Friday, April 30, 2010

More on Olives.

I thought I'd add some more to the olive story after B's post yesterday. I don't know about the South African rainbow nation, but I'm doing a fine imitation of a rainbow human. The wind was cold, biting and strong when we were picking, looking up, my eyes screwed up so those symbols of peace, the olive branches, didn't whip back and poke me in the eye. And, because I had wanted to do some writing first, it was mid-day. Didn't realise how strong the sun was. My face is the colour of over-ripe tomato today, between the wind and the sun. My fingernails are black. Not all the scrubbing in world will stop me looking like I just hauled my hands out of the innards of an elderly Ford. The scars and cuts (this is me. My hands would not have healing cuts if I were in a coma. I am eternally grateful for anti-tetanus shots.) are purple. As it's not warm enough to consider swimming without a wetsuit a lot of me is a charming shade of dead-fish white. And my forearms are brown (from the hard sunny work of weilding a computer).

Anyway, we ended up with I think 9 kilos of usable olives which had to be either salt-layered (about a half kg of the ripest) or put into wood-ash lye (about 300 grammes of the greenest) and pricked and put to soak for the other 8 kilos or so. To prick olives... you cut a slice of cork and push pins through it to make a little hegdgehog. You then sit on the hedgehog, because that's whole lot more sensible than the alternative that you are supposed to do. Less painful too. However, if you have determined that you really are going to process olives, you then use the hedgehog to pick up olives (which are now in container without water, and thus prick them and drop them into the next bowl with water in it. You need to make sure you have a plate or second bowl which you can can put on top to keep the olives submerged. Otherwise you find them climbing out of the bowl, towelling themselves off and trotting off to the pub (where you can find olives someone has mechanically processed, also at the bar, in a bowl).

If you live in New Zealand (where they also grow olives and have lots of introduced English creatures) you can do this with a real live hedgehog, which will add a whole new dimension, and the RSPCA, to your life. On the whole I think you are probably better off with the pins, but if it's adventure you are after... well as an alternative you could try Barbara's new Olive oil experiment with the rejects... Not only did this involve danger to life and limb, but it was a great shaping up weightloss process. She started on the middle of the kitchen floor with her new patent olive squisher - A five litre cast iron pot and the lid off a three liter one. And her. Standing on it in her nice clean bunditoes and rocking... evil black goo began to squirt and splart out of the sides of the pot-lid onto those little feet... Oh for a movie camera. Her face! At this point I decided to intervene before the entire kitchen got covered in what I already suspected was a very permanent purple black dye. You may have gathered we're possibly not your most usual couple, but I carried my wife over the thresh-hold - out. Like a sack of meal - terribly romatic, with her laughing helplessly, and - when she had breath - begging to be put down. It got really interesting at the door - where I had to bend down so I could open it.

She's a very determined lass, so I got to carry the feindish device out after her, so the crushing jive could continue. Up she went again. Squish-splart. "Aren't you sorry I lost those kilos for our medical?"
I looked back at the door... "No."
Now... the pot lid is rounded. And olives do contain oil even if mixed with black splarty goo. Oily slippery oil. And of course a bed of olives is not terribly stable...

I love her dearly even though she was a fallen woman. (wearing her glasses to do this, I ask you). Fortunately, no need to call the ambulance - I have this mental image of their faces.

The goo... well It's been stirred and squeezed. It's oily, but oil hasn't really seperated out. I think B would need a lot more kilos. I am about to go and put some in a milk bottle, and walk out into the field (a long way from the house) and spin it around my head on a rope (nearest I can think of to a centifuge.) Hmm. odds on going into town and being asked just what I was doing twirling? :-).

Thursday, April 29, 2010


Today we picked olives.

I love to eat them, but had not realised how many different shapes and sizes they came in. At least the trees were fairly short, so we could reach the olives from the ground without climbing. Some trees were full of fruit, some completely bare, but we managed to pick about 12kg. Of course Dave was selective about what he picked, I tended to pick clean.

So when we got home I took the perfect olives out for Dave to begin to process in various ways, so we can see what works best, and then I was left with 3kgs of dud ones. What a waste! We could not allow that so I decided to get the oil out of them. Olive oil comes from olives? Pale yellow stuff, that is so good in cooking.

Right. These are ripe olives, already black in colour. So I put them in a big cast iron pot, and used a slightly smaller pot's lid to crush the olives. Only I wasn't strong enough to make any impression on the fruit, so I stood on it and rocked. That started to work and I could hear squishing noises. Only, unfortunately, the juice started to splash out, onto our landlords kitchen floor. Dave suggested I go outside, but my feet were already rather olive purple looking. So he carried me out! On his back! With me giggling all the way.

Once outside I did manage to get quite a lot of goo out of the olives, but it is a purple goo, more like the colour of wine! So I tasted some. It is bitter, very bitter.

Now we have added water to the goo, and hopefully the oil will rise to the top, and we can somehow scoop it out. I am not sure that the oil will be worth it, as my feet and hands are now stained purple, and my back is aching from falling over while rocking the pot, but it certainly adds to our fund of experiences here.

My only question is "is the oil that is going to rise up out of the goo going to be purple, pink or yellow?"

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Gales, fear and danger

Woah nellie... it is NASTY out there. 40 knot gusts pushing fine rain. The mailplane didn't come in. It's been good for writing - I had a nice run of words this morning.

I was thinking about a comment someone made - about a lack of dramatic tension in our expedition into the wild making it a dull story... Hmmm. You know, you can't rock climb (and stay alive) on the sharp end doing trad without keeping your cool. That means going up first, putting in little wedges and cams. If you do it wrong, you die. If you do it right you still risk long scary falls and finding out if you did it right the hard way. If you happen to be opening (being the first person to ever climb) new climbs like this (and I have opened rather a lot. Several hundreds) you're going off into the unknown, where no-one has been before, trusting your judgement and skill. Much the same sort of thing applies to catching crayfish (spiny lobster) without aqualungs. It's a series of judgement calls. There may be an eel under that rock. You could get stuck down there (it's happened to me). There is a lot of risk, ameliorated by experience and skill, but, well you can't do these sort of things for many years without knowing the dangers, facing them, and dealing with them fairly calmly. It calls for a phlegmatic personality with a long neck. I wonder if, however, I am telling less than good story because of it? There've been a lot of phases of this journey where I have been near blue-faced with terror, torn apart by misery. It's been very like opening a new rock climb. This is not Joe with a degree in whatever moving from a job in South Africa to a job in Melbourne, where he has a brother and three cousins, a company organising it, a house and car organised and a comfortable financial landing mat. Or even young Fred with no real responsibilities setting off on a working holiday and going to a foreign country alone. Those are difficult and scary enough. This is... a long, long way out from that. Yes, we've done what we can to make sure that if we fall we have put in what wedges and cams we can. But we're a long, long way away from our support system, and a long way out from those tiny wedges. Keeping cool, moving steadily and keeping our nerve and courage is a lot more difficult, and more important. Much of our landing mat went into moving the animals. That was our ethical decision, that I am glad we made, but it was a terrifying one. The island is (so far) a friendly and welcoming place (partly because of our attitude, I think) - but back when we were going through the utter heartbreak of putting the dogs and cats into quarantine... we had no way of even beginning to assess that. We were selling Finnegan's Wake - possibly one of the most beautiful properties in the Midlands, leaving it all, losing a lot financially, emotionally and as a support system... to follow a dream that could easily turn into a total nightmare. And when I was dealing with those delightful people at Eastlands Mall Telstra, when our tent blew away, when the blue slug overheated in the middle of nowhere, when the tire blew and we couldn't get the vehicle jacked up and we had the ferry to catch... the nightmare seemed close.

