Thursday, 22 June 2006

Protecting new concepts via patents

Earlier this morning I was talking to my mate, Ian, about a new idea for a business that I’d heard yesterday. During the conversation he mentioned that the Patent Office applies 3 key tests before registering any new concepts:
1. NOVELTY. How new is the idea?
2. OBVIOUSNESS. Is the idea blatantly obvious?
3. REDUCTION TO PRACTICE. Can you actually show how you have implemented an invention in a best form? If an invention cannot be actually "constructed" then it is not meant to be patentable.

Tuesday, 20 June 2006

Remote Area Power Supply systems

A good friend or ours, David, has been investigating Remote Area Power Supply systems and came across the Solar Online Australia website. I’ve had a good look at it and have to say that, ‘Yes’, I am very impressed. If they are capable of assembling a web site like they have (simple enough that even I can follow it) then I reckon they should at least be worth checking out by anyone considering buying and installing a system. They also sell small wind turbines and direct current water pumps. NB. I’ve no idea how their pricing or service stacks up.
The web address is and the business operates out of Warner’s Bay near Newcastle in New South Wales.

Sunday, 18 June 2006

Emu Eggs. A somewhat daunting Bush Tucker!

The emus (Dromaius novaehollandiae) on our neighbour’s place are currently laying eggs, in readiness for setting and raising the next batch of chicks. I found a clutch about 1 metre over our boundary fence and mentioned their existence the next day in town to Gaynor (the neighbour) who owns the emus, and was a little surprised when she invited me to take some as they had not yet begun to ‘sit’ on them and it would help her in keeping the number of birds to a reasonable level.
I ended up taking 3 eggs (leaving plenty) for the purpose of keeping the shells as ornaments and doing a taste test on at least one of them. The challenge was then to try and neatly halve the shells whilst leaving the yolks intact. After some deliberation I found one way of achieving the goal – purchasing a very fine blade for my 4” angle grinder, marking a straight line around the shell using a rubber band and some chalk, and carefully cutting just through (only) the hard shell and not the soft sack or membrane that surrounds the albumen and yolk. Once this was complete I used a knife to cut through the membrane, placing the HUGE egg contents in a bowl as depicted in the picture. A bit ‘touch-and-go’, but I got there. It was then necessary to remove the white membrane layers on the inside of the shell which was not that difficult. I decided the best way to cook one of the eggs was ‘scrambled’, and added a little milk whilst whisking – the same as for ‘normal’ eggs. This was the daunting part really as the albumen and yolk were so big compared to what I’d usually have a go at - equivalent in volume to about 9 conventional chook eggs.
So “What did it taste like?” I hear you say. It was no different to chook eggs, but the texture was slightly more viscous. Jan and Stuart also shared in the tasting, and there was still plenty left after the 3 of us were fed.
Michael Morcombe’s “Field Guide to Australian Birds” explains that emus are widespread throughout the Australian continent and in the wild tend to live in pairs or family parties of up to 12, averaging 1-2 km apart but much closer when conditions are favourable. They are migratory or nomadic, wandering in response to seasonal conditions and only gather in large numbers due to the existence of man-made barriers such as fences. The species is principally vegetarian but they will take some insects. In the breeding season the females make deep thudding drumming and booming noises; and the males (who sit on the eggs and raise the chicks) give low growls to communicate with the chicks.

Wallabies V England - "Where's G Smith"?

Earlier this evening Jan, John and I went and saw the Wallabies bring home an impressive 43-18 win over England in the second Cook Cup match of the Bundaberg Rum Rugby Series at the Telstra Dome in Melbourne.
What made the game even more interesting was that I was sitting directly behind one of the English support team, who was giving instructions directly to someone actually playing on field. We noticed that he had a folder on his lap that had a writing pad, with the top page clearly headed up as a ‘Check List” for the team. The dot-points on the left hand side were aspects the team had been instructed to watch out for with the Aussies, and on the right hand side were the English team’s tactics.
For once I happened to have my trusty digital camera and snuck in a quick snap of what we could see of the Check List (wouldn’t you!) – see the accompanying image. We all liked the 4th dot point which reads “Where’s G Smith”. What a game he had. I reckon they should have had “Where’s Lote Tuqiri” on the top of it. What an awesome game he had … making the English # 14, Tom Varndell, look silly until right at the end when he scored a consolation try.
A great night; and a great result!

