Saturday, March 30, 2013

Krumhorns and other oddments.

Barbs went down to Lady Barron and heard all the excitement and drama of some boat being pushed against the reef and having a man overboard, and being pulled over the reef by the police boat... it's wil and wooly out there. I am very glad I was not running up Strzlecki mountain in in the flurries of rain and with intermittant moonlight. It's race for tough guys...

I've done some more words, more research into the fine arts of playing the Krumhorn, making traditional breads, coke (as in suff you make out of coal). And you thought a writer's life was dull.

I'm drying figs and more tomato. They are coming to an end... Winter creeps towards us.

We had a small wallaby inside the garden early this morning - I looked out the 'loo window at about 5 in bright moonlight -thereby solving my 'who is breaking this darn pipe' mystery, and a wild cat this afternoon. I just couldn't be sure it wasn't Batman. I'm afraid I want wild cats as little as I want wallaby breaking a pipe-join on its way into the garden. I was blaming the dogs.

Friday, March 29, 2013


We had some of our own melon (we have two, but they're not going to win any size prizes, either of them) with strips of wallaby biltong (in leiu of parma ham) as a snack with our Australian sherry (which has no flor yeast taste at all, so Barbs quite likes it. It's not a patch on a good Jerepigo, but these are things we leave behind. For now, anyway. If I live long enough, and make enough money for that place to put in the vines, I want to make some.) The melon was sweet, juicy and scented (it smelled just like melon) - and as we try not to buy veggies or fruit beyond the essential, like the capsicums that we've grown, they really get appreciated and savoured in their brief season.

The easter weather has turned to rubbish... well wind and rain. Good for hot coss buns and tea. And to be annoying the circling 'flu/cold/mysterious tropical disease seems to have come back. Grumble. I've been back from Zimbabwe two and a half months, and spent about a week not feeling average or very average - and most of that was in Melbourne. We've had a really hot late summer here, with some good weather, and I feel I haven't been able to capitalise on it much. If I'm not better by Tuesday, I think I'll go and pester our doctor.

Other than that, I have made some small headway with the story I am wrestling with. Barbs is going down to Lady Barron to have breakfast and see the three peaks racers but I will soldier on... I must say I don't envy the racers. It's not a fun night to be taking a sail-boat into the sounds.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

one a penny...

My day started quite early this morning, as I'd agreed to make 70 little hot cross buns for the Anglican church this morning. To have in Whitemark by 9.45...or 10 at the latest. Unfortunately it turned into one of those nights where the elements of plot I had fermenting in my head started to come together - not moment too soon for the story I am due to give Baen for the teaser to BURDENS OF THE DEAD. So sleep had been scarce anyway. But I did have their buns there hot enought to still juggle if you dropped them, in the rain at 10 on the nose. Then I forgot to pick up the Island News, did some shopping, and came home minced 4kg of wallaby forthe dogs, filleted and minced 2kg of wrasse for the cats, took the debris to the tip, put some beets into the dryer and... tried to work. Brain like cheese (Swiss), full of imported holes (they buy the hole in bulk from Kimberly). So I cooked our tea, flathead and chips, hoping fish would be brain food and take me into a productive evening... only I forgotten that it is Barbs's Scottish dancing tonight.
Maybe tomorrow will be better...

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Dog and Dragon, paperback

I believe - no one tells authors these things, what do they have to do with their books? and of what possible interest could it be to their readers and followers, after all? - that the Paperback launch of DOG & DRAGON was today. I believe Barnes and Noble and Simon and Schuster (who do a laughable -in the if I don't laugh I'm gonna cry sense job of distribution of my books for Baen) are having a 'how's-your-father' which means B&N have apparently reduced their order by 90% - only taking bestsellers. So: if you haven't got a copy, if you want a copy, or want to support a struggling author to the princely tune of 7.99 (yes, I will get 64 cents of that :-)) - please, it's available.

(that's a link, folks, if you click on the picture. I get almost just as much from you using that link to buy this (as well as any other Amazon products you happen to buy at the same time) as I do from my publisher. Also, I get it sooner.)

