Sunday, February 28, 2010

It is so different!

We have had a Tsunami warning, but are too high, and too far from the coast to be in danger, but my heart goes out to all the people whose homes or lives are in danger.

In South Africa, if someone went into your car while you were parked it was to steal. The handbag, the radio, the spare tyre, whatever. Here, on Flinders, I forgot to lock the car while we were parked on the main street for 2 hours this morning, and when I got into the drivers seat I very nearly squashed a bag of tomatoes! Someone had left them on the seat for us. I drove home with a whole new realisation, that we are in a new world, and I am grateful all over again that we are safe here.

Saturday, February 27, 2010


The day dawned... or rather didn't... more like it crept in like a sullen teenager who just got in from that all night party and is now pretending unsuccessfully that they're not tired and bad-tempered. This day came with ill-tempered rumbles and little squalls of rain, that turned into thunder and lightning and a sheeting downpour. Just perfect for not switching on the computer and getting down to work (yesterday 2.1K - today should have been better). And storm followed storm. So I read Peter Mayle's Year in Provence and made B breakfast in bed, and tried not to be too much like a sulky teen myself. I had a baking session, hoping against hope that the stove would be struck by lightning and blow up. We're evolving a lovely hate-hate relationship that stove and I. Yes, I had tinfoil in the vast crack created by the ill-fitting oven door. My absolutely never-fail recommend to non-cooks Matthews's ginger biscuits are pictured below. They are square. They are floppy. Neither of these are their natural state.

Eventually the rain stopped - after lunch - and Barbs went out to start her cutting and I to try and get wordflow going... And then the rain started again. Barbs assures me the cavorting around was perfectly normal mowing and the mentions of 'Thor' were jutht in referenth to her blithters... So we have more rain, which is a good thing as long as the lightning stays away. It's nasty out there and that makes work more attractive. There is something to be said for being warm and dry with hot choc and floppy cookies.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Goatfish and grass-cutting

I've been trying to get the writing pace on the book up onto the plane (books are very like boats - once the story get moving fast enough they skim along almost above the level of stuff you have push through. Go slow and it takes an unwarranted amount of effort to write at all. What is unforgivably worse -- for me -- is that it makes turgid reading.) So after our 'weekend' of hard fishing yesterday, I stuck to the desk most of today, and B went off to 'furrin parts' - Lady Barron. It is nearly 25 km away and to hear some of the locals talk about it you'd swear New York was closer, and Mars not quite as alien (ooh they're strange down there! heh. Not.). B returned with a brush-cutter which we'll try as a mower so long. She's not as dangerous with that as the chainsaw but, my friends, always treat a lady who can weild a chaisaw like that with extreme politeness. She was out in the heat today giving it a test run. I heard it yowl in protest but B repressed it well, and broke it to harness. Next step, the hayfield... uh lawn. It's greening up. The island looks a bit like South Africa in midwinter in high summer here, and of course is a lovely green most of the rest of the year.

My only break really has been to look up goatfish (red mullet) -- picture of beardy above, and wonder if I believe the beggars that say it's good eating. We'll try it of course. I turned some of the smoked pike from yesterday into smoked pike, grated zucchini, beet-root leaves and spring onion fritters (all garden stuff) - which were actually exceptional. I bound it with egg and flour (about a 1/3 cup) and fried them. We had them with Inge's tomato chutney and baked caliban... uh Coliban potatoes. Color me unimpressed with these. They're very floury. Must be good for something but not great baked.

And then after supper we had another quick go at the squid. Whitemark is a wild place, people drive down to the pier... and drive away. Still we met chatted to few more people, learned a little more. B got one squid, and we were given another trevalley by another fisherman. If he didn't want it, I certainly did!
And the sky gave a another curse-of-artist sunset (if you painted it, all the veiwers would say 'how fake')

Thursday, February 25, 2010

I can so fish!

Having been on 3 squid catching expeditions, and watched the others catch, while my jig came back empty, I decided that my role was to run with the net, when necessary, and be supportive. Well, last night I caught a big squid, quite big enough to make up for all the ones who got away. And boy, did I dance a jig on the jetty! Luckily Dave was the only person around to see.

Then this morning we rose with the dawn, not too bad on the clock due to daylight saving, and went to fish, again off the jetty. I caught a big Pike, or Snook, or at least big by my standards. (Certainly the biggest fish I have ever landed.) Picture the scene. I am wearing gumboots, denims, 2 jackets, and a woolly hat jumping around yelling "Bring the net! It is huge! You take it! It is huge!"

Despite all the noise, the fish did not take fright, Dave made me take the rod, and he got it safely into the net. Which proves that our son, James, is wrong. You can take a net with you and still catch fish! Unfortunately, we are not fond of the taste of the pike, but smoked they are delicious, so Dave has now the extra work of preparing it!

He, of course, caught 3 fish, 2 silver trevally, that we were actually targeting, and a goat fish. It is red and has a beard, what more can I say?

At least I am not a total passenger in this new lifestyle of ours, and mine was the biggest!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Ovens and their doors

Last night Dave made a delicious 3/4 course meal for our landlord and his mother. We were all forced to eat an amazing amount of a variety of foods, from smoked 'clam', home grown zucchini, herb bread, island Lamb and his very special chocolate pecan nut pie. It was a super evening with lots of laughs. John brought a friends homemade Pinot Noir wine, which was soft and pale and gentle and a great aid to conversation. (He insisted on sticking to beer, I wonder why?)

