Monday, March 20, 2017

It's easier emigrate than to build.

Batman the cat's death, and the subsequent failure of Activ8's internet service has put a damper on my posting.

Barbs and I went out to the block on the weekend and cut 6 tanks of brush-cutting. I work out the area we need to clear is around half an acre. Which is amazing large, a plant at a time. My Chainsaw is acting up, and alas the parts I ordered were the wrong ones.

On the council wrestling for the building permit - I still need to do my Owner builder's test, and then get a white card (which is like a white feather but different) for construction safety. I must admit to having a problem with the Owner builder piece of total drekk. Summary: we will make this difficult and unpleasant so you borrow money from our friends the banks, and support our friends the professional architects, builders, plumbers, and electricians. We will tell you repeatedly how dumb and what a bad idea this is. Most of it is as relevant to the rural guy building his own home as Astrophysics is to digging ditches.

The paperwork, and requirements for this... Well the paperwork is going to be a more than I had to have to emigrate. The costs are hugely more - for something that will make the govt and council long term money! It is going to cost so much - most of it completely without situational justification. In migration context - You're immigrating from Luxemburg... where is your military record! No we can't let you in without a military record. We need to check for atrocities. Yes the country has an army of 10 who stand guard in pretty uniforms and haven't been to war in a couple of centuries... but we must have that record...

The Australian government wants to limit migrants to those who will help the country and fit here - it should be hard. The opposite is true for home ownership - they should want (and do benefit from) as many people owning their own, and not paying the bank rent as possible. So why is the latter harder than the former, and deliberately forcing the people who can least afford it to borrow?

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

An ode to corrugated iron

So I took a trip to the tip to scavenge some roofing iron yesterday. I’m an unashamed scavenger – re-use everything and anything I can. Look, there’s not a lot of spare cash so I make up for it by repairing things at about twice the cost in parts and four times in labor what buying new would cost… well, sometimes this is true.

This isn’t Africa, and while there are other scavengers, there is still a lot thrown away because the cost and effort of recycling bits is too high, especially in a relatively affluent society like Australia. The tip is divided up: household waste going in one area, green waste to another, building/demolishing and general iron/wood another, so it’s not digging through rotting garbage. Broken glass and sharp iron yes, and I’m sure eventually the nanny state will step in and fuss about it. But at the moment, there is a chance to save a few dollars on materials.

Now Australia is pretty much built on corrugated iron. It is relatively easy to transport, covers a large area, is waterproof, fairly strong and very adaptable and used to be pretty cheap. Termites and bugs don't eat it. It’s hot as hell – and cold as the Norse hell – uninsulated. But it’s a roof, walls… and so much more. Among the things we need is more carport/storage space (boats, nets, pots and the like – can get wet, but you don’t want out in the weather and sun) and a pig pen, and possum proof walling on the orchard (which will have to be netted against birds and fenced against wallaby, and foot wired and electrified against wombats… it’s not all easy growing your own food here, or cheap.

Without the corrugated iron it’d be harder and slower to do it all. But at around $12 a meter by 760 mm – without transport, it can add up pretty quick. And this sort of use isn’t that fussed by a few holes or a spot of rust.

Anyway, I found a few nice off-cuts, and bits and bobs. Not pretty, but functional… rather like me.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

The olive and the fig

We took our first 'owner' trip to our block yesterday, with the poor olive tree that's been surviving in a pot - waiting on this day for nigh on 6 years, a fig tree, wire, chainsaw, brushcutter, spade, mattock and various implements of destruction.
First act was to stake our claim.

Then I got down to digging a hole near the gate, and Barbs took a large bag off to collect the dead horse bones (isn't this what every new property owner does?)
Without too much drama, the olive was planted. I didn't bury any corpses at its feet. But where you plant an Olive, an old belief goes, you plant a piece of your heart. And figs of course are symbols of fertility and possibly, knowledge :-).

We took ourselves on a tour of the boundary - walking the property line. It's an interesting combo of beach sand, limestone rocks and granite. I can grow two varieties of rock! There's a dam/waterhole, that exists simply by getting down to the water-table (we're between 25-95 feet above sea level) and there are surprising hummocks and little hills and valleys, meaning there are spots that face North, and could be reasonable for grapes. Yes, a daydream. No you can't order a case. There's a winter stream, and quite a lot of bush, more rush-tussocks and bracken. And rocks. Did I mention the rocks. This includes sheets about 30 yards across in the house-paddock. Houses can forage on rocks, which most other animals find indigestible.

Then we set cutting weeds and dead trees around the house site... well, temporarily. The brush-cutter and its shaft decided they'd had enough of each other, and started divorce proceedings with a trial separation. This was something the weeds greeted with delight. I had the dead tree twist on me and pin my bar - but nothing a well-applied wedge and brute force could not sort. There is a wealth of dead trees (firewood)- they're mostly she-oak, shallow rooted and tend to fall over at a certain size - making a tangle of dead flammable stuff - better cut and used than left to be a fire-hazard. We have weeds, thistles, nettles too as extra benefits - but once the area is tidied up should be lovely, and less good for fires and snakes.