It's also there as an e-book. I'm not sure how much I'll be paid for that, but I am almost sure something.

The link however good for me :-)

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Surfing dolphins, albacore...

Surfing dolphins, Albacore, sharks coming up out of the depths... It was an interesting day at sea. And my tail end suitably bruised by the trip back, wich was a little lumpy. The dolphin were magnificent, surfing in our bow wave close enough to splash us. The Albacore (I am pretty sure they were juvenile Albacore, I saw low pectorals, but it could have been skipjack) were frustrating. They let us get close enough to see their little fat bodies, leaping, but wouldn't take anything we had to offer, and were inclinded to sound when we got too close. Any advice on how to catch them, much appreciated. Jamie caught and retured a number of small charcharinid sharks - 6-10 inch long with nasty teeth, in the days old category, and I got taken by a very big one that ate all my tackle (3 hooks) and swam off, leaving me with burned hands and no tackle. Then, later, one followed jamie's flathead up, but didn't take it. That is the first time in 3 years I've ever seen a shark. We did a steady but slow trade in flathead - 27 I think, and I seemed to be the prince of the few tiny fish we returned (I returned about 3, and a gurnard perch, I don't think Jamie got one small one - not my day)about 6kg of fillets, which at todays prices would be treat if we were to buy them - of course not happening. Then we had bumpy trip home and a tricky surf extraction. No disasters, but a few exciting moments.

And now to shower and bed. But on days like this it is easy to be happy and love the island life.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Last seen flying east, attached to a sheet of tin...

Our Scots folk singer last night was good - not great, but good. Sadly - for me - he sang his own compositions. I wanted some of the traditional melodies and songs. Still, it had me digging the Corries cd this morning.

Came back home just after lunch to find part of the new corrugated iron flapping in the breeze, of which there was a little... interesting time with ropes and some roof work in the breeze ensued. No lives were lost, and I was actually not last seen heading in the direction of New Zealand grimly clinging to a sheet of roofing tin. It came close though.

Everyone's apples are coming in, and, although we don't have any, a lot of kind folk have given us apples. It's te way it works here. I've been peeling coring and drying and must start making some apple pulp for pies soon. It makes a change from tomatoes. I always wondered why on earth people bought extra trays for the dehydrators - now I know. Summer glut.

I did a bit of a freezer clean-out / sort today - big chest freezers are good for keeping the cold in, and everything else too. I was amazed to discover some things buried near the bottom... more wallaby cut for biltong and a lot of wallaby shanks. So we're having wallaby shank and apple pie for tea.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Rain, wind and work.

I'm busy re-reading the galley proof of Burdens of the Dead, as I have to produce a short story for that universe in short order. I've just finishe MUCH FALL OF BLOOD which I enjoyed very much although the villian is a nasty piece of work. I hate knowing what she's going to do. It's odd re-reading your own work.

It's the weather for this sort of thing, windy, miserable, and flurries of rain. I don't think a lot in mm, but enough to allow the rain of the day before to sink in. Not much fun for doing anything outdoors, which is a good thing for me. We're off to listen to the Scottish folk singer tonight, and given the weather I wonder what sort of audience he'll have.

Friday, March 22, 2013

pushing forward

I continue - with various minor disasters - to wrestle with the new computer. It's kind of like 10 steps forward... 6 back, 2 left, 4 right, and a lurch 3 back... which still leaves you winning one step, but not quite where you thought you'd be. I have managed to crash the system 3 times today and it ties to come back as XP which is not working. Basically wanting to copy my pictures was a mistake, it can be done, but in very small bites, otherwise I give it indigestion and it barfs its cookies. Oh well, we get closer. I hope I can mamage to retrieve my places on google earth maps - it has all the bits from the various books set on earth, and also all the fishing and diving spots for the island. Oh well, we go on. I did get my pictures off the camera (directly off the SD card and not through the camera cable, or Nikon software) and Francis found me a translation site for my WP files. I had real epics getting Eric my map of byzantium for Burdens of the Dead, as the computer died twice in the process. Since has been fine. Maybe it just doesn't like or can't stand tin opal... ;-)

We've had rain and wind today, I have yet more gifts of apples to process, and I have done another batch of wallaby biltong. And I made wallaby Kate and Sidney pies for our tea. I must get back to Kate and Sidney puddings with suet pastry (steamed) and lots of thyme and maybe a few oysters (yes, they were used in this dish, because they were cheap - and it is rather nice.)

