Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Yellow hose spaghetti and other delights

Last day of the female spiny lobster season here, and Norm, Peter and I went out off Patriarch's inlet. We're diving on a hookah, (our second dive 'on our own' with this set-up) which takes the time and getting stuck stress off to some extent. The limestone area we looked in first must have a 100 000 caves (and I do not exaggurate) or more like pieces of sheet rock with the layer below eroded - mostly extending ten-twenty feet- 8-10 inches high, and you can see through. The weed is dense, and I have a feeling luck not that skill plays a large part in finding let alone catching crays, because they're not abundant there. I did find two, neither reachable. We then moved to a second area, in granite country, and were instantly more lucky, just off the anchor rope. I hit on a bunch, got Norm in one side, and myself the other - and they had no place to go. I took out 8 and Norman 1 but his was a nice big one. It was very like the diving back in the old country, and quite different to my experiences here. Sadly it was more like SA in other respects too, because I had to release 7 (2 right there I could see they were way too small, the others on the surface, where they were a millimetre too small. Literally just. I did find another better one, and so I did have two keepers. Still it was a lovely dive with shoals of huge boarfish eyeing us out and several big morwong, and a skate the size of half the boat, his sting raised. There cat-sharks and shoals of little yellow striped mado perch and of course wrasse and the leatherjackets - the yellow hexagon patterened ones doing 'you can't see me I'm weed' and the big blue semi-circular ones, saying try me, I'm tough. Starfish, featherstars, urchins sponges, corals... and Norm and I swimming fairly close - it was boulder country, big caves, dropping to 11 metres, and up to 5, and a bit wary making - besides we'd had such success at wrestling the crays together, it was pleasant. In a 3 D world you loop over and round your companion and your air hose trails back to the boat. And somehow we'd both swum around the anchor rope -in opposite directions. And under the boat... in opposite directions. The result as you can imagine was air-hose spaghetti, with two divers. All it needed was an Italian Shark with a fork.

Anyway, we got untangled, came home, and have had something I have not had since leaving SA - a cray that was small enough to grill properly, with garlic butter and home made bread and a glass of Oyster Bay Sauv Blanc.

Work can wait 'til morning...

Sunday, April 28, 2013

The island BigMac

We have a McDondald's on the island. Mind you the food produced is by invitation only, and I'm not rightly sure it's ever produced a burger. It does do pizza.

It's a McDonalds patent incinerator.

It has been adapted into the the most magnifient pizza oven, with fire-clay tiles into a pizza oven.

It's a bigger Mac than any mainland mac. And I daresay we have golden arches somewhere...

We had some folk who have bought a farm which doesn't quite abut on the place we live on, but close enough to call them neighbors. 'New' settlers - been here for a few months and are still rather bewilderd by island ways. They had seen a TLB in the field and wanted to ask who it belong to, so came to call. I think they were rather taken aback by being given garlic, and olives and sundried tomatoes and apples, abalone. Well, they'll adapt. I always feel we have so much. Even big macs.:-)

Saturday, April 27, 2013

The vanishing water

The last mystery was the lack of bore water for the loo - which proved to be a stuffed pressure pump. Enquiring minds should perhaps have asked WHY it was stuffed, because on being replaced, we found ourselves waterless again within 24 hours. This time I found the holding tank was dry, and although the floatswitch was telling the submersible pump to pump, dammit, that wasn't... As the bore was near dry. (it's quite a slow flow, there is a much better one two paddocks over at the diesel-operated fire pump. It's only about 4 metres deep - water is close here.) The submersible pump has another switch that was saying, 'bad idea' don't pump'.

I thought we were out of water - But the fire-pump is on the same line and can fill our 40 000 litre holding tank, which would probably cover a few bad curry's worth of 'loo flushing. And hopefully we'll get more rain...

It turns out...

A pipe had broken at the fire pump, and the pressure pump had pumped all of the holding tank there, filling that bore-well to the brim. And our bore has now filled nicely, now that it's not pouring water down the other.

And the second pressure pump has survived the experience.

But for those planning on self-sufficiency - if possible, use gravity. It doesn't break down much.

Having packed the dryer away for winter, we've just got a huge box of granny smith type apples. Oh well, it can be unpacked.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

The roast pig

Lest we forget...

