Sharks and politics and gardening

Photo by GEORGE DESIPRIS from Pexels

A rag-bag of topics have tickled my fancy this week. Let’s start with sharks, everybody’s favourite ocean-going boogy fish. Two young men were bitten while swimming up in the Whitsundays recently. That makes five attacks in that area in just over a year, one of them fatal. Inevitably, the calls have gone up. There must be retribution (culling) and/or protection (drum lines or shark nets).

Let’s get this into perspective. In an entire year, around the world, six people are killed in shark attacks. Six. [1] People go into the shark’s environment, often wearing wetsuits that make them look like seals, the fish’s natural prey. There will be attacks. Sharks are apex predators. But there aren’t that many of them out there and their numbers are dwindling. Fishermen catch sharks, cut off their fins for the Chinese market, and chuck the fish overboard to die. Smaller sharks end up in your Friday fish and chips. So how many sharks do humans kill in one year? A bit more than six.

Culling is stupid and only called for by people who thought the Jaws movies were real. Sharks don’t come back to eat people. Most of the time they mistake humans in wetsuits for seals. And often they take a bite, go YUCK, and move on. Unfortunately, with all those teeth, even a nibble is enough to sever an artery.

Drum lines are offshore floats with baited hooks on lines. Read more here. They’re set to protect popular beaches and are designed to catch and kill sharks, although recent changes require councils to check the drums each day and release sharks since some species are endangered. Um… I’ll opt out of removing the hook from a three-metre great white’s mouth, thanks. It’s obvious drum lines will catch more than sharks and claims they reduce shark attacks at beaches is disputed.

Shark nets catch much more than sharks. Lots of other innocent fish, dolphins and turtles (which drown), and every year at least two or three whales have to be cut free during their migration.

I spent many, many long summer days at the beach in Perth when I was growing up. There were no nets or drum lines, but there was an aircraft (the surf patrol) that regularly checked the beaches and reported any shark sightings. On the rare occasion that one showed up, a siren sounded, we all went ashore and watched as the boys launched a surf boat to scare the shark off.

These days with drones so accessible (and cheap) surely aerial surveillance is a simple option.

Next topic, political advertising. Recently on Facebook the feed is full of Brexit and the interminable American presidential election campaign. And in both cases, most of the posts I see are personal attacks on candidates. It’s all so narrow and negative. I don’t really care if somebody smoked dope when they were at university, I want to know what their policies are, whether they’ve been costed, and why I should give them my vote.

Okay, I’m off the soap box now. A few weeks ago I shared some garden pictures in my post ‘Spring has sprung’. Goodness, how everything has grown.

Green beans grown from seed, with marigolds along the bottom. That’s around 2.4 metres (8ft). We’re still picking. There’s nothing like eating beans picked ten minutes ago 🙂

Three tomato plants – one big, one cherry, one roma. They’re covered in unripe fruit but we’ll have to get them before the fruit flies. That’s a fruit fly trap hanging next to them.

Cucumbers

A pair of paw-paws. They’re steaming along, though no sign of fruit yet.

We’ve managed to pick our bananas before the birds noticed them starting to ripen and shared our bounty with the neighbours. And I have hopes that at least some of the mangoes will actually get to ripen this year. They seem to go in a biennial cycle, with a reasonable crop every other year. Here’s hoping.

And we’ve got lots of herbs, rocket (arugula), and lettuce.

Sage in flower

A hoverfly with the sage

Spring has sprung

Our side garden while the grass is still green

For those of us in the southern hemisphere, spring is either around the corner or happening now. It’s not a huge event for us. The only deciduous trees we have are frangipanis and yes, the leaf buds at the ends of the branches are starting to swell. The very coldest (for us) winter nights are behind us now and the days are warm, in the mid-twenties, and dry. Soon enough the temperatures will rise and with them, the humidity. If we’re very lucky, we might even have a wet season this year but so far, the prospects are not good. We can already see the grass drying out.

It’s that oscillation between the oceans. The west coast is getting some of the rain it missed out on in the last few years and over here on the east coast many areas are enduring another year of drought. Last year the rain expected in the wet season, between December and March, didn’t happen here. The only cyclones were right up north and thankfully not very strong, although one huge rain depression sat over Townsville causing devastation on drought-ravaged pastoral properties. I think the graziers up there are still cleaning up. But at least the rain topped up the dams, the inland rivers, and the ground water.

Lorikeets love callistemon flowers

Here in Hervey Bay the callistemons are starting to flower, much to the delight of the lorikeets and other honey eaters. The mango trees are setting fruit and we have our fingers crossed that this year the rain will come and we’ll actually get more survivors than last year’s two. That’s right; two mangoes from two large trees. Our lime tree is bearing well and we’ve frozen quite a lot of juice in ice cube trays.  They’re lovely to add to water on a hot and humid day.

One tree has brand new tiny mangoes

The other tree is still in the flower stage

This year also we’ll keep an eye on those bunches of ripening bananas. We were warned that if we didn’t collect them when they were just ripe the birds would help us. We were a day late and didn’t salvage any. But the lorikeets, miner birds, and blue-faced honey eaters (also called ‘banana birds’) enjoyed a feast.

Hopefully we’ll get to share this with the birds

Limes

Salad greens and herbs, with three tomato plants down the end. We’ve also planted seeds for snow peas and green beans

We’ve been busy in the garden planting herbs and salad greens. Come summer the plants will bolt but in the meantime, rocket (arugula) and lettuce will be welcome. So will the tomatoes. We’ve planted a large variety, a roma tomato, and a cherry tomato. They’ll go well with basil, coriander, and parsley. It’ll be lovely as long as we can keep the insects at bay, especially fruit fly.

I’ve also planted some ornamental flower seeds to fill in some corners. Who knew petunia seeds were so small? They’re the only ones that haven’t made a showing so far. But there’s time.

(L-R) allysum, cosmos, marigolds, petunias

The main thing we need is rain. If you’d care to help us by sending up prayers, magical spells, or incantations, or maybe suitable ritual sacrifices if that’s part of your belief system, we would be very grateful.