Friday, December 27, 2013

Strange night visions

Okay I'm dead beat- 4000 and a few words today, and not much sleep last night - I worked late, dogs woke me at 2 AM. peering out the window I saw either 1)a cat 2)a possum 3)a small wallaby.

Now unless it's our cat, none of the above are welcome at all in the garden. It had been warmish, and I had gone to bed as nature intended. We have no visitors, and the nearest other human is way more than a mile away. Even the road is 200 yards away, and miss prude who can look at my naked bod from 200 yards and claim to see anything flatters me beyond all possibility. I took the four-ten and went to have a look, on the dubious logic that it's quieter than the 12 gauge, and whatever it was would b... off, probably before I got there. I'm not going to shoot something to find its our cat, so I need to see it well. So grab torch, and I'm off. Bare toes real stupid, but I was pretty dopey after about 2 hour's kip. I'm out there playing catch as can for about five minutes in the misty dark before it gets to me that 1)I'm cold. 2)I'm wandering around my garden naked with a torch and shotgun. 3)there are thistles. 4 It's a wallaby. And it seems to have the brains to be where I would shoot the house if I shot at it, or the sheep inthe next paddock. The sheep do not seem perturbed by my state of undress, although the wallaby is less trustful. We play a sort of dodge-ems around the bushes. If I'd let the dogs out they could have dealt with it not me.

Needless to say Barbs slept through the whole expotition. Even the shotgun blast.
Note to self.
Wear shorts to bed while we have visitors. Besides shorts have pockets for spare rounds.
And boots outside. Because thistle thorns are a PITT (pain in the toes. I did not sit down to make them a PITA)

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas

It's Christmas day in Australia. Merry Christmas all :-)
The Somerset Pye (Flinders Island version - deboned home made ham-hock, apple and sage coating, inside a deboned pheasant, red rice, zucchini, bacon, egg, and thyme coating, inside a deboned chicken, silverbeet and almond meal and raisin coating inside a deboned turkey coated in sausage meat and inside a pastry case. I bought the pastry, rice and almond meal the rest is off the land ) is baked, the sun is out, the wind is still. I have 3/4 word count for the book. I am tempted just to go to the beach - but will do some writing. I need to finish this and then take a bit of time off. I'm burned out.

Saturday, December 21, 2013


Yes, really there was someone called Dagobert Von Wurmser. Finding out these useful things are some the joys of writing historical fantasy.

Writing took a bit of hit the last two days: We had our writers circle meet for December here yesterday, and this morning was taken up by a garage sale, from which I emerged in some awe at Peter's sale-ing prowess. He sees things I don't even notice. I only detect them if they have long spiny feelers or are edible. Cans of oil go right past my vision, as do useful other things like stainless cabinets. Of course it didn't help that it was raining, and there were lots of people in a small space. I am not fond of crowds, even if this is only a Flinders Island crowd - ie. about 5 people inside a 20 foot shipping container. We have moved on the world and have TV again after 2 years, and they were showing some thing about traffic police... and I nearly ran off and locked myself in the wool-shed. Civilization? You can keep it. Anyway, I am now the proud owner of a grindstone and deep fat fryer, and some more bowls. One of things no explains about self sufficiency is that it takes a lot of bowls. The Aborigines didn't have keyboards or I-phones, BUT they had coolamins - which proves you can feed yourself with bowl and without an I-phone. What are gonna do with those pipis (clams) - pile them on the smart phone? Of course self-sufficiency takes lot of other things too (like obstinacy, a peculiar type of highly intelligent stupidity, which will evolve inventive ways to keep the beetles off the strawberries, at a cost in labor and time and intellect and materials (although the main materials are mostly scavenged the bits used to assemble the contraption are not.) that dwarfs the elegant and relatively cheap simplicity of buying a few punnets of strawberries from the supermarket. But hey, they're OUR berries, and taste better. Ask the beetles.) But I suspect the principal requirement is a mind that can look at someone else's junk and say 'I could make that into...' and actually do it. Of course this usually takes junk accumulation into the stratospheric level. And it often also involves a series of sequential events - like the old quest computer games. You can't do this (B), until you have that from task (A), and when do that you do the next (C). D E F.... and so on all exist in your head like a series of chess moves. You have all the bits for E some for C and need that for D... and you're waiting on finding a bopamagilvie for A. I don't know if my mind is big enough for this, I may have to write fiction and go fishing...
which is not happening right now as the work demands and weather has turned nasty, to help me work.

Anyway, once again unto Cavalry battles.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013


I how have some bundles of oats hanging up. And the more I read of the process of getting oatmeal out of those oats, the more certain I am than my scots ancestors were barking insane, and not just because they wore something where would blow up where your trousers ought to stop it. That or pretty desperately hungry with lousy land and lots of time on their hands.

Anyway, as a writer of historical fantasy it's been very informative. I now know what gleaning is, first hand, and how bloody long it takes for how little. (I spent twenty minutes at it - got a princely 85 grams.) So... call it half a pound of grains an hour. Now that includes the husk and all that, and I am not very good at it - never tried before - but still stoop labor for very little. When they talk of widows gleaning to survive, you have some idea of how hard and scanty the reward must have been and how desperate you needed to be. Oats are quite light, but I doubt if that is going to feed you much for long.

On the other fronts... none. I have a few plants planted and a lot more words written. - nearing 70K.
Once more to the words...

Wednesday, December 11, 2013


Which will puzzle my American readers very much because the UK and Commonwealth countries all seem to put the day first, and month second, unlike the US. It will be the 22nd century and I'll be long gone worm-food before we get a date sequence again. No I don't believe it is any mysterious portent, other than meaning I have got off my dead prosterior to post again, leaving the incomprehensible delights of der Kliene Rosengarten just for you (well, it is incomprehensible to me... delight no) Yes - you got it, book research.

It's been an upsy downsy week - Upsy - We had our 32nd wedding anniversary, which I find cause for celebration even if you think Barbara a woman deserving remission for good behavior and possibly beatitude. We celebrated with two new seats for porcelain thrones - they had rather rickety plastic ones, one of which had a crack, which could, when you stood up, pinch your tail end. We now have more sturdy ones which are also transparent and have imbedded seashells and dolphins(real dolphins, of course, nothing but the best for our thrones). I fancied the ones with barbed wire embedded, but after 32 years you know who makes the final decision on these.

Then I got my royalty statements. I'm not overly money mad (or I'd have done something that makes me more), but we do have to earn a living of some sort. What I apparently earned in that 6 months - January to June was slightly less than I do in 5 and half hours of manual labor. And to add insult to injury the numbers weren't even added correctly, with a few completely left out. It's honestly not worth my even fighting them about it, because I will just lose my cool. Right now all I want is out of this system. It has left me angry, depressed and wondering if anyone read or enjoyed my books. So: if you have I'd love to know. There appears no reflection of the Kindle sales. My own few -

-and a bunch of other shorts

Had been doing quite well, (A LOT more than I got in royalties) but that too seems to have stopped/slowed. At least Amazon lets me see what is happening day-to-day and pays in 3 months.
So I am a bit bleak about all that.

Then on the positive side I now am the proud owner of an old Evinrude 35 horse outboard motor which one of my friends has taken off his boat - which if I can get it all rigged should make the Zoo a viable boat for just about any kind of fishing and or diving I want to undertake. I've also got a great double full depth sink from Peter, which we really want for the house one day, and I managed to fix two throw-out reels and fix a throw-out rod and buy for next to nothing another - meaning we have a good stock for visitors. That's all definite up.

And then Barbs and her co-receptionist have been having flak with the 'new' program they installed at the surgery - only 14 years old. In the software world? To me it makes perfect sense to install a dinosaur, that it appears only has one company as a client. The teaching skills displayed by the geniuses who got sent here appear to be of the 'you watch while I do it' order of competence. Yes, that always works. So that's been a nightmare, not helped by the non-support they've had. The benchmarks for the volume they deal with is 3-5 people - without the pharmacy which should just about be a full time job for one person by the number of scripts. Needless to say... they don't have the half the staff, don't have the support, don't have the equipment needed to do the job, have a hopelessly badly designed work environment (an architect who puts a step in the passage to escape fire in a Doctor's surgery needs to be shot)... have all sorts of stupid equipment (printers that don't work without being manually driven, off site 'support' that doesn't etc.) and a tribe of meaningless petty rule roadblocks inserted by Peter Principle people who don't have to work with them, and still they manage, and laugh and are nice to patients. They do a fair amount of unpaid extra. They probably deserve halos, even without coping with this POS program. Let's just say this is not quite what Peter Principle seems to be providing. Ah well. Barbs can just chuck it in on my writing income...

Anyway. I've got over the spitting point, and so has Barbs. Back to writing -although what I will do when these contracted books are done is another matter. I don't think I have the fan-base to go it alone, and I've had publishing in square chunks. We had delicious home made ham for our tea, and I went off to rescue a stuck sheep that turned out not to need rescuing and that was definitely an up :-)

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

The past was another country

Summer is coming on towards us - hot foot. Well, yesterday, today winter popped back. But yesterday we had 27 C. A good day for being in the water, not at my desk. Desk won. Barely. Still we're eating spring food - artichokes - we must have had a good 25 and still have 7 or so on the plants. My daydream is to get to enough to make them ingredients of pasta sauce and preserve some, instead of just special treats. Still, we're dramatically up on last year. Strawberries - not quite enough for jam but real big bowlfuls for dessert. The Zucchini is flowering and soon the time of 'oh no not another disguise for yet another zucchini' will be upon us. I got to feeling that our training to be a wasteful consumer society goes back a loooooong way -- I dried a load of beetroot, and pickled 7 jars yesterday - it had to come out was going to seed - a fair amount of the veg is doing that, we just don't eat it/ preserve it/ have something to feed it to. And the waste galls me, but... we HAVE to. Growing just enough is a freaking disaster area looking for a place to happen. Something always goes wrong, if not with every crop at least some of it. The last 4 winters -3 have been good for broccoli. Not last winter. Carrots and beets and leeks did well, however. So we overkill and spread our risks and by the time we know that we're safe, it's usually too late to give it away or to preserve it. And um we pick a lot of stuff either too late (after rats/caterpillars/slugs/birds discover it) or as a fear reaction to this too early.

