Wednesday, December 30, 2009

last day

Well here we are on our last day in South Africa for a while. I have booked the kids flights out to visit us in July, so I feel much better. Not quite so much as if I am deserting my children! They are travelling over with us now, and then come back for Varsity.

We are sorting weights and suitcases and then going out to lunch pretending that this is a normal day, and not the last we will be together with our good friends for a while.

I feel totally numb at the moment, I just hope it lasts until we actually take off!!

The time has come...

The walrus said, to speak of many things" -- principally of leaving, still nervous of some last minute disaster, but we're flying out this evening, and the excitement is beginning to build up.
Australia here we come. Next stop Perth, then Melbourne at 23.15 andd then Hobart in the morning of new year's day.

Wish us luck as you wave us goodbye, South Africa.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

To the power of four

Paddy came back to us from Clare, Malawi and the mis-adventures on Mt Malange, (where one hikes with porters and guides... unless you're Paddy who carried own pack, thank you very much.
Carl dropped us here with Pete in Pretoria. That has hard as my brother was also my crayfish diving partner(as well as a lot of other things). Natal reef-crawling as we did (the crays here live in the break zone was a high risk passtime, and your buddy is really your lifeline. You don't do it well without a high level of trust and co-operation. People you can do this with are rare. So here at Pete's place we have been educating James in the fine art of being a plaything for a pair of little precocious, blond, ultra-bright girls - my Godchildren. Tch. he needs to work on his stamina. He told me I would be waiting a long time for those grandchildren. I think - besides the suitcase weighing and balancing act we're nearing ready.

leaving KZN

Well, the next stage in our drawn out departure today. We leave Kwa-Zulu Natal – the province I was born in and have lived most of my life in, where the family rock came from (remember thhe family rock) and where most of our family and friends still live. We went to Gnomie's wake yesterday, (the brother of one of the infamous lemmings (Carl, Brian Shuttleworth and myself – who at the least sign from any other lemming would hurtle to sea and plunge into it, or possibly fling ourselves collectively at cliffs -- diving and climbing partners). Gnomie lived life, diving, climbing, ski-ing laughing... He didn't just pass through it. Cheers. Half the Mountain Club and half the Durban Underwater Club were there, dragged in from all over, people I haven't seen for years. Ach, we'll have to set up a dying roster so we get see each other more often. And I got to watch a certain woman put her pet budgie in her handbag, where it did not wish to go. It expressed this sentiment in the same way pigeons express their fondness of statues. I hope she looks at her cell-phone before putting it to her ear.

Anyway, now it's farewell to Blue and Magic (Great Dane and black cat I have using as surrogates for Roly Puggles and Wensie, and Duchie, Bat and Robin...) it's nice to be abused by a cat again. And farewell to Carl and Gail and my nephew and neice. Sigh. At least there is skype and e-mail – which I wish I had for the dogs and cats.

Sunday, December 27, 2009


Now when it comes to sea-food I'll be the first to admit I'm quite picky. Not that I won't eat trawled frozen hake, or hold up my nose at people who like fish fingers, but if I have a choice I prefer to have caught it myself. I've worked on commercial trawlers as fisheries scientist. There are actually some aspects – the gutting and gilling soon after catch, and the rapid chilling/freezing – that they do better. But one thing no bloke with a rod and line does is to drop 30 tons of fish on top of your fish dinner. I've run fish farms (or rather they ran me -intensive fish farming is a mug's game which makes avoiding the normal 99% mortalitiy in the wild something you have to help the fishies avoid, mostly by constant watching and rapid response. Anyone who tells you it's an easy way to make a fortune and needs no skills or training is a snake-oil salesman. You're better off on a street corner with a butchers knife in one hand and a cardboard sign saying ' Cheap Brane Sergiry' in the other.)

Anyway I seem to have wandered away from what I was going to write about, which was the prawns we cooked last night. They were farmed prawns (shrimp? In the US and it would appear sometimes in Oz -when?) which was where the thread started. Like shellfish, prawns are one of the more sensible aquaculture targets, because they naturally occur in high denisties, grow fast and sell for a good price. And if the farmed ones aren't as tasty as the wild ones, they're at least affordable if not cheap. We had a few kilos of them last night with my brother. He uses a small sharp knife to butterfly 2/3 of the way up the tail. I've always used small scissors to cut down the back, de-vein and open up the shell a little. Carl has always just deep fried in a wok on high heat from there, and serve with garlic butter. I like to marianate them first. Last night I used soy sauce, pink port, crushed garlic, and a fair amount of fresh sliced ginger. The trick is to get the mix under the shell – which is why I loosen the shells a little. I also like to deep fry them – but in Spillers peri-peri oil (sunflower oil infused with chilli). We did a batch each way (all in a mix of peri-peri oil and straight sunflower).

The unanimous result was deathly silence and a lot of gorging. (Dinner-time conversation is something polite society hostesses want. Cooks... we want the sound of chewing, with interruptions for serious matters like 'pass the garlic butter'.)

My concluslion is that butterflying Carl's way is worth doing, and for appearance, his prawns looked better -perlescent pink and white, whereas mine were stained with soy sauce. But marianaded ones – with the subtle zing of ginger and a bit of saltiness from the soy to contrast the sweetness of the prawns, I thought was a winner.

Still needs more work though.

staying out of the kitchen

Well here I am manfully making my way through another slab of home-made ginger-loaf and a cuppa. No one appreciates the enormous sacrifices I make to avoid lacerating the cook's delicate sensibilities. But I will soldier manfully on, even through the mountain of prawns fried in piri-piri oil that I will be forced to devour tonight. Poor me... ;-). Going from my sister who won't boil an egg if she can avoid cooking, to my bruv – who likes to cook nearly as much as I do, is hard on the waistline. I'm feeling a desperate need for exercise I won't get for a few days. My brother, more by accident than design has ended up with his own pub and restaurant 68 on Main – where I spent the morning. In theory anyway I was going to absorb grist for my mill (a writer always needs to know more, and as a writer who loves to cook, doubly so.) In practice I mostly stayed out of the kitchen. It was fairly busy and the last thing they needed was another person there. So I worked on my waistline, which doesn't need help. James has gone up to the 'berg with his cousin and Marcus – where after their early start (read dawn-for-a-19-year old – ie. 9 AM (picture teenager making sign of a cross and backing away fearfully)) they got there in time for the mid-day thunderstorm. The first 8 hours (since dawn) had been hot and perfect, but these seldom last in our mountains in summer. The wind and rain came along just in time to greet them.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Christmas in Howick

It's Christmas day and we're up in Howick which is delightfully cool and damp today – A delight as the Freer's have Yorkshire style cold weather Christmas dinner. You know, the stuff to stuff that'll stick to your ribs (and your waistline) and insulate you against winter's freezy breezes. Yeah just great when it's 35 degrees Celcius in the shade and your eyeballs are gently steaming in the sun. Tradition I guess, imported lock-stock-and-pickle barrel from 'home' to make it seem a little more familiar here in Africa. The whole family gathered with the exception of Paddy who is up in Malawi with GF's family (“He's gone. Stapled, sealed, nailed to the floor,” as George said with a sad roll of eyes when he heard this. Grin. She climbs and reads. And doesn't do the clothes and shoe-shopping bit. When I found a lass like that I didn't even let being taken to the farm and meeting 50 (and I mean 50) rellies put me off.) As usual Carl and I cooked, but KC did a little 7 litre trifle and B made brandy butter. Bad puns, good wine, too much hot rich food...

I swear next year we'll breaak from tradition and do warm-weather food. But as it probably won't be the mob we'll probably do tradition yet again for the same reasons it got imported to Africa. It's a time that we become aware of family and place.

Mind you -- I draw the line at boxing day slices of Christmas pudding , dusted liberally with sugar and fried in butter for breakfast – unless we have snow on Flinders.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Van Deiman's Land

"Van Deiman's Land is hell on a man, to live out his whole life in slavery... (Christy Moore, Back home in Derry)
My son took me to the Blarney Brothers concert last night as a belated but much appreciated Birthday or early Christmas present. Mostly they play cheerful variety of pub Irish folk music (although they did do 'Jerusalem' (not the Corries version - 'last night I borrowed a full dress suit, to go to a full-dress ball, the trousers were too large for me, the jacket was too small, I cut 3 feet off the trouser-leg, and then I tried it out... and I walked across the floor... you could hear the people shout: "You're losing them, YOU'RE LOSING THEM...")

Still, in the odd sideways and roundabout way my mind works, I got to thinking about the transported convicts - many Irish and Scots, some criminals by our modern standards, some victims of circumstance and a social system that was largely non-existent, and some political prisoners, seeking to break free of a repressive system. And Tassie - green, fertile, well-watered Tasmania was the place for the worst. And they found it -- besides harsh gaolers -- tough to survive. Escape? you'd likely starve (or turn cannibal). A far call from our 'pampered' -- by comparison -- move. Still it does seem that if there is an easy way and a hard way to do things, we'll pick 'hard' everytime, even blindfolded. yesterday we took the McGyver crates with dive gear, tents, climbing gear, to be airfreighted... today we had to go back. because the crates were too heavy - not for Australia, but for Hobart. So now 8kgs of stuff needs to get into our luggage or stay behind. Fun... The bank called saying things were sorted there... and B's been there for several hours. Our dinner plans - a chicken deboned and stuffed with a tongue cooked in red wine had to have a radical re-think. Our departure from Howick is now one day later -just in time to pick up Pads - as we have a Wake to go to. And so we muddle on... Still I hope we find Tassie more bountiful than those convicts did and don't imitate the many shipwrecked early sailors here -who starved to death in the midst of plenty that they didn't recognise.
"And a rebel I came, and I'm still the same, though my comrades ghosts march beside me."
Here's to us, and here's to memory of the Ghosts on the land. May you all have a joyous Christmas - it must just about be there now. And I must go and see to the choc-based pecan nut pie.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

2 more coast days.