But that set us up well for today, when we had to go into the Community Centre, (i.e. Hospital) so they could take our blood, just as a baseline, so if we get sick they know what we were like before? Ummm. Still, the main problem was we were not allowed to eat or drink first! But we had had enough supper to carry us through to coffee afterwards, or almost anyway.

There are still a few left overs for us to have for lunch today. So at least we can make up for the blood lost. But any excuse will do!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Long Point

We drove out to Long point under an arch of paperbarks and ti-trees to have supper with Geoff, who has been re-habilitating an old dairy farm. While a local dairy would be a good thing, this area is really not suited to it, sandy and low (nowhere higher than 7 metres above sea-level - Long Point is not quite sandspit of quartzite reef that hasn't quite made it to being an island yet, and therefore shelters a partially enclosed shallow bay of maybe 600 metres at its mouth and maybe twice that at its widest - and about 2km long. It's very tidal, principally seagrass environment, and a great habitat for birds. We spotted roughly 20 oystercatchers huddled together - very unusual - but we had squalls of rain a howling wind - not really perfect for an evening explore.

We'll go back at low tide and brave the mud so I can fully explore the wet part. Anyway, we had fire-grilled steaks inbetween the rain-squalls, red wine and a discussion on Hannibal and the elephant of surprise. Still, the silence and isolation and sheer darkness of a wet night and the call to me.

Monday, February 22, 2010

A mention of sheep

We're going out to supper tonight - an adventure for us. I'll hopefully have a few pictures of Long Point to post, although the weather has been iffy - showers of rain, and a bit of wind. Had a long chat at the doctor's rooms with someone in the sheep-hairdessing trade. I was quite unaware they used hair straitening tongs and mirrors, and was really surprised at blow-drying part... heh. I really didn't know that they went to some effort to keep the wool clean, or that sheep in bad weather turn their butts to the weather and keep walking... which means they freeze against the fence, even if there is shelter to windward. We're -I hope - going to get to keeping some of the creatures. So we try to absorb what we can. But will we ever be able to afford that amount of hair-gel?

Sunday, February 21, 2010

A good reason to wear at least trousers at night

The new house syndrome caught me badly last night. I might have been a bit feverish - anyway, we'll stick to that story - and I was hot and therefore sleeping in my natural fur and a sheet, had battled to get to sleep at all and woke up in one of those really disorientated states - needing to relieve bladder pressure. It's at least 12 yards to the 'loo. I walked into the bookcase, the wall... and proceeded pinball style to the throne. Washing my hands had some sort of wakeo effect, and I headed back to bed in a lot more cogent fashion. Well, I thought so. Until I walked into a desk... which is not in our bedroom. After some confusion I beat a retreat (via the desk, again.) I was in the room next door (in my defense the two doors are right next to each other. So I got out into the passage again... chose the door. Walked into the desk again. Third try I did get back into our room and back into our bed. But I was relatively awake by this time, which left me lying there reaching an important decision. Pyjamas if we have visitors! This morning the bath had a mouse in it - presumably looking for a safe spot from the nightly blunderer. I still don't top our smallest-tallest lad who when he was barely in junior school, not only got back into the wrong bed, but threw the innocent sleeper in it out of it. But maybe the mouse didn't think so.

It was one of those days when I probably should have stayed in bed, having got back to it, because all the logical processes definitely weren't working. I, for some bizarre reason (the sort of culinary idea that normally seems brilliant on the empty side of a bottle of good red wine)decided that to save milk I would have honey and nut coated cornflakes (oh how we are misled by foreign labels) with a half a cup of tepid coffee. Do not try this in your own home or even universe. It improves neither element at all.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Of Mice (not of men)

The Island has mice. I have no idea if they're introduced mice (seems likely) or natives, but they're a bloody nuisance. Miss my cats! Anyway, we've had a couple of invaders, and dismal failure so far at getting the little beggars out, bar the one I caught in the bath (cleanliness is a way of getting closer to the God of rodents anyway). In theory the house is mouse proof, in practice not so. I was standing at the fridge gazing vacantly into it as I often do when I have got up to put the kettle on or fetch myself pair of socks, when Mister Mouse hurtled around the corner. I did a good Slartibartfast imitation, and sadly did not land on the mouse which ran behind the fridge. In my defence I just saw something coming along the floor out of the corner of my eye and assumed 'snake' - and they'll be next if we have mice. In the absence of cats I have set some very inferior moustraps and, as little as I like the stuff opened some boxes of mouse-poison. The mice have so far ignored the poison, and eaten the bait off the traps without setting them off. Today saw the effects of nibbling on the bottom of a cornflour, bag drat the gibbering ferligt. A mighty shower of cornflour ensued. A hasty putting into rat-proof containers of edibles followed. This included the important life-lesson - do not squeeze the bottom of the bag of flour to see how full it is ;-).

Today has been our hottest day yet in Australia - about 27 according to the site (an asset, that site) and airless and perfect for swimming and very little else... except B and I are still a bit shaky and miz. I caught on to the hotness a bit late to do the Eastern Cape thing - houses open windows and doors for the cool of night and close everything for the daytime. It really works - counter-intuitive though it may seem at first. It's now blowing up a storm out there if I am any judge (which as yet I am not of local weather. Back in South Africa I was nearly as good as the local weather forecast - not wildly wrong more than 90% of the time).