Still... the past. I've been making Biltong (South African cured dried meat -like jerky but far nicer IMO)this last week. And Bobotie (cape malay slave dish, with mince/leftover meat and an egg custard topping), and boerebeskuit - rusks. My son was talking about melktert (milk tart) and I thought, yes I should do that. Now we eat 10 times the amount of biltong we ever did back in the old country. Sure meat is cheap, but making bobotie? I don't think I ever made it back in South Africa.

I could not bear to go back to live there. I did love the place and there are people I miss, badly. But I have made wonderful friends here, and to be honest, more of them, because we set out to do so. And I love the security, community and the island life. There has been nothing like it South Africa for 40 or more years (small country districts - which I loved then, had this feel to them , then.) Flinders Island has the highest proportion of volunteerism in Australia, which actually explains a lot. It's a little country in the best part of the past, itself, where fast-food doesn't really exist, where the hunting and fishing are good, and you still help (and know) your neighbours.

I don't want to carry the past we left to this spot. Troubles will come, but not from us, I hope. But the food, now, that is a different matter. I wonder what muttonbird biltong would taste like? ;-)

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Confessions of a junk-man

You know the old saw: 'You have three choices, and you can have two, any two - you can have it cheap, you can have it quick, you can have good.'

And this is very true, and as a writer, cheap is always the must-have option (I have explained to you that despite the rip-off prices on books here in Oz, I get 6% of the _US_ paperback price? (on the solo books - it drops 2% on the Lackey and Flint ones) You are being gouged, but actually, that's two of us, not me doing the gouging). I've sold more than 1/3 of a million books, and I have to count those pennies very carefully.

Now I didn't do for the money, any more than I live off the land to save money. It does of course, a lot. But I would choose to do this even if I won the lotto (for which I don't have a ticket) tomorrow. There's an ever diminishing chance I could hit the bestseller/movie jackpot, but I'm too politically incorrect and and not much good at kissing up, and probably a pretty average writer - you can succeed with the last so long as you're really good at the first. I'm not that perturbed about the fortune I could have made if I'd chosen a profession on the basis of making money. I like what I do, I'm quite proud of it, and we generally get by. I do, like everyone, get a bit of envy when I see someone cheerfully buy a piece of kit I'd love, and would actually USE - which some folk don't. It's their money, and if they want de-lux saw or breadmachine they will barely use - at the end of the day the junk man will find it either on the tip or at the garage sale, resurrect it, and love it and use it and fix it until it really is irredeemable. And he'll have the satisfaction of knowing he got a real bargain. My biggest bitch is the petty beaurocracy which makes so many things so expensive and add no value at all, effectively saying to the poor-but-industrious-and-careful 'no you can't build your house with the cash you have, and scraps you can get over the next ten years. You can only have a 2 year permit and it'll cost you more than you would have spent on things to fit your house of recycled scrap -solid and safe and better value than you as a poor bloke could ever afford -which we won't allow you to use. No you must either be very rich or buy poor quality but approved expensive clap-boards which we're happy to sign off on.'

The problem that the junk man - me - has, of course, is projects. Whether it is a trailer, or a longline or a new bit of lean-to or another patch of garden, it takes a BUNCH of stuff. In time that can usually be found, and in more time assembled - If I was to buy a longline's ingredients to match mine - would cost me around $180 - let alone getting someone to make it for me. It cost me just on $12. And I put off and agonized about spending that much... and the ingredients have taken me about 3 years and five different sources to cobble together. Today I scavenged 4 three metre toss -out poles - a bit damaged but nothing a chainsaw to the end can't fix. I have some 3.5 meter 4X4". I'll get some scrap iron and make a lean-to for the boat-trailer with that. And I found a broken plastic drum that will make wheel mudguards for the trailer... and so on.

It means three things: the one is I have plans - lots of them, which I have to change to fit what I get at the next garage sale, or get given as a 'I thought you might want this'. The second of course is I have a lot of junk - some of which I have a plan for. I'm not in Peter's league, but working on it. The third of course is I have patience and dreams. I've been lucky in my friends and finds, and try to pay that back in kind - that way the luck keeps happening. Over the years with patience and work I've achieved a fair bit of those dreams - had to kick a few to the curb to emigrate, but we'll fight up.

Most of what we have is good and was cheap (to us, if often not in the first place). It's not flashy or new. But it's ours.

Which is why I'm a junk man and proud of it.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Down the line

Okay, I went fishing today. I have words to catch up and should be writing those... but I had one of my crazy idea - a long line as I used to use for my shark sampling many years ago and far away. Of course that was a short line of 200 hooks... and now and here I may use 30... I wasn't too sure how well it would work Jamie's efforts didn't. We either caught nothing or got the line trashed. I had rather over-weighted and over-floated the line - So hauling in nearly killed me... And if that wasn't enough, there were two huge stingrays that could have finished the job, if I hadn't had the brains to let Jamie play with them. Neither were actually hooked on the squid-bait. They'd just EATEN the flathead fish that had taken the squid. There were several carpet sharks, not welcome, a banjo (sandshark) and 3 gummys - 1 of which we let go as too small. And about 8 flathead. It worked so well we set it again, only this time we got a stingray that was into knitting, and tangled it all a fair bit, and three of the undesirable carpet sharks and a mere 3 flatties. Still, not bad for something - bar the hooks, entirely put together from scrap. The rope Mark found on the beach has paid handsome dividends, and I - the soul of generosity - will offer to lend it to him when he's next here ;-).

Thinking it was a friend we waved to some poor tourist on the beach, and talked him into being dragged him off to sea as bait (we do this with all our friends, really). I think he thought he'd landed in a madhouse, and been talked into going off to sea with lunatics, but he was a good sport about it, asked us all manner of questions about how to live off the land (me) and off grid (Jamie) and about the important uses of junk (A sport Flinders could raise its own Olympic team for) - and only had to look at the horizon a little bit.

When we came in, I collected Samphire for pickling at the estuary when we came back, and a bucket of pipis - I made a simple soup with softened leeks (much better than onion for this) and then steamed them over sweet sherry, adding cream and chopped fennel leaves and thickening it. Served with a crusty roll to dunk, and sitting picking the meats out of the little clams as you messily pig out is a meal fit kings and princes. Probably not little princesses as it might ruin their make-up, dribbling down their chins, and leave them them incapable of the obligatory peeing through seven mattresses.

And now we return to my regular nasty Duchess I am writing about.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Feeling my oats

The computer is being iffy AGAIN. It really wasn't a good buy :-( Oh well, back up, back up, back up. at the moment it keeps deciding it doesn't do the internet. That the connection does not exist. And today it has started adding the mouse. Joy.

Anyway, I've made some progress with the Viper (current book), and Barbs is poor one surviving the new computer system being implemented at the surgery. If you can't say anything polite, don't say anything at all, so I will say nothing about it.

The first of my zucchini shows flower buds. The first of my new tomatoes has tiny fruit. I have 2/5 of the last strip (about 2/25 of the total) of the current new garden patch to clear. Then I want to move on to increase the area by 2/3 and add another tank as well as starting one of the tanks afresh. If you don't have crazy dreams you can't strive for them...

I'm hoping to get some - say 20-30 kg of fresh oats (oats are being grown as high quality hay on the farm) which I will then attempt to make into stuff directly from the grain, like... rolled oats and oatmeal. If Scots peasants could do it, I should manage (says he, stupidly. They had experience, and most importantly TIME)

Saturday, November 23, 2013

I've been exceptionally good today. Norman and Jamie have gone off to sea and I've stayed home to work, and heavy weather I am making of it too. Still, it must be done.

I've arranged a few poles and some cross-struts to put up a small roof over the boat-trailer. In my ample spare time, while I'm not going to sea, writing,planting, making biltong or preserving beets.

And now we return to the delights of Machiavellian plotting and and turmoils of Italian city states, with magic. Onwards. I want a break in the new year and must pay for it.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

sleepless on Flinders

Just thought I would mention that the strawberry take has increased from 4 to slightly more than we can eat in one sitting. I really need to get more area under berries. We also had snow peas which were 10 minutes from plant to table, so fresh they squeaked on your teeth. Spring - once it really gets going, is a sequence of foods we haven't seen for a year, and very spoiling it is too.

I have the netting, ropes, leads, net-cord and floats to make my beach seine. Now all I need is that extra me to do it...
Went to fetch the pieces for Barbs to have TV today. This will be a shock.

