Monday, October 31, 2011

Blessing the fleet.

Flowers on the water from the wreaths in the memory of those lost at sea from the blessing of the fleet.

Every now and again, something brings the island, and the fragility of life here back into sharp focus. Basically everyone knows someone who was lost at sea.

The reason the national carrot growers association have not asked me to be their guest speaker

Saturday, October 29, 2011


I heard the dogs a-barking and went down to find Davo - neighbour, busy moving his cows into the paddock I keep the chooks in, which I've been using for field crops with mediocre success (my first wheat just got nailed by the birds, the grasshoppers are eating my potatoes and my pumpkins and my buckwheat) Still, there is a lot of effort there. This was something of a crossed line, as Barbs had said he couldn't because the fence wire was down, and he'd taken to mean he could, if he fixed the wire. And, as a few of the islanders do, he just went ahead without bothering to TELL anyone. Anyway there were some words said! We DO want the paddock short for fire season, and my cultivated strips are a basically 3 chook-tractor wide, along the outside of the garden, and he's got more steers than grazing. So I ended wasting a morning fencing that section off, just when I really can't afford the time.

We had the other kind of wallaby in buckwheat pancakes for tea this evening. Much more gamey.

Friday, October 28, 2011

One set of edits down

Ok, Dog and Dragon's edits are DONE - marathon effort, but done. One more - bigger job.

I cooked liver and onions last night. What made it moderately unusual is that it was wallaby liver, our own onions and our own bacon (and our own thyme). I soaked the livers in milk, which makes them less strong flavoured. The key I believe is to braise the onion (sliced thin) slowly in a cast iron pot, with the lid on, until they're melting-soft. I then caramelise them on high heat, add the chopped bacon, and fry the liver - cut in thin strips and dusted with cumin and flour and salt in small batches. Cooking liver well, IMO is almost as hard as fish. It's got to be JUST cooked -a little rare if anything, otherwise it tastes and resembles shoe-leather. Yes, I have been kicked in the mouth (quite ineptly, fortunately) so I do know precisely what shoe leather tastes like. Never bite the shoe that kicks you, it probably stood in something nasty. Away, Wallaby liver is slightly stronger flavoured than lamb, so probably not for those who don't like liver.

Tonight I ventured on broccoli stems in tempura batter with a sweet-and sour chili and ginger dipping sauce. The batter was not a success. Need to work on that. The sauce was a bit salty, but nubbly all the same. It was actually good with the fish and chips too. I drew the line at having it on the salad!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011


Busy times... the next while may be very pre-occupied with this trying to make a living stuff. I have the edits to DOG & DRAGON (arrived today) and the edits to CUTTLEFISH due soon.

Last night we went out on a sadly wind-rippled evening hunting flounder, and tonight we have the opportunity to go with someone to shoot wallaby. I'm doing as much learning as I can, and one simply does not turn this down, because opportunity seldom knocks twice here. Carpe diem (a carp a day? I really don't like carp) with both weather and people, rules.

I really have to do something about my spears and heads for same. It's that or believe I've lost it. I had three failed goes at one squid, another at another, failed two attempts at trevally, and failed another at a skinny fish (not sure what it was). And I hit (at least some of the time) but failed to penetrate all of them. We did get 12 flounder - but that is thrust onto a hard surface. I did see an advert for bulk 'paralyser' spear points some time back (We use multi-prong spears, each with 5 points). Mind you, the one i was too nervy to spear properly as it was over a big sandshark. It was our night for them, and they'd wreck my waders.

Monday, October 24, 2011

A day that had seen rain...

We've had a day of rain. And lightning. Here it is unusual enough to comment on. Back in South Africa afternoon thunderstorms were an all-too-regular feature of summer, and very hard for a working writer. Something had the dogs very uneasy last night and they had me out of bed far too many times. Yawn.

I made barley and wheat rolls today and was seriously unimpressed. I'll have a go at barley bannocks but I think that may join the list of flours that I do not need to own.

My summer plants are growing reasonably well--It's an endless tail-chase trying to get everything in and up in the warm season, especially with the melons and pumpkins. The seeds are up, they just need to get bigger.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

When going to lunch with our Polish friends, bring an extra stomach, and maybe a third tin-lined one for the vodka. We had quail, smoked Australian salmon, smoked trevally, and muttonbird, and salad... And beer at lunch time (which is sudden soporifia for me). And we got there at twelve and home at three, for a 'quick lunch'. Still, it was a lot of fun and great to taste yet another island bird. There are partridges and pea-hens and duck still on my 'taste' list, but we get there.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Mince and sunset

Barbs and I minced - by hand - about 6kg of wallaby mince. It does make one appreciate minced meat as a luxury not just the lowest form of meat that isn't a dubious internal organ.

