31 December 2003

Brasstown Bald from our deck Dec 2003. (Brrr!)


Clare ready to experience her first snow.

Remember the woolly caterpillars from the last month? The colours represent the winter temperatures, with Black being Cold and Red being nice. So far, they are accurate. With a sudden start to cold weather in late November (see the snow on Brasstown Bald!), we quickly organized warmer bedding and clothes. The wind whooshed around and thoughtfully cleared up most of the leaves I had painstakingly raked to one side, whilst showing us all the air gaps around the house. There was just enough snow to make a snowball or two, but the children enjoyed getting dressed up in snow clothes with hats and gloves anyway.

The current weather (consistent with the Woolly Caterpillar forecast) is unseasonably mild. No jumpers/pullovers/ sweaters/jackets required. We have been warned this will soon change.

Medical System

We did say that we looked forward to experiencing the US medical system, but did not expect it so soon. David picked up a cold on one of his trips to Denver and shared it (lovingly) with Lana. Combining morning sickness, coughing from the cold, and general tiredness, Lana was exhausted one night with a pain in her lower back coming round to the front. The pain was such that from the time of going to bed at 6:00pm until 2:00am Lana still had no sleep and the pain had not abated. We then did some phone calls, which ended up with the advice, “Go to the hospital and let them have a look.”
Off we went, waking all the children and went to the local Hospital. After pressing the emergency bell a few times, waiting in the cold night air, a nurse finally opened the door and ushered us in. Lana was given a chair, gave David a plethora of forms to fill out, and then ignored us for about an hour. They had another patient to deal with. We were glad they did not have a major emergency – like 3 patients – to deal with or we may have been in trouble. A nurse asked Lana lots of questions that we answered and we were moved into an emergency room, which based on the temperature, must have been a part time refrigerator. During the next hour, a different nurse, then a doctor, referring to a clipboard with the answers we had given, asked us all the same questions and wrote the answers on another bit of paper. But still no pain relief - despite having mentioned in the first lot of answers that the pain, on a scale of 1 to 10, was about a “9”. Luckily, they did tell us where the blankets were and so we wrapped each of the children up, as the temperature must have been around 3C.
Finally, they administered some pain relief, and about 1.5 hours later, another dose, and Lana’s pain finally began to subside.

Baby at 13 weeks - looking well.
We had an ultrasound due to the location of the pain, and the baby was fine. It even hiccoughed whilst we were watching. The only issue was a blood clot on the placenta. This was not considered a major concern, but Lana was to get rest. With a prescription for pain relief, we all finally left 6 hours after our arrival and went home. For the Australians reading, the cost of this without insurance would have been $774 (US). With insurance, the cost was $127 (US).
Lana then proceeded to rest. She slept the next 30 hours straight, followed by lots of rest for the following week or so. With the cold going away and the morning sickness past all was well again.

Medical System Part 2

On David’s most recent trip to Denver, he picked up the flu. We all got it. Being a typical bloke, David figured he would just get better, until he finally had enough, saw the doctor, and found he had two infected ears, congested lungs and all the rest of the flu/cold symptoms. Then Lana went, and we decided to take the rest of the family. This really panicked the doctor’s surgery. “All five at once! But the paperwork isn’t completed. It will take at least two hours to do all that paperwork before we can see them.” We had them fax the forms, we filled them out (3 pages each), and then faxed them back and saw them next day. The result – a spreadsheet detailing everyone’s medicines due once, twice or four times a day.
Now all are improved. Once more, for the Australian readers, the doctor’s visits are $25 US each and the various antibiotics were $251 US. Without insurance, these costs would have been substantially higher. Australians complaining about an increase in prescription costs to $6 AUD, need to look around and compare!


Thanksgiving is huge in the US. It is the start of the Christmas shopping season and it is a more important family reunion day than Christmas. We had two Thanksgivings. One on Thanksgiving day with friends, who brought over a humongous turkey and all the trimmings to our place and we had a great day. On the Saturday, we went to spend a second Thanksgiving with the Floyd family. We had more turkey and different trimmings. So two lazy days spent chatting and playing games resulted in a very memorable first Thanksgiving.
The day after Thanksgiving is the biggest shopping day of the year. A tale of shopping exuberance occurred at Walmart where a lady had waited for some time to be one of the first to get in and get her heavily discounted appliance. She succeeded and got her appliance, but was knocked over in the rush and bumped her head on a display. Whilst her friend was trying to keep people from stepping on her, all she could do was push her a bit out of the way. Everyone was too busy going for bargains. Finally the paramedics got through, rescued her and took her to hospital to recover. In a later interview, the staff at Walmart expressed their sympathy by saying they would hold the appliance for the lady for when she recovered – at the same special price.