There have been a few times since... we're still moving lightly, carefully, over fragile rock, on thin hand and footholds, just inside the limits of our strength. Knowing that if we gave in to fear or angst for a second... it would be over. Knowing too that there is potential for success, for dealing with disasters (which will happen) but only if we keep cool and work at it. For instance I'm diving - mostly alone. Dive alone = die alone. I know that. I am aware of that every second I am out there, my senses keyed. Feeling and watching for problems in water that I just don't know enough about. Watching for signs of current, knowing there are undertows. Yet... there is abalone and crayfish out there. And, bluntly, I am a man, not ready to back off and stick to eating cheese yet. And I've got real courage with me too in Barbs. In the night out there with me... walking carefully through the dark in chilly silent water - knowing there are channels, currents, soft and sucking mud. The possibility of dis-orientating mist... looking down into the water and seeing the s-bends of an eely thing - and not knowing just what kind of animal they are here? Deadly sea-snake? Vicious moray? Good dinner? So I prod it with a spear and it swims away and we laugh against the darkness.

Yeah, there is tension aplenty all right. I've probably been more worried and terrified and miserable at times in the last year than I have in the last twenty (and that's not all been a holiday camp). We've been knocked to our knees a few times too... so far, we've got up, and marched on. It'll probably happen again, and again. It'll be years (if ever) before we have the assets and friends and family support systems of the old country... But it's a dream we decided to follow. It's a demanding physical and psycological adventure. Sometimes I think better undertaken at 25 than 50...

But we have our dream and we have our rock. We have each other, a sense of humour, a sense of adventure, a willingness to fit in, to try anything. And soon we'll have our animals.

Onward and upward. No retreat.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010


They look like black cherries - the olives are ripe (and some are passed it). The Orchard up at the school has been left to its own devices, it was planted ages back by someone who is no longer at the school - they did as student excercise preserve some olives last year, but this year some other project has taken that slot - so there are I would guess 50 trees - many barely waist high and oliveless and shaped by the bitter wind (This IS Flinders). About 20 of them have anything from 10 to a hundred olives on them. Two or three have many more. I think Olive oil may be beyond me at this stage (unless done by hand-squeezing?) but I hope we'll get some olives brined and in Olive oil and vingegar and olive oil and lemon juice. Until you've eaten home made olives... you might think olives in a bottle were good. Yes, I adore olives.
The school is about a km away, and so very convenient. I just wish I knew what the varieties were! (the pictures are of fruit on different trees).

And yes I am squeaking with excitement! I've been dying to do my own olives again for 20 years.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Days daze...+

I feel like I've crammed about 4 days into today... Maybe that's what wombats do- ergo the cuboidal dos... Today was supposed to be the last day good weather for the week but I am trying to work on the book... Anyway - got up at 4.30 worked until sunup, woke B, went to jetty for an hour to catch trevally - got one flathead and 3 shrimp, worked, went to doctor (another hour and a half) wrote my MGC blog post, and set off for our clamming and oyster spot - arrived just before 3 - collected clams walked up to get oysters, and then legged it back to drive to John's place to cut firewood before dark. Filled the ute, set off for Patriarch's Inlet to try for flounder - the tide was too high and the moon quite full, but we gave it a go anyway - 3 swimming prawn scooped (to add to the 3 shrimp) and one flounder (2 others seen, but they were too small)later we headed back home avoiding 2 wombats, 7 wallaby and 1 possum - I cleaned the fish, B put the clams in fake sea water and then I cooked the morning flathead and some chips. And at 9.20 started to write the blog... I find myself too tired to think. Must be the intent staring into the ripples at the slivery shadows of fish and the walking about 2 km - all knee to groin deep in icy water, pushing against the tide... and a couple of km to fetch oysters... not just thinking about the seige of Constantinople in the current book so I think I'll go and bath and go to bed.

Tomorrow is supposed to be better - we have some Olive trees (with the possibility of pickling our own olives) we're going to look at at lunch time, but it is supposed blow and rain. Good for desk work.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Anzac Day too

Barbs posted about this, but I thought I'd give my perspectives too. It was cold and the last stars came and went behind the clouds as they went past. The little cenotaph stood lit up against the pre-dawn. You could see the brass plaques... I went to look later - There are plaques on all four sides and at reast twenty names on each and an extra one for Vietnam... The cenotaph looks out across Marshall bay to West End and to islands beyond to the West. Isles of Blest, one hopes. A good veiw for heroes, and large price paid for freedom by a small island. In WW2 my Dad was there, and my Mum and B's mum too (B's dad lied about his age and served WW1 - they wouldn't let in in WW2.) I was a conscript soldier too, once. Lost friends, saw people hurt inwardly and out. They gave a great deal with courage, and honour, so we could stand there. In South Africa that sacrifice is being swept away, forgotten. Weedy memorials, plaques stolen for the brass. It's a mistake to forget, methinks. And Anzac day... well it's not a paen of victory, and triumphalism is it? It's a tribute to battlers and the forging of steel by putting it into the fire.

In the silence after the Last Post... I was thinking of my own comrades, of my parents. Not a word or sound from the circle of people gathered... and I think it was kookaburra started up in the trees to the south.
Then his mate called from across the road, on a telephone pole. He flew across the paling sky. They cawed and cackled at each other.
It might almost have been 'g'day and 'howyergoin'.
It was very eerie.
"At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them."