The chocolate dipping for the morrow has been cancelled, but we're still going to listen to Scottish folk singer in the evening. Great adventures for us rural types.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

A breakdown in transmission

"Earth to computer. Earth to computer. Earth to computer. Are you receiving me?"
"Earth to computer. Earth to computer. Earth to computer. Are you receiving me?"
faint crackle...
"Earth to computer. Earth to computer. Earth to computer. Come in Computer...?"
"... you. Can y... hear...crackle?"
Which is where I am now. I am getting some success. What I have ended up with, in my attempt to buy something cheap and basically functional it seems, is a @£$&6 generation before this gamers computer. ie, really good at playing games fast, and fast LAN, and great graphics, down and upload speeds - none of which I need in the least, and not much compatibility with my old stuff - my work and my pictures. It was cheap because game kiddies want the latest and best, not last week's latest and best, and no-one else wants the bell-and-whistles with the complexities that come with it (the instruction are full of stuff about how to overclock (I thought that meant too much overtime) and set temperatures etc. I don't understand 1/10 of it. No interest.) However for doing the basic necessities... I have the original discs for my camera, and for my word processing package... it doesn't want to talk to either (ie all my books, bar the last 2 -which are in Word), or my old outlook express with all my old addresses and messages. On the other hand at least it is now working, and can deal with the internet and new incoming messages, and I can write on it in Word. I'm hugely grateful to Mark for his help getting this far. Still, I feel like I'm climbing a hill to look at a view I really don't need to see.

I went to catch prawns at NE river the other night. Which was both successful and not... rather like computers or writing really. We did catch some. They were not very big, and it took us more or less 4 hours to catch 860 grams between two of us. I also made the personal acquaintance of a little scorpianid fish (a cousin of the gurnard perch, the soldier fish Gymnapistes marmoratus when Norm handed me a scoop net to empty. I thought it was a prawn and so did he. It wasn't, which I found out making the acquaintance of the venomous spines. It hurts like hades for around an hour and half. They seem very very very common in the seagrass and even over the sand. Foolishly I flung it at the water, not the sand. We did chase one jumping prawn onto the beach, which was quite satisfying.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Over the top and down again

So part of yesterday was devoted to taking kids climbing and abseiling. It's a very patient but very rewarding thing. Well, if you like abject terror on tiny faces ;-)... nah, seriously, for two of them it was very frightening and they required patience and sympathy and encouragement. But they did it and did it triumphantly by the time they reach the bottom, anyway, and that's what counts. Taking on that fear, and beating it, and, um having a good safety line, and a competent belayer with 30 years of experience helps. A flurry of rain stopped us doing the overhang abseil, which would have been more challenging. We got profusely thanked, but really, this is pay forward for the people that spent time and effort on teaching us. Besides the fist pump of "I did it" is pretty good reward for the guys who helped you do it too.

Alas the rain... we had a brief mill or two - just enough to make it very cold and wet up there... need more.

I shot a wallaby tonight, we're all out of dog tucker, and need more biltong, but it has been so hot, and really, I just haven't got 100% better, and have just been so tired the last while. Anyway, hopefully I am on the mend, and we have about 5kg of meat. I have that and tomato to deal with in the morning. Oh I made hot cross this morning to make up for my laziness with the mince pies.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Tomatoes and other plantish things

