A blog of the Freer Family's adventures and misadventures emigrating to Flinders Island, Tasmania, Australia, and settling there.
Sunday, May 16, 2010
The life of Riley
Somehow people have developed the illusion that a self-sufficient life in the country is quiet and tranquil, and entirely effortless. In a bizarre way it's rather like people telling you about having been reincarnated and remembering their past lives. Funnily enough, they all seem to have been princesses or heroes. Oddly no one seems to remember having been a drudge, or a deserving flea, born to a higher state this time around. I've often thought that my violent and immediate dislike of the very smell of turnips -and knowing full well exactly what it would taste like before tasting it, was the nearest I have ever come to real evidence of reincarnation. But in that former life I must have been a very hungry peasant somewhere in Northern Europe... a dull Baldric-type life, much afflicted with insufficient food, and entirely too much of the little there was must have been turnip. Still, I must have been a good peasant, as I've moved on to Flinders Island in this round. Which again makes it all seem very unlikely, as I don't have a particularly saintly nature. And likewise rural life is sometimes quiet (you know, like when the green rosellas have a domestic dispute outside the window just before dawn), sometimes tranquil (when the wind actually makes such constant roaring sound that you wake up when it stops) and never ever effortless. Like the illusion that being a writer is effortless...
Anyway, in my illusionary world I have decided it's probably a good life-choice for the hyperactive and restless, as well as the not-particularly-intellectually-gifted (or they would work out that going to a supermarket for a loaf of bread is a lot easier than kneading dough) and a strong back because carrying loads of wood is a little more like hard work than flipping the switch on a heater. We will leave out the part about cutting down the tree and cutting it up, because part of me always wants to ask if you don't have to cut it down again. I think these delusions are why so many rural shifters don't last too long. Still, while it is hard work, and like any work a lot of it is repetitive, there is enormous satisfacton to it. And that hard-to-define thing quality of life is a biggy. It often seems to go hand in hand with just straight quality. My veggies aren't what any office-working supermarket-shopping person would call 'quality' - they have holes from caterpillars. They'd be less good than the stuff in the shop if I transported it thence - but here, well, firstly it's fresh (sometimes with added frog or caterpillar) and secondly it's MINE - watered by the sweat of my brow (no wonder it tastes salty and smells yuck). And thirdly - it satisfies that innate mean-ness of me. I never paid a long chain of middlemen or the government for most of it, which delights long generations of "careful" ancestors. It must be in the DNA or something, because, like the satisfaction of barter, it makes 'retail therapy' seem like a weak shandy compared to overproof whiskey.
Still, it's not the life of Riley. If you want that: stay in the big city, and stick close to your desk 9-5, enjoy dining out, watching TV, take-outs, repairmen... and that sort of thing. Otherwise, well, learn to cook in batches, think ahead and seize the day when the weather is good or the mushrooms come out or there are olives being left to rot. And sometimes it means sitting an writing on a glorious Sunday, because you're behind.
Oh well, it was always my choice. And it is beautiful, and satisfying, even if it is sometimes hard work.
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And highly appreciated. Now, serf, back to grinding... <grin>ReplyDelete
You know, you need shmoos. Fit right into that Life of Riley lifestyle, and keep you entertained at night with dancing, too. And you could probably get the neighbors to join in shmoo hunts...ReplyDelete
Go get a package of cigarettes, open them up and make a tea out of them. Pour on the ground around the veggies... keeps the bugs down.. especially the ants.ReplyDelete
We use the leftover scraps in our garden.
Haven't got time for full self-sufficiency here. Gardening is as good as it gets and sometimes we butcher a calf for ourselves. But it's slow in the winter so Dh and his Uncle can cut the wood for the boiler... just remember, the stuff you cut this year, really isn't fit until next to use... unless you like a lot of creosote = chimney fires.
It is a hard slog, thats for sure. And each little bit of technological advancement eases the load.ReplyDelete
I wish I had been able to start a decade earlier. Still, I would not have missed this experience for anything.
Which is the right choice when going fishing; paying the baitman $3.00 for a dozen minnows or building a trap, baiting it, setting it and then waiting an hour for it fill up with minnows?ReplyDelete
I tell myself it's because I want minnows that are local to the area being fished and therefore more like what the quarry is eating. Yeah, that's the ticket.