Friday, 16 June 2006

Ochre Arch History Part 5 - The Hampton Era

During the past couple of months I’ve corresponded with Don Hampton and his son David, and have appreciated their generosity in passing on to me information about our farm whilst Don was the owner from 1963 (when he purchased it from Lindsay Causer) to 1978 (when he sold it to Roy and Jean Kelly). The main message for me from these interactions was the impressive amounts of improvement Don and the family made to the landscape during the period.
I’ve divided the information Don and David have given me to create this blog into 2 themes: Landscape Improvements, and Memories and Observations. For some readers it might help to reference the scanned image of the Parish Map I attached to the Ochre Arch History Part 2.
Don completed out a considerable amount of internal fencing on the property, including the construction of a new ‘east-west’ running rabbit proof fence from the western boundary (where the Frost & Diprose neighbouring properties met) to half way across the property along the border between Lots / Portions 42 and 60.
The strainer and some other posts were replaced, and old used wire was used to repair and rabbit proof the eastern (England) and southern (Livingstone) boundary along Portion 42.
The southern part of the western boundary fence on Portion 42 was not originally constructed on the official boundary line. Consequently about 20 acres of neighbouring “Roselea” was at that time within the fenced boundary of Ochre Arch. Don arranged for the boundary to be professionally surveyed prior to selling the place. A new boundary fence along the official boundary was constructed in 1982 by Bruce and Peter Diprose.
The main section of the sheep yards were built by Don, with the actual steel panel fabrication being carried out where the family resided, at “Glenowen” on the Henry Lawson Way. The sheep yard steel is boiler tubing from steam engines, which explains the neat bends on the ends of the pipes.
Don also fabricated (on “Glenowen”) and erected the main gate to the entrance of Ochre Arch. Kevin Huckel supplied the large steel tubes which were used as posts. These extend about three feet in the ground and are filled with rocks and concrete.
Dams and Contour Banks
Don and David Johnson (Marie’s brother) built the dam toward the top of the gully in the Plateau Paddock. David Johnson recalls that there was extremely hard rock not far below the original landscape level, which they used explosives to remove.
The Soil Conservation Service was commissioned by Don to put in all the contour banks and to dig the dam in the Contour Paddock.
Don had the use of the Clarrie Johnson’s (Marie’s father) D4 Caterpillar tractor for a month or so and used it to dig out rabbit burrows and to construct the low level contour banks in the north east corner of the Front Paddock and south-east corner of the Spring Paddock.
Springs and soaks
The spring near the north-western corner of the Spring Paddock always produced water but it was a very small hole and not practical for stock watering. Don, with the assistance of Bob Berry, dug a larger hole using a scoop and dynamite. Whilst they had been advised not to use explosives in case it altered the flow of the water, they did it anyway with no negative impact. The water flow was such that it ran across the road into the dam on the neighbouring property, “Pinnacle”, then owned by the Hunter family.
Don recalls the existence of two fresh-water soaks existing on Ochre Arch, both of which are still evident today. The first was located at about the mid-point and on the southern edge of the creek in the Contour Paddock, and the second was very close to the western boundary just to the south of the creek in the Front Paddock. He had intended scooping out the second one as he was sure it would have filled with water, and has no recollection of any other springs or soaks.
Clearing timber
The Native Pasture (or Back) Paddock was cleared of timber i.e. the trees were cut down and poisoned. Some of the stumps from this activity were still there when the property was sold. Trees were also cut down and poisoned along the eastern boundary of the Plateau Paddock.
Rabbit control
Rabbits were large in numbers on the place, and Don spent as much as half of his time getting them to manageable numbers. Aside from fencing, ripping burrows and poisoning, Don also used some ‘home-brew’ explosives to eradicate some of the larger warrens, accompanied by some (to use his words) “run-like-hell” moments creating a safe distance before ignition. Signs of this explosive and effective activity are still evident today on the top of the hill to the north east of the Plateau Paddock.
From Don Hampton
The names that the Hampton family gave to each of the paddocks on the farm, followed in brackets by the ones we use today, were Front (Front), House (House), Road (Contour), Spring (Spring), Clover (Plateau), Timber (Native Pasture), Hill (Lookout Rock), and Creek (Forgotten) Paddock. Jan and I have decided to call the Forgotten Paddock the Deep Creek Paddock from now on.
The dam in the House Paddock was the only one that held water for extended periods. During the 1968 drought all of the sheep were kept in the Contour Paddock and fed on wheat. Water was pumped into containers from the spring in the adjacent Paddock.
The shearing shed was used for shearing and crutching a few times but at that time, in Don’s words, “you had to be a weather forecaster because there was nowhere to shed the sheep” to keep them out of the rain (and thus the wool dry). It was just a shed with no skillion, and had a concrete floor which the shearer’s didn’t go much on. The old engine in the shed at the time used to “go like a rocket”.
Don’s 1964 financial accounts show the farm as being valued (at cost) at 11200 Pounds 12 Shillings and 1 penny, and comprising 953 Acres.
Don used to camp in the back of the Ute on the weekends with his sons, David and Paul, stoking fires and burning timber. There was also a time when the whole family was on the property and the vehicle bogged - and they all walked to “Rutland” to get help.
Whilst this is not directly related to the history of Ochre Arch, it is worth noting that Don’s great grandfather came to Australia from the Isle of Man. He had a small farm behind the Grenfell cemetery (exact location no known), and drowned in Vaughn's Dam (down near Lawson Park) carting water with a horse and Furphy tank on skids.
From Marie Hampton
One of the old Parish maps I have shows the existence of a ‘Salt Shed” near the spring. Marie remembers seeing this shed (and that it was made of galvanized iron) during a visit to the farm in about 1938, when the property was owned by Fred Bokeyar (pronounced “Bokai”).
From David Hampton
David recalls that he and quite a few mates spent many weekends playing on and around the arch over the creek while his father was eradicating rabbits or clearing dead timber; and how fearless we (David, Craig Livingstone and I) were riding motorbikes from “Roselea” up over the steep hills into the back of Ochre Arch.
The remains of an old header are near the creek in the Spring Paddock. For those who may not be aware … if you selected low range on a Massey Ferguson tractor with the motor stopped there is no engine braking, even though it is in gear.
David recalls that one night when he and Paul where camping out with their Dad on the farm Don pointed out to them how on a clear night the lights of Forbes and Parkes can be clearly seen from the top of Lookout Rock.
Link to Ochre Arch History Part 1
Link to Ochre Arch History Part 2
Link to Ochre Arch History Part 3
Link to Ochre Arch History Part 4

