Sunday, June 30, 2013

Chicken on the Barbie

My darling wife was persauded into bringing home someone's pet rooster. As the elderly former owner was all torn up about him becoming coq au vin, arroz con pollo or even just plain old roast, he was kept seperate and in the old hen-coop (now the garlic and onion plantation) while negotiations to find a new home continued. We'd just found him the place where all good chickens go (not the pot, his name was Annie, not Jonathan Segal Chicken) and all he had to do was overnight and behave himself. Alas this too much of challenge, and he flew the coop... to roost (not roast) on that last relic of my South African heritage, the stainless steel braai (aka Barbie, the things you throw chimps onto) just outside Barbs study window. He was just sitting there (the H is silent) and crowing about his vast cleverness when I got up about half five - still rather dark.

I was not impressed, by the crowing or about his... sitting spot. In haste I left the house. (in the interest of public decency... well actually because there is no public for 2km around, cold, I had a pair of jeans on, a polar fleece and my slippers.) I grabbed a landing net and a handful of grain. By the time I got half way there the stupidness of doing this in slippers had come home to me - the grass was wet with a heavy dew. Cocky fellow eyes my approach net behind my back with trepidation and half open wings. So I hold out the handful of grain. Huh. He takes a peck. This not his morning bread! and leaps off onto the woodpile and bounds away across the garden, me in hot (well, actually cold and wet) pursuit.

He led me a merry dance, much encouraged by the pig (where is my breakfast! If you have to disturb me WHERE IS MY BREAKFAST and the dogs (still in my office, snoring until the comotion passed by. I managed to net the fowl fiend with a lucky scoop, transfer him to a cat-cage (from whence he was released to spoiling and three lovely young hens) and go in to lament my sodden slippers and not too dry self, let loose the hounds - who felt very deprived and feed the dratted pig before it flew the pen too. That would take more than a mere landing net.

We had our Scottish dance instructress's 99th birthday dance on Thursday night. Not a lot of people are still dancing at 99. Quite a shindig. She made us all dance.

I went off to catch snapper yesterday morning - no snapper (although the cats got cat fish, and we got a flathead) and limped home with the outboard being funny... nervy stuff.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

The frailty

I am a guy who likes to be doing stuff. I don't sit still well (so, logically I write) Maybe because as a kid I was just too sickly a lot of very early years to do much at all. I got better... and my body has never quite managed to be as tough as I'd like it, but life was for living, and yeah, skin and bone heal... roll on 50 and your body says ow! quite a lot, but I have lived, and done and experienced. And anyway this morning i got a pointed reminder that it doesn't help to live the cautious life. I'd been out since five, after wallaby, returned safe and sound from that, bounces, bounding over electric fences, bush and its obstacles and dangers, using dangerous tools... etc. and then I walked briskly to feed the pig - across the neatly trimmed lawn, and looking at the pig on her hind feet, had the most horrible fall I've had for ten years, putting my foot into a hole I knew was there and coming down really hard (and my helpful dogs rushed to my aid and started wolfing down pig-food while I lay there groaning. Pig was not pleased). I am now extremely sore, and my back, neck and forearm are cursing me. So is my head, and I feel really shaken up - from silly fall in my own garden.

Anyway, it just goes to show. You may as well go to sea, climb cliffs, go diving. At least when you break your neck in your own garden - or getting out of bed, you'll have lived a little first. Still, being sore does bring home just how much of the self-sufficiency stuff falls to my lot. Barbs does her bit, but it tends towards the less unusual. So I better try stay alive or who will get the tucker?

Going to take a pill and go to bed.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

underwater resistance training

Hmm. Well one of the reasons I have been having sore throats and feeling distinctly lack-lustre and getting low grade temps is now clear. A back left molar, long crowned and in theory root canalled but neatly hidden by bone on most xrays wasn't quite done properly, has been leaking gunge, and will have to come out... next month. It doesn't hurt or anything, but I am sure it is not doing me any good either. Oh well, onward.