We got up at 5.15 this morning to be at the Anzac day dawn service at the cenotaph at Emita, to hear the last post and stand in silent remembrance for fallen soldiers as the cloud-tattered morning brings light to Marshall Bay, surely one the most beautiful and peaceful places on God's earth. I find it cathartic, to remember there some of the things I've been trying not think about too much for near on thirty years.

I have much to be thankful for.

And this particular Anzac day was one that dawned with very little sleep. We'd had a a long promised dinner party the night before. It was something of a feast.

We started with a cold beetroot consomme, served with little buckwheat pancakes filled with shiitake mushrooms, sundried tomatoes, and slivers of cape barren goose breast, sauted in butter. We then ate spiny lobster, and slices of our very own watermelon. Tiny and cool and sweet it actually went very well with the lobster.

We then had a grapefruit gin sorbet with mint, and then

Roast sucking pig, and parsnips, roast potatoes, baby roasted onions, roasted garlic, a stuffed pumpkin filled with tomato, garlic sping onions, biltong. The big was stuffed with a base of almond and chick-pea meal with eggs to bind, with red capsicums, more salty biltong, some chestnuts, silverbeet leaves, and dried apple. Salsa verde and nice bottle of red wine.

We had chocolate based Pecan nut pie and hoeyed cream for dessert...

Which sounds like a hell of a meal but as 95% of it came out of the sea or garden or was given to us - when you figure on that being a feast for 9 people, and I figure it cost us about $30, I don't think I was too profligate.

We've got a little list of people I figure we owe dinners, but I don't think I can do this more than once every few months... it takes time.

However in a sense of justice - the bore water system (which is what the loo runs off) packed in and I spent some wet time fixing with Norm. And now, with it blowing snot out of your ears if you face into the wind, and raining, I will have to go and fight with it again. Ah well. Country life has its price too.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Greed and pots of gold.

Abalone, sweep, wrasse, leatherjacket sea urchins, crayfish. And a bootie. Catch of the day...

Went for a dive today, and while finding crayfish was not easy, I did eventually spot one. He was in a never-reach-him hole. I speared a small sea sweep, and breaking his neck, put the fish just in the mouth of the gap on the end of the spear to see if greed overcame common sense, holding my spear with my left hand and lying on my right side in the narrow gap. - there must have been 8 inches in front of me. The cray was of a size where I would have had to measure, but it looked around legal - about two pounds. Not vast but in a blank day, anything is good. He was steadily coming out and I was very slowly pulling the spear away, when I reaised that... I had company. Company cheerfully heading for the 8 inch gap between my shoulder and the rock, intent on getting that fish befor the other crayfish did. A BIG cray - eight and half pounds - 3.8 kg. All I had to do was drop the spear (falls slowly in the water) and grab him with my left hand - which I did. He did get my thumb with his feeding claws, but I got him. Letting greed over-ride caution is not always a good thing. Not for humans, or crayfish.

You can see the size of the feeding claw in the pictures - a lot bigger than my hand, let alone thumb.

And when I cam out we got a double rainbow (if you click on the pictures they go full size), the top one sadly is not that clear in the picture. But there are two pots of gold out there.

Be greedy to want both especially as well as the cray.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

mud, rain

I hung out washing today, so inevitably it has rained on-and-off all day. Tomorrow morning the weather is going to be shall we say 'ordinary' but we'd organised to dive with our Doctor (got to keep him happy, we need a good doctor here). Unfortunately he's gone over to the dark side and been seduced (tones of disgust) into going surfing, by a promise that the conditions will be extra special tomorrow - we're going to the other side of the island, where I hope they're not, because Norm was not keen on cancelling. It's our first session with the hookah (we've both used them - but with other people driving the system, with their hookahs, and their second stages. This is Norman's fist session alone with the setup and the boat, and mine too.) so we're starting very shallow.

Barbs had fun today playing with the mud... clay. Yes clay. Prissy me feels he'd get his hands awefully dirty (yes I was a fish farmer, and I have been liberally coated in blood, mud, slime etc. while gardening, fixing pipes, and diving or cutting up wallaby, but that's DIFFERENT. I really am long-fingernail girly about about some things. I can do them but I don't enjoy the idea. Odd, but then I am. I gather some people did great stuff but her jug did not work.

I've been - with Tania my web-guru wrestling with Davefreer.com in the hope of selling more books today. And other than that, not a lot of wood got cut. I'll blame the rain, that's what I'll do.