We're getting the first bits out of the veggie garden - spring onion, Silverbeet, thyme, and a little parsley. And we nearly have a zucchini (corgette) and to make my dear family laugh, chillies.

Update: I caught the next mouse in the bath this morning.

Friday, February 19, 2010

The hills and mountains of my horizons

Someday I may become blasé about the beauty of this place. Someday I might become an adequate photographer too. This evening was a perfect example of the sheer paradox that is this complex little environment. Behind us the mist was rolling down over Darling range - granite hills and a sort of Highlands-and-Scotch symphony of grey granite and dark heather, and paler grassland, starkness of its edges softened by the mist. To the south Strzelki mountain drew the clouds around like a fluttering cloak.

In front of us the flatlands leading to sea - and sunset through the wind-twisted pines.

On an evening like this it's like being on the edge of the mountains here. Yet today was a warm one, and I could have taken beach pictures not a mile from the house which looked like the tropics.
Unfortunately B and I are still feeling a bit pale-and-frail -- pretty up and down in my case, so I hope it's nearly done, and I can allow some getting wet and catching stuff to eat. We did go into the Multi-purpose center (sort of like a mini-hospital) and saw the doctor briefly. She seems a sweetie, and we got introduced to a bunch of people - including the lady who rented the place our landlord is now living in so he can rent his place to us - they now have built. Kind of move-one-to-find-place for the next. I'm becoming mildly irritated by the Martha's Vineyard syndrome here. The absentee holiday home-owners - who have a huge effect on the island's property, but actually don't put a lot into keeping the society of it alive. Oh well, early days yet. Maybe they do add something to the place.

Thursday, February 18, 2010


Oddly enough snotty colds are just as miserable in Tasmania, on Flinders Island as anywhere else. Of course, being male I am entitled to make noises like I am dying about it. Actually I find colds (or being sick) irritating as hell, besides being miserable for all the normal reasons and am no good at the common sense of lie down and get better. But i can grumble with the very best. B inevitably gets them after I do and is much more sensible than I am (another huge surprise to all of you, I am sure). Pharamacy SA-style is another thing Flinders doesn't have although Walkers (supermarket) carries some stock of usual sort of stuff.

This is all very frustrating because not only has the weather been warm and still - perfect for diving - but I have a ton of writing work to do, and a distinct lack of good writing ability available. It does require quite clear thought.

Trip to the local doc (not for cold, but for a script for asthma inhalor) was mistimed. Her day off, and as this is routine chronic stuff we'll try tomorrow.

Almost there!

Well, the rock arrived. The unfortunate guys who had to unload it got a pocket history of it's life so far, while they positioned their vehicle ready for the 'off'. They, I hope, finally realised the rock's significance, and why we had been so determined to get it here.

Then came the wonderful news. "We will put down this pallet here, so it will be a lot easier to move to your own house." I think they had visions of us phoning in 6 months to ask to move it 10kms up the road. Anyway it is up on 2 pallet, looking really happy, and I hope enjoying its new view on Australia.

Next hurdle is to try to get medicine here. We are off to brave the internal workings of the hospital.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

You rock my world - the Penultimate stage

It's here. Team Bowman delivered our rock. They all came, in convoy with their red rocket and on it... our rock (you need the impossible moved - you know who to call and to rely on). A 300kg piece of hand-cut African sandstone, cut from the mountainside of the Drakensberg in about 1870, sled-dragged by oxen across the red clay of Africa to the house to make part of the strong foundation of a frontier farmhouse - a symbol of sheer bloody-minded determination and hard work, of family and mostly of continuity, finally arrived here, on Flinders island, Tasmania.

We've come here to build and grow. To be Australians. But you do not forget the roots which made you. That rock is piece of our history, and we'll build it into our home, so that we and our children (and I hope their children's children) can remember that determination and hard work, and keep the continuity going.

Strong foundations make for solid homes - and there is more than just bricks (or stones) and mortar in them.

Now just my beasties, and my kids finally here and we're home.
I miss them.
But we've got this far and we have our rock.
You can do anything with a rock

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

clams, flounders and passing turkeys

There was an early morning low tide this morning so we went to collect some clams (don't ask what species, I don't know, and neither does anyone else. Katelysia sp. at a guess - but they're quite small.) Anyway, the regulations allow us 100 pipi or clams or 200 wedge shells and don't seem to specify exactly what species they are, and there seem to be a bunch of Katelysia species living in that habitat and a few other species I really HAVE to find out what are and exactly where live. I'm a very selective predator/forager who believes very firmly in variety and leaving plenty for tomorrow. The locals have told me there are no clams here. And no mussels. And no oysters (well maybe in the North-East River - the North-East River is kind of like a mythical distant waterbody of Eden with EVERYTHING. Heh. It's maybe 50 Km away - and a good fishing spot. But I don't think it's the biological lost world. I think that's a lot closer - like all around here.)

It was a nice low tide and we got our bag limit quite quickly with minimum immersion in very cold water.

I took a few minutes to see if I could catch some mullet with the cast net.

I'm not heaven's gift to this - I just like it as a very visual way of fishing - see your fish-shoal and throw at them. Miss (mostly).

