Wednesday, February 27, 2013

of Chicken's feet and other mysteries.

Saturday night saw us going to a nice italian lace which has the rare distinction of being quiet enough to talk - a good thing because we met two friends there, Friends we'd first had lunch with back when Barbs and I were still fearful and new in Hobart, and nice to have them there for our boy and daughter as they fearful and new set out exploring the bigger world of Oz. James and his wife are going to travel around exploring Australia, picking fruit, doing that sort of thing, deciding if and where they want to live here. So: if you have any recommendations - this is their blog - It's Freer on the Road.

Sunday saw us taking the metro rail into town to the inner city. It is, as cities are, a place where, having seen that when you crowd rats they go mad and exhibit all manner of abnormal behaviour, we try it on humans. And lo... it works. The trains are beautiful, but I'm all for catching brats who think it 'clever' and impressive to rip up seats and graffiti silly things on windows with tile knives and use marker pens on the train... a scrubbing brush to clean it off and a good caning. Yes. I know. Barbaric etc. Much better that society should continue to nurture these parasites (because that is what they are - they put nothing in, and cost us) because the poor little darlings still need to grow into nice citizens beating up people, glassing folk in pubs and generally adding value to the world. I'm sure they grow into exemplary fathers.

Anyway, we had gone in to have 'Yum Cha' which is the Chinese equivalent of the Monty Python man who explodes with the last mint thin. There were a myriad of large bite size pieces to sample, some of which were excellent, and some, such as the chicken's feet, an acquired taste. The texture is quite odd. Must be the toe jam. Still, despite the chicken's feet -which i can now say I have tried, a very worthwhile way of exploring some more unusual Chinese food.

Monday saw a great but very hot and exhausting day of packing, and we moved from 1/3 to 3/4. The fine art of getting stuck in corners and packing yourself in was explored in great detail, as well the art of 3 D tetris, and the Australian Matrushka doll equivalent - which does not involve dolls or similar items within similar items, but is a lot inside something which in turn is inside something else.

Tuesday -after a hot, sticky night, saw rain. Lots of it. While this was good for the temperature it wasn't good for packing. Still, a fair amount of other run-around done, and a little packing. I'd say 9/10 now, but the last part always takes longer. Unfortunately, it also seems to have given me a raging cold/flu and temperature, so I spent a fair amount of last night alternately shivering or sweating.

And today... I go home. :-) I can't wait. Helen and Peter have been very kind, great entertainment, fed me, driven me and James and Alana around... but this is not my place. I want space, I want my dogs and cats, and I want Barbs.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

The heat, the saleing, and the kids new car

Melbourne bakes. It's my worst kind of weather, my brain leaks out under my armpits. We've been out sailing - er saleing with Capt'n Peter to garage sales, racing around the bouys or balloons at least, from sale to sale. I have a few small treasures - a couple of splitting wedges, a new block splitter, some extra-large plastic bowls, which have lid. This is always good for self-sufficiency, and also for putting under my armpits for catching the leaking brain. I've got a couple of nice stainless tables in the container for the butchering so various bits to help with living off the land add in. You couldn't really do that here, unless you ate people and had tarmac on ground concrete bread, with lawn salad. I suppose there must be a reason for all of these folk to live and work here, and I am glad they all want to. It frees up more space for the likes of us. And this is, as suburbs go, a pleasant one. Anyway then we went to used car place james had looked up - which employed motor-mouth MacNasty and her sidekick Dodgy O'thicke. It was a depressing experience, looking like very old and very like a 10 ton truck to drive and very un-airconditioned. Just perfect for outback Australia in summer... Then we went to another which claims to be the largest, and the kids found 3 possibles. Fortunately we had Peter with us, as my auto experience usually would see us sold a pup among 30 gret deals. The first one was decidely mechanically unsound, but honestly other than needing the wheels aligned the next seemed too good to be true, and affordable. They've bought it, and it goes in to get its roadworthy on monday. So hopefully it will be fine, despite Peter's freudian slip of remembering all car salesmen's names as 'con'.

