26 April 2008

Some gross stuff

Today was the last day of my entomology residential and what a fun day it was.

The main topic today was forensic entomology and if you're a fan of CSI you'll have an idea what that is. If you don't, well basically when an animal dies it is immediately occupied by various organisms that help break it down. The amount of those organisms, the type and their stage of development gives you an idea of how long the animal (or person) has been dead.

For our prac we had four plates of chicken drumsticks on a bed of soil. These plates had been left outside for varying amounts of time, from fourteen days down to one day. We had to cut open the drumsticks and count up what we found in them.

We started off with the one day old plate. There were four of us in my group, but only two of us put on the rubber gloves and cut up the chicken. Day one wasn't too bad, we found one small Rove beetle and the chicken smelled a bit, but it wasn't too bad.

Onto plate two, which was three days old and as soon as I cut it open the maggots started to come out. I think it was about this stage that one of our group had to go outside for some fresh air, and she wasn't alone.

Plate three was a week old, smelled a bit more and had some really fat maggots in it. Out of the two drumsticks on this plate we counted about sixty maggots. This one was also the grossest to look at, really squishy.

By plate four, which was two weeks old, the two of us doing the work were getting quite used to it. This one had started to dry out a bit. There weren't as many maggots, but there were a couple of the beetles. The beetles are actually predatory. They don't eat the chicken, they feed on the maggots in the chicken.

I actually woke up this morning with a bit of a stuffy nose and was tempted to take an antihistamine. I decided against it in case it made me drowsy. I'm glad I made that decision now as it made it harder for me to smell the rotten meat.

Could I do that sort of thing for a living? To be perfectly honest, if you'd asked me that before today I would have said no. Now I'm not so sure. Although it looked pretty gross, I didn't have a problem with it. Our lecturer said that it's usually the smell that causes people problem rather than the sight of it.

Oh, by the way, yesterday I was dissecting a cockroach, fascinating stuff.

21 April 2008


We got a couple of Bokashi buckets today.

What's a Bokashi bucket?
I hear you say. It's a 20 litre sealable bucket for composting kitchen scraps. Where it differs from normal compost bins is that it ferments the waste, making it easier to break down when it goes into your garden, worm farm, or normal compost bin.

Most importantly, you can put meat scraps into it as well. Try that in a normal compost bin and it'll start to smell very quickly, as well as wriggle with maggots, etc.

It's very simple to use, you just tip your scraps in, sprinkle a layer of EM (effective micro-organisms) Bokashi over the top and put the lid on.

Now you could probably do the same in a normal bucket as long as you could seal it, something like a wine fermenter for example. If you did you'd have to put some kind of strainer at the bottom for the fluid to run out. You'll notice in the picture above that it has a tap at the bottom. The fluid that comes out can be used as a liquid fertiliser, or and get this, a drain cleaner. Honest, it says so on the website.

You need to buy a bag of the EM Bokashi regularly. The only source I've found it so far is the shops that sell the buckets online. Hopefully there'll be local sources for it eventually, or even an alternative that you can make up yourself.

I'll keep you posted on whether or not it works as advertised. I might even take some photos of the stuff inside if I get enough requests.

If you do decide to get one yourself, I suggest you order it from the website above. The other places selling it are resellers and seem to have a bit of a markup.

Oh, and one thing I didn't realise when I ordered the buckets last Thursday afternoon, The Queensland state government offers a rebate for them up to $50. Bargain!

19 April 2008


We had a minor bush fire in our area the other night.

It was nothing serious, we didn't even hear fire engines. It burnt just long enough for me to take some photos in the ad breaks during Gordon Ramsay. In fact, the only reason I'm blogging about it is because I like the photo.

The fire is in a bit of bushland about two or three streets from us. The last time there was a fire there it was a bit bigger. People in neighbouring houses were finding all kinds of wildlife in their yards, especially snakes.

We haven't had any calls to pick up injured animals as a result of the fire, so it can't have been as bad as the last one.

18 April 2008

A bit of a twitch

Last weekend, Donna and I decided to stop off at the black swamp on the way home from Laurie and Jessica's. The black swamp is quite well known in our area. It's a nesting and roosting ground for flying foxes (fruit bats) and ibises. It's right on the main road through Cleveland, so it's not hard to find.

Anyway, we parked around the back to start with and walked in among the trees to watch and photograph the bats, then drove round the front to see what was there. As soon as we got out of the car, Donna noticed something in the top of a dead tree.

It's a white bellied sea eagle, they eat snakes fish and small birds. Quite a magnificent looking creature don't you think? Looks like the master of all it purveys. You can imagine it soaring over the swamp, letting out a screech and frightening hell out of small creatures for miles around.

Well, actually when it took off it honked like a goose. I kid you not, that's what they sound like, check here if you don't believe me.

It's a bit like hearing a big, hulking body builder talk with a girly voice. It just doesn't fit right.

Good luck

Yesterday morning, while walking to the bus, I passed a couple of bottlebrush trees about two doors up from our place. As I walked past I scared a couple of rainbow lorikeets and they took off about a foot away from my head. I nearly had kittens.

This morning, while walking past the same trees, I was a bit more cautious. I could see them near the top of the second tree, so I knew they weren't going to fly too close to me this time. As I walked under the tree, thinking it was maybe not a good idea to walk right underneath, I heard a short squirting sound. Then something wet hit me on top of the head.

Luckily, lorikeets are nectar feeders, so when they poo on youit tends to be watery rather than brown and white and obvious.

Oh well, it's supposed to be good luck. I'm still waiting.

14 April 2008

Stating the obvious

One for the "kids say the darnedest things" file.

We had a bit of a family get together at my brother Laurie's place on Saturday. He and Jessica had some insulation to put in the external walls of their new house before the plasterboard went up. After we'd finished and I was having a look around the block (it's an acre and a half), I noticed a rock on the ground next to the septic tank.

Now, regular readers will know that I've done a couple of geology subjects at uni. I've struggled with rock identification, but wasn't really good at it. I was good enough to pass the exam though.

Anyway, I picked up this rock which, on first looking at it, I took to be a piece of jasper. My soon-to-be-four neice, Alicia, was standing there and I said to her, "what kind of rock is that Alicia".

She took on quick look at it and said, "a big one".

All that exam stress for nothing. I should have just asked Alicia.

05 April 2008


They say you only need to know three things to be a plumber; hot on the left, cold on the right, and you-know-what flows down hill.

I'm not sure if the pic above follows those rules. I'm pretty sure I wouldn't be washing my hands in that water while it's running. I'm also pretty sure what the sparkies would have to say about it.

In a similar vein, check this out on Andrew's blog.