We were rewarded this evening by yet another spectacular sunset. I've seen sunsets and skies in scattered beautiful places, many of them stunning. But really Flinders has the most spectacular I've ever seen (the cloudscapes and dawns too). I am a very mediocre photographer, and I have a very ordinary point-and-shoot. I can't do them justice. I think it may come down to a combination of the exceptional clarity of air, which has blown uninterrupted across 2/3 of the globe, or the angle of the sun or something. All I know is a rotten photographer here can look quite talented. click on the pics to see them full-size.

I did leeks and fennel with tomato to serve with our couscous and fish this evening. It did not look as spectacular as the view, so a picture of the mountain instead.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Squeezed in a lunchtime dive with one of my mates today, and got my 10 Abs. Snorkeling for Abalone is a little more challenging - especially as the bag weighed around 8kg.

Put in my firearms license application today, just in case our wallaby supply dries up. I'm not too keen to have to do this myself, but if needs must I want to be able to.

And now to work.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

The Island earth in your bones

Another Island funeral today, another old islander come home to mix with the earth that was in his bones.

We chopped up several wallaby today - dog tucker and for us. I made some kebabs with wallaby marinaded in chilli, light soy, garlic, oil, and sesame seeds. Most of them fell off. Meat was interspersed with pieces of briefly soaked shitake mushroom. Still, grilled on a griddle and drizzled with oyster sauce, young broccoli in a dijon mustard sauce, and wedges of cold spanish omelette it made not a bad supper.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Aerobics island style.

It struck me that I left the exciting parts out of the mill saga. You see the sawmill tractor had gone for repairs, which meant that several tons of log had to be moved with a crowbar and a chain on the front of the ute. Which um, is not too precise as the log does not STOP rolling until IT wants to. Which is not exactly when or where you'd like it to stop. And you can't stop a ton or two of log. Well, you can, but not without an ugly bloody mess on the nice wood.

So last night I was picking salad and hear a slight crunching noise. Wednesday is munching broccoli. Poor starved Labrador (for those not familiar with the breed, a Labrador is starving while its stomach will still allow the dog's feet to touch the ground.) And I have to share an office with her...

This morning had the great chookabago breakout. Or more a case warder idiocy. When I put their food and titbits next to the coop the boss chook sneaked out and stole some So now I put it in front. The 'Bago. stuck on a tussock and was not moving, so I gave a big lift and heave which ended up with the food inside the 'bago. So now I had to go in and fetch it. And I didn't shut the door because they were so busy eating the spilled food, they'd stay there. Only when I got in, they gapped. And the door was open. So we had a little early morning chicken chasing for aerobic exercise. One in two out. One in one out...

The weather being perfect we decided to take advantage of just about the only day Barbs isn't working or doing various good deeds (meals-on-wheels, Island news collating, etc etc etc. My wife has 'sucker' tattooed on her forehead - or she's just much nicer than I am.) She had CWA and work at Freckles this evening so it was a short trip, as yours truly had made but not iced her CWA cake and still had to do the Chelsea buns. We went on past Trousers point looking for a dive spot I have heard rumours of. Barbs got smashed up by a big sweep, and I proved James was right. I need a flounder spearhead (easy to get fish off) and a diving spear head. (hard to get them off). I had the spear come out of a sweep, and a magpie perch. I speared another schooling little thing (to ID it) and another Magpie, but the abalone were few and far between. Only got three. I'm trying to stick to snorkling to get fitter. It was 4 metres and my sinuses bitched then and are still writing rude letters to my head. My new wetsuit kept me toasty though... except for one foot, as I left one bootie at home, and just had a sock on it.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011


Today I got an education in how a mini-mill (for timber) works. I think it was a Lucas, but it made me green with envy and acquisitive desire. Most shopping malls have very little effect on me, but turning a Cupressus macrocarpa (Monterey cypress I think) log into 8 foot long, 1 inch thick six inch wide planks, did. If I ever make that fortune (a very unlikely thing, sadly. Authors in general battle and I'm no exception. I'd be rich for at least... a week. Have happy friends and a place of our own) the mill would come just after the land to live on. Anyway, I got a welcome to the Island present of a log now planked from the local miller and I thus have 11 good planks and another 13 I can get something out of, for my bee-hives. It's wonderful smelling stuff.

