Monday, December 31, 2012

Three Years

It's been three wonderful scary, exciting, happy, tough years since we arrived in Australia. Dear lord get me back to the 4th. We fly back to Africa tomorrow.

And may 2013 be a great year for you all.


Sunday, December 30, 2012

As predicted

The first tomato - not going to go far - a yellow cocktail - harvested today. The first stupice should be ready tomorrow...
It's doing the Flinders winders today, blowing hard enough to send the weather changing every few minutes. I believe this patch of air I am breathing was last in Kerguelen, about ten minutes back. I can smell the Kerguelen cabbage, or else it is Pugsley. This however will be replaced by Chilean volcano breath (or possibly Wednesday) in a few minutes. Various preparations and panics are underway, as this sort of thing involves clothes we do not normally wear. I know I have a tie somewhere. Barbara is hunting petticoats... Our house, garden and dog-sitters are coming around today.

Friday, December 28, 2012

I am preparing for the trip to Zimbabwe (James and Alana's re-affirmation of vows - basically a wedding ceremony for all those who couldn't come here - most of the family and friends.) I really don't want to go back to Africa, but we do these things for our children.

I was laying drip pipes for the garden to stop total death while we're away, when one of the black pipes developed scales and moved as I was reaching for it. The horrible beetles seem to be unstoppable on the strawberries :-(

We're still in eat left-overs mode...

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas, good feasting and the pleasure of family or friends to all of you.
Skype let us see our children :-)

We've eaten wild turkey and homemade Christmas pudding and brandy butter. Santa has brought me some wetsuit repair stuff :-)

Remember: the Christmas spirit is not just what you drink.

Blessings and peace and goodwill to you and your kin.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Water and other disasters

Hmm. A little backfill here. Yesterday was one of those days. It started in smallish hours when, just after I filled the kettle the pipe bringing water to the house burst. It is an old house and the demon rust at ground level had eaten through the steel pipe.

Now this is Australia, you're supposed to squall for a plumber. But um... it was Sunday and he wasn't answering. And the next nearest is a LONG flight away, assuming you get him on a plane, plus the cost of moving the tools. I do wonder at the people who make these rules. Should be that the silly bastards have to suffer the worst consequences they could inflict on the people whose lives they make difficult. I can just imagine some little politician sitting his house in some major city saying "What do you mean I can't have any water for two weeks and then it'll cost me a month's salary!" "Well, Sir, that's the time and cost to fly someone to Gogga-ping-pong Station." And him saying "But they fix it themselves." "You said they weren't allowed to, Sir. Oh and we must insist you drive 570km to fetch any water. Oh and as that would be their summer supply draining away, you'll have to do that for six months."
"That's ridiculous! Just stupid!"
"Yes Sir. That's what the people at Gogga-ping-pong think of your rule too."
Which is why the further you get from the cities the more people quietly ignore most of what is utterly without relevance outside those cities anyway. I did patch it up with some ag fittings and hot poly-pipe and hose clamps, and it is barely damp. It's not perfect and might lose oh... 5 ml a day into the ground - compared to no water in the house and 20 000 liters wasted. The plumber has promised he will come and do a proper job, really soon. And he may. Possibly in the next few weeks even. It did take the better part of the morning though. It was a hot humid day, and I really wanted a few more crayfish or at least an excuse to get wet, so Jamie got the boat trailer out... and it had a flat. So he tried to pump it up and the valve took off for Mars. So much surgery followed. Tire valve transplant... and we could have used anasthetic. Still, it got us there, we dived. I had a day of evasive crays, and tried to get 3 and caught one. I did find a cave I can find again, which is always good. I am scared of of them, but this is quite big.
And then we got back and had a flat tire again.

Today I drained the pond so the bird fountain could work properly - with a bucket. It must be about 1500 litres. Stupid obstinacy triumphs, and it is clean and refilled and Wednesday has her favorite summer swimming pool back, and the green Rosellas are washing their beaks and then their bottoms. (really. It's bizarre. And really really important to be first Rosella). I then carried a good 50kg of wallaby from the woolshed fridge to cut up. This is about 150 yards. And the trouble is there is nowhere to put them down to rest your hands. Did a bit of excercise today.

Barbs had hard day at the Surgery too, so we're both tired... And still need to prep for tomorrow.

We've had leftover pig for our Tea.

Turkey is thawing.

A merry and blessed Christmas to you all!

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Roast pig picture

Courtesy of Peter :-)

Saturday, December 22, 2012

roasting pig

I'm really tired and half-roasted and sore-footed at the end of the pig roast - not without epics of course. Anyway, all well that ends well, and we had a load of crackling that was truly wonderful. My camera ended up here, and the pig 2km away. Lots of pictures were taken but not by me. I'll eventually get some, and put them up.