Friday, April 19, 2013

The Forlorn etc

We had the mobile tower - where we get our internet signal from here, beyond the black stump - go down yesterday after our wild disappation - killing and cleaning a small piggy, and then Scottish dancing. I am planning on doing a roast sucking pig (my neighbor had an excess of piglets.), which will be a challenge for me, and my oven. Today's adventures did not iclude more work on the shed roof as the wind was howling like a demented banshee. Instead I followed up on quilly's garlic bulbil advice and planted 4 rows of them as well as carrots, beets, broccoli and parsnips. I also put the firs 20 cloves of garlic in... I know it is late for brocolli etc. the trouble is I hate rooting out the tomatoes while they're stll bearing.

I finished going through THE FORLORN - the first book I had published back in 1999 - which was something I had submitted to Baen in 1997, and had finished a couple of years earlier and tried all manner of UK publishers. I'm not generally very polite aboutthe publishing industry, but the US industry is a lot nicer mannered and behaved than the UK. I only started with the UK because in South Africa that was where most of our books (even by US writers) came from, and I didn't know any better - no internet, no idea of the world I was trying to get into. The rights to the Forlrn have now reverted to me, and it is odd reading something by a much younger and very different person. I almost feel I knew the author.

Tomorrow Barbs is going to try her hand at pottery. I think I'll stick to chainsaw art of the cut wood kind.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

On the wisdom of being a packrat.

Sometimes there is something to be said for being a packrat. It can provide all sort of things... like hayfever. And the original ending to THE FORLORN, and my maps for it, which I'll be working on tomorrow. That too will be heading for Amazon.

We were out of dog-tucker, and I went out and shot two wallaby this evening. My shooting is getting better I conclude. Either that or the wallaby are committing sympathy hari-kiri, which seems a trifle unlikely. I ran out of torch battey and came home, as my original aim was to get four. The gutting and skinning also went well. I really must try sharpening the knives in advance more often - seriously, this time I was waiting for a call, so I spentthe time sharpening my knives, and it really really makes life a lot easier if they are shaving sharp - not that I am planning to try it.

I did a little work on the little house on the prairie roof today. The corrugated iron I am using for the roof is a bit bent, buckled and holey, but it was entirely free. The whole thing so far has cost me time, and in the end I hope I'll have at least an insulated shed for a slaughter/processing/ hanging room - and in a pinch a dry container for storage.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

I looked at the news this morning. There can be no excuse for the attack on the Boston Road race. No squirms, no wiggles, no caveats. Those who did this can celebrate the fact that they've brought themselves and their cause to whole new low, and with the sort of people who believe in terrorism that's an 'achievement'. gah. Filth.

Was enormously relieved to hear some gallows from a good friend and runner.

My thoughts and prayers with all those hurt and especially with the families of those killed.

Love your friends and family, your dogs and your cats. I took the dogs out for a bit of a walk, spoiled the cats a bit, missed my children, family and friends and was tremendouly grateful they were still around to be seen, talked to, appreciated, hopefully soon.

Other than that I wrestled with the Gimp - looking at a cover for The Forlorn (and some other books beyond, and tried to work out just how the hades to set up SAVE THE DRAGONS for download on Wordpress. I really couldn't focus on writing, and was very pleased when friends dropped in and talked about fishing.

Monday, April 15, 2013

A mankind witch finally... and things which go hiss in the grass

Yay... success at last.

We've had interesting moments to our day, today... I came home from paying about-bloody-time-you-got-here call to Peter and Helen, and a why-the-hell-are-you-leaving call to Mark and Belinda. (Yes I know. Circumstances dictate, and all that sort of thing. Still I'm glad to see friends arrive and sad to see friends go. And typically the airport has 14 people in it, and you are good friends with 9, know two at least by name, and wonder who the hell the other three are. Oh, one of them is me. Well, I guess I have met him before, even if I try to avoid him as much as possible. That's not your typical airport experience, anywhere else...

