Monday, November 10, 2014

More dive pictures...

As the dive compressor is on the way from Three Rivers, Mi. (and is now stuck on its adventurous tour of the US in Louisville. There must be a lot for a hooka to see and do in Louisville because it seems to be staying there... I managed to snip some more dive pictures from Manny's videos. clicking on the pictures makes them full size.

A rare encounter - a crayfish in a relatively open place.

A boarfish decided to inspect the diver.


It does not want to fit...

and the fish find this fascinating

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Diving pics

A reader/friend was talking about diving on Facebook, and it occurred to me I still have copies of Manny's go-pro dive pics. Not sure if I can post the video, but I will post some of the stills here. Sadly the stills are not as color-vivid as they should be. It was pretty average diving conditions - I have been into much better.

dive boat off Whitemark

diver rising

diving into the kelp

magpie perch


what we were looking for.

Friday, October 31, 2014


I knew the levels of absent-mindendness had reached an all time high when I skewered some sun-dried tomato and cheese on a tooth-pick (I always some minor form of tapa with the vast daily alcohol consumption (pre-tea liquer glass of sherry) - usually a handful of olives or some asparagus or a slice of smoked sausage, a few cray legs, or fried oysters. They come off the land for free, and I enjoy doing it.) and I had appreciative sip of the toothpick jar and put the lid of said jar on my glass. Ah well. Winter is creeping away on leaden feet, and we're heading into the more adventurous time of year (when the water isn't quite so cold). Barbs and I have had lousy end to winter - her being sick, and me less so, but I have done my shoulder in - a sort of weird rotator cuff injury that is driving me nuts. It aches, and doesn't like me putting my arm above my head to sleep. Guess what... that's how I sleep...

I've been -at glacial pace, working on a bunch of projects, most of which were under time/expensive bit needed halt. (I use the money I get via Smashwords for this sort of spend. It's outside the budget, extra. It's also not usually very much! Anyway, Stardogs helped a bit there, and carefully calculated purchases happened, and I'm now waiting with bated (not baited - I usually managed to go half a day without eating that.) breath for the bits. The resin for LED flounder lights has got here, and James is hopefully embedding those. They should run off a couple of smoke-alarm batteries, for a long time. As the motor-bike battery we use, usually has a fairly finite life, and is heavy too, I look forward to this - if we get a few windless nights.

The outboard project - I have an elderly Evinrude 35 which Bill gave us after his miraculous tip find (Someone emptied out a garage of recently deceased old guy, and there was a 50 attached to the transom of a boat with a rotten floor... the boat was a wreck, but the motor, though old in years, had only been used thrice. Now I have a little 9 HP on the Zoo, not really enough to get her up (she's rated for up to 50 - but that's WAY too much). A 35 is a slight overkill, but should be very fuel efficient. Only... it's forward control - not suited for blow-up boats. So I ordered a tiller control for that model from a outboard scrappy... only the forward control is a different config. So we're a few steps back. The spare fuel tank and hose have been bought, and I'm goingto rig it up in a drum of water to test it. Doubtless disasters will ensue. The trailer to get the boat to to the water easily without needing the big bad wolf (to go huff-puff) -and the towing wherewithal edge forward too - I've drilled the holes in the hitch, put bolts through (it is welded, but welding is not good enough), bought and put a safety chain on. Cut the arches for mud-guards, and the supports for same. James and I put on the tow-light fitting onto the blue slug. Alas the blue slug has a buggered rear light - and while the trailer might pass, that would cause trouble. So a new light has been ordered with the Smashwords money.

More sausage skins have been ordered - the wallaby+pork fat sausages worked very well. No you cannot place sausage orders. I thought I had a wallaby in the garden last night (Wednesday woke me, barking. Like sleep is so un-valuable to me right now, anyway.), and was gallumphing around in my undies and gumboots
and a rifle (honest, it's fashionable out here) - but the silly moo was barking at a sheep in the laneway outside the fence, which by some stroke of luck I figured were wooly before I shot one of them. Might have the sheepish cries of alarm at seeing an Australian thus undressed that saved them. I've ordered a swivel for the rifle so I can put a strap on it - make carrying and walking easier, if the wallaby won't come to me.

My other extravagance has been another hose-pipe, seeing as fire season is creeping towards us as sure as summer. And in the meanwhile I could water veggies with it (we have two, but they're both too short to actually cover the entire house.

Work continueth on the getting ready for the container which will make me a workshop, and the roof between it and the other container, a place for the boat and ute, and nets, longlines etc.

Other than that, the only news is that CHANGELING'S ISLAND - the contemporary YA with some fantasy elements that I set here has sold to Baen. I'm in the final stages of putting up my cosy whodunnit Joy Cometh with the Mourning - which is a fundraiser for the church that'll bury me, money well spent, and just sorting the cover for Paddvissie - which is MG coming of age story. And I'm working on the next Bolg tale - which includes what I suspect will be my two favorite ever sentences... "It all began with living the dream. Waking your bank-manager at dawn, with intent to do GBH."

Saturday, September 20, 2014

No sleet, or snow - the end of the world as we know it.

The world will probably end today. They're tagging lambs, and it is not rain, sleet, howling gales and utter misery for man and beast (yes, this has been true in the last few days of the tagging. We had 'splushy ice' landing on the window the day before yesterday. Snow I think, lumped and melting. Just a delight to the hands trying to hold that lamb.) But today is glorious. Something must be seriously wrong. James is working with them, and it's the sort of experience any young geek should get a bit of. In most cases I suspect that would hasten them back to their air-conditioned cubicle and make very sure they never ever left it again, but at least they'd know where their food came from, and what sweat and hard conditions are a part of seeing it is there.

Pig killing is due tomorrow, so bacon will be being made. Starvation (or at least the end of the bacon) is averted...

I've been prepping the area for the container that Peter is kindly giving me, that will be my workshop. 12 concrete blocks have been collected from the tip. Actually... a lot of concret was collected from the tip. I went scavenge crazy. It happens to the best us. I carried off all that lovely garbage, triumphal in my gung ho tip looting. I'd have taken more, only the poor ute was sagging. There are now old paver step where hitherto there was a need for that thing I do not have - AKA long legs (no not money, or readers. Those are other I do not have :-)). I must say the workshop will be a vast relief to all, especially me, and Barbs, if it'll keep the nets and rods and spears and lights and spades and... and... out there. It'll need roofing, but I have some scavenged tin for that.

Barbs has had man-flu. Yes, we're an odd family. I despite the beard am not very prone to man-flu. I'm not up to it and settle for being slighty snuffly and grumpy and continue much as normal (because the grumpy part is normal anyway). Barbara gets flattened by it. Anyway, she's a bit better today, which is good.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

A shark by the tail.

I've been going through a rough patch, trying to do too much in too little time, flat out like a lizard drinking finishing a book and feeling flat as a pancake as a result - added to a lowgrade bug that just won't quite let me get better. I've decided on a diet and more exercise... Actually maybe I'll just stay feeling like a 'verlepe blaar', as it doesn't involve either. Seriously, I am making an effort to pull myself toward myself, although grate adventures have been a little occasional lately. Maintenance - feeding the pigs, and the chooks, and Barbs, and sort of trying not to kill more plants than usual in the garden is quite dull to write about, mostly.

Of course it wouldn't be me without the occasional drama. The long lining trip with Bill and James which produced a seven-giller wider than Bill's little boat. It was seriously unimpressed with being caught. Even sharks have their dignity. Bill wanted it (I don't really eat flake if I can avoid it.) So I got his rather insignificant gaff into the mouth, and was contemplating my next move. Bill decided to stab it in the brain, him not being an Ichthyologist and thus not knowing a shark's brain is smaller than a politician's ethics gland, and harder to hit than a budget target. The shark was not impressed. It wasn't affected much either. James decided that he'd tenderize the entire head with a longline weight...

