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.

Monday, October 15, 2012

We took a trip over to friend's house to do some gutter mending today. It's amazing how the island has come into flower, the ti-tree particularly. I really need to move on the bees! Spring is well on the way and the roadkill is sprouting flies :-(. The downside of the island and its high animal population.

On the veggie front, the one variety of zucchini (romanesco - not much use, except it is early) is getting going like a train. The other I grow (black) won't even germinate yet. The summer squash is growing fine too. We're getting reasonable amounts of lettuce and silverbeet, and the first cauliflower is almost ready. Tomatoes, sadly are still barely one true leaf stage. I really need to set out the rock melons and watermelons (or we'll run out of summer) that I managed to germinate but the ground needs to be prepared and they need little individual hothouses.

Anyway, I need to go and get a wallaby. Dogs are nearly out of tucker, and we could use some too. For some, hunting is fun... for me, it's part of living.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

beach launches

Having done not particularly well the last 3 times we went off to sea, it was about due that we had a bit of luck, and we did, getting 54 flathead, mostly big fish too including a real mammoth tiger flathead. Having given some to Norm, and had a fish and chips tea, we're still 16 fish up in the freezer. It was quite an adventure coming in the new mouth of the patriarchs estuary as it has moved. Imagine sitting at sea - all you can see is the dunes, and the back of the waves - and you have to decide exactly where to run in, and there will be no real chance to change your mind. From the beach side the color and where the waves break tells you the deeper bits... from the sea, not so easy. You have to come in on the plane, but on the back of a wave. you're thus moving fairly fast. If you stop, it will be sudden, and dead stop. Then the crew has to hastily jump overboard turn the nose into the waves, or if it is back or side on you will swamp and possibly lose the boat, and certainly get into one hell of a mess... then wading, push/pull the boat either back into water deep enough to run the motors, or into a sea gutter (sheltered by a sand-bar) or the mouth of the estuary so the recovery vehicle and trailer can get there - hopefully the sand is hard enough. The ute nearly bogged in a patch of rotten sea-weed buried in the sand today. Beach launch/recovery ranges from mildly exciting to terrifying.

Friday, October 12, 2012

We've had an outbreak of harlequin bugs - sap-suckers in red and black with pale blue innards. Toxic apparently - with those aposematic colors I expect them to be. It does make them easy to catch though. Advice on getting rid of them appreciated.

Oddly enough, having mentioned mushrooms a few days back... we were given some yesterday (and not by a reader) Field mushrooms big ones.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

The Steam Mole's proofs are in. I'm tempted to offer the print-out on e-bay to cover the ink cost! (no, not until its release date)

My friend's partner gave me two cuttlebones (there are hundreds of millions on the beaches here) assuring me her chooks loved them. I've tried them before. My chooks asked 'where is the porridge? Where is the fish? Where are veg scraps? not even a bit of bread or a bit of cooked potato? What is this rubbish? We don't eat polystyrene...' last time so I hadn't got around to trying again. The two were lying on the net box... and blow me if a Green Rosella didn't grab it and go and pick at it on the lawn.

And you thought it was just budgies.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Proof reading is a royal pain in the nether regions - especially on a glorious still day when every bit of the monkey boy said 'get in the water!' Still, it must be done. I did another job I had no desire to do today -roundup on my fence-line. I'm not much of a spraying person, but it's a long long line of square-mesh. You can't cut it with a wipper-snipper, or a steel-head brush cutter, and it is just too big to do by hand.
On the germinating front, I have some sugar snap peas up, more carrots, beets, scorzonera, salsify, fennel, and parsnips. I've even put out the first tomato seedlings. Tomorrow (in between finishing the proof read, and sending the corrections off) I need to put the capsicum and eggplant seeds in to warm germinating. I'm planning to hot-house eggplant throughout, after Jody's information about the flowering-fruiting and temperature.
My friend Norm has put in avocado and tree tomato plants - I hate the idea of investing a lot in trees right now, but I am envious.
I'm behind on getting potatoes in. I just am not sure where to put them! I think I'll do a few tire-tower ones, but I need a huge bed.
Oh, and I have been offered a mushroom farm (which I gather is a bag-size farm). Sounds good to me, as this autumn brought very few field mushrooms.