Well, that's the theory anyway. I caught 3 of these cute little flounder that I certainly never saw. Was fascinating putting them back and watching them vanish into the sand (I really need video clips of some of this stuff). And only 2 mullet - both under the 25 cm size. That's big for a shallows thrownetting mullet. I saw lots of very tiny ones but no major shoals of medium/large fish. Oh well, more things to find and enjoy finding.

Driving back past this incredible watercolour landscape

We saw some wild turkeys - about 25 of them. If they hadn't been in someone's else's fields but on the roadside I might have been tempted to try thrownetting them. I wonder if that is legal?

Monday, February 15, 2010

The veggies.

I am of course (as everyone knows) a brilliant gardener, throwing vast amounts of energy and ignorance at this, and making one spindly little plant sort-of grow where four flourished happily before I started mucking about. Well, to each of us our talents...

Fortunately there was an established veg garden, with windshields. Unfortunately it hadn't actually been gardened in some time. So day one I started on the first bed, adding moderately elderly manure from the cows next door (and starting the compost heap).

Aside from assualts from CEDDY supporting birds, (which I may have maligned. It might have been after snails and just too enthusiastic.) said snails, grasshoppers, and my gifted gardening skills (usually involving successfully rooting out leeks, under the idea that they're grass and nurturing grass, thinking the leeks are doing well, as an example of my genius) we have, after a month (which isn't long in garden terms at all) some things ready to start eating the thinnings anyway.
Herbs - I have parsley, thyme, and fennel and a Jalapeno chilli(need sage, rosemary, oregano, and basil (but too late for that, I think)) and the most enormous lavender was growing here anyway. The mint refuses to even try and germinate, drat it. How is something so pernicious as a plant, so finicky as a seed? I know, otherwise the world would be knee deep in mint. I've also got 5 rhubarb plants (Victoria) going - which is probably enough rhubarb to give six elephants stomach-music. Then we've 3 volunteer tomatoes, one with a tomato, cucumbers (maybe I'll get gerkin size fruit, 2 types of zucchini (and the first zucchini is almost ready to come off) lettuce- iceberg (flourishing) Reine des'glaces (not flourishing) and red and frilly stuff(suffering from CEDDY attacks), green beans, Chinese cabbage, broccoli, beetroot, silverbeet(swiss-chard, nearly ready to start harvesting), Carrots and spring onions, and of the planted-too-early-but-we'll-see parsnips and spinach. Oh, and leeks. The few I haven't pulled out. Potatoes I planted in tyres outside the beds, and they're sort of growing... who knows.

I still have one raised bed to go, but we have made some progress in spite of me.

Sunday, February 14, 2010


Compared to a week ago, we are very much more settled in, with the bottom of the wash basket almost in sight. The plumbers holes are history, and the veggies are growing apace. We have had both hard rain, and drizzle, and stayed snug and warm in our house. So I feel ready to face the winter.

I made Dave a 'barley' in place of a 'wheatie' to put in the microwave and keep his toes warm, but the lack of comment suggests I will have to try harder to find some cracked wheat. We had to empty all of ours out before we came over, so as not to contaminate the local crops. I am sure ours had been microwaved so often it was as sterile as possible, but I need to find something to keep Dave's toes warm while he is sitting still and working for long periods of time.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

More Fish

This'll have to be brief as I am trying to sort out the map for MUCH FALL OF BLOOD my alternate-history fantasy set in a renaissance that never happened. While the geography of Valahia (Wallachia) and Transylvania is much the same a lot of town names have changed. I tried to use the correct ones for the time - and now I have to make sure all of them in the correct places on the map. There are some downsides to being as accurate as possible.
Anyway, I must give the Silver Trevally an emphatic thumbs up, just plain grilled so I can pick up and learn the flavours as much as possible. I read that the colour of the flesh and fattyness of it varies a lot - that's something people really need to bear in mind with fish. Unless a fish species has a very narrow diet their taste will be influenced by the local foods they eat, just as the bloke who had garlic for for dinner last night smells (and probably tastes - never tried and hope I never do) of garlic, and cultured prawns or salmon just don't have the flavour of the wild ones. So if you really, really want to get picky about your fish it matters what species it is and how it was caught, and where it is from. Whitemark pier Trevally are great eating with a very recognisable and distinct flavour, almost 'gamey' and sort hint of lemony-ness to the flesh, nicely textured, and succulent. It'd be a waste to smoke it or disguise it.
The other fish we ate tonight was a present, 'flake'. I'm sorry but it ranks with trawler caught hake - edible, reasonable texture and in no way unpleasant. But dull compared to Flathead or the trevally.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Barrack-room ballad?

"So who'd yer barrack for?" Asked Jimmy.
This is the sort of question that leaves me wondering about my military discharge. Anyway - B was being asked. "Er."
"Yer can't barrack for no-one. Only woosies do that. Even barracking for the wrong team - his (Gesture with a thumb at inferior brand on cooler bag (esky?)) is better n'that.
"That's support a side?"
"Yeah. Look..." and the merits of two Ozzie rules sides are discussed, with loyalty and suitable disdain while the two ex-South Africans try not look like Americans having cricket explained to them. Thank heavens for cricket, and B's following of it... and through my mind goes the US possibilities for this. Do two service-men who have an argument about politcs ending in a bout of fisticuffs explain to their C.O.... "He was barracking for Barack in the barracks."

