Things To Do In The Dark

There's a bit going on in the world at the moment. I mean, yes, there always is - but lately it's all become so absurd and obscene, that even I've noticed. The U.S, "*allegedly", blew up a pipeline that provided affordable energy to one of its own allies. Causing an environmental disaster of staggering proportions. Then, the same Govt, after telling railway workers they couldn't have paid sick leave, modern brakes on trains or the ability to strike on these issues - had to deal with a new environmental balls up, when a train derailed spilling thousands of litres of toxic chemicals. Some of which ended up in a river that provides water to millions of Americans

To fix it - the authorities set the chemicals on fire. Making it much easier for carcinogenic particles to drift around unhindered in the atmosphere. Which was, of course - perfect. As it saved hundreds of dollars that would've been wasted on brooms, shovels, buckets and other trifles.

The chemicals in the water that are killing fish and God knows what else, are a bit harder to set fire to, (being underwater and such). So an official spokesperson made the announcement that they have concluded the water is safe for humans - but not fish. And that came as a relief to everyone. Except people who like to fish.

While all of this has been going on, the United States Govt began shooting down balloons - a move that has made gender reveal parties a touch more fraught than usual.

They used sidewinder missiles at a cost of $450k each, as apparently pins are in short supply due to the energy crisis. The same energy crisis the U.S. created when it, "allegedly" blew up the afore mentioned natural gas pipeline to teach Russia a lesson by punishing Germany.

All is not lost though, as America has stepped in to provide Germany with American natural gas, that is more expensive, both financially and environmentally - but as it's freedom gas, it's worth it.

And as if all that weren't enough. There have been numerous reports of UFO's - perhaps because more people than normal are looking skyward in the hopes of seeing a half-million dollar missile pop a balloon, (sadly it's probably just the balloons themselves people are seeing). Still, it's a welcome distraction from all the seriously corrupt and criminal stuff ... isn't it?

Speaking of energy, we've been having more than our usual number of power cuts recently - up from the annoyingly frequent, to the no longer bothering to put the camp stove away. And while such inconveniences pale into insignificance when compared with the plight of people in say, Yemen, it does make one question the point of living in such a large, expensive and frustratingly immobile "tent".

However, I thought this could all be reframed with a bit of a change in my perception of what being without mains electricity means. In other words, when life hands you lemons, make yaself a gin and tonic.


So I did just that, whilst considering what else I could do to actually take advantage of having fewer distractions, and, aside from the distant drone of a generator - real peace and quiet.

Perhaps a bit of a cruise in the truck to see what might be lurking? But, as I'd just poured a drink, (and I like to finish what I start), I decided against the idea. Thus, in the hopes of either distraction or inspiration, I headed to the bookcase and began tracing my fingers over the titles; quietly talking to myself the way I do when I'm not really that invested in what I'm doing:

'Read it recently - Not in the mood - Who the hell is Kama Sutra?' - you know? That sorta thing.

... When there was a smattering of fat "plunks" from the corrugated roof above.


Camera!, Head-torch! - catch sight of someone at my sliding door as I test the torch, muffled scream! ... realise it's my own reflection.

Take a moment for a steadying draught, - out the door!

By now the pitter-pattering sounds had turned into something more akin to rocks being washed, so sheltering my camera as best I could, I ventured into the maelstrom.

If you've never had the opportunity to play around in heavy tropical rain, may I suggest you add it to your bucket list? For me, it's one of those connecting with nature type deals, that - no pun intended, washes away the cares and confusions of life ... at least for a bit.

As quickly as it had started though, it stopped - so mildly steaming in the renewed humidity I sloshed around looking to see what might be about. My first find was a little unexpected, a green water spider with a lacewing tightly clasped in her venomous jaws.

Emerging from the dark, a spider with a green lacewing it has caught
Hygropoda lineata

These spiders aren't large, at around 30 mm total size, and as far as I can tell - no bites on humans have been recorded. So I honestly can't say if their venom is medically significant. But I doubt it, purely based on statistics.

Of the thousands of spider species known in Australia, only around ten are considered to be of any real danger to people

Leaving the spider to enjoy her spoils, I 'commando' crawled along one of our grassy swale drains, filled with about 20 cm of water, as I'd heard one of my favourite types of critter being all noisy and come-hitherish. After a little quiet searching, I came across this resplendent fellow - a Striped rocketfrog.

Frog in full song, showing off for the ladies
Litoria nasuta

I observed him for some time, enjoying the fact that he seemed completely unperturbed by my presence, while continuing to announce his own with gusto. Voyeurs be damned!

A medium-sized species of frog reaching up to 5.5 cm in body length. It has a brown, reddish-brown or yellow-brown back, with distinct dark brown longitudinal stripes near the middle, and sometimes patches also. There is a wide, dark brown stripe from the tip of the snout to the groin. The belly is white, and the male has a yellow throat.
Litoria nasuta | Australian Museum FrogID Project

Now, this next tiny little guy made me grin like an idiot, (a fairly typical state for my face to be in, quite frankly). I was looking over a slightly battered plant when I noticed this gorgeous grasshopper nymph, not much more than 1 cm long. But what really made me smile ... well, look for yourself:

A juvenile grasshopper, scratching itself
Valanga irregularis?

I ask you - have you ever seen a baby grasshopper scratching its arm, err - legpit? Nope me either, well worth getting damp for eh? And call me fussy, but despite calls to eat insects made by people who fly 'round in private jets to eat steak and lobster together in a heroic effort to combat climate change, I just wasn't hungry - so I let it be.

Sorry Klaus, Sorry Bill.

I continued on - starting to feel decidedly clammy, when I spied our next critter, newly exposed to the thrills, and dangers, of above ground living.

Freshly molted cicada drying its wings on its discarded skin

As you probably know, cicadas have a most unusual life-cycle. The vast majority of which being spent underground, perhaps a strategy to reduce the risk of predation. Some species will remain in the cool-dark for up to seventeen years! Once emerging, and shedding off their subterranean skins, they, (much like contestants on The Bachelor), have a single goal - to survive long enough to breed.

Australia has around 200 known species, alas - the identity of this one currently eludes me.

I am fairly confident I know who our next little beastie is, as we have met a few times over the years. The beautifully 'terrible' Northern blue-legged centipede. Of course, he's not terrible at all - unless you happen to be smaller than it. In saying that, I don't actually know how potent the venom of this species is. So if you do get bitten by one - could you let me know how it all turned out?

This one was on the more demure side of things, with a length of about 5-6 cm. They can grow to around 9 - 10 cm, and are seemingly popular in the pet trade. Thus, being demonstrably better companions than cats for your local wildlife, (but let's not rehash that old argument), no matter how true it is ...

A centipede on the prowl on our deck
Rhysida nuda

Well my friends, as the power has been uninterrupted for a worryingly long time, I'll sign off for now. Oh, hey, do you think I should share this post to the GG facebook page? I do enjoy it when large corporations project their sins onto me ... I.e. #MISINFORMATION!, lol - kinda lets me know I'm on the right track. We'll, see - I'll let ya know how it goes.

'Till next time, and as always - Take Care

*When I use the word allegedly here, you oughta picture me coughing, winking and making air quotes - you know?, for context.


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