Monday, December 31, 2012

Three Years

It's been three wonderful scary, exciting, happy, tough years since we arrived in Australia. Dear lord get me back to the 4th. We fly back to Africa tomorrow.

And may 2013 be a great year for you all.


Sunday, December 30, 2012

As predicted

The first tomato - not going to go far - a yellow cocktail - harvested today. The first stupice should be ready tomorrow...
It's doing the Flinders winders today, blowing hard enough to send the weather changing every few minutes. I believe this patch of air I am breathing was last in Kerguelen, about ten minutes back. I can smell the Kerguelen cabbage, or else it is Pugsley. This however will be replaced by Chilean volcano breath (or possibly Wednesday) in a few minutes. Various preparations and panics are underway, as this sort of thing involves clothes we do not normally wear. I know I have a tie somewhere. Barbara is hunting petticoats... Our house, garden and dog-sitters are coming around today.

Friday, December 28, 2012

I am preparing for the trip to Zimbabwe (James and Alana's re-affirmation of vows - basically a wedding ceremony for all those who couldn't come here - most of the family and friends.) I really don't want to go back to Africa, but we do these things for our children.

I was laying drip pipes for the garden to stop total death while we're away, when one of the black pipes developed scales and moved as I was reaching for it. The horrible beetles seem to be unstoppable on the strawberries :-(

We're still in eat left-overs mode...

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas, good feasting and the pleasure of family or friends to all of you.
Skype let us see our children :-)

We've eaten wild turkey and homemade Christmas pudding and brandy butter. Santa has brought me some wetsuit repair stuff :-)

Remember: the Christmas spirit is not just what you drink.

Blessings and peace and goodwill to you and your kin.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Water and other disasters

Hmm. A little backfill here. Yesterday was one of those days. It started in smallish hours when, just after I filled the kettle the pipe bringing water to the house burst. It is an old house and the demon rust at ground level had eaten through the steel pipe.

Now this is Australia, you're supposed to squall for a plumber. But um... it was Sunday and he wasn't answering. And the next nearest is a LONG flight away, assuming you get him on a plane, plus the cost of moving the tools. I do wonder at the people who make these rules. Should be that the silly bastards have to suffer the worst consequences they could inflict on the people whose lives they make difficult. I can just imagine some little politician sitting his house in some major city saying "What do you mean I can't have any water for two weeks and then it'll cost me a month's salary!" "Well, Sir, that's the time and cost to fly someone to Gogga-ping-pong Station." And him saying "But they fix it themselves." "You said they weren't allowed to, Sir. Oh and we must insist you drive 570km to fetch any water. Oh and as that would be their summer supply draining away, you'll have to do that for six months."
"That's ridiculous! Just stupid!"
"Yes Sir. That's what the people at Gogga-ping-pong think of your rule too."
Which is why the further you get from the cities the more people quietly ignore most of what is utterly without relevance outside those cities anyway. I did patch it up with some ag fittings and hot poly-pipe and hose clamps, and it is barely damp. It's not perfect and might lose oh... 5 ml a day into the ground - compared to no water in the house and 20 000 liters wasted. The plumber has promised he will come and do a proper job, really soon. And he may. Possibly in the next few weeks even. It did take the better part of the morning though. It was a hot humid day, and I really wanted a few more crayfish or at least an excuse to get wet, so Jamie got the boat trailer out... and it had a flat. So he tried to pump it up and the valve took off for Mars. So much surgery followed. Tire valve transplant... and we could have used anasthetic. Still, it got us there, we dived. I had a day of evasive crays, and tried to get 3 and caught one. I did find a cave I can find again, which is always good. I am scared of of them, but this is quite big.
And then we got back and had a flat tire again.

Today I drained the pond so the bird fountain could work properly - with a bucket. It must be about 1500 litres. Stupid obstinacy triumphs, and it is clean and refilled and Wednesday has her favorite summer swimming pool back, and the green Rosellas are washing their beaks and then their bottoms. (really. It's bizarre. And really really important to be first Rosella). I then carried a good 50kg of wallaby from the woolshed fridge to cut up. This is about 150 yards. And the trouble is there is nowhere to put them down to rest your hands. Did a bit of excercise today.

Barbs had hard day at the Surgery too, so we're both tired... And still need to prep for tomorrow.

We've had leftover pig for our Tea.

Turkey is thawing.

A merry and blessed Christmas to you all!

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Roast pig picture

Courtesy of Peter :-)

Saturday, December 22, 2012

roasting pig

I'm really tired and half-roasted and sore-footed at the end of the pig roast - not without epics of course. Anyway, all well that ends well, and we had a load of crackling that was truly wonderful. My camera ended up here, and the pig 2km away. Lots of pictures were taken but not by me. I'll eventually get some, and put them up.

Lessons in pig spit-roasting. Dry salting the skin - flavoring inside the pig works. Unlike lamb constant basting is not needed. Constant heat is and quite a lot of it for longer than the lamb - and you do not want the heat straight underneath - drip trays there. We need next time to spend a lot more time balancing the spit. Securing a relatively small - 25 kg pig - was not easy and not adequate. We used some mesh on the mid-section. This worked well until I covered mid-sections with foil as it was prone to over cook and burn. Unfortunately the foil, coated in fat, is prone to catch fire, and as the foil has a nice air-space with the wire netting under it... well, you can't put it out.

Our electric spit motor had an issue part way through the cooking - and that left me standing in the sun, turning the spit by hand for about 45 minutes. It's HOT work. Anyway, we had beautiful crackling, good tender pork, loads of new potatoes, and salads and fresh bread, and then sticky date pudding and cheesecake (yum) before Barbs Birthday cake and our tuneless singing.

Now we have about 10kg of pork left...

Friday, December 21, 2012

I have 1)Cut the grass 2)written words for current story 3)Looked up pig spit roasting for tomorrow, got nervous.
4)Looked at my tomatoes in despair. They will not be ready for Christmas. They should get ripe some time in... second week of January, while we're away. Anyway, i will attempt to take some pig roasting pics tomorrow. I have discovered the downside of long days - Sunday is supposed to be hot and still - and both high tides (for flounder) are in the daylight. We need dark for this.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

The pig is dead, long live the next pig

The pig is dead, scalded, scraped and butchered, ready for the spit on Saturday. I was amazed at how with the right temperature, 65 c - the skin and bristle came off. He went from being a black big to a white pig. He's in a chiller now, until Saturday morning. Pig died as meat animals should die, one moment a mouthful and pleased with himself, the next dead.

Peter and Helen came back to the island today flying with Frank on Flinders Island Aviation - a charter - which means you can bring a fair bit more luggage. I should have taken down a shoe-horn and some grease, when fetching them, to get it all in. They got home to a beehive in their woodbox. The beekeeping project really has to get there.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The end of the world is at hand.

The Mayans were right. Certain signs and portents show this.

For instance: the Christmas tree we chose and cut is not too tall. It did not have to have 13 trims to even get into the house.

This does not happen naturally!
All my Christmas orders are in...(another sure sign)

Also I have yet to receive my author copies of Steam Mole, and a whole lot of other publishing related stuff, including money... they're never late, are they? Oh, wait...

Had salsify, parsnips out of the garden as part of tea tonight. Most yummy if a little early? Well, best to eat them if we're all going to be eaten by the giant sky snake or wiped out by the great white handkerchief. If only the tomatoes would ripen... then indeed, we'd be in the last days - but so far we are safe...

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Monday, December 17, 2012

The round of dinners and teas and drinks and nibbles continues. Tonight again... So does work and the beetle chase! Barbs has pulled an intercostal muscle and is very sore poor dear. The physio this morning left her even more battered, if better. We had the plumber -visiting the farm, look at the pressure pump and shake his head today. I wonder what that head-shake costs... He said short of replacing the pump he could do nothing about the erratic shower (takes me back to boarding school, water one minute, none the next, water again) however unlike boarding school this stays much the same temperature. I'll live with it.

They're crutching over the shearing sheds today. I heard the shearers offering brazilians, Americans, landing strips... Well, I heard loud music anyway. I'd need that for sheep's bums. This should be quite a short session though.