Anyway -last night we went to Wespac do to relaunch their brand on Flinders. It was rather pleasant hearing bank executives telling a rural patch of farmers that they realised they'd made a horse's butt out of getting away from having local bank managers etc. In my dreams would you get a South African Bank doing that - for all that it is also true. Anyway - Snacks and drinks, and meeting some more locals. It had a very low attendance for anything in RSA that had an open bar. I swapped some good lies with 'Roo' who looks to be mine of information about the fishing/diving history of this island - from the scallop fishery to tending sheep on the outer islands. And this morning dawn saw us trying out another tip-off about silver Trevally. I must say, on light tackle - and they are REAL light tackle fish - sneaky and very quick to snaffle your bait as lightly as any pickpocket, they are remarkably good fighting fish. Tonight we'll see if they eat well.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Hot smoked sea-pike

Sphyraena novaehollandiae has almost got a long enough name to be a small and irrelevant fish (basic rule of ichthyology - if it has a short, simple Latin species name, it's a fish you have heard of. If it is 47 syllables, a mumble, snort, two clicks and a gargle long, then the size (and likelihood of your ever encountering it) are inversely proportional to the name-length. Anyway, the short-finned sea pike - or to confuse you even more, Snook (not Snoek - Thyristes atun IIRC occur here. They occur in our evening squid venture. (Yes, I would like to spend lots more time exploring, fishing, photographing, but I earn my living by writing fiction, not being paid to blog about the island. Of course the island and its life will creep into the books. In a way this is my relaxation writing, when I get stuck, because I just have to write it down, and I don't have to make it up or force it to make sense). We'd seen them chasing squid- jigs and I caught these two attempting to eat a silver wobbler (which is not a senior citizen leaving the pub, just a piece of slivery metal that moves rather like that.) Noel the plumber explained it to me in very graphic detail :-).

Two sites I'd looked at said gut it soon, and don't try freezing it. The first part I have confirm. In fact, ditch the belly flaps, and gut it immediately - The first one I kept for maybe an hour and a quarter, and the belly flaps were distinctly nasty - a faint coppery-tinny taste. We grilled one that night - and despite various sites claiming it to be a good to excellent table fish I wouldn't bother grilling it again. It's a bit soft, and not much flavour.

Anyway, I hot smoked the second fish. Smoking is not quite the mystery everyone makes it out to be, if you follow a few simple guidelines (like be over 18 before you buy and ignore the warning labels... um. I mean smoking meat or fish.) The key to good smoking is to salt and then air-dry your fish. If the fish goes in wet, you get little runnels forming, or worse little foamy white oozes. Salting is a trick too, which requires a basic understanding of diffusion or at least understanding the rules. See, most people bung salt on, and bung it straight into the smoker, or pan, or cook/smoke it and then add the salt later. Which means that you have a thin layer of very salty and the rest plain. Salt dehydrates fish or meat - which is a 'toughening' process - which is why you seal meat before salting, and rest a roast. But fish is a different matter - it tends to be soft - too soft sometimes, and often quite 'wet'(which if you just cook it results in that nasty ooze - washing out the taste and washing off the flavourings on the outside) and pre-salting draws out moisture and allows the salt to penetrate. It firms the fish up, and makes it less likely to disintegrate. So I salt the fish quite heavily with rock salt if possible. Then - depending on the type of fish, I leave it for one and a half minutes -to 2 minutes per centimetre thickness. I don't believe - except for tunas and swordfish (cooked rare) that fish should ever be thicker than 3 cm or the outside overcooks befor the inside is done - but that's just my point of veiw. Then the key is to wash the salt off, pat the fish dry with kitchen towel, and let it dry for a bit. Think about this logically - you're re-hydrating (a little) the outer surface and allowing the salt time to diffuse to a fairly evenly throughout the fish. Then you smoke (or fry) your fish. Smoking really needs to be a bit dryer than any other cooking method. The surface should be touch dry and if you poke it gently with a nice clean finger, indent (not tear or part) and then come back up.

don't do it too hot - or for too long. 8 minutes is what I did this for. And - unless you have to eat it right then, it'll be nicer cold, once the smoke flavour has penetrated more. I turned a fillet into a cold salad that evening, with boiled red potatoes (from the island) a couple of spring onions (from the island) boiled egg from Inge's son's chooks, and a few leaves of very own thyme from the garden. OK so the mayo wasn't home made (lazy) or even from the island.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010


Wow, the schools are back, so the holiday makers should have all left the island? We went to get the groceries today and the supermarket was packed to the rafters with shoppers. Of course the ferry comes in overnight on Tuesday, so Wednesday would be the logical day to buy fresh stuff, and it also happens to be the day the library is open, and the Service Tas, so that is why WE were there, not to snaffle all the fresh milk at all!

Dave smoked some fish this morning, which made a really delicious start to the day. It was Pike, or Snook, and we had found it a bit bland last night, but the smoking improved it no end.