Wow, what a start to a public holiday.

A 20 min drive in the dark, avoiding wallaby, to the cenataph at Emita for a dawn service commemorating soldiers from the first world war, and subsequent wars. We stood out on the grass, about 1oo/150 of us, (out of a population of 700) while it slowly got light enough to see who we were standing next to. The sun finally rose as the service finished and shone on the flag at half mast. As the "last post" played it almost echoed in the predawn calm, but as the sun rose the wind rose with it. Unfortunately we had left the camera, with the torches, at home so we have no beautiful dawn photo's showing the cloud formations, but they were worth getting up for.

It was wonderful to see so many people up so early to share the service, especially as there is a second service at 11am in town, not miles out in the "bush".

Then it was off to a nearby farm where Lions had cooked breakfast and we could have our morning coffee with or without rum! We met some new people, who sound even better at foraging than we are. I hope we can do some trading with them, abalone for wallaby, we will see when they get back from a six week trip "off island".

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Slippery Jacks, fire and fish barbeque

Hmm. Sounds like a dodgy boarding-school story. I think these mushrooms are slippery jacks Suillus luteus - they have pores not gills, they occur under pine trees.
They do however not have velum (veil) on the stem so may be Suillus granulatus They look rather like Boletus edulis from the woods back in South Africa, but they're very small and more mushroom shaped. I'd love to be sure before eating them though.

We got the heater going today, and the house smells a bit of hot iron and cooking paint. Windows open because of it - which is why we did it early. It's been one of those days sent to prove that weather forecasters in South Africa had no idea what 'scattered showers' actually meant. It means sousing rain, and three minutes later patches of blue sky and and twenty minutes later put the lights on because another shower is scattering for the next five minutes. Anyway along with howling wind and heavenly incontinence the heater (set on very low to 'cure' the paint - poor thing I should prescribe asprin and calling me in the morning) has worked a treat. It's nice that one can see the flames.

I was rather taken aback to discover the other day that actually no, not everyone barbeques the fish they catch. It's something that medium to high oil fish are particularly suited to.
For whole medium size fish - I like to gut fish for the barbeque through the back (not the belly) leaving the belly-flap intact - 'vlekked'* (and the head on for cooking - you can take it off to serve, but it makes a 'bowl' of the belly section). If it's really decent fish - anything above 500 grams - it's quite a good idea to slide the knife both sides of the backbone and just take it out. That way both sides are the same thickness, which is a blessing for even cooking. I'm actually a believer in scales on for this excercise - just to insulate the fish a little. Thin fish I think should be cooked quite fast - ie near and fairly hot whereas thick fish tends to overcook outside if you do this. I believe firmly that all fish needs to be heavily pre-salted - about 3-5 minutes for an inch-thick piece (only fish like tuna that are intended for serving rare should be thicker). The salt firms it up a little, and allows penetration of the salt - which means the very outside of the fish is too darn salty (diffusion you know...) so then you wash the salt off giving it about a minute rinse - which gets the salt OUT of the surface - so some of the inner salt then diffuses out. Pat the fish dry and leave it if possible in fridge for 15 minutes or so - uncovered if possible. The salt makes pulling the rib and pin bones out a lot easier, if you want to do this. A pair of artery forceps is the answer to this!

Life really is much simpler if you have a barbeque clamp of some sort, and a fire that is big enough to have good coals one side and HOT the other. These pics were taken indoors on a griddle - which just doesn't cut it for flavour, but when it is raining outside... On the beach, on a driftwood fire this is just the full Robinson Crusoe without the "it tastes like S#it but you can eat it" factor. So: skin-side down over the good coals for the first bit - baste with a mix of olive oil, lemon juice, salt, black pepper, crushed garlic and chopped fennel leaves. Watch the fillet like a hawk. Overcooked fish is 'orrible - and so is rare. The belly section will go white (from translucent) first. You'll see the cooking proceed up the cut edge of the vlekked fish - when it gets just over 2/3 - flip it over over and onto the hot stuff - very close to the heat - you're looking at about a minute here. Check with a knife tip that the thickest flakes easily (if not - another half minute).

You can pull the head off easily at this point and either serve off the skin or slide the whole thing onto someone's plate. Usually the skin is worth leaving, even if it hasn't got scales on.

*pronounced 'flecked'.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Fire? Heater? Stove?

I am not quite sure what to call it, but it is in the house! After sitting outside on the verandah, mostly still in its packaging, for weeks the wood burner is now in our sitting room. It was installed with many calls of "She's right, Mate!" up and down the chimney as the various pieces of the old one came out, and the new one went in. Some parts seemed to go well, and others needed a lot of banging and drilling and some words were said, but it all came together in the end. I did my part with coffee and closed ears, and Dave provided the food, not cake to go with the hot drinks, but smoked fish, that seemed to go down really well.

So today is the cleanup, and put all the ornaments back, day. We will have to light the stove during a really hot day, as it may stink a bit when lit for the first time, and we will need to open all the doors and windows. Then it will settle down and heat the whole house?

The only other burner I have ever had anything to do with was a coal stove we had to heat our damp house outside Cape Town, when Paddy was a baby. Dave would keep it going beautifully for weeks, and then go to sea for a few days sampling the shark catch, and the stove would go out as soon as I touched it. I tried being nice and gentle, I tried being tough and aggressive, it just didn't like me. I am therefore very wary of this new heater and am not really that keen to get involved with it. Unfortunately it is next to the TV, which I watch, and nowhere near Dave's study and his computer, so I am going to have to learn to keep it alight if I want to stay warm through this winter.

It has a flat top to put pots or kettles on, so we can save a lot on electricity by cooking on it, and it will, I hope, be great for a quick cup of coffee when we come in from floundering. We just need to get a suitable kettle and we are away!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

The fruits of someone else's labours

I've always had a big thing about catching my own fish, but as a learning curve this present from Jeremy (a local commercial seine netter and a good bloke who I met on the self-sufficiency community garden thing) does show me how it could be done.

From left to right that's mullet (mulgil cephalis, I think), garfish (Hyporhamphus melanochir) (2) 3 More mullet, Australian Salmon (Arripis trutta) (2) and yellowtail (Seriola lalandi (3) The Austalian Salmon and Yellowtail weigh about a kilogram each, in the round. You can see the freshness of these - barely a couple of hours out of the water. The eyes are bright and the gills were still deep, dark red.