Cars and guns

We have solved the mystery! A recent statistic revealed that car ownership in the US is currently GREATER than 1 per person of driving age. We now know why. Most places have at least two cars, so that when one breaks down, the other can be used. In order to comply with local conditions, we also have two cars. We have named them B1 and B2 (bomb one and bomb two). Despite the disparaging naming, both cars are mostly reliable. One doesn’t always go into gear in cold weather, and the other tends to pop and shudder whilst driving and overheats in slow peak hour traffic in hot weather. So when one is less reliable, we can use the other.
Also, guns are much more prevalent than in Australia. At Walmart, you can go to the gun counter and buy a rifle or pistol, ammunition and whatever else you need. This is quite a surprise for an Australian where guns are rarely seen at all. So, to comply with local conditions, we have purchased a “Red Ryder Model 1938 BB air rifle.” The BB stands for Ball Bearings. You fill the ammunition area with up to 650 ball bearings, cock the gun by pulling the trigger guard and off you go. The gun was in the general area of Walmart for $25 and 6000 BBs were $5. In this way the children are learning about gun safety with a less powerful gun. This gun will NOT help when the Rattlesnake returns other than perhaps irritate it.
So, we now have the spare cars and a gun. When necessary, David can put on a pretty authentic Southern accent in order to be understood occasionally, so we are getting localized.

B1 and B2 - enjoying the chill.

Local News - November and December

Short bits of interest from the local area:
New Years Eve – whilst New York may drop a big apple at midnight, and Atlanta may drop a big peach, Brasstown in nearby North Carolina has the Possum Drop. (It is not a real possum)

Library – The local library is a treasure. It has a huge range of books, especially older ones in the children’s area. We will need some time to go through the collection of living history books that abound. These are books that provide a first person narrative in various historical times, such as “We were there with Christopher Columbus”, or “We were there with Julius Caesar” and lots of tales told about famous historical people. The library is also linked to all the other Georgia libraries, and the inter library transfer system is very impressive. We were able to borrow the book “Who gets the Drumstick” by Helen Beardsley, which is what the movie “Yours, Mine and Ours” was “based” on. Read the book.

Home Depot
– On the first Saturday of each month, the local branch of the Hardwarehouse equivalent has a Kids Craft time. It is Free and the staff provide a choice of simple woodworking kits for the children to make with all the tools provided. They get down and help bang the nails, assemble the bits and apply the glue. Depending on the child’s age, they will give advice, or hands on help. They provide a great apron on which they write the child’s name which we bring each month, a certificate with their name and completed project (homeschoolers – “tick” craft done), a badge or pin they can put on their apron, and the thing they made to take home. The children have made a box, fire truck, bird-house, helicopter, sled, Mickey Mouse bookends and snowman napkin holder.

Local Wildlife
– At the Local Post Office in town, you must be careful to avoid wandering chickens. We also saw Emus whilst driving out of Hiawassee. These are the Australian flightless birds. That surprised us.

Christmas and all that

Christmas season brought many different events, including the local Christmas Parade, St Nicholas day at the parish, Parish Christmas dinner, Advent Wreath activity night, and Children’s Christmas party among others. The majority of these involved candy being thrown to (or at) the children. We had a sizable box full of varying US lollies. After we filtered out the ones no one liked, we still had a huge stash of sugar based items.
Also at the Christmas Parade were lots of floats put on by local businesses, churches and community groups. One of the clever floats was a collection of tricycles joined together, with all the riders wearing check shirts and baseball caps, titled, “Hillbilly Carpool”. There were ten bikes in all with the Grinch and a toy monkey bringing up the rear.

Hillbilly Car Pool - the front

Christmas and all that - cont.

Hillbilly Car Pool - the tail end.

US Knowledge for Australians

Cake Walk – you may have heard the phrase, “It’ll be a cake walk” to indicate that the task will be very easy. We actually experienced one at a Church day organized at the Ogburn’s church. Basically, you have all the participants wander around a circle marked with numbered circles. When the music stops, the organizer picks a number out of a hat. If that number is yours, you get to win the prize – a cake! Easy peasy and very tasty.

