Saturday, July 5, 2014

The family billabong, seats five.

I had to call and order a coolibah tree, just after I gave my mate Bill a ring to find if he'd lost a bong. If you knew Bill, you'd also know this is not plausible, but none-the-less I had a billabong on the back lawn. We'd had the jolly jumbucks a few days ago. With the joys of mobile 'phones someone had called Norm to say a couple of sheep were out in the road - he was away, so he called me to ask to ask if I'd have a look. So Barbs and I had had a merry half hour playing chase the pair of pregnant ewes out of the road and into a paddock - without stressing them into doing what stressed preggers sheep normally do - drop dread or at the very least fall over and do good imitations of dead. Some of them are so good at it, they have well-trained troupes of bowflies, who come and mourn. Anyway, these particular ones did not drop dead, but by the time I'd finished with them I thought I was going to. Barbs was drove up past them and then was walking back, mushing them along, and I had the job of turning them at the gate into the laneway. Great in theory, in practice involved sheep. I understand why my Scots ancestors ate sheep. They taste good and that way you don't have to try and keep them alive. The first one managed to run straight past the laneway gate and I stopped her with a sprint and dive, grabbing handfuls of wool. That jolly swagman was a tough bloke, as he obviously had more skills at getting sheep in his tuckerbag than I had at turning it around. Brute force and ignorance worked only as long as I was holding it. The moment I let go it was all for getting past me, and not stopping this side of the sea, because that terrifying person Barbara had chased it baaaaaaaa ack there, as it plaintively informed me. By now it had a bloody nose and a bulging vulva, looked like I was going to get a lesson in animal obstetrics right there...

And it's buddy, that she'd been sneaking up the road with so they could go to Lamaze classes in Whitemark... galloped past me her - and me, with nary a backward bleat. Yeah, that's sheep for you. Today you're my bestie, but in ten minutes time I leave to try to follow - or at least rejoin, some other herd. I let go of the first, and dashed at the second -- too slow, and then dived frantically back to the first sheep, who had decided to turn and follow its faithless friend. So there I was with one sheep. Barbs went back and fetched the car - the ute was still visiting Bailey's for a prolonged holiday (yes, the blue slug likes expensive holidays)and drove past the sheep and headed it back... only she wasn't going anywhere near that bearded monster clinging to her darling friend, and dived through the electric fence to join another flock of sheep. Electro-stimulus did not bring on instant lambing, more I cannot say, as I was too busy trying to shove/haul lift this one the ten yards to gate. And she had fall downs. Anything but the gate... nooo nooo not the gate! I'm trying to be as firm-but-gentle as possible as the sheep is about 2 sheep wide, triplets I reckon (only big twins, it turned out). Needless to say, when I got it there, there was a miraculous recovery and the sheep headed straight out the far gate 300 meters away(where, needless to say, it didn't ought to go.) Yes, sheep. If Australia was going to live off something's back, could they have picked on something brighter, and more co-operative? Like a budgie, maybe. So I had to get past it, and bring it back resisting all the way, by which stage the idea of 'one day I want to keep a couple of sheep was getting a real dose of pragmatism injected into it.

Anyway, back to the billabong. The farm has improved its pumps so the pressure in farm supply (which is rather dodgy looking stuff, but it is better than Whitemark's water, which isn't saying much. Only when you improve the pressure in the old pipes... they pop (which the blue slug just celebrated our adventure in radiator fitting with.) Water was gently seeping up to the surface and forming a rather attractive little lake, which would probably look good with the Coolibah tree, next to the drowned house. So I got digging. I assumed a popped pipe join. Now almost every time I've dug up poly-pipe farm plumbing, it has been a case of making a bad situation worse, because you always either miss the pipe (water can track a long way underground) or chop a far bigger hole in it. And turning our water here off... is shall we say an adventure. The farm is quite old, and there are myriad pipes, taps and mysteries, as every time something went wrong there'd be a new put in, easier than finding and fixing the old. I have no idea where this pipe goes, or if it is vital or historical. So hands-and-knees, I dug as gently as an archaeologist with my hands and a plastic cup. I found a pipe. Only it wasn't that one. Frantic bailing the hole and water is still welling up from below, and faster now I have taken the earth away. So I kept digging. I found it just short of shoulder depth, but alas... there didn't seem to be a join. Just a fold or nick in the pipe that had burst. Which would mean not only digging the hole much bigger, but cutting the pipe, cutting a little piece out, and then putting a join in. I did mention that turning it off was unlikely... and it was raining and blowing snot out of ears too (to prove the basic laws of plumbing more robust than the laws of physics. Basic law of plumbing: the chance of your getting soaked to skin is inversely proportional to how pleasant that would be.)

