Saturday, 26 December 2009

On The Orchard Part Two - Apple Thinning

Most varieties of apples must be thinned when the fruitlets are still small, otherwise the apples will remain small, red apples won't colour well, and crowded apples will rub against each other and leave unsightly marks. Also leaving too many apples can cause branches to snap. Bunches are usually thinned from bunches of four or five down to singles or doubles, mainly depending on the crop load, but sometimes also depending on market fruit size requirements. The thinned apples are left on the ground to rot, as they are of no value. It seems like such a waste seeing so many apples on the ground, but it is neccesary in order to produce a crop of good sized, good quality apples.

Friday, 11 December 2009

On The Orchard Part One - Frost Fans

During early spring the trees blossom. It's quite a beautiful thing to see on an orchard, pink and white flowers everywhere. The problem is that this occurs quite early in the spring, or late winter. If, while a tree is in blossom, or in the early fruit setting stage, there is a frost, then the fruit crop can be damaged or completely destroyed. A frost event can only occur if the air is perfectly still, so one solution is the use of frost fans. When the temperature falls to a certain point, the fans are automatically started, and driven by large diesel engines, circulate air around the orchard, preventing frosty icecles from forming and damaging the tender flowers and fruitlets. When they are running, they are like helicopters that never land.....

Sunday, 6 December 2009

Back On The Farm

I've been back on the orchard in Shepparton for a couple of weeks. With harvest of the pear crop not due to begin until late january, I've been doing other things, including counting fruitlets for crop estimates, and thinning apples. The pear crop this year is a little light, while the peach, apricot and apple trees are absolutely loaded with fruit. I'm staying in my usual accomodation on farm, and as is usual for this time of year, the pickers quarters are all vacant. With the new contract labour hire arrangements they may remain so this season.

Friday, 13 November 2009

What I Saw In Taitung

The Tuna Cutter

Treddle Powered Singer Sewing Machine

Dealing with problem parking, Taitung style.

At the harbour.

At the Aboriginal Cultural Center.

Taiwan Tucker.

Look out! Wasps as big as snakes!

Eating this tree is a bad idea.

They teach gambling at a young age here.

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Taitung House facades

After spending a few days in Taitung I started to notice some interesting facades on some of the older houses, both in Taitung and surrounding villages. They were all two or three floor houses and I'm guessing they were built in the 1960's or 1970's. Generally the architecture in Taiwan is really ugly, alot of unrendered concrete and bland tiles, sometimes the reinforcing steel is left sticking out the sides. In the past I've only really been impressed by some of the old Japanese era buildings, but it's nice to see that somebody was putting a bit of thought into the external appearance of houses back in the '60's too.

Note the reinforcing steel still protruding from the side of the house! And the later addition of the "tin shed" top floor.

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Taitung, South Eastern Taiwan Coast

So, flying from Vienna to Taipei might as well have been flying to another planet. Despite having been to Taiwan several times it still takes some getting used to. I spent a few days in the megopolis Taipei, before boarding a limited express train to the smallish (by Taiwan standards) coastal town of Taitung, home to many Taiwanese aboriginals, and still cleaning up after the destruction caused my Typhoon Morakot, one of the worst typhoons to strike Taiwan in recorded history, which hit in August. The pace of life in Taitung is slower and more relaxed than in Taipei and I'm enjoying spending a few days here relaxing, before I head back to Shepparton for another season on the orchard.

Friday, 23 October 2009

Again, leaving Olomouc and the Czech Republic

It's difficult to believe I have already spent a month here in the Czech Republic. It is with much sadness that I depart tomorrow. I've had an amazing time in this beautiful country. I've visited new places, met many old friends and made many new ones. A part of me will always be in Olomouc, and one day I will return once again........

The house is watching.....

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Aeroplane Bar Letka - Tupolev 104 - Olomouc

The “aeroplane bar” in Olomouc is quite a landmark. Situated near the Billa supermarket and the swimming pool it used to be a popular hangout for the local communist elite during the 1970's, and is still pretty much the same as it was then, just a little tattier, with warm canned beer, music so bad it puts a smile on your face, a dance floor in what used to be the cockpit (apparently also a bed up there somewhere), and not many communists (often no customers at all). It's open from 9pm until 7am, and you need to ring a buzzer and wait for somebody to come and let you in.

The bloke in the blue polyester suit doesn't seem to work there any more but it's still oozing with it's own unique character. The seats are from the original plane, just oriented around the tables.

The aeroplane itself has an interesting history. It's a Soviet made Tupolev 104, one of the worlds earliest jet airliners. Around 200 were built from 1956 until production ceased in 1960. Most of them saw service with Aeroflot and the Soviet Air force, but as this one is parked up in the Czech Republic it is presumably one of the six 104A's which were operated by Czechoslovak Airlines beginning in 1957, flying routes from Czechoslovakia to Paris, Brussels and Moscow. Being one of only six it may perhaps be the only one left in the Czech and Slovak Republics. From 1956 until 1958 the Tupolev 104 was the only jet airliner in service in the world. The large jet engines were mounted where the wing connected with the fuselage. The plane's interior was interesting in that it was fitted out in a pseudo Victorian manner using copper, lace and mahogany.
A couple of interesting variants were produced, including the 104AK, which was used for cosmonaut training, and the 104LL which was used for heavy air to air missile tests. It was used by Aeroflot until 1979, and the Soviet air force until 1981, when it was deemed to be unsafe.

Sunday, 11 October 2009

Olomouc Aviation Museum

On the outskirts of Olomouc in a delapidated old aircraft hangar near the airport is a little known museum dedicated to military aviation. Actually it is an odd collection of Soviet and Czechoslovak made equipment, from a complete MIG21, various partly dismantled planes, rockets, jet engines, ejection seats and the like. It's not really organised in any way, although there is some descriptive text in Czech. For fans of military aviation history it would be fascinating. To get there take tram 7 all the way to the end of the line at the crematorium, then follow the same road away from the town for about 500 metres, the gate is on the left. From october the museum is only open on weekends from 9:00am until 5:00pm.

Thursday, 1 October 2009

Olomouc Astronomical Clock

One of the greatest things I have ever seen.

A detailed description of the clock can be found on Captain Oddsocks blog.

Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Back in Olomouc

So, I am finally back in Olomouc, and being eager to have a local meal I joined Doogie the Texan for lunch and a beer at a local restaraunt. Czech food is famous for being heavy on the meat and rye bread and light on vegetables other than potato and pickled cabbage, but we both bit off more than we could chew when we ordered these pig knuckles. Thankfully Francie showed up just as we were really struggling and saved us both from embarrasment.