Yesterday's dive was no more crayfish successful, but I did try the new spear gun and shot three sea-sweep around the 1kg mark, and bring home some abalone.
I was utterly exhausted partly I think from the cold - it was 13.3 c on the surface, and at ten metres you hit a thermocline with the water dropping off suddenly to 12. My 'winter suit' is 7mm long-john and a seperate 7mm hooded top, and is one of the Ab diver's cast offs. it was suspiciously new as a cast off - I think because it is very very stiff, and just a tiny bit tight for me (and I think my shoulders are slightly smaller than his)so moving - and breathing - are just a a constant effort. When you add ? 12 kg of lead weights and the drag of the air hose in the current - and swimming or trying to pull off abs, and in the shallow water where I am slightly positively bouyant, trying to stay down, and about 4 hours in the water, it's not that surprising that the old man feels his age by the time he gets home. Still I am sure all that cold water is good for something. Impure thoughts or something.

We had our first bulb-fennel for the winter tonight. I am still frantically trying to find places to plant garlic (and garlic bulbils) although it should be in by now. What is in is growing well. We had another nibble of frost last night and it finally got to the sweet-potato. I dug it up, but no sweet potatoes. I think it was just too cool.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Well, here's hoping the dive tomorrow is more successful than yesterday. The end of the Spiny Lobster season looms and I would dearly like a few more of them. The shortest day is past for us, and now the cold starts. it doesn't make a lot of sense but that is the way the East Australian current affects us - our seasons are a few months late. The moon is huge tonight, BTW. If you get a chance have a look.

Yesterday's dive took out to Inner sister Island off the North end of Flinders. We went around the back (north side) but it was far too rough - we had a maybe 3 metre wave try and peak on us, where the current and swell ran counter. A bit too interesting. Then we went to other side - the water was turbid, even where we found shelter - so we ran across to Flinders, along the Palana shore, where it was quieter and marginally cleaner. Marginally. I did have some interesting moments collecting abalone at the tail end of an enormous ray, who was doing a 'you can't see me' in the sand. I would have gone elsewhere, but those where the only decent size abalone I'd found and no crayfish, bar one small one. I didn't want a Steve Irwin event. There were also a school of dolphin that came idling through - straight over my friend Norm. He didn't notice! I saw the tail-fin first out of the corner of my eye and it frightened me out of a year's growth because I thought it was a shark. I also saw a shoal of salmon coming past at speed - perhaps the result of the dolphin.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

on bows and raffles

It's a crisp cold night out, and will be still in the morning. However it has been determined that the lemmings will only fling themselves into the sea on Saturday. So tomorrow, among the writing of words and the doing of various other chores, there will be a re-arranging of space so the snout of the blue ute (where it leaks) can get into the second carport, and Barb's car can get into the first one. This involves moving my gun-sighting table, so that had to be done today. I found the front mount was not as tight as it could be. It is now. If it has to come off it may be interesting. So: much hefting of stuff done today, and still more tomorrow. And then more later, because all of this is temporary measures. I like to put things and leave them be. If I enjoyed house moving I'd be a professional mover.

Oh, we on a raffle - Barbs takes tickets religiously (no not just on Sundays) and on the island winning is not merely very very improbable. We got some lovely lemons and honey out of it and some muttonbird oil ointment, and some nice cards, and a bottle of wine and other bits and bobs. Maybe I should buy a lotto ticket, only there are more than 700 people in those...

Barbs asked our local copper about hunting with bows - Only pigs and rabbits!(no rabbits here, TG) may be shot with a bow. Not even the other invasive animals and birds, or declared vermin. This comes under the 'nutty Tasmanian greenie rules' because maybe some other gung ho person wants to shoot something he may well not kill outright with a bow and prove themselves braver than thou, not me - wild pigs are dangerous and not easy to kill outright with an arrow (and I believe in that). Hell, Fairy would eat me if she had a chance. She took a nip at me this morning, and I feed her and scratch her. I am all for shooting the pigs, but at considerable range, with a decent calibre rifle. This is not a game (for me, anyway), its food, and they play havoc with the fairly fragile flora on Strzlecki.I'd say they'd be better for shooting the smaller animals which could not merely be wounded. Apparently you can get a licence to own a crossbow (which our friendly copper thought a great idea for her) - but seriously I think the arrows and quarrells would cost far more than bullets, aside from the legal issue and expense ofgetting it. So: While I thought it might be practical, if you could recover most of your arrows, it's not.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Rubber - speargun wishbones and other tyres.