Also I finally have 4 decent tires on the ute. Hey, it's taken us 20 months to replace the dodgy lot of retreads and odd spare size that we got with the Blue slug.

I've put 3 Queensland blue pumpkin plants out in the paddock in their own patch of horse-manure. If you don't let on to them that this isn't Queensland, I won't either.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Fridges for the poor people...

Yesterday was the school centenary and the weather did a display of turbulence for them that was appropriate to the changes over the last century, if less than wonderful for the organizers. Anyway we went up there and had some tea and cake, and bought two mutton chops which were the same vintage as the school but less cheerful about it. Sad. The island lamb is usual very good.

I see I am officially one of Australia's poorest 20% who earn 1% of her income(which is odd, seeing as we live frugally, but well) and Families minister Jenny Macklin proposes to spend 30 million to help me budget and give me a low interest loan to buy a new energy efficient fridge and a dryer to make up for the extra costs to me of the carbon tax. It's provoked rage about handouts to bludgers. Hmm. Well, speaking as a bloke who hasn't had any state handouts and isn't about to start, and has had to learn a bit about budgeting here is some free advice for Jenny Macklin. The place to start is not wasting 30 mill in the first place, because the the only piece of advice we poor blokes need is 'avoid debt of any kind'. All this will do is bump up the prices of fridges and dryers, and it's going to take many years of 'savings' to cover the expense of new things we do not need. Our freezers are - bar 1 - old and probably inefficient. But they were also second hand and dirt cheap. The cost of the extra power they use would take thirty years to pay the difference - by which stage they will have died.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

In which we bag and enclose things

We've been sorting out the supplies of dry goods that we got over with Peter's container... Aladdin's cave keeps pushing out useful bits. We learned a bit about 'May settle in packing' while doing the flour today. It's full... shake it. It goes down. fill it more. Shake it. fill it more... add Bay leaves and pressure. I may still vacuum pack some. Repeat process with 20kg of oats, 10 of Polenta, 5 of Barley. We vac-packed for the freezer in smaller units the nuts (pine, pecan, cashew bits, almond, poppy seeds, sesame seed) These bits in small quantities lift the food a lot and provide some of the nutrients we may miss. I have sunflower and pepita seeds too - both of which I grow - but life is too short to crack sunflower or pumpkin seeds for salad. We have about 25 litres of cooking oil, and 10 of olive, and fifty kilos of flour (excluding all the interesting ones like Spelt, Besan, Buckwheat, Barley, Atta and Ragi -most of which I only have a kilo of to experiment with) about 25kg of jasmine rice, and 30kg of 'dog rice' and 120kg of dog cubes, 60kg of high protein chook food... and a bunch of miscellania - cornflour, icing sugar, couscous - all of which had be sealed from the damp and vermin. There is dried fruit and cans of tomato and coconut cream too... We do grow and freeze a lot of tomatoes, but that ran out about a month ago, and we won't have any more for another 2-3 months. Still, if the zombies can co-operate and come now, we're full of dry goods. Peter has made our survival out here a lot more plausible, and progress a lot more comfortable. Now... we either need a container for a store-room or a bigger house!!! (Peter has a walk-in pantry made from a little container that fills me with raw envy).

I made buckwheat pancakes (thin and rolled around a savory spicy filling with some soft spinach wilting under the heat of the filling and cheese melting with it) last night. Drizzled with green sauce they were truly delicious. However as photogenic material they looked like rolled pancakes.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Show Day

It was the Flinders Island Show today, and we went to show face. Briefly because I really really need to do some work.

Yeah. Island life. It can take you an hour to cross a single hall, because you meet a lot of people who, naturally, NEED to see you. To talk. Ah well. It's nice be in an environment where so many of the people you see are friends or acquaintances. We ended up buying some more peppers (capsicums) and a vacuum-sealing bag machine. I suspect we will be enslaved to the bag makers.

