Australia, Mate – Snapshots from Taronga Zoo

Hubs recently returned from Australia, bringing home some snapshots of the Land Down Under. Here are a few scenes from Sydney’s Taronga Zoo. They’ll have to hold me until I can visit in person.


© William Coulter 2016

Kangaroos are the largest marsupials living on earth, and because they can only move forward, not backward, they’re Australia’s national emblem. Isn’t this one beautiful? They roam freely in the countryside.

William Coulter 2016

© William Coulter 2016

The entrance to the zoo whets your appetite for the creatures and native plants you’re going to see.


© William Coulter 2016

It makes sense that the feeding station for the giraffes is high in the air, like the leaves they pluck from trees in the wild.


© William Coulter 2016

You’ll have hard to look hard to spot this koala; he was hiding in the foliage on the left. Probably tired of having tourists make his picture. Not much to see here, so let’s move along…


© William Coulter 2016

The Taronga Zoo is home to more than 4,000 animals from 350 species; many are endangered.

© William Coulter 2016

© William Coulter 2016

Australia is known for his deadly animals, and it has more poisonous snakes than any other country. Spiny leaf insects like this one don’t look cuddly, but they’re harmless and are kept pets in many Australian classrooms and homes.

© William Coulter 2016

© William Coulter 2016

This is just an ordinary pup, waiting for his owner. Apparently Aussies love their dogs and take them everywhere. He’s not part of the zoo, but I’m a dog lover, so I had to include him.

Tips for Writers: What to do When Your Camel Does THIS

Let’s set the scene. I’m on a press trip in Israel, at a Bedouin camp, waiting my turn to ride a camel, when the so-called “ship of the desert” in front of me does THIS.

He kneels unexpectedly, and my friends start to slide off his back. For a second everybody panics (except the Bedouin camel owner, who already got paid for this).

Contrary to what many aspiring writers think, this is typical of the freelance writing life. Yes, sometimes we get to go on fantastic press trips. We get paid–can you believe it?– for seeing another part of the world, meeting new people, and experiencing new things. Hey, we know how lucky we are.

But what others don’t know is how often a camel takes a knee.

One of my big camels–that is, one of my best clients–is about to go down, and that means my income is slipping, just like my buddies on the press trip. I’m going to have to do what I’ve done many times before: I’ve gotta round up some new camels.

New writers don’t always realize that freelancing is as much about marketing as about writing. You constantly have to look for new outlets for your work. Putting all your eggs in one basket, no matter how big, is dangerous if things change. And believe me, they will. Editors leave. Publications fold. Budgets get cut and so do contractors and freelancers.

Right now, I’m searching the horizon for new opportunities. But it’s okay. I’ve had to do this before and I’m sure I’ll have to do it again. I’m not panicking. (Much.)

Whatever you’re doing–writing, parenting, selling shoes or painting houses–don’t despair when your camel goes down. Just look for the next oasis. They’re always out there, and that’s where you’ll find the camels.



Snow Cats and Other Thoughts

snow cats

No, these cats don’t have dandruff. They’re covered – make that, sprinkled – with snow, and I’m posting their picture to show how much of the white stuff fell here a couple of weeks ago. While the rest of the country hunkered down against blizzards, ice storms and every other kind of weather hazard, here in the metro Atlanta area, I took a deep breath, blew the snowflakes off the porch railing, and went about my day.

I’d love to see some snow. I’d like to see fluffy little snow-caps on the rose hips, icicles decorating the bird bath, and a soft blanket of sparkling crystals on the lawn. But the last time I admitted to this romantic-minded foolishness on social media, I got blasted by people who hoped I’d get stuck in my car for a day and a night, with nothing but a half-can of flat Coca Cola and a package of spearmint gum to live on until I was rescued, or the sun came out. They wished me the joy of shoveling to get to the mailbox, only to find that the mail never came, and tunneling through streets piled high with mounds of dirty, freezing slush.

Not what I meant, but never mind. I get it.

Since it’s February, and once again, a few flakes are falling to the north, but not here, I’m turning my thoughts to other things. I’m excited about writing for the Travel Channel blog, which re-launches in March. I’ve covered gardening for years, and I’ll always have dirt under my nails (so to speak), but I’m looking forward to blogging about new topics, like where to find the best oysters or schools that teach you to hang glide. I’ll give tips about where to go on spring break and how travelers can learn to sculpt or play the banjo while on vacation.

This variety reminds me of an aptitude test I took in college. My results said I’d make a great nurse, missionary or librarian (clearly, I had a strong do-gooder streak, as well as an instinct to keep books neatly shelved). But I didn’t skew strongly in any one area. My test also said I’d do well as a scientist (apparently it didn’t measure math skills), teacher, farmer, dancer (seriously? the desire to do a thing does not equal the ability to do it), vet, decorator, designer and artist (if only I could paint).

At first, this Jill-of-all-trades assessment worried me, until I realized that it simply meant that I was curious about a lot of things. That turned out to be a useful quality for a writer.

When you get to explore many different subjects, your work is never boring. I’ve partnered with the captain of a nuclear sub while canning spiced peaches at a cooking school; snorkeled with manatees; and gotten caught in a volcanic eruption (Alaska’s Mount Spurr, years ago, and it was cold ash, not lava, or I wouldn’t be here now). I learned to fly-fish in Montana, on the same river as the one in Robert Redford’s film, A River Runs Through It (sadly, he was long gone).

I’ve backpacked with llamas in Taos, traded heirloom seeds with gardeners from around the South, and climbed into the wheelhouse of a riverboat to watch the dark waters of the Mississippi roll by as the moon rose. Of course, not all assignments are  exciting or fun. I’ve also written about the differences between fluorescent and metal halide lights, the advantages of fertilizing with pellets packed with micronutrients, and more.

I’m grateful, though, for these experiences, because I’ve learned from them. Well, except a few, like the one for a medical client who hired me to write about DRGs (diagnosis related groups, a statistical classification system that–but you don’t care, and I don’t blame you.)

Now I plan to blog more regularly. I want to share info from the travel blog, once the posts go live, and since I’m learning to quilt and sew, I’ll also write about some of my projects. I’ll probably ask for help from folks who know what they’re doing, because I’m teaching myself, and I need it.

And there are books, of course….books I’ll read and review, and a book for middle grade kids that I’m writing. I’ll share my progress–or lack thereof–as time goes on.

Kind of a mixed bag, isn’t it? Travel, quilts, books, and my rescue pups, who wind up in my posts and stories from time to time. That’s okay. Sometimes you start with snow cats, and go on to other thoughts.







Epcot’s Flower & Garden Festival

Forget El Nino. Epcot’s 2016 International Flower and Garden Festival starts March 2! The topiary characters are my favorites, but this year, I’m also going to check out what’s cooking from the Outdoor Kitchens at the World Showcase. Here’s a snapshot of Minnie from the 2015 fest.

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