In a desperate attempt to at least stop the high-pressure spray hitting me in the face while I dug the hole big enough to do the job... I put a fat cable-tie around it. Pulled it tight with a pair of pliers and went to fetch the spade.

I came back and the hole was dry.

Yep. Dry. I'd bailed it down to fiddle in the cable tie... and now, if there was any leakage, it was so little that the porosity of the ex-beach sand that is the local soil was taking it away... so I used the spade to fill in the now dry billabong, cancelled the order for the coolibah, and went to rest on my laurels. This sort of luck doesn't happen too often!

Thursday, June 26, 2014

No Appointment Necessary

My career (or rather, my beard's career) as a movie star. (No Appointments Necessary)

http://flindersflicks.com/ playlist select No Appointments Necessary

Budge up, Arnie (sorry, not very good at movie stars. He's the only one I can think of. And even when I have shaved it off, my beard always says 'Ay'll be baaaack')

In the meanwhile the Barnes and Noble, Smashwords, Kobo, Apple etc etc version of Stardogs are now up.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

We are Australian!






Thank you all, especially the 10% of the Island's population who came to sing with us and for us. For people who have been here a mere four years, that's a lot of friends we've found.

This is home. We came here determined to make it that, and to fit in to Australia, and the island (which we think is, of course, the best place on earth, but we are biased). It has been remarkably easy. Thank you all for making it that, and for accepting us.

You are ours, and we are yours.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

The hysterical hole

The hysterical hole was in the floor (not 'Perishers' style in the roof- but water was still coming through it). I have been charging admission to look at it. Well, I should have been as I could have made good money with the stream of visitors swallowed into its maw...

After dinner (TEA -as of this afternoon)on Saturday night (at which we had entertained our dentist and kids with green Thai pipi soup (with pipis AKA clams, not pipi as I believe you only get that in best Michelin starred establishments. We're not in that class) Pork laced with sage and mango, with salsify and parsnips, and chocolate based pecan-nut pie.) I entered the small room of the porcelain throne of much-musing to make it physically possible to lie down without too much groaning, and was greeted by the cheery sound of spraying water. Now usually this noise does not come -in this particular room, or anywhere else, from UNDER the floor.

In the next hour or so I learned a number of valuable things which, being a generous soul I shall pass on, free, gratis and for nothing. 1)Gate-valves long unused become gate valves long unusable. 2)The dark and long grass can hide holes for the unwary. 3)When building your dream house... make sure there IS a way underneath it to the plumbing (no there isn't here. I spent some time crawling around the crawlspace in the dark. It goes under the new half of the house, not the old half, where the loo-plumbing resides. 4)try to choose warm summer nights for your attempts to disconnect pipes. Cold showers are never much fun, but in the salubrious zephyrs of Flinders Island in midwinter, being wet to the skin is guaranteed to send impure thoughts into hibernation for months, besides making teeth into castanet equivalents.

I did find a tap, finally to turn off... it was 200 yards from the house, in the laneway-paddock.

Which is why the next day we ended up sans a throne for the day, and the next with a builder and a hole in the floor (as the alternative would be the wall, and honestly I was not keen on cutting holes in either. Not my wall or floor.)

The leak - a result of 50 year old connections and the increase in pressure with the new pump - was quick enough to fix. unfortunately the floor had to wait to the next day.

I only fell into it once during the night, which is pretty good really.

Through all of this I have been wrestling with Stardogs - getting it up on Smashwords (which means Barnes and Ignoble, Apple and Kobo etc. My word. They want to make it a challenge for people like me. I'm busy with the print version with Createspace. If I go mad and gnow my own leg off, you know it was all for you paper readers...

This afternoon we're going to become Australian citizens. I am practicing the national anthem as I type, and an influx of despairing, fleeing seagulls are already reaching New Zealand. Everyone has been so kind explaining it to us. I quite understand the bit about stripping off all your clothes to rid yourself of old evil influences... but do we really need to wear our new undies on our heads for three weeks to protect ourselves from drop-bears, until we smell real Australians and are safe? I've had pointy hat on for 4 years. Couldn't I just go on with that?

Seriously: Be happy with us, please.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Sausage and bacon, and Stardogs

So I am peacefully at my desk in the pallid hours of pre-dawn, wrestling with the intricacies of HTML (we are not friends) getting Stardogs
ready. Relief in the shape of a tinkling telephone is seized with unseemly haste. "Yes, what time do you want to go," I say before the other has managed to get a word out. I don't need a lot of leading astray, do I? This haste has its downsides. Last time was some bloke from the Red Cross. But this time it is Norm... but he doesn't want to go diving. "What sex is your pig?" he asks.

Really. The sort of personal questions people ask me at 6.30 AM. "I haven't got a pig. And I don't really care what sex the pig I haven't got is."