Lessons in pig spit-roasting. Dry salting the skin - flavoring inside the pig works. Unlike lamb constant basting is not needed. Constant heat is and quite a lot of it for longer than the lamb - and you do not want the heat straight underneath - drip trays there. We need next time to spend a lot more time balancing the spit. Securing a relatively small - 25 kg pig - was not easy and not adequate. We used some mesh on the mid-section. This worked well until I covered mid-sections with foil as it was prone to over cook and burn. Unfortunately the foil, coated in fat, is prone to catch fire, and as the foil has a nice air-space with the wire netting under it... well, you can't put it out.

Our electric spit motor had an issue part way through the cooking - and that left me standing in the sun, turning the spit by hand for about 45 minutes. It's HOT work. Anyway, we had beautiful crackling, good tender pork, loads of new potatoes, and salads and fresh bread, and then sticky date pudding and cheesecake (yum) before Barbs Birthday cake and our tuneless singing.

Now we have about 10kg of pork left...

Friday, December 21, 2012

I have 1)Cut the grass 2)written words for current story 3)Looked up pig spit roasting for tomorrow, got nervous.
4)Looked at my tomatoes in despair. They will not be ready for Christmas. They should get ripe some time in... second week of January, while we're away. Anyway, i will attempt to take some pig roasting pics tomorrow. I have discovered the downside of long days - Sunday is supposed to be hot and still - and both high tides (for flounder) are in the daylight. We need dark for this.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

The pig is dead, long live the next pig

The pig is dead, scalded, scraped and butchered, ready for the spit on Saturday. I was amazed at how with the right temperature, 65 c - the skin and bristle came off. He went from being a black big to a white pig. He's in a chiller now, until Saturday morning. Pig died as meat animals should die, one moment a mouthful and pleased with himself, the next dead.

Peter and Helen came back to the island today flying with Frank on Flinders Island Aviation - a charter - which means you can bring a fair bit more luggage. I should have taken down a shoe-horn and some grease, when fetching them, to get it all in. They got home to a beehive in their woodbox. The beekeeping project really has to get there.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The end of the world is at hand.

The Mayans were right. Certain signs and portents show this.

For instance: the Christmas tree we chose and cut is not too tall. It did not have to have 13 trims to even get into the house.

This does not happen naturally!
All my Christmas orders are in...(another sure sign)

Also I have yet to receive my author copies of Steam Mole, and a whole lot of other publishing related stuff, including money... they're never late, are they? Oh, wait...

Had salsify, parsnips out of the garden as part of tea tonight. Most yummy if a little early? Well, best to eat them if we're all going to be eaten by the giant sky snake or wiped out by the great white handkerchief. If only the tomatoes would ripen... then indeed, we'd be in the last days - but so far we are safe...

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Monday, December 17, 2012

The round of dinners and teas and drinks and nibbles continues. Tonight again... So does work and the beetle chase! Barbs has pulled an intercostal muscle and is very sore poor dear. The physio this morning left her even more battered, if better. We had the plumber -visiting the farm, look at the pressure pump and shake his head today. I wonder what that head-shake costs... He said short of replacing the pump he could do nothing about the erratic shower (takes me back to boarding school, water one minute, none the next, water again) however unlike boarding school this stays much the same temperature. I'll live with it.

They're crutching over the shearing sheds today. I heard the shearers offering brazilians, Americans, landing strips... Well, I heard loud music anyway. I'd need that for sheep's bums. This should be quite a short session though.

Sunday, December 16, 2012


Ooh I ate too much. I feel like Percy Pig (who is bursting his little waistcoat buttons). We seem to have been stuck in the Flinders Island eat-athon. First Jamie brought us a Swiss 'black forest' type choccy cake from his Swiss wife as thanks for hay-help, and we had to have a piece with Jamie, and then we went off to the FIAA (Barbs works for them) Christmas dinner, and seeing as I was spending $45 (she got her tucker for free) and I'm still in the appalling habit of translating that back to Rand, I made sure I ate every morsel and regretted it. The Tavern's chef (who left today) was a big step up, but (Modesty Blaise here the tall poppy speaking) I do cook better. Well, I don't have to cook for those numbers of people. But my feeling is that a rack of lamb should just be pink against the bone OR stripped of almost all fat, as lamb fat needs to be crisp and cooked. Rare and fat is hard going for my taste. The creme brule had great topping but had vast amounts of of slightly lumpy not quite set custard with no real taste except sweet. I like it firm but soft. And now I feel hypercritical and bad. It was a noble effort, as the Tavern hasn't risen to this sort of food much. Anyway after a night of indigestion, we went to church this morning, ahd too much cake after... and then took a crayfish cocktail (this - very typical South Africa 1960-1970 standard restaurant fare - from seafood cocktail (at the bottom), to prawn cocktail, to crayfish cocktail at the best fell out of favor, probably because the silly beggars put too much mayo and rubbish in and too little of the crayfish. Done right, with just enough good mayo to stick it together, a splash of tomato sauce, a tiny bit of chilli pepper, and some fresh chives, it is very good) to a friend's 40th party. Only they'd stocked up on a lot of German food (he is of German origin) which we had to try. And the other 40 families had all brought their party pieces... Barbs has bravely gone to the carols (which the kids and the a-capella ? spell? group are are doing), with port and mince-pies after, and all the island there I would guess. It would be lovely I am sure, but I have seen enough people and eaten enough.