Parish Directory – Our local church has a “Parish Directory”. We did not know what it was, but now we know. It contains a brief history of the parish in words and photographs of the previous year, followed by a photo of every family that makes up the parish with their names. Then there is a list of everyone’s address and contact details. Basically, it is the parish spotter’s guide. We are now able to rush to our book and answer the question, “Who was that person we were talking to?” After all, everyone knows who we are. We are “The Australians”.

Pizza – Pizzas vary depending on where you are in the US, but locally, they are quite different to Australia. The two most common varieties are Cheese and Pepperoni. That is, the base, tomato paste and then just cheese, or cheese and pepperoni (salami). A “specialty” pizza is Hawaiian (Ham and Pineapple). The typical Australian Pizza with LOTS of toppings is a rarity. We had a Hawaiian pizza the other day. Our friends commented, “That’s a lot of toppings!” whilst we looked at each other and said, “Is that all they put on?”
An interesting, yet tasty, pizza is the BLT pizza. Basically, you have the base, tomato paste, cheese and bacon pieces cooked. Once out of the oven, you add the tomato and lettuce. Sounds odd, but is very tasty.

Boiled Peanuts
– A local delicacy is boiled peanuts. Signs abound on roadsides advertising “Boiled P-nuts”. We finally thought we would stop and try some. In an old drum, over a wood fire, are peanuts boiling away in salty water. The peanuts, through their shells, absorb the salt and they turn soft. The local rule is that whenever you eat a boiled peanut, you open the shell, suck out the nut with a big slurp and drop the shells onto the ground, saying, “It’s all natural”. I think we are too used to peanuts being crunchy to appreciate the softer texture of the boiled peanuts.

Sorghum Syrup – In the early days of this area, sweeteners were derived from the Sorghum cane. It is similar in consistency to Golden Syrup, but is darker and has a more molasses/malty taste. This is very tasty on hot buttered toast. When we couldn’t find Golden Syrup, we substituted Sorghum syrup in ANZAC biscuits (cookies). They tasted quite good, just a bit different.

Vidalia Onions – These are grown locally and are peculiar to the specific soil found in Southern Georgia. They are sweet and do not make your eyes cry when they are peeled. One of the local restaurants has an Onion Ring loaf made using fried crumbed Vidalia onion rings shoved into a loaf tin. Normally David avoids Onion Rings because of their bitter taste, but the Vidalia onion rings are very tasty. But the rule is you must pronounce their name properly – Vie-Dayy-Lya in a Southern accent. Unfortunately, they are only around in summer. Next year we will stock up.

Butter – In Australia margarine is a viable alternative to butter. It tastes similar and can be used the same as butter. Here the margarine tastes completely different. We tried many and can’t recommend any. The butter comes in a box with four sticks, each equaling 8 tablespoons. Many US recipes actually suggest using 1 stick or half a stick, rather than using ounces or spoon measures. We now just use butter for everything.

Chocolate - In general, Australian chocolate (i.e. basic Cadbury Milk chocolate) is far superior to any of the standard fare here. We have performed taste tests with locals both here and in other states, and the results still come back the same. “Let me try some more of that Cadbury’s.” Some of the US chocolate bars are very nice, including “Zero”, “100 Grand”, “Baby Ruth”, “Poppers”. The last are small balls of larger chocolate bars, such as Kit Kats, Snickers, Three Musketeers (Aust. Milky Way), Milky Way (Aust Mars Bar) among others. It is not very easy to say no to just one.

Food overall – As part of our service to all you strangers to the US, we are constantly trying different foods with varying degrees of success. Vegemite is known due to the song by “Men at Work” with the phrase “Vegemite Sandwich”. Very few actually knew what it was, but they know the term. If we are allowed to apply it correctly – that is not like peanut butter – on hot buttered toast, the reaction is favourable. Unfortunately, it is just one of those things that is unavailable here.


These are a deep fried cornmeal/flour based balls. Our first experience was at a fast food restaurant and we decided they were tasteless horrible deep fried balls of dough and couldn’t see what the big deal was about. But then we had some at the Floyds. We have included the recipe here, because they were actually quite nice.

The Recipe:
1 cup Self Raising corn meal
1 cup Self Raising flour
1 small diced onion
1 tin sweet corn
1 tin creamed corn
seasoned salt

Throw all the ingredients together in a bowl. Add milk until you achieve a doughy consistency. Drop Teaspoon size balls in hot oil.
Warning: Don't lick your fingers – the raw mixture tastes horrible.
From the Floyd Family recipes

31 October 2003

Playground Safety?

