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.