It's a start, that's all I can say.

We sat and had spiny lobster on home made bread, and a glass of wine to celebrate. There's a lot to do, but every step is one less that we have to take.

Friday, March 3, 2017

Death to the landlords... oh. Wait...

"Death to the landlords!"

Looks at watch.

Um. 12.31...

"The peasants are revolting!"

Or in other words, we are now land-owners as of 12.30. Peasants are admittedly in short supply, and we may have to make do with Pheasants. Still waiting on replies from council about the building permit. I am reading the regulations... seriously, they need one new regulation: "No regulations may be more than 3 pages, and in total cost (in fees, added expenses etc,) more than 1% of the value of project. You can tell these bastards have no work to do and are not paying for the costs out of their own pockets.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Shrove Tuesday

Is pancake day. The Anglican Church do free lunch-time pancakes, with a vast selection of sweet and savory fillings. I do my bit as the pancake cook - I had 4 pans working flat-out for just over 2 hours. I also took in 4 large pots of savory fillings - long on meat and veg off the land. It's free - like several of the functions and feeds here - although there is a collection box for donations for some form of disaster relief every year: Australia - fire or drought. People I suspect give more than we could charge, because that's the nature of the people and place.

I'm good with getting up a 5 to cook, doing my bit. Once, in what seems like another lifetime we came to the island... pretty broke. It cost nearly all we had and the exchange rate was very against us. I was still learning the local fish and how to catch them, and we had no access to meat or poultry. Veg, rice cheap noodles were a lot of what we ate. Now, I raise or shoot our own meat, and meat portions are generous, my deep freezers bulge, and money doesn't come into it much - then, well we made a point to buy some meat (whatever was cheapest) every two weeks. Aus prices made my eyes water. Going to these 'feeds' meant a lot to us. I'd like to think I pay it forward a bit, play a small part in a community that does this kind of thing.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Resume the position...

2016 turned into the sort of year largely best left un-mentioned. Partly sheer battle-fatigue. We did go and see Paddy and Clare in the UK and Patrick and Judith in Brittany, but something about that turned occasional tinnitus into a permanent chorus in my ears. My writing career went along swimmingly... as the man said of how things were going when his home flooded. It's still going. I'm planning on doing more self-publishing through Amazon in the future, and have started a mailing list - if you're interested you can sign up here. We did more pigs and more bacon and ham... just battering on, not losing too much ground, not gaining any really.

But in the latter half of the year we had a bit of a financial shock - the great deal we had on the present house we are tenants in got revised. Now, we're very grateful for what we'd had, and this was fair enough. But... it pushed things into a situation of instead of saving furiously and hoping we'd have the cash in hand when property prices fall (as they must, eventually. If interest rates rise, the Australian job situation worsens or the farming situation changes for the worse - Flinders will be one of the first places hurt. All those second holiday homes will, if it is a choice between paying home mortgage, or the holiday place mortgage - you know which one has to go)- to one where we felt we were going to lose ground, or take the step of buying something with what we had.

So... on Friday next Barbs and I will start the next phase of our adventure. We'll have 43 acres of rocks, bush and not very arable grazing land, about 800 meters from the beach. Oh yeah, and next to no money. So what else is new?

But somehow we're going to raise a house on it. Sheds, Veg gardens, an orchard, and eventually some fencing and livestock. It's not ever going to be commercially successful farming at that size - but we should be pretty much self-sufficient.

It's going to be tough. Make and scrape, paint it blue and make it do. But... I have done tough. And I am longing for a place of our own. I want to build... for me and mine. I want to plant trees I will see fruit and harvest from.

I want to say 'this is my land.'

And I will.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Rain was chucking it down...

It's raining. Some of it actually reaching the ground, but most of it is simply moving horizontally across the the island. Some of it hits trees or the occasional window and gets its trip to New Zealand interrupted. We need the rain, we've had a green drought the last while. I need it too as my hard drive decided it hated me (quite understandable, trust me)and went off to join a blue screen of death. So we rebuild... most of the essentials are backed up, but it takes time, knowledge and intellectual capacity, which are kinda all hard to come by in these promiscuous parts (it's Kipling. I thought it was funny :-)). I got a sheep in to deal with Windows. Unfortunately it baulked when it came to re-installing the rest. I couldn't find a donkey, so I've had to do it myself, which is rather like fixing a nuclear reactor by 'what happens if I pull this lever?'. So it's a good thing it's raining and blowing and even seagulls are squatting in the fields looking morose, because the excuse to do anything else, including putting manure into my garden is very attractive. Fishing or diving are not going to be possible for a while, with huge seas running. So, I keep telling myself, it is a good thing, although the cats have threatened real consequences if I don't improve the weather soon.

Well, the one good thing I can see is that there are mushrooms popping up on my 'lawn'. They're a bit close to the trees for my liking but I will find time(somewhere) to go and prowl the fields (where the grass fortunately pretty short) hunting them. Always look on the bright side of life (although with mushrooms it could be 'always look on the bright side of death'). And a full freezer and lots of dried produce are a big plus too.