On the board is a 'vlekked' mullet (gutted through the back to leave the belly intact for barbeque). Most of the islanders regard mullet and salmon barely fit for crayfish pot bait. Mind you they do like a bit of variety with their fish. They eat flathead, fried AND grilled. And if they feel like a change, there is flathead. As Mike (the local dive-master who was helping John put the new wood-burning heater in who is one of the most knowledgable people about fish and marine matters on the island) said there is also flake. And flathead. Trust me, the flathead is GOOD, and extremely so, but if, like us, you're eating seafood 28 days a month, variety is also good. And the tastes are different. Maybe not as good as flathead :-), but I hot-smoked a fillet of mullet then and there, and Mike did pronouce it edible (if not as good as flathead). John-boy would have eaten the lot and the table-top too if he hadn't been minding his manners. He said I done good with that. Much better than smoked mutton-bird!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Biological/self-sufficiency detective work

I thought of calling this 'The mysterious affair at Flinders' - but I am rather more like Inspector Clouseau than Inspector Poirot. You see I haven't yet found a Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall for Australia - or the collection of locals with local knowledge he managed to find. So much of what we do in our own Fearlessly-eatsitall experiment has to be based on some biological knowledge, a family history of fishing and diving (in very different climes, much of it), a lot of reading and experience cooking, logic, curiousity, asking excessive questions, and experimenting. And Internet research - which yeild rewards if you are good at those sort of puzzles which you do by only seeing a few bits and jiggling and wiggling the rest. It's all logic really. Not just wiggles (although some of what you eat will wiggle, and if you believed the logic part you probably deserve a few wiggles.)

Take for instance my desire to find a common South African (and European, and American) type of bivalve of the Genus Ensis - Popular in Spain, and used for bait in South Africa. The razor clam, AKA pod razor, AKA razor fish, AKA Jack-knife clam, AKA pencil bait/stick bait (South Africa). Now the probability of it not being here had to be real - except I had read somewhere of an Australian sand dwelling clam called a razorfish. No-one I've asked here ever heard of it, but if you search the net you can find pictures of it being collected in SA... South Australia. And it's not the same animal. However the same animal called a finger oyster DOES occur in Australia. There is no clue as to where - but someone suggests that razor clam would be a better common name for these Ensis. And that's as far as we've got, so far, with that one. Having found two "not here" species so far I'll keep looking.

Common names are a menace to the searcher, and I would cheerfully do very nasty things to government beaurocrats who don't check on Latin genus names before calling their projects something like... Ensis. We won't even start on my wild dreams of what I'd like to do to advertising agencies who call themselves for no gastromical/ self-sufficiency logical reason 'Razorfish'. Vogon Poetry is prescribed, I think. And of course I reserve a special spot for the fish called... razorfish. I don't know if I should be mad with the fish or the bivalve namers.

I love this island already, and love the food to be found here, but I keep being stunned by locals either not knowing or not eating the wonderful variety. Or letting it get caught and sold elsewhere. We eat squid (Calamari) a lot. I was horrified to find my dive partner had never caught any - but as he had no background or local pointers he didn't understand the animals and tried to catch them and failed. And he's been here 8 years. When we arrived I applied a bit of South African and biologist experience, stole with my eyes, read up... and we caught. The freezer has its quota, and right now we mustn't catch any more until those are eaten. But there are many more things which are here... and lots of them, that I have yet to find/catch/discover... So we soldier on. I've seen periostracum( the fragile outer layer) covered mussel shells (that do not exist here) and fresh long burrowing bivalves that I can't even ID, but the birds catch but I cannot (so far). I've found in very shallow water areas Doughboy and commercial and queen scallops with the hinge ligament intact - ie they haven't come far, and are still 'new' - no-one dives for them here, but they used to be a dredge business for them (I am for the record, very opposed to dredge harvesting where there is a viable alternative, and believe that dredge grounds must be limited. The destruction of other fauna and habitat is just wasteful. And that's a dirty word to me.) In Southern Tassie recreational diving for Scallops is quite widespread, and I believe it used to be(/is?) done in South Australia.

There is a wealth of wonderful and varied food out there, which, with a bit of common sense, unless you live near a city, is harvestable, and despite not coming from McDonalds is delicious, nutritious and satisfying (and sometimes crunchy and wiggly too). But it seems to me Australia with a wonderful selection of seafood has begun 'modernising' and exploring bush tucker, really needs a Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall equivalent to write about it. It'd be bliss to find some good food-related field-guides, especially ones that worked on getting the best of those (sometimes odd and wiggly) flavours into palatable.

It's a grand adventure in the self-sufficency/foraging/gastronmic sense, but I wish I had someone to say "Elementary my dear Watson" when I tried to work out why there are millions on millions of huge cuttle-bones washed onto the beach... and I do love to eat cuttlefish, but I have not found out where or how to catch them yet.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Size does count!

A few weeks ago we were invited to go fishing off shore in what I called "a little tinny". When Dave posted a photo the comment was made that the boat had superstructure, and I had labelled it incorrectly.

Well, today we were taken fishing and diving off shore in "a little tinny" and I can now tell the difference! Todays boat is a rubber ducky, but made out of aluminum. It felt really safe, and unsinkable, but we sat on the 'floor' while the engines were going, and the water sneaked up and wet us from the rear when we came down off the plane. On the other boat we had seats to sit one, and could stand up while we were moving if we wanted to. On this boat the 'driver' sits on a watertight bin, that looks almost like a motorcycle seat, but it moved well through the waves. The only thing missing was the sun, and I got very cold on the return trip.

But we had a wonderful day. Our host and Dave both dived, while I sat on the boat and caught bigger Wrasse than I had ever imagined. Dave came back with some abalone, and the other chap with some crayfish, then we anchored in a different spot and all caught flathead. We had set out from the opposite side of the island, so saw a whole new set of islands, and sandbars, and currents.

So all in all, it was a very successful day, with many a "feed" now on its way into the freezer.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Talkative pirates...

Just when I think I am getting the hang of this language. And then of course I discover that it's a place of talkative pirates - Who wipe the sweat from their brows and say 'hard yakka I could sink a schooner'. And then drink a tankard of beer...

Inge has been "crook mit der floo" (the mix of German and Australian is very entertaining, and great fodder for an imagination like mine). So today she made her way across to the local African exibits to check we hadn't starved to death or frozen in her absence and to discuss the impact of the volcanic ash on flights in Europe (hey we don't have a lot of local disasters, beyond the stock prices at the saleyards). She was telling us about the hard yakka her daughter had been doing. Which turns out to be not yakitty-yak (talk) but work. And Chris introduced us to a schooner the other night at the pub - which did not sail off so much into the sunset as down his throat. White froth sail and a brown body?

shrug. "Angaaz." (which proves merely that we exhibits have our own code.)