The drivers licence is the next great hurdle, and I am off to try my luck at the written exam. The problem is that a lot of the rules are almost the same as South Africa, but not quite. Still I will see how good my memory is, even at my great age!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

sunrise, sunset

The quality of light here makes brilliant photographers of even happy snappers with ordinary point-and-shoots. Sunrise and sunset are almost inevitably spectacular.

dawn in the sounds

sunset from the house

plane over the trees

whitemark pier

Monday, February 8, 2010

Abalone diving

With food prices really rather high here in Australia (compared to SA) and still higher on the island, and being determined to start off the way we want to continue, we had a good tide, and good weather this morning so we took ourselves to the rocks to dive for Abalone (me) and to fish (B). In Dave's theory of self-sufficiency (which is a rather Rube Goldberg theory, held together by bits of string and powered by wallabies on a pogo-piston) foraging has a pretty important role - because it conveniently bypasses my shortcoming as a gardener and my non-existant skills at animal husbandry (Which I reckon would have the entire animal farm sueing for divorce.) A good foraging session is at least partly opportunistic - because fish, shellfish, game, mushrooms and field-food are relatively hard to gaurantee (rather like my veggies) - but if you have some grasp of what you're doing, where you need to be and when, you will hit real larder/freezer fillers from time to time. Of course that's not how fisheries regs work, but they're still generous enough to allow us a varied stock up.

There is just one minor detail - without local knowledge you can be wasting a lot of time and energy. James and I spotted quite a lot of Abalone off the back of the island off Killikrankie. I was surprised at the time as it is quite close to a popular holiday spot. Still, better than looking blind (and the abs we'd seen off Trousers Point had been smaller and scattered.) And I am free-diving, no aqualung and old age so easy dives are popular. B and I swam across - well I waded - my weight-belt is just a little too heavy and designed to get me down. We floated a crate with us with reels and tackle and drinks in. Got about a third of the way and Barbs said "I'm moonwalking." That's where her similarity to Michael Jackson ended though. Floating in her wetsuit she swam and I walked. We got over and I put on frog-feet and started diving. The abs were there - I did waste a lot of time looking in places they weren't and hoping I'd see a lost crayfish. Alas, no such luck. I really need a small fortune for that underwater camera for the blog (and a dive-bouy to tow things like a speargun and a bag -But more anon). The fish (some of which looked like dinner and some of which looked like they really deserve a role in one of my sf books.) in colours startling and vivid... and camo shades suddenly appearing in shifting forests of seaweed and then vanishing like shy beasts in the next movement. There are mobile ribbons of spangly little fry-fish everywhere, and the ichthyologist aspect of me wants to know what they all are and all the intimate sordid details of their family history (Ichthyologists are like that. They're mostly harmless otherwise). I was being hyper cautious, because dive alone = die alone, and I don't know the local currents or even bad places or beasties. Anyway, no disasters. I found that most of the abalone were a bit undersized - hence them being there. I did have 5 of my 10 quota, which I suppose for a newbie wasn't too bad. I was a little disgusted with myself but after about 2 hours (a lot of which spent in the wrong places), I was just too cold. B added one wrasse just over the 30 cm limit to the larder. I should have fished or taken the handspear out but... the tide was pushing and I was cold. So we set out back... me with the 5 abs and the fish and my weightbelt. So coming over I'd applied river-crossing logic and led us across the widest possible point. B was convinced I did this to get her wet... So we went back the narrowest point. Like in rivers this is current scoured and deepest... B in a wetsuit with no extra bobbed along swimming happily (incoming tide, no worries - you're going in. . Me... I was sinking. I had to let my wife swim on and get my fat-frog-feet on or we'd have the embrassment (not to mention other problems) of ye tough careful diver in all his kit, drowning (OK unlikely - I can swim and I was probably not more than 15 yards from standable water and only chin deep where I was. And I could still have dropped my weightbelt, and stuff in my hands) Lesson one. Abalone weighs. I think a bag and bouyline might be a good idea for ten.

Coming in to the shallows - with the white sand and clear sea it looked very tropical - I saw shoals of silvery fish I assumed must be mullet shivering the water just behind the shore wash. I got rid of weight-belt, abalone and big frog feet, fetched the throw-net and had a happy half hour of cast-netting. I caught (and released) quite a lot of mullet. I'm near certain no one had ever thrown a net at them, as they let me get quite close. Local regs are 25 cm to a mullet and most of these were too small. I'd have eaten 10 over a barbie (Braai, Cathy, braai) quite cheerfully back in South Africa. But local rules have to be played by.
Anyway, we came home beat the abs, washed the bits of abalone off ourselves and have some more meals in the freezer. It's not really cost efficient or self-sufficiently effective (protein about 4 meals - I reckon on a good forage being meals for about 2 weeks - beacuse it won't always be good, and trading your surplus is very much part of this lifestyle. I got a squid this evening to add to it, so it's nearly a week's food.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Leatherjackets and medical plumbing

The Perishers (the cartoon series starring Wellington and his owner Boot, the Old English sheepdog - sniff miss my Roly) was probably secretly born on Flinders. I base this latest crazy theory on strong evidence, namely Marlon - the character who wants to be a ‘Brane' Surgeon - or one of those blokes that go down sewers in big rubber boots... or maybe that's just all plumbers, seeing as my plumber mate Craig back in SA has a donkey called Eddie that drinks beer.