Anyway I got home and my doggses were alternating between barking eagerly at dad and barking at something else in the grass. Wednesday particularly was doing that little forward and back dart at something that is rearing up at her... See Dave pile out of the car, open gate while yelling for the dogs to come OUT. I ran in, shut them out, and set off after the meter and half long snake. Because if I get bitten, the state pays, if the dogs get bitten, I do, _if_ they live. I was just encouraging it to leave, really. And that's all that happened because it did. But it's certainly an animal that here, on the island, if they want to protect, legislators - not me - should carry the costs. Sooner or later a child is going to get bitten on a remote farm and die, let alone the dogs and horses and other livestock that get bitten, and snakes are not rare out here. Roll on winter!

Anyway, it is cooling fast, and we had a hearty meal of roo sauce with sundried tomato and olives and capsicum and garlic, with chili on our chinese noodles, thereby crossing at least 4 culinary boundaries. I promise the snake and kidley pie planned for tomorrow has no kids or even snakes in its innards :-)

Sunday, April 14, 2013

On securities and insecurities and food.

Well, after a lot of paintaking slogging - much of which was due to sheer ignorance and stupidity, I FINALLY got A Mankind Witch uploaded to Amazon. It is still 'In Review'. I priced it so I will get $4 a copy, which is a lot more than I got for it as webscription book - Amazon pay 70% less a 'delivery fee' (for an e-book?) whereas I was getting 20%. Once it is 'live' I will put the link up here and elsewhere.

I've - thanks Reverence Pavane - got the e-book version of SAVE THE DRAGONS to wrestle with putting up on davefreer.com.

Then it is just THE FORLORN to re-master, and I'm back to new work. That's a bit more complex as there is a cover that needs doing.

And then it is back to writing, as I have deadlines, and work I am trying to do outside the traditional publishing framework, to 1)make self-sufficiency and living off the land easier and less of a hobson's choice. A bit of capital to expend would help a lot. Simple stuff like buying netting for the garden, etc. 2)To make me less subject to their idiosycracies and choice of directions (where someone having a bad day for reasons which have nothing to do with you, at say the publisher, distributor or major retailer can wreck your career (or a good day, make it) and it is all out of your control and there is nothing much you can do about it. That is SO not me. I don't mind paying for my own incompetance or laziness, but I really hate having no control. 3)A few extra strings for my basket or eggs in several bows or something like that. I'm worried about traditional publishing, and about my future in it.

In the meanwhile winter creeps towards us on chilly feet - nice weather at the moment, but I need to cut wood soon, and get my winter planting done. All else that was constructive done today was a little batch of apple tarts which we ate...
Self-sufficiency: the secret is NOT hand to mouth :-). I normally am pretty good about thinking ahead, and doing multiple meals. But the future for us is such uncertain country: we're not too sure of anything, from book sales to where we will live long term (yes, on the island, but more detail, no) or on what. And what we have been sure of, we're usually wrong about. I thought our diet would be 90% marine, with meat as a very rare treat. Crayfish (spiny lobster) would be common, lamb or pork almost never. Rice, veggies, shellfish would be the standby. I have just been offered another pig. We have 3 chest freezers - the biggest is near full of meat. We have lamb, beef, pork, wallaby, turkey, goose breasts, chicken, pheasant, muttonbirds... no duck, but that's because I haven't got there. The fish freezer is the least full, and crayfish are the exception, not the bulk. We eat far more meat than we ever did back in South Africa. I suppose I am compensating for the other insecurities with massive food security, seeing as most of it cost some time and labour and otherwise very little but being in the right place at the right time and being part of the island's odd barter 'gifting' system. I keep feeling I ought to be giving more. People here are good to us.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Let's all go to P...p...

...p..pumpkin patch.

For a guy who doesn't even really like pumpkin... this is an alarming thing.

Oh well, I daresay they will be tradeable, and I do make pumpkin fritters and roast pumpkin is acceptable.

I had two glorious dwan pictures this AM but my computer is fighting with Nikon, so I can only transfer via the SD card - and obviously that wasn't in right, so perhaps somewhere on the innards of the camera in whatever miniscule memory it has are two stuning pics. Went muttonbirding again with Norm - no I don't want any more but it's a lot easier with an extra bloke on the boat. The sea was glassy - unlike it is likely to be now, as the wind is blowing.

I've got the cover art ready to go for my e-book of A Mankind Witch. There are obviously severe limits to my budget, so original art is right out. But I am quite pleased with this. It's certainly no worse than original cover.

Which should be up on Amazon by the end of tomorrow.