I've always been loud in defense of daylight savings -seeing as I am up with the light, it's always been an irritation to have people say 'but 5 AM is too early' Now instead they can say ' but 6 AM is too early.'(and I can push for 5, which would be 4 which ALWAYS gets flat refusal). It does have its disadvantage in the crepuscular/nocturnal occupations - night comes late, dusk right now is about 8 to quarter to 9 - So I don't go out shooting wallaby until eight, which by the time I have done all the gutting, skinning and cleaning up after , means it's very late - after 11 last night. And when it comes to full dark stuff - floundering, garfish scooping, and you add tide into it, it can be very sleepless.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Cats, and the cracks of doom

The fruits of diving

Yesterday I was diving off Babel Island in a place of deep caves and cracks. Imagine: you are 30 feet down under the sea, with a hookah (which means you’re trailing a pipe to a compressor on the surface, and have a second stage regulator and mouthpiece in your mouth) and you part the kelp to reveal cracks and funnels below that. It is a cracked underwater boulder field, with rocks the size a 40 foot container to a suburban house, sometimes hollow underneath, and sometimes leading into the next crack. Not much current or wave action gets down here so there is a lot of fine silt. Sometimes a fish will dart past, sometimes you'll see the spiky outlines of why you came here... always deeper.

It’s where the really big spiny lobster live, and it is for a mildly claustrophobic person like myself terrifying, as there is no room, and no light (the silt, stirred up makes it gloomy and confusing) I’ve had the reg-pipe connecter fail on me twice (that hopefully cannot happen again, there is now a locking device) and the mouthpiece come off twice. That will happen again. Now, if you know why you are suddenly breathing water, and you have space and, vision and the presence of mind, you can find your regulator, pull the (failed) retaining band off – easy, and shove the regulator back on the mouth-piece, and hold it there with your hand and breathe. You could even just shove the mouthpiece-less reg in your face, purse your lips and just suck.

Assuming… you know what is wrong, and can see and move freely enough to do this. These conditions are not typically met when you are down a narrow crack – which if you are going get out of – backwards is the only way. There is no room to bring your arms ‘down’ (which may be along or up) from above your head. Just bumping the regulator out of your mouth can be a deadly experience. My jaws always ache from holding onto it, after.

I call these cracks and caves forever holes – because they go on forever, and you could possibly be down there forever.

It’s what I do. One day I may push too hard and too far, and not come out. It will be terrifying, I will probably panic at the end, and I will die. But until then mostly it comes down to keeping your cool and an element of luck. It helps if you are fairly tough, phlegmatic and have been lucky enough not to die in a few incidents. But I always make sure I kiss my wife very thoroughly before I leave home.

Still I do come home with some rewards. And there is a deep satisfaction in knowing I have dealt with the fear, did not let it master me, and succeeded in bringing home food for my family.

I'd tell you the cats were pleased to see me home, but actually I think they were just sunbathing. That's cats for you.

At home, after, we had a glass of sherry, and some spare cray legs and some blanched samphire I picked at the beach.. Then an artichoke, fresh flathead fillets, baby new potatoes in a creamy leek and bacon sauce, and coleslaw made with cabbage and raw fennel, and then strawberries and cream. We bought the cream, sherry, and the butter we had with the artichoke and the fish. And the olive oil for the mayo. The rest came off the land or out of the sea.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Reporting in

It's been a while since I posted, and as usual a lot has happened, and very little. We've had another tremendous storm with swells of 2.8 meters forecast at our normal launching spot - which usually runs to about 30-40 centimeters if we're going to sea. This should stir the sea up quite badly for some time -tricky as we hope catch some crayfish soon at the opening of the season. Quite a lot of the dread junkmen seem down with the plague. Well, a bad flu/cold that seems to be sweeping the island. Anyway, we shall see what the weekend brings. The sun will hopefully bring more strawberries as the slugs are threatening us at slime point for what we have. The damp suits them. I am buying snail bait in industrial quantities and seriously thinking of going back to traps as well. Last time Wednesday kindly drank the beer in them. Labradors are a source of great joy as well shed fur, and strange flatulence. But they love you, anyway.

The lawn-mower is at the doctors and brush-cutting this acreage could kill me. We've had our first cabbage moths wrecking away :-(. Can't do brassica here in summer. We're eating artichokes and I am looking forward to the arrival of another piggy - because there's a lot of witer veg going to seed before we eat it. Besides, bacon.

I've finally overcome my conservative Scots blood enough to buy a bundle of netting to make up a seine net. It's often not very effective (at the legal length I can use - and pulling the BIG nets either takes a winch (of which I disapprove strongly - little fish don't get away.)) but is from an Ichthyologist's point of view fascinating. I also odered some big hooks for a longline. I did a lot of that as Fishereies scientist and it is a very hit and miss thing, but one good hit would stock the freezer. So lots of gear make-up to be done. I've also done a bit of further work towards the trailer. Doing things in the scraps of time and with as much scavenged material as possible is cheaper, but does take a lot of time and effort to get done!

Writing has moved on nicely - but I have to keep the pressure on.

Tootle-pip for now

Monday, November 4, 2013

a four strawberry day...

Four strawberries today! We're on an upward curve I tell myself. I did some gardening-for-hire today (yes, my own needs it, but because money, I suppose). This week is destined to be a rough one for Barbs, work-wise as the surgery will extra-busy after the public holiday today, and the rest of the week is looking full of commitments for her time. I also really, really have have to bear down on writing so blog-posts may be scanty. I'm trying to have all my decks cleared in time for January, when we're expecting visitors, which will be wonderful for us.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Rust in pieces

What I've been doing in my ample spare time (ha ha) is to try to remove the rust from the trailer (not mine, the one under Norm's borrowed boat.) It's quite a task, but is a sign we're slowly gearing up towards the next diving season, hopefully with a bit of better weather. It's October and it has been out of the teens about twice.

We had bulb fennel sauteed in lots of butter, than covered with water and simmered for about 40 - basically until tender, and then topped with cheese and the juice of half a lemon at high heat for a bit. It was very rich but very tasty. Bit overwhelming for the fish I served it with. We also had strawberries stretched with cape gooseberries, and cream. This was a mistake as the cape gooseberries are much stronger in flavor.

Yesterday I did wallaby steaks with a leek, sherry and chive sauce -basically a white sauce, with softened leeks and some sherry and chopped fresh chives at the end, which was yummy - The leeks certainly added something - a touch of sweetness.

Otherwise, writing proceeds. The garden suffers.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Another lion, witch?

Well, we have the wardrobe anyway. And it is possible that we live in a corner of Narnia, or at least Archenland. No talking horses, but we have a wardrobe, and winter that is lasting an uncommonly long time.

Which is a roundabout way of saying Barbs and I bought yet another large old ratty Victorian wardrobe, of wood unknown. We're at 3 now - and a selection of other pieces from the same era. I like them, and fortunately so does Barbs. Getting it in to the house was a bit of an adventure, but we lived, and no fingers were permanently lost.

I've got 5 strawberries. The sun has been such that we haven't had a lot of grown for a while, and lost a few fruit to hail. But 5 is better than none, and I showed my optimism by buying cream (a small one) today.

Monday, October 28, 2013

The unhappy hooker

This has almost nothing to do elderly pornographic novels, and indeed the only similarity was the title, and you're safely past that now. Instead it has to do with the poor bloke who hooks carcases up on his rather makeshift system from gutting and then gets a totally unjustified swat alongside the head.

See it goes like this: my system for gutting and cleaning wallaby has evolved piecemeal without much thought and with what we had on hand just then. So there is no rail or nice solid hanging point. Instead there there is some sharkmesh strung between two buildings - the gap is about 2 meters. On this line there hangs an S shaped hook, which I really cannot remember who or where I got from. Onto that I have hung a gambrel of sorts - a W shaped bit of very sturdy steel. I don't think it was intended to be a gambrel, I found it with some scrap iron. It works, but could be wider. Because shark mesh stretches, the entire rig is about 6' 6" high -it sags to a nice working height, to drop the guts and skin the animal.

It works... but the downside is hooking the carcase up - means lifting a wallaby - can weigh 30+kg - straight up and out to hook - on a hook that moves, that you don't have a spare hand for steadying. And it's bloody and it's not nice and handy like a set of weights to lift. Just straight awkward. Peter brought me back a proper gambrel and pulleys from the States, and I will set up a proper place for it as soon as I get one of those 'tuits' (I've caught square tuits, and triangular ones and even the odd hexagon, but the round ones are incredibly rare. Endangered even. I better leave them alone to breed) But I tried the new gambrel from the rig - it was MUCH wider than my old one and the central upside down V of the W shape very shallow. Still, it was working fine, until I got to pulling the skin off the tail. Now this is rather like skinning a sausage... and is something of an art which I am not too good at. You slit it all the way down (gut-hook works perfectly) and then it needs a sharp sudden jerk and a steady pull and off it comes. Jerk too hard, and the tail comes off with half the backstrap, but the skin does not. Jerk too little and nothing happens. Stop after you have given it the right start and you're a jerk, because you have to do it all again. And so I hunched down and gave the skin a tremendous tug... only to have another possibility develop rather too rapidly - obviously the shallower W and the angle combined to allow the Gambrel and wallaby to depart from the hook and make me sit down most ungenteely with a wallaby carcase on my lap. Trust me this is not done in the best circles. Actually I don't think it is even done in the worst squares. And to add injury to insult the hook - nice heavy steel got sling-shotted up toward the stratosphere by the shark-mesh, whacked the inside of the shed roof, ricocheted off that to carom off the side of my head for parts unknown.

I delicately expressed my displeasure, put the wallaby on the table, pulled the skin off the tail...

And started hunting the for the hook so I could do the next one.

I had heard it hit the concrete (no, I was not referring to my head. That's rock). But there was a lot of dark, junk and a bin full of wallaby entrails out there. Ten minutes later, still expressing my displeasure I had to give up and use bailing string. To think I used to say the hook was a PITA.

