Friday, May 8, 2015

Rain was chucking it down...

It's raining. Some of it actually reaching the ground, but most of it is simply moving horizontally across the the island. Some of it hits trees or the occasional window and gets its trip to New Zealand interrupted. We need the rain, we've had a green drought the last while. I need it too as my hard drive decided it hated me (quite understandable, trust me)and went off to join a blue screen of death. So we rebuild... most of the essentials are backed up, but it takes time, knowledge and intellectual capacity, which are kinda all hard to come by in these promiscuous parts (it's Kipling. I thought it was funny :-)). I got a sheep in to deal with Windows. Unfortunately it baulked when it came to re-installing the rest. I couldn't find a donkey, so I've had to do it myself, which is rather like fixing a nuclear reactor by 'what happens if I pull this lever?'. So it's a good thing it's raining and blowing and even seagulls are squatting in the fields looking morose, because the excuse to do anything else, including putting manure into my garden is very attractive. Fishing or diving are not going to be possible for a while, with huge seas running. So, I keep telling myself, it is a good thing, although the cats have threatened real consequences if I don't improve the weather soon.

Well, the one good thing I can see is that there are mushrooms popping up on my 'lawn'. They're a bit close to the trees for my liking but I will find time(somewhere) to go and prowl the fields (where the grass fortunately pretty short) hunting them. Always look on the bright side of life (although with mushrooms it could be 'always look on the bright side of death'). And a full freezer and lots of dried produce are a big plus too.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Growing shorter

I went out shooting the other night, and wore at least an inch off my legs, walking. And walking. And then, for a change, walking. The wallaby were scarce, and when I found any, jumpy (yes, they're always jumpy, but more-so than usual) Now, trust me on this they're really no scarcer. The weather seems to affect their behavior, and evenings are always harder work than mornings. Mornings on the other hand really, really mean getting out of a warm bed when it is cold out there - winter is rushing towards us with a sudden rush - days have been glorious (and I've had to work - the only good thing is, so has my dive partner) We had our first frost last night :-(. The other downside with mornings is you can shoot in the dark, but the wallaby go into the bush when it is light. Twilight is my favorite time for it.

Now around here, most people drive to shoot, and shoot from the ute, but I like the old long hunter ways. There is a tranquility and a one-ness with the environment I hunt in. Well, except when I am shortening my legs. I gather that according to David Gerrold and his mates I'm one of the 'little people' so maybe a good thing I'm making my legs shorter. Still, I was glad after about 6km hike (a zig-zag one,) to see the ute, and three Wallaby. I shot two of them, all of 70 yards from the vehicle. Less carrying, and if I had been more patient, less time.

I started on the firewood today. What do you mean, 'it's a bit late.'? I know. I've just bee too wrapped up in other projects. Any way first ute load is in. We get through winter on about 4, and it it takes me about an hour and half -two hours to fill the ute. The chainsaw is a thing I would hate to do without!

Oh the next Bolg, PI Novella is up on Amazon.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

The zombie washing machine

A couple of days ago things got really cheerful and expensive looking (Yes, I have had moths flutter out when I open my wallet. Bloody thin moths too). The faithful Speed Queen (was dead if you're American, salute. This is one of the best products out of the US I've ever encountered - seeming still made the 'old' way. Big, solid, relatively simple, and robust.)after 20 years of cleaning Freer clothes - mine are a challenge to excavators, and two boys growing up is going to always be rough, even without them being tru-blue Freer boys - ie. good at getting filthy, covered in mud, blood and grease and kindly letting their clothes share. It had had hard, faithful life, and baring some minor hiccups with the solenoid last year... done itself proud.

I prepared for a suitable burial with full military honors, as it certainly died in service - it washed my old army jacket that I use for muttonbirding as it's last item (yes that could have killed most things). I cowered in terror before the specter of replacing it - a new one costs $2300! It would have to be something else, cheaper.