We are down to our last 2 days at the coast, and I can honestly say we have not been near the beach yet! We have spent all our time eating, shopping and swimming in a pool. Organising all the things we want to take with us has been interesting. We bought a plastic crate to put everything we couldn't fit in our luggage in. And then bought a second one, I am not sure we should not have got a third, but we will have to just edit as we go, we have too many belongings anyway.

More goodbyes are in the pipeline for today, with some really good friends, andthe last of the Christmas shopping. Dave also needs to get food for the 2 Christmas dinners he is cooking. No the menus are not decided yet. Watch this space and prepare to salivate!

way oh a-weigh

Today was B's birthday, which we celebrated in exemplary fashion... if by that you mean swimming, 500 metres again, and tent scrubbing and packing and weighing all our stuff (and us)and um... going to buy another McGyver crate, cause we don't fit.
But in another sense it was a real milestone day with us finally getting our Ferry booking to the island. We used Skype Out and the sound quality was great -like chatting to someone across the room - which is a little bizarre when this person has a strong Australian accent. We... made her day I think. Barbs starts with "I'm calling from South Africa... which was probably not your everyday sheep-and-cattle move call. "We're a freight company, we don't take passengers."
"Yes, we know, we want to take a, um, whatchallit, ute to the island."
"Oh. well it'll be 800 and something return." Barbs: "We don't want return tickets."
Kindly woman speaks slowly (you know, as if to South Africans)"You do need a return..."
Barbs: "We're moving to the island. We're going to live there."
(moment of stunned silence, followed by a snort of laughter hastily contained. "That'll be quite a change for you."
Heh. It will be. By the time we had explained that we couldn't give her a length for the Ute because we hadn't bought it yet, and that while we could give her our phone number, calling it would cost her rather a lot, she was sounding as if she was going to say 'curiouser and curiouser' in an Alice tone. She was laughing as she put down the 'phone ;-). Australia it seems, plainly lacks sufficient loony South Africans, a task I will manfully undertake or you for 4 years (after that you will have make do with loony ex-South African new Australians.)
We'll be sailing from Lonnie not Bridport on the 13th.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009


Sunday we had a huge farewell tea with Bentley clan, with almost enough mince pies for Martin and James. Martin is good lad, and has come out well in spite of a near lifetime of associating with us. Today was bank (who are full of, ), and getting dive masks (I'm down to 1 by now – byproduct of diving in a washing-machine sea) and cases and a big plastic crate for shipping our unaccompanied baggage, and a couple more suitcases. I am now the proud possesor of a spiderman handluggage bag (it was cheap. And besides, why not). After all a man who managed a 500 metres swim should have spiderman handluggage I think.

Monday, December 21, 2009

omelette du fromage (cheese and chooks)

Well, I am more or less recovered from cheese and chicken mayhem and B being sick on Friday night. Had her in extreme discomfort and me (watching her, and worrying) trying for the underslept and braindead championships. Yeah, I know, I'm winning anyway. She seems fine now. So let me recap in more detail some of the bits I might want to remember.

Ok cheese – I am very fond of cheese (and spare me the man or a mouse comment ;-). I already know I am a rodent – or at least an ex-rhodent). About the only Australian product we didn't wax lyrical about was the cheese – there probably are good ones, but our small selection of the soft-ripening French-style ones (brie-camenbert sort of thing) consisted of the dull cardboard brick variety. Very useful for cardboard brick houses, not much of a positive addition to a slice of bread. I guess if that is what you are used to, you might like it. I've been told that there are some good Aus cheeses (some from King island I believe), but I need to win the lottery or at least do something more lucrative than write. Ergo – the thought – why can't we make our own? After all, Etruscsan peasants were doing it tens of centuries ago, even before the internet.

Hmm. I am now filled with new respect for those Etruscan peasants and had not been aware that digital watches and thermometers had been around so long. Warm curds (after the addition of rennet and culture-stuff you buy from little boutiques at opera houses and art galleries -- which explains all sorts of things – or if you want to be dull you can buy them freeze dried from the internet. I don't know what those poor Etruscans did.) have the texture of slightly glutinous black dam mud and feels much the same if a different colour. And warm. That creeped me out a bit. I kept expecting leeches. You then cut the curd to help the wey get away. There is way to much wey, and you weight it to waste awey... ahem. Anywey... anyway moving on. What struck me is how similar the early stages of this process are and how varied the end result. And how DULL the stuff in the middle part tastes. Oh and that Cheddar comes from a bloke near Bristol tossing his slabs of off milk into the gorge, and the furious bloke at the bottom hauling it out and tossing it back at him. Ok I made that bit up, but cheddaring is an amazingly labourious process of slapping slabs of curd on top of each other, and then hauling the bottom bit up and putting it on top. Etruscan peasants might have made cheese, but it has become quite precise and requires a lot of attention. Still, I reckon a decent camenbert style cheese is do-able, and Feta too. Don't know about the hard cheeses.

I battled a little (ok a lot) with with the chicken killing. “Pull the neck down and then up...”
Ok so we're doing neck yo-yo. And it's not happening. Bergen stepped in because we're both firm believers in quick clean merciful livestock killing. I will leave to your sordid imaginations the chicken drawing (it's where the cheese culture for art galleries comes from, maybe) except to say that violating a still warm dead chicken's tail end is over-rated. But I can do it. Might have to get an elephant gun for the killing though. As for plucking – is there a Mexican hairless equivalent of chicken? A lot more pragmatic information about chooks, roosters, breeds, and broody hens (look a bit like Lord Byron) which I will probably wish I could remember came my way. I fancy English game hens, I think.

Anyway I got my own back on Bergen with the de-boning (less than usual, he's handy) and we had lunch beside stalag bunny, where we learned to sex ducks by their quacks and curly tails, and how to tell when a chook was going to lay an egg.
B: “is that chicken all right? The one over there, cackling.”
C: “She's fine. Just getting ready to lay an egg.”
D: So that translates out of chicken to ' Give me an epidural, NOW!'
C: 'Medic! You should hear when there's a bunch of them laying. They all get in on the act, encouraging each other. 'Push Muriel, push!'
I wonder if they compare egg sizes?

Sunday, December 20, 2009

The Midlands said 'goodbye' in style.

We had a truly fantastic evenings fishing at a remote dam, in a beautiful green valley, with buck and herons looking on. Then took the first step towards cheesemaking, which is a LOT more time consuming than I thought. But looked possible with determination and a much patience.

We moved onto meat, and had a lesson in butchering chickens, which also included plucking and Dave retaliated with a lesson in how to debone one. Wow, I might get that right in a year or two.

Having had really wonderful weather in the midlands we are now back in drizzling Durban and have to finish off the tents. I just presumed the weather would stay fine for us to do the second half, so we may need a rethink.

The next task is to work out how much we need to send as unaccompanied baggage, and to get it dry, and then sort what suitcases we have, and what we need to buy. It really feels like this the final stage, the last push. Just 11 days and we are off. Suddenly we seem to have lots to do, and no time to do it in. And all the rest of the world just wants to get ready for the holidays!!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

say Cheese

Today we made cheese. Well, started... but learned a lot -incuding how icky cheese curds feel...;-) Reminds me of that glutinous claying swamp mud, only white. And yesterday B caught 3 Bass on as perfect an evening as the Natal midlands has ever seen. Tomorrow we go a chicken-murdering. I'll update it all when we're back at my sister's place. We're staying at Craig and Gaynor's place, which is quiet, beautiful and dark. Good hosts ad great friends, lots of fur-kids... it's this that makes leaving hard.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

The trouser lizard

Well Gecko anyway. My sister's place is well-populated with rather inefficient geckos (inefficient, like they are not keeping up with the mosquito overpopulation) They're translucent pink slightly googly eyed plump beasties with remarkable wall-and-ceiling climbing ability and even more remarkable falling off the ceiling into dessert ability.

We left the farm in the torrential rain, and therefore in the chaos of packing up have some things which were best abandoned including a pair of trews which have the distressing habit of falling off, possibly at the dire shame of a couple of holes in the bum. They got tossed in a throw-out/rags bag when we got here. Perfect for the wet and soapy task of tent scrubbing I thought...
With my mind on other things I pulled them on... only to find I was sharing my trousers with a previous occu-pant - The Gecko wasn't much happier than I was at this situation.

I went straight up vertically with a dulcet cry and absolutely no foul language.

Unfortunately so did the gecko. (Not sure what it said, don't speak much gecko). The Gecko hastily tried to run the other way -- unfortunately I too was inverted on bed trying to remove said trousers. Trousers which normally descend with no viable excuse are being stubborn. Best reason for kilt wearing I have come across for years. Anyway frantic all-round scrabbling - with funny little feet running all over bits on which feet are not welcome, results in a 3 way split. Lizard, me and trousers in different corners of the room. Gecko with baleful googly eye stare dives behind some books, doubtless on his way to the ceiling to drop a token his appreciation on the bed. I gather myself and put on the trews... a twitching gecko tail slowly cascades down my leg.

The tent scrubbing was less of an epic than we expected, with the only exciting bit being me attempting to use a watering can to was soap off the dirty spot I'd given a second scrubbing to. Ugly scenes ensued when rugged-I'm-not-afraid-of-creepy-crawlies Dave had no water come out the spout - then a wet Gecko plopped onto the tent, hurtled across my foot (and thank heavens not up my leg) to go and write a fairly harsh letter to the gecko and allied trades union. I have no idea how I came to be 10 yards away from the scene.