Anyway. I found it the morning, not, to my relief in my skull, or worse, the gut bucket, but about six yards away.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Sheep manure

Exciting news! I have added a couple of wheelbarrow loads of sheep-poo to the veggie gardens. Doesn't that make you quiver with excitement? Well, not me either, really. But it has to be done - the soil is nothing much more than sand. I'm a very average, lacadasical gardener, who tends to chuck occasional bursts of intense energy at it when either the current book is struggling, or I am overcome by sudden wave of fear about feeding ourselves. The results are fairly patchy! Still, so far we are managing to eat, sometimes far to much. In all of this the chooks have been a lovely steady supply of eggs, probably because unlike the plants I would have real guilt if that suffered neglect. The downside of this is eggs, which also the upside. In spring and summer however people wonder around trying to give away eggs with a rather hopeless optimism. And to add insult to injury one of my best mates has left the island (temporarily) TRIED TO GIVE EGGS BACK. It was nearly the end of a beautiful friendship! :-). Perhaps we could have a tourism drive where we lure politicians of various stripes over here to help the island economy... and sell eggs. I think people would fly in from all over. Only given Australia's penchant for regulation, the eggs would probably have to be grown in batteries, health checked and packed in standard sizes and have little inspectors checking for hard-boiled ones...

On other news... the wind isn't actually blowing right now.

Friday, October 25, 2013

A man needs a Shed...

I'm thinking of changing Pugsley's name to 'Shed'. After all, every man should have a shed, and right now, even if we're still lighting fires and spring plants are not growing... his fur is coming out in handfuls. I have what I call a rainbird (big brown thrushlike bird, which has quite a distinctive whistle, like calling sheepdogs,) and a pair of swallows nesting in the little house on the prairie-shed at the moment - which is awkward because I want to replace the door. It'll have to wait a little longer.

I dug a new strip in the new garden patch (which is harder work than it sounds - it's thick turf, and very poor soil just below that, so I loosen the grass, beat the soil out of it. The strip is about 2 feet wide by 20 long.) -Planted now with potatoes.

We're still having intermittent storms and occasional hail, and this is not much good for the spring plants...

Tuesday, October 22, 2013


I described a trip to sea yesterday to a writer acquaintance as a 'rent-an-epic'.

She asked what that was.

I had assumed it was common parlance, but then maybe it only is to those of us who... rent out epics. It's a sequence of disasters that seem to accompany some people, usually on some expedition. They get lonely without them, and bring them along to stop the malaise and boredom of safe, comfortable successful well-run ventures. Really they only do it for our benefit.

And as someone who is frequently accused of being a rent-an-epic, that is my story and I'm sticking to it. We were beach launching into quite a good size shore break yesterday. Now done well on a calm day, you choose a 'gutter' a deep channel which has steep drop off, reverse the trailer into it. The other boatman pushes the boat clear, swings her bow into the sea, and you drive out, come back on foot, and jump in, the other feller pushes the boat out a bit, you get the motors running, and he jumps on and off you go. On a less good day you watch for a series of low swells, time coming back so you can slam on brakes just as it reaches about 1/3 the tail of the trailer. The boat slides off onto the deeper water, and you -driver get the hell out while the other boatman/men get the boat turned around before the next wave, and with luck a good bit further out before it breaks. If it's really nasty the boatman jumps on and takes it out beyond the break, and will come back or make the driver swim. If they don't turn it fast enough waves break over the stern and the boat gets swamped. If it is broadside on it can roll, which is about the worst... well, bar the scenario yesterday. The driver stopped too soon, and the water was too shallow. So the boat didn't come off, and instead of driving forward, and trying again... the driver backed into the wave, and then braked too late, except to get the ute stuck, the trailer to swivel a bit and the boat to come half off. Now the worst case is the boat can broadside, dragging the ute, and rolling and wrecking the lot. So it's a hasty unhitch - and the twist jams it a bit, the driver's hand is crushed against bin - no bones broken... and we get the trailer off - but too late as the next wave is over the back - I turn the now heavy boat while driver runs to try ute. I push the bow through the next wave, jump up, get the motors down, one outboard running - other won't start, gun it anyway, and get beyond the break. Anchor. get ready to swim in, try to haul the trailer out and use the boat winch to free the ute -as the tide is rising and water is at door height... driver has called his mat -who lives about 3km away - and is the only person for about 15 miles ... He luckily is in 4x4 and can detour fast. A snatch strap and the ute is out of the water, and a snatch strap and the trailer is rescued undamaged. I have emptied some water (but we need to run on the plane for about 5 minutes to get it all out,) and I manage to come and fetch the driver without rolling the boat (she turned very sluggishly and did half broadside, because I am on one motor and she's heavy. Anyway - I get her out beyond the breakers and we fiddle with the second motor and get it going.

It was a bouncy, rainy day, we got wet to the skin, only got about 16 fish - bad for us. I lost an entire rig to a shark, and the recovery was... interesting. A lot of winch and snatch-strap, but no near disasters.

But I was pretty tired. And then at 3 AM there was a noise like a pig being strangled by an angry bag-pipe from the kitchen. I ran to the rescue... lots of soft fur, no dead cats...

A possum, we think had come in via the kitty door, and met a cat. Both were not pleased, by the looks of it.

But that was the end of sleep.

And that's a Freer rent-an-epic day.

Come and visit. We have cheap rates for friends...

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Bad Moon Rising and the Foine Wee Wee Beastie.

The moon last night was a lurid pumpkin orange - and flattened so it looked more like a nuclear disaster half way to New Zealand. Of course by the time I'd fetched my camera, and reset on dusk - not only was the colour not the same but the picture just doesn't do it justice. It looks small.
I took the good advice and didn't go round.

And here, new to the farming world of Freer is a hand-tractor - courtesy of Peter. As it is undoubtably a beastie, but is rather small for even vineyard tractor. (Those who have read Rats, Bats, and Vats will understand. The rest of you: it is just one of Life's little mysteries.) So rather than a foine wee beastie it's a foine wee wee beastie.

I'm honestly not sure how effective it will prove.

And just to prove I don't only grow veggies badly, here are some flowers

And Robin inspecting my gardening from a suitable distance. She is not impressed.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Sometimes the post can make me quite grumpy. I had figured that finally I would be getting a cheque from Amazon UK (there has been a trickle going in there from sales since oh about October 2011. The US pays quite often, but sometimes has to accumulate as it a $100 limit on issuing cheques. Then of course the bank screws me on changing the cheque and the exchange rate, and the US government claims 30% of my income (which they take off before they send the check. Now in theory I should be able to claim tax treaty benefits and save some of that, but it would involve a trip to the US embassy or sending my passport (a no-no as a resident alien - imagine if I needed it, and had to try and get help from the SA embassy). I got my associates cheque (which is the 6% of the sale I get when someone clicks through to Amazon from one of these.)
I got my US Amazon cheque for the month. No sign of anything from Amazon UK. I was sure I had now well passed my $100. Added it all up. Did a conversion. Yes $126 - check the site. The other countries have payment when it reaches $100. Amazon UK 100 pounds. So I am still way short. We will not even talk about the rest, where I may get paid something in 10 years. And of course the post brings me dentist bill which exceeds the Amazon income for this month by 20 dollars before the bank takes its share. Being a writer is all roses, I tell you.

Oh well. onwards. We eat well, and have a new tow-hitch.

I fenced a new section off for the expanded potato patch, - not a brilliant fence -just knocked together with scrap wire and scrap star poles, but its only function is to let the dogs know there is a boundary, and to give me something to attach the wind-breaks to. Our wind can play havoc with the potatoes. I've got some more Zucchini up, nothing else. (I have squash, pumpkin, melon and watermelon, and capsicums and tomatoes planted indoors) Oddly wehave some tomato volunteers. We're eating artichokes, salsify, elderly carrots, lettuce, silverbeet, beetroot, leeks, and cape gooseberries. Garlic supplies will be reduced to 'dried' soon... thank heavens harvest is not that far off.

I should go out and shoot tonight - getting a bit low on Wallaby, and at about 6 cents a kg, it's a better deal than the Dentist or Amazon give me :-) but the wind is really still very strong. It has to abate soon, the seafood stocks are getting perilously low.

Monday, October 14, 2013

towing the line

We can haz a draw bar and tow-hitch!

Now in most people's universe that is not a stellar event. But when you're trying a high level of self sufficiency, it means you have scavenged a tow hitch from the tip, and got a friend to do a spot of welding on it. It's a major step as the trailer exists, and will now go through the hoops to become street legal (which won't be quite as cheap as the tow-hitch, but will still be maybe 150 dollars - which ain't bad for something that will allow us to cart stuff around - much more easily - including the boat.) Officially this is the Zoo's carrier, but I am already planning on using it for the large supply of tree debris from the storm, a load of wood, and a load of sheep manure. Not sure if it would do a load of horse poo, or cow,(it's a very light trailer) but sheep is light.

Years ago, when we were young flat-dwellers, newly together, and Barbara's family still owned the farm in the Drakensberg from whence the family rock comes, we were industriously, every weekend and holiday, trying to fix the old place on every trip we did up there. Purchases on not very much spare cash (Yes, we have practice)of various tools and bits of kit for the farm became pretty important to us. The Robin brush-cutter with its delightful Japanenglish instructions 'If you fell your leg in a hole, place blade in earth to stop revolutions' was one of our first, and did tons of work (all of which has now returned to bramble and invasive wattle after the place was expropriated by the conservation authorities... because of the wattle :-( It's now FAR worse than it was). We asked an engineer friend what bit of kit we needed most, next. His answer was 'off-road motive power.' Something to carry big loads from A-Z. I didn't really get it, then. We had strong backs and the volumes we were dealing with and distances we were moving stuff was small. I've learned since how right he was, and how this can multiply what you can achieve. A trailer and a two wheel drive ute isn't enough, but it's a big step up on a sedan car, or your legs and back.