Anyway, it's very humid and we got really hot even early this morning, cutting up some tree-trimmings which might be good for tail-end of winter fuel. Winter is creeping closer, and we're trying to do our own as the price of cut wood is quite a bit higher than South Africa - labour costs. $80 a ute-load, as compared to Mfanjane's $18 a ute load. Besides, being fuel self-sufficient is one of our long term goals (But if you think that means I am going to cut up trees with a bow-saw... I am not that idealistic.)

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Clouds pour over the Darlings...

There were jet-trails up in our blue sky today - not much wind and we are nowhere near Europe. The little boats were out muttonbirding as it is last day of the season. It was a beautiful autumn day for it, but I stuck to my book. I may earn myself a halo if it is like this tomorrow! If the weather holds we'll dive for abalone some time next week - the joy of Flinders is that a diving /fishing trip is not much more time consuming than a trip to the shops was back in South Africa. And I don't have to take short steps and big ones (steering through people) and the air is not quite so second-hand. Yes, I don't like shopping malls much. How ever did you guess?

You know, I miss South Africa, my friends and my family, (and my dogs and cats, terribly - but at least they're coming) but we went along to the fundraiser for the island's ex-schoolbus driver (had a stroke, poor bloke, fortunately just as he came to a halt when he drove us on the garden tour, and then they found another bunch of other problems). The Lions were cooking snags and burgers and two local bands were going to play. We only stayed for about an hour, time to have a feed, a beer, and hear 'Wake up Little Susie' with an Australian accent. Heh. They weren't bad - I recognised the music even if the words were sometimes a mystery. It's easier than it was. It's always uncomfortable as newcomers at these things, but a fair number of people smiled and said 'howyergoing?' (to which the answer is 'good' even if you are dying and having one foot mauled by a man-eating shrimp. It all depends on how you say 'good' I think.). Noel the brain-surgeon/plumber (who operated on our pipes) was there and impressed to hear that not only had we caught Abalone in the area he advised, but also had been flounder-spearing and succeeded. "You're Islanders!"
"I thought that took thirty years?"
"They made it shorter these days. So long as you're not from Afganistan or what is that other place...(there is a freeze on Afgan and Sri Lankan refugees)
"Sri Lanka. No, not recently."
I don't think we're there yet, myself. But I am glad to be trying. Australians and the islanders just don't realise how good this place is.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Nice but nubbly

'He ate the starfish and the garfish, and the crab and the dab, and the plaice and the dace, and skate and his mate, and the mackereel and the pickereel, and the really twirly-whirly eel. All the fishes he could find in all the sea he ate..." (How the whale got his throat, Just So Stories, Rudyard Kipling)

I'm beginning to think we'd better carefully avoid catching any shipwrecked mariners, because they might interfere with our slowly expanding fishy diet (besides any other considerations like morality or the fact that we are not whales). The garfish were good eating (I can see myself venturing on sea-cucumber which is somewhat related to starfish - but that as close as I'm going to rhyming our diet.) with a flavour like but more delicate than fresh sardine. I can see why they're good bait and I can see why they are listed as medium priced (and flathead is listed as low-medium priced, and flounder high priced BTW). They'd be very good on a charcoal barbeque, and probably brilliant in in the Venetian Sarde in saor (a mild vinegar marianaded pickled fish dish). I was saying to B last night that we now have an increasing range of 'like very much' fish (Silver Trevally, Flounder, flathead, garfish) we catch ourselves, which are all quite unlike each other (as different as pork,lamb, and beef are IMO). There are also the wrasse and Leatherjackets which come under the heading of 'edible if disguised' and pike which is edible if smoked and disguised. We haven't yet been severly affected by seasonality (except we havén't had sea-pike for a while. I can't say that upsets me much) and the spiny lobster season will close soon (and I haven't yet found them in a place I can dive from the shore without tanks/ hookah). Our diet is actually very varied - OK long on certain things like spinach and potatoes, but it is probably 10 days before we eat the same principal protein twice, let alone cooked in the same way. I am trying to see we eat some form of red meat at least every 10 days. It's bound to change with the seasons - I really need to get some crayfish (spiny lobster) before it is too late and also catch more shrimps, some prawns and some crab that isn't just fit for soup. I've also heard there are razor-fish (a kind of shellfish) and we haven't got any octopus or cuttlefish yet. I'm hoping there is a seasonality to these and that's why we haven't. We're gradually moving (except wheat, sugar and vegetable oil products) - on a diet that almost all comes from the island... except milk (and the little cheese we eat) which of course is shipped in! Well, I am not prepared to make life too miserable so wheat, oil, sugar, coffee, tea chocolate and milk and cheese will just have to wait.

I like eating locally and seasonally - but I think I like coffee more. I'm going to stick with pragmatism on this. Pragmatism and coffee. And chocolate. Life without that would be very nubbly :-(.

Friday, April 16, 2010


Inge caught me red-handed. It happens when you pickle small beetroot and get visitors :-) (not what you were expecting was it?). The cucumbers are starting to die and so we harvested what we could and made pickles out of them and small beetroot - starting to prep for the next invasion (my boys - who can eat enough to put locusts to shame. Last-night's power-failure fishing produced these - with B holding the light and me making sort of frantic grabs with the little line basket from my sea-fly casting kit as we don't have a soft fine mesh scoop net yet. This is a very shallow little thing and the garfish were seriously un-impressed with it. The average attempt -- and I think there were about 7 attempts -- went something like this "Keep the light on him B!"
"There he goes!"
"Got.... B#$@$!"
"Try from the side instead"
"Got him! Oh B%$#%%!" as the garfish acrobatically leaps over the top and piroettes away into the black corduroy of a rather bumpy ocean.

Anyway sheer persistance paid off and we got three - and some squid. The squid took some seeing as they blend themselves with the background. All you see are baleful green eyes. We also chased two flathead half way across the ocean. They're a lot less inclined to stay still and rely on camoflage.

We were alone out there last night (the sensible experienced blokes having gone to bed) and it eerie, scary and beautiful. The value of no common sense was about 4 feeds and the biggest flounder I have seen - too big for my pan, I reckon - I'll have to grill it on the barbeque. Shows why I have no common sense (and that's my story and I am sticking to it).