But as a last, forlorn hope I called up my evil mechanical persona, Doktor Monkenstein (who I believe lives in a turreted gothic rocket-propelled palm tree in Transylvania, at least in the swampy recesses of my mind.) Doktor Monkenstein came with all his surgical implements (and a thunderstorm for sufficient voltaic force). You know, your typical microsurgeon's equipment - 4 pound hammer, monkey wrench, shifting spanner, vice-grip. None of the right size sockets or spanners of course. Don't be ridiculous. I dissected the beast, and fiddled. My trusty hunchman... uh henchman, Jamie showed up at lunch time, and gave it a wiff of that wonderful revivifying gas AKA cow manure... and I replaced the solenoid (which hadn't quite died previously, and with care had allowed us to continue using the beast. Needless to say I had dissembled the whole thing for a task that actually needed... 1 screw to access it. Ah well, I had wonderful time putting it together and now have some lovely spare screws and bolts. There's barely any baling wire involved... Und you can call me Doktor Monkenstein... Cause I have a monster. It lives IT LIVES... Mwahahaahaaa!

It's actually working better now than it has for about a year - which is real worry (my fixing doesn't usually do that) even though the relief is vast.

Besides these little adventures into terrorizing machinery back to life, I have been moving a cupboard and huge bookcase into my study/office. This necessitated 1)lots of lifting, straining grunting and sweating (they both weigh more than me, IMO and it's just easier to do it alone. 2)A triumph of getting big things in narrow gaps. As the actress said to the Bishop 'it'll fit in if you wiggle it enough'. And yeah, it was case of less than 1/8 of inch on one, and a little surgery (Monkenstein had to be restrained from the chainsaw. A hand-saw did the job.) with the other.

Of course it is never simple... that's meant reorganizing my study, and the existing 'book-shelves' (AKA lots of bricks and planks, and 2 bookcases).
I am in tears and snuffles. Not because it is tragic - indeed I'm well pleased, but because books really do hold a lot of dust.

And I kept finding things I really really must read again.

I've got, courtesy of my mate Peter, a huge window to put in the container/workshop. I now have to work out a hinge for it. This may be too hard even for Monkenstein (it's aluminum. Monkenstein works best on steel or at pinch wood) but I'll let him have a go, if I fail.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

A experiment into letting you see my world

Norm - my dive partner, was given a Gopro camera for Christmas. It's now April... neither of us have a lot of interest in electronic gadgets to be honest. We like diving spearing fish, catching crays, collecting abs... But we tried it out on last Saturday. That is to say, I did.

I got about 40 minutes of dreadful selfie (yes, I thought the camera was facing the other way)

I know. Idiot.

I'm trying editing out some good bits so I am going to see if I can embed it here.

Hmm. No. No video. Here are some pictures anyway.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

The possum parade

Imagine this as a musical, if you can.

It begins in utter darkness and the sweet silence of the night in the deep country. You know, maybe a boobook from an owl but that's it. And then...

yowl YOWL HISSS YOWL and noises to this effect.

Enter naked bearded man, left, having just staggered out of bed muttering 'bloody cat.' And imagining a rat - which the cats have killed several of, lately, and knowing it must be brave brave Sir Robin the littlest woosy pussy who is a tiny fluffy girl not, when dripping wet, much bigger than the rat. So there I thought I was the human cavalry riding... well, sleepily stumbling to the rescue. We have one of these sound actuated lights (it was supposed to be a movement sensor, but actually does noise - much more useful it turns out. So I give a little clap (as one does when the star of the show comes onstage.)

And there he is... striding down the passage towards me. The rat... no. Rather, a possum, medium large.
At this point you need the accelerando music, as possum turns and lumbers into the kitchen, me in hot, well,luke-warm pursuit. (on account of I don't actually want to catch it. They are clumsy glorified tree-climbing wallaby and have big sharp claws. Not that I know of any of them attacking anyone, but I'm not wearing a lot of claw-protection.) It runs into the corner of the kitchen, and starts to try and climb up the cabinet - to the work surface which has a deep-fat fryer on it... full of oil.

Now you can have a little crescendo, in which the reluctant hero/villian of the piece realizes it's act fast and with courage and resolve or there's a mess that defies imagination running around the house. I grab a stainless steel saucepan and wallop the possum, BAM! just as the sound actuated light goes out. So it comes on. In hot pursuit now (I believe this is where Yakkity sax music is supposed to start playing with BAM! percussion) lots of wild swings and misses - get off my bookcase, over the top of the sofa (add a yowl from woosy pussy who was on it too) through the lounge, into our bedroom, where, despite the disco lights and percussion my love lies sleeping. The bloody tree-rat, having scrabbled into the corner escapes across the bed. Across Barbs, two cats. BAM! (add suitable feminine shriek and cross kitty imprecations), as the chase goes on, with the light and sound show hurtling back through the lounge into Barbs' study - which also has the kitty door possum squeezed through.