Instead I harvested another 18 heads of garlic - bringing our total so far 24. Some of these are real beauties, and a few just average. There is still a fair bit to come in but I am leaving the plants with good scapes another day or two to let them mature a bit further. Nothing to do with the stress of bending my overful tummy over the planting tank. I will sun-dry them a bit tomorrow and plait them.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Beetle my beating heart.

Beetles - I have killed over a kilo of the little beggars so far. And thick and fast they come...

I had a dive yesterday, 3.5 hours and I have miserable ears and a sore head today (no not the bends, sinuses, and eustachian tubes) Still, we have some crays. Are sure I can't offer you a beetle?

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Present time

Today was present time, at the post office - no, no cheques or royalty statements, but some very nice people sent us things which cheered me up no end, even if they did make me feel quite guilty,and like a whinger for complaining yesterday.

I now have some more bush tucker to experiment with. And I have a turkey-caller... we do most of turkey shooting more like drive-by shootings here... so this is a very novel idea. Besides I got a present I bought myself, a couple of rather battered Footrot Flats cartoons books off e-bay that I hadn't read. I always enjoyed them, but living as we do I find them hilarious and accurate now.

It was the CWA Christmas lunch today so I had to pass on a dive with the master crayfisherman. Greater love hath no man... and actually the women who would have been eating the crays weren't that impressed either. Oh well, there will be other days, and it was rather fun making turkey calls at the CWA. Yes I am a bad man. What else is new?

We've had the blessing of a bit of rain today, which the land needed, and it seems to have brought out the bugs in force. That's farming I guess.

I think I'll sneak across to my neighbour and turkey call under his window :-) Only I might get lead in my tail.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

I spent some time today drying to set up the micro-irrigation for the rest of the veggies, as otherwise they'll die while we're away. It's more complicated than one thinks... anyway, it should be at least partly effective. Next summer I putting in a request to neither move house nor have to go anywhere. Winter is when the crops need less tending.

We're doing quite well out of the garden and countryside and of course, sea, although I wouldn't mind more crayfish and more sea flexibility - but that must wait on a more reliable motor for the Zoo, and the trailer being finished, and eventually, a hookah. All of these must wait on a little more coming into the kitty, and I don't mean the one who decided to nest in the trousers around my ankles while I was on the loo this morning. There are still so many things to explore so many foods to try... keeping pace with what we do do is hard enough. If B wasn't being paid reliably and we were having to rely on publishing... well, I am sick of being paid late, and having to worry and nag frightfully politely about it (Amazon, and the shorts I have on that at least pay me 70% of the price - unlike the 4-10% I see of some the others, and reliably and promptly. I will be putting more e-books up for this reason. It's not a lot of money, but it is mine. Baen will also be putting up some books on Amazon soon, and they say they will pay more than now, but I doubt if it will be more regularly or more on time, to be blunt. They are always some months late (the six months January-June should be settled in September (we have computerized records now, not hand-counting copies in a warehouse, so why it can't be sooner I don't know. Perhaps it is to give retail time to pay)... not possibly in December. I'd sympathize because it is not easy in publishing atm and they have done me some favors, but it is difficult to tell the vet or the supermarket or the dentist you'll pay later, and if Barbs wasn't working her socks off we'd have to. Besides the Aussie dollar keeps going up and therefore every day is a pay-cut. Anyway. Onwards. Enough whinging. But if you're going to by an e-book by me to try, the ones which list me as the publisher get my vote :-)) It does work on my ability to write well. Anyway, we live comfortably, and eat very well, tonight we had couscous (with onion, and other bits in it) and a spicy Moroccan style flathead, carrot salad. Yesterday we had calamari and yellow rice with fresh peas and a green salad and green sauce, and fresh strawberries for pud. The night before we had some lamb crusted with saltbush someone was kind enough to give us, and the first zucchini fried with the garlic scapes, and bandicooted baby pink-eye potatoes. Tomorrow I plan to slow cook some wallaby shanks with fresh garlic, rosemary and the last tomato out of the freezer. Almost all our food comes out of Hindustan Imports (ie in bulk) or we catch or grow ourselves. We probably spend more on kitty crumble and dog cubes (they get fresh wallay, or fish, and the dogs get some rice, but there is always 150 grams of dog pellets each) than we do on our meals.