Remember last month’s picture of James leaping off the playground? This month he is again featured. He was climbing up the ladder, reached for a rope, slipped, banging his mouth on the rope, slipped and completed the bang onto the ladder and came running inside crying. “Come here, James,” I yelled. “I can’t!” he cried, so I went to see him, spitting blood in the bathroom hand basin. “What happened!?” “My teeth!” he replied. Both front teeth (which weren’t loose before) were knocked out. Luckily they were his baby teeth. The loose bottom tooth was still there.

James showing his new found gap.


October 31 is a very popular day in the US, and not just because it is Lana’s birthday. Halloween has been truly taken over by the pagan crowds, with pumpkins and horror costumes appearing all over the area. Our nearby towns and a few other small towns have a good idea to make it a more family friendly by having a special event in the Town Square (which is actually shaped like a circle). At 5:30 pm all the people gather in the square for some activities, there is a competition for costumes and the local shopkeepers provide candy (lollies). This saves the children from trooping around dark streets, learning how protection rackets work. It is called “Trick or Treat”, which is another way of saying, “Give me some candy or I will wreck the joint”. What a far cry from “Hallowed Eve” where the people would prepare for the feast of All Saints, followed by All Souls day.

Leaves – and Leaves – and Leaves ….

Ariel and Clare catching falling leaves.

Remember the photographs of our house in the midst of lovely green forest? Now we are in the midst of a sea of leaves and changing colours from green to yellow, red, orange and eventually brown. It isn’t just the occasional tree, as it is in Australia, it is virtually every tree. The ground has been covered in leaves, and whenever we go outside, it is to the accompaniment of the Crunch, Crunch, Crunch of leaves and small twigs. Also, at the start of autumn (Fall) the acorns started to drop. During a medium breeze, they hit the roof like a machine gun. It was definitely the time to wear a hat when walking in the woods.
Also, with the leaves going down, we are seeing more of the horizon and the sky. Mountains are becoming visible and there are more stars in a bigger patch in the night sky.

Singing in the Choir

Ariel and Eric are part of the church's Children’s Choir. They practice each Sunday after the 11:00am Mass and are doing very well. This all looked pretty interesting to Peter. He had memorised one of the songs they sang and so asked Miss Eloise (the choir mistress) if he could join. Despite our warnings that he may not be able to sit still for very long, he was too cute to say “No” to. In the first meeting he was proudly sitting there with the music in front of him (although he cannot yet read) and kept asking whether he was on the right page. The best moment was when Miss Eloise leaned over and turned his book the right way up and THEN put him on to the right page.
All Soul’s Day included the children’s choir and Peter was part of it, too, so he sat in front with the other children. Naturally enough he joined in when he did know the words, but the rest of the time he did what he normally did – made a telescope from his program and peered at the congregation, curled up on his chair, reached down to the ground and fell head first on to the floor, faced the wrong way and generally inhabited his own world. Miss Eloise gently corrected him (more gently than we would have) and it all went quite well. The choir sang beautifully and after a nervous start, sang very strongly.
However, Peter now has a place reserved for him in the choir next year. What was his reaction to being “dropped”? “OK”, he said and ran off to play.

Becoming part of the American Scene

Probably the most important news for the month is the announcement of another member of the our clan. We are expecting the birth of a new baby mid next year. That means the child will be a US citizen. So far the children have been born in Melbourne Victoria, Sydney NSW, Blue Mountains NSW, Southern Highlands NSW, and now, probably, Georgia USA.
So now, onto the new adventure of partaking of the US medical system. Perhaps our greatest challenge to date.

Woolly Caterpillars

Whilst watching James play soccer we discovered these interesting Woolly Caterpillars. For a change they don’t bite or sting or cause grievous bodily harm. According to local folklore, the colours indicate the severity of the winter. Black means hard and red means mild. So looking at the stretched out caterpillar in the picture, the winter should start pretty hard, be mild for the rest and end on a hard note. Is this true? We don’t know but we will find out.


David raking a lot of leaves - doing manual labour!

Even though leaves cover the landscape in a sea of brown, they make great jumping piles. For safety reasons David raked the leaves off the driveway into piles. The side benefit was piles of leave the children could jump in.

Woodpeckers and Squirrels

Now is the time for woodpeckers to appear. We have seen a few, but as it is only the beginning of the cooler weather they aren’t too loud. Later on, when the insects burrow further into the bark, the woodpeckers will begin their drilling into the trees.
Also, it is becoming easier to spot the squirrels as they leap from tree to tree. As they don’t hibernate, we should be seeing more of them as winter approaches.

