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.