Sunday, December 16, 2012


Ooh I ate too much. I feel like Percy Pig (who is bursting his little waistcoat buttons). We seem to have been stuck in the Flinders Island eat-athon. First Jamie brought us a Swiss 'black forest' type choccy cake from his Swiss wife as thanks for hay-help, and we had to have a piece with Jamie, and then we went off to the FIAA (Barbs works for them) Christmas dinner, and seeing as I was spending $45 (she got her tucker for free) and I'm still in the appalling habit of translating that back to Rand, I made sure I ate every morsel and regretted it. The Tavern's chef (who left today) was a big step up, but (Modesty Blaise here the tall poppy speaking) I do cook better. Well, I don't have to cook for those numbers of people. But my feeling is that a rack of lamb should just be pink against the bone OR stripped of almost all fat, as lamb fat needs to be crisp and cooked. Rare and fat is hard going for my taste. The creme brule had great topping but had vast amounts of of slightly lumpy not quite set custard with no real taste except sweet. I like it firm but soft. And now I feel hypercritical and bad. It was a noble effort, as the Tavern hasn't risen to this sort of food much. Anyway after a night of indigestion, we went to church this morning, ahd too much cake after... and then took a crayfish cocktail (this - very typical South Africa 1960-1970 standard restaurant fare - from seafood cocktail (at the bottom), to prawn cocktail, to crayfish cocktail at the best fell out of favor, probably because the silly beggars put too much mayo and rubbish in and too little of the crayfish. Done right, with just enough good mayo to stick it together, a splash of tomato sauce, a tiny bit of chilli pepper, and some fresh chives, it is very good) to a friend's 40th party. Only they'd stocked up on a lot of German food (he is of German origin) which we had to try. And the other 40 families had all brought their party pieces... Barbs has bravely gone to the carols (which the kids and the a-capella ? spell? group are are doing), with port and mince-pies after, and all the island there I would guess. It would be lovely I am sure, but I have seen enough people and eaten enough.

Instead I harvested another 18 heads of garlic - bringing our total so far 24. Some of these are real beauties, and a few just average. There is still a fair bit to come in but I am leaving the plants with good scapes another day or two to let them mature a bit further. Nothing to do with the stress of bending my overful tummy over the planting tank. I will sun-dry them a bit tomorrow and plait them.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Beetle my beating heart.

Beetles - I have killed over a kilo of the little beggars so far. And thick and fast they come...

I had a dive yesterday, 3.5 hours and I have miserable ears and a sore head today (no not the bends, sinuses, and eustachian tubes) Still, we have some crays. Are sure I can't offer you a beetle?

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Present time

Today was present time, at the post office - no, no cheques or royalty statements, but some very nice people sent us things which cheered me up no end, even if they did make me feel quite guilty,and like a whinger for complaining yesterday.

I now have some more bush tucker to experiment with. And I have a turkey-caller... we do most of turkey shooting more like drive-by shootings here... so this is a very novel idea. Besides I got a present I bought myself, a couple of rather battered Footrot Flats cartoons books off e-bay that I hadn't read. I always enjoyed them, but living as we do I find them hilarious and accurate now.

It was the CWA Christmas lunch today so I had to pass on a dive with the master crayfisherman. Greater love hath no man... and actually the women who would have been eating the crays weren't that impressed either. Oh well, there will be other days, and it was rather fun making turkey calls at the CWA. Yes I am a bad man. What else is new?

We've had the blessing of a bit of rain today, which the land needed, and it seems to have brought out the bugs in force. That's farming I guess.

I think I'll sneak across to my neighbour and turkey call under his window :-) Only I might get lead in my tail.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

I spent some time today drying to set up the micro-irrigation for the rest of the veggies, as otherwise they'll die while we're away. It's more complicated than one thinks... anyway, it should be at least partly effective. Next summer I putting in a request to neither move house nor have to go anywhere. Winter is when the crops need less tending.

We're doing quite well out of the garden and countryside and of course, sea, although I wouldn't mind more crayfish and more sea flexibility - but that must wait on a more reliable motor for the Zoo, and the trailer being finished, and eventually, a hookah. All of these must wait on a little more coming into the kitty, and I don't mean the one who decided to nest in the trousers around my ankles while I was on the loo this morning. There are still so many things to explore so many foods to try... keeping pace with what we do do is hard enough. If B wasn't being paid reliably and we were having to rely on publishing... well, I am sick of being paid late, and having to worry and nag frightfully politely about it (Amazon, and the shorts I have on that at least pay me 70% of the price - unlike the 4-10% I see of some the others, and reliably and promptly. I will be putting more e-books up for this reason. It's not a lot of money, but it is mine. Baen will also be putting up some books on Amazon soon, and they say they will pay more than now, but I doubt if it will be more regularly or more on time, to be blunt. They are always some months late (the six months January-June should be settled in September (we have computerized records now, not hand-counting copies in a warehouse, so why it can't be sooner I don't know. Perhaps it is to give retail time to pay)... not possibly in December. I'd sympathize because it is not easy in publishing atm and they have done me some favors, but it is difficult to tell the vet or the supermarket or the dentist you'll pay later, and if Barbs wasn't working her socks off we'd have to. Besides the Aussie dollar keeps going up and therefore every day is a pay-cut. Anyway. Onwards. Enough whinging. But if you're going to by an e-book by me to try, the ones which list me as the publisher get my vote :-)) It does work on my ability to write well. Anyway, we live comfortably, and eat very well, tonight we had couscous (with onion, and other bits in it) and a spicy Moroccan style flathead, carrot salad. Yesterday we had calamari and yellow rice with fresh peas and a green salad and green sauce, and fresh strawberries for pud. The night before we had some lamb crusted with saltbush someone was kind enough to give us, and the first zucchini fried with the garlic scapes, and bandicooted baby pink-eye potatoes. Tomorrow I plan to slow cook some wallaby shanks with fresh garlic, rosemary and the last tomato out of the freezer. Almost all our food comes out of Hindustan Imports (ie in bulk) or we catch or grow ourselves. We probably spend more on kitty crumble and dog cubes (they get fresh wallay, or fish, and the dogs get some rice, but there is always 150 grams of dog pellets each) than we do on our meals.

Anyway, tomorrow is the interesting experience of the CWA Christmas lunch. The husbands are invited... I think we're the first course, after which it our failings for mains, and morals and virtues for dessert ;-).

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Of spacing, pigs, and veggies

One the deep joys of planting your own veg is watching your beloved kitty cat find this nice, almost clear piece of ground and not only ornament it, narrowly missing your carrot seedlings, and then methodically scratch out a quarter of a row of same seedlings to cover it while you yell at her and try to get fluffy-bumness's attention (it's a long way from a door, barring the kitty door) and the windows have fly-mesh. Then a little later, you see her Wednesdayness,in search of kitty tootsie rolls, in a garden dogs supposedly cannot enter, digging for buried 'treasure'. That I grow anything at all is a minor miracle. I do wonder if our 'healthy food' is merely all the antibodies.

The pig continues his excavations. I shall forget butchering him and sell him to Gina Rhinehart. He's getting still bigger, and decided to have a tentative taste of my trouser leg today, and got a wallop on the nose from which he retreated looking very contrite. I doubt his sincerity. He's starving pig, or so he tells me. Pigs have a purpose. They make Labradors look like fussy delicate eaters. Mind you I was glad not to have my camera with me this morning. I gave him about a liter and a half of milk that had separated after being frozen. I literally thought he might drown, he had his piggy snout right underwater while he was trying to get it in as fast as possible. He then looked at me, black snout with a milky ring and milky whiskers and did his desperate 'more?' grunt. The Labradors were NOT amused. Spare milk is theirs. They used to get quite a lot back SA. Here, not so much, as we are not getting a fixed amount from the dairy, and it costs a lot more. Roll on the cow.

Talking of planting I really have to get this spacing thing right My potatoes - which started as 5 rows, are now knee high, and a solid impenetrable mass. The boiled turkey poo or something has worked to some extent I think. Whether I now get any potatoes as hilling is a real challenge, is another matter.

Monday, December 10, 2012

The garlic bulbils

Well, after a weekend of being particularly good and writing, the weather is very unusual for Flinders today - there seems to be no wind. Unfortunately high tide is 15 minutes before sundown, and 3/4 of an hour before dark, so while it might be excellent for squid, it's not for flounder.

The first of my garlic has been harvested - a little early, but I wanted to see how it was doing and it did in that tank seem to be in danger of dying back and being lost. That produced 4 pretty good looking heads with around 10 fat cloves to each. I think, in all, I will have around 40 heads, which is a bit mingy for us, especially as I have to replant, and we like a lot of garlic. I don't have to work in a crowded sweaty office

I gather they will grow single bulbs from the bulbils on the flower-stalks, which, if you replant them the next year, will give you normal garlic, and more bulbils... I think I will try this, as it's always useful stuff, garlic. Good for vampires. Or rather, bad for vampires. If you want to actually know why you'll have to read Bolg, PI: the Vampire Bride, which will tell you why vampires fear the antibiotic properties of garlic. Or Silver.