Recipe of the month - Potato Soup

Ham (chunks)
Lots of Potatoes

Fill with water
Boil it away until potatoes are cooked (fall apart) and then add in cream and serve. This is a great cold day recipe that uses up all those potatoes lurking in that bag. Couldn’t be easier.
From the recipes of Vicky Floyd.

30 September 2003

US Australian Language Primer

Australia = US
Single Bed = Twin Nobody can tell us why
Double Bed = Full
Oops = My Bad When it’s your fault, you say, “My Bad”.
BBQ = Cookout The equipment is a BBQ, but the event is a cookout.
I beg your pardon. = Whaaat? Can you repeat that, please?
Bear = Bar See above

I started out life with nothing, and I’ve still got half left.
(Seen on a cap worn by a senior citizen)

Rattle Snake

We had a surprise visitor in the form of a huge rattlesnake. With a thickness about that of a forearm, and about 10 rings in its tail, it was a big snake. According to locals, it was the biggest one any had seen around here. Everyone first asked, “Didja kill it?”. “With what?” we replied, only having a children’s shovel, which was shorter than the snake. “You’ve got a car, aincha?”
So we just took photos for y’all to enjoy. We’ll have to get a gun for next time.

The Rattlesnake - too far from our car.

There’s Bars in them thar hills.

We met our neighbours recently as they were fixing up the fence. They asked whether we had seen the Bar. We were informed that a big black bar was seen roaming the area, helping itself to food at a nearby holiday caravan. So now we are on the lookout for Bears (locally known as Bars). Also, there are raccoons and chipmunks to be seen too.


In Australia, we are all used to having zoning laws. We didn’t understand the impact of this until we arrived here. It doesn’t have zoning. Therefore, instead of expecting to find most of the retail outlets in one place with a central car park or two, any store could be anywhere. This is a town that requires a motor vehicle. You go to the bank that has a drive in ATM. You are not allowed to walk to the ATM, only drive. Then you drive to the Post Office across the road. Then you might drive to the supermarket, or drive anywhere else. There are very few footpaths, and most intersections do not have pedestrian lights.
But it’s amazing how quick you get used to it. There is a lot more parking than we ever had at Moss Vale or Bowral. I think the parking area at either Home Depot or Ingles (supermarket) has the same amount of spaces as all the car parks combined in Bowral. Mind you, with the average rate of car ownership in the US having just exceeded one vehicle per person, they need lots of car parking places.

Religious Education

As we are in a place that is only 1% Catholic, there are no local Catholic schools. Therefore, as all the children are going to public or Christian schools, all children attend weekly Religious Education or CCD (Confraternity of Catholic Doctrine) classes. Any child wanting to have their first communion or Confirmation must have at least 2 years preparation beforehand. There is an exception for homeschooled children. They just have to organize it with the local Parish Priest when they think their children are ready.
David has been volunteered to teach the confirmation class of 11 year nine and ten students. He is enjoying himself with a captive audience that is not allowed to go anywhere else for an hour or so each week. However for the last three weeks, whilst the teacher of the year 7 and 8 students was away, he had to teach about 25 children. The first week he was frustrated because none of the children would answer questions. Then he had a good idea. Bribery. The following two weeks he rewarded every answer (correct or otherwise) with a jelly belly (basically fancy jelly beans). Hands were flying up thick and fast!
When the teacher returned from her trip in Europe, she mentioned she met lots of Australian tourists there. She said they constantly used the phrase “ABC”. She finally asked what they meant. “Another Bloody Church!” was the typically Australian reply to describe the abundance of amazing churches on almost every corner in the major European cities.

Gainesville – Chicken Capital of the World

In the local Student’s Guide to Georgia, there is mention of Gainesville being the chicken capital of the world. It also reported that in Gainesville, it is illegal to eat chicken with a fork! Not being willing to take this seriously, I did a quick Internet search and it was confirmed in many other sites. Still feeling that this seemed even too odd to be real, I emailed the publicity officer in Gainesville. I asked him that was this law for real, and if so, what was the penalty?
His reply was:

Gainesville is the Poultry Capital of the World....as for the chicken and the fork....that was a joke the Police Department played on some visiting Atlanta Disk Jockeys several years ago...they actually created an ordinance to go with it. Thanks for your interest.

So, it just goes to show that you can’t believe everything you read. It is worth doing a reality check every now and then!