I would like to inform the powers that be that I really do not need any more close encounters of the extra gecko kind in my trousers. I am quite happy with the status quo.
I can haz international driver's license! The truimph of sheer bloody-minded determination over circumstances!

It was actually embarrassingly not the life-or-death hardship mission.I had psyched myself into a 20km walk in sun... The Servo lent me a car, (a beemwobbleyou yet - me. How will my image survive this?;-)) The traffic police were efficient and pleasant - I returned the vehicle, walked to the fly fishing place in search of yellow polaroids (a fail - but rose tinted glasses are so dull - heh, they're great for driving in mist.) and then Chantelle (the rabbit warder from Stalag-bunny) took me out to our writer's group's final Christmas dinner (and the the next episode of Big Bobby the Fonzie) and the saga of Stalag-bunny and the Police Howick police (which was what I expected out of Mooi's traffic dept. SA is weird like this. Just when you expect incompetance... you find yourself dealing with efficient people. And then you have the others. Anyway, I got back in the dark and Durban's drivers made the place as welcoming as the mozzies and the stinking hot night did. I put on mosquito repellent with a trowel - and the mozzies rubbed their stripy legs together in slavering drooling delight and in a high-pitched squeal of glee yelled "barbecue sauce, our favourite!"

I didn't have to swim today - I kind of bounced off the chlorine on the itchy spots, but we still managed some of the steps forward -- I got my international drivers (which we'll need for oh... 4 maybe 5 days) and then failed dismally to find cooking chocolate for choc-based pecan-nit pie. (Some people may view this as a step back.)

We did some more tent-washing. It's a complicated African ritual involving a small bucket, 2 people and a lot of dancing around a washing line. The falling cursing and getting wet are optional, but it brought in the clouds. It's nearly as good as cricket at rainmaking. B was doing this on her own yesterday - which proves that she has had more than one lapse of sanity in which she married me. Normally she's clever one with common sense.

Hopefully the kids medical Aid (I detest my present crowd -Discovery - about whom I have made a discovery - something about squirming) is sorted, and we have a hire car for Hobart too I hope...

Oh and James managed to eat some supper - Spag bol, which he says is a lot more satisfying to the twenty year old tum than jelly and cursed-tart

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Tents and Tending

Dave has gone off to the KZN midlands for the day, with few plans, many tasks and my cellphone with all the numbers and call time in order to make it all happen. He phoned me on his phone to say he had arrived safely, but his battery died before he could finish talking. I have now recharged his phone, and I wait with baited breath for his next call, to hear how much he can manage to do in one day while the car is serviced. The places he needs to go are up to 20kms apart, and there is no public transport! It also includes sorting his drivers licence, which is enough to try the patience of a saint on any day.

James, our toothless son, (well 4 less than yesterday anyway), has survived the night, and can now talk normally while only opening his mouth halfway. This is a huge improvement on yesterdays sign language. Yes, I am quite good at charades but his signs were not always clear, apart from NOOOO!

The sun has come out in Durban at last, so my plan for the day is to start washing 2 big 5 sleeper tents. I will start with the fly sheets and see how it goes from there. The plan was to do it while all 4 of us were here, but it rained or drizzled the whole time. So I will give it a go on my own, it should get up to 31C here today so they should dry alright.
Well, another day spent in hospital - but we're home and mostly OK - James is less 4 wisdom teeth, and has a sore throat and mouth and jaw. We did go and swim early and I mananaged another 100 metres or so. I must get back to at least half a km before we go. I'd like to do a km or more again, but time and opportunities are few.
I'm supposed to ttake the little car up to Notts for servicing, get my license and go to our final writers circle - and keep an eye on my boy. So we'll see.
There is still cheese making and rabbit and chicken slaughter planned.

Monday, December 14, 2009

We went swimming at the local municipal pool this morning - I did 200 metres and was dead-beat - to my shame. (B also did 200 metres and wasn't even breathing hard, but said she was tired. She's nice to me.) I got up to doing 1.6km in a session last summer so 200 metres is a big come down, and is barely safe if I am swimming in pursuit of crays. Fins and a wetsuit make a difference of course. Being city-bound now and my sister doesn't grow any food in her little garden beyond lemons I am really longing to get out into the water and also to plant stuff again. It's enormously satisfying - for me anyway - at a primal level to provide food for my family. So we'll be back at the pool tomorrow, weather permitting. In the afternoon James is having his wisdom teeth out, poor lad. Ice-cream and jelly and maybe scrambled egg for dinner...

And so we move slowly closer. Am missing my beasties fiercely, like a sort of permanent dull ache.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

shacks and squatters

I saw in the Examiner in land tax saga on Tas a whole lot of stuff about shacks... is that where really poor people put up corrugated iron and cardboard shanties on vacant land... or is it Oz code for a holiday cottage? Some things are really very confusing - "squatter mounted on his thoroughbred";-) a la Waltzing Matilda - our squatters here are obviously a lower class of squatter than Australia got. ;-)

Saturday, December 12, 2009

The Migration Mazurka

... which goes two steps forward, one back, three left, four right, half a step back, step left, pay more money...

B did her doctor stuff, and James did his dental Surgeon consult and has wisdom teeth hauled on Monday. Of course, Discovery Health (one of the better reasons for leaving SA) won't pay. Oh well, hopefully their last ever squirm.

So we went to get our international drivers licenses. Erhm. My license expires on 23/12. The last time I might drive in SA is 26/12. My first act in Tas is to register for a Tas license
But I need an international drivers for that, and that is only valid while my SA license is valid - so I have to renew - at a cost of R180, but being SA they won't be able to issue it for several months - which is fine as you have a grace period... but the international license... doesn't. So I need a temporary license -- which is a major process requiring more photographs and considerable cost, and of course going to another office, and more queues etc.

Then it appears only certain cell-phones work on the island. Telstra. The island has apparently next 3G coverage. Does this mean we have to have 3G phones before they'll work - ours aren't but to replace them here means we have to RICA - with a utility bill and a fixed address - which we don't have.

I think I need more tea. Or maybe a Scotch...

Friday, December 11, 2009

Lack of internet access

I must apologise for the absence - we've been in the hinterland and the normal runner-with-cleft-stick has been eaten by lions -- or in other words we've been visiting people with very dodgy internet connections. This is an exercise to make me appreciate it working... Ok after murder-game we delivered Paddy to the tender mercies of SAA and airline food. Result, Airline Food went down to a superior side, and the lad is now in Malawi with Clare. I gather he is going to climb Mount McGungie er... Malange. Very beautiful I have been told by my bro who was part of a long-ago expotition there to find the East pole (with apologies to Pooh Bear). A steep walk on the side I hope Pads goes up, a vertical jungle on the other, with a distinct lack of the cracks we climbers rely on.

We then proceeded from the traffic chaos to farm near Standerton where we stopped by to visit some good friends, and learn about grazing sheep, the fertile/milking cycle of cows and how to wean bull-calves, and the insatiable appetite a border collie can have for stick-chasing. Exhausting though they are I think they're gorgeous dogs, bright and utterly hyper.
The bizarre thing is on a huge farm - the house is next to main road near a mining town. Not quiet. Once again we were reminded of the semi-siege state of much of SA, with walls and mast-spotlights and electric fences. They've given up keeping sheep - too much theft. They've given up on beef cattle now too, after the horror of finding a bunch them hamstrung and being butchered in the veldt. Pete keeps and breeds and adores these exotic Parroty beasts - which are valuable to other ornamental fanciers. I hope no delightful bandit tries psittocotophagy or he may go go completely mad. I planned to sneak out and show them some parrot-porn (you can find anything on the net ;-)) so they will breed and they can afford to come and visit us.

We then returned to cradle of mankind (a place near Lanseria airport) -- via the overdue for changing nappy of mankind - AKA the road-system of Johannesburg. As nervous wrecks we descended on SA's international ballooning champion - B's cousin Felicity who lives thankfully out of town on a sort of nature reserve place. A good thing we got there after the container was packed or we might have had a bubble car and a marine diesel engine in with us -- Her son, Pete (the 3rd) has just bought a collection of these including a Messerschmidt that I loved. Flea refused to come and ferry our future Ute to Flinders by Balloon - which I thought was very poor spirited of her ;-). Her business is repairing and I think making hot air balloons and I'd like to put her in our hand-luggage, although I think the large boerboel puppy may be an impediment to this cunning plan.

Then we picked up James after his Kruger park holiday and hit the long road back to Durban. The heat was vile -until we got here - where it is very very humid, but raining. Hey we have washing to do (not a lot of clothes). Inevitable.

Oh and my Publishers have sent me my hardcovers of the next Karres. very nice. But it is 6.5 kg - and we have airline weight restrictions. I have begged them not to post to here, but to Flinders -- but it seems there are always multiple postage addresses in the system. Oh well.

Back at the sea

We are back in Durban with our younger restored to us, after a week at the Kruger national Park, animal viewing and partying with friends.

We have done another round of farewells to family and friends, and had our share of parties. Now it is off to the doctor tomorrow to find out when James can have his wisdom teeth out, maybe Monday, Dave has writers circle on tuesday, and the car gets serviced, 2 hours from where we are staying!! Life is all go at the moment.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

In Pretoria, to pop Pads on a plane to Malawi to visit Clare (At Uni in England, Parents in Malawi, him at Uni in Grahamstown, his home and parents about to be on a remote island off Tassie) - We really don't do anything without making it needlessly complicated. It appears this trait is genetic and heritable. Anyway we're staying with my best buddy from Uni days and the puns are flowing. This afternoon we'll have a murder... well, hopefully not literally but a murder mystery party. Do I look suspicious to you?