And now I have let time run away with me with writing and need to go to bed.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

the Maiden voyage

Well, it's the island's show day tomorrow, and blessed with good weather today, we went on Peter's new boat's maiden voyage. Other than Barbs and I both getting spiked by flathead and bleeding copiously, and having to wrestle two port Jackson sharks off the hook (I refuse to kill or mutilate them, even if they are a PITA. They do a job in the ocean)it was a very good trip. Lots of laughs, lots of fish, and no major disasters with our trainee skipper. Rather different from Gerry Durrell's 'Maiden voyage'.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The rearing iron horse

When I wrote RATS BATS AND VATS - and made a small elderly vineyard tractor a 'hero' (dying a noble death too) I really didn't mean to inspire my friend Peter. He has a very elderly tractor called the foine wee beastie in its honor - and every fitting for it known to man and several not seen in polite society very often. Nym would be proud of him. It has a set of forks too, which have been invaluable in emptying his container... well, except that would be too boring, no? So he's added an obstacle course (of very useful 'things' - honestly the guy even gives me a run for my money as a junk collector. He had some very neat little gear boxes he's brought with him from dejunking their factory... They are neat... but... I asked him what he was going to DO with them on Flinders. He said he didn't know, but they were too good to throw away... I suggested they'd work as long-line anchors. He was not amused. I thought they might get used for braining brainless authors) and a steep slope... and some VERY heavy cabinets full of tools and stuff. We wheeled the cabinets onto the pallets and then moved them with the forks... until the uphill, and the 'foine wee beastie' was up on its back wheels (no, it's not going to flip. The forks and load are behind. But they're likely to slide off, if you go forward. And then there were the tall cabinet toppling sideways (arrested by some rock-climbing knots. I ended up belaying it to keep it upright.) Anyway with only minor disaster (a drawer that opened at an angle and showered the countryside in screws)we succeed. And we found the missing Olive oil. The tin suffered a goodly dent...Another few millimeters of pressure and it would have added 4 liters of oil to our adventures, and trust me, they needed no extra help!

Anyway I made 3rd night leftovers with the rest of the turkey - meatballs with chili, garlic, ginger, x-o sauce, and egg, breadcrumbs and part-cooked fine chopped onion - fried and the briefly sauteed in some coconut milk. Very good. Worth getting to leftover stakes for!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

In which several more things all happen at once

The island is like this. All goes slowly and then suddenly you have a rash of incidents. Ann left this morning at 12 in the teeth of a howling wind. I think this will be the bumpiest of trips over possible. On the way into the harbour we stopped at the tasports office - and happened to see the beekeeper, Andrew, there. So I introduced them - her dad was professional beekeeper too... this must have made an impact on Andrew because he saw me later as I went to pick up Barbs and said to come around and he'd show me his set-up. So we did. And came home with 3 bits for me to try and make - An ideal super, lid and base.

And then we visited Peter who was trying to find a 'home' for an elderly computer - and we know a a friend who we want to get organized with skype to see her grandkid - so more 'swaps' to organize - we now have the computer sitting on James's bed. And then I went off to Bill to sort out a spare tire (we've got 4 new ones - only downside is 4 old ones have to come off for them to go on.

Obviously the idea of having another beekeeper around had been working on Andrew so he called me this evening to give me some sites that stock various things I will need... and talked for a solid hour.

Now I need to fit a tiny bit of work in...

Monday, October 10, 2011

The Zoo-diac

I have made an astounding discovery! If you hold the 'phone upside down you can't hear too well. Peter called just as I was bringing in the muttonbirds from their wall-flame-charcoal grilling. Our Harpist-friend wanted to experience island life, and that's part of it. Now, picture the scene. Dave, with grill-clamp of oil-dripping muttonbirds in one hand, and salt, bowl, knife, barbeque fork in the other... being 'handed' a telephone (our visitor and B are off to 'sing Australia' - the island 'choir' that meets at 7 on Monday so I'm rushing to get food into them so they can breath the delightful miasma of garlic and muttonbird at everyone there). We're only about a km apart as the crow flies, and I reckon both of us were shouting loudly enough at the inverted telephone to make it superfluous.

I took Ann up to North East River and Killiekrankie this morning, seeing as she's off on the ferry tomorrow.

As you can tell the island has been invaded by blond Ambulatory mullet hairstyles and she needs to escape. In the meanwhile she has been discovering how the other half live... well, the lunatics who live on remote islands and catch their own food live.

We've bought our boat... and by the torrential rain... we may need it. It's a very elderly 4.5 metre Zodiac, packed very carefully with talcum powder and still with the original french manuals (and it must be 30 years old). We still need to get an engine - although we have 3 sets of oars! All I need to do is make frame for them and we can use it as a war-galley... if I can get suitable galley slaves and a battering ram. Then of course we need to invite the Queen (or if she is otherwise engaged some other grate personage) to come and launch her. Being an airfilled and rather bouncy boat (which is best for rocks with amatuerish skippers) the champers is more likely to bounce back than break on the boat. The ramifications of the bottle bouncing back and breaking on the Christener's head need deep thought.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Roadkill dinner and a sign of zodiac

We had roast roadkill pheasant (not peasant. They are revolting, no matter how well they are hung) for our tea, along with Cape Barron Goose breast - a fitting end to our day. It looks like we're about to buy an elderly mark IV hypalon skinned Zodiac (hopefully missing the sign of water-carrier, and with the sign of the fish present - but probably the other way around.) A suitable motor will have to follow one day.