That did get through. It threshed like fury and straightened out the gaff hook, and pulled the hook out of its mouth. It is however somewhat stunned. My bright child grabs it by the tail. I suppose I should be happy it wasn't the head. Some delicate discussion ensues about a rope to attach to the tail - James wants to use longline (which breaking all the rules of common sense has sever snoods still attached - snoods come OFF before they come into the boat -so no-one can get hooked and pulled overboard if a big shark takes it. I want the bow-line so it can't upset the boat or hook anyone. Temporarily we tie off the longline and then attach it to tail, and I cut hastily through the spine. Just my favorite pastime leaning over the side, cutting through shark-hide ten inches behind the mouth. disaster did not ensue. Future reference a handy rope and bigger gaff...

Next we will tell you of the inaugural sinking.
A friend has acquired a really beautiful boat - bigger than his historical experience with tinnies - and in that gap in my experience too - between Chuck-chuckies (inboard diesels) and the small Zodiacs/ tinnies I am familiar with. Bit posh for the likes of me. I've been to sea in a few posh boats, but more as a supercargo, than someone skippering or being crew. He had it brought across on the ferry, so he was dying to put it in the water, so last Saturday I agreed to go on the 'maiden voyage' even if I look more like the bearded lady. Now he was in the relay team in the pub-to-pub, and so we had a late launch -always tricky at Whitemark - where the water is shallow and five minutes faffing can leave you spending three or four hours waiting for the tide.
So we rush down... and yes, we check the bungs. Both of us. I am in waders... far too much preparation. Boat comes off beautifully, my mate, parks the ute... I am standing in the water having pushed it into slightly deeper water at the end of the jetty - he runs down... and "there's water coming in to the boat!"
I hastily haul it onto the sand next to the slip. And there is water welling up from under a floor-panel - a fish-well (a new thing to me) and when he opened it up it came up in a most entertaining fountain... if it is not your new boat. Now, the boat is not going to sink - not until the tide come in, anyway. And lo, there is new bung rising in east, well, floating around in the wet... Now I have already knelt down and got water in my waders checking the bungs(the water is just over knee deep and no waves. I am not going to drown (and I have a life-jacket on, a good thing with waders) But the purpose of waders is to keep the wet cold outside, not have it inside. Expressing myself in my normal ladylike fashion, I remove waders and the partly dry shirt, and we try this new game that I gather is very popular in certain circles I do not frequent, called 'find the bunghole by feel'

It just ain't there. By this stage my mate is in daks and we are doing some diving, getting salt in your eyes. So bright spark here gets in the boat - about 8 inches of water sloshing a few inches short of the electrics... a pushes his fingers down the hole. The hull is not that thick, and the hole is quite close to the edge, methinks. And stick-out bits have to be easier to find than obscure bung-holes... At which point I realize there are threads on the inside. Now bungs don't go in from the inside. Water pressure seals them... except this one did. So we baled out the boat, and then, as it was slightly lighter managed to push it off the sand before the tide left us high and dry.

And water comes up from the next floor-panel forward...
Agh! Another bunghole and fountain
And now there is no bung to be found. My finger is too small, and I'm not a little Dutch boy. In desperation my mate unscrews a water sprayer fitting - which mostly fits. Only water coming through the spray nozzle hole - It'll slow the water down, but not stop it... it's time to cut our loses and get the boat out. So I hold the boat and the trailer is brought down. And handbrake on, and I get some winching help... only um we're winching the ute down, as much as the boat up. A foot on the brake stopped that, and we hauled her out. I jumped up... and found the floating bung spinning toward the bunghole. Another screw in from the inside bung with it's inlet hidden in the hollow keel. (it has a hollow keel which fills with water when you stand still and drains when you go up on the plane.)

It says a lot for our collective determination and also stupidity, that wet clothes and all we put the boat back in the water, managed to get it just into just deep enough to push it out (tide retreating fast.) and took her to sea.

It was a cold, wet,(the sun was shining and it was not raining, but I was cold and wet) and once we got out further, bumpy day, with a huge current running making getting sinkers down very difficult. There were 3 other boats out, and the one caught one fish, and the other, 6. We got 16, not bad for blow ins on an inaugural sinking. They were all huge flathead in the 50 cm + size. But I need bigger sinkers!

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Crossposting a Countdown...

will be on a countdown special - discounted from $4.99 to 99 cents at 8 AM Amazon time (I think that's Seattle) and increasing in one cent increments over the next four days. Get it now while it is cheap!

Two Rats Bats and Vats stories (a novella, and a novellete) another great 'Pirates of the future' story and some others

Cheap as chips

Saturday, July 5, 2014

The family billabong, seats five.

I had to call and order a coolibah tree, just after I gave my mate Bill a ring to find if he'd lost a bong. If you knew Bill, you'd also know this is not plausible, but none-the-less I had a billabong on the back lawn. We'd had the jolly jumbucks a few days ago. With the joys of mobile 'phones someone had called Norm to say a couple of sheep were out in the road - he was away, so he called me to ask to ask if I'd have a look. So Barbs and I had had a merry half hour playing chase the pair of pregnant ewes out of the road and into a paddock - without stressing them into doing what stressed preggers sheep normally do - drop dread or at the very least fall over and do good imitations of dead. Some of them are so good at it, they have well-trained troupes of bowflies, who come and mourn. Anyway, these particular ones did not drop dead, but by the time I'd finished with them I thought I was going to. Barbs was drove up past them and then was walking back, mushing them along, and I had the job of turning them at the gate into the laneway. Great in theory, in practice involved sheep. I understand why my Scots ancestors ate sheep. They taste good and that way you don't have to try and keep them alive. The first one managed to run straight past the laneway gate and I stopped her with a sprint and dive, grabbing handfuls of wool. That jolly swagman was a tough bloke, as he obviously had more skills at getting sheep in his tuckerbag than I had at turning it around. Brute force and ignorance worked only as long as I was holding it. The moment I let go it was all for getting past me, and not stopping this side of the sea, because that terrifying person Barbara had chased it baaaaaaaa ack there, as it plaintively informed me. By now it had a bloody nose and a bulging vulva, looked like I was going to get a lesson in animal obstetrics right there...

And it's buddy, that she'd been sneaking up the road with so they could go to Lamaze classes in Whitemark... galloped past me her - and me, with nary a backward bleat. Yeah, that's sheep for you. Today you're my bestie, but in ten minutes time I leave to try to follow - or at least rejoin, some other herd. I let go of the first, and dashed at the second -- too slow, and then dived frantically back to the first sheep, who had decided to turn and follow its faithless friend. So there I was with one sheep. Barbs went back and fetched the car - the ute was still visiting Bailey's for a prolonged holiday (yes, the blue slug likes expensive holidays)and drove past the sheep and headed it back... only she wasn't going anywhere near that bearded monster clinging to her darling friend, and dived through the electric fence to join another flock of sheep. Electro-stimulus did not bring on instant lambing, more I cannot say, as I was too busy trying to shove/haul lift this one the ten yards to gate. And she had fall downs. Anything but the gate... nooo nooo not the gate! I'm trying to be as firm-but-gentle as possible as the sheep is about 2 sheep wide, triplets I reckon (only big twins, it turned out). Needless to say, when I got it there, there was a miraculous recovery and the sheep headed straight out the far gate 300 meters away(where, needless to say, it didn't ought to go.) Yes, sheep. If Australia was going to live off something's back, could they have picked on something brighter, and more co-operative? Like a budgie, maybe. So I had to get past it, and bring it back resisting all the way, by which stage the idea of 'one day I want to keep a couple of sheep was getting a real dose of pragmatism injected into it.