Friday, February 22, 2013

reporting in from Melbourne

James and Alana arrived safely last night, and I have been in a hot container a lot of the last two days. After considerable research I can conclude with a high level of confidence: Melbourne has more people than Flinders. Actually I think this street has more people than Flinders Island, and a lot more cars. I've done besides some packing and looking at all the people some stocking up on drums of cooking oil. I believe it is a very popular drink among arctic explorers and after Melbourne Flinders will seem like the Arctic. It's been extremely hot and populated heavy things needing to be crammed into odd corners.

Anyway, onwards. Posting may be erratic.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Alas, poor little blue rod, I knew you well

So I have cleaned the gutters in preparation for the rain - well, it was raining slightly at the time, but all that did was make the roof treacherous. I don't think we saw 2 mm. I have a huge batch of tomatoes drying, and things beginning to take shape for being away - I've cooked a lot of meals and frozen them, and made a double batch of rolls. Yes, Barbs can cook, well, sort of. But if she comes home tired with the all the other stuff to do too, at least there are microwave meals. Ready meals for one, Island style.

I went for dive this afternoon, and left my weight-belt at home. So I made do with rocks. Rocks are bigger and much less effective than weights, and getting to 5 abs was quite an achievement. I've got a waist bag, and I had one up inside my wetsuit, and the waistbag like a big sea-anchor... not one of your great successes, but still I did get some abalone, by dint of hard swimming and holding on to the bottom. I also shot a leather-jacket, which bit me, while I was carefully avoiding the dorsal spine...

Barbs had arranged to show the med students how to catch squid, and so I went into town and down to the jetty. While I was squidding, I set up the little blue rod with a bait on the little red alvey... I thought on almost zero drag in a deep crack in a pole... Next thing I saw it catapult into the deep, splat, and swim off. No, I did not jump in after it.

Anyway, we did get five squid.

I am going to shower now... probably have the next disaster...

Sunday, February 17, 2013

A morning that began badly...

Now, because Wednesday the black Labrador has a happy habit of barking at wallaby, wombats, rats, night birds, shadows, her own imagination (and will sleep cheerfully through people arriving. That's not at night when humans are asleep, so there is not much point) I shut them into my study at night, where they have a bed and sofa to quibble over, as well as do cushions. So for 6 or 7 hours a night they are confined. I am a deep sleeper... for around 2 hours, after which a mouse fart at 200 paces will wake me, which means I have got up to let them out often enough. Unfortunately one of them decided - after having had access to the shed it is in for ?6 months, to pull out the bag of blood-and-bone (a form of fertilizer) and eat some. No one let me know they were not sleeping the sleep of the plump elderly Labrador... The gastric effects that greeted me this morning were not pretty and smelled worse. Both of the rat-bags seemed OK which is more than I can say for the bouquet in my study. Fortunately no harm done to the floor.

I've been drying yet more prune-plums today. The drier is wearing a look of desperate exhaustion, and I have more gifted apples and more tomatoes to try and do before Wednesday. Listen I paid $50 for that dryer and I'm nothing if not mean... I want my pound of flesh, dried so that about 5 pounds wet... Seriously, this is harvest time for most folk, and we're very much part of the informal 'barter' - which is more a constant exchange of gifts of produce, or the products thereof, or a hand when you need one. No one keeps score, and in some cases it definitely flows more one way than the other. If this gets chronic - and there is no reason (if you're old, or sick or poor or new they cut a lot of slack) - then, well, the person quietly gets left out. So, as we're on the getting side of the fruit, I assume either people feel sorry for us or appreciate what we put in. We are on the 'weird' side as much of what we consider very special, is odd locally - Biltong, our olives, and boerwors. And, generally, we don't have a lot of garden spare that isn't being saved for winter, that everyone else doesn't have by the bucket (yes, some does go out - this year with water restrictions in Whitemark, I've given away zucchini that I've been asked for. Normally people run away if they see you with one.) Still, it does seem produce always has some flops (last year I had not many tomatoes, and very few carrots, feeble beets but loads of cucumbers and loads of eggs. This year, very few cucumbers (which as I need the little ones for gerkins for green sauce is serious - we have been given a bottle to my relief), eggs are right down, and I have lots of tomatoes, and good carrots (need to plant more) and wonderful beets, tons of spring onions, reasonable potatoes, feeble sweetcorn and almost no real onions. However fish, abalone and butchered out wallaby are generally something we have a bit extra of, and occasionally there's a crayfish to make someone's day.