Anyway, tomorrow is the interesting experience of the CWA Christmas lunch. The husbands are invited... I think we're the first course, after which it our failings for mains, and morals and virtues for dessert ;-).

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Of spacing, pigs, and veggies

One the deep joys of planting your own veg is watching your beloved kitty cat find this nice, almost clear piece of ground and not only ornament it, narrowly missing your carrot seedlings, and then methodically scratch out a quarter of a row of same seedlings to cover it while you yell at her and try to get fluffy-bumness's attention (it's a long way from a door, barring the kitty door) and the windows have fly-mesh. Then a little later, you see her Wednesdayness,in search of kitty tootsie rolls, in a garden dogs supposedly cannot enter, digging for buried 'treasure'. That I grow anything at all is a minor miracle. I do wonder if our 'healthy food' is merely all the antibodies.

The pig continues his excavations. I shall forget butchering him and sell him to Gina Rhinehart. He's getting still bigger, and decided to have a tentative taste of my trouser leg today, and got a wallop on the nose from which he retreated looking very contrite. I doubt his sincerity. He's starving pig, or so he tells me. Pigs have a purpose. They make Labradors look like fussy delicate eaters. Mind you I was glad not to have my camera with me this morning. I gave him about a liter and a half of milk that had separated after being frozen. I literally thought he might drown, he had his piggy snout right underwater while he was trying to get it in as fast as possible. He then looked at me, black snout with a milky ring and milky whiskers and did his desperate 'more?' grunt. The Labradors were NOT amused. Spare milk is theirs. They used to get quite a lot back SA. Here, not so much, as we are not getting a fixed amount from the dairy, and it costs a lot more. Roll on the cow.

Talking of planting I really have to get this spacing thing right My potatoes - which started as 5 rows, are now knee high, and a solid impenetrable mass. The boiled turkey poo or something has worked to some extent I think. Whether I now get any potatoes as hilling is a real challenge, is another matter.

Monday, December 10, 2012

The garlic bulbils

Well, after a weekend of being particularly good and writing, the weather is very unusual for Flinders today - there seems to be no wind. Unfortunately high tide is 15 minutes before sundown, and 3/4 of an hour before dark, so while it might be excellent for squid, it's not for flounder.

The first of my garlic has been harvested - a little early, but I wanted to see how it was doing and it did in that tank seem to be in danger of dying back and being lost. That produced 4 pretty good looking heads with around 10 fat cloves to each. I think, in all, I will have around 40 heads, which is a bit mingy for us, especially as I have to replant, and we like a lot of garlic. I don't have to work in a crowded sweaty office

I gather they will grow single bulbs from the bulbils on the flower-stalks, which, if you replant them the next year, will give you normal garlic, and more bulbils... I think I will try this, as it's always useful stuff, garlic. Good for vampires. Or rather, bad for vampires. If you want to actually know why you'll have to read Bolg, PI: the Vampire Bride, which will tell you why vampires fear the antibiotic properties of garlic. Or Silver.

Speaking of the writing side of my life, I was misled. The publishers put the original release date for THE STEAM MOLE as the 4th when putting up the notice on Amazon. They find it impossible to change this (it is not. Just a LOT of hassle, as I know from when one of our books was put up with the wrong title) Then they changed their minds and made it the 11th of December. Amazon has however been shipping since before the 4th.

One of the critcs posted this: "“The Steam Mole” is something of a love-letter to Freer’s adopted country and a whacking good tale" (Otherwhere Gazette)
I can live with that :-)

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Tis the season to by golly, eat till you burst with that last lolly, tra la la la...

Well, yeah. We had our second dinner party of the season last night. I saw 6 people eat a whole choc based pecan nut pie, and cream and strawberries... Tonight is the hospital Christmas do at the Tavern. Then, if I have this right, there is another on Wednesday, Thursday or Friday, Saturday. One is at the pub, the others at the tavern in Lady Baron, where they have an adventurous new chef. So Vista's - the third restaurant is getting the go-by. I do know some other folk are going there. Interesting on a small population island, where you belong to quite a few things, getting the same menu to choose from... several times.