"You weren't home last night. I put one in your sty. I want to bring a second, but the same sex."

"Oh. Well, I'll go and have a look call you back."

Now there is a fine art to sexing piglets. It's not like sexing chicks which is arcane and involves strange invocations. It just involves looking at the undercarriage of the pig. A process, which if the pig will simply stand still and allow to you to look at the nether underquarters is not painful, life-threatening or even vastly undignified. If the piglet is going run wee wee wee squeaking and shrieking the moment it sees you, and hiding its nether end in the straw in the piggyhouse, and leaving for other parts when you crawl in there... it is all of those things. And noisy sweaty chase and fraught with... well, wee wee wee...

Sausage is a boy. So is his brother, Bacon. They both put their heads and entire forequarters into the pig-feeding drum and you can examine this fact to your heart's content and your ears assault (they fight over who is getting most. VERY noisily. They eat like... pigs. That's it pigs. Male pigs. Boaring their way in).

The two little pigs have a house of corrugated iron. Very Australian :-).

Stardogs - my first adult independent new release as an e-book (paper will follow. It all takes a little time) is finally up on Amazon. Given a small period of the non-intervention of Finagle, Murphy and all my normal disasters, Smashwords will be next, followed by Createspace. I'm hoping this model - which brings me a far far larger share of what you pay for that book 70% instead of 20% will help to pay for life's little essentials. I mean self-sufficiency is all very well, but you see what happens when I don't get coffee? And if readers are good enough to the coffee deprived to buy via the icon... I get another few percent of the purchase price from Amazon. It doesn't cost you any more.



Saturday, June 7, 2014

After coffee.

Some days life is out to get you. Some days it isn't. Today was going to be a day of steady work on book type things. I have to wrestle with Createspace for paper copies of Stardogs to be available. And last time I fought Createspace it won. I did appeal to the referee and fight judges but they said it was an unassailable unanimous point decision, and a knockout, and it had chopped off all my limbs. I did try yelling "come back, I'll bite you to death" but to no avail. I think it is deaf. But as the blue slug is at the workshop, and it has my strong spotlight in it, and I needed some more wallaby I'd gone out at dusk on Friday, and got one, and need two... Now Friday plainly WAS my day. I was hunting my favorite fence-line (between two fields. It has broken sections of windbreak along it, meaning I can get quite close. I'm a mean man, and hate wasting bullets, or missing. The chance of my causing injury rather than an immediate dead wallaby are very slim, as I only do head shots. If I miss, its as good as a mile most of the time.) There were very few out, but I had shot one. Now I could walk a long back and cross into the other field via the gate, or hop the fence. The problem with walking back is finding the wallaby. It's an electric fence. I found the perfect crossing place - a log on one side and a stump on the other, just about in front of me, with a pole to steady me. I stepped over. Great. Tippie-toes I've got about three inches between my crotch and the fence. So I transfer my weight onto the foot I have over, on the stump...

Which was in terminal decay. It didn't so much crumble as just... descend. So did I. You know what they say about sitting on the fence? Not a good thing to find yourself doing. Now, why I say it was my lucky day, as I didn't just win the world high-jump prize. I did get over pretty smartly, but not with electrical assistance, just fear of the same. So the wallaby and I came home, walking back to the gate. I thought, well, I really had had to work hard and had a little... fright, so I'd get a second in the morning. Mistake number one. Never put off to morning what you can put off to the next evening.

I don't struggle to wake up early. It's the getting up when it is plainly cold and wet out there. It wasn't raining but had been. Now dawn and dusk shooting have this small problem. Like there isn't a lot of either time in which you can see well enough to shoot and not be seen. I was a little late, dragging my sorry posterior out of bed, so no coffee, just go. I blame the no coffee. Trundling back to the same fence-line I went, in the faint grey of pre-dawn. And I didn't have to walk too far, and there was a nice big suspicious buck-wallaby (as it gets lighter they get wary) and so I lay down on my belly in the long wet grass and went through the important process of keeping your rifle dry and getting yourself good and wet. Only I just couldn't quite get a clear shot, so I edged forward putting the rifle barrel between the wires. They weren't live. I knew that from last night. And when you are looking down the scope... you aren't looking at the angle of the barrel. I was good and wet, holding a metal rifle...