Anyway, back to the billabong. The farm has improved its pumps so the pressure in farm supply (which is rather dodgy looking stuff, but it is better than Whitemark's water, which isn't saying much. Only when you improve the pressure in the old pipes... they pop (which the blue slug just celebrated our adventure in radiator fitting with.) Water was gently seeping up to the surface and forming a rather attractive little lake, which would probably look good with the Coolibah tree, next to the drowned house. So I got digging. I assumed a popped pipe join. Now almost every time I've dug up poly-pipe farm plumbing, it has been a case of making a bad situation worse, because you always either miss the pipe (water can track a long way underground) or chop a far bigger hole in it. And turning our water here off... is shall we say an adventure. The farm is quite old, and there are myriad pipes, taps and mysteries, as every time something went wrong there'd be a new put in, easier than finding and fixing the old. I have no idea where this pipe goes, or if it is vital or historical. So hands-and-knees, I dug as gently as an archaeologist with my hands and a plastic cup. I found a pipe. Only it wasn't that one. Frantic bailing the hole and water is still welling up from below, and faster now I have taken the earth away. So I kept digging. I found it just short of shoulder depth, but alas... there didn't seem to be a join. Just a fold or nick in the pipe that had burst. Which would mean not only digging the hole much bigger, but cutting the pipe, cutting a little piece out, and then putting a join in. I did mention that turning it off was unlikely... and it was raining and blowing snot out of ears too (to prove the basic laws of plumbing more robust than the laws of physics. Basic law of plumbing: the chance of your getting soaked to skin is inversely proportional to how pleasant that would be.)

In a desperate attempt to at least stop the high-pressure spray hitting me in the face while I dug the hole big enough to do the job... I put a fat cable-tie around it. Pulled it tight with a pair of pliers and went to fetch the spade.

I came back and the hole was dry.

Yep. Dry. I'd bailed it down to fiddle in the cable tie... and now, if there was any leakage, it was so little that the porosity of the ex-beach sand that is the local soil was taking it away... so I used the spade to fill in the now dry billabong, cancelled the order for the coolibah, and went to rest on my laurels. This sort of luck doesn't happen too often!

Thursday, June 26, 2014

No Appointment Necessary

My career (or rather, my beard's career) as a movie star. (No Appointments Necessary) playlist select No Appointments Necessary

Budge up, Arnie (sorry, not very good at movie stars. He's the only one I can think of. And even when I have shaved it off, my beard always says 'Ay'll be baaaack')

In the meanwhile the Barnes and Noble, Smashwords, Kobo, Apple etc etc version of Stardogs are now up.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

We are Australian!

Thank you all, especially the 10% of the Island's population who came to sing with us and for us. For people who have been here a mere four years, that's a lot of friends we've found.

This is home. We came here determined to make it that, and to fit in to Australia, and the island (which we think is, of course, the best place on earth, but we are biased). It has been remarkably easy. Thank you all for making it that, and for accepting us.

You are ours, and we are yours.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

The hysterical hole

The hysterical hole was in the floor (not 'Perishers' style in the roof- but water was still coming through it). I have been charging admission to look at it. Well, I should have been as I could have made good money with the stream of visitors swallowed into its maw...

After dinner (TEA -as of this afternoon)on Saturday night (at which we had entertained our dentist and kids with green Thai pipi soup (with pipis AKA clams, not pipi as I believe you only get that in best Michelin starred establishments. We're not in that class) Pork laced with sage and mango, with salsify and parsnips, and chocolate based pecan-nut pie.) I entered the small room of the porcelain throne of much-musing to make it physically possible to lie down without too much groaning, and was greeted by the cheery sound of spraying water. Now usually this noise does not come -in this particular room, or anywhere else, from UNDER the floor.

In the next hour or so I learned a number of valuable things which, being a generous soul I shall pass on, free, gratis and for nothing. 1)Gate-valves long unused become gate valves long unusable. 2)The dark and long grass can hide holes for the unwary. 3)When building your dream house... make sure there IS a way underneath it to the plumbing (no there isn't here. I spent some time crawling around the crawlspace in the dark. It goes under the new half of the house, not the old half, where the loo-plumbing resides. 4)try to choose warm summer nights for your attempts to disconnect pipes. Cold showers are never much fun, but in the salubrious zephyrs of Flinders Island in midwinter, being wet to the skin is guaranteed to send impure thoughts into hibernation for months, besides making teeth into castanet equivalents.

I did find a tap, finally to turn off... it was 200 yards from the house, in the laneway-paddock.

Which is why the next day we ended up sans a throne for the day, and the next with a builder and a hole in the floor (as the alternative would be the wall, and honestly I was not keen on cutting holes in either. Not my wall or floor.)

The leak - a result of 50 year old connections and the increase in pressure with the new pump - was quick enough to fix. unfortunately the floor had to wait to the next day.

I only fell into it once during the night, which is pretty good really.

Through all of this I have been wrestling with Stardogs - getting it up on Smashwords (which means Barnes and Ignoble, Apple and Kobo etc. My word. They want to make it a challenge for people like me. I'm busy with the print version with Createspace. If I go mad and gnow my own leg off, you know it was all for you paper readers...

This afternoon we're going to become Australian citizens. I am practicing the national anthem as I type, and an influx of despairing, fleeing seagulls are already reaching New Zealand. Everyone has been so kind explaining it to us. I quite understand the bit about stripping off all your clothes to rid yourself of old evil influences... but do we really need to wear our new undies on our heads for three weeks to protect ourselves from drop-bears, until we smell real Australians and are safe? I've had pointy hat on for 4 years. Couldn't I just go on with that?

Seriously: Be happy with us, please.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Sausage and bacon, and Stardogs

So I am peacefully at my desk in the pallid hours of pre-dawn, wrestling with the intricacies of HTML (we are not friends) getting Stardogs
ready. Relief in the shape of a tinkling telephone is seized with unseemly haste. "Yes, what time do you want to go," I say before the other has managed to get a word out. I don't need a lot of leading astray, do I? This haste has its downsides. Last time was some bloke from the Red Cross. But this time it is Norm... but he doesn't want to go diving. "What sex is your pig?" he asks.

Really. The sort of personal questions people ask me at 6.30 AM. "I haven't got a pig. And I don't really care what sex the pig I haven't got is."

"You weren't home last night. I put one in your sty. I want to bring a second, but the same sex."

"Oh. Well, I'll go and have a look call you back."

Now there is a fine art to sexing piglets. It's not like sexing chicks which is arcane and involves strange invocations. It just involves looking at the undercarriage of the pig. A process, which if the pig will simply stand still and allow to you to look at the nether underquarters is not painful, life-threatening or even vastly undignified. If the piglet is going run wee wee wee squeaking and shrieking the moment it sees you, and hiding its nether end in the straw in the piggyhouse, and leaving for other parts when you crawl in there... it is all of those things. And noisy sweaty chase and fraught with... well, wee wee wee...

Sausage is a boy. So is his brother, Bacon. They both put their heads and entire forequarters into the pig-feeding drum and you can examine this fact to your heart's content and your ears assault (they fight over who is getting most. VERY noisily. They eat like... pigs. That's it pigs. Male pigs. Boaring their way in).

The two little pigs have a house of corrugated iron. Very Australian :-).

Stardogs - my first adult independent new release as an e-book (paper will follow. It all takes a little time) is finally up on Amazon. Given a small period of the non-intervention of Finagle, Murphy and all my normal disasters, Smashwords will be next, followed by Createspace. I'm hoping this model - which brings me a far far larger share of what you pay for that book 70% instead of 20% will help to pay for life's little essentials. I mean self-sufficiency is all very well, but you see what happens when I don't get coffee? And if readers are good enough to the coffee deprived to buy via the icon... I get another few percent of the purchase price from Amazon. It doesn't cost you any more.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

After coffee.