We're not fanatical about it, but we try to live on what we grow and catch - and this is why the seasonality of things makes such a difference. What I don't preserve now, we won't be eating in Winter and Autumn.

It puts a whole new slant on life, and on getting on with people.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

A few days

Life ran away with me for the last few days - not only has the book finally been trotting if not galloping, I'm off to Melbourne for a few days next week, to help a friend pack up, and that took some organizing, and the summer produce has started arriving en masse. I've dreied more apple, nectarines, prune-plums, and of course, tomato. The dryer has worked non-stop and I've got about 5kg more tomatoes to go in. Some will have to be preserved in other ways. And we had Scottish dancing on Thursday night, with more than 20 people - a bunch of cyclists over for a week's tour, and everyone had brought a friend or two. It turned into something of a romp, with strip the willow leaving quite a lot of people very dizzy.
Then we had board games evening last night. I tell you, we are wild to dissipation here on the island.
Barbs has re-mutated our Zimbabwe cold. I fed it chili instead, which has so far worked. Anyway I went to help her prepare the holiday house (one of her various jobs) and cleaned windows and did a lot of ironing. I didn't appreciate the the training the SA military gave me, but I do now.
And now to slice more tomato.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Drying the summer produce

I did some work on the shed roof this morning, some work on the book, and then went off to writer's circle - my monthly outing.

I was a little early so drove on:

and down to yet another perfect secret little cove.

I've come back with some nectarines, and so with apples, nectarines, and lots more tomatoes the dryer is working overtime.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Well, I made over 200 pancakes today, and curiously enough, the savory chili wallaby was the most popular filling. I also took two young med students up for their first dive so not a lot work got done. Ah well, all good things. They speared some fish and were given a couple of abalone for their tea. And we raised more than 800 dollars for the fire disaster fund - some good soul put a huge amount anonymously in an envelope in the collection tin.

We had cape barren goose breast - a gift from the big shoot with oyster sauce for tea.

Monday, February 11, 2013

A great night for flounder... but...

I really battled to go to sleep after my gutting last night, (obviously gone past 'tired' into second wind, and was still awake at 2.30, and up at 6.00). Which is a PITA because I battle to sleep when it is light, and so I was dull reed today writing, and tonight it is lovely and still, and I to go for flounder. Just after midnight... and I did not put fuel in the ute today, so might have enough to get to Whitemark, but nothing spare for a jaunt, let alone needing some sleep, sometime. The sea looks lovely tomorrow, but I am making pancakes for the Shrove Tuesday pancake making at the CWA rooms in Whitemark... the little Anglican church is doing it as a fundraiser for the bushfires, and last year I ended up as el pancake honcho. To celebrate this I am doing a chili wallaby filling as well as the savory mince. Barbs is making a cake right now, as the CWA are doing the catering for a funeral, just after the pancakes. Barbs is full day at the surgery tomorrow, and will have two med students there. Poor souls they have been told part of the island is community activities, and community activities include Scottish dancing on Thursday night. If you're here, you get roped in :-)


I'm supposed to go and shoot some wallaby tonight, so I'm doing the blog hastily and have nothing much to say after yesterday.

hmm. Having eaten tea, and then found it was now too late to do that early... I have now shot and gutted and skinned four wallaby, it is midnight, I will be up at 6 AM... bed time. I have learned two things about the process. 1) A well sighted rifle helps a lot. 2)A sharp knife makes the process much easier. I still have a lot to learn, but it is getting easier, and maybe a little faster.

And now, to bed.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

twice round my world, the conspiracy that wasn't

I had been volunteered to help to fix a leak in a caravan roof up at Palana today, so we went up there... well after a short detour into the grate metropolis of Whitemark. James needed me to do a stat. dec. telling the Australian Immigration authorities he was indeed my son, and I had known him from the very moment his little foot poked out into the world, and that yes, I know his wife, he really is married, and the relationship is genuine. Fair enough, I guess, but we needed a witness from a list of categories, and Whitemark was the nearest supply.

So after that, we went up to Palana, worked on the roof, and then went to NE river estuary - about as far North as the island goes.