Friday, December 4, 2009

On the Sea

Our belongings are now sailing. They set out from Durban on the first on a container ship called MSC Lugano. The only photo I can find of it shows a huge load of containers and a white superstructure. If you see a ship like that please wave to it!

It is due in Australia on 26 December, but I am not sure at which port, we will have to wait and see. This is all getting very exciting!

We have a curry dinner tomorrow night, and then a Murder Party on Sunday, life is all go at the moment!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Our animals

We have just received these pictures of our pets in their kennels sent by Mark at Paws-Resort! It is so great to see them happy and smiling (Panting?)

More Medical

We are trying to ensure that we are all well before we fly out. So having done the teeth, hair and eyes, (Dave's frames look sooo distinguished, they make him look really scholarly.) I am now starting on the Mammo and Gynae bit. For the first time ever I have been told not to put on deodorant before my mammo??? I said I hoped they had scented masks to wear. Today is very muggy and hot and my appointment is at midday!

Paddy is going to climb while I am tortured, they have a 3 storey climbing wall at a shopping centre close to the hospital with a huge range of climbing grades, so at least one of us can have some fun. He has been stuck in the house with his parents and Aunt for long enough.

We are starting to long for sun, we haven't seen it for a week or so, but on Saturday we drive up to Pretoria and I have a feeling we will be seeing a lot too much of it, but at least we can possibly get some washing dry.

spiderwebs of rope

I have a sneaking feeling that winter in Tas is going to make a tumble-dryer an essential. We've had 4 days of rainy mizzle and occasional hissing-down rain... and loads of washing. All hung out in the one little gap in the weather. By today - when we had some almost sun - it was beginning to smell a bit musty. When the rain came in again, we dug out 150 feet of old climbing rope (rated at 1.5 metric tons - nearly strong enough for my socks) and spiderwebbed the garage-rafters with it, and the washing. Only mildly tied the security gate up. It's really not difficult to get in and out - if you are an athletic, acrobatic contortionist midget.

If this weather is winter in Tassie, a tumbledrier starts to move up the list...

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

In which we have along day and I need glasses

A 5.20 AM start took us to our dentist - now nearly 3 hours away - for a final checkup. He patched a couple of fillings, told B not to ea until supper - no breakfast yet! and sent us on our merry way, to Mooi, where I was due to get an anti-tet shot they owe me, and collect the post and pick up Pads meds from our old pharmacy. 1 out of 3 is not a great success rate - we didn't have our box key any more (it's er, still on a key-ring) and the sister I had arranged to get the anti-tet from was missing. Anyway, so if you posted us anything... try post restant Whitemark, Flinders Island, Tasmania 7255...

The haircuts were as haircuttish as haircuts can be. My new name is shorn. Matrix did case my hard-drive for me - but as this is a linux machine without outlook - I can't get all the addresses I need off it. Still nice to have it. If you were expecting mail from me... mail me. I can still get mail just not the address book.

James successfully caught his bus off to join mates in Kruger Park.

We got coffee - a success. Then the eye stuff. My vision is great long and even medium -for reading but I can't tie size 22 flies any more - heaven knows if he glasses will be any use as she kept asking me daft questions - is this better or that - they were mostly pretty much the same -rotten or otherwise. Drove the optometrist (and me) up the wall I think. Anyway, eventually I was guessing what was better. I am afraid this will be another buy Dave a cellphone good idea. (cell phones are wonderful for other people. For me they are something 1)off 2) out of airtime 3)in my other trousers - I have some, really. just wouldn't want to spoil them wearing them.4)With flat batteries. Anyway, we'll see.

Frames...I have a very skew nose and broad head and the frames are designed for other things... like looking good. The poor little lady was fluttering around frantically offering me mirrors. If I wanted to like my reflection I'd want something to make my vision worse, not better!

Monday, November 30, 2009


We had the the infamous family gathering at Caversham Mill (a restaurant - not Dave getting the family together for grinding). The puns flew the chocolate block (very special red wine) circulated as did most of the food - we all always order different meals as we all like to taste things. It brought back the most obvious thing that makes emigrating hard - moving from the security of that network of family and friends. The farewells along the road make things harder. I am sure we'll make a new network - started already - but it is hard on those who stay too. I must say I find the 'we'll never see you again' very harsh. I keep pointing out that the world is a smaller place, and the future an uncertain country itself

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Survived the Transkei

We have made it back to Durban. Safely negotiating all the animals, alive and dead, along the way. And have said our goodbyes to the Cape. Doing it by provinces, as we are, is making this leaving process very drawn out and agonising!

Still we are having a family lunch today, with all the Freers around the table. I am sure puns will fly, I just pity the surrounding tables! Still it should be a fun meal.
Ha! We have survived the goats, drunks, goats, insane doof-doof taxis (definitely local Bogan variant, with extra Eugh! de toilette) goats, potholes (disguised as road), stray cows, dogs, drunks, trucks, Umtata (Mbatha these days - I suspect that means 'place for inserting enema pipe' -- Ok I really don't like the place, with reason) and goats (did I mention goats perhaps?) of the Transkei and are now back in Durban with our boys(which I believe is very like Brisbane. Hot.)
The goats - besides being a hazard to motorists are turning the Transkei into an eroded desert.

We had magnificent braai (Barbie?) next to my old fish farming buddy Nick's dam with some of the boys Uni friends. A pork joint with threads of dried mango in foil, Beetroot and orange roasted in foil, mushrooms and butter and thyme, a loaf of bread on the fire, and kaaskartoffellen, and some fish for the vegetarians. It was good, and rather different to what the geek-team (hey they talk physics while climbing) expected.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Famiy reunited

Well, this is so good. We are now in Grahamstown, together with our boys. They seemed happy to see us, and it is so great to be here and meet so many of their friends.

We are staying out of town, so are spared all the in town noises, and are enjoying being back in rural tranquility!

We watched a climbing movie yesterday, that really had my hands and feet sweating, it is incredible that my limbs still react after 20 years of not climbing. I still belay when necessary, but have no confidence in my arm strength any more.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

the strange things

Okay, so just what is a 'bogan'? Like a 'hoon' or a muttonbird, tinny, or a slab of green, these are obviously things I need to know . And for an active imagination like mine not telling me can be dangerous ;-).

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

We're driving 10 hours to our kids Uni today. It occurred to me that it's a good thing that we're going from a big country to another big country. It must be so difficult to go from a small, closed in place to a big open one. We had people come out to Finnegan's Wake, who found the darkness and silence at night intimidating -who slept with the lights on. I love the silences and the absence of artificil light makes for woderful star viewing. Ok so there are no (well make that 'few' ) stage shows and the choice of restaurants is a little limited in number... but ah, we have night.

I can't wait to see my boys. I hope they love Australia as much as we did.
Australia, put out your best :-)

Monday, November 23, 2009

The glut

Back in the dark ages, just after smoking too much killed the dinosaurs and people still had fax machines, B and I moved onto Finnegan's Wake and for the first time a serious go at self-sufficiency. We were bright-eyed and bushy tailed, but our delusions of handsome appearance and sartorial elegance aside, we were also in for a bumper year. Partly this was as a direct result of my ignorance and over-enthusiasm. To put it slightly cryptically - there are about 30 seeds in a pack of courgette seeds. I had the space and compost to plant them all... every plant bore at least 50 baby marrows... And herein lies the devilish detail - I was raised 'waste not, want not'. Did you know that sliced paper thin courgettes (lightly salted, left to stand for 3 minutes, then washed and dried)dressed with olive oil and lemon juice and black pepper can be served as a great salad? No? Well neither did I, before. I didn't know they were good in bread either. Or parboiled, slit from gizzard to zatch and then with a slice of cheese and a piece of rehydrated sundried tomato in the slit, and a slice of bacon on the outside as a wrap, skewered in place with a couple of toothpicks and then grilled is delicious. Yes -I believe I came up with 33 disguises for the humble courgette - none quite as effective as shoving a carrier bag of the things into a visitor's car. Yes the courgettes nearly killed us, and years later even the sight of virulent yellow courgette piccalli makes me blench. But it was the bramble patch that finally hammmered the stake into that old waste-not maxim. It was several acres of thorns and black woody bramble-berries. Free food! We picked with glee. Then with enthusiasm. then with grim determination, then with scratched and battered resignation and, um, whining. And even when we gave up, that was only the start. Jam making continued to the small hours, until every jar and every pound of sugar (we had to go and buy extra -at a 50km round trip, and the cost of sugar and jars it probably would have been cheaper to buy 12 jars of jam.) But we had jam. 6 years later we STILL had jam... and juice... and getting the eager family interested in another picking session the next day (or the next year)... was fortunately not well received.

Self-sufficiency requires a lot of things - one is getting fellow self-sufficiency people to trade with. And realising that processing what can be an endless excess is actually expensive too. There is a balance in all things. :-) It's a shame that i am not that well balanced anyway.
And when it comes to courgette piccalilli, waste not becomes want not very quickly.

Sunday, November 22, 2009


Having failed to drown us, the South African weather says fricassee will have to do. It's hot, sticky and unpleasant today – more like the Durban I remember and so wanted to leave. We spent last night with the clann Beck up in Pietermaritzburg, where we had lovely supper (green thai prawn curry, very mild, but tasty and the usual appalling puns. They're dear friends, it was their older son's 21st, and the farewells are sad, but the security aspect of their lives is just exactly what I want to leave behind. Outside spotlights, Area alarms (so for eg, me a 5 AM riser hd to stay carefully out of rooms xyz), burglar bars... and of course sleepy hollow's lovely climate - In winter it's quite pleasant but in summer they end up jumping into the pool just before bed, emerging dripping and putting towels on their beds. Um. No thanks.

