The cria is now three weeks old. In the course of that time I've had a crash course in camelid behaviour. The thing that the first photo demonstrates is their desire to hang about together, and rumps appear in all the photos, not far away. Bruce, the senior male alpaca / llama hybrid, is in a separate yard, and he becomes quite distressed if he can't see the rest of the herd as they graze in the house garden. The junior male, Boo, is a bully: the other day he actually spat at the tiny one, who was just going about its business of investigating everything, including big brother. Apparently mating is a social event too.
Like all active small things the cria – who will probably have a name by his fourth Sunday: my daughter returns on Thursday – is hard to photograph: as soon as you focus it runs off or at least changes position. Yesterday, when the herd was startled it led the charge to the middle garden.
Another perfect day, long sleeved T-shirt almost excessively warm, sun shining from a blue sky. And I spend part of it sitting on a plastic chair outside a caged area to watch supposedly obedient, highly trained dogs. The trainer shrugs and says, “There's a bit of chaos here today. Three dogs on heat, and the boys beside themselves.” There is indeed a lecherous frenzy of barking, so much so that much of the commentary is drowned out. I feel the same ambivalence I did with the caged butterflies at Kuranda, although J insists that dogs like to work.
So what was going on here in the back blocks of Stanthorpe? An ex-security guard breeds and trains dogs for police and security work. The hour-long show is part circus, part demonstration, part information. We see (all three of us) a range of dogs from three months to seven years. They (mostly) obey voice or hand signals, as we watch a simulated crime scene. They bark fiercely; lunge on the lead to grab a man protected by a heavy carpet-sleeve; set off in pursuit as soon as he heads for the gate; nip him; and draw blood (that's not part of the script).
For me, the puppy is the hit. It resents its collar, and tries to wriggle out of it. Once released, it goes through its obedience paces. We are invited into the cage to pat it, part of its human-socialisation training. Then a senior dog is brought in for dog-socialisation. It's apparently obvious pretty early if a dog will make the cut for police and security training: it needs to be willing to bite, bark, obey and ignore the sharp cracking of a whip.
The demonstration of sniffer dog capacity is impressive. A drug stash is hidden: the dog is brought in; in seconds it has marked the hiding place, even when it is under a small besser brick. As an addendum, the trainer talks about dogs trained to sniff out cancer, and tells the story of a family pet who began to uncharacteristically sniff the armpits of three family members, all of whom, including the man, proved to have breast cancer.
The trainers also take on the retraining of dogs who have attacked humans, reprogram them, assess them and then find a suitable home.
If you want a dog trained to police standards, you can have one for $5000. A pedigree pup will cost you $2000.
For me, the thing that redeems putting dogs on show like this is the obvious deep affection the two handlers feel for their dogs, and the playfulness behind the serious business.
I thought I'd seen all there was to see in my daughter's yard when I posted the first lot of photos. How wrong I was. I'd missed the woodpile that dwindles as it keeps us warm; the canoe that doubles as a table for the alpacas; the cartoon on the wall of the loo; a bench occupied by a blue bucket; the griffin with creepy eyes; the very pink pig whose lurid pink will never fade to subtle beauty; the decaying pushbike layered with dust, rust and cobwebs; the dog lounge with its prayer flags; the slab of faceted quartz; the magnificent crooked-nailed gate patterned green, orange, white and yellow with lichen or is it moss? or fungi?
And for you, Jo, something battered but almost qualifying as pretty: my Stanthorpe yard shoes, a Vinnie's purchase that has served both my daughter and me, as well as the original owner.
I’m in the thick of granite country here in Stanthorpe. I was looking for a photographic project to get me walking again after a lazy few weeks. Granite boulders in the rolling landscape seemed a perfect idea. So I drove off on Saturday afternoon, and scrambled through roadside grass to shoot granite. There was no shortage of boulders, but as always it was the surprising and unexpected that charmed most.
Not mighty harmless boulders, but small carnivorous sundews, a field of them, across the black water in the roadside ditch: a carpet of bright pink discs dotted with viscous moisture. They were thick at my feet most of the way to the boulder assemblage I was seeking. The green one is pretty certainly Drosera glanduligera; I’m not sure about the pink one. Both feast on insects, and my camera obviously feasted on them.
This gallery suits my attention span beautifully. About 20 paintings, sparsely displayed, means I can pay due attention to each one without feeling overwhelmed. There are two current exhibitions: landscapes that have won the Tattersall Art Prize over the years, liberated from the Tattersall's club house in Brisbane as a travelling exhibition: and photographs from the Granite Belt Wine Country Photography Competition. There are also glass cases showcasing the works of local artists. All this in a spacious, low-ceilinged main room, and a smaller upstairs section.
The painting that spoke most to my own experience was the man painting the mountains, a tiny insignificant figure attempting to capture immensity: no image and no attribution because my photo was too blurry. Lisa Adams' tree swan appealed because fantasy was located very close to reality in a very real landscape, and I liked Davida Allen's improbable palette in Cattle in fog at sunrise and the luminosity of Jeff Makin's Rubicon Valley.
I'm attracted to the macro in paintings as I am in nature, so I've taken the liberty of segmenting a few paintings where the paint-work was particularly viscous, the brush strokes visible, and the colours rich as I savour the part as well as the whole: Elizabeth Cummings' Stradbroke noon and Jun Chen's Brisbane River.
The photos didn't hold as much interest because I can take photos, not as good as the ones exhibited, but in the zone. I cannot wield a paintbrush.