Well, eight days have come gone since Tammex with their promised 3 day delivery got my money. I guess that's a lesson to me. I hope anyone else buying software or anything else to do with computers reading this picks another company to save you from learning the same lesson. Posting my daily bit has been a lot more awkward as a result, which as it hasn't been the wild week of excitement is not the end of my world. I have cooked up 5kg of tomato pulp - call it 8kg to start with, as I got rid of the skins and the juice. Life's little lessons: grow bigger tomatoes. The Stupice have done very well and are a lovely tomato, but there are a lot of them in 1kg, to slit skin and seed. The roma shape ones I have are actually more rewarding because they've got a good pulp to seed ratio. They also dry beautifully, with a sweetness and tartness balance. Oddly the little rubbish-for-salad pear shaped yellow coctail tomatoes are next best. Their texture isn't great fresh, but they dry well. We're supposed to get rain today, and if it happens, I will have to get some winter planting done. The island's downside (which is also an upside) is that sitting in a great big radiator - the sea all around us, our temperatures are skewed - we warm up later, and cool off later. Unfortunately no-one told the day length or the solar input. So you have very confused plants and now in autumn when they ought be being hoiked out to make way for the winter planting summer crops limp on, producing - my zucchini - just enough that it worth keeping them on, despite the straggly plant taking too much space.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Am bitterly regretting the day I did business with Tammex. They're now saying Friday. So much for their three day delivery promise. If you do decide to buy any software, choose another company, any other company.

I thus had another frustrating day today. Anyway, more little bits got done. Hopefully tomorrow will be better. I have lots of tomatoes to process.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Short cuts

Make long delays... I was hoping to get a tow-bar and hitch, finally on the Blue Slug today. It's been a process that's been onging for about 6 months. I had found one on a wreck and with a lot of bad language and a hydraulic jack and a scissor jack and crowbar and a pipe extender, and a hacksaw blade in a gap too narrow for a hacksaw ripped it off its frozen bolts. Only it was too wide. No worries we will cut a section out of it, and Jamie will weld it together for me (my welding skills are of the porcupine variety, and his quite good. And I don't own a welder. One day... - a long way down the list.) Only... um somewhere down the line we lost 12 mm. I am innocent -although it could have normally been me, but I just cut on the marks. And now we need to put in 6mm each side, around the pipe that we're putting down the middle. And that needed a 'something else' welder to do well, and Jamie was out of gas. So the project is a bit further, but not there. Anyway, hopefully soon I will have a tow bar, get the electrics sorted, and the trailer I scavenged can go toward getting done. I found suitable 'mud-guards' - blue drum sections, I have LED lights, I have reflectors, I have to drill two holes in the tow hitch so I can put bolts and a safety chain onto it, then get the trailer registered and then all I need is a decent motor for the Zoo, and we're done with that project. It's been about 14 months, of scavenging and finding bits, and getting stuff done in spare moments. You can have cheap, or you can have fast, or you can have good... pick any two, but not three. The same is holding for the computer at the moment, where I have cheap and hopefully Okay if not good, but not fast. I'm not going to get my MS operating system bit from Tammex on Tuesday because they can't read. I did explain that Flinders Island has no to the door courier delivery, and asked them please to send Australia Post. Reading customer instructions is obviously too hard, so they sent me an e-mail - saying payment received as a header, same as the payment received one saying they need a street address. I didn't realize it wasn't the same e-mail and it took me a while to notice... and thus while I sent them the street address and a blistering rocket, I am sure they won't dispatch until Tuesday (Monday was a public holiday). Probably - because they don't seem too bright, by courier. Which means it will take longer.

We got three drops of rain today. I mean 3 drops. Shared equally across the island... the drought here is getting serious.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

On poisons, farming and nature

I was following an interesting blog discussion on 'Nature' and what it means to different people. The subject of farming and the sort of disdain farmers and those who work on the land or sea tend to get from city dwellers who probably never produced a grain of food themselves. Now farmers are not saints. There are plenty of cruel, stupid, shortsighted dimwits out there, wrecking the land, although less of them than commercial fishermen (it's your land. it's not your patch of sea. That tends to make mindsets quite different, when it comes to foresight and thinking of tomorrow). But there are farmers - and fishermen - and hunters who leave the land and the animals on it better off than they would be otherwise. And - and here is the crunch - everyone of those urbanites making comments about dumb farmers and squalling about how they shouldn't do this or that would starve in a week and their city would start to die in two days without those farmers. I know the island could do without them for months, and would never starve, although we'd miss some of the things we get. I am also sure that given a choice of lets say mulesing sheep or going hungry, or not having the money to stay in their home, 99% of the squalling mass would do precisely what those 'cruel' and 'nasty' farmers do. And if they had a choice of take all the fish today, or leave them for Fred to take all of tomorrow, I know what most of them would do.