I see Tassie is cool today. :-).

21 years

We spent last night with good friends from University days, whose son, Geoffrey, turned 21 yesterday. It was wonderful to celebrate with the whole extended family, and sad to think that when his younger brother reaches his 'great milestone' we will be far away. (though probably Steve is heaving a huge sigh of relief.)
We have started on a round of 'goodbyes' to friends and family, and I think it was a mistake to draw it all out over 5 weeks, but seemed like a good idea at the time! Still we will get to see a lot of people this way.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

city life

ok, this suburbia inside a small secure complex, but it does show how used to wild space I have become... we were so exhausted the first night that I barely heard anything beyond waking briefly to yet more rain. (It appears that the weather on our final move day killed 7 people :-(.) Last night, however, I did a lot of waking for trucks, cars, voices, dogs... oh well, the jackal yowling on the hill used to wake me. And the 'piet-my-vrou' dawn chorus (skiet-my-nou! as my mum used to call them.) and the mournful mist foghorn of the rare fluff-tailed buffs on the stream (you'll know why they're rare when you hear them!) and the hadeda ibises - some just flew past - this is suburbia, but Africa. Still, I got used to the jackal, I'll possibly get used to this again before we head out, and there'll be wild sounds of Australia (the roaring puking of the Bennet's wallaby that ate all my veggies and that sort of romantic bush-noise).

Budunet my radio link to civilization and the net out at Finnegan's Wake appears to have been a casualty of the rains. As that is still my principal e-mail addy, I am not gettting much mail.

Friday, November 20, 2009

'Wild Weather batters KZN'

Or so the headlines told us, just in case we failed to notice downed trees and mud-slick roads we slithered and bumped down with everything and not quite the kitchen sink that should have been packed and wasn't... Freer chaos reigns. Oh and the wet stuff. I see they're now forecasting the possibility of snow (yes, I'll post some to Adelaide if you like - it's like dandruff but colder). Anyway, that terrible phase of the move is over. So far saying goodbye to our beasties was the worst part, but teary farewells from 'nThombifuthi (we have found her a new job, with someone she likes, but still...) and Mfanjane (who has a disability pension, but used to come and earn a bit extra once a week), and the forlorn faces of our now ex-neighbour's workers (whose kids we took to school, gave lifts into town, brought 80kg sacks of maize-meal for and and occasionally provided first aid to, and greeted and chatted to), and "you did so much for us" - as one of the dairy guys told B yesterday. True enough I think. We tried to fit in, and make ourselves part of the community, not just a separate caste. It seemed to work (ex-neighbour on the other hand is I gather is having 'labour' troubles. What a surprise - there is little love lost there. Perhaps he should wise up to living in 2009, and not 1809 - his latest petty act of improving staff morale was to lock a gate leading to their cottages - meaning everything (eg, their 80kg of maize-meal, and a fair amount of furniture we didn't pack) has to be carried half a kilometer. It won't stop the people carrying the same things in. Or improve his security an iota. But it'll show them he's the boss. Yes, that'll help. Not.) Ah well, I am glad to leave that kind of idiocy behind, because I only see one long term end for it and it will do no one any good.

The packing up was something of a disaster -partly because we were less organised than we needed to be, and partly because the rain and the packers and estimators and mis-information added a whole new layer of chaos... like we arrived here with 4 loads of wet washing - all of which should have been packed. And wine racks (the plastic -no wood-bugs kind we had in among the others we had to leave) and other things which didn't need to go that did... before we turned around. Oh well, 'tis done. Unpacking may be a bit like archeology ;-) (besides the rock part)

Anyway, we've arrived in Durban, with my sister for a few days, I'll get some writing done, and we'll finalise a few more things. Her little sausage dogs are somewhere between cats and dogs, and remind me how much I miss my dogs and cats. I hope the big black nose can keep the faith.
I miss them.

neither rain nor sleet....

The container - and the family rock finally loaded, and the pair of jumper leads mysteriously like ours (but we were told, not ours, even if appearances were deceptive, were loaded by 5. All Moving estimators -Stuttafords, Elliots, and Magna all WAY overestimated our volume, and we could have taken a bunch of stuff we left/sold/gave away, drat them. Anyway loading the rock was... entertaining. And so was the rain. And the rain. And did I mention... rain. The container truck left and we loaded up a ute-load of garbage, and set out for the dump (as this was not thanksgivin'). We got as far as Reggie- the Retired Lt Colonel about km away, and found the rock was resisting leaving Africa... well, the mud was. The container truck had failed singly at the art of mud-driving and was now jack-knifed at the bottom of the hill blocking our exit. So we too abandoned our quest and went to visit Reggie Purbrick, who is a good friend in need. He has that military organising streak about him (he takes schoolkids on adventure trails to the mountains, or game reserves or the battlefields . I suppose they're not much worse than a regiment to organise... we were wined, fed and provided with baths and beds and sympathy and laughter and advice. I'm really going to miss him, which is more than I say about my other ex-neighbour, who was trying to prove he was a git to my ex-employee. Stupid. And childish and futile too. Ok so I am tired and grumpy... anyway, we finally left the farm in howling wind and rain and mud.... did i mention muddd. The little car (my sons from granny) made it barely. We've left all sorts behind... but we have gone. And in a way being exhausted and coping with a nightmare-ish rain and wind, and the rocky slithery, muddy road stopped us saying sad farewells.
On the plus side the new owners kids were having a ball and so was their calf.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

saved by the duvet

Well, one bed was not packed, and we also had the blow-up = we're ok, even if the house looks rather bare and boxed.... Oh dearie me, dearie, dearie me, it's about 4 degrees howling winds and... somehow both B and i didn't exclude the sleeping bags. er. Ooops. and the mud is thick so going bed-hunting elsewhere is an act of un-wisdom (so why didn't we automatically do it then? ;-)). Um, fortunately we'd donated a couple of old kids duvets - liberally coffee-stained - Pads was infamous for falling asleep with coffee in hand.) to n'Thombifuthi and she had left them in the kids playroom. So with a mattress, and old duvets and a fire were fine - and we toasted bacon on the end of a carefully washed file.

I'm just a little worried about things being nicked. we can't watch half of what is going on... and a bunch of lire (now worthless) tucked into a little box have been trousered by someone. They're of no value, but I wonder what else. Oh well. Onward.

We have a trace of sun today - and the container arrives. My dats and cogs slept in Durban last night (so at least my babies were warm enough)

Packed (nearly)

This is just a quick trial post on the eee, as the desktop is now packed. around me the scream of taping boxes continues viciously. I'm dead-beat... but still it continues.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The hardest of days

The furkids have gone. I felt... like a traitor. A judas-goat - I led Roly and Puggles and Wednesday into the travelling cages. Helped put my kitties in them. I wish, desperately, that I could explain. I miss them. I miss them terribly.

The house is getting packed. There is still a ton to do - cleaing and prep. The movers came late, but are packing with speed. The pets-en-transit guy was later still - got stuck -twice on the road - here and back. Then he had to call about their rabies certs... I nearly went spare with worry that something would still be wrong.

I emptied out the drawers of my desk. Threw away 74 rejection letters...

We're moving on.

The next phase

Wow, today got off to a slow start, with the movers arriving later than they said. But we ran around getting 'everything' ready for them. Once they got here, boy, did they start packing!! Problem was 4 of them started in 4 different places, and I found there were all sorts of things I hadn't sorted yet. So it was grabbing items from them as fast as I could.

Still we are about a third packed. One of our cats, Legolas, has gone to his new home, with good friends of ours. James will be spending his Easter vacation with them, and will be able to see his cat then. The rest of the dogs and cats will be fetched any time now, and will go into kennels for their quarantine period, before they join us in Aus. Seems to be just around the corner now!!

Tomorrow we pack up the computers, and then we will have Dave's Eeee, for all our computer needs until our furniture is unpacked on Flinders, hopefully some time in Jan. (Thank you Sarah for the Eeee.)

So if we post less often, please bare with us!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Put the cockrel under a creel...

Because in theory it is Sunday. Some of the Medusa list is done. Some isn't. I slow roasted a leg of bushpig (the real thing, shot next door, not the Australian version - yes I DO know what that is) in a lot of red wine, sherry, herbs and black cherry juice. I served it with an unmentionable pasta :-). Very appropriate. The doggins got a huge helping, and Wednesday said it was just so delish, she had her feet up on the table when I was watching (yes, she's a bandit. And a thief. I still love her.) The kittties are being very clingy for independent minded beasties. I wish, desperately, that I could speak dog and cat and explain to the furkids that, far from abandoning them, we've moved heaven and earth and a good few bits between to be able to take them to the Island. Ah well. It is. And that is the way it must be. Our hearts go with them, always. That is why we have done this.

It's turned cold, damp and miserable, and the paint I have put on things is not drying... Also I am about 1/3 through the manuscript cupboard (tricky - do not throw out anything that may not exist on paper (sold) or only sold electronically.). I have roughly one and a half cubes of paper to go through... Yes, actually I do write a lot. Maybe too much.

Our visitors were sweet, and rather welcome by that stage... Told us they were envious of our adventure. Um. Right now it feels more like a runaway trainwreck.

Oh and B got stung on the cheek by a bee, as a parting gesture. Gee, thanks.

I went through my clothes and did manage to throw out a few things... I really am fery, fery, fery 'careful' about clothes. I hate throwing away something that has some use in it. It's a good thing I am not the vain kind - because I don't declare clothes 'dead' until any self-respecting scarecrow would turn up his nose at them.