Got new tyres ont Barbs's car - only justin if you ask me, and a great deal too late if you ask my friend Bill - still, it didn't burst, die, get her pulled up or leave her stuck at the roadside. In the process, I discovered the boot, which she seldom uses, leaks. There was a loch in the spare-tyre well, with several monsters. The medium term plan was for a car-port for the trailer and it, between the little house on the prairie, and our container to be. Now a shorter-term plan must be made. More moving stuff around... alas poor sinuses (I hate disturbing dust. It's not that I'm lazy).

I carefully took the speargun and rubber in to make my ingenious friends' days more trying - and forgot to take it out of the car while in town. Genius. Anyway, I sat down this evening and didit meself. I've tested it, and it works. Now I need to make a spare for the second speargun.

I went out at dusk last night to shoot a few wallaby for my friend who was helping me (well, I was ineptly helping him) with the tyres - he has two Irish wolfhound and they love bones. I must have bumped my sight slightly as the rifle was shooting dead straight, but a little low - so more re-sighting tomorrow :-( I like clean head shots. I think I must check the mounts themselves.

The new chooks are learning their trade, queue for the chookabago to move, and are laying - the eggs are little small still, but eggs are eggs. Bill said to me today that he has to prepare his garden for spring. I'm still trying to preare mine for autumn, and Norman is already getting Caulis out of his. I did get tomatoes about 3 days ago, but really, now they have to go. (I have actually got quite a lot in, but have let myself down with brocolli and cauliflowers).

Sunday, June 16, 2013

checking in - archery

The snow is passing as rain. It's miserable enought to make me wonder what I did with my summer wages, if I'd had any. I'm sure the top Strzlecki is coated in white stuff, as is Tasmania, and I don't mean dandruff or soap-powder.

We had a go at archery yesterday. My wife is very keen on it. I think I will stick to the .22 as an efficient way of gathering dinner (and I hit the target more often).

One of the only advantages to having your kids in foreign countries is you get their father's day best wishes too. I've never had those from ought but sons, and it's rather neat having daughters now :-)

Other than that it's been a not very constructive day's writing. I'm battling with focus right now. Oddly A Mankind Witch is selling (to me anyway) quite well on Kindle - 59 copies so far this month.

The Forlorn - on the other hand - has sold one copy.

I wish I had the least idea why - what I have done wrong with the latter or right with the former. These mysteries are too deep for me.

I made kebabs (or sosaties?) with some lamb skirt this evening -not the best cut for the job, but I parcooked the onions and interspaced it with dried apricots. Discovery: dried apricots keep the heat in vey well - much more than lamb. Do you think I deserve the Nobel prize (so long as it isn't for politics...)?

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Playing Possum...

We've got a nocturnal visitor coming in the kitty door to steal catfood and whatever else takes his fancy. I took a torch to the bedside table and when I heard a non-kitty type crunching (it is different, and it goes on longer) I tiptoed out of bed, torch in hand no firm plan in my fuzzy pate. Only I had a Robin to my Batman, a faithful sidekick. Well, actually I had a Batman (the cat) to my Batman act. I had stealthily clumped along from the bed in my usual sleepwear... like not much, and bare legs and feet as part of the bargain. But I had a torch... and a passage and three rooms to cross.