And we work towards bigger steps.


Sunday, October 13, 2013

Hmm. Let's see. How to put this tactfully: Wind and snotty weather continue. Artie - who used to run the airport and has weather for 40 years, and a good memory of a fair bit beyond that, says this is the coldest spring we've had. Fishing and diving do not happen. Water looks vile.

The first strawberry that I was preparing to celebrate... got nailed by a rat on the night before the day I had planned to pick it. A rat-trap is now in place, but it won't bring the strawberry back. The only one of the long list of things I have planted that is growing is 4 Zucchini plants. No watermelon, no melon, no pumpkin, no squash, no peppers.

However we are on our 3rd artichoke.

I now know what pink onion weed looks like having been employed to root it out. It's a bit embarrassing when weeding pays so much better than writing. Perhaps I have missed my metier.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

I went and had a look at Jamie's amazing bandsaw log mill yesterday, and I must say it does fill me with envy. I also got lessons in the use of a chainsaw as a construction tool (he's modifying his stable) and I think it takes more precision of eye than I have.

Today was hot and humid, and I planted out the first two planted on the kitchen windowsill zucchini. I have various other pumpkin/squash/peppers seeds in pots, but no germination yet. I'm getting a bit worried. tomatoes - we have some fruit on the overwintered plants, and start of flowers on the early red, and a lot of volunteer plants up. I'm a bit behindwith planting more maincrop ones. but we will have early salad tomtoes. I collected some scrap wire and shade cloth to try and fence another area as anothe veg patch (that will make 3 tanks, 2 gardens, and the old chicken run And a lot of 20 liter pots). The size makes up for my lack of ept (I can make 2 plants grow badly where 6 flourished wild - it's why I hate disturbing food-type volunteers. I also have an area which will be devoted to pumpkins again. I just need to go and fetch another wheelbarrow of sheep manure for it.

The wind was such that I could possibly have gone to sea today. So maybe things are improving, weatherwise.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Bipod trial

Well, I took the bipod, attached to the rifle, for a walk last night, and it was awesome. And yes, that's the right way to deal with meat... except NEXT time I will do it somewhere where the walk back with 3 wallaby and a rifle without a strap, is just a little shorter. Okay so I'd only walked 400 yards or so, stalking. But that was one big buck, perhaps 27kg, a doe of maybe 18, and red of another 8 (I wanted a small one for roasting whole - that was actually a bit bigger than I wanted. I only weigh 67kg because I'm as fat as a pig at the moment. Rock-climbers work on low mass to power ratio, and right now I could lose 4 kg and smile about it. Long winter, not enough exercise with the chainsaw and spade. So that was 20 kg short of my body weight, and I only had one hand (the other full of rifle) Long walk, with a fair number of hand-swap stops. Of course when I get maybe 25 yards form the ute, there are a bunch of 'roo just there, just come out of the bushes.

My gutting and skinning time is still stuck on 11 minutes (which is about 9 too long), but I am a lot more confident about what I am doing now, which does make it easier, anyway. I think it'll get better with practice, and I am confident that it's a nice clean piece of meat after.

I've planted some more volunteer leeks out. The leeks have been a great thing, this spring, as we're out of onions. I've cared the first two barrows of sheep poo to try and do some fertility enhancement along. And I cut some grass. And did some writing. Life... wouldn't mind getting in the water sometime, although the cray season is closed.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Fly in, die in.

A fly in, fly out flyman came to spray today. (Yes, we spray for flies, with long lasting pyrethrin. Deal. There are a lot of flies in summer, this way there are many less in and around the house. When you live here you can tell me how toxins are bad. In the meanwhile, I suggest you consider that the pollution level in most cities makes the stuff straight out of the sprayer nozzle look good, let alone our normal air. The blowlflies are a summer problem, largely due to the huge amount of dinners (aka roadkill and livestock - roadkill because we have very high numbers of wild animals, and livestock because this is an extensive farming area. Animals die, sheep get fly-struck.) You can screen most of them out, but my wife decided the kitty door could not have a flap, they would never learn to use that. So one hole, in come the blowies.

Anyway, because you're supposed to leave the windows alone for a month after I did a window-washing this morning... I think I should start offering my services, because it gives me a chance to sing George Formby songs. And besides it's work I'd gladly pay to have done, so therefore others would probably feel the same way.

And for the discovery channel - inox (spray lubricant, good for rifles) makes not a bad aerostart substitute if a small squirt is applied inside the air intake of a brush-cutter. (400 pulls later we find this out).

Thursday, October 3, 2013


Sometimes writing novels has its small rewards (other than the financial ones, which, trust me, are smaller still. I think the best part is the friends I have made through it.) I get to find out important facts such as that there really is a place called Hardegg, and another called Marchegg. Perhaps that is where the march hare come from, to go and deliver Easter eggs...

Jamie and I fixed the petrol pump a few days ago, and then of course I needed it for Barbs this morning and it was once again jammed. So I took it apart and fixed it. I think it may come under the list of 'bad buys'. It's a pity, I like having fuel out here, it avoids the need for expensive trips to town, just for fuel with the ute, and saves a bit on the fuel (about 20 cents a liter. On 200 liters that's a fair bit, and it all helps). Anyway, we'll deal with it somehow.

We've plucked and drawn a rooster that got bolshy with some friends of ours so... chicken on the menu. That's rather unusual with us. I've also got my new cheapo bipod for the rifle. It's not great, but will hopefully make a difference when I don't have a nice dead-rest. I'm not much of a great marksman. I shoot purely for the pot and have no interest in being 'sporting'. Not that I have a problem with other people being so, or spending loving hours on their firearms. You're welcome to it. For me it is a tool to do what I must. If I had a zappo-matic I could be sure of quick clean (and cheap) kills with, every time, no chance for the wallaby, I'd be a keen customer.

My first Zucchini plant has its head up. That's a relief, they're a major standby (as well as quite overwhelming at times)

At least the sun is shining today, but the wind continueth. My constructive deed for the day was taking out three small poplar trees which had decided their roots would benefit from the new veggie patch. That is going to need fencing, wind-screening, more clearing and fertilizing, but I have started planting there, basically to add a bit more potato-space.

I've grown a lot of salsify over the last season, and am actually not very good at using it. Suggestions?

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Well, we'd better have a corker of a summer because spring is being outright miserable. The wind and rain have continued nearly uninterrupted, and it is rather cold. Still, we've eaten our first artichoke for the year. Barbs says to me "It's been ages since we had an artichoke! I said yes. A year...

Friday, September 27, 2013


We had 40 year storm yesterday afternoon - had two trees and quite a few large branches come down, and the power off until 10 this morning (the Island had half an hour, Melrose road, got the long one) So this morning was largely spent in cutting up trees and fixing things. Still, we came through the lack of power without much difficulty (we have a jenny, but didn't bother) We have a gas stove, wood heater, and plenty of torches. Water we had to get by the bucket from the tank. One day, when I have a place I own, I will set up a header tank system. That doesn't seem common in Oz - everyone just has pressure pumps. They work well, but when you have no power, there's no water. Anyway, lots of firewood for next year, and lots of debris to clear up. If that's the worst, well, we got off lightly. The hanger for the Post planes blew down - they did manage to rescue the planes, but still....

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

back online

My computer is largely up and running again - of course there is still the issue of getting all the stuff off the old disk - the data appears intact, just windows that fried. I have all the writing work backed up, but there are, of course, a myriad of other things, art for book covers, photographs, some music - the music I have on CD so that's less of an issue- except for the time involved.

On other delightful news my petrol pump decide not to work anymore (we buy petrol by the drum) but otherwise, life is just a bowl of bloop-berries. So now I will have to wrestle with the makers of my hard-drive, and with the makers of the pump. Which is all just an irritating time waste. Seriously it's easy to be overwhelmed by this small stuff. To forget that the island is still the island, the garden is growing, we had asparagus from it with our tea yesterday, and the first artichoke is ready. I've also picked and hulled and turned into jam which will have to be reheated and thickened 800 grams of cape gooseberries, marking the first time in my life I've had near enough of the little paper lanterns to make jam. It's one of the best jams too. Each little berry weighs between 1 and 3 grams each, and needs to be individually picked by grovelling under the bush, and then taken out of its cape and washed. If you're a decent bloke, I'll give you wallaby or tomatoes or squid. A friend you get flathead or flake or olives or a turkey. A good friend you get abalone, or a flounder or two, garfish or a pheasant. Bacon or crayfish, you know you're up there with the chosen few I hope to have at my back if the apocalypse comes... If you ever get cape gooseberry jam, you'd better polish your halo a lot because it comes under the heading of 'you may never even be allowed to taste this unless you're up for Dave's idea of sainthood.' Sorry, but there it is :-). I think I may get 2 small jars and I'm saving them for my old age.

Writing proceedeth apace, and planting is a bit behind. And the sea is cold and unfriendly looking, about which I am glad.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

The post plane didn't make it over today - torrential rain, but we did get the new bar and blade for the chainsaw, which came the day before. Man, that is overdue good value. I just will have to ease off on cutting small stuff, because it's so fast it is dangerous. I'm still waiting on the hard-drive, and weakened a bit and bought some plastic fishies from e-bay. They're much cheaper than current favorites, so we'll give them a try, and that, along with reels, rods, dive gloves etc, are consumables. Yes, I do have a stock, but if hard times strike I can always eat plastic fish. Yes, I can catch live-bait but there is something to be said for a bait you don't need to catch and don't need need to keep fresh, and will not stink the country out if you forget to take it out of the box.