Barbs collected our chainsaw today and we were remined once again of the folly of buying off a catalogue - it was expensive for size compared to the Stihl and... a lot smaller than we thought. A lot smaller than our old one and probably too small for planking which was our possible use besides firewood. However it does cut very well, and is very light. We have about one and half ute-loads of firewood ready now -- Only another 3 and half to go... We also paid for the Ute service and new radiator thermostat... nearly died of shock. We're probably more used SA prices which I always found hard to swallow... This was not the time to notice the newly serviced and sorted and checked ute was leaking green fluid (and it is a blue slug, not a squashed cabbage caterpillar). I expect people to tighten hoses properly even when I am not paying through the nose. Methinks we might try the Lady Barron alternative, before horror of horrors I face working on it myself. I've done so before but really I have better things to do with my time. I'm not one of these blokes that goes all gooey at the sight of oil. I'd rather fish, write, cook...

Best laid plans

We went out for flounder last night and although it was raining as we left home, the area we go is about 25kms away, and it was dry there but the wind was blowing a bit, which ruffles the water, and as we are using a spear, it means we can't see the fish! The 2 slightly older locals who are normally there when we go, were waiting in their vehicles, but decided there was too much wind, so drove off, after a chat. We decided to stay. We have always used the orange light on their vehicle to get back, so were a bit worried about being on our own far out in knee deep water, with an LED light we bought in Hobart inside the ute, but it worked really well. There is a gully they keep warning us about, and as they were not there, we didn't go too far, but we got 4 flounder, 3 squid and 3 garfish, so we were really pleased with ourselves!! It is the first time we have speared squid, or even seen them at night. We scoop netted the garfish, but it was a first for them too, so we came home at 10pm very happy. Then we still had to gut and freeze, so it was a late night, but well worth it. We planned to take coffee, but had our first power failure here just before we left, so we went without, and really it was not that cold, so we didn't even miss it. I think we were so warmed by our catch!

Thursday, April 15, 2010


We are once again alone at home, and the house seems very empty with no lively kids in it. I am happy to have peace, but I am really missing them all. Still, I am looking forward to their next visit, and to our next visitors.

Dave harvested a load of cucumber to pickle today, and the tomatoes are ripening in the garden, even in mid April? So we will be eating for a while yet.

Tonight we are hoping to spear a few flounder, if the wind stays calm. Our wonderful Willy weather forecaster says it will, but he is not always completely right. Our evening temperature has dropped a lot, so it will be interesting to see how cold it is out in the water. I think a flask of coffee is going to be added to the list of essentials to go with us.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

The court of King Caractacus

'Take down your glad festoons, your garlands of roses'. Well, around here it is more of festoon of drying wetsuits and the only garland-ish thing is the bouquet from the garbage bag or the bait. But our visitors flew off to Melbourne, waving, and threatening/promising to return, and so the kids wetsuits must come down and packed away. The bouquet has already gone to Flinders tip. The reality of island life is that it has to be long series of good-byes. At least, if we do it well, it's 'we can't wait to come again' but there is a sadness to it. Well, it's the price you pay for a small world and a small community. We're ging to have to fll the freezer with our quota of flounder again, but our visitors at least caught some of their meals. The difference in being self-sufficient for two and for seven is considerable.

And in the spirit of spreading one's blessings we have taught young Declan the words to 'The ladies of harem of the court of King Caractacus' - for which his sibs and parents may one day forgive us. Possibly. I wish I'd known all the actions. Mind you - as they're all on a small plane... maybe not.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The wind and plans

You cannot escape the wind on Flinders Island. Yes, it is windstill and calm sometimes, but it does blow here too, and if you're a short-term visitor that is likely to affect you and your tightly knit plans. Anyway - because of the time we still went up to Killiekrankie today with the McMahon clan. Chris quintupled his lifetime catch of fish and we did a spot of kayaking and some diving and fossicking for Killikrankie diamonds. No, I didn't find any. Sandra managed to catch a big enough fish to snap her rod at the butt end. And then she let it get away! Anyway we got the huge treat of steak-supper at the pub and now I am really, really tired and need to go to bed... Better post tomorrow, I hope.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Seafood Secrets and the Flinders Taste Experience

This is a guest post from Chris McMahon. . .

Flinders Island has been a real seafood experience for me. Now if someone else had said something like that about a week ago I would not have been all that jealous - I've always enjoyed fish, but would never have put myself in the same ranks as all those crazy people who get so excited about seafood buffets.

Well it might be the fresh seafood we are catching here, or maybe Dave's excellent cooking, but my taste buds and my mind have both been expanding here. Last night Dave cooked me some abalone that he had gathered around the Island. Amazing!

At the same meal we had calamari - including the famous squid that my son Aedan and I caught off the jetty. I've had the odd bit of calamari and chips from the local fish and chip store - but I'm sure that is not even the same species as what I tasted last night! The flavor was complex and beautiful, the texture vastly different from anything I have tasted before. Excellent time had by all - the only problem is that Dave has effectively killed our ritual of going down the local fish and chip shop. None of us can face eating what had passed for calamari after tasting what fresh calamari properly prepared tastes like.

Today it was exploring over on the other side of the island, and a visit to a local wildlife sanctuary.

Tonight it was clam pasta, followed by freshly caught oysters fried in garlic butter and served on garlic bruschetta (we have been busy on Flinders today at low tide gathering the clams and oysters), then trevally (beautiful light tasting fish with light white flesh).

Now I have never been a fan of strong seafood tastes, and have shied away from them (i.e. lobster etc), but I could not believe the taste of the oyster! It gave me emotional and physical reactions in parts of my body I had never felt before. Of course mentioning this was giving me physical reactions led to the obvious jokes:)

Not only have I been introduced to these fantastic new flavors, I have even been permitted to glimpse a few of the secrets of the Freer kitchen at first hand as apprentice chef.

Tomorrow we are headed north to look for abalone.

My stomach will never forgive me going back to Brisbane:)

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Mt Strezlecki

This is Zen-master Chris McMahon producing orange mind bullets (with which he can kill a yak and 50 paces) up on Mount Strzelecki. The Master has learned to suppress his beard by the sheer force of mental will, and subsists entirely on wild tasmanian pepper, brought to him by galahs and cockatoos. ;-)

You can tell what effect the gallumph up the steep trail in the brief mesh of sunlight and cloud (instead of rain - which we'd had most of the morning with three energetic youngsers in the house)

They ran up the trail past the rainfull stream

Which was frothing - first heavy rains and lots of new material from the wet wild woods - the organic matter and splashing stream made bubble-baths fit for Bridgette Bardot to reach a langourous arm out of (or frozen arm out of). Actually as the water was the colour of pale ale I kept wondering if a beer truck had had an accident on the looming granite heights of the mountain (there is no road, so the driver must have been 'inspired'.