Reverence - grind, grind (oh... this was the bit we were going to leave whole)ReplyDelete
Mike the background to the Schmoo was fascinating. And um, like the cartoonist a lot of people think nature is full of Schmoos already.ReplyDelete
Farmwhifetwo - I'd forgotten about that. My mum had a big bag of tobacco-dust she used for it. Hmm. We're no self-sufficient by any means -- but we don't buy veg, and we haven't bought meat for nearly 4 months (and we eat some form of protein every night). Oil and starches are long haul goals, medium term is milk and cheese.ReplyDelete
One of the things i have had to learn about Australia is how much slower the wood dries. We cut gum and wattle in summer and used it winter -the trees grow faster (rings are further apart). In that area of South Africa (high altitude, snow and frost) I never met a slow combustion heater... or EVER heard of a chimney fire. Everyone had fires all winter. I'd never even heard of the idea of a chimney fire until I came to Australia. Here it seems a very real problem. Is it something to do with the enclosed heaters maybe?
Morrie2 - some things I believe in doing the old-fashioned way. And some things I am all for helping the old-fashioned way along! I can understand growing my own veg and preserving my own fish and meat (but I appreciate the freezer!)but not for the life of me am I going to get rid of the washing machine. I'm NOT interested in going back to doing things the way my great grandad did just for the sake of it. There's definite advantage in doing the slow, boring mundane jobs just as well or better with a bit of mechanising - just as long asthat doesn't become the whole thing.ReplyDelete
Quilly - I'd probably part with a dollar for 3 so I could start fishing straight away :-), and catch the rest myself. Or use a throw-net - bad at the waiting bit.ReplyDelete
No, improperly dried fire wood burns at a lower temperature. This means that there is not complete combustion of the oils in the wood in the fireplace or heater. These then condense in the flue.ReplyDelete
These oils, now known as creosote, are highly combustible. What usually happens is that sooner or later the wood is dry enough to make a very hot fire (or one is built to be hot), the air inside the chimney reaches the temperature point where the creosote flashes and then you get a chimney fire.
More then a quarter of all residential fires in the US are the result of a creosote chimney fire. The vast majority of those during heating season.
Dry your wood or clean your flue. Particularly since it appears that you are cutting now to burn in a month or two...it will not be completely dry. After a small fire in my Dad's house we learned this from a Chimney Sweep. And spent the rest of the winter cutting wood for the next year.
The resinous the dryer it needs to be to insure complete combustion.
BTW: you should check out Jackie Clay at Backwoods Home Magazine. She's been writing tips on canning and general self reliant living for years.
We're cutting OLD deadwood Quilly. I would guess at 2 years + so I don't think it's an issue (other than on chainsaw blade) We're burning about 90% gum which is not nearly as resinous as the conifers I don't think. Seriously 'chimney fires' - believe you guys completely, It's just not something I even heard of back in South Africa. Is it because the houses there are mostly brick? And because the fireplaces are mostly just fireplaces - not enclosed - so you get a lot more air into them, and people tend to make big hot fires when they light them - maybe burning out that gunk more often?ReplyDelete
"Anyway, in my illusionary world I have decided it's probably a good life-choice for the hyperactive and restless, as well as the not-particularly-intellectually-gifted"ReplyDelete
I think I have two out of three of those qualities. Or at least I like to tell myself I do; depending on who you ask, it might be all three.
MartinB are you just looking for compliments here?? Come over and see how you fit in!ReplyDelete
It is in the plan, I assure you. :)ReplyDelete
Just practicing for fishing for when I do make it over. ;)
Barbs, having done such gardening things as shoveling out 3 years of chicken droppings from the coop, breaking the brick-hard, layered masses into gravel-sized bits with shovel and rake, then hand-spading it into the 1/6-acre garden area, I figure there wouldn't be much fitting-in but picking up some new techniques. :)ReplyDelete
And Dave, no, even all-brick houses can get chimney fires. One chimney-cleaning tool is a bundle of chain that you drop down the chimney and use to beat the sides all the way down. This knocks the creosote loose, then you run a chimney brush down to push it out. Just make sure the fireplace and hearth area are well-tarped to catch the mess. ;)ReplyDelete
This procedure is recommended before the beginning of the heating season, every year. And sometimes during the season, if your wood isn't well-dried, or has resin.
Silverdrake1 my only problem with the chain down the chimney, is that this chimney is metal, will that not get dented and damaged? Is the chain just for brick? There is an old chain out in the yard we could use!ReplyDelete