Some days life is out to get you. Some days it isn't. Today was going to be a day of steady work on book type things. I have to wrestle with Createspace for paper copies of Stardogs to be available. And last time I fought Createspace it won. I did appeal to the referee and fight judges but they said it was an unassailable unanimous point decision, and a knockout, and it had chopped off all my limbs. I did try yelling "come back, I'll bite you to death" but to no avail. I think it is deaf. But as the blue slug is at the workshop, and it has my strong spotlight in it, and I needed some more wallaby I'd gone out at dusk on Friday, and got one, and need two... Now Friday plainly WAS my day. I was hunting my favorite fence-line (between two fields. It has broken sections of windbreak along it, meaning I can get quite close. I'm a mean man, and hate wasting bullets, or missing. The chance of my causing injury rather than an immediate dead wallaby are very slim, as I only do head shots. If I miss, its as good as a mile most of the time.) There were very few out, but I had shot one. Now I could walk a long back and cross into the other field via the gate, or hop the fence. The problem with walking back is finding the wallaby. It's an electric fence. I found the perfect crossing place - a log on one side and a stump on the other, just about in front of me, with a pole to steady me. I stepped over. Great. Tippie-toes I've got about three inches between my crotch and the fence. So I transfer my weight onto the foot I have over, on the stump...

Which was in terminal decay. It didn't so much crumble as just... descend. So did I. You know what they say about sitting on the fence? Not a good thing to find yourself doing. Now, why I say it was my lucky day, as I didn't just win the world high-jump prize. I did get over pretty smartly, but not with electrical assistance, just fear of the same. So the wallaby and I came home, walking back to the gate. I thought, well, I really had had to work hard and had a little... fright, so I'd get a second in the morning. Mistake number one. Never put off to morning what you can put off to the next evening.

I don't struggle to wake up early. It's the getting up when it is plainly cold and wet out there. It wasn't raining but had been. Now dawn and dusk shooting have this small problem. Like there isn't a lot of either time in which you can see well enough to shoot and not be seen. I was a little late, dragging my sorry posterior out of bed, so no coffee, just go. I blame the no coffee. Trundling back to the same fence-line I went, in the faint grey of pre-dawn. And I didn't have to walk too far, and there was a nice big suspicious buck-wallaby (as it gets lighter they get wary) and so I lay down on my belly in the long wet grass and went through the important process of keeping your rifle dry and getting yourself good and wet. Only I just couldn't quite get a clear shot, so I edged forward putting the rifle barrel between the wires. They weren't live. I knew that from last night. And when you are looking down the scope... you aren't looking at the angle of the barrel. I was good and wet, holding a metal rifle...

Anyway, the poor wallaby got such a fright he probably drowned in the sea ten miles away, still running. I think I terrorized the sheep in about a square mile with my yowl and delicate ladylike comments about the fence not being live. And I was awake, coffee or not. Not that I'd find a wallaby for about a mile, after that, so I went back to the ute to drive on to another good spot. As I was driving I saw a suitable wallaby in the paddock near Norm's gate. So I drove on to gate, which is on a low rise, the wallaby now below the rise. Climb over and I'll get very close, and be shooting at 90 degrees to the house - about half a km away (a bullet can go a long way. You never shoot even vaguely towards a house, and shooting down is good. Earth stops bullets well.). Now the only time I'm going to be within skyline sight or easy hearing of the wallaby is getting over the fence and into the paddock. Must be done quickly and stealthily... There's a sort of ornamental wooden thingy, NOT electrical. Safe... hah. I caught my foot in the rail and took a real purler, trying to protect the rifle, instead of catching myself. One of those rattling falls that leaves you shaken and thinking about a little lie down somewhere. This was a good thing because I was lying down. The wet grass was not my first choice... and needless to say - so much for stealth, the wallaby had not laughed its self into immobility, although it was probably chortling as it went off to bed, as the the sky was now decidedly pink. Must have been embarrassed at the grate dirty-brown-and-grass-color hunter. I went home before I hurt myself. I did cut two loads of firewood, and not do any damage (except to the stupid bit of plastic on the chainsaw) but that was after coffee. There's a lesson in this: AFTER COFFEE. I didn't get far with the Creatspace stuff though :-(

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

In which various things go bump and thump in the night

James had packed some wallaby for dog tucker while we were away - but being trifle new to this lot he put the bags on the mesh of the wire basket in the freezer. Now, It was kind of him to do it, and we appreciated it no end, especially me as I didn't have to do it. That always goes down well with the homesteader. Kind of makes you wonder about self-sufficiency...

The downside was that the bags had sagged around the wires, and the basket was ice-welded in - I really do have to defrost the freezer, only I'm sort of scared what I might find in there. Last time it was a guy on a Harley Davidson looking for his pantechnicon, and the time before there was what can only have been a mastodon, frozen with the half-eaten fresh pineapple still in his trunk. This time... anyway brute force eventually won and I got the basket out (try to pull the bags and the plastic just tears.).

So now we have a freezer basket with a bunch of bags of frozen meat stuck on the base. It's too big to put in water - unless we used the bath, and I prefer yellow rubber ducks myself, and the dogs reckon it would make meat a bit iffy.The metal basket is too big for the microwave besides being you know, metal. I dream of having a microwave big enough to make biochar, but its a dream. Like a tractor, or secret volcanic island lair, complete with evil hench-people (used to be henchmen, but we can't have this sexist discrimination. Equal opportunity mad cackling torturer minions are needed now.) It's not going to happen.

So - as this was last thing in the evening, and we'd levered out one bag for the dogs, the basket just got turned upside down over the sink and left to let the not very warm air take its course. Yeah, you know where this is going don't you? Dave who is a light sleeper after the first two hours... (a flatulent mouse on the far side of the house, that the dogs and cats sleep through, will wake me) and the erratic thumps as the bags fell off. The first one took me completely by surprise, and had me bravely stalking the darkened halls with a hastily snatched up frying pan. Cast Iron and deadly. No. This is not South Africa, and I feared no murderous intent from a housebreaker. The doors don't get locked on the island. I assumed it was a bloody possum again. This would be about the third in 3 weeks. They come in the cat-door to steal the cat tucker. And I'm not grabbing one of them. They have nasty claws.

It took me a while to figure out what it was. Actually I didn't, Barbs did, when I was bringing my lovely cold toes back to bed for her. I'm kind like that. So I didn't get out of bed and do something about it. Should have.

It repeated a lot more times. But I knew what it was. So when it happened again at about 5 AM, I just growled and muttered - so Barbs - who had slept through the others, got up.

I hear a shriek from the kitchen. More clatter. I arrive at a run, clad in my usual night-gear - the same jammies I was born in, and can't find the usual heavy frying pan, just the wee skillet. And there is the biggest possum I have seen yet, not leaving - having knocked over my dehydrator. I charge into the fray wearing my armor of righteousness, and this weeny frying pan. A little part of my mind says stoop a bit - he might get your eyes but the dangly bits are further away.

Fortunately the possum gets over his shock, or thinks that maybe South Africans don't know the difference between a possum and a sheep, and gaps it with a mighty thump. I block up the cat door and take my cold toes back to bed. Only my toe warmer's toes are just as cold now.

Barbs had a day off so she slept in a bit, but I was trying to get stuff done - story of my life. So I was outside working on the pig-pen (don't all authors do this?) when she got a call from someone asking if she could possibly feed his cat and his octopus.

I like to tell people that we set out to live very ordinary lives, we just end up hammering in little nails with a block-buster - or doing things which are perhaps not done quite the way they are by other people. I must get my hammer back. And despite this the pig-pen is ready, and will hopefully have some pig to use the readiness very soon.

In the meanwhile I am putting the final touches on STARDOGS - Which I plant to release soon. It's not that hard, it's just not something I do often enough.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

A rat in the Arras Bed

Batman - a skinny flatsided tabby, brought a rat in to the house to play with later in the small hours of this morning. A large, long tailed, very loud rat. I heard the squeaking and shrieking, in fifty different sharps and flats while I was making date-loaf this morning at around 5.45 AM (Barbs was going to take it in with her) I went to investigate, and foolishly decided the rat was as good as dead, and left him to his chasing it around the tail end of a book case in the hall (rat was just out of reach but would retreat to back of the hidey spot - and he'd go around chase it the other way. I opened a door slightly so Rat couldn't hide there, and went back to mixing and sifting.