Monday, October 8, 2012

I sometimes feel vaguely guilty because there really is no exciting new news to add - a lot of country living, self sufficiency - hell even writing is just keeping it all going down the same track. Doing something new just means you haven't quite got time for the ongoing projects! It's also a case of balancing late payments against minimal spending does tend to make some ingenuity - but also a dead stop on some projects. Hell, we paint it blue and make it do, but for example I can't buy an outboard with no money and I hate spending down reserves.

Yesterday's fishing was much the usual spots but quite rough and a lot of drift, and not a lot of fish, 12 flathead in all and I think I got 8 of them. My day I guess. Jamie got another mackeral in the same spot - I must take some feathers and try there, as I like grilled and smoked

The garden is starting to seriously take off for spring, and so are the swallows/ ?swifts. Well, the ones that aren't stunned and inside my study are... I 've just take one out. It flew off happily. I see I have parsnips up.

I have the proofs for THE STEAM MOLE to do.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

coming home

Home from the air

Nangetty from the air

And Deal island from the air

Friday, October 5, 2012

I went to the grate metropolis today (needed milk and printer ink, in that order) and got the last pieces to add in the next raised bed to my drip irrigation system. A friend gifted me his leftovers and I must say it is bloody wonderful. While I was doing the put together Peter called and it appears we now have bought some solar panels and a grid tie in inverter. I know almost less than nothing about these, but Peter has a nose for a bargain, and he says i have one. Hopefully it will come in useful one day.

On the firewood hunt today, I cut up some pieces of tree that had fallen and been rough-cut and left to rot, which has the most amazing scent from the fresh sawdust - almost sweet spicy vanilla. It seems to be a native, and I only took the smaller messed up bits. Will try to get some and plank it, and post some pics of the other trees of the same type growing around.

Otherwise the bachelor boys - James, Norman (his partner and daughter are away too) and I -- had a big calamari and rice with with XO sauce for tea and apple and raspberry pie and custard for after. Tomorrow I will fly along to fetch Barbs back and I will return to normal sleeping hours - I tend to work until I fall asleep on the keyboard, while she's away.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Animal protein

Got one Wallaby last night - we just couldn't get close it was bright moonlight. I did get startlingly close to a little brown quail - I could have picked her up with my hand. The neighborhood male pheasants (one to the left shelter bed, one to the right) are safe for now - they've both acquired harems, and will hopefully breed. Spring is definitely coming as birds are collecting Puggles shedding hair for nests. Barbs still seems to be having fun with her dancing, and I am pleased to say my excitement for the day is that my carrot seeds and beets are coming up.

I read a curious statement somewhere recently from a vegan who was holding forth that meat was no part of our natural diet, because humans could never catch or eat cows etc, before we had tools and fire. I have to wonder at how people conceive animal protein to always be 'cow'. I suspect our remote ancestors ate plenty of 'animal protein', raw, just the way chimps do, and we sometimes do. Of course no one thinks of things like bird eggs, baby birds, mice, hedgehogs, snakes, lizards, worms, insects, grubs (larval insects) shellfish, octopus, crustacea (crayfish, crabs and prawns), echinoderms, ascidians (cunjevoi here, redbait back in the old country) fish... all of which I have caught by hand, with no tools at all, many of which I have eaten as is, and all of which I could. Add a few simple tools like a rock and a sharp stick and the list gets bigger, make traps with these and it gets bigger, and add working together in a group, and the list gets huge, of quite big vertebrates too. Humans have probably done all of that since we were all monkeys. Some of us like me just haven't evolved much. To be a vegan, on the other hand, and stay healthy, probably takes a fair bit of knowledge, and to be blunt tools and cooking equipment, and transportation. It's a lifestyle choice, and you're welcome to it, but you can't really claim it is the natural state.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

what day is it?

The days are seriously running into each other. I've - having turned the copy edits of the Steam Mole
in on Monday night having basically pulled a mammoth no sleep effort, finished putting up Bolg PI: away with the Fairies on Amazon,

and a slew of other runaround yesterday, got in this morning to the proofs The Steam Mole.

My hot-device for the melon seeds worked - on everything bar the zucchini (I grow black and romanesco. The latter are rubbish but start early. They're up. The black have not germinated.)

Summer is coming - the flies are back.:-(

Barbs still seems to be having fun at her Dancing.