Mt Strezelecki is a deeply spiritual place though. A good place to find peace. And the rain which we came pelting down from it in.

We did our first Island evening Barbie over at John's place, getting to meet a few more people, with the usual "You're the South Africans at John's place, Right. Heard about you." It was - as these things go, where you're the only strangers - a very easy and friendly evening. I cooked snags and mutton chops and mutton-birds. The chat with Mick - who only has another 24 years to go with being an islander about the diving and food, tasting the wine made next door (which really is good), the chirp about Marcus spreading all the super (fertiliser) by hand because he was too tough for machines... it was good. A long, long way from SA where talk always settles on politics.

But they barbeque on gas. Humph. That's for the kind of berks who live in Sandton and not for real people who live out here (we burned the black stump...). (mind you with the wind here and we hadn't at that stage had much rain).

Saturday, April 10, 2010

The mystery of the missing screw, and other tales

The return of the prodigal screw! At almost 1.5 mm long the screw that held my right hand lens into the very extinguished looking glasses had been much hunted for. You can't just pop of to the optician here - A jiffy-tie had done temporary duty, but it really was rather worrying. Now, from places unknown - possibly the kabouter in the garden I spotted it on my desk. There really is a good reason for having visible wood on a desk - good thing I tidied it a bit for our visitors. Now... to get back in.

I took our young visitors to the jetty early this morning. Aedan started fishing while I was still experiencing the joys of taking youths fishing. All adults really need to have basic ghillie training, and fortunately their mum is a quick study at it too. So as I was cutting up the second bait we get air-raid shriek. "I got one, I got one, I got one!"

It was a pretty cloudy morning up to that point.

Soon Brigit and her mum (and the entire cheerleader team, including me) were dealing with this one.

I broke the necks as I always do in the absence of a priest, and turned away while doing so, to not horrify my audience (they're lovely kids, but well, they're from the city) but Brigit peered round me - Her 'it's bleeding!' sounded more like delight than horror, and it certainly didn't stop her trying for another one. We forget that largest primitive tribe - AKA kids learn a lot from our reactions.

Their mum was looking after my rod while I did the ghillie's next job - untangling, and all her hard work was rewarded by a double hook-up (I fish a paternoster rig for these - but one hook is bad enough with new little fishermen). Much excitement and me nearly falling off the hanging tire I was precariously balancing on with the net, and we had both. The downside with a paternoster rig of course is if you go to net the lowest fish the top one is airborne, and if you net the highest, the other is likely to break off.

But by 9.00 AM the great fisher-people were back (After some brave gutting by the 9 year old. By 9 I'd been gutting fish for 4 years, and it didn't occur to me that if you haven't really caught fish gutting might be quite an experience... dangerous with knives!) Anyway - they've gone off island touring and we're catching up a bit, assauging my concience with some work.

Friday, April 9, 2010

pirates fishermen and squidgies

The great Trousers Point expotition took seventeen camels and roughly a mile of rope to secure the loads. Perhaps I exaggurate about the camels... but not much - the Ute was full to the top of the canopy with kayaks and rods and dive gear and food and drink and bait and throw nets and extra clothes and somehow we left the kitchen sink behind. The part about the rope, however is true, at least if you had to untangle it all. We had to ferry everyone in two loads, and by the time that I got to the beach the slave Labour - aka - Chris and his kids had the fleet of trusty galleons in the water.

Much piracy ensued. I was supposed to at least walk the plank but escaped with a keelhauling and promise that they would catch fish. And then we went and harrassed the wrasse.

Chris and I hoping to write some fantasy together and here you can see him being inspired... or falling asleep. Maybe it was the shock of catching his first ever two fish... the second a whitebait in the thrownet.

The birds were working the shoals of something, divebombing the water -- and it took me far too long to work out that it was probably Australian salmon chasing the little fish up into bait-balls, but by that I got out there in the kayak they had all gone home for their tea. So we did too.

Anyway we came home for the evening squid-spodition. After a near-miss from Declan, finally Aedan caught his calamari dinner, and they returned squiddy and tired and happy. It's a good place to be a kid... Or an adult who hasn't grown up that much.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

The Pelican brought us some visitors

So we fed them patriotic buns (from the Flinders island CWA recpe book - anyone know why they are called that?) - actually they mostly ate cake, and then took them fishing and Brigit nearly caught a enormous squid.

But now I am tired and so are they.
So now I will call it a day (anyone guess I have been reading goodnight stories? - the elephants child)

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

expecting visitors

Been hard at the writing today in preparation for our great excitement tomorrow evening - our very first visitors fly in. Of course the weather - having had some lovely autumnal days, is set foul. Ah well. Anyway it will make for a few days of adventurous posts before I settle in again to final home-stretch of this book. We got by post a couple of basic life-jackets so we at least have those available for kids kayak adventures. The post here is AMAZING. Order something on tuesday lunchtime and it's here on the island by lunchtime the next day.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

A sort of monty-python experience.

to dig into the recessess of Python memory "Stormy petrel on a stick!"
"What flavour is it?"
"Bloody seabird flavour of course."

I'm not an instant and total convert to muttonbird - but it's far from as bad as those who don't like it made out. It tastes rather like what it is - a seabird, with more than a bit of oily fish flavour. I've eaten wild duck that had a similar flavour. I did them 2 ways - firstly hot smoked, and secondly crusted with dried saltbush and roasted in the Cobb (a charcoal barbeque kettle). I'll see what the hot-smoked is like by morning, but it did not really do great things for it fresh out of the smoker. It was edible. The crusted and roasted came under the heading of 'needs work, but you could do that again'. Parts of the bird are nicer than others - the breast, thigh and drumstick are best in ascending order. The bit around the wing is just fish-oil.

Muttonbirding is also one of those things people have delusions about. It's not easy. It's outright scary to put your hand (into the shoulder) down holes, which can and do have have snakes. And it's not every hole a coconut - nothing in some, some have adult birds or even penguins which bite like hell and there are water-rats too apparently (my hands are quite sliced up and sore this evening) and you don't want to wear gloves because temperature is how you know if the hole has a bird or a snake in it, and some of the holes you will never reach deep enough down. Still, I apparently did well for a newbie, and have been invited to go again. It's food, (about 20 meals for us) and that is something we cannot afford be too proud about. It's also part of learning to be an islander, which is important too.

They do pong and I can see why 'get us a few muttonbirds' is greeted with 'get your own.'

Monday, April 5, 2010

ethics of self-sufficent foraging.