I try to live sensibly and sustainably, take what we need and not waste. Leave the land a bit richer than when we started. But I know what it means to sweat and work for a crop that you desperately need to feed yourself and family and how 'I won't use pesticides' becomes a stupid idea when it means you will merely fill a bug/mouse's belly instead. I know that in 2015 they will stop the poisoning of wallaby. I know one of my farmer friends - and he is one of the saints of farming - who looks on this with despair. He's spent a fortune on fencing, and tried every passive means he can to keep them out of his pasture. The wombats make holes. Wombats are protected. He hates the poisoning - but... he has a mortgage and a family. The alternative is shooting -and that means many hours and 1500 kills - with poisoning every third year. Rat and mouse poison are nastier... but people in town have rats and mice. You can't ban those.

Yet they've put a stop to it in some cozy office, just as they have to fruitfly poison. And the consequences they will not bear, but food will come from some other country where the poisons are cheerfully used. I doubt if it's going to make 'nature' here any better, and I suspect more people will leave the land and go to the cities, and farms will get bigger, more automated... and probably more destructive. You can't apply local knowledge and exceptions to massive projects, and bulldozer will destroy thing a bloke with a spade leaves alone.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

On nothing much in particular

We had a trial chocolate dipping (we're going to do this at the fair on the 23rd) and I hope this is not too avante garde for the island. My word it is rich. I dug out the pastis this evening, and we had spiny lobster claws and legs and cold milky-coloured anise scented drinks for an evening sun-downer, before our tea, which was rather nice, if quite decadent for us. It's the heat. It's addling my brain. I'm still coughing a bit so my normal cure for hot - cold water - was not applied. I did some weeding, and some pipe repairs, and did not do the other important stuff that needs doing - more dehydrating and more cooking tomato. Work puttered slowly -re-reading Heirs books in the heat, swearing at the terrible proofing in the last one (needed doing while I was in Zimbabwe - I asked the rest of them to do it. I regret that, but I am sick of doing almost all the work for less than 1/4 of the money. I will not be doing any more books under those terms.) Anyway, tomorrow we do the chocolate for the rest of the folk involved in the stall as a further trial.

I need to shoot some wallaby for dog tucker, but the heat is a problem.

Friday, March 8, 2013

The disadvanges of losing weight

The disadvantages of losing weight are less frequently discussed than the advantages. That's because the advanges don't include nearly drowning yourself, or your pants falling down in public places. I was not feeling too great yesterday, but it was one of the picture perfect Flinders days that makes everyone believe it is always like ths and you ought to live here. The Lemmings (Jamie, Norman, and I) were soon rushing seawards. I put my dive gear in, principally knowing Norman would dive, and Jamie might not. And I don't like diving alone or them doing so. Anyway, Norm couldn't and I managed to leave my BC's behind. And we were a few crays short. So sucker no 1 had a try anyway. And used Jamies BC - it doesn't work says he. Well, not good, but the water is only 5-6 meters, and I have my weightbelt so nicely adjusted so at that sort of depth I am about neutrally bouyant, a flick of the fins and you're rising, and you have to slow yourself to not go too fast. (yes, the theory is to keep yourself heavy and use a BC) I don't like it, too many years snorkeling. And I went down...Only I've been sick for a bit, not eating much and working in a hot container before that... I must have lost a bit of body fat, and I was definitely too heavy. Still, shallow water - only just off the edge of the reef at about 12 meters was a big hole with 2 crays in it. Couldn't get the little one, but the big one... I was wrestling with. Jamie's reg said I had enough air, but it lied. Well, or I used it fast, but seriously the needle seems to be jumping around - when I got up jamie said it had been jumping between 50 and 10 on his breaths. I usually cut and run at 50 bar, and I had had 60 when I started on the cray. Plenty - I wasn't in a hole, or cave, and it wasn't that hard to get out... Anyway, I realized it wasn't that accurate when the airflow was just a little tight as I hauled the cray out. I grabbed my spear and started swimming up. And the extra few kilos of floaty fat were not there to help. And no BC or air for it either. Now you don't want to come up too fast and I still had a little air - maybe 10 breaths keep calm, but it was a lot harder work than i would choose. It ran dry about 2 meters from the surface, I spat the mouthpiece and exhaled (which doesn't help you rise, but does stop your lungs bursting) swimming up. Breathe!! and the downside of the weightbelt and losing that cuddly fat were with me, hands full of 3.5 Kg of extra weight of cray, a kilo of fish, and spear. Choices - drop weightbelt, drop cray drop spear - or tread water hard and yell for help. It's very undignified, but that way I got to keep the cray, the belt and spear. I could breathe to yell, and wasn't breathing water. And I have taken one weight off and will not dive with Jamie's rig again. (turns out BC DOES work, just not well, so I could have inflated it by mouth coming up or on the surface - if I could have taken hands off cray and spear.) Anyway, all's well that ends well, and no harm done. I daresay I'll get fatter again, and battle to get under.