Next thing there is an interesting shriek and squeak of an entirely different pitch -- Barbs emerges from the Bedroom a trifle disheveled, as it is hard to be completely sheveled when a large rat has joined you - and the other cat, Duchess, IN the bed.

The rat had, wisely, left before there was a cat fight about whose rat he was, and had left for more salubrious climbs... er climes - in other words run behind the large Lion-witch-and-the-wardrobe style wardrobe, and run up the back of it and was now jumping at the ceiling.

Batman, in the manner of all cats decided his work was now done and it was time for a leisurely wash on the somewhat disordered bed.

I closed the door went off to find an object of rat chastisement and something to stand on - it's a tall cupboard.

But when I returned the rat... wasn't there. Now it's not a very large bedroom and my dear wife who lives in fear of the coming ice age, accumulates clothes. No... let's try for tact. I am a bad provider and the two cupboards and three large chests of drawers are just piteously inadequate. Anyway I have things in one of them. Neither of us are very good at throwing useful clothes away, and one cupboard - the jerseys I think, is just too full, and will keep popping open. As the rat couldn't get out of the room and couldn't be found... we decided it must be in there. Barbs did the most magnificent enactment of the long-arm unpack (a drama in 3 parts or shelves) ever seen by man, or this man anyway, while I waited ready as any terrier, and the cats just did bored and put-upon for being expected to stay for this farce.

No rat. And work to go to, and breakfast and date loaf to be dealt with. We left the cats in there, and dealt with these matters. A little later I went back and the hard-working cats had fallen asleep on the jersey-pile and I looked behind the cupboard, spotted the rat, and walloped him with a broomstick, which was rat-terminal. Cats couldn't even deign to have a look. Dogs on the other hand were nearly beside themselves with excitement as I carried it off to throw away.

The rest of the day was largely spent wrestling with HTML coding STARDOGS to put up on Amazon. This did not go well as I unwittingly converted ALL the dashes to m-dashes (the long ones) early in the process, and had to go back and do it all over again -- because I couldn't fix it, and had done a lot of 'stuff' after that. Ah well. At least there was no rat in it.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

A wet and windy day

Today was one of those perfect days... for rounding up almost any city dweller who knows nothing of where the food in the supermarket comes from, who thinks - if anything about it all, that it is too expensive. And that pizza delivery is really the same as hunter gathering... and putting them out on the farm (not even I would wish being at sea on a day like today) where Norm and the boys are preggy-testing the sheep. In the horizontal rain, and the mud, and the howling wind. It's probably not that much fun for the sheep either, but at least their wool sheds water and insulates. They looked wet and bedraggled and they weren't a patch on the gents trying to do the job. It's days like this that I don't miss my old fish-farming days one bit, and this was just as wet, and possibly muddier. I noticed a complete lack of female mud covered figures. Must be sexism, please find your nearest militant feminist having her latte in the trendy inner city hotspot and send her to join them immediately. I'm sure it would... uh. Change those naughty farmers hidebound patriarchal gender role thoughts... or something. :-) Seriously, I watched my dive-buddy's little daughter catching and carrying lambs a couple of days ago. They were nearly bigger than her. If I was a farmer's seven year old son, I'd start playing my cards carefully right now, because that's an amazing little girl. It's a tough life at times but also a very good one, and I think we should all (especially the latte-sippers of the inner city) be very grateful there are still kids like that.

I've collected an old door of the wool-shed this morning in the deluge (or at least a semi-gap therein), saving it from the scrap-heap to become par of a future shelter for Dave's boat. A 12' by 8' steel frame covered with corrugated iron - a bit trashed on the upper and lower edges - a windy day was maybe not quite the ideal time for doing this. I nearly saw New Zealand again. I'm not ready. I need an Australian Passport first.

I took some warm potato to the chooks, as I would want to be out in this... and they were happily pecking away outside. The one that got so beaten up (pecking order) seems to be recovering nicely.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Vale Manny

I have just heard that one of the young Frenchmen who visited here in January is dead in a hospital in Vietnam, after surgery to correct an intestinal problem. It's hard to get my head around a young man dying (yes, climbing, diving accidents happen) but we tend to think of medical problems being for the older folk. Not true of course, but I am still shocked and saddened by it. We always thought we'd see him here again one day. My friends, there is no time like right now to reach out to people you like or love. Tomorrow might be too late.

We only met Manny for a couple of weeks, but he will forever have a place in our memories and stories.
Manny, Quilly, Marc, about to go spearfishing

Saturday, May 24, 2014

to EIN or not to EIN

I got at 4.30AM this morning to appreciate just how helpful the US IRS is at helping people. For over an hour I sat and listened to this delightful muzac while all their consultants were busy helping people. The music was so wonderful that when I finally got a consultant on line I almost asked if I wait a little longer, so I could listen just one more time... Nah. Kidding. It was annoying, and I hope i never get malaria and have to have quinine again (last time I got one of those weird, but known side effects, where you here music from your memory. All the time. All the music. Even elevator music. It's all in there. So was my mother's endless organ practice. Those Calypso records from my early childhood... music can be hell, when you cannot choose and cannot shut it off. Anyway - the consultant when I finally got one was efficient pleasant, helpful. I now have an EIN, which will save me 25% of my income on Amazon being withheld for US tax.

Needless to say this made me wide awake and bright eyed and bushy tailed all day. It did actually. I could have used a bit more sleep! Anyway, I butchered the two wallaby shot last night, and settled in to re-reading Stardogs, in part for turning it into an e-book. Yesterday's adventures included wood-cutting and radiator replacement... the wild times and untrammeled excitement :-)

Friday, May 23, 2014

New Zealand, work and an important announcement

I'm back after a long hiatus, largely caused by work (a lot of it), a bit of depression (caused by the work. Writing is a bit like long distance running. For a lot of the time you just don't seem to get anywhere, especially with big books - which this last one was.) This, to be honest, was compounded by the usual issues with traditional publishing: They're very slow payers, and not generous ones at that. Their communication is terrible (for example they've found it too hard to tell me when a book is coming out. I look it up on Amazon.) With the fiasco with selling the movie rights to Pyramid Scheme (the publisher had retained the rights, and would have to pay us 50% if they were sold - in a nutshell, it seems it was too much like hard work for relatively little money for their Hollywood agent, so he didn't bother, and then when asked offered a very easily provable as such falsehood as an excuse. He claimed the company in question were just buying up a bulk lot of cheap properties. Well my agent had offered them a book to which I had rights... and they could have had for nothing, and they didn't want it, and none of my other very extensive author acquaintances had had such an approach, so: BS. It was a small but respectable company, with a good track record... but not based in Hollywood)left me so mad I wasn't wanting to do the ordinary writing work (for which I'd have to wrestle to get paid, with royalties that would be late, and the last twice, had obvious adding up errors in them. It's possible to work, and work well through this, -- I've had to do it before -- but it isn't easy. Some people like to talk about misery and spread it around. I'm rather more like a cat. I prefer to be on my own to deal with it. And not inflict it too much on others.
I did it. Still. I was fairly bleak about it.

I finally got it done, got it turned in. Got the two short stories I had to do done. But it did leave me under pressure, and not really with the energy to spare for the blog. It's why I have decided to press ahead and self-publish a few novels - I have brought out my reverted to me rights books - and they sell steadily and pay honestly and on time - without giving me the morbs.

Anyway, I turned it all in and went off to a small conference in New Zealand, where I was GoH.