TV Guardian

You know how all those movies are mostly OK except for all the stupid swearing or blasphemies that are almost compulsory? Well there is an option here in the US called TV Guardian. It tracks the teletext track on the movie (either TV, DVD or Video) and when an offending phrase occurs, it mutes the sound and shows alternate text on the screen. It replaces the phrase and not just the word. It must use a pretty impressive software algorithm to determine phrases and is normally quite accurate. There are a number of levels of protection, but the replacements are quite humorous. Sony now makes VCR and DVD players with the device as part of the unit.

Policeman Peter

Following on from our joke last month regarding stopping at stop signs, Peter is ever vigilant. This morning, as David carefully stopped and then proceeded, Peter yells from the back, “Well done, Dad. You stopped. You didn’t just slow down.”
Ripper! BYO Policeman.

A Mystery Insect

The children saw this insect the other day and noticed the long stinger at the end. Being wary of insects that might bite (i.e. most of Georgia) they quickly called both of us to investigate. It is very brightly coloured and did not move whilst we were there taking photographs from about 10 cm (4 inches) away. My initial sources have been unable to tell me what it is. One thought was that it was a “Mud Dauber” wasp which builds cool mud cocoon type nests and whose main role in life is to eat Black Widow and Brown Recluse spiders (both poisonous). That would be nice to have, but the pictures don’t match. We’ll continue to investigate.

What is this insect?

Children’s Activities

James taking a leap of faith

Remember the playground? It has been getting a lot of use by all the children. But, boys always have a better plan.

Before the playground was built, Lana heard Peter crying outside. Upon investigation, Lana saw James and Eric on the decking pulling a rope. She quickly rushed to the edge and there was Peter sitting on a bit of wood tied to the end of the rope and being let down. He was crying because Eric and James realized he was too heavy to pull all the way and they were letting him back down.
So, they completed pulling him up and pulled him through the balcony. Just remember, young children will give us all plenty of evidence for Guardian Angels.

Last week, the boys had a new plan. They tied rope from the fort/playhouse to a nearby tree. Combined with the loop from the end of the very thick rope we had been given, they created their own flying fox.

31 August 2003

US Australian Language Primer

Australia - US
Bed Head = Head Board A Bed head is the impression left on your head after lying on your back too long.
Main Meal = Entrée If you’re not hungry, don’t ask for an Entrée!
Biscuit = Cookie A biscuit is something like a scone/bread roll
Boot = Trunk “Chucking it in the boot” is not a familiar term here.
Tyre = Tire Pronounced “Taaar”
Windscreen = Windshield

Cheque = Check Used here for everything. The bank statement includes a page containing a copy every check presented during the month. In Australia, a telephone or utility bill lists about 6 to 8 different ways to pay – Cheque, Bpay, Credit Card, Eftpos, direct debit, Australia Post, etc. Here they all want you to pay by check.

Another big butterfly

Tiger Swallowtail butterfly (Abeka Science Yr 6)

New insect and animal discoveries

1. No-see-ums (Biting Midges) [Taken from a wildlife web site]
North country campers may be surprised to be bitten by tiny insects that can hardly be seen. So minute are these midges, called no-see-ums, that they can easily go through window screens and the mesh of some tents. Also called punkies and sand flies, these 1/10-inch-long critters are the smallest of the northland biters. They belong to the family Ceratopogonidae, which has about 460 North American species. Most feed on nectar. Several midge species will attack other insects. If a mosquito is full of blood, a no-see-um may bite her and steal the blood.
When and how does it bite? A few species of midges go for human blood. The females need protein-rich blood so their eggs can develop. Like mosquitoes, midges feed at dusk. They puncture skin with a pair of mandibles, which look like scissors blades.
Life cycle. Midge eggs are laid in ponds. The larvae look like thin worms. The pupa floats but does not swim. Adults usually emerge in summer and feed in June and July. Adults do not fly far from their breeding grounds. Some people say you can escape from no-see-ums by simply moving a few feet away.
Good news. Thanks to biting midges we have chocolate. One species pollinates cacao trees, the source of chocolate, in lowland tropical forests.

2. The Good News Bee
This bee does not sting but makes quite a loud buzzing sound as it flies around. It tends to speed along, then stop and hover just in front of you (as if it was telling you some good news) and then flies on. They look exactly like a horrible nasty biting wasp.

3. Crawdads
These are like mini crayfish that live in the creeks and streams. Eric and James had a great time exploring with Jonathan Floyd in the creek at the Floyd’s place. They found Crawdads, blue tailed lizards, salamanders, skinks and lots of nifty things.

4. Huge butterflies and Moths
We have seen some really large and beautiful butterflies and moths including the white Webworm Moth, Tiger and Black Swallowtails and others.