On the computer problem front - it appears it is my computer and windows that are fried. The hard-drive tests out Ok. Unfortunately the windows won't restore. So Microsoft is getting some more money from me :-(. not right as far as I am concerned. I have no issues with using old software I've paid for already, but it doesn't seem to like the new box. Anyway, hopefully normal service will be restored soon. I am very behind with the work.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

i suppose the positive thing about this heat is that I'm not somewhere in the middle of Australia, where it has to he hotter. The negative is that I am not swimming. It is baking. I did ours earlier, and I am glad of having it out of the way. We had our writers group here today, and it produced the usual very varied crop - it's been fascinating to see how they've all come on since they got going. Tonight is RSL, and i hope the bits for my computer.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Back i hope

It's been a rather long delay as I got back sicker than a surgery waiting room on a Monday morning, and then to add insult to injury, to a fried computer. With snot, feeling like a horse had kicked every rib and coughing gunge, life seemed quite hard. And then the cramps and runs to the point where i was expecting my tonsils in the toilet bowl. Fortunately that didn't happen as I had them out when I was about 10, so it would have been quite mysterious. So much of the week has been trying to recover, and sort the issues with body and computer...and failing at both. I've been working rather inneffectually on Barbs computer - have my hard-drive out and ready for testing in another machine but I need a power plug to deal with my rather newer hard-drive fittings. James hopefully sent me one or there will be cursing and muttering. Not, of course, that there has been a cross word up to now.

We had a rat outbreak in the one veggie patch and I lost a good half the beetroot. The rest has been hastily pickled. I've been drying pears, and more tomatoes. Our veggies prove that in future I will NOT be available to go away from about October to March! Yes, we're doing OK, but it should be 3-4 times as well, as I've been away for about a month in quite crucial times - Well, the kids wanted us there and i had to do that, and Peter is a solid friend - but can they need us winter next time! Note to children - plan grandkids for mid-year. So much nicer for birthday presents and also my garden.

I did go off to be boat-boy for Norm, and spent the day on deck feeling unwell while he dived. The deck got lower and lower, and it was not with the weight of my spirits, but as we discovered, that the underdeck was flooded - one of the bolts from the transducer had come adrift and it was leaking - we must have had 200 litres of water aboard. Not an issue in a Zodiac, but it did make it heavy and hard to handle in the landing which as it has no winch and has to be driven up onto the trailer, can be very interesting in a cross-current. It's even more interesting when Norm is driving and I am trying to aim the boat... hauling like mad and getting nowhere... "You're in @%$# reverse!" Heh. Then it was easier. It could have been worse. I could have been doing it.

Harvested some tatties today. They're pretty good, but I will need a bigger patch. I think we'll only get about 20 kgs which is a long way short of what we need. But it's more than I've had in the past :-).