On one of my surviving 'soft and oily' minnows - soft plastic fish, I caught one and then another of these silver trevally in 1 kg range - about twice the size I had caught before. I lost the first salmon, and the minnow. I then proceeded to lose 4 more salmon. So my vanity well patted by the trevally was put firmly in place. We met two Ukranian fishermen sitting waiting for their lift and took them back to Palana boat ramp, where their friend was anxiously waiting for the other half of the party to come back from sea - as he couldn't take the ute and fetch them, as it was needed for recovering the boat. All made much more entertaining by my friend the island copper, who was waiting to inspect the crays... and watching (convinced he was onto a great international conspiracy) the friend frantically trying to phone. He assumed the guy was trying to contact the bad people on the boat to warn them. Actually , as he gave up phoning and went to sit and chat with the other two while I talked to the cop (as I had gone to ask him to witness the stat dec), I think he had actually been trying to raise either the boat to find out if he had time to fetch his mates, or his mates to tell them that they hadn't been forgotten forever. Alas, another mystery doomed to pedestrian failure. I knew who was skippering the boat - and if he'd had his ute there (not using the one the Ukranian visitor was driving), the policeman would have known he is paranoidly careful about measuring and marking, and probably not waited...

So then we had muttonbirds for lunch (people are finishing their stocks) and drove home. I then went off to the South end of the island to take the RIB Norman - one of my dive partners, has been lent the use of, for a test drive with his partner and daughter - who have never done any boating. It was an easy exercise, because Norm has superior trailer reversing skillz. The little one just reveled in the trip.

So in one day we did the length of the island and the breadth twice. And then we came home and had grilled trevally fillets, marianated with some olive oil, garlic, tassie pepper and fennel, with garfen salad and home cured olives, and chips made with tatties out of the garden.

It's a good place to live.

Friday, February 8, 2013

drying, chips, nets

Today I did some work on the shed purlins and next time I have any stupid ideas like this remind me what 'summer' means. Oh well, done now. I also put my first tomatoes in the dehydrator. Maybe I put a bit much garlic on them... There ares some beetroot in now, with no garlic. I wanted beetroot chips but suspect these will be too thick. No worries, there is lots more beetroot. Quilly's beetroot and egg pickle next, except I'm down to one laying chook. Replacement will have to happen, but later.

I've been looking at the cost of making a beach seine net. It's not cheap - probably 300 dollars or so starting from scratch (I have the rope and the net weights already, so we're looking at the floats - about 50 dollars and netting - which varies a lot in price depending on the type. And then the cord... and my labour - which per se I won't bill myself for, but still needs to actually happen. The problem is I have no real idea how much use it will be, and how hard it will be to use - I have only used much bigger nets, multi-filament fine-mesh ones which take a good few people to pull. I'm guessing the 50 meter one - legal size for my permit will be relatively ineffectual, but also quite easy for say 4 people. Still means getting 4 able bodied people to haul, and a canoe or small boat to lay it, at night, preferably. Seines are fascinating to an ichthyologist, and - if you use fine mesh knotless nets and a bunt left in water, relatively gentle on the catch, meaning anything you don't want can be returned with minimal damage. Hand hauling also means the net 'pauses' allowing any fish smaller than the mesh to escape easily (I disapprove of mechacanical rapid hauls because they catch some very tiny fish.) If it was over to me I would also limit the weight of the bottom line. On sand-surf beaches an ordinary net does nothing the sea doesn't to the bottom, and only to a tiny patch. But with really heavy weights - only practical with mechanical hauls)

Thursday, February 7, 2013

On the depth of ratholes

I decided I had been lethargic enough for long enough about rats down in the onion patch - I've been reluctant to use poison because apparently it will affect my cats and dogs if they eat it or the rats. I'm not big on poison anyway. Traps I am similarly not fond of unless they're the dispatch immediately or catch live kind, and I should have got some of those. The ones I've got are fine for mice, but too small for rats. The soil isn't fertile there, and I have enough other area, so I'd sort of ignored it. The snake issue decided that it was no longer an option, so I decided to fully dig up the rat burrow. The snake I was sure would be long gone, but I had a bucket with lid on standby and a long aluminum pole, and boots and jeans, just in case. I had dug up part of the hole anyway, and surely it couldn't be much longer.