Then this morning Pete took delivery of his tri-hull, and at his rather bloody-minded mate's Dave insistence, we launched it at Whitemark in the mizzle and chop, with the former owner and did a very wet and bumpy ride and then came back to a slightly 'interesting' extraction from the water with a good supply of slopping waves and a vehicle sans hand-brake. Anyway, I did manage to do a hasty dash and hook-up, and we pulled it out fine. Only haste having been the operative word I should have either taken my boots off, or worn waders... There was no time for balancing on the shaft. My gumboots were full of nice cold water to go splart-splart as I ran. And I did run. The truck was doing a slow creep against the compression.

And tonight we venture on our first of the turkeys.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

What a busy week

We've had not only our visiting harpist and filk singer, but Peter and Aladdin's cave of wonders being opened. We had the Whitemark community center RSL fundraiser Barbs organised with Ann (the harpist)and on Wednesday (late evening) then getting up at 3.30 on Thursday to go floundering (not windless, alas, but 4 flounder and an unlucky roadkill pheasant on the way home. Pheasant was injured and had to be killed so I brought it back and we did some plucking and drawing. This poor visitor from the city who likes SCA (Society for creative anachronisms:-)) and medieval reconstructions is finding the reality of hunter gatherers... different. I spent most most the day humping great loads of stuff out of the cave - having them handed to me by the 'lad' in it. (A lad in 's cave, see) and dodging the rain, with our new Florist shop. You didn't know I was opening a florist on Flinders? Tch. And me with such artistic flower arranging skills too!) I have a whole new supply flours for it, including Ragi and Besan. Then Scottish dancing last night, and I was exhausted. So no blog. Sorry.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

sleepless on Flinders...

It was one of those interrupted nights last night. We were due to meet our Filk Harpist at 1.30 AM - so we went to bed early... inevitably we had two phone calls. One to tell the ferry was running a half hour late, the other at 11.30 from our son in South Africa to say his marriage certificate had finally arrived - opened and tampered with (I keep saying nice about Australia Post. Now you know why) but at least it arrived. My kids can call at any time for any reason. I never want to discourage them. They're much more important than sleep... but it did add to a patchy night. Then we drove down and waited for the car to be offloaded, and by the time I got to bed it was 4 AM. Barbs needed to get up for work at seven thirty...

I took Ann up to West End and I snorkle-dived for Abalone. My sinuses whinged at the 4-5 metre drop but I did get a couple (not pushing too hard), and catch and shot a fish or two, which did me good, if it did less for the fish. B took her up to Walkers Lookout this afternoon, so I could do some work - because inevitably the edits for Cuttlefish have come in.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Laid loo

Ok, so when I should have been posting I was on the 'loo, being laid loo by a tummy bug. Fortunately it seems better today. The weather has turned warmer - well, the sun is out, and in it it is lovely even if there is still a nasty nip in the breeze - but I gather there has been quite a lot of late snow elsewhere.

Last night was cold but I didn't see any frost. Tonight is forecast still and clear again so it could an issue. Of course the tide is very wrong for floundering, and we're due to go and meet the Filk Harpist from the ferry at some unearthly hour.

I do like the summer-time clock resetting. I know some people don't. But right now it means that the sun comes up around 6.35, and sets at 7.15pm, which means if Barbs (or anyone else) is working, there is still a glorious evening of sunlight to do things outdoors. As someone who wakes at the light, it doesn't affect me as much but for the chance to fish or climb after work, it's a boon

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Ja Manure, nee Manure, Three bags full Manure

This afternoon was the mission to manure. I've shoveled about 3/4 ton of 5 year old horse manure into the second raised bed, after an expedition to fetch it up at Jamie's place. I am less used to shoveling than I should be. But I reckon with another 3-4 wheelbarrows of sand added, this lot is ready for our warm season crop of tomatoes, peppers (capsicums), cucumber and maybe even eggplant to horrify my younger son (he doesn't like it, but I guess he is out of home now). I've still got enough left to prep the plant-outs for pumpkins, hubbards, melons, and the 10 new 20 liter pots. Of course they're predicting frost!

We set the clocks forward tonight, and I'm going to celebrate by going to bed,a tired little bloke, but well pleased with the muck.