I drilled out the hinges for the cooler-shed door, and that now waits on some fairly ingenious woodwork to rehang it... and then waits on the swallows to finish with their baby and bugger off from nesting inside it before I want to close it up.

Other little steps - one of my mates said I can definitely have the 35hp outboard, as soon as he gets 50 hp sorted out... hopefully by summer the Zoo will have a viable motor (she's only got a 8hp now, and that's pretty limiting)and all the bits for the trailer are nearly ready to make it street-legal. Then if we get the tow-hitch sorted out, and the roof between the cooler shed and the future container shed sorted, I can have it under cover _and_ ready to to go, which will make diving and fishing a little more flexible. Yes, I know, I have 3 good mates with boats, another who really will sort it out by summer, another who comes over time to time, and the possibility of a spot on a few other boats occasionally, and um, no hookah (and after you've used that, it's really hard to go back to tanks) but one of those has a regular job -which means siezing the day is tricky, the other is at the mercies of the vagaries of farming which can mean that calving or lambing or marking or dipping just won't wait because the sun is out ant the water flat. Peter's tinny I don't want to take off the east coast, and besides he lets us down by buggering off to America just when we need him (Just kidding, mate. You'll be back. You'd better. And the weather has been such no one would want to go to sea.) Slowly, piece by piece we get there. it would be fun to hurtle out and buy the stuff, but, all things considered we're doing well. One of the issues about doing stuff when you can find/scavenge/make/afford is that a lot of projects hang on other projects (like my workshop hangs on being able to clear garage space, which in turn has a list of other things that need to happen first. But we get there. Compared to when we arrived on the island, we've come such a long way.)

Monday, September 16, 2013

Clay pigeon roast

Well, in the progress terms - trying to put the key code hasn't worked - yes, it is geniune, and thus I conclude some kind of hard-drive error. I can still access everything in safe mode. I just can't easily work in it, as it doesn't support the word processor drivers. Writing Data is all backed up, but of course there is a lot of other stuff - pictures, e-mails in my case, as I don't allow games on my machine. Anyway, new HD with windows installed is now en route to Flinders. Sitting ornamenting the PO is my new 18" bar and blade for the chainsaw, so we'll hopefully try that tomorrow. I'm going to resist trying it on the computer as that might be bad for the saw.

The weather continues fairly average. I'm getting to the stage of actually needing fish, and a little meat, so we need a let-up soon. Someone new to the island had said they'd like some wallaby and I shot two big bucks on friday. So they got one (gutted and skinned (but still intact and with the feet on.) I gather rather dismayed :-) The other really big one went for dog-tucker, as they're not best for people food at that stage.

I've got a very small tomato on one one of my plants. The other plants in the containers seem to be suffering from some lack, and not growing very fast. The old horse manure may be running out. I will add some chicken to it soon! I also detected the first artichoke of the season developing, and we're get a few asparagus.

We had a great barbeque up at Norman's place, and I drank far more wine than I
normally get through, and actually agreed to try shooting a clay pigeon. How do you cook them?

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Grumble. Now windows is telling me it is not geniune, and will only work in safe mode. I have had computer hassle to the back teeth

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

cutting cupboards

"I cut up furniture, I forget to eat my lunch, I go to the lava-tree... Which was more or less my day today, not so good for writing, but very good for the sawing of cupboards in two. I should have checked the insides of them for circus ladies first, but as it was an over-tall ex-hospital cupboard (from the days before chipboard - color me pleased.) with 'surgical gowns' on the outside, I wasn't expecting her in there. It's OKay she says says she's quite used to circular saws by now, and the dogs licked up most of the blood (actually the only bit of blood came from me skinning my palm moving it.) Anyway with some coarse timber-surgery, we now have one small cupboard, and one medium cupboard, and one set of drawers-low & cupboards all for $60 - which is less than some other bidder paid for one chip-board rubbish cupboard. These will still be going strong in 50 years when hers are dust. Interesting times were had (as they are mostly real hardwood not ply and chipboard) moving them into the bedroom for Barbs, as she was working at the surgery today, and I am not known for my patience, so I did it 'man aleen' as they back in the old country. And now, man, I lean. Anyway, it got done, just before the rain.

Friday, September 6, 2013


There is an auction tomorrow which I have to go to on my own, as Barbs is at the church stall at the market. I probably won't buy anything as I am terrified of auction fever (and as mean as cat's wee, too). We're looking to the future and homes and the like so the demolition proceeds from the old hospital are being sold off and I am going to have a look. Peter will be green with envy (being away), and all the my other junk-men friends will be there. I find it amusing that I've found this set of kindred spirits here. It's been, in away, much easier for me to find and make friends with similar interests - fishing, diving, shooting, growing veggies, doing our own meat, the whole self-sufficiency gig - as well friends who are much better at reviving dead bits than I am - than I ever did back in the old country. I've come to a home I never knew I had.

I must say we had one of the more fun sessions at Scottish dancing last night - two very puzzled young med students (both I think Chinese, so major culture shock) Anyway, they were good sports, got stuck in and were soon laughing and getting in a mess with the best of us. Mary (our 99 year old instructress) was AWOL with her dog being a little unwell. She did 2km in the Flinder fun walk/run challenge on Sunday, so we were all a bit more hooliganish than usual. The average age of the group is probably 60 - so it proves you don't stop being a hooligan when the teacher's away.

Barbs has come down with some nasty heel ligament thingy, which will cause her some discomfort for some time. I am still wrestling with the flu/cold. Planting is not going to plan.

But life goes on, and the island is showing little signs of spring.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

We had a somewhat iffy night thanks to a smoke alarm that kept deciding to go off. I think the battery is dying so it has been replaced. My brilliant guard dogs barked at lots of shadows, occassional farm vehicles but missed the petrol delivery truck - drove in filled my tank and left. Now we have to go and find the bloke and pay him...

I mowed today (I try and put in 1 hour of garden work a day. Not more, not less.) which played havoc with the planting, but the grass was getting out of hand. I should have left it for bait for the Wallaby, which I battled to find tonight. I have a new hand-held spot, which was quite good, but possibly too bright? I saw a lot running off. And other than that I did a lot of research into the black death and some good plotting... my life.

It is James and Alana's Wedding anniversary today, and I hope they're having a great day :-)

Saturday, August 31, 2013

I'm slowly on the mend, having been decidedly unwell for a while (and yes, getting older in the middle of it. Weird how a year can pass just in a day :-)).

We're definitely into the starving months (when spring veg aren't quite up) and I am regretting not having put more effort into my brassicas (we've always done well with brocolli. Not this year). I think by the time summer comes we're going to be very very sick of swiss chard (sliverbeet) and fennel, and for some reason, leeks. A few asparagus have been eaten, and the Artichokes plants are looking 1)fantastic 2)okay 3) a bit small 4)too small 5) too small 6)deceased (yes I have 5 plants) Still we still have frozen apple and frozen tomato and lots of dried apple, and some other fruit. And I have been getting enough Cape Gooseberry to eat off the plant. That's it for winter fruit, so that is quite relevant.

August was just generally windy and horrible - barely got to sea at all, thank heavens for shooting. We still have loads of meat, it's just fish and shellfish that are at historic lows. I have a new rechargeable yacht spotlight to try for wallaby. We're still cutting firewood - but the ground is now so boggy as to cut me off from my favorite she-oak patch - a pity it burns hotter than most

Monday, August 26, 2013

Well now, Barbs and I have somewhat ill, but I hope on the mend. Some kind of gastric flu at a guess. Thank heavens for two loos. So there hasn't been a lot of excitement unless you consider the scramble for the loo the sort of thing I ought to write about.

But tomorrow may be different :-)

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Frost and food

We had a bitter frost last night, which did the poor potatoes no good at all. I really need to get spring plants going but it's been wet and cold.

Barbs had brought home some sandwiches the ants had got to from work. I gave them to the chooks and you've never seen such a scene -- 4 sandwiches - 8 pieced of bread, and three chooks. Plenty for everyone... except what she has got MUST be better than what I've got. Each of them running off with a piece... dropping it and running after the other, and then so the third drops their piece and runs to steal the one dropped. Pieces get trampled lost, ignored, while they fight and squawk over much smaller scraps... Honestly, it's just like government in action ;-) Still they thought it was Christmas.

I sliced two of my fillets of smoked gravadlax, and froze two whole. It's just a touch salty the trout fillets were thinner than I guessed. Still, it will be delicious on fresh brown bread with a dash of black pepper for a dinner party some day. We some with a few tiny fresh asparagus spikes from the garden.

I honey glazed a large smoked leg-chop yesterday, and grilled it and sliced it up, served with slow cooked leeks and pumkin fritters and home made apple sauce it was very good (if yes, you guessed it, a trifle salty.)

Sunday, August 18, 2013

fluff brain

I have a cat - La Duchesse - that seems to have decided she has a serious pechant for gravadlax. She stands outside the fridge and meeows at it, and gets seriously upset when I take meeeolk and not meeowfish out of it. I also had my little Robin-cat go missing this afternoon, which I noticed just after I had got in with a load for firewood, and only just beating the sudden storm and lashing rain in. Now she is a fluffly beautiful kitty of not much brain... okay, she's a woos, and about as bright a sun - of a distant galaxy far far away. When she was a little kitty, they said that when you're beautiful you can be bright, but it is not necessary, and she took this to heart. She seldom goes more than twenty yards from the house, but is quite easily frightened, and not fond of extreme weather. When she's frightened - by for example a clap thunder, she runs for safety. Only because she's a rocket scientist, she doesn't always choose the right direction. So when I came in... I check the cats and dogs, and Robin was AWOL. So out in the rain and wind I went for a half hour search. Came back in, talked to Barbs on the phone, and lamented the loss of our fluff-brain...