Noel the Plumber - to his mate "Looks like it needs surgery."
Mate (on knees with arm down the fat-trap) sticks out a lordly (or sugeonly) hand "Screwdriver nurse."
Water is pumped in behind the sealing device. Mate has ear to ground. "C'n you hear anything?"
Noel "No. Reckon it's stopped breathing mate. Yer better give it mouth-to-mouth."
(Mate looks at scummy drain. "Not without anasthetic. From Doctor Boag*"

So we've affected a cure of sorts - Admittedly with an open hole which is fairly niffy, the surgeons have a bit more patching to do. Other headaches... B's computer problems proved to be Windows, and miricle of miricles the TV was pretty close to plug-and-play. My manuscript (current book) has a slew of undesireable formatting to be manually cleaned out from its transfer from the Eee, but it is there and working.

We went to Lady Barron today but it was so cold and miserable - and the water just on the edge was salty rotten seaweed tea at Badger corner and I decided not to dive and came back to work instead. Yeah I know. When I was young I'd have got into water so vile you'd have beat it with a stick first. But tomorrow is supposed to be better weather, and we're nearly out of seafood. We ate the Leatherjacket (trigger fish) tonight, and I was pleasantly surprised. I grilled it (my big grill from SA has died - obviously didn't like the trip or something. I'm glad I won't be doing that again) and I really need a more intense heat than the stove grill produces - but it was still surprisingly good (for a fish that I was told was barely edible). It's firm-textured - ideal for something like green Thai curry or a fish satay, but not dry. I reckon they're keepers.
*the local beer. Boags.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Computer again

Today has not been a good day. The plumber came back and solved the problem, the drain was blocked, but he has opened a hole which is rather smelly, but will sort it on Monday,he hopes. He is a good guy, with a wonderful sense of humour, adn at least we can shower without floading the garden now.

My computer is refusing to switch on as far as Windows, it asks as always for an F1 prompt, says 'no signal detected'and then reboots. REALLY irritating! Anyone with any ideas on what to try next? Our geek kids are not on line.

Still the view out of the window is beautiful, and Dave's abalone cakes were delicious on bread for lunch.

The wind dried the washing really fast, and the sun bleached the odd yellow colour out of the white tablecloth, that the container had added to spots of it. How does heat in a cardboard box, in a container add colour to patches of material? Just one of life little mysteries.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Back on my own PC

Well,a day of visitors - firstly the plumber and his mate. It was mildly funny to see how they went from 'foreign city wally' to 'oh crikey, it really is blocked. We'll have to get another bit of kit.' And then we decided there was a big mama flathead living in there. With indigestion.

No sooner had they left than Daryl the computer bloke arrived. Nice guy, even if he irritated me finding the problem I had failed to. Gradually transferring operation to the main PC...

Then we had some supportive cake and a cucumber gifts from Jan (this is not SA - female) and Anne - who wondered if we knew anything about Cameroon as that's on the church roster. Well, it is in Africa... I suggested Gerald Durrell's Bafut Beagles. ;-)

I cooked experimental abalone rissoles... Need work. They taste good but tend to fall apart.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

When the wind blows

The electricity supply can be... touchy shall we say. OK, today it has been mostly below gale force, but close, A nasty hot north east wind that gusts and rushes and wuthers, and does its evil best to unscrew my beetroot seedlings from the ground. It's days like today that make Flinders such a wonderful place for bird-watching. See... the birdies can't FLY without a risk of touring Antarctica, and so all the twitcher has to do get really close is crawl around on hands and knees on the forest floor - because even trees might end up in Antarctica (There is apparently a lot of coal in in Antarctica. Geologists claim it's from when the world was warmer, and Antarctica was further north (I asked if it only came north in winter and had my geologist son roll his eyes), but _I_ suspect it's whole forests from Tassie that blew there. They should search for frozen birdies to see if I am right. In the meanwhile those birdwatchers who like to get really close only need to work on being able to crawl faster than birds can run.
Speaking of birds and vegetables and geologist-type sons, there is a brown thrushy thing (yet to find out its name - give me a few more months - we'll call it Henry for now. The superb fairy wrens are called Tink and Wendy) that has formed an unholy alliance with my son. The Campaign for the Eradication, Demolition and Destruction of Yuck (AKA red lettuce) (CEDDY) has a new and powerful friend in Henry birds. I actually think it is Henry-birds love of red lettuce that makes them rip the leaves to shreds and actually pull seedlings out, but whether it is love or CEDDY they're a menace. My other great gardening decision is that leeks are just too confusing to plant here. The principal weed I am dealing with is a thin grass which looks exactly like a little leek
- only the little leeks are much much easier to pull out.
Two different people have given us Zucchini (Pura and Inge) which I appreciate right now very much. To think I would miss the abundant supply of Finnegan's Wake (53 new ways to cook/disguise zucchini by Dave Freer). My next book will probably be 53 new ways to cook Henry.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Hold your nose!!

Today was a really smelly day. The drain from the bath etc was overflowing. It is just outside the door we use most to go in and out of the house, but fortunately the water runs away from the house to pool under the clothes line! So I used a cute kids bucket with a smiley face painted on it to scoop all the water out of the fat trap, but it still overflowed when I did a load of washing, (which I donned gumboots to hang up!) So I called our landlord, said I had done my best and it was his turn.

