Apologies, dear readers, for keeping you all in the dark as to my whereabouts and... whatabouts. But all will be revealed henceforth.
In short: following the Boulia camel races I had about a month in which I was somewhat at a loose end, because I had arranged to meet up with the 'Ratcatchers' / Dickman Simpson desert lab for their September trip. It was cold and dry and it was getting pretty hard to find any interesting critters, so I decided to look for some sort of work in western QLD during this time.
I ended up near Roma, working on the property of some relatives of mine - Jock and Mina Douglas - who farm Australian Desert Limes (Eremocitrus glauca). This is a fantastic little native citrus - intensely flavoured and suitable for a wide variety of culinary uses - jam, marmalade, chutney, cordial or whole in syrup or glacèd. The family has been farming and wild-harvesting the fruit since around 1997. For more information on the limes and the Douglas family operation, see www.australiandesertlimes.com.au
So for the past month I've been doing a variety of farm jobs - from driving a tractor, slashing, to fixing a windmill. I was also involved in the grafting of 3000 young trees - we collected wood or scions from wild trees with favourable characteristics and grafted them on to hardy citrus rootstock. It was a really interesting and educational experience, not least of all because of Jock's exhaustive knowledge of the country and stories from his varied life as a cattleman, landcare and land management enthusiast and now a horticulturalist!
The lime picking season is in November; the trees were just starting to bud when I arrived and had just started flowering when I left. After a couple of years of drought where the trees hadn't done so well, the good summer rains this year look like resulting in a big harvest.
While grafting we found an interesting snake - a new one to me, the Pale Headed snake - Hoplocephalus bitorquatus. Closely related to the Broad-headed snake and Stephen's Banded snake (H. bungaroides and stephensi respectively). Quite pretty.
Since leaving the farm I've hit the road again. Heading out to Windorah via Welford National Park, then the Birdsville races before venturing out in to the sand dunes of Ethabuka for about a month.