And I have also planted a lot of kikuyu runners in the laneway next door to the house, which had been badly dried and eroded by the passage of many sheep and blowing a lot of dust into the house. I've got a spray on them and hopefully they'll get going and make a nice green place just outside the fence for wallaby and pheasants and tukeys...

Or I could plant pumpkins

Friday, April 12, 2013

On diving, and me with my mouth open

I am feeling somewhat better, well enough to take a friend's grandkids for a snorkel in Port Davies - the water clarity there is rather average, although it is spectacular among the limestone Bhommies near cave beach. Still we saw quite a few fish, which was the point of the exercise. Our friend came in with us, which, as she has grandkids of I would guess, 11 ish, says it's never to late to give it a go. It's great entertainment for me, as she -and the granddaughter (genetics in action) get terribly excited and talk without taking the snorkel out of their mouths, or face out of the water. Almost non-stop at one stage - it was very entertaining to listen to.

At one stage while I was getting people into wetsuits, I said something about having caught my first crayfish at about the older child's age... and was asked 'what is a crayfish?' I assumed this was lost in translation, and said 'oh. Spiny lobster'
And got... 'What's that?"
Me gaping. Looking like a half-drowned fish. They're cosmopolitan (if city) kids. I am sure they can make mobile phones dance the mazurka. But... well, I guess it reminded me all over again, how fortunate I am, and how fortunate in my upbringing. I am sure I, and my kids, would have known what crayfish/spiny lobster were by the time I was three and pointing at picture books, because they just were there. They weren't a treat. I preferred sausages. I still can't really have anything but an inimical relationship with my mobile. But I do know which end of a cray spikes and which runs away...

Anyway, other than that I have one last bit of coding to do on AMW so I'd better do it.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Today was a not very productive writing/working on the e-books day, with visitors in the morning and writers circle in the afternoon, and visiting friends for pizza this evening, and roo-dodging home. Still, I did make a very nice date loaf with spelt flour, and derived a lot of entertainment from the various action tales.

We both seem to be suffering from the bug, but it is probably some other mozzie borne thing, courtesy of Africa not malaria.

So: ever onward and upward.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013


Ok for some reason Blogger will only work in Internet Explorer. It gives me a load of fetid dingoes kidneys about cookies in firefox and google chrome which I am not using, or even thinking of - which makes as much sense to me as an emu on acid, as any changes are changes they've made, not me. I am fairly sick of blogger anyway, it's just too much effort right now to migrate.

I've been a bit off colour myself, not up to fighting with the monstrosity that is computerese right now, and have also gone to be leeched (they took 40 ml of blood). We're still waiting on Barbs Malaria tests. The blood-letting obviously did her good, as she is feeling a bit better.

To add to my computer joys I've been trying to prepare A MANKIND WITCH as an e-book, and paying for my sins. Research is bad, and so is using the right Norse spellings. Seriously, I think an experienced person could get this into HTML and .mobi pretty quickly, but for me it's been too many months since I last struggled through it. I CAN go from word, but the results really are quite average.

We had a weird day yesterday with the island eerie with smoke - from somewhere else. We didn't have much wind... and we got thick smog. I couldn't even see the end of far field 2km away. Today it seems to have mostly gone, but, yuck. Not like our wonderful air at all. Mostly it has come over thousands of miles of empty ocean to us.

Anyway, hopefully tomorrow will be better...

Friday, April 5, 2013

For some reason Blogger is now fighting with firefox and I've been too tired to wrestle my way in here.
I've finished the short I had to do, Barbs has finished the edits. She's feeling very unwell and our doctor has taken lots of blood. His theory atm is malaria courtesy of Zimababwe. I have my doubts, but neither of us are too well. Ah well. Onwards

Tuesday, April 2, 2013


We did our annual muttonbird trip yesterday (yes I know, the season is goes on for a while, but we have enough. I'm a great believer in variety, and they do provide that.) It's not a particularly pleasant job, but at least I make it quick and clean, and ecologically speaking its the sensible way of doing it. It's very much what the islanders have done for centuries, and it was certainly how the early one - and the other predators (snakes you can find down the holes when you reach down them) depend on to get them through the cold season. The natural mortality is quite high anyway, or we'd be neck deep in sharp beaked sea-birds. The locals have a great belief in the oil's health benefits, and I keep planning to try it, but it is very smelly stuff.