New Zealand was interesting in a head-space sort of way. See, I had been to New Zealand and Australia (Tassie and Flinders Island) specifically with Barbs, back when I had finally decided that it really was time to try and move out of South Africa. We liked New Zealand, South Island a lot in the geographical sense. We liked Flinders Island more, and Tassie got third place for me. Still, I knew emigration wasn't easy, and beggars (which is what migrants always are to some extent - supplicants) can't be choosers. We applied to NZ and Australia. Now, in some ways NZ was the straightforward application - both Barbs and I have desired professional training, we scored high on points-for-entry system. We fitted into the age bracket (by enough). The downside is that I would have to work as a Fisheries biologist, or Barbs as a radiographer, and wherever we were put (be that a slum in Auckland, or Stewart Island). The fact that I was a writer, with contracted work ahead, and wanted to continue with that was a non-starter, unless Barbs worked as a radiographer (and we would have to live where they put her). Bureaucracy and rigidity seemed to rule their migration system. You're not allowed to be anything but the ordinary, even if you aren't. Now there is fair amount of that in Australian Bureaucracy too, although it is patchy. But their migration officials and policies did seem a lot brighter and more flexible. They accepted me as a writer - granted us permanent residence, so we came to the Island which was one of my best-ever decisions (yes, I know. Barbs made it :-)). So far I don't think their decision has cost them anything. It might even have been faintly tax positive ;-/. Barbs and I have paid our way. We're grateful to be here. We've tried to fit in, to learn to be part of our new society. To do our bit to pay back - and to pay forward - that acceptance. Before we left South Africa we had the entire nine yard gamut of "Australia! You'll be miserable. You'll be there seven years before anyone will invite you in to their home, you'll have no friends, and you'll be running back with your tails between your legs. You're a 'hensopper', a fool to go." All I can say is: maybe that'd be true for you jokers, but it wasn't for us. It's always hard to leave a country you loved, family, friends, and you do take a financial hit - but Flinders island and the people here made it a lot easier than I think most people have it. And my mates various have been a real failure to the seven years nonsense. I've made some of the most solid friends in my life here - far more of them than we did in Mooi River/ Nottingham Rd area.

So: New Zealand. It's a pretty country - got some good wine and fine company. Maybe there is a Flinders Island community there.
with lots of beautiful back country.

I enjoyed the con. I liked seeing a few old friends, and meeting the young writers there. There are some here in Australia (and probably in NZ too, but I didn't meet them) who are letting the Political Correctness and 'message' of writing overtake the important thing - the story. In the US that's become such a big deal a lot of cons are just painful, and I gather the UK is if anything worse (and the last Aussie one I went to had a little bit shouldering its way in). It was a relief not to find it in NZ. A good sermon needs to be entertaining, and I expect to hear it in church. When it's not entertaining and not in church... you're doing it wrong.

It was interesting to think that - had NZ not been so regimented about migration, and Australia less flexible, we might have ended up on a hill farm like this.

Which looked - geographically - very like where we came from. Although the mountains are different shape and there is more snow.

and the sea is an odd colour.
Er. That's lake Taupo. But the sea was an odd colour, especially where the glacial rivers had been running into it.
and it.
But it was soft and green (that bit is called The Desert, and is used as military training ground. It's bleak.)

I like the country, liked the people we met.But then came the best part. Getting on the plane back to Oz. Ok, It was a slightly bigger plane.
But even this

with buildings and people, people, people felt like coming home - we saw some good friends in Melbourne, and went to one of the best Italian restaurants I've been to in oh, ten years.

Really coming home.

Back where I belong, where I know everyone in the airport building. And now we have final and for us best news part: we've just heard that our citizenship ceremony will be taking place on 18th of June 2014 at the MPC in Whitemark, and we will be Australians, not just permanent residents. I hope our friends here will all come to help us celebrate, because we do want celebrate!

Funny thing - Bureaucracy or no, we could move to NZ as Australians just like that, now. But there is no chance we're going. We've come home. You're stuck with with us.

Thursday, April 3, 2014


Your arse in a glass is an expression my kids (James and Alana) inform me they did not know. Perhaps it does come from my youth, and a certain subsection of the South African population.

Still, it was true in the small hours of this morning. I awoke to the mysterious growls... of a bread-machine. At 5 AM in pitch darkness. I got up, and found the oldest - the one we brought from SA -was mysteriously mixing nothing. So I switched it off, thinking dark thoughts about electronic component decay. Went to the 'loo, and returned to hear a noise in a far corner of the kitchen. There, where Barbs puts the glassware to dry was the bread-machine ghost... with his arse in a glass. Well, a small possum his nether end in a big glass bowl. It being glass his little clawed feet were finding it hard going. I hastily removed the surrounding wall of glasses, before they got bust, grabbed a big plastic bowl (you remember how I was going on about the usefulness of bowls - Too right)and pushed it over Mr Arse-in-a-glass, trapping him against the wall, the way you might with a spider. I used a heavy bottle of sherry to anchor it in the vague hope it would not fall off and break if he made a bolt...

I seized the chance to grab a box, and baking tray (in the process making enough noise to wake Barbs)and slid the baking tray between him and the wall. Attempting to move the whole pair of bowls and the baking tray and possum to the box was interesting in the old Chinese curse sense. Inevitably it came unstuck, but more by luck than good judgement, I managed to shove the possum in the direction he thought was was escape, but was actually the box. In all of this, no glasses, no glass bowl, plastic large bowl, or baking sheet - or possum or even me, were injured - crossing the miracle thresh-hold

My now cross wife (she does not wake well) came and asked me what the hell I thought I was doing. Fortunately, the early morning nothing broken in the kitchen (they are clumsy and messy - both husbands and possums) one possum scheduled for moving somewhat further from the house, did, when she finally worked out what was going on, improve her natural tendency in the early morning to use cast-iron frying pan first and and argue later. This is just as well, because neither the possum nor I would live through the frying pan.

Enjoying having kids home, despite possums also wanting to enjoy them.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Time flies like knives, flruit flies like bananas...

The weeks seem to be rushing past at the moment... like they were just moments. I've been trying to write a Rats, Bats and Vats short for Conclave 2, trying to edit the next Heirs book, and coping with the autumn inrush of veg. All in all I am making a mull of all of them. I did do a trip up to NE river on Monday - which was remarkable for the lack of fish caught. I did have two flathead about 3 feet below the boat swim around my bait while we watched. Very entertaining -for them. We did get some Aussie salmon off the rock at the mouth to end an otherwise unsatisfying. I know there are good fish there, but I seem proof against catching them, except at the mouth - I think it has times and places of its own to learn.

Can you still believe anyone gets into a boat with me, without spare clothes? 'tis true, despite the unlikeliness of it.

James and Alana will over soon, which we're looking forward to. I have been trying to make biltong for them, but the humidity - not usual here (summer is dry, and while we have winter rain, it is also cool, so the air is not that humid) is giving us soggy sugar (even the ants are giving up, trying to carry it away) and slow drying biltong. Awkward because I need to dry tomatoes too.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

The wonders of pinapple juice.

No this is not he 'the water of green pineapples and you have not slipped into Georgette Heyer Novel.

Whether it's just the 'the stones are out' or the antibiotic, or the pineapple juice (yes we're down to trying the strange) Barbs is doing much better.

I had one of those 'you should have stayed in bed' days yesterday to make up for it - tried to start the white car. Failed. Did have some wonderful pyrotechnic sparks when Barbs connected the the jump leads to the wrong terminals... anyway, no harm done, except to the tender nerves. was due to meet Bill at the Emita Church 8.30 to get the tide and get him some Abalone for his visiting family. Only somehow we got our times wrong, and he left before I got there... I noticed my tire was flat and going flatter as I watched... hmm. Personally I think the ABC might want to buy it as sitcom, or at least sink-lower-com. Aha! but we have 2 spare tires. Pop the jack under... and find the first spare is flat. Words are said, not many of them polite. The second one is not a lot better. Anyway I waited for an hour and drove very cautiously back, put air in and made a worried call to my friend... Who had decided I'd gone ahead and chased after me - come back to look for me, missed me. So it was a good 3 hours after the tide before I got in, to discover that some lowlife has even pillaged the undersize abalone off that spot. Really there were thousands there, and someone must have been stupidly greedy. Anyway, that's people for you. I blame some of the holiday visitors, but we do have a few local jackasses too. On the plus side they caught a nice flathead and I seem to have given myself really miserable sinuses - which is a plus in that that makes me less tempted to not work (yes, I have prepped the next lot of Biltong, and had an interesting epic getting the white car to start. Tow. Start. Die. Repeat( maybe 6 times). It has some kind of fuel issue, that just means it hates being left for more than overnight. Anyway, mostly it was cheap, and largely is reliable... as long as it goes every day. And it has a roo-bar, which the red ute does not. We're very patriotic. we have a red vehicle, a blue vehicle, and a white vehicle. Of course we planned it like that, and the white is the star performer. They all have issues, but all go.