Thursday, 15 June 2006

Checking out the night-life

Jan and I were on the farm last week and one evening did a bit of spotlighting through some of the White Box country up in the hills, looking for nocturnal birds and tree dwelling animals. We came across two Common Brushtail Possums (Tichosurus vulpecula) in different spots, which was a bit of a thrill given it is so dry … and we’d never seen them on our place before. These are the same species of possum that are in plague proportion following their introduction to New Zealand and the locals have found it necessary to introduce programs to keep numbers in check.
At about 2 am that same night we were woken by the scratching and muffled squealing of a small bat that had managed to get itself caught between one of the windows and its cover. I managed to free it by removing the cover. In the daylight I found a similar (and maybe even the same) bat alive but on its back on the floor of the shearing shed, which is located about 75 metres from the house. After taking a few photos, 2 of which are part of this blog, I placed the bat on a sheltered branch of a tree and saw no more of it again.
Yesterday I emailed a couple of the photos to my good friend, Toni McLeish who works for the NSW Department of Environment and Conservation (where she coordinates the activities of the Grassy Box Woodlands Conservation Management Network) to see if she or someone she works with could identify the species. She responded quickly advising it was a Lesser Long-eared Bat (Nyctophilus geoffroyi).
Toni explained that “the identification features are the long ears (of course), the bump above the nose which has a "Y" groove and silver belly fur; and that they are not rare but are special, and do like houses and curtains in particular.” The book we have titled “A Field Guide to Mammals of Australia” by Peter Menkhorst and Frank Knight states that Lesser Long-eared Bats are one of Australia’s most widespread and abundant mammals, common over most of the mainland except for Cape York and the east coast of Queensland.