B and I were sorting out wetsuits - she actually got into the custom-made one I bought her before Paddy was born - OK it took a wee bit of wiggling and some determined shoving and pulling - but my word, that's quite something. It'd take a shoe-horn to get me into my wedding suit. Must be all the muscle being married has put onto me... around the waist. ;-)

Sunday, November 15, 2009

The far pavilions...

We finally got the house-sale money and B spent forever on the Bank arranging the transfers to Pets-en-transit (So far the best company I have ever dealt with, period) and the SA quarantine station (Paws resort! - I spoke to the boss, and he sounds a good guy). Thanks to Save the Dragons the project Walt talked me into braving (and it was braving -it's not the sort of thing I do easily. My dogs and cats are my responsibility, and, um, I am the sort who takes these things seriously. Not being able to take them was absolutely tearing me apart. As is... it's still really costing us more than we can afford, but we may be poorer in money, we're richer in love and self-respect. And, come hell or high water, those that bought into Save the Dragons and gave us $25 or more WILL get their signed books.) which has raised about half the money we need for this bit of insanity. But I would rather be insane, and my B goes along with it. I'm a lucky man.

Other than that the rock 3 coats of sealer, I finished repairing the door to the corner cupboard. B painted her old desk, and I scrubbed (with sandpaper, wire brush on a drill, and cleaned and painted some tools and have made an inneffectual start on my office. You can see wood in some places on my desk. Honestly ;-)

Tomorrow is so full of list it may explode. And people who have waited 8 years to visit Finnegan's Wake... are coming to visit.

Hope they like chaos.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

The Rock (part 1)

Today... well I managed to get the the old ute started and into the workshop. It's probably going to be sold for a pittance for scrap :-( Oh well. It's 14 years old and been a lot of places. We collected the carpets (having been washed) and tried to find a hinge for the corner cupboard.

And I bleached and scrubbed and polished the family rock. Tomorrow it gets a coat of stone-seal.

The rock... ah yes. It's a handcut block of sandstone weighing I guess at least 400 pounds from Barbara's Great Grandfather's farmhouse in the Drakensberg... from about 1870-ish when that was the last wild frontier still. Cut on the farm, dragged to the house by oxen on a 'sleigh' of a big forked branch. The block was a lintel, leading into the foundations, just below the main bedroom... It wasn't a posh farmhouse, just a comfortable, much loved place, that generations of the family had gone back to. For us... the rock is a repository of much laughter, tears, heartbreak and dreams and even more love that happened there. Of countless Christmases and births and deaths.

Barbs and I went up there probably the most of anyone in the family. It was our dream to get it up and productive again. A lot of hope, and a lot of work. And then the farm was expropriated to become part of a park. They bulldozed the old house. It nearly broke our hearts.

It took me years to go back... but 18 years later we got permission to go back and collect the rock. It took 5 of us and a wheelbarrow (which bent) to move it from the ravage of bramble and wattle where the house had once stood to the Ute. It was heartbreaking... but we endure. And so did the rock. One day Barbs and I and our sons (I will save that bit for when they're there. Besides it will take all of us to move it) will build the family rock into our house, so that it can be a link between the past and future. That it can go on accumulating the secrets and laughter and the tears of more generations.

Yes, I am crazy. But then, that goes with being me.
Dreams and determination, that's us.
We go on.
And the rock goes to Australia. With us and our beasties.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Against the tide

Let's see... After a poor night in a much smaller bed occupied by 16 cats (or maybe 32), I started my day with a letter fro Baen with more Proof-reading (SLOW TRAIN TO ARCTURUS, the paperback) - in the middle of our move - I took Wednesday (black lab) in to get her teeth done. Then I went out to the rabbit warders, who were robbed last night, and then I went home. En route the truck (the unsold one, that we need the money from) died. My cell-phone is a pay-as-you-go one - and I plz call me's set up by my cell literate clever son... only I adopted my sister's old phone - with my sim and no clever set ups... and I was out of money in the middle of nowhere (it could be worse in SA). I made various failed attempts to message and contact anyone. Anyway 3/4 of an hour later, just as I was setting out for the 18km walk, someone happened along and I was able to call B. Needless to say after that cars came in quick succession. B came and fetched (and was off to drop one last load of firewood, and to send a fax authorising the lawyers to pay the movers, as surprise-surprise, the money has not yet arrived with B) so I went along - and met the guy coming to buy my dad's old woodworking machine off me. He was something of a mechanic so we went back to the truck and he diagnosed water in the diesel. We got it going... for some 7 or so Km. and it died again. He gave me a lift home. I sold him the machine, and he left - and then I hopefully sorted out the quote for moving dogs and cats - if it is all in and OKay tomorrow... (which given the rate of disasters... If not, Pets-en-transit are my heroes) B went and fetched Wednesday, and I got the burglar guard we need off to get my table out, unscrewed, some metalwork sorted and cleaned for packing.

The post brings me a notice saying I have to get a new drivers licence - they're moving everyone expensively (for us) onto a third system now, and they are doing F... which means my licence will expire 7 days before we leave.

The mechanic called, to say he was lost, and then the woman from Elliots (the movers) called to fuss about payment. Now they need to be paid the day before moving and as that's a Sunday, so they want payment on Friday - tomorrow. The money has arrived with the lawyers, but not us yet, so the lawyers are supposed to pay them. They haven't although Elliots seem to have trouble telling Friday from Thursday) then B got back with Wednesday (the excercise of vaccinating and microchipping and teeth cleaning cost neatly twice what I got in for selling off the old machine...) The guy from the workshop came out and changed the diesel filter and said it was running a bit rough, but all good... It got me to our gate. It's not just water in the diesel.

So then a guy arrived to buy the vehicle -- which is now stuffed.

And our son Pads called to say he had to be back at Uni even earlier, as he is now head student for his res. (ergo, we will have to change bookings on 3 flights - an expensive process.)

Anyway, that was my day. If the dogs and cats are finally sorted it sort of cancels all that (and I wait for Murphy's law to screw that over), but I reckon a thirty thousand rand day. Not one of the best.

Tomorrow we try to tow the truck in, and scrub and seal the family rock, and the rest of the list.... I wish I had the patience and tolerance of the rock.


Someone asked me today what I would do on the island while Dave was writing? Would I not be bored? I could do 6 months of boredom right now.

Today Dave was stuck at the side of the road for 45 mins with a broken down vehicle and no cellphone time. Wednesday, our black labrador, had an anaesthetic to sort out her teeth. The gentleman who wants to buy the vehicle turned up to find it broken down and we refused to sell it to him, until we find out what is wrong with it, as it may be something really major. We would feel really bad to sell him a total dud.

I returned the crib we have been housing for the last few years to the church it belongs to, got a deposit back on our empty gas cylinder, took our wonderful housemaid to be interviewed for her new job, delivered a load of firewood, (thought it was the last ever load, but got an order for another load to be delivered tomorrow or over the weekend.)

All in all it was a day that seems to have been several weeks long, a bit of boredom looks really good!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Run Around

Well, it is amazing how much can be done in one day. We now have a house that echoes with emptiness. The carpets are gone, to be cleaned before packing, a lot of our sittingroom furniture has gone and our bed has been sold! We are now sleeping on a much smaller, but more comfortable bed that we are taking with us. Unfortunately all the cats decided they had been badly treated and needed to sleep with us! I am sure we will get used to it.

A sad parting and microchips (where is the macrofish then)

It's been another tough day. Before you think this blog too bleak and whingy to bother with, fill your mind with the mental image of Barbs and I trying to insert 4 cats into two containers. Yes we have the blood and wounds to prove it. I know you're all frightfully clever and have already worked out that this is a ridiculously, insanely stupid thing to try and do, because both cats need to go in at the same time, and 2 pairs of hands need to come out, sans the cat/s. It took us about 3 tries for each catbox... and of course two 'phone calls mid frantic cat persuit and insertions...
"Oh Dave, I didn't want to call when I heard you were leaving..."
Dave - holding cat with buzz-saw legs. "Jenn, I am wrestling with a very angry cat... can I call you (MEEOWWWWW HISSS YOWL)."
"But I just have to chat to you..."

Anyway mission accomplished, 4 cats injected, 3 microchipped (at James's request his cat is staying here with his best friends who he will spend his short holidays with. Hard... But Legsie may be better off, and will be spoiled, I think) Three dogs microchipped injected and inspected.

And sadly we have had to send my little Button to the long sleep. She was very very old, blind (needed a seeing eye human) deaf, senile (she used to know her way everywhere) and the last few nights has been struggling for breath. We always said that when she was in distress, we would call it time. Two years ago, she was supposedly on death's door. It was still very hard.
I held her in my arms, B stroked her and the vet helped her to the rainbow bridge.

Sigh. Salute to a loyal little brave heart. Why do we give our hearts to our dogs to tear?

Tomorrow hopefully we will finalise the details of the dogs and cat's quarantine. Roland despite his age passed his medical exam. Despite the project (without which it would simply not have been possible) we will be hit financially terribly hard by this (sadly this particular author fits the starving in a garret and not much financial acumen mold). Still, more money we can maybe make (or not). But I think if we had not tried to do this, I would have lost far more. So we go forward... poorer, but still ourselves.

