Saturday, September 20, 2014

No sleet, or snow - the end of the world as we know it.

The world will probably end today. They're tagging lambs, and it is not rain, sleet, howling gales and utter misery for man and beast (yes, this has been true in the last few days of the tagging. We had 'splushy ice' landing on the window the day before yesterday. Snow I think, lumped and melting. Just a delight to the hands trying to hold that lamb.) But today is glorious. Something must be seriously wrong. James is working with them, and it's the sort of experience any young geek should get a bit of. In most cases I suspect that would hasten them back to their air-conditioned cubicle and make very sure they never ever left it again, but at least they'd know where their food came from, and what sweat and hard conditions are a part of seeing it is there.

Pig killing is due tomorrow, so bacon will be being made. Starvation (or at least the end of the bacon) is averted...

I've been prepping the area for the container that Peter is kindly giving me, that will be my workshop. 12 concrete blocks have been collected from the tip. Actually... a lot of concret was collected from the tip. I went scavenge crazy. It happens to the best us. I carried off all that lovely garbage, triumphal in my gung ho tip looting. I'd have taken more, only the poor ute was sagging. There are now old paver step where hitherto there was a need for that thing I do not have - AKA long legs (no not money, or readers. Those are other I do not have :-)). I must say the workshop will be a vast relief to all, especially me, and Barbs, if it'll keep the nets and rods and spears and lights and spades and... and... out there. It'll need roofing, but I have some scavenged tin for that.

Barbs has had man-flu. Yes, we're an odd family. I despite the beard am not very prone to man-flu. I'm not up to it and settle for being slighty snuffly and grumpy and continue much as normal (because the grumpy part is normal anyway). Barbara gets flattened by it. Anyway, she's a bit better today, which is good.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

A shark by the tail.

I've been going through a rough patch, trying to do too much in too little time, flat out like a lizard drinking finishing a book and feeling flat as a pancake as a result - added to a lowgrade bug that just won't quite let me get better. I've decided on a diet and more exercise... Actually maybe I'll just stay feeling like a 'verlepe blaar', as it doesn't involve either. Seriously, I am making an effort to pull myself toward myself, although grate adventures have been a little occasional lately. Maintenance - feeding the pigs, and the chooks, and Barbs, and sort of trying not to kill more plants than usual in the garden is quite dull to write about, mostly.

Of course it wouldn't be me without the occasional drama. The long lining trip with Bill and James which produced a seven-giller wider than Bill's little boat. It was seriously unimpressed with being caught. Even sharks have their dignity. Bill wanted it (I don't really eat flake if I can avoid it.) So I got his rather insignificant gaff into the mouth, and was contemplating my next move. Bill decided to stab it in the brain, him not being an Ichthyologist and thus not knowing a shark's brain is smaller than a politician's ethics gland, and harder to hit than a budget target. The shark was not impressed. It wasn't affected much either. James decided that he'd tenderize the entire head with a longline weight...

That did get through. It threshed like fury and straightened out the gaff hook, and pulled the hook out of its mouth. It is however somewhat stunned. My bright child grabs it by the tail. I suppose I should be happy it wasn't the head. Some delicate discussion ensues about a rope to attach to the tail - James wants to use longline (which breaking all the rules of common sense has sever snoods still attached - snoods come OFF before they come into the boat -so no-one can get hooked and pulled overboard if a big shark takes it. I want the bow-line so it can't upset the boat or hook anyone. Temporarily we tie off the longline and then attach it to tail, and I cut hastily through the spine. Just my favorite pastime leaning over the side, cutting through shark-hide ten inches behind the mouth. disaster did not ensue. Future reference a handy rope and bigger gaff...

Next we will tell you of the inaugural sinking.
A friend has acquired a really beautiful boat - bigger than his historical experience with tinnies - and in that gap in my experience too - between Chuck-chuckies (inboard diesels) and the small Zodiacs/ tinnies I am familiar with. Bit posh for the likes of me. I've been to sea in a few posh boats, but more as a supercargo, than someone skippering or being crew. He had it brought across on the ferry, so he was dying to put it in the water, so last Saturday I agreed to go on the 'maiden voyage' even if I look more like the bearded lady. Now he was in the relay team in the pub-to-pub, and so we had a late launch -always tricky at Whitemark - where the water is shallow and five minutes faffing can leave you spending three or four hours waiting for the tide.
So we rush down... and yes, we check the bungs. Both of us. I am in waders... far too much preparation. Boat comes off beautifully, my mate, parks the ute... I am standing in the water having pushed it into slightly deeper water at the end of the jetty - he runs down... and "there's water coming in to the boat!"
I hastily haul it onto the sand next to the slip. And there is water welling up from under a floor-panel - a fish-well (a new thing to me) and when he opened it up it came up in a most entertaining fountain... if it is not your new boat. Now, the boat is not going to sink - not until the tide come in, anyway. And lo, there is new bung rising in east, well, floating around in the wet... Now I have already knelt down and got water in my waders checking the bungs(the water is just over knee deep and no waves. I am not going to drown (and I have a life-jacket on, a good thing with waders) But the purpose of waders is to keep the wet cold outside, not have it inside. Expressing myself in my normal ladylike fashion, I remove waders and the partly dry shirt, and we try this new game that I gather is very popular in certain circles I do not frequent, called 'find the bunghole by feel'

It just ain't there. By this stage my mate is in daks and we are doing some diving, getting salt in your eyes. So bright spark here gets in the boat - about 8 inches of water sloshing a few inches short of the electrics... a pushes his fingers down the hole. The hull is not that thick, and the hole is quite close to the edge, methinks. And stick-out bits have to be easier to find than obscure bung-holes... At which point I realize there are threads on the inside. Now bungs don't go in from the inside. Water pressure seals them... except this one did. So we baled out the boat, and then, as it was slightly lighter managed to push it off the sand before the tide left us high and dry.

And water comes up from the next floor-panel forward...
Agh! Another bunghole and fountain
And now there is no bung to be found. My finger is too small, and I'm not a little Dutch boy. In desperation my mate unscrews a water sprayer fitting - which mostly fits. Only water coming through the spray nozzle hole - It'll slow the water down, but not stop it... it's time to cut our loses and get the boat out. So I hold the boat and the trailer is brought down. And handbrake on, and I get some winching help... only um we're winching the ute down, as much as the boat up. A foot on the brake stopped that, and we hauled her out. I jumped up... and found the floating bung spinning toward the bunghole. Another screw in from the inside bung with it's inlet hidden in the hollow keel. (it has a hollow keel which fills with water when you stand still and drains when you go up on the plane.)

It says a lot for our collective determination and also stupidity, that wet clothes and all we put the boat back in the water, managed to get it just into just deep enough to push it out (tide retreating fast.) and took her to sea.

It was a cold, wet,(the sun was shining and it was not raining, but I was cold and wet) and once we got out further, bumpy day, with a huge current running making getting sinkers down very difficult. There were 3 other boats out, and the one caught one fish, and the other, 6. We got 16, not bad for blow ins on an inaugural sinking. They were all huge flathead in the 50 cm + size. But I need bigger sinkers!

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Crossposting a Countdown...

will be on a countdown special - discounted from $4.99 to 99 cents at 8 AM Amazon time (I think that's Seattle) and increasing in one cent increments over the next four days. Get it now while it is cheap!

Two Rats Bats and Vats stories (a novella, and a novellete) another great 'Pirates of the future' story and some others

Cheap as chips

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) 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.