I think we have reached our close... but no. It's heading for the corner with Barbs computer in trying to get out of the closed window. Short of taking out the computer I can't hit it - but it is half behind the curtain, so I grab it by the head (with curtain between me and it). Now if this was full cartoon version the curtain rail would come down and hit me on the head, but as this is the budget production (sans oil, but with flashing lights) I am now stuck with a blasted possum by the head and no way to do anything about it, it scrabbling at the window, probably going to wreck the curtain. It won't fit in the pot. I fling it sideways and I manage to stop it getting onto the mantel which has precious pictures and an antique clock on it. BAM BAM! I get it to kitty door, and wallop its tail as finale BAM!

And the stage, scattered with possum fluff but no blood, is empty and plunged again into darkness.

I did struggle to sleep after the show.

I kinda thought after being chased by a naked possum fancier who was trying to make him into a pothead, the possum would be put off, but he came in last night again. Fortunately I was still awake, and heard him come in and helped leave. I'm drying apples and maybe the smell is attractive. Or maybe I just met 50 shades of possum.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

The hummingbird-bicicycle and other lifting.

I have learned a new thing about bicycles. They are not naturally creatures of the air, any more than sheep are. I believe they can achieve flight, but I needed them to hover. This they displayed absolutely no talent for. I feel sadly let down, and I did ask them nicely. Well. Sort of nicely. In a very descriptive way.

I was attempting to hang a pair of them from the roof-beams of a lean-to shed, on the 'they will stay dry, out of the way, and remain there until needed' theory. I regard bicycles with considerable distrust, and as a 'form of fun' on a par with enemas, but then some people like the latter, I believe. James's bike is a good mountain bike - or was. The best we could afford for him in post-Matric, it's probably so old fashioned now, as to be a virtual penny-farthing. The other is a dirt-cheap heavy old road-bike I bought at a garage sale - on the theory that it's more fun to go riding and suffer together, and it's something else visitors can do if I am trying to cook, or write, or do something boring. Anyway, They haven't been much used, but who knows, I may be forced to it one day. So I thought I'd lift them up, out of my and harm's way, nice and dry. I really wasn't prepared for how heavy holding 2 of them above my head on a ladder with one hand and trying to tie the rope with the other. Really, it would be much easier if they learned to hover. Does anyone know the contact details for Harold the clever bicycle? I guess doing one at a time would have been cleverer.

My pick-up and carry (to say nothing of lift, especially bicycles) seems to be taking strain the last few days - the container is now roofed, and as it is now safe and dry, and a perfect place to keep things... I'm emptying it. Admittedly this is partly because I need some floor-boards - which are the lowest thing in the container - to fix the other little house on the prairie's floor, and also to make shelves, to put the stuff I am taking out onto. In the end, we'll be a lot better sorted out, work and and life will I hope be much easier and less chaotic. Right now, it's move two things to do one! I have to move a huge bookcase with a storage cupboard under it next. Only before I can do that I have to move one bookcase from where it is to the hall (and the books) and another and a small cupboard across my study... and then I have to do some small surgery to get it in to the house, because it is 10 centimeters taller than the door. And the gun-safe will have to be unbolted, moved and then put back, because it is in the way of the turning bookcase, and then re-bolted. I think. I'm going to wait until I try. (which will inevitably make it squeeze through the gap and balance on my nose while doing it. Situation normal).

Then once the container is emptied, I can put in a door and window, and a lot of shelves and two workbenches and vices (I love vices. And not only the kind they speak of in sermons.) I only have 3 (excluding the fly-tying ones) the which is not really really enough. And then I can fill it all up again. The contents of a 3X2 shed and a couple of meters of the carport can move into the 3x2 + 6x3 and the existing 3x2 can just be for garden stuff and some of the bits we're collecting for our future house. (light fitting, bathroom fittings, kitchen fittings. All throw-outs garage sales etc.) The containers (the little house on the prairie) and the 'new' one both are fitted for power, and I am thinking about a water-tank, as the new roof has a lot running off it.

The other thing I've learned is that my little DeWalt cordless is a treasure. I couldn't have done the job in three times the time without it. But it has enough torque to break my wrist I reckon. Smashed my hands against things, twisted out of my grip (I have a leash on it). It's an 18 volt one and I've (being poor and cheap) only had littler ones before. That was false economy.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Oh my poor paws...