I am a biologist and I believe in ecologically sustainable foraging. I believe in providing a quick clean death to something I'm prepared to eat. I'm not of the ilk who will buy mutton in a supermarket, but not deal with the fairly grim process of turning it from sheep into mutton. I still believe that as a small farmer you can do this better and more ethically than at mass produced poultry farms or feedlots and trucking to vast abbatoirs. Anyway - tomorrow we go out muttonbirding. I must say my first reaction to this was not one of unmixed joy. The idea of taking a large chick out of the nest and killing it is not one that appeals to the side of me that wants to protect the young. Yes, they're fluffy. Cute if you don't smell them.

I thought about it a lot and I think the decider was someone posting that muttonbirding should be stopped because they'd seen so many of the adults washed up dead of starvation. Dying of starvation is what various crusading animal protectors have inflicted on deer in the UK and been happy to do to elephants in South Africa. It might be nature's way, but it is really predicated by the fact that there are a lot of humans out there, and either natural food sources or space just isn't available. And it is a horrible way to die. If my choice is to starve slowly and desperately or eat reasonably well and live a contented life and then get killed quickly and cleanly... Please kill me. Muttonbirds might be cute and appeal to the protect baby animals side of us, but in reality it makes a lot more sense with anything (be it muttonbirds or fish) to protect the breeding adults (and maybe protect their food supply from overfishing) - where natural mortality rates are fairly low, and take some of the group where natural mortality rates are high (in some fish, 99.9999% - that's why you can go from boom to disaster to boom with some fish species). The shearwaters numbers and the health of colonies are monitored, the process is policed and licenced. I have been a scientist and I know this much, if my fellow biologists believed they had evidence to show that this was endangering this species, they'd stop it, tradition or no.

Anyway. That's my stance. I gather from the islanders taking us out there that it is something of a rite of passage, and bit of an honour to be invited. Some of them have a tradition of doing this that goes back millenia.

Of course I am curious as to what they'll taste like too. But I could have found that out without doing it myself. But I would rather do it myself and I know it will be done as quickly and cleanly as I can.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Turn back the clock

Today was my first experience of time travel. We went back an hour and it did not feel remarkably different, just earlier. Unfortunately, my grandfather has been dead for some years so I could not cause a space-time paradox by murdering him (or possibly in a less homicidal manner getting him out of marrying my grandmother.) But daylight savings only allows you to move back one hour here, so all of these paradoxes are out of the question unless you have arranged them for 2 AM on sunday morning. I think the powers that be figured that most grandads would be tucked up in bed at that time, and it would be less likely that Tasmanians would go around wrecking the fabric of space-time. I've always been an advocate of daylight saving for South Africa, but this is my first experience of it. The days are definitely much shorter now and winter is nibbling at us. The island is full of Easter strangers, many of whom don't greet passing cars. I already feel territorial about 'our' turf.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

kissing-salad (lettuce alone)

I do NOT like my salad to hop at me! Caterpillers in my lettuce are one thing. Frogs entirely another. I picked a lettuce from the garden and brought it in, pulled the leaves apart into a bowl of cold water to crisp up... and

The Predawn Light

We were up before dawn this morning, no, not for fish, or not primarily. It is the three peaks yacht race. The boats sail from Beauty Point on mainland Tasmania to Hobart, stopping at Flinders Island and Coles Bay on the way, and at each stop 2 people must run up the local peak and then back to the boat! We passed 2 runners on the road, and were down at the Lady Baron jetty in time to see the sixth boat arrive, and drop its runners before finding a proper spot to tie up. The seventh boat hit a sandbank well in sight of the jetty, and after a while a tinny went out and took their runners off, and they will have to wait for the tide to get into the jetty! They lose time for having been helped apparently. (The boats name is "Don't Panic"!) Ten boats started the race, but I didn't hear where the other 3 were, maybe still on their way.

But we watched a beautiful sunrise, with enough cloud around to make it really pretty, and, of course, we cast a line into the water in case any fish were warm enough to want to eat. There was a light wind that was coming straight off the ice, I would have loved to know the actual temperature, it felt like about 6 C to me!

Dave caught a Silver Trevally, but although I managed to get a squid interested, I could not get him on my jig. Still, we went just as "gapers" to see the yachts, and came home with supper, so that is a bonus.

The sun is now shining and there is very little wind, so I fear the runners are going to get hot, and the yachts will not be leaving very fast! Still it is a fun combo race!

Friday, April 2, 2010


Blogger is being truly erratic. Giving me error messages half the time. If you do get here - please let me know.
My glasses - you know the ones that B says make look truly extinguished - decided that screw Dave - or at least screw loose and dropped the lens onto my lap were the order of the day. Then I took John-boy to airport and drove his truck back here - rain and misery weather sweeping in. Horrible weather for a small plane but the island air-service has a good record (at that price they should have). Rex or Dennis was telling me about one of the old islanders who'd never left the island by plane being flown out on the Flying Doctor service in some dodgy weather. "Oh will you be able to land it?" she asks. Pilot smiles reassuringly - "Don't worry, I've never left plane up here yet!"
On the exciting news - we have been given permission to pick olives in the school grove. Pay what we think is fair. Difficult question - what is fair for raw olives?

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Dead parrot society

It was stiff, and green and mysteriously dead on the porch. While I did some swearing at their early morning loudness I really have no desire to eat Mr John Roswella. I buried him in the paddock in front of the house, and heaven wept. Well it rained on me, at least.

We had a rather flat morning fishing (total bag some kelp for my garden and some saltbush to try drying.) John's mention of the next book made me have a look on Amazon. I'm sure the release date was around the 12th but either my publisher changed it or I got it wrong, because SLOW TRAIN TO ARCTURUS came out on the 30th of March. So I missed it. It was a sort precient book in many ways - it's the first serious attempt at addressing some of the issues that bedevil the really possible with present science sort of space-travel (not the warp speed and beam me up sort of thing)that sf writers have made for some time. The real issues of how we get from here to there on a trip in a small habitat, lasting many years, haven't been en vogue since Clarke's Rendesvoux with Rama and Harry Harrison's Captive Universe. I tried to keep it real (or possibly real) and yet accessible, because I am rather passionate about the idea of colonising space. Of course being me I couldn't resist satire too, so it is quite funny in among the adventures. The many little isolated habits - islands if you will - had a lot of material for it. I didn't -- when I wrote this book -- anticipate living on a remote island myself! I wish I'd done so before I wrote it. I would have had a better understanding of Ferries.

Anyway I look forward to my author copies showing up at the Island post office. Any day now, I'm sure.