Speaking of the writing side of my life, I was misled. The publishers put the original release date for THE STEAM MOLE as the 4th when putting up the notice on Amazon. They find it impossible to change this (it is not. Just a LOT of hassle, as I know from when one of our books was put up with the wrong title) Then they changed their minds and made it the 11th of December. Amazon has however been shipping since before the 4th.

One of the critcs posted this: "“The Steam Mole” is something of a love-letter to Freer’s adopted country and a whacking good tale" (Otherwhere Gazette)
I can live with that :-)

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Tis the season to by golly, eat till you burst with that last lolly, tra la la la...

Well, yeah. We had our second dinner party of the season last night. I saw 6 people eat a whole choc based pecan nut pie, and cream and strawberries... Tonight is the hospital Christmas do at the Tavern. Then, if I have this right, there is another on Wednesday, Thursday or Friday, Saturday. One is at the pub, the others at the tavern in Lady Baron, where they have an adventurous new chef. So Vista's - the third restaurant is getting the go-by. I do know some other folk are going there. Interesting on a small population island, where you belong to quite a few things, getting the same menu to choose from... several times.

The weather has turned sultry, and I should have gone for a dive today. Still, have done some writing.

I think it was 6 Zucchini in today. The marrow deluge cometh. Perhaps this was what the Mayans foresaw... What will happen when we're away I cannot think.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

The statement "You're behaving like a pig." and "This place looks like a pig-sty" now have new meanings to me. Still, as we hope to do a bacon-pig at least every year, I think it has been a valuable lesson.

I must admit he's not an ideal house pet.

My Stupice tomatoes have little tomatoes on them. They may yet beat my bought flowering tomatoes...

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Umph the pig continues to display why concrete food and water troughs, embedded to a depth of 20 feet are a good idea.

I've had to refill his water 5 times today, and his food, most of which he mixes with the mud from the water. He does adore pigweed though.

Passing wombat mummy and baby in the laneway.

It's Barbs and I's 31st anniversary - proving she is a strong woman an I am a lucky man.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

The Steam Mole

comes out today. If you're a mate of mine, or a reader, consider this an invitation to join the launch party... which as I have yet to receive an author copy or be told when it was being released is sadly about as far as launch parties go for yours truly. One day I dream of a publisher succeeding at these very hard things. They must be almost impossible, because it just never, in the last... (mutter) work it out, including paperback editions, more than thirty opportunities.

Cheers. Here's to the STEAM MOLE. May she find readers to love her.

Yesterday was the day of hoiking hay about. My dive partner got 300 small bales for their horses... only they were still in the field in rows. Rain forecast.

Well, except a spit and a spot, gone before it wet the ground, it didn't rain, and we got it all in. I am stiff-n-sore, and Jamie must be much worse.

The pig is a bulldozer. He turned a very respectable pig-yard into a plowed mess in a day. He tips everything (food, water), moves 10 kg boulders with his nose.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Saturday, December 1, 2012

The sheep dance and the coming of the pig.

Okay... the adventures. We're in the throes of buying a very elderly Camry which Barbs drives to work - a lot cheaper than driving the Ute. Unfortunately it has some kind of issue with starting. If it doesn't start every day... you have a circus, flat battery with trying, and, if you have the patience, you can get going by putting jump leads on another vehicle... and trying. Sometimes that alone has not been enough, and it has needed taking out the battery (which is new) and charging it and then trying. Which is very trying if you're in a hurry. Baileys say they have identified the problem and ordered the part...

But if you start it every day... it's fine. Unfortunately we somehow skipped a day. And when we tried to take it to Scottish dancing it would not go. And Barbs specifically wanted it the next day... So we got back from dancing, and the sheep were in our long paddock. Norm had kindly put a big mob in to flatten it quickly and well, which with fire season coming is good... It is actually a paddock, not just a driveway -sort of L-shaped with the shearing shed on the short end of the L, and us at the bottom of the L and the gate at the top. For a day or two we have to put up with really stupid sheep who if they're in the long bit of the L want to be in the short bit when you come out... or, if they're in short bit want to be in the long bit and then as you get to the gate decide they want to be in short bit after all. Sheep are not bright, or original thinkers. What one does the rest will, even if it made sense when the one did it, and none when the rest follow. Eat more mutton, you're actually helping the world's IQ.

So there under a full moon we were romantically... trying to start the car. Jump start did not work. So... we thought we'd try pull starting (as push involved... well pushing. And this is the flats, except where oddly it is uphill. There are no downhills. None. Really.Ask any vehicle pusher here). So we found a rope and minor misadventures failed to start it in the garden. The only real option now was the long paddock (which is 200 meters long), or the main road.

Imagine dear reader, the moonlit scene with too short a tow rope for comfort and 300 sheep deciding to do the L paddock Zig-zag... because the first 30 had gone in front of the ute...

And did I mention power-assisted brakes?

No sheep were killed in this production.

No vehicles damaged.

My nerves may recover in time.

The car got going fine.

I won't forget to start it for a while!

Yesterday we had the day of lightning. Not-sadly- much rain. Today was the Lions Fair, and I simply weakened and bought yet another plant, a sweet potato.

I cooked wallaby steaks (as tender as fillet, but tastier), our first tender little courgette for the season, baked potato and a green salad, and then we had fresh strawberries and cream for our tea tonight... we did buy the cream. I wonder what the rich people have for their tea?

Tomorrow we're due to receive Percy pig - a temporary resident, who will have 23 days of getting bigger before finding himself as the centerpiece of Christmas dinner. I am not so sure how this will go. I prefer my livestock en masse.

We're also having 7 people around for dinner. And I can barely eat one, so there will some left for Percy ;-)

Friday, November 30, 2012

gah, late in last night with car hassles, thunderstorm now... I will try to post properly tomorrow

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Flinders Island settling - all the hidden things (part 1)

The problem is that the locals all think you know the obvious.

Without realizing it is only obvious to them because they've lived here a long time.

To the rest of us, it is stuff you have to find out. For the first couple of years we were here, even the supermarket in Whitemark had no sign. Just petrol pumps outside. If you didn't know, you should starve. They're things you could assume the island doesn't have otherwise. The secret behind the green door(next to the supermarket)... is the hairdresser. It often sounds like the song in there, but I don't know. It's not one of my regular spots, as you may gather. She flies in and does mass cuttings, but there are two other hairdressers on the island, Chi (Emita) and Kelly (down in Lady Barron. She cut our Clare's hair for the wedding). That makes it about one hairdresser for every 230 people. I have no idea how this compares to mainland ratios.

Essential facts - there are 2 supermarkets. Look for the pub in Whitemark. It's the token double story building, so it may not be too much of a challenge. Walkers is straight across the road. It is not open on Sundays. In Whitemark not even parachutes open on Sunday. However in furrin parts, probably because of the Godless Heathen in them distant parts (grin. We have everything here! But Whitemark has 2 churches and Lady Barron is deprived with only one. And on an island with the main towns all about 20 km apart, you'd think they were 500 miles apart and possibly in another country to hear some folk talking about the others) Lady Barron Store is open on Sundays until three in the afternoon. It also sells petrol, and Max does a good coffee. If you drive into Lady Barron on the main road look for a VERY small sign on your left that says 'Lady Barron Store'. Turn left off that again at the next tar road, and look for the petrol pumps. If you arrive on the island on Sunday evening be sure you don't need fuel or tucker, because you can't get any. Oh and don't drink the town water because it is untreated the pipes are full of lead.

You can buy grog at the Pub, the Sports club (keep driving past the pub. Go through the golf coarse and the road takes you there) and Lady Barron Tavern. Freckles (in Whitemark) sells wine.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Today has oddly been one of those days when the words came easily and freely. Must be something to do with a sore hand. Sleep has been a bit of a premium, because I move around a lot and it is easy to hurt it. Also Batman (the cat) was being a difficult brat last night. Anyway, the tomatoes I planted have their first flowers open. Something has destroyed one bean plant, and in another separate locale, one pumpkin. I have some more due to go in, it's just been fitting in the time. And I did the mincing of enough dog-tucker to see us through to after the wedding.

Today is done. Tomorrow may be more exciting. Or not.

Monday, November 26, 2012

The dive flag that dived...

I put it in the water. It went down like a torpedo. Nearly brained a crayfish. Jamie failed to get that one out, (and left the flag as an underwater flag so he could find the crack and have another go. We did pick up the flag, but not the cray) but got another, and I had a lucky day and got two -one about 7 pound and the second 8 and a half. Norman still has the lead for the season, by 200 grams - 4.1kg - over 9 pounds. Mine unfortunately for me really hurt my hand, which I had crunched getting the boat trailer off earlier (we got stuck and had to snatch strap it). Not only did he squeeze the hand, but for the first time in my many years of crayfishing... I got bitten by a crayfish (have a look at the little mouth parts sometime and you will realize just how unlikely this is - a cray mouth is up and down, vertical, and not horizontal. Anyway even through a 3mm neoprene glove, I have a black thumb and a blood blister to go with a sore, swollen hand. But compared to the cray I got off lightly.