Anyway, the poor wallaby got such a fright he probably drowned in the sea ten miles away, still running. I think I terrorized the sheep in about a square mile with my yowl and delicate ladylike comments about the fence not being live. And I was awake, coffee or not. Not that I'd find a wallaby for about a mile, after that, so I went back to the ute to drive on to another good spot. As I was driving I saw a suitable wallaby in the paddock near Norm's gate. So I drove on to gate, which is on a low rise, the wallaby now below the rise. Climb over and I'll get very close, and be shooting at 90 degrees to the house - about half a km away (a bullet can go a long way. You never shoot even vaguely towards a house, and shooting down is good. Earth stops bullets well.). Now the only time I'm going to be within skyline sight or easy hearing of the wallaby is getting over the fence and into the paddock. Must be done quickly and stealthily... There's a sort of ornamental wooden thingy, NOT electrical. Safe... hah. I caught my foot in the rail and took a real purler, trying to protect the rifle, instead of catching myself. One of those rattling falls that leaves you shaken and thinking about a little lie down somewhere. This was a good thing because I was lying down. The wet grass was not my first choice... and needless to say - so much for stealth, the wallaby had not laughed its self into immobility, although it was probably chortling as it went off to bed, as the the sky was now decidedly pink. Must have been embarrassed at the grate dirty-brown-and-grass-color hunter. I went home before I hurt myself. I did cut two loads of firewood, and not do any damage (except to the stupid bit of plastic on the chainsaw) but that was after coffee. There's a lesson in this: AFTER COFFEE. I didn't get far with the Creatspace stuff though :-(

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

In which various things go bump and thump in the night

James had packed some wallaby for dog tucker while we were away - but being trifle new to this lot he put the bags on the mesh of the wire basket in the freezer. Now, It was kind of him to do it, and we appreciated it no end, especially me as I didn't have to do it. That always goes down well with the homesteader. Kind of makes you wonder about self-sufficiency...

The downside was that the bags had sagged around the wires, and the basket was ice-welded in - I really do have to defrost the freezer, only I'm sort of scared what I might find in there. Last time it was a guy on a Harley Davidson looking for his pantechnicon, and the time before there was what can only have been a mastodon, frozen with the half-eaten fresh pineapple still in his trunk. This time... anyway brute force eventually won and I got the basket out (try to pull the bags and the plastic just tears.).

So now we have a freezer basket with a bunch of bags of frozen meat stuck on the base. It's too big to put in water - unless we used the bath, and I prefer yellow rubber ducks myself, and the dogs reckon it would make meat a bit iffy.The metal basket is too big for the microwave besides being you know, metal. I dream of having a microwave big enough to make biochar, but its a dream. Like a tractor, or secret volcanic island lair, complete with evil hench-people (used to be henchmen, but we can't have this sexist discrimination. Equal opportunity mad cackling torturer minions are needed now.) It's not going to happen.

So - as this was last thing in the evening, and we'd levered out one bag for the dogs, the basket just got turned upside down over the sink and left to let the not very warm air take its course. Yeah, you know where this is going don't you? Dave who is a light sleeper after the first two hours... (a flatulent mouse on the far side of the house, that the dogs and cats sleep through, will wake me) and the erratic thumps as the bags fell off. The first one took me completely by surprise, and had me bravely stalking the darkened halls with a hastily snatched up frying pan. Cast Iron and deadly. No. This is not South Africa, and I feared no murderous intent from a housebreaker. The doors don't get locked on the island. I assumed it was a bloody possum again. This would be about the third in 3 weeks. They come in the cat-door to steal the cat tucker. And I'm not grabbing one of them. They have nasty claws.

It took me a while to figure out what it was. Actually I didn't, Barbs did, when I was bringing my lovely cold toes back to bed for her. I'm kind like that. So I didn't get out of bed and do something about it. Should have.

It repeated a lot more times. But I knew what it was. So when it happened again at about 5 AM, I just growled and muttered - so Barbs - who had slept through the others, got up.

I hear a shriek from the kitchen. More clatter. I arrive at a run, clad in my usual night-gear - the same jammies I was born in, and can't find the usual heavy frying pan, just the wee skillet. And there is the biggest possum I have seen yet, not leaving - having knocked over my dehydrator. I charge into the fray wearing my armor of righteousness, and this weeny frying pan. A little part of my mind says stoop a bit - he might get your eyes but the dangly bits are further away.

Fortunately the possum gets over his shock, or thinks that maybe South Africans don't know the difference between a possum and a sheep, and gaps it with a mighty thump. I block up the cat door and take my cold toes back to bed. Only my toe warmer's toes are just as cold now.

Barbs had a day off so she slept in a bit, but I was trying to get stuff done - story of my life. So I was outside working on the pig-pen (don't all authors do this?) when she got a call from someone asking if she could possibly feed his cat and his octopus.

I like to tell people that we set out to live very ordinary lives, we just end up hammering in little nails with a block-buster - or doing things which are perhaps not done quite the way they are by other people. I must get my hammer back. And despite this the pig-pen is ready, and will hopefully have some pig to use the readiness very soon.

In the meanwhile I am putting the final touches on STARDOGS - Which I plant to release soon. It's not that hard, it's just not something I do often enough.