Everyone has to whinge about something. As I'm no longer a full time farmer, I get let off whinging the weather non-stop - which has it's downsides. I mean, it's an easy call, like wearing a uniform for work liberating me of my hard decision of what to wear (OK I lie. Jeans, a t-shirt (top of the pile) and blue tartan flannel shirt if it is cool. On dress occasions green tartan flannel shirt.) But I do believe some people who have closets full of clothes struggle with this, and don't have a thing to wear either. Go naked. Trust me, if you don't have a thing to wear, that's the obvious choice.

My whinge today - I can already see the deep sympathy in the fishermen among you's little beery brown eyes - is that my poor little paddy paws are too raw to squeeze tea-bags. Normally my hands - from years of cooking and treating my hands like delicate flowers, climbing, crayfishing, digging holes etc... are not even aware that a teabag is hot.(Yes, I know. I'm a teabag squeezer. A sin, a stain on my character, and life-time ban from the tea-snob society.) but we had a good session fishing on Saturday, and my little paws are somewhat abraided by that nasty rough cord. Can't they make it extra-soft?

I fish, for Flathead mostly with a hand-line. 2.5 mm braided cord, 3 7/0 hooks and half pound sinker. Not exactly or precisely IGFA competition rig, but quick and effective for a guy who fishes for food. Cheap too, and not hard to maintain or repair (my fishing buddy on the day has enormously expensive carbon fiber rods, and $500 dollar reels and fire-wire line. And he uses teeny-tiny hooks to catch more. On days when the fish are shy we tend to catch about the same. On days when they're not... I catch twice what he does.) Small hooks catch more fish, but big hooks don't break and don't really catch many small fish. When there are lots of fish about, I go big hook sizes.

The downside (for my whinge) is that pulling up line/fish is just you and gripping that somewhat abrasive wet line -wet with nice skin-softening seawater. And drift fishing in 30-40 meter water, means you typically have 50 meters of line out. Now we had a good day, and a lot of folk who don't get to sea or are getting on the elderly side for fishing got fish teas... but that was 60 fish, all between 1-2 kg. I caught more than 40 of those, and a few gurnard-perch (nasty toxic spines) we didn't get spiked by, and a gummy shark that was let go as too small. So 40 X 50 - that's two kilometers of abrasion, with more than 1kg being pinch gripped. That's without the times you haul in and lose the fish or re-bait.

So maybe there is something in these newfangled 'reels'. But it was a great day's fishing. We've had lousy conditions for a while, and the freezer was getting low on flatty fillets. And I've now paid back or paid forward a lot of our chain of produce gifts.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Over and Under

I spent part of the day yesterday looking down on the world, and the other part looking up at it. Not much of it, either way. I finished painting the container roof and saw a little further across the flats than I normally do. Then I wriggled in under the little house (a smaller, former freezer container, now with a roof) to try and sort out the sagging floor. There was not a lot of room under there. I took a hydraulic jack and a section of pallet. And some bricks. I put the first support in... from the outside, because I am only moderately dumb. It was a solid mooring block so I felt I would probably not be squashed.

I was right about that. What I was wrong about was how much space I could fit through. It was exhale and squeeze under the edge - about another 2 inches higher on the inside...

It was a good place for learning a few of life's little lessons. Like when sliding into a narrow gap on your back, your shirt, more sensible than you, will try to stay behind. Which means it slides down your back, and up your neck. And then when you're under there the jack lever will be too long. By dint of sheer bloody mindedness I got one prop in under the bent cross-support, and I had maybe 5 inches in front of my face... All the better to see the spiders with.

I was ready for the big one - the pallet section. But I needed to get a shorter lever, because there was even less space under it. So I thought I'd just squirm backwards out of under the small house...

Hmm. Life lesson the next. My ribcage just didn't fit, that way. I think in lifting the middle I had dropped the edges a tiny bit... Think of it as a scene from the Wizard of Oz - only with me less than flat and good and stuck, but with gumboots outside. I had time to consider my misspent youth and the fact that Barb wasn't due home for another 8 hours... And the next door neighbor is 2 km away. And claustrophobia. And spiders. And how hard the ground is right now to dig with your fingers. And how close the floorboards are. Yeah well. The earth got dug away, seeing as I had no choice. I got out, and dug it a bit deeper with a spade. And then, yuck did it all over again. Anyway, the floor is now fixed. Rain today stopped further play, but I did my baking for the week and minced two wallaby, and dried some figs.