I then did our weekly run to the tip with our rubbish, and the last, or almost last bits of furniture wrapping paper. I finally did last nights washing up, which I had been saving so as not to add extra dirty water to the faulty drain, and discovered that the piece that goes inside the breadmaker was missing! It is a small metal paddle that stirs the dough. Total catastrophy, we can make no bread without it, we can buy island bread, but of course Dave's is WAY superior. So I phoned around and found out who controlled the tip, which is now closed until Friday afternoon, and it looks like rain tonight. We went in and fetched a key, and set off to find 'our' bag of rubbish in the landfill dump! Well, there were a lot more bags with drawstring tops than I had expected, but we found it, and transferred the contents into a new bag we had brought with us. The flies helped, and some of the contents had been in there a week. But the paddle was not there! We came home and found it in the rubbish I had thrown out after I got back from the tip! I said words.

While we were making a cup of coffee to get over it all, our landlord, John, arrived to deal with the drain. It was back into the smelly water, (which gets cleaner with each time the trap is emptied, I must say) But John could not get it clear either, but we did establish that the kitchen water does not go through the fat trap, only the bath and laundry water does, so we just need to live with it overflowing until a plumber can get here. But there is one on the island, so hopefully we will see him soon!

I have already had a shower, and later, a good boot and arm washing, but I am really looking forward to a good scrub down before bed tonight

Dumpster diving Flinders island style

It's been an... odiferous pongwifforous day. With part happy endings... I was rather down in the dumps yesterday. Today I was deeper in the dumps, or rather the tip. My bread-maker's paddle was AWOL, and we figured it had to have ended up in the rubbish -Barbs took that to the tip along with a load of cardboard just before the tip closed (this is Alice's restaurant country. The dump is closed on thanksgivin' - well all public holidays, and open at specific hours about 4 days a week. We're going to be reliant on that piece of machinery, so we went int to the council office, got hold of the works foreman, and got the key (I don't think they could believe these crazy South Africans. But our bin-bag was right on top, and was mostly (we thought) full of paper and cardboard scraps. It was fairly gross, but the fly hitch-hikers we'd picked up at the gate thanked us for taking them all the way to fly Shangri La. Thank heaven for big rubber boots and having worked in a hospital (you learn to turn your mind off revolting smells and sights.)

I was quite glad not to have found it though, as the environment was not salubrious. On getting home, washing boots and hands outside, and then inside scrub down - I thought of checking behind the stove... and then just for thorough the new bin bag, which had nothing more in it than a bag of carrots that I had had a jelly (dessert not jam) accident with and had put in the sink to wash, and B had thought was for throwing and had tossed. Two electrical SA plugs... and the errant paddle. B must have picked it up with the carrots. That jelly mold has some explaining to do! (it leaked in bottom of the fridge)I think all it needs is a good wash. So we had no need to Dumpster dive but ended well. Still a smelly day... and it didn't stop. B -brave girl had had it worse than I had as she had bucked grey water out of the sludge trap to try and find what was blocking it this morning. No joy so we called our landlord who came just after we'd found the paddle. So we had a team go at it with a hose, and wire and going in from the septic tank.

No joy there. John-boy is calling the island plumber. Anyway we had a few laughs doing it. It's only shower and washing machine water (not even sink) so not too gross. On a final mission for the day I had another go at B's computer (another at mine this morning -no luck) and... we have that working.

So win some, lose some.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

One of those days

Yeah, bleah. An I should have stayed in bed day - we figure we're a drawer from the kitchen and all the dishcloths(from a second cupboard) missing - not the worst disaster that ever was. Just irritating - anyway, most of it can be replaced (two things are bits of other things, which therefore need replacing in entirety or not all.) The chief task for today was however getting the computers up and running, my work transferred from the eee and me writing as if my tail was afire - which it will be if I don't get a move on. And this did not come to pass. Both hard drives test as fine in the external, I have replaced both fans, the hard drives and... the computers don't work. My geek-enabled sons were supposedly going to do this for me, and then they were going to advise via skype... and I can't raise either of them. Not a happy camper, this side. Added to this our new Vacuum cleaner (as we couldn't bring our old one with us) has died. it's still under warranty - in Launceston. The customer care number is not a working number. Oh and the water tap to the washing machine leaks bigtime - not the joint but the tap itself. I have no idea where to turn off the water to fix it. And to add final insult the soak-away seems to be blocked and flooded out of its manhole - noxious puddle at the front door...

So I made us a seafood pizza for supper. We have our pictures on the walls and carpets down. My Kids have visas and are safe back uni. We're here, and dogs and cats are coming. There's a bowl of apples on the table, a few meals in the deep-freeze -- and things will get sorted...
No worries.

Monday, February 1, 2010

The unpacking continueth

Well, the house is mostly done - and relatively little is broken - If you don't include our new one legged dining-room table. Most other tables with a single leg don't have them at the corner. Glass, a soapstone carving, some handles and a leg off the stove. Now we see how honest the insurers are. I'll let you know. The other matter of some mild concern is the contents of the two drawers under the kettle, now that we have discovered the rest of B's computer in the wooden kist that holds board-games. (Yes, we play those.) It's mildly worrying as other than the can-opener, the pestle, and some mixing spoons and measures, I can remember what was in there. Nothing that immediately jumps out at me so it can't have been the jack-in-the box. We've finished all of the boxes so all that is left is in a few of the pieces of furniture in the shed...

So that is for the morrow. And then attempting to re-assemble the computers -- drat the fact that they only arrived as the last boy-geek-computer wizard left.