Batman had been outside and the only reason HE could see (or perhaps he was HELPING me - possum wrestling in a pair of baggy shorts might be up to my usual standard of dim-wittedness.) for me being out of bed was so he could warm his cold toes on my warm feet, by standing on them. First I nearly shrieked the house down, but swallowed that realising it was not an amorous possum, but a... darling cat, amorous pussum. Who assisted my possum-stalking in cat fashion, you know diving between your legs and trying to stand on my feet and climb up my (bare) legs. Possums must be stupider than rocks - or me - or stone deaf anyway, because it was still there when I turned the torch on. It ran one way - away from the kitty door and I nearly ran the other because it was freaking well fed on catfood - it looked the size of a short-legged staffie, and about as pleased as a staffie is to see another dog in its turf. Anyway I'd dropped my common sense when I fell over the cat, and so I hurtled into the fray... and fell over the cat, who thought this a great game with his possum... Fortunately, the possum decided I was some kind dangerous possum-molester, dressed like that, and left.

I blocked the kitty door and went to bed. Only had to get up twice to let cats -who wouldn't budge if it was open - out.

This morning however brought much joy in the land - our first egg from the new chooks. I went and dug up some cock-chafer larvae for them to reward them. Chickens regard these fat white grubs as the equivalent of fine swiss chocolate (yes, they are eating out of my hand).

This afternoon I cut another load of wood - winter is here, so naturally we get to doing what we should have had done before autumn. Fortunately it's still been very dry so I could drive to where I had found a downed she-oak (related South African readers to the casurina we got there on the beach.) It's hard heavy dense wood which makes very hot fires and burns long - apparently was very popular for firing in bakeries. There's a sort of hierarchy of woods for fires here - the island has probably a few million tons of dead trees (in among all the living ones. They die, and new ones grow, some from fires and some from wind uprooting them and some just seem to reach old age and die. Also they get cleared for roads and farm land. Trees are growing a little faster than they get cleared it seems to me.) She-oak is a bastard to cut, but worth it, then there are gums and gums and gums. Perhaps to the old hand dead gums are still easy to tell apart. To me the good hard ones are only identified by cutting them up. If you can't, then they will burn quite hot. There's macrocarpa, and pine and Cape Barren cypress (I think that's what it is called) and some stuff that has to be related to the proteas,?bottlebrush, which burns in seconds flat with no heat, and the paperbarks which are surprisingly good hard wood. And there's another skinny little thing that just about bounces saw blades... I have a lot to learn.

My rubbers arrived today... for the spear gun. Now all I have to do is figure how to get the string and its two bobbles into the hole in the middle of the rubber, and I'm home and dry... (well probably wet and at sea). The hole in the middle of the rubber is about 1.5mm. The bobble is about 7mm in diameter. Another fine mess you've got me into Freer! I think I will have to consult my friend Peter who is good at this sort of improbability.

And tonight I have a sturdy landing net AND the torch. Probably the cat-assistant too.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Choo choo train (he has a tender behind)

I am not sitting 'four-square upon my botty' (to quote a song I bet no one remembers - to everyone's relief) today, because I have a selection of bruises on my nether end.

We went to sea yesterday -

And did quite well - that's a 70 litre esky - big fish probably around 60 (between 3 of us)- which will feed us for a good long while. The day started well, and in the lee of Babel Island, sheltered by Cat Island and Storehouse Island - was calm and pleasant. BTW - if you click on the pics you can see them full size.

unfortunately, as it can, the weather deteriorated fairly fast, and the 5 Km run back was interesting - we came through the gap between Stellars point and Babel where the waves from opposite directions meet... (I wrote about it in Cuttlefish) which is shorter, but very bumpy, and... interesting. VERY short and peaking chop. We had a horrible chop the rest of the way back too, and a bloody miserable retrieve - we got stuck about 4 times, and the winch handle was... absent. A spanner is not an adequate substitute. Anyway, we have some fish to eat and trade for a few weeks. That's the key with self-sufficiency - you can't JUST do/catch enough for this meal, or when the weather turns terrible, you starve. We've got days of wind forecast, with rain, and it would be thin commons if not for the freezer, the pantry and veggies.