Today is the 11 of 11th... Rememberance day, which is all but dead here. Well, my parents both served, and so did B's. Salute. To the living and our dead. The sun will never set on them.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

A drinking society with with a writing problem

We had the French cousins (the ones whose sons christened me 'Robinson' after I introduced them to our idea of fun - catching and collecting food, and cooking it over an open fire at the beach.) I did mussels in an annisette scented tomato base, with black squid ink spagetti and green olives, a lemon and orange and lemoncillo sorbet, and then venison with sauce of bacon, ceps and artichoke heart, with jerepigo and cream, with home-made pears in spiced red wine. I cooked for South Africa, and they ate for France. Soon I will have to cook for Australia.

Today was our writers group meeting - or rather a drinking society with a writing problem, which has finished late and maudlin. It was rather nice to have people tell us they appreciated us, but they'll manage fine without us, I reckon. The level of talent - and the variety, is amazing. The dead fat lady story was a candidate for being banned by the Geneva convention as a weapon of mass-construction. It's been a lot of fun to watch it grow.

Monday, November 9, 2009

dogs and cats and quarantine

I've been very reluctant to post about our dogs and cats despite the fact that they're our stay-at-home stand-in kids providing much of the amusement of country life, to say nothing of affection (and mud. And shed fur) Moving them is difficult and very expensive because of the quarantine issue. They're not easy to re-home being country animals used to having 3-4 acres of garden, and of course humans on tap 24/7. I've always got at least one with me... but the costs are extortionate, and authors are classic starving artists :-(. It was tearing me apart. But we just couldn't do it. (there is a breakdown of the costs on Save The Dragons in the FAQ). Anyway thanks to Walt and Francis we managed to make some kind of plan - to sell one of my books on the net to try and bridge PART the gap. (it's a huge gap) and thus was born. And of of course more ulcer-material because there is nothing like hope to make you afraid. I love them - especially my big Old English Sheepdog, very much (actually, all of them. But he was born on my lap). Anyway - we're about 3/4 of the way there - enough to trust that we'll scrape in the rest, somehow. It's making us a lot poorer (lets' put it this way, we could fly our family over and back 5 times for the cost of moving them) But has meant leaving everything very late and worrying a lot. It's going to be hard sending them into quarantine and you can't explain. Sad too, as Buttons (my 18 year old somewhat senile maltese) can't go. She's been on death's door, but not in distress for some time. Last night however she was struggling to breathe. It has always been our decision that if she was in distress, we'd call time. I think it is very close now. Legsie (my son's cat) will stay with his friends with whom he will spend holidays, so another farewell. Still, they give us their loyalty and love: what would we be worth is we did not try to do as much?

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Farewell to friends we leave behind

B and I have bounced around SA -University, various jobs, and then picking a place close to the kids school (Treverton). And the one thing I can say is although you may bind to a place, and love the mountains or the trees or the ocean... there remains the fact that we are social animals, even solitary blokes like me. I've lived in cities with populations of several million - had friends and enjoyed some of what the city offered. But we've usually been at our happiest in smaller places, where individuals matter. Yes, if you have a secret hamster fetish and it's an intolerant and narrowly conservative community, or you have three bits on the side or don't pay your bills... A small community can be hell. But if you're a dull bloke without any major deadly secrets and you didn't really care if quizzy old auntie Clara and the switchboard operator (ah days gone by) were listening to you chatting to your wife, a small community - if it's the right one - can be a very supportive place to live, and manage to offer a social life that the big city just can't. Of course... if you're bright or interested in a specialised field (physics or writing or making model airplanes) a city is more likely to get you face-time with similar people. But the internet makes a lot of difference there.

So the issue then becomes 'the right community'. And that is actually harder and more difficult and varied than you may realise from a city-dweller's perspective (and that's where I came from). There is a lot to it which is less than obvious, and it's hard to predict without being in it. My brother and I ended up in two small towns which are 30 km apart in Southern Zululand. My brother is more gregarious and easier to get on with than I am. Our town was maybe 40% larger. His was ruled a social heirarchy and a few queen bees who were not too keen on newcomers. Status and money were hugely imortant, and status was determined by TPB (the powers that be). As the town engineer, you'd have thought he'd be quite well thought of in a heirarchy... but no. Not as an incomer. My bruv had a rough time there, and was glad to leave. St Lucia (town) where he went next was a lot more pleasant. In theory B and I started pretty far down the social pecking order in Eshowe, with her working (she's a radiographer) and me horror to your rural SA male, at home, looking after kids and writing. It's amazing how people who can't actually write two coherent paragraphs, and don't read because it is too hard can still say they wish they were writers, work when they felt like it, or - as many people have, ask when you're going to get a job. I've written a M.Sc Thesis. Some of the books I have written took less work... I do on average at least 14 hours work a day, and up to 16 at times. Yes, I start at 4AM in summer, and I work 300 days a year. I've got 11 books out and another 3 in press right now, and a slew of shorts and work for younger readers. Mostly these days I just shrug, and say: "Why don't have a go at writing then?" Hmm. Tangent. Anyway, if 'showe had been like Melmoth was when Carl was there (Small town social dynamics change), we'd have had a misery of a time. But it wasn't. We came there from a place called Hoedspruit which I'd rate on personal experience the place in SA you'd least want to live - rabidly racist, anti-English-speakers, 3 degrees hotter than hell (I'd run a fish farm there) and Eshowe was friendly and ended up as the second most friendly and sociable place I've ever lived in. When we left Hoedspruit we said goodbye to one person. When we left Eshowe (because of kids schooling) we had a farewell party for a 170 adults - and got trouble for leaving a few people out. We still see and talk to people from there. And my brother - the sociable one - had managed a handful of friends with whom he rapidly lost contact from the next town - not a problem he's ever had since. Here, oddly enough we have a nascent queen bee situation with some people thinking themselves FAH too important and wealthy to associate with the common herd (and is this ever small pond syndrome). Fortunately we have the Mad Lieutenant-Colonel (British Army, retired) the Rabbit warders, the wine cellar people, the local paper editor, 'nThombifuthi etc., who are the salt of the earth. We have a lot of aquaintances and a few solid friends. So it is somewhere betwixt. We turn out to fight fires, serve on local committees, we fetch and carry (particularly those important people's labour - this is Africa -WE get on well with them and and are liked and respected. Their employers would not lower themselves to that level. Oh well. Their choice. Their stupidity IMO). Anyway, I'll be sad to leave the place, and some of people. But I wonder just what sort of social set-up we're going into. Will it be like hate newcomers Hoedspruit, or Queen-bee Melmoth or moderately friendly Mooi, Eshowe or Maclear (the nicest little town I've ever been to - which has basically died since)?

I'm rather glad we're renting a place for a year at first. And if no one talks to us I can talk to the fish. They don't answer either, but at least it is perfectly acceptable to catch them and eat them.

A tool using creature

Humans are tool-users by nature. And besides junk we collect, we male ones like to play with these toys (no, it's not an exclusively male passtime, and there are plenty of women with their own collections. Some, like my mum, value stone grinders and fret-saws and little hammers, and mysterious and arcane gardening implements, others tend toward masses of quilting stuff or cooking devices - although I'll give them a good run for their money there.) But my tools - mostly relating to gardening, woodworking, and the craft of surviving are in general not an impressive, shiny lot. Nor are they the smartest and best makes... Mostly they're old, solid, and very well (if somewhat ineptly) used. Some of them belonged to my great great - and they still work. There are darn few tools I've gone out and bought because I wanted a new toy, so almost everything has a history. Fencing pliers, pipe wrenches, key-hole saws. Many are unusal things that you can't easily find (a brass foot-pump), various files in odd sizes and shapes... that sort of thing. The sort of thing we are not allowed to take to Oz.

So today we had our friends the rabbit-janitors come over and load them up. Weldmesh, barbed wire, tree-nets. A legacy of bolts, nuts, nails, screws and rivets. Bergen was nearly squeaking with girlish glee (and you'd have to see him to even begin to grasp how funny this was.) Sigh. To sell - except to another nutter like us - and they have no money by definition... not much. To replace... a lot, and lot again, as they don't MAKE wrenches the way they did 50 years back. And grumble all the sort of things I will need to build with. Ah well. C'est la vie.

They brought us a rabbit and a roasted chicken - one of their own chooks - and we had home-made kir (with blackberry juice and champagne) and herb and tomato bread. I think that's my own invention, with tomato juice for the liquid, and a orange, lemon and vodka sorbet for dessert.

And so we move on. I'm going to go and look at Google Earth to remember why I am doing this. And maybe the South African news - (grin) I cannot tell how I love the wild excitement of the Examiner (Northern Tas Paper). One of these days I might long for more excitment and a tumultuous world, (I could try the Mercury (Hobart)... but for now I am with Nevil Shute's character from A FAR COUNTRY. It will be good to live in quiet, safe, well-organised country that has values that I can identify with and respect.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Ups and downs

Life at the moment is a series of highs and lows, with moods that do not always match!! We have found work for the wonderful lady, Ntombifuthi, who has been working in our house for the last 8 years. We have sold our Colt bakkie, (ute), but can continue to use it until we leave the house, but not the country. We cannot book our ferry ride across to Flinders yet, and we keep having thunderstorms that stop all computer use, if they not turn off the electricity completely.

We thought we had wonderful homes for 2 of our cats, and we would just go with the other two. But one has fallen through, which I quite understand, but now we need even more money. But on the other hand we do not need to say 'goodbye' to one of the cats!

Dave has another dentist appointment, and we are taking another load of furniture to auction. another load of memories goes, but I hope their new owners enjoy them.

Vices and flies.

No news from pet people. Ulcer making. Other than that - taking all fur and feathers out of my fly-tying stuff (the remainder - some synthetics, cotton, chain-eyes and wire and odd size 24 hooks is pitiful). I'm down from 4 large boxes to one small one. 20 years of gradual build up gone. Oh well. My vices happen to be the kind you tie flies on. Well, some of my vices. I have metalwork and woodwork ones too :-(. I'll have to take up debauchery instead as that is something customs don't seem to check on.