Oh, had Yellowtail kingfish for tea last night. Barbs says she prefers flathead. We've had two yellowtail since I've been here, neither of which I caught. And about 1000 flatties. Hmm. This is not the way around it usually works:-)

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Barbs is home and we are still none the wiser as to what it is.

Norm's brother is here, and he wanted to take him to our dive spots, so we had a beach launch this morning - some moderate swell, and need for the maxtraxx - and then Norm left us holding the boat - I lost my hat in a wave, so maybe the swell was not so moderate - the hat was recovered and we were wet and the boat full of water, but not all dismayed. The joy of inflatable boats... We did manage our bag limit of crays, mostly around 1.8kg - so not huge for here, and one of about 3kg. We noticed the birds working while we had lunch, and Norm has a paravane he wanted to try - it caught 6 fish, the ordinary lure... none. It was interesting to see Aussie salmon, yellowtail scad (horse mackeral) and a small yellowtail kingfish - all caught in the same area, all feeding on the same baitfish I would guess.

The swell had shifted round and it was a pounding trip back and interesting landing. Interesting in that I thought we might just lose all our fish, abs and crays, if not the boat, but it was actually no drama pulling the boat up with the ute. Then I had to rush and fetch Barbs.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

I'm awaiting Finagle's revenge.

Well, I was nervous when I went for the test/interview. No reasons, baring our friend Finagle's modification of Murphy's Law (anything that can go wrong, will, at the worst possible time). Finagle did his humble best crashing the computer system, letting me think I didn't have a vital piece of paper, but against the odds, we did win through. And yes, I got the same mark in the little test as my wife, so you are stuck with us. I thought his performance with my debit card at Tamar Marine more petty nuisance than his normal effort (I've got sinker molds and a new tank for the boat - you'd have thought he would have weighed the disaster potential of these and left me to it.) I did not break a leg walking up the gorge. The tea did not poison me. A peacock - despite being in the tree above us did not poo on my head or the tea....

So now Barbs has gone for her CT scan. Results not for a few days. Let's hope and pray this is not it.

Monday, March 17, 2014

citizenship etc.

The wind is blowing so hard that if you face into it, snot comes out of your ears... And I am flying to Lonnie, to do my citizenship interview/test tomorrow morning. Barbs has been real crook with what we hope is a kidney stone. If you're hoping its a kidney stone... She flies off on Wednesday to LGH to have a CT to check, so we're occasionally home at the same time. Let's hope it's nicer flying weather and she's feeling much better.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

The fishing went quite reasonably, but not terribly productively (we got 17 flathead and 2 gummy + one I threw back because she was female and just size and we already had two, and I'm not that fond of gummy so 'productive' is relative) And managed for once an almost perfect launch and retrieval -As the sea was quite large - about 0.8 meter that was a good thing, indeed. It did make hauling the longline hard work - 2 sets of 2 lines is a lot of hauling a heavy boat into a pitching sea, and I did all of it. If I did more I'd get fitter and wouldn't whinge so much. Still, I was fairly exhausted when I collapsed into bed - too tired to shoot the wallaby we need. So last night I had another go -and the mist came down. I did see and shoot one, a small red - so 800 grams of dog tucker. That's not going to hold them long. I wonder how they feel about potatoes?

Writing proceedeth.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

The exploding sweetcorn and other trivia

I'm freezing some of our sweetcorn crop - it hasn't been bad, but not inspiring (about a 4/10) but all has ripened at once despite staggered planting. As we're a if you don't grow it you don't got it (within reason, coffee and chocolate and some things that are cheap, cheaper to buy than grow and process - like rice, and flour at this stage)extending things with some frozen/dried/canned stuff if a big blessing in winter and spring. I put the cooked and cut off the cob first batch into a zip-loc and spread it out, froze it in a curved sheet (there is logic in this.) when frozen you put on a flat surface, give a smart tap and you have loose kernels... Or if for once the ziplock really seals, an explosion of frozen corn.

Potatoes have to come out, and I have about 25Kg, with a little more to come. Probably hit 30Kg. I am putting in more, which will depend on frost as to what if any I get. Oh well, nothing ventured nothing gained. That will be about 55kg in all this year - not enough for a pig too, bit certainly a lot for us. The patch will grow a bit.

I hope to go to sea tomorrow... the kids (my younger son and daughter-in-law are coming) and while Alana is not a huge eater (just reasonable) James is one step removed from the plague of locusts. So is Paddy, the difference being Paddy is one step worse. Oh well, there will always be potatoes, wallaby, and fish.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

jumping cats and such-like

We're in the middle of footrot treatment here, means quite a lot happening over at the shearing sheds, makes Wednesday (the labrador) very barky. What is it about cats? La Duchesse informs me loudly that she needs a carry from the bonnet of the car where she doth repose, to the front door - a distance of four feet, with 3 steps making elevation difference minimal. A little later I see her hunting mice over at the round bales, cheerfully jumping from bale-row to bale-row (more distance - and she's a lot higher.)

We had a Polish meal last night with our polish friends and their sister and brother in law... I really like these guys, enjoy the change of food, but i conclude the basic rule of translation gives me sore ears. Yes. if they might not understand your attempt at the language, say it louder. I'm a quite and fairly reclusive fellow, more at home with the sea or land than a crowd, and living out here, alone, makes me battle even more. We had the gallery launch for our friend Maria's paintings and I went... and retreated outside after 10 minutes. I am going to a Science Fiction Conference in New Zealand soon and while it's great to meet readers it's a real effort to deal with a lot of people. I have to retreat to solitude every couple of hours or go spare.

Drying tomatoes proceeds apace... Freezing sweetcorn needs to happen as does more carrot planting. I'm running my usual problem -trying to get winter/autumn plats in while the summer harvest is still filling the beds. But we do need more potatoes to get through winter.


Sunday, March 9, 2014

So long at the fair

I am sorry to be so long away at the fair. A combination of minor things - I hadn't heard from the Immigration people about my citizenship application interview/test, I was battling to finish a book that was doing Xeno's book on me. Barbs had her interview booked within a week, and when we called to query we were told that there was plenty of time and they'd get back to me...

Barbs went over for her interview and yes, got 100% in the test... she also got asked 'where is your husband? We have got his application a couple of days separate from yours and we scheduled them together.' Only Canberra (who do all the paperwork) only sent a letter to Barbara (trust me, we were in asking at the PO every day), and the call center given the reference number didn't bother to check.

Anyway, I go over in 8 days, being the next appointment available. Wish me luck. With any luck we will actually manage to have our ceremony together. (You do not become an Australian citizen until you have the ceremony, and Barbs is now waiting on me. We want to celebrate with out friends.)

Xeno's book - well I am going to tidy it up, because I have decided that actually I am as close to an end of this book as I can get. It is already 30% over length. I am contracted to write another - same universe. This is a point at which all the 'good' characters in this book are safe (for the first time), but the problem/villain has not been resolved/ defeated. At least she has been escaped and exposed, but to do a good job of defeating her without an anticlimax ending, is quite a wordy process, outside the scope of what I ought to invest. It will do as a break point, and I do not think will infuriate the readers too much. I actually like being nagged for the next book...

Both things were making me grumpy, depressed and were hard to deal with, and I tend to withdraw rather than be a whinger.
And now: forward.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Cap in hand...