She came out of wherever she'd been sleeping and ignoring me, about half an hour later. Informed me it was supper time. She was bone dry (which I was not) One of us was fluff brain. And it wasn't her.

Barbs will be home weather permitting. The cats will be relieved. The quality of service they've had is appalling.

Thursday, August 15, 2013


Hand slicing 8kg of bacon ishard work and makes you smell like you smoke 80 a day...
But it does taste good.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013


Hmm. How do you get blood off the carpet?

No,I haven't killed Barbs, or the cats, or dripped 'roo on it - cat killed a rat messily on the white carpet. Barbs is away in Lonnie for medical stuff (which,to our vast relief is negative, fine 100%. Sorry no will to post earlier, all is well) and then off to visit our younger two on Philip Island (what is it about Islands and the Freers?)and I am coping by eating bacon and drinking a glass of wine. As you may gather the bacon came out well.

It's raining snot and blowing misery here, and I feel rather like bouncing off walls. I was out planting onions and more brocolli in the rain earlier. I shall doubtless catch pneumonia and die to celebrate! ;-)

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

salty sausages

I have Wednesday deciding Wednesday is Wednesday cuddle night and I must chicken peck with one hand. I felt I was being a trifle rudderless at the moment,so i decided to make a to-do list. I got as far as make a to-do list on it and stuck...

Anyway,I did do some weeding, much needed, and made sausage mince...pork, garlic, thyme, salt, sundried tomatoes,sweet fortified wine and then could not find the casings, so we had sausage patties this evening. I found them a little too salty - which is a world first (I often over salt, but only in other people's opinion), so I'll add a little more meat and maybe a little a little more garlic. The vampires around here are dangerous.

I did eventually get the list complied and it involves silly things like getting the seed trays ready... and going through my seeds. Spring is creeping towards us, but on leaden feet right now.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

In all, about 40 pounds of bacon (which will reduce as it loses moisture) and about 10 pounds of gammon, 2 small hams and about 5 pounds of sausages. Oh and some words. And that's what we made today :-) Now we wait to see how it all comes out...

Sunday, August 4, 2013

In which we move towards bacon

The pig is now pork and hanging. It was quick and while she was gobbling with delight, which is the way it should be done, in my opinion. She weighed 52.5Kg. The next step is to turn as much as possible into bacon. So any good bacon making recipes will be received with thanks.

She was very fat - which is tolerable for bacon

I'm not too sure which parts of the pig can be made into bacon. I think the hind legs not, and forelegs. I don't want to do hams right now but was wondering about slicing the leg and curing that as sort gammon steaks? I have until tuesday to decide... I will probably cure the hocks and smoke them.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Well, it's another day when it is easy to understand why Flinders doesn't have the population of Guam or Barbados... for which I am very grateful. The wind is blowing off snow somewhere, and bringing flurries of rain. Of course the sheep are lambing.

I am still climbing out of this tooth thing, and I suppose post-partum depression with the next book done, and starting on the next. There are a few other stresses going on, but the less said the better. Anyway... my fiendish plot (no. 3256) for warming the house that we will eventually live in 1)insulate, 2)insulate 3)my hangi theory - which involve shutting off the typical hollow under Australian wooden houses, putting some form of heating - most likey water pipes from a hot reservoir which will heat all day around the slabs of sheet granite, which takes time to warm up during the early part of the evening but will slowly re-radiate. Good pie in the sky, anyway :-)

Monday, July 29, 2013

I had one of my back crowned molars out today, and have a very sore jaw as a result. It appears long ago there was a botched repair job, and as a result a chronic infection down between the roots, not visible on xray, because it was between the roots and hidden by the bone. I'm hoping this will have a beneficial effect on my health and energy. But right now I'm just sore. My throat is very sore too, and i feel average... (in the Australian sense) So: replies tomorrow...

Saturday, July 27, 2013

A burning question

The other plus side of life here is that, with a rural population of less than 0.2 persons per square kilometer, and the roaring 40s to clear the air of what little pollution there is, we have very clean air despite the fact that wood-burning stoves are the norm. It wold be smoggy if it were the city, but here Robert Burns 'a reekin hoose' really means a wood fire an human habitation. We're much milder of climate than Europe or even much of the US and a lot warmer in winter than Canada, or even Tasamania or New Zealand or even the southern parts of mainland Australia. You could survive indoors here with no heating at all. It would not be fun, but it's not Nebraska or Colorado or even England or Holland. -3 C outdoors early morning would be rare and exceptional, and most days raise to double figures even on bleak winter days. Summer seldom gets very hot, but winter too stays mild. The joy of living on an island in a cool ocean.

Still, a wood combustion stove makes it quite pleasant inside. And of course there is a vast, vast vast amount of dead wood (and before anyone gets sanctimonious, much of it would wet rot away here (generating methane, not good stuff), if left indefinately, or burn in the periodical fires. Of course, labour in Australia being expensive, a ute load of firewood is expensive too. I think 120 or 130 bucks. I don't know, because we cut our own, which in these days where you can buy a Chinese chainsaw (ours is not, a Husquavarna - because we tend to buy as good as we can afford and look after it and use it a long, long time - it has lasted nearly 4 years and still fine, but will need a new bar soon), for that price and if it cuts two loads of wood, you're winning, makes sense to me.

I cut a half ute load of mostly she-oak (which is hard burns long and very hot on a tank full of fuel this evening in about half an hour. Hard-ish work, but not too demanding. more or less 3-4 loads will do us from May to October.

It is of course one of the things that if I get old/injured would be difficult, so I want to make sure I have the best insulated house, and spare power - or something - for heating. Back in South Africa, when we lived in a much colder place (at 6000 feet) we put in electrical underfloor heating. That would not work here as most of the floors are wood and you can't just warm up the slab, and we'd probably be relying on solar power (looking to the future) so electrical heating gets difficult I would think. Still it was lovely underfoot, and just never let the house get that bone-cold. I have seen some that worked off hot water, and wonder if you could do something like that off solar geysers, or what other effective way there might be?

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Soylent green, not.

I was reading on a friend's post about synthetic - vat grown protein, and one of the comments went to the effect hat they'd eat the stuff, because protein was so expensive and you only got 4 pieces of chicken in some kind of ready to eat stir-fry meal.

I am sure it'd be healthy, and probably tender... and probably not much on flavor. But it did bring home to me how different our lives are from the norm. We're not, by any western standard, well-off. There are people who might say church-mice look on us as good objects for charity :-). Yet protein or food of any sort is the last and least of my worries (yes, while we learning our way around, we got pretty skinny). It's more 'well,what needs cooking the most', because even in a deep freeze things have a finite life. But we have 3 chest freezers full of food of different kinds, mostly meat, fish or shellfish, but a lot of dried fruit and veg, and cooked fruit and veg. There isn't a ready-to-eat meal in there, because we don't have that sort of money... but there is plenty of protein. And it tastes very good.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013


I mad a delicious omelette this evening - more so than usual because I found a couple of lovely field mushrooms, and it's been quite a while since we last had a mushroom. (Food in its season, unless it is preserved or frozen has one interesting effect -quite ordinary gets to be very special) So I did a mushroom, Wallaby and spring onion filling, with a dab of oyster sauce, and if they turn into the wrong mushrooms, at least they were pretty good. I have a mushroom growing kit, (which I was saving for winter) but it needs 17C - so it will have to wait.

My friend Peter came out today to collect some wallaby and his missing gumboots - and put a new quick-connect on the hookah, so hopefully I won't have it come off again - possibly in some place I can't get out of quickly.

Other than that I had 3 brown quail in the garden, and the pheasant out past the woodpile is chasing two hens around. And I wrote some more words...

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Eh, my neck is really giving me gyp this morning. Must be the lack of sticking it out. (I hopped over the fence and landed a little awkwardly. A small matter of the slipperyness of a sloppy cowpoo.)So I'm off to give myself a long soaking hot bath. And I only had one 9 months ago... ;-). We've had some very mild days and the plants (weeds especially) all think it is spring. I think they're decieving themselves. Still, grass cutting and weeding need to be done.

Saturday, July 20, 2013


Well either the small gods of accuracy or luck have favoured me the last while - I shot two fish with one spear, and two wallaby in two shots in a few minutes (I'm aiming for a head shot, almost always in profile, which is head forward, the rifle is very left-right accurate, but range does affect up-down. Basically this means either a clean miss or dead, which is the way I'd rather do it.) Maybe I should buy a lotto ticket.

We were due some foul weather, and Norm wanted some abalone and sea-urchins for his justly famed sausages, so we scooted out early on thursday. I was hoping to shoot some more sweep, but the sea conditions there were no fun (I went down to 7 metres and it was still rolling around. I had my quick-connect to the second stage regulator pop and had to do a forced ascent - fortunately I had just dropped to that depth, and if you keep calm breath out, and swim steadily seven metres is not a long way. But a new quick-connect is in order.) I had been about to give it five minutes and abandon the spot, it was getting nastier by the minute, so we ran in to a lovely sheltered bit of limestone with schools of Oldwife The picture doesn't do them full justice as they're more orange/red eyed here. Juvenile Bullseyes (they look like they still hve a yolk sack, and Mado sweep and zebrafish...