The third crayfish did the classic monkey fist in a calabash thing to me, as I could grab the tail, but just not get my hand and it out of the hole. It is proof that I slightly smarter than your average monkey in that I am not still there, very dead as I would be out of air, and still clutching. It was either smart or the fact that I already had two good ones, and it was possibly not even big enough. Ah well, there will be another day...

Meanwhile, the dive flag mark 2 may be tested in less extreme circumstances... well, shallower.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

to Mince or to Mince

I cut and Barbs minced - I remember all too well the days of the hand mincer. Not everything from the days of yesteryear was better. We did cats fish (wrasse, Aus salmon, and leatherjacket) for the next 2 months, and then last night I went out shooting wallaby with Norman and 'big wed'(ATV) and the new spotlight he has fitted to it, and shot 6 wallaby. I have cut and minced 2 so far, and another one and we'll have stocks of dog food past Past James's Harare re-affirmation of vows. My shooting must be getting better as I only shot at and missed completely 1 wallaby. My gutting and skinning is definitely getting better. I wasn't still at it at 2 AM.

The strawberries have given us our first two Strawbs and cream

I collected some turkey poo yesterday - it's a hard solid 10 litre bucket full - rock hard. Any bright ideas how I should use this supposedly wondeful nitrogen source appreciated. My carrot show some signs of very variable nutrients...

It's a lovely looking day so hopefully will get a chance to try dive flag mk1 later. But now, to work.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

How many plants does your garden grow?

I was standing stirring porridge this morning, looking out at the kitchen garden, and I started counting food plants and herbs. The kitchen garden is more or less 6.5 X 6. meters with a 2x3 bite out for the wood shed. It's the most sheltered corner. I am not one of those green-finger blokes who can make 10 plants grow huge and healthy where 3 struggled before. I am one of those who can make 3 plants struggle where 10 grew before. Yet veg we eat almost entirely off what I grow, which is why I have a vast diversity and beds in three very separate areas, and pots in a 4th. I figure although some will fail, or produce little there is hopefully always something in the gap.

Kitchen garden:

1)Olive trees (2)potted.
2)Asparagus (potted)
3)Garlic chives (potted)
4)Chile peppers (potted)
9)Parsley (moss curled and Italian)
10) tomatoes (varieties black russian, stupice, olmovic, some potted)
11)carrots (3 varieties)
12) beets (2 varieties)
13) Onions
14) Mint
15) sunflowers
16)cucumbers (2 var)
17)sweet corn
18)beans climbing (purple king, scarlet runner, blue lake, and snake)
19)Peas, sugar snap
20) potatoes (congo, elephant, kennebec, and royal Dutch cream)
21) bulb Florence fennel
23)mushroom plant (herb)
24)Capsicum (potted)
25)Zucchini (potted)
26) Salsify and Scorzonera
27) Cape Gooseberry
28) (intended to grow outside area, rooted in) Blacktail watermelon
29) (intended to grow outside) Chantenay rock melon
30) possibly not going to survive fig-tree in pot

Probably about 32 square meters of planted, but a lot climbers intended to use walls and fences. I have lost one watermelon to slugs already. Not all of it will produce anything worth having. This is a minor tomato area, and there are no capsicums in the ground. The parsley is on going to seed.

The pots around the other side of the house (actually more easily reached from the kitchen) are mostly herbs -thyme, sage, marjoram, 3 varieties of mint, parsley, rosemary, chives, tassie mountain pepper, and a few tomatoes in pots JIC. There are also artichokes (not flourishing) and more cape gooseberries. - 11 species, 3 not growing in the other garden.

Then the raised containers - 2 of more-or-less 2 meters in diameter, one 2 meter square. 10 square meters more or less

Not growing elsewhere

2)Garlic (about 40 heads - too little, coming out in a month)
3)lettuce (various)
4)Cauliflower (about to come out, broccoli out already)

5)summer squash (patty pan)

6)Diamond eggplant
7)Silverbeet (Swiss chard)
8)spinach (about to come out)

Carrots, beets, zucchini (2 types), a lot of tomatoes, sugar snap peas, scorzonera, bunching onions (shallots I think), 3 varieties of capsicum, bulb fennel, onions, cape gooseberry

Hotbox - a small 2 by 1 meter greenhouse of sorts -

overwintered capsicums and chilli peppers, and some 'rushed' tomatoes in pots and diamond and ping-tung egg-plant.

Old chicken yard about 6x5 meters (sandy rubbish soil)

not growing elsewhere
1)Blue ballet squash (trying corn and squash thing)
3)one feeble raspberry

onions (a lot, alissa craig, red, and spring) potatoes, sweetcorn, salsify), climbing beans, sunflowers.

Pumpkins (and when they are able to go out watermelon and rock melon) are grown outside this area, probably another 15 square meters Triamble, Queensland blue and Kakai (hull-less seed, grown for the seed)

We have a grape vine (which has not borne anything, but I use the leaves, a small mulberry bush which hasn't had any fruit and a qumquat which has not borne either - fruit supply = bad

I need more potato area, and fruit, a lemon and bay trees in pots, kiwi and raspberry, boysenberries... I need a heavy shade area for summer lettuce... There are loads more veggies to experiment with too, I'd love to field crop wheat, buckwheat and maize, but most of that will have to wait.

I may be a terrible gardener, and I just don't have a lot of time to invest - an hour, maybe an hour and a half a day - taken in between writing, but with nearly 50 species, and a lot of varieties, and several very different soils and microclimates, I hope we have something all year round. Last year we had to buy some potatoes and onions, but pretty much everything else we either were given (apples, lemons) grew, or did without. This year we will have a lot more onions, and some more potatoes, but probably still not quite enough. Call it 80 square meters under cultivation -not one hell of a lot. A lot of the longer term plants in pots - not good for them, but I know we will have to move one day. If an inept gardener like myself (my reaction to sickly/feeble plant 'they have to try harder!') what can good ones do?

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Well, our boy is dealing with the next visa hurdle on his path back to Zimbabwe. Ah well. It's character building. For all of us.

Harvested about 8 strawberries today, and had liver and onions for tea. Such is our exciting life. I meant to take some pictures of my new dive-flag rig, which - if it works - will make me easier to find and give me something to hang a spear and fish on, that isn't making me a target, but isn't impossible to haul.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Flinders Island settling, part 2

One of the single biggest difficulties with the island is getting stuff here. If you're moving your house here or furniture for a new holiday place, get a quote from various moving companies. Before you open any of them, sit down, pour yourself a strong drink. Drink it. Open the quotes. No, you're not seeing double. We got ripped seriously by our movers - Elliot International, coming across here. Their story was that it was twice the price of moving to Melbourne from South Africa because they had send a moving truck over on the ferry, and pay for the crew, and the truck to go back by the ferry, and the crew to fly off (because otherwise they had to wait a week etc etc.)

In the end they subcontracted to an Australian mover (you can search earlier posts if you want the name) - who left the family rock behind. And they put the stuff into a container and 1/3 of a second (so all that stuff we had to sell/give away before we left... could have come. And if we'd known, what we know know now, we could have filled that container. Then those rock-losers... subcontracted to Bowmans who were rather dismayed to be told we'd paid for it to be unloaded. Including the rock. Which Michael Bowman (not the dear people at the Melbourne movers) found and got brought over in triumph. Bowman's did a better job than most moving companies, although they're just general carters. So: get your things into a container, get the container shipped to Bridport, get the Ferry company to ship it over to Lady Barron, and get Bowman's Transport ( to deliver it. I suspect you will have achieved exactly the same thing, but at a lot less cost, and most of that money will come to the island or island related business, instead of elsewhere. You can try LD shipping, and that may get your container to island from Melbourne or Lonnie cheaper, but our experience says getting hold of them can be difficult, and sailing times variable.

If you need anything once you're here that you don't want to get (or can't get) on island... know that most so-called courier companies are not reliable delivery methods. That 'to your door' delivery the seller insists on your paying for does not happen. That 'more trustworthy than Australia Post' concept that some sellers have is definitely nonsense. Australia Post is the best and cheapest bet to Flinders Island. And on island, very reliable. You can address things to c/o the Whitemark Post Office, and you will get them.