Yeah. Three meters and 45 cm down I knew this was just the doorway to ratdom-under- Nangetty. The tunnel was basically a spade wide, 3 inches high. (the entrance about 2 inches by 2 - and just getting deeper. It was hard digging under gum roots. So I put the hose in, and turned it on. It's water from the well - which is groundwater taken from 40 yards away, so it is just returning it to source... And I waited. It just kept running in. and in. 40 minutes and it never filled.

Traps I guess.

We're getting a reasonable amount of tomatoes at last - not quite enough to freeze, or dry but too much for salad. The birds are a nuisance, but the netted tank is doing well.

I went out on foot last night with a torch and the .22 and shot enough wallaby - 1 - for a month of dog-tucker. It's wonderful to be able to do this. The dogs think so too, as they had fresh roo tail. I do miss my Old English terribly still, and these pictures in my morning newspaper trawl had me sniffling on my keyboard.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Close encounters

Ok I have learned two things today.

1)get rid of rats, they eat your crops and attract snakes
2)wear boots. Even in midsummer.

I just quickly dashed out to get a spring onion or three for the potato salad, and to grill with the ribs I was cooking. Barefoot, because I was in the kitchen. The pregnant part has a few problems, but I damn near had a conniption on the spot when I had a tiger snake slither past my heel, brushing against it (I had stepped over the snake, I assume). I thought it was a dog's nose and sort of kicked back because they're not allowed in the onion garden. It slithered off my heel and I realized that was no dog nose, and found myself some distance away by levitation, saying perhaps slightly unladylike things. I'm allowed to.

I returned with a spade... to dig up the rat hole. Yes really I was only intent on removing the rats. I have a hole the size of Kimberly in the back yard. No snake.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Ok, I am back from sea very late and very tired. I'll post tomorrow. It was rough and we only got two crayfish.

Sunday, February 3, 2013


As part of my quest to get to doing stuff instead of wheelspinning, I wrote the list, which is obviously a pinocchio's nose, and a lie and a deception, by the way it keeps growing.

I have done the first two things (nasty paperwork) on it. I also helped Barbs clean windows and iron pillowslips (yes I iron well, learned in the army. Pillowslips should be easy. These are 'orrible.) for the holiday house she cleans. The iron there is a massive steam iron with a separate water tank and steam is piped to the iron. I have never seen the like. It seemed to work well. And I've got things in motion for the cover to my own Amazon version of A MANKIND WITCH.

I am also finally getting to use the the dehydrator I bought to celebrate the last time I got paid (it was on a special, and I have always rather fancied one. Never found a good one at a garage sale or the like) Apple rings - windfalls from Arthur's tree - are now dehydrating. I've done this by guess so any 'how to'will be appreciated for the second round. I am hoping to do tomatoes too. Alas, no other fruit.

In between this not a lot of writing got done.

Win some. Lose some. :-)

Saturday, February 2, 2013

On the delights of Zimbabwe

Nothing quite like a country that is broker than you are. :-)

List and flute

Went to a garage sale I had high hopes of - old farm being sold - therefore lots of things useful to a bloke. Alas, it was mostly household stuff. Still,a nice little life-jacket for one of my friend's kids, and a collection of footrot flats books, and... um, a flute.

This is pure stupidity. I cannot play the flute. I am as musical as a brick. It could have been worse. There was a violin too.

I've decided to make a list of constructive things that need to be done. A lot of it has just been on hold for the absence of a few essential items: 1)money (I love publishing, really. They're just unreliable and pay very badly and often late. This actually doesn't help them or me, but of those two, I am the only one to see this.),2) time (which you really don't make good use of when stressing about the former point -and I do do a fair amount), inspiration (not easy when you're downhearted about (1). Anyway, at least in theory I have _some_ of the money they owe coming in, and I plan to put more work up as kindle/ Smashwords this year. That doesn't at this stage make me much, but it's reliable, predicable, and I get 70% of sales I can count, within 3 months. Not 6%- or maybe even 10% possibly years later.

Anyway, first item on the list is a list...

Learning to play the flute isn't on it.