And now you understand why when people tell me "there was yellow on it and/or it had stripes - what is it?" I want to tear my hair in despair.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

The lizard

Ok so I tried to brush my hair after bathing this evening, and was confronted by real proof that man's hair should be disordered, as a little lizard dropped out of the hair-brush about three strokes in. Even the cats were gobsmacked. Good thing it was me, not Barbs or we might have needed a new window or possibly wall.

It's been a really busy week - with all sorts of developments I don't quite want to talk about yet (not bad, just not definite). Sadly not a lot of writing. I spent three days re-roofing a shed, some time taking some young uns climbing (becasue if you don't do it the sport will die) and some time at sea. Yes, I am always at sea, but this time I mean actually at sea.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

The dancer returns

Okay, I have been very slack- Barbs has been away and I've been doing nothing much but writing. Some even book-type writing... The weather has been teh miserable and windy and stormy, to the extent I was very worried when Barbs flew out on Friday, in a little single Engine plane to Devonport, for some Scottish Country Dancing. Three of the girls went, and I gather they had a whale of a time, and enjoyed sampling the chocolate there very much. We had a mob of young 'uns in for the Thursday night dancing here- 18 15 year old school-girls on a tour of the island. They had a load of fun with much shrieking and laughter, which just shows fun does not need to invovle malls or even boys. The two granddfatherly types did not count. I did end up feeling quite old... still it turned out CUTTLEFISH is in their library and the sf/fantasy readers were... as excited as young women can be (er, squeee) to find I'd written it. The one commented that she'd wondered why Flinders got such a role in it, and she'd the author must know it. I'm working on it.

Anyway, Barbs is back, and has to go in to the surgery to work tomorrow - their first day in the new building. I have a feeling chai and sympathy better be ready and waiting when it is over...

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Moves afoot

Barbs is starting the move into the new surgery building - part of hospital upgrade. I gather they're making little dolls in the architect's image and saving blunt septic needles...

Planted more garlic. I know. I'd should be out on the shortest day. But I was busy. I filled my chooks with cackling glee by feeding them cock-chafer larvae I had dug up.

On more work related news I got Peter's old computer up, got word perfect loaded and accessed by old document trove, with an eye to a few more books for the kindle. And I did some more work today... and that's about all. I did shoot a wallaby for dog tucker, but that is not a novelty any more, but a normal chore. How life changes.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

The wind through the trees

Wow, the roaring forties are roaring away tonight. The island can be beautiful and tranquil and green with limpid deep blue seas, turquoise bays and white sand... or like now. I don't think the water will be fit to dive for weeks. It's miserable, wet, and oddly not that cold. Still, winter. I pity poor sailors on a night like tonight.

I had occasion to get into Fairy-the-pig's pen today to replace some of the rocks she'd moved. I won't be doing that again, or not without a minder and a solid pole. She's 50kg at least I rekon much less skittish and that is her turf and she's quite keen on tasting you. Well, one day the boot will be on the other foot. I got some pork from Norm today, one of his he's killed.

Planted some artichoke plants courtesy of a friend, they're looking a little frail, but we can hope. I have 4 established, but about 50 is a good number. Like asparagus, you can't have too much.

Otherwise today I spent most of the day indoors and glad to be.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Chicken on the Barbie

My darling wife was persauded into bringing home someone's pet rooster. As the elderly former owner was all torn up about him becoming coq au vin, arroz con pollo or even just plain old roast, he was kept seperate and in the old hen-coop (now the garlic and onion plantation) while negotiations to find a new home continued. We'd just found him the place where all good chickens go (not the pot, his name was Annie, not Jonathan Segal Chicken) and all he had to do was overnight and behave himself. Alas this too much of challenge, and he flew the coop... to roost (not roast) on that last relic of my South African heritage, the stainless steel braai (aka Barbie, the things you throw chimps onto) just outside Barbs study window. He was just sitting there (the H is silent) and crowing about his vast cleverness when I got up about half five - still rather dark.

I was not impressed, by the crowing or about his... sitting spot. In haste I left the house. (in the interest of public decency... well actually because there is no public for 2km around, cold, I had a pair of jeans on, a polar fleece and my slippers.) I grabbed a landing net and a handful of grain. By the time I got half way there the stupidness of doing this in slippers had come home to me - the grass was wet with a heavy dew. Cocky fellow eyes my approach net behind my back with trepidation and half open wings. So I hold out the handful of grain. Huh. He takes a peck. This not his morning bread! and leaps off onto the woodpile and bounds away across the garden, me in hot (well, actually cold and wet) pursuit.

He led me a merry dance, much encouraged by the pig (where is my breakfast! If you have to disturb me WHERE IS MY BREAKFAST and the dogs (still in my office, snoring until the comotion passed by. I managed to net the fowl fiend with a lucky scoop, transfer him to a cat-cage (from whence he was released to spoiling and three lovely young hens) and go in to lament my sodden slippers and not too dry self, let loose the hounds - who felt very deprived and feed the dratted pig before it flew the pen too. That would take more than a mere landing net.

We had our Scottish dance instructress's 99th birthday dance on Thursday night. Not a lot of people are still dancing at 99. Quite a shindig. She made us all dance.

I went off to catch snapper yesterday morning - no snapper (although the cats got cat fish, and we got a flathead) and limped home with the outboard being funny... nervy stuff.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

The frailty

I am a guy who likes to be doing stuff. I don't sit still well (so, logically I write) Maybe because as a kid I was just too sickly a lot of very early years to do much at all. I got better... and my body has never quite managed to be as tough as I'd like it, but life was for living, and yeah, skin and bone heal... roll on 50 and your body says ow! quite a lot, but I have lived, and done and experienced. And anyway this morning i got a pointed reminder that it doesn't help to live the cautious life. I'd been out since five, after wallaby, returned safe and sound from that, bounces, bounding over electric fences, bush and its obstacles and dangers, using dangerous tools... etc. and then I walked briskly to feed the pig - across the neatly trimmed lawn, and looking at the pig on her hind feet, had the most horrible fall I've had for ten years, putting my foot into a hole I knew was there and coming down really hard (and my helpful dogs rushed to my aid and started wolfing down pig-food while I lay there groaning. Pig was not pleased). I am now extremely sore, and my back, neck and forearm are cursing me. So is my head, and I feel really shaken up - from silly fall in my own garden.

Anyway, it just goes to show. You may as well go to sea, climb cliffs, go diving. At least when you break your neck in your own garden - or getting out of bed, you'll have lived a little first. Still, being sore does bring home just how much of the self-sufficiency stuff falls to my lot. Barbs does her bit, but it tends towards the less unusual. So I better try stay alive or who will get the tucker?

Going to take a pill and go to bed.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

underwater resistance training

Hmm. Well one of the reasons I have been having sore throats and feeling distinctly lack-lustre and getting low grade temps is now clear. A back left molar, long crowned and in theory root canalled but neatly hidden by bone on most xrays wasn't quite done properly, has been leaking gunge, and will have to come out... next month. It doesn't hurt or anything, but I am sure it is not doing me any good either. Oh well, onward.

Yesterday's dive was no more crayfish successful, but I did try the new spear gun and shot three sea-sweep around the 1kg mark, and bring home some abalone.
I was utterly exhausted partly I think from the cold - it was 13.3 c on the surface, and at ten metres you hit a thermocline with the water dropping off suddenly to 12. My 'winter suit' is 7mm long-john and a seperate 7mm hooded top, and is one of the Ab diver's cast offs. it was suspiciously new as a cast off - I think because it is very very stiff, and just a tiny bit tight for me (and I think my shoulders are slightly smaller than his)so moving - and breathing - are just a a constant effort. When you add ? 12 kg of lead weights and the drag of the air hose in the current - and swimming or trying to pull off abs, and in the shallow water where I am slightly positively bouyant, trying to stay down, and about 4 hours in the water, it's not that surprising that the old man feels his age by the time he gets home. Still I am sure all that cold water is good for something. Impure thoughts or something.

We had our first bulb-fennel for the winter tonight. I am still frantically trying to find places to plant garlic (and garlic bulbils) although it should be in by now. What is in is growing well. We had another nibble of frost last night and it finally got to the sweet-potato. I dug it up, but no sweet potatoes. I think it was just too cool.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Well, here's hoping the dive tomorrow is more successful than yesterday. The end of the Spiny Lobster season looms and I would dearly like a few more of them. The shortest day is past for us, and now the cold starts. it doesn't make a lot of sense but that is the way the East Australian current affects us - our seasons are a few months late. The moon is huge tonight, BTW. If you get a chance have a look.

Yesterday's dive took out to Inner sister Island off the North end of Flinders. We went around the back (north side) but it was far too rough - we had a maybe 3 metre wave try and peak on us, where the current and swell ran counter. A bit too interesting. Then we went to other side - the water was turbid, even where we found shelter - so we ran across to Flinders, along the Palana shore, where it was quieter and marginally cleaner. Marginally. I did have some interesting moments collecting abalone at the tail end of an enormous ray, who was doing a 'you can't see me' in the sand. I would have gone elsewhere, but those where the only decent size abalone I'd found and no crayfish, bar one small one. I didn't want a Steve Irwin event. There were also a school of dolphin that came idling through - straight over my friend Norm. He didn't notice! I saw the tail-fin first out of the corner of my eye and it frightened me out of a year's growth because I thought it was a shark. I also saw a shoal of salmon coming past at speed - perhaps the result of the dolphin.