—have been documented.

The cliff dwellers stayed for about five decades, and then moved on. No one is sure why they did, but theories abound—drought, erosion, social pressures, religious dictates or other unknown causes? Tree-rings show that a 20-year drought ended about 1300.

These ancient dwellings were rediscovered in the late 1880s.

Our stop included a bit of time at the visitor centre, where artefacts—especially pottery—are displayed.

P.S. All the scenery pics are from our walk along the Sandal Trail, so not every pic has a caption.

Some definitions
Anasazi—Navajo (Diné) word meaning ancient ones.

Ancestral Puebloans—they also lived at Mesa Verde (coming soon), Chavo Canyon, Aztec Ruins, Wupatki, Walnut Canyon and more.

Betatakin—Navajo word meaning ‘ledge house’.

Diné—Navajo name for their own people.

Keet Seel—Navajo for ‘broken pottery scattered around’.

Betatakin, Navajo National Monument