The other thing you need to know, as some sellers will insist on sending stuff courier, is that it could end up 1)At the Post Office (if it is Australian Air Express). 2)At Roberts (if it has come from Joe Lyons or through Flinders Island Aviation. 3)At the Airport. 4)At the warf in Lady Barron. The PO will put a slip in your box, if you have one. Sometimes someone may ring you from the airport (but, get this straight, they have nothing to do with your delivery. They may just be being kind. They don't have to do this, and if they don't know you, won't.) With the others you have to go there and ask.

Joe Lyons (03 63491122) - on Tassie will take stuff to the ferry or to Flinders Island Aviation who actually do the post and most of the courier deliveries. You can also move things across from Victoria (and Northern Tassie) with Bass Strait Aviation My friend Peter has used them, and I trust his judgement. I haven't dealt with any of the others so can't comment, but if you look in the Island News there are other charter services. This is an island. It's not easy or cheap to get stuff here, although it can be quite quick. Factor that into your calculations.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Barbs has a cold, and I have added a turkey - a gobbler that had not found a mate, and was with a bunch of bachelors (I am a great believer in not killing the golden goose, so there are a lot left to breed) for Christmas to freezer-larder. We had a rather chilly barbie with some Polish friends of ours and our good neighbors and some wild pig spare ribs. We only ate the latter.

While it might seem a good time for a barbeque, it's actually being very cold with night temperatures down 8 and days not quite breaking twenty degrees centigrade. The peas are liking it, nothing else is much. I got to see Norm's yams plants today - the plants are a variety of Oxalis, and they look rather like the 'clover' weed. I hope they grow as well.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

I went for a dive this morning, just snorkelling and collecting abs and shooting (or rather missing) fish. It is a a lovely experience anyway, although today was neither so calm or so clear as some days. I'm looking forward to giving you some fish pictures to look at. I spotted 6 more scallops, but they are really not very thick there. We probably spent about 2 and half hours in the water, and poor me, my muscles feel like jelly now.Yes, self-inflicted injury, insufficient exercise. Norman was getting into his wetsuit easier after shearing, me, harder. Then their cruiser had to get stuck leaving the beach and we had to go and borrow a rope and pull it out, because the rope we did have snapped like an elderly carrot. It popped out of the smelly mud with audible pop, so maybe there is lurking monster...

In theory I was going to try drying these Abs, but as the process starts from live, to cook, to dry and our dryer has not yet arrived, I will hold off on this batch and do it with the next. Anyway, we will have two for our tea.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Salami and underwater pictures

Back when I was a young sf reader (when we had dinosaurs and fax machines) I remember reading a wholly unremarkable Mack Reynolds story, that had a fisherman controlling a robotic device and having a little screen so he could choose his fish (and have the robot harpoon it). Struck me as all very well for food fishing and commercial fishing, but not (as the author thought it would be) the death of sport fishing. Still, having tried lugging a handline with me while diving, and gone and watched (underwater) how fish chase and do and don't hit a fly (which most anglers don't realize has happened) my friend Peter has now bought a fishing camera - a device you can lower down and watch on a video screen what is happening. It sounds a bit fragile (by the comments on Amazon) and a bit limited, but maybe old Mack Reynolds was not so far off. He also got an underwater video and still camera so maybe you guys will get some underwater pictures to drool over. Yes. They are drool material, if you dive.

We got given some home made muttonbird and goose salami, made by one of the guys who takes hunting tours. It's a bit over-smoked but certainly the one product is not overtly recognizable as home-made. On the downside, it's rather like good salami - hard to tell it was made from something interesting in the first place.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Kippin etc.

Hmm. Any Japanese readers out there? or readers with Japanese friends? What is kippin, and what is Monpao and what is the difference? (Yes, I am trying to gather information about drying abalone. It's a very secretive process).

Today Barbs and I went to the school to talk about what being migrants meant. I think we shattered a few illusions, and hopefully got them to grips with a little bit of just how different the various types of migrants are, and, no, that all people coming to Australia are not boat-people or refugees from natural disasters. Maybe I should have said we lived in a mud hut and ate our neighbours, and they should be careful if invited for lunch.

I've net-covered the strawberries, and got a much appreciated huge bag of bits for the drip irrigation system. We're still moderately wet on this side of the island, but elsewhere it is drying out a lot. It's something -having grown up with summer rainfall - that I always find odd. Anyway, more plants have gone out today, willy-nilly because something was eating them in the seed trays. So King, Golden, and Healthy capsicum are now planted in the garlic bed (Garlic will have to come out in midsummer, and I hope that I can completely cover that tank in winter, making it into a little greenhouse.) The first of my grown from seed tomatoes (Stupice) is just starting to flower, but I do have a a tiny fruit on the dwarf yellow I bought in flower. Gah. I really must slug bait in the morning, as the lettuce (first iceberg, very sweet) was just full of tiny little slugs. They are in hte same bed as strawberries, and slugs love strawberries. I might have to beer trap the slugs as Wednesday the Labrador cannot come along and drink the beer under the net, like she did last time I tried this.

I'm hoiking out plants going to seed (lettuce, broccoli, silverbeet, and parsley). The silverbeet replacements are in, lettuce probably not worth putting in until Feb, broccoli even later, but I need more parsley. I have a lot of seed, but mostly moss-curled and we use italian in cooking and moss-curled for pretty, so I might have to let one plant finish. But they are a nuisance (taste lousy at this stage), and are huge.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

still night

It's a still, still night. Barbs is unfortunately exhausted, Norm is is still shearing, Peter is off island, Bill is not up to it right now, Arthur is off island. I feel bad about taking Jamie out until after midnight when he has to work in the morning... Mark's father doesn't know how lucky he is I haven't met him yet. Most of the other friends either have no real interest or require advance notice... So I guess the flounder are safe. I really want to start exploring new spots for them - they must be all around the island. It is frustrating that it must be wind-still.

I went mad today and bought a dehydrator. I really don't need one, but well, maybe we will.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Flinders Island - settling advice part 1

The island is a wonderful place, but getting settled here is... different. I said I was going to write a few posts on what I wish I known before we migrated here. Much of it is stuff locals know, and assume you do. In three years we have barely started to learn but I gather this blog is the starting point for so many people who have come here... so as a background...

Flinders Island is in a way, its own little world. Yes, it's part of Australia, and its people have served, and died for Australia. But it is a small, rural, extremely isolated community. And it really is a community. Everyone knows everyone, or at least of them. When there is trouble they pull together like superglue. When there isn't... hmm. You might think they didn't. But when it comes down a choice between an islander and outsider, no matter how nice the outsider, the islander gets their support. Some people say you have be born here (and that qualifies) or live here for 30 or 50 years to be one. That depends on who you talk to. If you get deeply stuck into the community activities and do not try to take over, but come and help with the heavy lifting, you'll find yourself accepted probably more easily than in any large place. They need you. They don't need a South African or Melbourne or Hobart or Ulan Bator's way of doing things, and honestly, if you're coming to island to escape that and because of this place and its people... bringing it along strikes me as taking what you're trying to leave behind with you. The islanders need more people for the island way, and actually want their own culture and ways respected. Oddly enough - it would seem the best way of getting them to want to try your foreign ways is not to offer them, as we now find ourselves asked to cook 'real South African food' often. It's quite funny because I never did much of the traditional cookery back in SA.

Your first stop on the Island, if you're even thinking about a holiday home, let alone living here, has to be to get the Island News. As a backstop, and because it is available online, you might want to try Island Views ( ) as well. That's a private newsletter-advertorial for the Broken Arrow Lowline stud, but it has quite a lot of local politics, and a lot of local history. The Island News, however has several really important parts to it. The first is the Council News, which could make the island a fortune if they bottled it and sold it as a soporific. Unfortunately it's got important stuff about water, property and dogs hidden it. The second is the police report, which if you have a left crime-ridden spot will make you smile. The third is of course the real reason we can't do without it:In the Island News you will find all the relevant times things are open and what is happening, from the Church services to the tip, from the supermarkets and servos, to the museum. And the garage sales, and adverts for all those things (like plumbers) you can't track down elsewhere. And so I don't do the usual Flinders assume-you-know - PO Box 1 Whitemark Flinders Island Tas 7255 to order your copy. It's 80 cents well spent. I'd subscribe, or go into Bowman's (thereby increasing the traffic in another important Island place) and collect your copy.

But one of the most important things you can do with the Island News is show up every second Thursday and help collate it (it is put together by hand, by volunteers) - if for no other reason than an aching back and sore hips should remind you what hard work a community newspaper is. Besides that, it's a good way of meeting some of the people who put a lot of under-appreciated work into it, and it's usually good for a fair bit of chatter and a few laughs too.