The Wal-Mart Incident

David was at Wal-Mart with Bretta buying various essentials including pillows and larger items. At the checkout, rather than pull all the pillows out they just told the lady what was there and she rung it up on the register. When they got to the car and began unpacking, they realized that there were about half a dozen items underneath the pillows. Oh no! Shoplifting! David and Bretta promptly went back into the store in time to see the Store Greeter talking to a policeman, and the checkout lady pointing to them and saying, “There they are.” “Gosh,” David thought, “They’re quick here. Arrested on day two in America! What a good start.”

It’s a shame to wreck a good story, but we spoke with the Greeter later and she said that the Policeman regularly pops in and says Hello, and they weren’t talking about us at all. Phew!

The Green Car Ding

See the ding on the side door? It wasn't me.

Driver’s License

I now have a Georgia Driver’s License. Unfortunately I had to hand over my Australian license in the process. We are using the Ogburn’s car, which has a scrape on the passenger side. As the fellow giving me the driving test knew I was Australian (Crikey! What gave it away?), he noticed the scrape and asked, “Did you drive on the wrong side of the road?” He was pretty good and when I had stopped at a stop sign he commented, “That’s what we call a Californian Stop – That’s when you almost stop and then proceed.”
I passed the test and received my license - $15 for 4 years.
I should have known better about stopping. Peter always reminds me from the back seat, “Daddy. You didn’t stop. You slowed down.” This is because he heard the following joke. (Try to pronounce the driver’s words in a slow Southern drawl.)

A driver slowed down and then went through a stop sign. A policeman promptly pulled him over and approached the driver’s window. “Excuse me, Sir. You didn’t do a complete stop at that intersection there.”
“But, I slowed down”
“Sir, you are required to come to a complete stop before proceeding…”
“I slowed down”
“Sir, slowing down is not stopping..”
“But I did slow down.”
With a firm expression, the policeman asked, “Can you step out of the car for a moment, please”
The driver stepped out and the policeman began to hit him over the head with his clipboard.
“Stop, Stop!” cried the driver.
“Do you want me to stop or slow down?” asked the policeman.

25 August 2003

The Playground

We finally built the playground. Can you imagine the torture of being a boy that loves climbing trees, surrounded by a forest, yet no tree has branches that you can reach? James decided that we would have to go home as there are no trees in America that he could climb. So, we had to have something outside on which they could all play. We didn’t want a small thing that would not survive active play. The local hardware store (Home Depot – similar to Hardware House) had a home playground kit. All the screws and bits were supplied - just add lumber. Easy.

First problem: How do we get it home? The car we had wouldn’t fit the lumber, and I did not yet have a US driver’s license or insurance in my name. Luckily, the Ogburns were able to assist and we used Ward’s dump truck to transport the wood.

Can you guess who was the builder and who was the assistant?
Next Problem: It’s a lot of wood, and it all needs to be cut. And put together. And it’s all quite heavy. Step in another local family – The Floyds. David Floyd is a builder/carpenter and teaches at the local College (cross between TAFE and University). He likes this type of stuff, so I passed wood, held up bits, held screws and was general builder’s assistant. Over two Saturdays we constructed the playground. Lana and Vicky Floyd fed the troops and the children kept asking, “Can we play on it yet?” Now that it’s built, James reckons we can stay a bit longer.

12 August 2003

31 July 2003

The journey begins

This is the first edition of Bruggie Tales. Many of our friends and family have asked us to keep them updated, so here is the beginning of a series.

Our trip started on the Monday, leaving Country Australia after another 0 degrees (celsius) night leaving all the house and outdoors covered in a white frost. Our friends transported us and our luggage to a Sydney hotel and we had our last Australian dinner at a Chinese restaurant in Sydney, followed by a nighttime tour of the city in the Smith Tour Bus.
We left the hotel on time at 8 am and arrived at the Airport ready for the trip. Well, not quite. We had left one of our bags in the hotel room! Luckily we had plenty of time to spare and the hotel was able to send the bag on the next shuttle bus.
At the Check-in counter they were very strict on bag weights and we had to reshuffle the luggage in all of our bags to ensure the bags did not weigh more than 32kg and onboard not more than 7kg. This only took about 30 minutes! The lady at the check-in estimated I lifted about 250kg on and off the scales.
We then went through to the international departure area, where I remembered I still had the keys to my little blue car in my pocket, which I had just sold through Robert Smith. A quick placing of keys into the envelope and then popping in the post and we finally got on board.
The first leg was about 10 hours to Osaka Kansai airport. This plane had a common movie screen. When the movies came on we had to stop the children watching either film, as neither was suitable! The staff on this JAL flight were very good, especially helping Ariel who had a bit of a headache, probably from the excitement and not enough water.

