Places

An American Family in Oz: An Owl in the Macadamia Nut Tree

By Christopher J. Robbins

October 9, 2018

Greetings from sunny Oz.  It’s been a fortnight since my last missive describing life in Oz.  Enjoying Spring Time in Oz where the wild flowers are in bloom and a tremendous variety of flowering trees and bushes are ever-present in Sydney.  During a walk around our neighborhood your senses will be assaulted by an array of vividly colored flowers and fragrant plant life.

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We have the great fortune of living across the harbor from the Royal Botanic Garden in Sydney.  This is one of our favorite places to explore in Sydney and we make our way over there at least once a month.  74 acres of some of the most varied and beautiful flora you could ever hope for all right in the middle of the Sydney Central Business District (CBD).  Much like central park in Manhattan.  We can hop on the F4 Kirribilli Ferry and be inside the Royal Botanic Garden in under 15 minutes.  For more information on the Royal Botanic Garden visit the following website: www.rbgsyd.nsw.gov.au.

On a recent visit to the gardens there was a special exhibit focusing on carnivorous plants and there were assorted Venus fly traps and other interesting snap tube plants that trap and devour insects.  Johnny found it all very interesting and so did we.  Half the fun is watching how he interacts with the plant life and tries to decipher the world around him.

After visiting the Carnivorous plant exhibit we joined a free guided walk led by a naturalist from the Royal Botanic Garden.  She led us on a nearly 2 hour tour of the park teaching us about the history of the botanical garden and unusual plant species in the park.

One of the highlights was the Macadamia Nut tree…which was a fairly large leafy tree that was budding and would produce nuts toward the end of the summer and into the fall in Oz (March/April timeframe).  Our guide pointed out a large owl hidden up within the dense leafy branches of the Macadamia tree. Johnny was very excited to spot the owl.

After the Macadamia Nut tree our guide showed us Tea trees and many other unusual plantings that our foreign to plants that grow and thrive in Michigan.  Should you ever find yourself in Sydney, a visit to the Royal Botanic Garden should be near the top your list.  The walk around the bay called Farmer’s Cove provides beautiful vistas of Sydney Harbor and also the Opera House and the Harbor Bridge.  The famous Mrs. Macquarie’s chair is located at the northernmost point in the garden where you can view the most spectacular sunrises and sunsets in Sydney.

So many fragrant trees like Eucalyptus and plants like wild Lavender grow wildly in Australia making the air smell clean and refreshing.  Having plants bloom all through the year is so pleasing to the senses.

In our neighborhood, we have a community garden that is located within Milson Park.  It is a favorite of haunt of our son, Johnny.  He loves to water the plants and hang out in the garden looking at all the plants in different stages of growth.  The garden has strawberries and beautiful flowers called “Johnny Jump-Ups” that are yellow and purple.  We transplanted some to a planter box on our patio and they are thriving.

We are hopeful that Johnny inherited a green thumb like his Grandpa Paul Robbins and his Uncles (Denny and Rick Robbins) and his Grandma Chang.  We will continue to plant a variety of flowers, herbs and vegetables in our patio garden.  Right now, you can find Lavender, Johnny Jump-Ups, Rosemary, Thyme, Parsley, Mint, Basil, Cilantro, Heirloom Roma tomatoes and Red Peppers (They call them Capsicums in Oz).  I will keep you’ll posted on the progress of our potted patio garden.

That’s all for now:  Catch you around in a fortnight!

Aussie Travel Financial Factoids

Currency Exchange Rate:   $1 US buys $1.41 AUD, Source Bloomberg

Roundtrip Airfare Detroit-Sydney : $1,319, Delta Airlines 1 stop in LA, Source Expedia

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Christopher J Robbins was born in 1968, the last of eleven children of Paul and Jean Robbins of Saint Clair Michigan. He grew up on Belle River Road…. affectionately referred to as Dog Patch (Courtesy of Uncle Joe McKay RIP). He was raised by Jean E. Robbins and Paul L. Robbins and 10 older siblings. Baptized, 1st Communion, 1st Confession and confirmation at Saint Mary’s Catholic Church. Graduated St. Clair High School in 1986. Played football (OG and LB) for Benny where we had < 5 pass plays in O; Quiz Bowl Team, National Honor Society, School Play (Many Loves of Dobie Gillis, Mr. Harrington). Attended Eastern Michigan University 1986-1988. Transferred to University of Michigan, Ann Arbor in Fall of 1988 to pursue Chemical Engineering degree. Graduated UM in May 1991 B.S. Chemical Engineering. Received job offers from: General Electric, NCR, Chevron (El Segundo California); Chevron, Richmond, CA. Exxon Chemical: Linden, NJ. Dow Chemical, Freeport TX. Exxon Company USA, Baton Rouge, LA, Exxon Chemical, Baton Rouge, LA. Accepted offer from Exxon Company USA, Baton Rouge, LA. Worked for Exxon Company USA, Baton Rouge, Louisiana 1991-1993. Unit Engineer in Wax and Lube Refinery Unit. Survivor of multiple Mardi Gras’. Many Scuba Excursions: Florida Panhandle. Lots of Crawfish Boils. Acquired 1979 Porsche 911 Carrera, Copper Brown Metallic, Cork Leather Interior. Drove it coast-to-coast. Worked for Elf Atochem North America in Philadelphia, PA 1993-1996 as Technical Service Applications Engineer. Specialized in organic chemicals…specifically nitrogen-based Amine chemistry. Supplied technical assistance to customers and sales forces throughout the world. Boiler Water Corrosion Control, Runaway Polymerization Reaction Control etc. Brew Master: Quay Street Brewing Company, Port Huron, MI. 1996-1998. Developed recipes for several beers including Robbins Red Ale, Port Huron-Style Kolsch and Pilsner, Ginger Beer and many others. Substitute Teacher in East China School District: 1998-1999. Surveyor and Civil Engineer (Emphasis on Construction Engineering) with Spalding DeDecker Associates, Rochester Hills, MI: 1999-2014 Self-Taught Civil Engineer. Became a Licensed Professional Engineer in State of Michigan, 2003. Met my Australian wife, Maria, at family wedding on Maui in May 2009. Married Maria in August 2010 at friend’s house on the St. Clair River in East China Twp. (Best Decision I’ve ever made). Judge Cynthia Platzer officiated. Witnesses: Bill and Cris Nesbitt, Gerry & Patti Mason. Ringbearer: John Deaver-Chang Mason. Worked for Fleis & Vandenbrink, Engineering Company. Karegnondi Water Pipe Line. 2014-2015. Moved to Oz in October 2015. John Louis Robbins born at Royal North Shore Hospital in Sydney: Nov 2015. Stay at Home Dad in Oz: Nov 2015 to Present. Writer for Blue Water Healthy Living: Beginning July 4, 2018. Ending: TBD Christian, Husband, Father, Engineer, Thinker. Lover of Life. Faith. Family. Friends. American Football.
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