Sunday, November 11, 2012


Barring any mysterious eaters-in-the-night we ought to have one ripe strawberry tomorrow. I did cut one Cauliflower today,
and it is a beauty. I shall see if I can find enough size beetroot to make the infamous 'pink Arthur' (Many years ago my Sister-in-law produced a dish of cauliflower cheese. On being asked 'What do you call this stuff, she replied without a second's hesitation: "Arthur" - and thus it has become Arthur ever since (with 'Alice in Wonderland' cries that we can't eat it now we've been introduced). Pink Arthur has boiled wedges of beetroot in among the florets of cauli, and a rich cheese (with a little Dijon mustard) sauce poured over it. It's slightly yellow-white as it comes to table - rapidly acquiring baby-pink swirls as it is served. The earthy sweetness of beet really goes very well in this combo - but the appearance!

The reality is I shall have to put my first pumpkin seedlings out into the the hard cold world tomorrow. The Blue Ballet Squash is just too big for the seedling pot.

Barbs and I were just saying it would be nice (as it seems this Blog is what so many future islanders end up reading) if there were some posts on things you ought to know, but aren't obvious about coming here. As far as I can work out blogger doesn't give me a separate page option, so it will just have to be in among my ramblings about veggies, snakes and weather.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Mysterious death

Well, alack! This morning I had a dead chook in the chookabago. We were rushing to Church fair so I didn't have time for a full post-mortem. I called Ducky but he said his name wasn't Chicky, and I would have to deal with myself. By the time we got back burial was in order, and dissection wasn't. One of them was a bit off color and not taking tit-bits from the chook-bucket yesterday morning. And I did hear a hullaballoo yesterday afternoon, so either someone laid an egg or a passing snake came egg-hunting. I don't know which, or if she was sick. Anyway, we will just stick with 2 chooks for a while.

The highlight of the fair was Pippa's (my neighbor's daughter) pony, as Rosie was a major hit with the stream of kiddies. She apparently did fifty 'rides' - and this must average about 3 per child in our vast population, and was much loved and petted, and will doubtless be causing horse-shaped holes in many parents pockets soon. My sandwiches (yes, my role) will probably not kill too many people. And we got more milk. The bargains you get here! The cartons say 'permeate free', which I imagine is like free green stamps. We've drunk one carton and not found the permeate, so I shall write and complain. Actually the fair is another example of the island community. Perhaps a 1/4 of the people involved have anything to do with the church, but on the other hand the church does do one of the most important (sadly) island tasks, the funerals. So everyone chips in.

The rose garden at the Whitemark Multipurpose center (where the fair was) makes me feel piteously inadequate as a gardener. Not that I am very much of a flower grower (does cauliflower count?), but the volunteer tomato plants make mine look so feeble.

I found two pea-pods this evening. We feast!

Friday, November 9, 2012

For those readers who are interested, are American, and have Cable TV, Flinders was the venue for a show called - if I am correct - 72 hours. (there are episodes from all over). Their photography is bound to be better than mine.

To remind those of you facing snow and misery of what different hemispheres we live in (yes, you had glorious summer when it was the winter of our discontent.)

My Strawberries are just starting to turn and I am worrying about netting.

And this is our second set of peas for the year - I had sugar snaps all through winter.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

A rant about fisheries

The book from the island of Dr No arrived yesterday - AKA the Tassie Recreational sea fishing guide. I'm an ex-fisheries Scientist. There's no doubt that Tassie was cowboy fishing country - to its detriment - with gill nets and shark fishing particularly. I'm a fairly fanatical sustainable use ex-fisheries scientist, and I want to see the fish there for my grandchildren. But fisheries management works by getting the public to buy in to the process. If you simply blanket ban and restrict - without any form of 'reward' - for so many people it becomes a case of 'well, if I can get away with it', and minimal co-operation from the people who outnumber the authorities 5000:1. This is especially true where the process is viewed us unfair to the public. At the moment with issuing permits for super-trawlers where they just hadn't done the research and cutting the cray quota for recreational fishers, while effectively leaving commercial fishers (who take well over 90% of the catch) unaffected, their image is not precisely glowing. It's a process which has political aspects, and has to be managed as that. The response to losing popular support, typically has been to apply more heavy penalties. It works... if you can terrify enough people. It does not get you much support. The process of regulating fisheries needs to be SEEN to be good for the fishing - which means you have to deliver rewards as well as penalties. In the Rock lobster area, the recreational take is now down to 0.68 per day per pot. In New Zealand - where they realized the value of the recreational fishery... it's 3 per pot. The New Zealanders realized they made far more money out of recreational fishing as an industry, than commercial fishing, and that it was less damaging. So they wound in the commercial fishery. Their daily bag is now 6... ours is down to 3. What's more, it's got better and cheaper to operate for the commercials (the only thing that really works for commercial fishery is to give ownership of a fixed piece of the resource - a reef for example - to a single operator. Otherwise it's I have to take this or he will). Sorry, there is no point in further stealing from the 7% for the commercial fishery. And their stats are dismal. Why not simply issue each fisher with say 30 tags for their license. You may not possess a crayfish without a tag, and you can get a refund for unused ones. Numbers job done. And you need to encourage people to broaden their targeting... Which means protecting species which are endangered and vulnerable, and letting people figure out how to catch other things. Yes, poisons, explosives or any form of indiscriminate fish/crustacean kill has to be banned. But the concept that crab traps (where crabs are not protected, and may in areas be invasive (european green crab, pie crust crab) can't be used is just barking). So is a 20 limit on all the shellfish they don't list. Please. Pencil-bait for example are as common as pipis in places. So are various other species - the ribbed mussel for example. They are not large. 20 would yield 100 gram of edible meat. Urchins - which aren't even listed would be assumed to be shellfish by most are a pest in many areas. So why not tell people in areas where this is true, that it is open season? Or set a limit of say 1 kilo of shellfish not listed (as at least half is likely to be shell, that's 500 grams). You may not collect live seaweed. Well, hell. I eat the stuff. The amount I need for a feed is maybe 100 grams. Mostly I take it off foul hooked fishing, which is a pretty grey area, as it is sea-drift, and not deliberately collected. But within reason - like 500 grams - live is very little in tons that get washed up, rotting. And invasive species - Japanese kelp - ought to be fair game, take as much as you please so long as it is that. And then there are regional differences, limpets here are very common, around the cities, rare. Doughboy scallops mature smaller and do not grow as large here as in Southern waters. Shape the rules around these things allowing reasonable use. Restrict movement of the stuff (to cheat the rules) by all means. But rules for Hobart make no sense on Flinders.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

mako point

Well, nurse-maiding the washing-machine along, I did three loads of washing successfully. You just have to switch off the water after the rinse. I can be terribly absent minded though, when absorbed in writing, or well, most of the time. I focus really hard, and that means other things sometimes do bypass me. The part is hopefully starting its journey and will get to me in time.

So are 5 mako points (screw on spear points with a flopper to stop fish escaping. For big fish, bigger than we see often. Need a spear with a thread on, which I don't have) that I bought on e-bay for $2.45 in a fit of profligate madness. heaven knows what I will do with them, Yeah. $2.45. My Scots grandmother would be turning in her grave. Come to think of it so would both parents and my Afrikaans grandmother. All things considered it's a miracle I ever spend anything. I was looking for new hand-spear heads as mine, even for a paint it blue and make it do bloke, are either completely gone or bent and beyond sharpening. I also want to make up a foldspear, as carrying a spear in kelp is a pain and a lot of the time there is nothing worth shooting anyway, but every now and again there is a wonderful fish, and I have talked crays into coming forward to inspect this possible dinner, too.

Other than that my blue ballet squash has germinated. None of the other pumpkins are up yet. The garden is showing signs of spring - and the grass is griz. I mowed it with the fiendish beast today, and tried my hand at reversing the trailer back in to the shed afterwards. I need a LOT more practice before I ready for boat-ramps (no I did not jack-knife it or hit anything. Just the clutch was starting to smell and I was running low on patience.).

And we had a beautiful evening this evening, dinner at sundown. This is the view from the dining table. Sorry about the reflection from the window.

If you click on the picture it gives it full size, and you can see the sheep.

Sheep, green fields, gum trees, distances.

