Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Volume 1 Part 3

STRIDERS ALMANAC – The ExpressEdition
Volume 1, Part 3, 18 March 2013. Page 1
Part 3 Very hot with some cooling downdrafts
1 to 20 November . A period of 20 days.
I was an inpatient at Royal Darwin Hospital from 31 October to 8 November. There were 2 thunderstorms there in the period 1 – 8 November.
Thursday 8 November
I was discharged from hospital and a friend drove me to Wrigley Creek for a period of convalescence. Wrigley Creek is about 70 Kms South of my home at Solar Village, as the crow flys. It is right up at the top of the Adelaide River catchment area and it is not in the same bioregion as Solar Village. It is in the bioregion next door. I visit Wrigley Creek fairly often and these visits help me keep events at Solar Village in a wider regional context. Quite familiar plants (such as the Fern Leaved Grevillia Grevillia pteridifolia ) follow different flowering and fruiting timetables at Wrigley Creek and Solar Village. Because I was not at home at Solar Village 8-22 November 2012 I intend to report some of the events that I noted at Wrigley Creek during that time span. Hopefully this will convey some idea of what was probably going on at Solar Village at this time.
We arrived at Wrigley Creek late in the afternoon of the 8th. We arrived to a cool green world just minutes after 28 mm of rain had fallen. The rain filled the dam on Bird Tree Creek but it stopped just short of overflowing it. This rain caused the germination of a number of Canarium tree ( Canarium australianum ) seedlings. The first such germination for the season. I noticed the first of the seedlings to emerge from the very sandy soil (and in shady places) on the morning of 12 November.
Wednesday 14 November
There was a total eclipse of the Sun just a little distance away to the East of us on this day. We only saw a partial eclipse at Wrigley Creek. On the hilltop from which we watched the eclipse there is a young Milkwood tree ( Alstonia actinophylla) .
This tree had been leafless for some time, and we were afraid that it might have died. It re-leafed on the morning of the 14th.
Friday 16 November
There was a thunderstorm with cooling downdrafts (but very little rain) in the very late afternoon. As we hurried to shelter from the rain we noticed the first ripe fruit on the young female Australian Nutmeg tree (Myristica insipida) that was planted on the Nutmeg Terrace about 5 years ago. This discovery caused great excitement in the camp.
Enough cold air came down from that storm to give us the gift of a cool night and beautiful sleeping weather. The previous cool night had been the night 8-9 November. So at this stage of the game we
STRIDERS ALMANAC – The Express Edition, Volume 1, Part 3. Page 2
were getting one cool night a week.
At Solar Village in October 2012 I had noticed that the cloudy day of the week was Thursday. And if it rained at all, it rained on Sunday. A regular and quite distinct weekly pattern in the weather can be detected here at some times. That is why I am putting the day of the week into the sub-headings in this account of the weather.
Saturday 17 November 2012
A thunderstorm delivered 28 mm of rain in the very late afternoon. Bird Tree Creek ran and the dam overflowed. Wrigley Creek itself rose and it roared in the night. The storm cooled everything down and another beautiful night followed.
Sunday 18 November
It was a cool and overcast day, and that in itself was something of a new seasonal development. We spent the day planting, transplanting and potting up young trees.
During the 20 day long period (1-20 November) I recorded the passing of 2 storms in Darwin (in the first week) and storms at Wrigley Creek on the 8th, 16th and 17th. So in my travels rain fell on 5 out of the 20 days in this period.
The Starting Point
I have over the years played and experimented with many different ideas about when to start the description of the cycle of the seasons. For quite a long time I experimented with using the middle of August (Australian Valentines Day) when the song birds begin to call before dawn to proclaim their territories and their sexual needs. There is something to be said for using 14, 15, 19 or 20 August as a starting point. The beginning of Spring is an obvious starting point.
My current thinking on this topic is that 18, 19, or 20 November is a better starting point for we human beings. For some reason (which escapes me) many people who live in and near Darwin experience a sense of ‘newness’ or ‘arrival’ at this time of year, in every year.
I had already decided to gather my observations together into approximately 10 day periods as a matter of convenience. Early-month 1-10, Mid-month 11-20, and Late-month 21 to 28, 29, 30 or 31, as the case may be. This scheme gives me 36 observation periods in each year.
So on my current thinking I am adopting 21 November as the nominal starting date for the cycle of the seasons and the human cultural year here. I expect that I will experience the sense of ‘arrival’ when I wake up on the morning of the 18th or the 19th, but when all is said and done that is a private experience. I think that it would be appropriate to defer any collective social celebration of these private events for a few days. It is in that spirit that I want to identify 20 November as a sort of a New Years Eve here, and a sort of an end to year that has just passed, if you will.
STRIDERS ALMANAC – The Express Edition, Volume 1, Part 3. Page 3
The Cooling Downdrafts
This is the hottest time of the year. The maximum Sun Temperature (the temperature of a thermometer exposed to direct Sunshine) ever recorded at Darwin was 77 degrees C. , and it was recorded on the 17 November. The Sun Temperature is pretty much the same thing as the soil surface temperature in the Sun where there is no leaf litter on the ground. It is a wonder that any seedlings (or small plants )at all survive the scorching heat that is radiated upwards from the soil surface at this time of year. Good shade, and preferably the solid shade cast by a tree trunk, is pretty much a pre-condition for survival for young trees at this time of the year. It is hotter in burned landscapes than in unburned landscapes, and it is much hotter when the surface soil is dry than when it is moist or wet. The heat radiated upwards from the soil makes life difficult for human beings too at this time of year.
The cooling downdrafts from the thunderstorms are very welcome, and a really cool night is the ultimate luxury. It is hard to get enough sleep, and quality sleep, at this time of the year. On most days it is too hot to have a siesta or sleep in for very long in the morning. It takes special gardening or architectural measures to create an effective well ventilated and shady siesta place. A bough shed, some living creepers, a shady tree or a grass roof; has to be a mile in front of anything with a tin roof.
Lack of sleep is closely associated with insanity and the social tensions of the build-up season. It is hard to get enough sleep when you perk up after the Sun sets, and you want to go hard at night to compensate for the inactivity that is forced on you by the heat in the daylight hours.
The occasional cool and overcast day that allows you to be more active is also a blessing. It can be very hard to do even the minimum of things that really do need to be done, at this time of the year. When it comes to heat and humidity discomfort, we really do live in an extreme place. It is one of the hottest inhabited places on the planet. The hotter ones are deserted. Over the past 100 years the temperature in Darwin has increased by 2 degrees C..The build-up season this year did seem to be a particularly hot one.
And so my friends I am pleased to report that I survived the surgery and the build up, in November of 2012.
Copyright, Strider, Humpty Doo, 18 March 2013. Second draft.

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