We had a couple of guys out to read the meter, and they showed interest in the Utes. We shall see.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Ferry - interesting times...

My mind, I wonder how it works

I am reading a lot at the moment. Lots of pleasant escapist books. Tonight I picked up a book I have not read for many years, and just remembered it as being set further north than her first book which I have read often.

Halfway down page one:-

I cannot say that everyone should live as we do, but you might be happy on an island if you can face up to the following:
1. Dinner guests are often still with you seven day, weeks, months later...
2. Any definite appointment ... acts as an automatic signal for the ferry-boats to stop running
7. Anyone contemplating island dwelling must be physically strong and it is an added advantage if you aren't too bright.

I wonder if my mind remembered it, and caused me to reread it, as a warning to put my brain on hold for the next few years! Still Betty MacDonald is fun to read anyway, so I will now finish the book to see if she has any other good advice for me.

A bowsaw on high

The snow had damaged these branches so that they hung low over the road. Too low for the container. This is me (up the tree) and our helper Mfanjane.
It involved some interesting angles, but did give me something to think about besides the cost

of moving our furkids. Our quotes had of course expired... Now we wait - one is in a little bit more expensive. They were more expensive first time. - the site some fans helped to set up to sell one of my books to earn extra for this horrendously expensive excercise has helped, but we're taking major strain on this. I'm finding it very hard to talk about or deal with, as I'm a hopeless soppy about my rescue moggies and silly dogs.
The proofs of Sorceress of Karres are now in. For years we had epics with couriers delivering proofs to me, and failing to find this place and leaving them at some bizarre spots (the hotel bottle shop, chicken farm, post office...)
It's a pity that Baen have taken to sending them as .pdf files... it saves them money and trouble but costs me a great deal of both, as I now have to print them on my dodgy old printer -- and I am inevitably out of paper or ink or both, and this situation is tricky now, but it'll be a lot trickier on the island. Besides, there would have been some small schadenfreude in having the courier fly in and try to hire a car to find me - or bliss, have to walk (or hee hee take the ferry) and try to leave without delivering to me. Yes, I know. Not the same couriers as messed me about here, and in actual reality I would have done my best to help - probably collected it from the plane and let the airline sign for it Launceston. But allow me the happy little nasty vision of a lost fedex courier truck blundering about the island. ;-) - with a week to spend before the ferry goes back.
Anyway besides poor B nearly poking her eye out, and being scratched to pieces in the acacia that she wanted to do (um. She IS rather stubborn about these things. When you've been together for as long as we have... if she wants to do it, she must have a go. She's quite daunting to lesser fainting violet women. Finest kind ;-)) the road now b'long cargo.

More tree cutting

Having finished the proof of Dave's next book, it was back to the trees, to cut enough for the movers. Dave did the really, really high plane tree, so I thought I had better do the next one. A really thorny Acatia type thing. I was scratched and poked all over, but at least the drive is now container friendly! Then in stepping over a cut branch, I managed to get a thin twig in my eye, That put a halt to my gallop and I retired to put ice on it, while Dave finished clearing away the rest of the cut branches. Apart from an occasional throb it is fine now, but I really feel I am not really pulling my weight in this moving business.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Today has mostly been taken up with proof reading Sorceress of Karres and asking pet movers for updated quotes. Very depressing. And the new owners of Finnegan's Wake came out. I walked them around the fruit trees. The Olive is a mass of blossom.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Ah cut down trees ah eat ma lunch...

And to follow through with the song -if I could station the convenience above the Mooi River municipality and shower them with my 'appreciation'... I would. You remember that rates certificate that had to in with the deeds office by Friday that they promised - after we'd overpaid them that they would post? well guess what...

They refuse point blank to give to us to let us deliver it by hand last week. They had to deal with an incandescent Barbs today. She got it and delivered it. But of course... the whole thing is now late, rot them. So we don't know if we'll be paid in time. Ah well. It's character building. I reckon if you join B and I's character's together by now... we could build a bridge and walk to Australia on it.

The cut down trees part - we've been cutting a 4.5 metre arch to get the container in. Trust me, in 3 years you won't know it happened - we had to do the same when we moved here - the tree is about 35 metres high and as wide. Oh and Elliots (movers) seem to have lost the plot. Pop-top -what pop-top? (see another 3 feet on character suddenly go up with pilasters and small decorative arches. They promised to get back to me. Maybe they tried. I was up a tree.

So today has not been spent writing but cutting large branches. I really must start wearing gloves for this sort of thing as I have a battered thumb. Thing is rock-climber was up the tree sawing. And gloves are not safe to climb in. On the plus side being 6 metres up on a whippy branch doesn't worry me as long as it is not with a chain-saw (tied on see, and out of fall on and/or whip zone - but falling off with a chainsaw could be deadly.) So the high stuff was done with a bow-saw. This is not that bad as none of the branches were more than 8 inches thick - but I'm going to be an imitation English gentleman all over and not just my upper lip tomorrow. Hot bath time. The worst were the cypress - B wanted to do a branch and had to cut right through. I ened up doing another 4 while she went to tear strips off Mooi Muni. I had to do the same - and finish 2 with a panga. The pin-oak branches were far less tough.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Up high in the branches

We have just come in for lunch. While I was in town today, Dave cut a huge number of big branches off the pin oak tree, so that our container can get in here to be loaded. Luckily there is still a canopy of tree over the driveway, it is just a lot higher, as we were told the truck will be 4.5m high!

So I thought I had better pitch in and do my share. So I climbed the 4m ladder that had only been constructed this morning, out of newly cut green branches. (Any idea how springy they are?) Then another meter or so up the tree, I proceeded to cut one of the offending branches.

Wow, that is higher off the ground than I have been for years, and Dave thought the bow saw safer than the chainsaw, so I burned off a lot more calories than I had planned on. Still one more branch hit the dust, and then we stopped for lunch. Just 3 more branches to come down, and then clearing up all the chaos on the ground! I just hope we have no visitors for a day or so, they may battle to drive around.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

skweeee! A lot of seeds!

So following a tip off (thanks!) after my comments about veg-seed in Tas I went to this blog... (which is very worth reading especially if you're into plants or kitchens) and followed the link to
Sigh. I could order the entire catalogue :-) They have Scorzonera (I have wanted forever). Radicchio! Collards (never tasted -I was only just talking to o'mike about them theis morning)Melons I have never even heard of (and melon with my salami or proscuitto is just magnificent). New Zealand Yams, Purple Dragon carrots, and white Belgian carrots... The only thing that dread is just how much money I could spend on this catalogue, without even trying. Sigh - here I could buy roma, I think 3-4 varieties of red salad tomato (determinate and indeterminate), coctail red (jam) a coctail yellow pear. And that's IT. Forget black or large yellow or... I counted 101 varieties! help Advice?;-)

The only disappointment was the luffa... (I assumed it was a logga, and stirred its coffee with its thumb) tch. Loofa! Luffa humph. and everyone knows they are mined from loofite in the midwest.

fruit and nuts

Almond x2, Apple x 4 (2 bearing), apricot x2, cherry x2, fig x 3, hazel x 2, kiwi x2 (large vines+male), grape (not very tasty katawba), lemon x 2, Mulberry, Olive x 2, nectarine, pear x 5, white peach, cling peach x 4, plum x 2 (red heart and yellow), Pecan x 2, raspberries (lots), Walnut x 2, quince.

That's what I have established here - a list to remind me. Sometimes we're awash with fruit. The apples can give us half a ton of fruit, and plums and Kiwis fifty kilos. Of course there is constant war with fruitfly, leaf-miners, monkeys, and various birds - who can leave us with nothing. I've always felt the key to small-scale agriculture was diversification. Grin. How perfectly this suits my jack of all trade nature.

I'm never going to get any of the nuts that I planted, but someone will (maybe my wild cousins the monkeys). But it's a poorer world if we only plant what we will harvest.

I know there are various biocontrol hurdles, but I am looking forward to seeing what will grow. (and doubtless many happy hours of swearing at wallaby, possums, and various birds.) And I will miss bananas - but by the time they get in by plane or ferry, I reckon gold will be cheaper. Anything I should consider growing?

Friday, October 30, 2009

All the burning widgets...

Now the difference between a farm and a dump is sometimes in the eyes of the beholder. In town you tend to run out of space for junk, no matter how fertile your imagination is for something you might need it for one day... but out here -- well, the shops are long way off any real established farm has a plethora of useful junk (some bordering on the antique. And that's the new stuff). I'm as good at it as the next fellow, or maybe even better. I have a fertile imagination for possible uses ;-).

Only - well, besides the space constraints, we are limited as to what we can take with us. Most of my workshop - which has tools that belonged to my Great-grandfather, can't go. Neither can all the garden tools and and all the useful bits - Garlon to slug-bait. And neither can my pile of lumber. Wood, planks, boards, the leftovers and salvage of hundreds of jobs and projects... So last night I was using it for firewood.

It felt so wrong.

Today I had a slithery drive into Mooi through the worst kind of mud -- red clay 2-5 inches of it on hard-pan. If you slow down... you stick. If you brake or turn, you slide. It takes a cool head and and good judgement to drive it which is why I was dismal at it and am still shaking like a diesel compactor. The truck's roof has mud on it. Miricle of miricles, I got through and back. Although it was a damn cheek allowing other vehicles on MY road. :-) There'll be new places to get stuck, but red clay I can't wait to bid an unfond farewell to. Flinders is mostly beach sand, limestone and granitic soils... are any red clay?