Monday, November 5, 2012

It was one of those dives. My two fellow divers managed to find a solitary big cray around the 4 kilo mark, both of them, on the tail end of their air. I got to the tail end of my air having not even seen a cray, found 2 medium ones in a cave... And with very little air left and hating narrow caves anyway, got scared and left them. Ah well. I keep telling myself my wife would rather have me than a crayfish dinner... :-)

James was complaining that we have too few drop-ins here in the whoop-whoop (so by all means do drop in). He preferred us closer to Whitemark. I suspect this reflects his own tastes rather than an accurate guess of mine, and fortunately Barb goes in to work at the Doctor's rooms, so gets some extra people-seeing there. I like people... in small doses. I love the silences and space. I miss being close to a couple of friends but I still see someone besides Barbs every 2-3 days. But last night, as a sort of time travel response to this we had a 12.30 visitor drop in (having gone out for supper up at Jamie's place, to help them eat the thumper cray). As it was after dark, (quite a bit) they parked about a km up the road, so as not to disturb us and then came calling. Yeah, well actually they broke down, having been out for the evening, and as it's us, another good 3km, and a fair bit off the road to some elderly folk going on, and another 3km home, and they had left small kids with granny to go out... waking us seemed a fair call, or at least I thought so. they were embarrassed. Very different from SA - No mobile... just open the door and call. Our ever alert guard dogs didn't even wake up. We gave them a lift home, but I battled to get to sleep, and my body clock said 'its light, get up' this morning. I've been a lovely little zombie all day, and scared to tend my plants.

Friday, November 2, 2012

James is safe with friends in SA, and will hopefully be on his way to Zimbabwe soon. Relief. I worry a lot.

Tomorrow is the start to our spiny Lobster season, and the weather, having been promising, is now looking very iffy. We may go. Or not. Tanks are full, gear ready. Well, mostly. I have to do some last minute sorting to do. A few big crays in the freezer would be very nice, but the weather may prevent it. It would probably be a good thing for the grass (which needs mowing) if it were lousy. In the meanwhile those Capsicums I was upset about not coming up? Well I have a load of King, and Golden up. The Jimmy Nardello and Healthy aren't yet. And the Diamond and one Ping Tung eggplant are up. I have planted out some of the Salsify (it will all germinate in seed trays. outside, next to where I intend to plant it. Almost none germinates in the ground.) and I've got more scarlet runners up and planted, and more germinating. I've also purple King and blue lake runners planted, and blue ballet squash, Triamble pumpkin, queensland blue pumpkin, and Kaki (which has hull-less seeds) pumpkin in the hot-house. For a bloke that doesn't like pumpkin or beans that much, I hope my success there is on a par with my eggplant success (1 fruit last year!) I did get 4 Queensland blues and 2 butternut last year, despite having dug up the plants and moved them. Funny, I love peas, eggplant and capsicums - and never get anything like the weight of pumpkin and beans I do of them. I do like pumpkin seed so I hope the Kaki variety grow.

Oh the potatoes are putting up leaves. I could probably use a few more beds of those. The problem is finding a fertile spot where the rats won't get to them (last year I planted in the old chicken coop, and the rats got more than we did. Too far from the house for the cats. I sometimes wonder if those who buy all their food have any idea how much hassle it can be to grow!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

A day that had seen rain, and wet sheep

The windows are streaked with rain, and it's a bit cooler again. We've had about 25mm, which will have Norm and shearers cursing, and the guys who have finished shearing, smiling, as the grass is needing it. As the seasons move on we go to haying, and the grass which should be rushing ahead, hasn't got long enough yet.

I made date loaf today while refilling the biscuit (AKA ├žookie) tin, in some the time I would have taken to weed or plant or water. One cup dates, one cup warm water, add together. 1 cup brown sugar, 2 cups flour and one tsp of baking powder and one tsp baking soda. 1 egg, 2 tablespoons of marge... rub into the dry ingredients, add beaten egg, and stir in the soggy dates and water. Pour into a lined loaf tin. Swear a lot when you discover that you forgot to put on the oven (180 c for around 45 minutes - more for the short fat tins, less for the long thin one. It freezes well)

I've located the part I need for the Speed Queen... in the US. But they will ship internationally... to Canada. Ah well. It's sort of working for now.

And now I return to Arawn, Gwynn Ap Nudd and a great deal of confusion. Welsh myth must be the most confusing of a great many confusing mythologies. (I'm doing some homework for a possible book, before the Scottish Country dancing tonight).

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

James flew out today, so we're back to just the two of us. We'll miss him. (wry smile) one day, looking back he may come to long for the good old days of only having to pay for his own petrol, without all those hassles like rent, vehicle, food, telephone, internet etc. Anyway, he's a married man now, and, provided he can sort out his visa back into Zim, he and Alana are very close to the point where they will have to be reliant on no-one but themselves. heh. Like yours truly did way back when, I think he may find that's harder than he realized. As parents we do our best to prepare the kids for this, but only reality really does. Anyway, I think we all went through it. Now- far too late - I really appreciate my poor parents efforts to steer us along, and to make life easier, safer, and more comfortable. They gave us so much we didn't appreciate and wasted rather. They weren't always right, sometimes we actually did know better, and the world had changed, but, um, I got it wrong a lot. By heavens I was stupid and pig-headed, and unbelievably ignorant and arrogant. I wish I'd done a better job of telling them that in the living years. Like most of us, I just didn't listen and had to learn.

In the tiniest of insignificant ways I had a little window on the US disaster this morning (and I emphasize it was really nothing to compare)- For some reason the drip irrigation had lost a bung, and flooded the one tank. - about a foot over the veg seedlings. Much bailing ensued. I at least had somewhere dry to bail to, and nice bright sun and a still day. It looks like most of the plants will be OK. And int another bed... the hoppers have arrived en masse. They are TINY. But in millions... I need to get a turkey really soon. I also need to figure how to kill the beggars.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

The rat lay onthe mat

It was a beautiful day yesterday, with a rather startling dead rat on the mat to greet early morning toes. I suppose better dead than munching in the pantry.

It appears the solenoids to the Speed Queen are stuffed. I have been able to get it to useable for now, while I try and replace them. This is not a happy idea for me, as my electronics skilz are tepid, and James will be gone before they get here. Still, what must be done, will be tried.

The evening saw us go for a dive in the long summer evening - It's sundown at a quarter to eight now, and getting 2 minutes later every day. We pay for it in winter, but it's great now. We only hit the water after 5. Got our Abs and went looking for fish, and James shot a silver trevally with the adapted mono-point flounder spear (a handspear, with a single barbed thin prong, with a wider pole beyond) I missed. He put a bit much into it... right through, onto the pole itself. And as he tried to lift it... It swam off as the hole was now bigger than the barb. It was destined to die, and I'd have liked to have brought it home for tea, but Barbs saved the day and caught a beautiful flathead on a little latex fish (this is a link to the seller's store) something I bought on e-bay dirt cheap on spec - and replaced not quite so dirt cheap, but not ridiculous, from the seller's website. The picture doesn't do them credit as they're far and away the closest to our hardyheads of any artificial I've met, with a very natural movement in the water. They're deadly on salmon, popular with other rock fish... and appear to work on flatties. We didn't know this and were still looking for fish for tea, when we spotted something I've been looking for here for years - Scallops. It's out of season and they were undersize (close-ish, though) but we did dive down and check they were indeed live scallops.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Alas poor Speed Queen...

So in the post-apocalyptic world which household appliance would you like to lose least? Lets face it, they make our lives easier, make it possible to do more - or the same in less time, enabling you to spend more time watching TV, blogging, surfing the net or working.

Life without freezers be hard for us, eggbeater I'd miss. Same with bread machine (in that kneading takes time) and going pack to hand mincing would be a pain. But, as our faithful Speed Queen (big automatic washing machine - basically a laundromat machine without the slot that cost us a bit extra in dark ages 16 years ago, finally had its first hiccup. The solenoid controlling the inflow of water has packed up, and it overflowed... replacing the washer would be $1900 - before transport, so I guess, baring a sudden boom in my book sales or a movie deal, we'll never own another Speed Queen, as something smaller, cheaper (undoubtably less reliable) will just have to do. However ingenuity may yet come to my rescue, as the hot-water (which has never been used) solenoid appears fine. So let's see if my fixit skilz (which are rather rough and ready, tend to involve 6 inch nails, 12 mm bolts and 4 pound hammers...) can triumph.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

I am feeling rather mellow and slightly unwell. I have just had pork roast for dinner, and a glass of wine, both rather unusual diet items (the pork much more than the wine) and I think it's ate too much, too rich. Another self-sufficiency bloke gave us some pork and, thinking it a treat we hadn't had for years I roasted it. Barbs and James ate roast pork at the pub last night -when they went to games. James has booked his ticket for Wednesday, so along with the new crayfish season (starts Saturday) I lose the other diver in the house. We will be sad to see him go for other reasons of course, but I was sort of looking forward to a dive together. Oh well. He and Alana will be together, which is more important.

Friday, October 26, 2012

So help me out here...