The days are getting very short dawn is around 7

and dusk not long after 5

We surely pay for those long summer days now. Still, the seasons turn and the joy is that night stuff (floundering, wallaby shooting) might be cold, but at least they can be at a reasonable time. When it gets dark at 9.30 and light at 4.30 even at the best tide doesn't see you home before midnight, and up at dawn - my norm - is... rather soon.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Friday, June 7, 2013

Mucking about in fountains

Well now, it's not the weather for this. But needs must when the devil drives - or the farm water supply spouts like underground whale (yes. I do write fantasy) in the middle of your boundary fence, it's time to go for a nice outdoor cold shower, with added wind and rain (we had 34 mm, not quite all of it landing in me). Poly pipe fittings under pressure, a foot deep in very cold water that need to lined up precisely to screw on are indeed a test manliness. I promise if you started certain that you were one, by the time you get them screwed on (and they have not responded to your putting the next join in by popping off again - which only happened 3 times, you will be a lot less certain of gender, and indeed possibly whether you still have hands. I SHOULD have put a wetsuit on, but you do feel it's only a pipe leak, and should be dealt with in a hurry, and haha, you won't get too wet, because you're practiced at this. Defensive memory and the last time was summer (and still wet-and-cold) that's what it is. I suppose it could have been dark too, so I should count my blessings. Still it was a long 35 minutes...

Still, I am sure a nice cold shower was good for me. I think I might give the chickens one, because they're still not laying eggs. Tomorrow's plan is to have a chocolate dipping stall for our Church fair type market thingy, and as it was my bright idea, I am going in with Barbs to offer people little bowls of chocolate fondue with dipping bits- dried fruit, buiscuits, crisps (yes) and various 'lollies' as sweets are called here. If you have a daughter or son with a beautiful party outfit and lovely hair, do bring them along for some wonderful getting covered in chocolate. From experience with my darling God-daughters some may even go in their mouths!

Then in the afternoon I am due to take part in some beef sausage making.

Life in the fast lane :-)

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

So if the Zombie apocalypse came tomorrow

I'd be very upset, because my kids and family are far off. But hell, we'd run out of coconut cream... then gradually various other things. But life here is much more sustainable than the Hebrides - where life continued on remote islands for years without much contact. And I have about 40 cans of coconut cream. Yes, all things run out, but we'd adapt, and there is plenty of food, and a lot of knowledge. Medicines would be the worst, as there is actually a finite limit to what you can cure with muttonbird oil. I wonder if it would do as a diesel substitute? Compared to a city it would be a holiday camp.

And anyway tonight's supper was a very very rich wallaby strips in a coconut cream sauce, and some of our 50kg of rice... and veg from the garden.

My tomatoes are nearly over... and my latest book came out yesterday. And that's all the news.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013


That were looking in the wrong place for Saddam's chemical warfare weapons of mass distruction. They're hiding in Bill's garden disguised as chillies. I can almost sit down now, thank you.

It's been a busy few days with writing and planting - a lot of garlic going in. Cloves and bulbils. Vampire wallaby will get nowhere around here... We have had some very mild weather, after a frosty start, and I'm still getting tomatoes, which is a bit of a PITA as I am reluctant to pull them out. We won't get (outside of greenhouse) again until January.

I've also been restocking and sorting the pantry with the stuff I brought over with Peter's container. 50 litres of cooking oil, 25kg of dog-rice, 20 kg of Jasmine for less woofy takers, and oats, and polenta, and tins of tomato (for when the frozen/dried runs out. I have my weaknesses. That and tins of coconut cream).

Actually the last trip into town was a perfect eg. of how the island works -I stopped at Norm's dropped off some biltong and dried apple, helped with some butchering and got some beef, I dropped wallaby bones with Bill for his large dogs, and emerged with some chillies and potatoes. Passed on some chillies (yes you spotted my mistake) and some Wallaby for another friend who was coming in the next day, to Peter, had a steak for lunch with him and passed on some lead to Jamie... got some cheap glasses Jamie had bought at Chicken Feed (a discount shop on the mainland) and sent him off with a TV Peter brought over for John, and a bunch of LED's John's going to put into a flounder light for us ... Helped load /shift fridges and solar panels and came home with my dry goods and a bunch of other lovely bits (another vice, yay! I need more vices! Yes, I do!)

:-) It's a bit like being in a permanent Amish barn-raising, at times. With Chillies.