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!