I'm trying to write a piece of the current book which takes place in a farm kitchen - very much an old place. No money for modernization after the mid sixties. A wood-burning range, so smoke and soot have got in and onto everything, no matter how you clean. There is electricity, but not much past a light and the old round-edged 'fridge. No freezers, no electrical appliances. Tell me what your memories and ideas bring you of such a place. I have one in my head, but it's in Africa. I want Australia, and the US and even UK - to see what they have in common, what resonates.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

One man went to mow...

The mowing beastie has been less than well the last while. It turns out(as James and I diagnosed - but where told it was the choke)that it's not firing on both cylinders. It has been seen to... and now does it sometimes. It went from very feeble to its old self while I was using it today, and I managed to cut all sorts of areas it just gave up on before (the garden was a total jungle and needed to slashed with a tractor to get the initial area cut. Since then, with a brush cutter and the mower, I've pushed it back and back. We're now down to about 10% of jungle, part of which is trees. It's probably close to half an acre in total - a lot of grass. Anyway, one man went to mow...

And spent 3 hours at it. And then one man worked, and then cleared a bed and planted some Dutch creams (a kind of potato). I still have purple Congo and some 'elephant' to go in. My germination of capsicums has been utterly dismal, and tomorrow I must contrive some kind of mini-greenhouse for them.

And that's about all that happened today.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Idyllic fish-clubbing

I took myself for dive today before my writer's group meeting. The water was still, clear, and the tide low, and the temperatures are coming up slowly. It was an idyllic dive, a lot of it not more than 5-6 feet of water. I have put an extra weight on the weightbelt (I am always nervy about this, but it worked perfectly, I am JUST postively buoyant.) At this rate I'm going to need a golf cart to get the weights into the water, because walking with it on my waist kills my hips. I was just sorry to be there alone (Yes, I know. I was, as a result paranoid careful). Having got quota, I went to look for some fish to spear - with 3 prongs left on the spear. That didn't last past the first fish, a zebra perch. I then shot a beardie, and lost it and the next two prongs (not in the fish on the rock) and with the last, another zebra perch, and then broke that prong on a rock. So as I now had a club, I swam out, and barely got to my meeting in time. I should have tried clubbing. I believe it's all the rage.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012


The shearing is in full swing - actually started this morning and the forklift on the front of the tractor has been busy lugging bales of wool to the container, and sheep looking like poor boys on their first day at school (with that sort of haircut and hangdog look) have been bleating their way past... all day. I had a suicidal Jack Russel come visiting this morning from the shearers, and Puggles did not eat him. In the meanwhile between writing and the thunder of sheepish feet, I have fenced off the new potato patch. I still need to sort out a pumpkin area. I still need some pumpkins to germinate... I have watermelon and rock melon to go out, and normally these are much harder to get growing than pumpkins. I am trying a few new varieties, that I think just lost the selection battle. Back to Queensland blue. Actually, germination over the last few days has been dismal (I have as usual, a lot of plants in seed trays. A LOT. I am a scattergun gardener with black thumbs. I throw the kitchen sink at it and hope something will grow. Some of it really is mystery. And some sheer incompetence. I planted 4 rows of carrots. Same time, same conditions, different varieties. One put up about 5 carrots. One about 12... and the other about 200... and the last maybe 500. Um I know what the final carrots are supposed to be like (different, see)... but until they're harvest ready I really don't know which is which.

As to the future. We don't know, but nothing is likely to happen until after sheering, if at all. Right now I am simply going to carry on.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

gah. Nearly out of cap again, and we still have 19 days to go before it resets. I love my kid, but I wish he'd be less profligate with it. Well, interesting times. The Shearing starts tomorrow... and one of the staff just quit - but in such a way his house may not be un-occupied. So if it works out that the farm needs another house for staff... we'll be looking at moving again. NOT happy with that idea. We really like it here, moving is hard and expensive. Oh well. No use panicking. Let's see. I do so hate uncertainty.

Saturday, October 20, 2012


Or sheep dip tasting...

All the drinking water on the island is off our roofs, as we have about the last untreated town piped supply in Australia (and here on whoop whoop, we don't even have that, just roof-rain tanks and a bore, which is pretty full of iron and sulphur and heaven knows what else. It's not nice.) We're spoiled in that we have the water off our roof (potentially) and the sheering shed, which is a huge roof area (to the extent that our tank was actually not in the system at the moment - being filled still, just not used.

Only somehow, in the prep for sheering next week, the pipe used to fill the dip-tank got put on the very elderly top to the water tank at the sheds, and... dripped some dip in the tank. It is very dilute - probably a cup (already diluted) at most in 15 000 litres. Probably not going to effectively treat us for parasites. It still stinks (made us rapidly aware of it), and I wouldn't want anyone to drink it. It will have to drained, rinsed, drained and then refilled. Rather a waste, unless we can sell it as a health treatment for people with intestinal lice.

Fortunately we have the spare water - 20 000 litres I'd guess. Unfortunately - on a Saturday not plumbed in and sans pressure pump. So I have spent the afternoon adapting fittings (as nothing you need can be bought on Saturday afternoon) and getting a Davy pump to work, and fitted - into plumbing that has been repeatedly fixed and altered and patched for 60 years. Needless to say... it wasn't simple. The farm has loads of pipe fittings. Just not for 3/4 inch pipe. The end result involved some threaded irrigation standpipe, a heat gun and modifying the sealing ring with a crosscut saw. Oh and a lot of swearing. It's sort of working now, but I will have to pull it apart and do a better job in the morning, as the tap on the pipe from the sheering shed leaks, meaning a little of that water is still coming through. So that will have to come off completely tomorrow (I don't think it can all be run out until after sheering, as they need wash-down water).

I think I need a strong drink. I am heading for dipsomania.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Mince and the show

Well, we now have about 25 pound of mince in the freezer, a load of strips for biltong and a couple of big joints in the freezer, a load of shanks I have to de-foot tomorrow, and too many tails (they make a very good soup, good, but not as good as oxtail stew - very very rich. I have about 5 pounds of stewed to rags meat from the carcasses, which makes great pies, and is not bad with pasta. I gave 2 wallaby away, and I still have 3 or 4 to process (in the fridge). I'll do some steaks and some stew chunks too. Dog tucker bag is full. Bottles of stock for them too. I do remember in early days missing meat. These days we could (almost) use more fish (I would love some more variety - trevally are great, yellowtail kingfish, King George whiting, snapper, even mackeral are all available, just catching in other than minor quantities a problem (ignorance, not rarity, causes this), squid and shellfish. There are also the deeper water species - stripy trumpeter blue eye trevalla, and dories, and giant crab out there - too far for the small boat, but not out of the question to organise). Scallops... they're here. The shells are all over. I just have to find them, legal size at the right season. It WILL happen, as will the octopus long-line (they are very very common in the fish tummies). We could definitely use more crays (spiny lobsters) as they are a prime trading article. Of course, they are gifts given, but you do know people understand that what is given, comes back around when they have surplus, and not many people have surplus crays, so they're much appreciated. It's a nice way to live. Anyone who thinks it a one-way traffic - to them, quietly finds they're left out. I suppose it takes a small community, and probably wouldn't work that well in town, where all people have to 'give' is what they do for a living or have bought. Mind you I've blessed a few friends who gave me what they'd bought. Peter was high up my gratitude list today when mincing all that wallaby. I ought to make more sausages with some of it.

Tomorrow is show day (the Flinders Island annual show). It seems a very Australian thing: it's a public holiday, and to not go is very bad form. It takes a long time because you will see 200 hundred people you know, and they will be offended if you don't exchange a few words with each and every one, and greet the other 150 you recognise but don't know well enough to chat to. The weather, of course, is typically rotten. Tomorrow looks like it might be an exception though.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

A friend of ours has planted oats this year... and hurt his hand. He's very conservationist (being involved in most of the 'greener' projects around. He's a good man) but the reality is he's disappearing under a tide of wallaby (being against the forest margin they have lots of hiding places and lots of lovely grazing). He's put in heroic efforts at fencing - within weeks the wombats dig holes and the wallaby follow. So it's shoot or poison - and a normal year involves more than 1000 - (I gather he's been doing this for half a century, and the numbers just get bigger, it seems.) He can't shoot right now, as his hand is injured, so I went up there last night. The rain got me after an hour - maybe 3/4 of an hour of dark - and I had to bring the rifle out of it. But I had shot 16 wallaby. Here I have to shoot at 70-100 yards, there it was 30. Even I can hit things at thirty yards. So last night I worked until 2 turning 11 of them into food (couldn't in the dark find the others, they were found and buried this morning). Ah. Self-sufficiency. Easy, isn't it? I will say the gutting and skinning are a lot better than before the night started. Nothing like 10 in a row to get even the dumbest practiced. Anyway, tired day, and now I am for bed.