Saturday, March 14, 2015

Snags= sausages

Norm and I made 10kg's of snags (sausages) yesterday. It's quite a process, which really needs two people to make it easy, and French photographer to make it risque bordering on the obscene (Yes, she found my putting the gut onto the spout of the sausage stuffer hilarious, and my controlling the fill rate even more so. I leave it your imagination. I am not posting pictures!)

Other than that it was a sad day, with Sir Terry Pratchett's taking the walk with Death. I re-read the THE LAST CONTINENT in a sort of Wake. Today we have Pippa's (my neighbor and dive partner's daughter) birthday and new cubby-house (what we would have called a Wendy-house back in My word, that cubby!) I'll take some pictures. It's double story, has running water.
That's the birthday girl on the dive boat.

Tomorrow is Lady Mary McTier's (our late Scottish Dance teacher - who was still teaching us at 100) Wake.

A quiet life on the island.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

I went diving yesterday, and tried for the variety prize (no, not a competition!) I also managed to get a sea urchin spine under my fingernail, and actually pull a crayfish in half - the first time in a lifetime.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015


I spent part of today (the hottest part) painting the roof of the new/old container with bituminous paint. It's due a roof of corrugated iron above that soon, but to seal it up now seemed a good idea. Like most 'good ideas' better ideas when you were suggesting them to someone else. Far, far better ideas when you weren't boiling, breathing the stuff and watching all the little cypress needles blow onto it...

Anyway, I got done. One day I may not smell nasty. About the same day I don't smell of bitumen I reckon.

Last night we ate salami, olives,sundried tomatoes, for a pre-tea apetizer. Then eisbein, baby potatoes, apple sauce, carrot-salad - all which came off the farm. Then we had sticky date pudding and cream, that didn't come off the farm. I wonder what the rich people eat - cause it can't be better.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

The owl told me to get back to it

Last night I was slogging away at the word-mines, when my attention was caught by a fluttering and a rather disturbed dog in the 'walk-out' closet (aka short piece of passage to outside, done up as a walk-in (and out) closet) attached to my study. It has one of those soft fly-screens with magnetic tapes on it and stays open year round so the dogs can come and go from my study while they assist me in my word-mining. The fluttering was from one of those little boobook (or mopoke) owls, who had got in... and was now stuck. I pulled the screen aside, and attempted to shoo it out.

Only that didn't work quite as I expected. The owl took flight from the pile of jeans on the shelf... and landed on my chest (no I don't think it was trying to rip my chest open and eat my still beating heart. It was just scared and confused.) Luckily I had a very thick wooly jumper on - with the door open it can get quite chilly in my study, and claws only went into that.

I walked slowly and calmly out of the screen and it flew off into the night. It was quite something looking down at it, and it looking up at me, faces maybe 5 inches apart. It didn't occur to me that it could have made quite a mess of me until it flown off into the darkness.

I commented about it on facebook - but it occurred to me that would disappear fast enough. So I'd better do it here. I'm through the December mobs and the internet is working better... uh.Well the December part anyway.

We're in the 'construction' as we've got the wonderful gift of an old container - which will be a workshop for me and temporary store for our stuff and possibly even somewhere to stay if things fall apart. Yeah, I know. I am a pessimist, by preparation. So as I need to do some work putting a second roof on it (it leaks a little) I jumped up there. Well stood on a very short ladder and grabbed the top edge and pulled up. One of the things I got out of years of rock-climbing. One of the things I didn't get out of that, was that you shouldn't do it on the way back from the feeding the chooks and collecting the eggs, at least not if you still have the eggs in your jacket pocket. You want to know what the hobbit had in its pocketses...? Eueegh.

Other than that it's been a mildly frustrating day, with having undertaken a fair number of 'between writing' little jobs (when I get stuck I allow myself 15 minutes to attack the next of the list) all of which turned into being like those very computer games. You need x before can do Y. And you need W and and V to do W. And so on... And to do any of it you need to move A and B and C...(which part of what the workshop is all about.) So I think I managed... um. Nothing. Yeah. Nothing. But I got a lot of it done. I did order some more screws and 5mm hex bits - both of which I discovered were on the need that to do this list.