Hmm. we're out of cap, so this is at slow-speed, but we only have to survive it until Monday - not worth increasing (and paying for it) now. I'm hoping to go to sea tomorrow, Barbs being well enough to leave home alone. Norm went off and set a longline and got a big snapper, and a big gummy on Wednesday, as well as - on lures some Aussie salmon, some pike and 'yellowtail' which could either be yellowtail kingfish Seriola lalandi or Yellowtain scad - Trachurus novaezelandiae (I may not have spelled these right - it's been a long time OK, and looking up stuff right now is hard. Both edible, one very much more so.

Our fish stocks are a bit depleted, so I really would love to add some, and a change is always good. So lets hope for some decent weather.

On other news the zucchini avalanche continues to mount. If all the tomatoes come through, then we will drown in tomatoes, but at least they can be dried and preserved and are useful. We've only got a few coming through now, and disaster could strike. Potatoes I have so far harvested around 20 Kg, maybe a bit more, and probably have about that in the ground again, and am about to start another planting. Carrots are getting to the 'too big I need to plant more', 1 carrot did our carrot salad tonight. I have lots of spring onions and some leeks coming through to make up for my feeble onion crop, Next year I need to quintuple the onion planting. The success from seed was rubbish though, and almost all of these were grown from seedlings. On for me exciting news, the one melon plant looks like it might do something really weird - have melons. I have grown two melons and watermelon since I've been been here - all together about boule ball for watermelon, and small lady's fists for the melons. Not much of a yield, but when you eat what you grow, these become very special. And then because they're seasonal, for some stuff you get VERY sick of it. Zucchini, the monster most people fear to name...

There's sweetcorn coming, green beans, and possibly some capsicums, and parsnips, oysterplant, and a selection of squashes and pumpkins, gerkin-cuckes to pickle, and of course sliverbeet, the reliable one. Beets too, but I need to plant more rows. There are more Cape gooseberries to harvest and jam... I need another life to garden, one to fish and one to shoot, and another to cook, and about 3 to write...

Yes, the easy life.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014


Barbs is home - she had a chest infection which of course can be all sorts of other nasty things when your chest hurts. So right to take precautions. And I needed to age 400 years. There isn't a lot of other exciting news, except I have my invalid home. That's enough for me.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Ok I am sitting here drinking some of Bill's excellent stout, which will tell the astute several things. 1)Barbs is not home. She's in the island hospital, with what we hope is a chest infection. At the moment she seems very cheerful and feeling a bit better. If you're on death's door the flying doctor takes you away to the big hospital on the mainland. 2)The heat has broken. Stout earlier would be not a great idea. 3)Work just isn't with me right now. I'm not a big beer drinker, but this is very good (I like the taste, but it makes me wee - which if you have my bladder -a mass of scar-tissue from bird Schistosomiasis -- my little gift from fish-farming, not stretchy is just not worth the visits to the convenience every half pint.

I took Peter for his first ever dive this this morning - while my wife was passing out on the doctor's surgery floor, which was a lot of fun than dealing with that would have been, although it was It brought home the fact the that you need to reach your kids to use goggles and a snorkel early. Trust me, it's much harder later. Anyway, I think he enjoyed himself a lot, and I take a great deal of pleasure in the enjoyment of others in things I love. He saw some fish, an eel/pipefish and a small flathead

And now to feed dogs and do some work if I can.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Welly-boot castaway

It's been a month, tomorrow, since we applied for citizenship. Barbs has her interview notification... I still haven't heard. I guess we won't be going together which is a disappointment, besides leaving me to face the dangers of Lonnie on my own. It's these big cities, y'know, and they insist on you being disarmed first, without a pocket-knife. What am I going to do if I need cut some bailing twine, or put an injured wallaby out of its misery? Anyway, I'll cope with it when I must, just glad to be out here where things are still civilized. It was interesting to see some article about how to survive if your plane crashes on the atoll of a desert island. The 'expert' said your first choice item should be welly boots (presumably from one of these trick lists -pick the most important.) To protect your feet from the coral and to act as water-buckets. Obviously feller never tried swimming to the shore in them. Of course I always have my welly boots in my hand-luggage although I don't have something else on my tootsies. I just love these experts. A knife might be really useful but that's the one thing you won't have.

The temperatures have been skyrocketing, as has the humidity, to extent I have hope for the eggplant and the sugar is going like it did in Durban - slightly gooey. I dug up 20kg of spuds, and reckon I lost that in sweat today. It's horrible weather to try and write, fortunately it doesn't last very long.

Anyway baby potato salad (eggs, spring onions, mayo and really lovely little spuds), with spicy wallaby rissoles, and a tangy coconut, chili, gangal, and tamarind sauce. With tall glasses of cold pastis to replace some of that fluid.

Friday, January 31, 2014

On how to bribe yourself to finish a book

Starting to get the first ripe tomatoes, and picked the first 'crash helmet' (gem squash - a peculiar South African squash many people would be glad to have left behind...) Eaten small they're tasty enough, eaten as juvenile pumpkins I really do not like them. What will of course shock and surprise all of you there is just a tiny bit of chaos in my veg - like I planted zucchini/summer squash where the pumpkins were supposed to go, and vice versa.

We had our Island writer's meeting today, which is always very entertaining. Well, for me. I don't get out a lot with other lit'ry types (I feel a bit of a fraud, I write to entertain sf readers, and really know very little). Anyway I got some lettuce out of it, which is good as all of mine is going to seed. So we had croquettes, venison sausages and salad for our tea. A hard life we lead.

I have to measure stuff and dig holes for poles tomorrow to prepare for the boat shed, which will perch between two old containers, as well as write words. I don't like digging holes so hope that'll force the words so I can finish this book...

Seriously, it is close, but complicated, getting all the threads to knot off, and not spoiling by rushing.

And some picture links for you guys, courtesy of my cousin

Thursday, January 30, 2014


I have just made the very first batch of oatmeal from the seeds I gleaned.

As this was a test batch much more needs to be done to make the process remotely viable - I have half a cup of oatmeal, with a lot of bran still in it, but it does smell fantastic. I gleaned the seed, took the outer husk off by hand - normally you'd do this by beating or walking livestock over it -- winnowed it by standing outside in the delicate Flinders breeze and dribbling it between my fingrs into a bowl - most of the lighter husk blew away. Then as per quilly instructions I roasted it -- well shoved it in a cast iron pot on the gas. It popped, like popcorn. As I haven't yet researched the cutting mill, I just rolled it a bit at time with a heavy rolling pin, and sieved the crushed seed. I'll do a finer sieve, and make some oatcakes. As I said the smell is wonderful, nutty. It tastes faintly sweet, as well as having the same roasted nut flavor.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Of plastic Alligators and black Cockatoos

The plastic alligator is like itself and I suspect the tears of it are wet, but it is like no other beast, possibly being closest related to the mandoline, or maybe, in the vagaries of biology, the rock hyrax. If that can be related to hippotomice then anything is possible. The bite of the plastic alligator which is a square grid of not very sharp blades, is supposed to reduce a potato to skinny chips. It does not do this with any notable success, but was sort of able to reduce a cooked potato to lumpy mash, which made lousy chips. It did come into its own with biting through a hunk of outsized zucchini, doing more or less what the mandoline would, perhaps slightly quicker. I salted and drained those zucchini chips and sprinkled them with chili, herbs and flour, and seeing as I had the deep fryer ready for the chips, fried them. They were OK, but as a reason for the kitchen utensil called the alligator, not cutting the mustard, let alone the potatoes. So last night we had fish and croquettes (use for lumpy mash) some skinny chips, some ordinary chips and deep fried zucchini chips. A very fried meal, quite unusual for us.

This morning I had three yellow-tailed black cockatoos in the dead branches of the gum outside my study. Their cries are raucous and I will swear one was yelling 'get yer plastic alligator here' which is an unusual thing to say while looking for wood-boring grubs. But then, nature can be strange.

We had a possum in the house again last night. It ate the catfood and partially two potatoes. Rather like snakes, I think their protection is over-rated in this environment. Perhaps I will give this one to the plastic alligator. And on this whimsical note I will leave you to go and write more of the book.