The weather has turned sultry, and I should have gone for a dive today. Still, have done some writing.

I think it was 6 Zucchini in today. The marrow deluge cometh. Perhaps this was what the Mayans foresaw... What will happen when we're away I cannot think.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

The statement "You're behaving like a pig." and "This place looks like a pig-sty" now have new meanings to me. Still, as we hope to do a bacon-pig at least every year, I think it has been a valuable lesson.

I must admit he's not an ideal house pet.

My Stupice tomatoes have little tomatoes on them. They may yet beat my bought flowering tomatoes...

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Umph the pig continues to display why concrete food and water troughs, embedded to a depth of 20 feet are a good idea.

I've had to refill his water 5 times today, and his food, most of which he mixes with the mud from the water. He does adore pigweed though.

Passing wombat mummy and baby in the laneway.

It's Barbs and I's 31st anniversary - proving she is a strong woman an I am a lucky man.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

The Steam Mole

comes out today. If you're a mate of mine, or a reader, consider this an invitation to join the launch party... which as I have yet to receive an author copy or be told when it was being released is sadly about as far as launch parties go for yours truly. One day I dream of a publisher succeeding at these very hard things. They must be almost impossible, because it just never, in the last... (mutter) work it out, including paperback editions, more than thirty opportunities.

Cheers. Here's to the STEAM MOLE. May she find readers to love her.

Yesterday was the day of hoiking hay about. My dive partner got 300 small bales for their horses... only they were still in the field in rows. Rain forecast.

Well, except a spit and a spot, gone before it wet the ground, it didn't rain, and we got it all in. I am stiff-n-sore, and Jamie must be much worse.

The pig is a bulldozer. He turned a very respectable pig-yard into a plowed mess in a day. He tips everything (food, water), moves 10 kg boulders with his nose.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Saturday, December 1, 2012

The sheep dance and the coming of the pig.

Okay... the adventures. We're in the throes of buying a very elderly Camry which Barbs drives to work - a lot cheaper than driving the Ute. Unfortunately it has some kind of issue with starting. If it doesn't start every day... you have a circus, flat battery with trying, and, if you have the patience, you can get going by putting jump leads on another vehicle... and trying. Sometimes that alone has not been enough, and it has needed taking out the battery (which is new) and charging it and then trying. Which is very trying if you're in a hurry. Baileys say they have identified the problem and ordered the part...

But if you start it every day... it's fine. Unfortunately we somehow skipped a day. And when we tried to take it to Scottish dancing it would not go. And Barbs specifically wanted it the next day... So we got back from dancing, and the sheep were in our long paddock. Norm had kindly put a big mob in to flatten it quickly and well, which with fire season coming is good... It is actually a paddock, not just a driveway -sort of L-shaped with the shearing shed on the short end of the L, and us at the bottom of the L and the gate at the top. For a day or two we have to put up with really stupid sheep who if they're in the long bit of the L want to be in the short bit when you come out... or, if they're in short bit want to be in the long bit and then as you get to the gate decide they want to be in short bit after all. Sheep are not bright, or original thinkers. What one does the rest will, even if it made sense when the one did it, and none when the rest follow. Eat more mutton, you're actually helping the world's IQ.

So there under a full moon we were romantically... trying to start the car. Jump start did not work. So... we thought we'd try pull starting (as push involved... well pushing. And this is the flats, except where oddly it is uphill. There are no downhills. None. Really.Ask any vehicle pusher here). So we found a rope and minor misadventures failed to start it in the garden. The only real option now was the long paddock (which is 200 meters long), or the main road.

Imagine dear reader, the moonlit scene with too short a tow rope for comfort and 300 sheep deciding to do the L paddock Zig-zag... because the first 30 had gone in front of the ute...

And did I mention power-assisted brakes?

No sheep were killed in this production.

No vehicles damaged.

My nerves may recover in time.

The car got going fine.

I won't forget to start it for a while!

Yesterday we had the day of lightning. Not-sadly- much rain. Today was the Lions Fair, and I simply weakened and bought yet another plant, a sweet potato.

I cooked wallaby steaks (as tender as fillet, but tastier), our first tender little courgette for the season, baked potato and a green salad, and then we had fresh strawberries and cream for our tea tonight... we did buy the cream. I wonder what the rich people have for their tea?

Tomorrow we're due to receive Percy pig - a temporary resident, who will have 23 days of getting bigger before finding himself as the centerpiece of Christmas dinner. I am not so sure how this will go. I prefer my livestock en masse.

We're also having 7 people around for dinner. And I can barely eat one, so there will some left for Percy ;-)