Peter checking plane safety instructions.
As the picture above shows, Peter was quite calm about the flight.
The Hotel was very comfortable and once we realized that going anywhere was going to be way too much hassle, we ended up back in our rooms. Lana had a sleep and we watched a Western on Japanese TV. The flight to LA was relatively easy with the children able to watch Jungle Book 2 and Bambi or play some games on their personal video screens.
Three hours of customs/immigration awaited us in Los Angeles and and then a transfer to the next flight and we flew 4 hours to Atlanta. So, finally at 10:30pm we stopped flying, met our US friends, and drove for 3 hours (via Wal-Mart), culminating in a humid night in a hotel in North East Georgia, over 9,000 miles away from home, under different stars.

Butterfly Question

What is this butterfly? It's pretty big.

Living in America

The wildlife is different:
  • It is quiet during the day and noisy at night. At home, we are used to magpies, cockatoos, Gallahs and kookaburras sharing their “songs” with us. Here it is quiet until dusk when all the “Katydids” – grasshopper type insects (Look in A Beka Science 4) starting their mating rituals.
  • Also at dusk the fireflies come out. (called lightning bugs locally) These are pretty interesting, giving flashes of light throughout the woods. (A Beka Science 4)
  • Daddy long legs here are Grand daddy long legs – they are bigger than what we are used to but basically the same type of spider.
  • White Faced Hornets are mongrel things. One stung Peter on the first day they explored our new house and so they all retreated back into the house. Just as well, too! There was a huge nest of the things. That night, Ward Ogburn used a common wasp and hornet spray that jets a stream of poison up to 22 feet to kill them. Whilst destroying the nest and killing all its occupants, he was stung too.
  • Yellow jacket wasps are not pleasant either. One stung Lana in the first week when she accidentally brushed it off her arm. The mark is still there and occasionally is irritating.
  • Ticks are in the untamed areas of ground and latch on to the legs. Lana got one so we know about them now.
  • Squirrels are cute. There are lots around the house.
  • Bears are apparently in the area, but we haven’t seen any yet.
  • There are lots of Deer around.
  • The birds actually sound OK (when they actually sing) rather than variations of squawks most of the Australian birds are known for. We also saw some “Red Cardinal” birds – pretty little bright red birds.
  • Chiggers are the worst. They hang around in unkept areas of gardens or bushland and are about 0.1 mm in size. They leap on to anything warm-blooded passing and crawl as high as they can until they get to a soft bit of skin, then start sucking. After about 3 hours a little lump comes up and they are very itchy. So, everyone avoids areas chiggers are reputed to be, once they get inside all clothes are washed and everyone jumps in the bath. The funny thing is, chiggers are not meant to feast on humans – they die from our bodies. Dogs and birds don’t get the irritations, as they are the correct host. See here for more information.

Placing our stake in a new land

Interesting Links July 2003

We now have DSL – even though I can’t get mobile/cell coverage. Here are some finds from some surfing.

The new GE 4D Ultrasound – a great vision of the baby using enhanced ultrasound imaging. Well worth downloading.

Mel Gibson’s new film “The Passion”. This is a very interesting look at his new film about the last hours of Our Lord up to his Crucifixion. This is NOT for the little ones (under 12), but it will give you an idea of the movie that is sparking much controversy

Recipe: Berry Cobbler

A Blackberry and Raspberry Cobbler.

½ cup melted butter
2 cups SR Flour
2 Cups Milk
2 Cups Sugar
3½ Cups Berries


Pour melted butter into lamington tray (9in x 13 in).
Mix sugar, flour and milk together – it may be lumpy but it doesn’t matter.
Pour this on top of the melted butter.
Put berries on top of that.
Cook in moderate oven for about 45 minutes to an hour until golden brown on top.

Yummo. Especially with vanilla ice cream.

15 June 2003

PDF Archives

For all those that have difficulty in accessing Bruggie Tales we have compiled each month in seperate PDF files. If you click on the link below it will open as a PDF, or if you right click and "Save as..." you can save it to your hard disk and review it at your leisure.

PDF Archives

For all those that have difficulty in accessing Bruggie Tales we have compiled each month in seperate PDF files. If you click on the link below it will open as a PDF, or if you right click and "Save as..." you can save it to your hard disk and review it at your leisure.