Monday, October 16, 2017

An inch and a half

This is slightly expanded version of the tank moving saga that I posted on FB.

Are you all sitting foursquare cumftibold? Right, then I'll begin. So, once upon a time - a recent time - I bought my mate Bill 's spare water tank. A win for me, and a win for him I hope... with just one small, trifling detail in the way. Like, it's in his back yard, and I want it out at the new block. Oh. And Bill has built a carport since the tank went in. Needless to say, the tank doesn't fit past it. Only just doesn't fit by an inch and a half.

But never fear! We are bold, resourceful or at least pig-headedly stupid (pick the latter, trust me). It came upon a morning clear that I had arranged to borrow the beast of bashan (AKA the huge heavy twin-axle trailer) and from yet another friend, Peter - a 4x4 Hilux to tow it. Because, in the way things in my life, the trailer's home is on the other side of a flooded road, and anyway my blue slug (ute) would just die if I asked it to tow the beast.

I drove into a swamp the color of stout, faithfully following the marker poles that said 'there is a road under here somewhere. It must have been true because i got out the other side. My plan was to get there good and early because the loading might take a while. And the plan went well - until of course it didn't. I reversed with great care and frequent getting out, because 1)it's not my ute, or my trailer, 2)the beast is so heavy I literally cannot budge it. I lined up perfectly and went to hook the beast up.

The Hilux's tow hitch is an inch an half higher than the trailer's jockey wheel will lift it. The jockey wheel is of a frail and retiring nature totally unsuited to the beast - it can hold the beast, but not raise it. The beast weighs tons. I - among my myriad other faults, am not large or very heavy. No way I can lift it. What to do? Give up would be sensible option.

But this is me. I look for the jack in the truck. Can't find it.

I search my absent friend's new shed. No jack. I do find a crowbar. And a round rock. Ha! Archimedes! "give me a long enough lever and somewhere to stand and I will move the world." I have a crowbar. But, as I soon establish, it's not long enough. Aha! But have a pipe that will fit on the end...

Look, will someone tell that dead Greek that 1)the lever has to stay on top of the fulcrum or you will fall on your butt (trust me on this. I have the bruises to prove it.) and... 2) even if this does not happen - you are at one end of the lever 5 yards from the tow hitch, quite unable to do anything about it.

Now, let me explain the evil nature of Jockey wheels. They have a mind of their own and a passionate fear of ramps. Trust me on this. You don't even have to prove it with a snatch strap and building a ramp. It just is, the way Mount Everest is

It turns out that the Hilux's jack is hidden under the back seat, in a covered inset under the carpet, as I found out after 2 hours of sweat, and increasingly more bizarre plans. Fiendishly clever these Auto designers. I'd like to pack a parachute for them, in the same way they hide essential bits, before assisting them and the essential parachute into a little 5000 foot test of gravity.

With the beast attached, we brave the flooded road again. It's blacker an bubbling ominously. Some of the sticks seem to have fallen over... The ute goes in... and the beast hits it, and for that heartstopping moment we slow suddenly and... nothing happens. Well nothing bad anyway. We go forward and not sideways. After that little moment of terror that was nothing, we go to Bill's place without further drama. I know. Disappointing for you, great for me.

Did you know that many access problems can be solved by cutting down your neighbor's fence with a chainsaw? A sort of de-fence.(Do not try this unless you have a nice kind neighbor who has agreed to this. Or you may need the chainsaw for self-defence... )

The tank rolls quite well. So the crushed people in its wake tell me... nah - not quite. I discovered the fins on the top made reasonable brakes. So after a few minor, really irrelevant epics with gates and trees, we get it onto the roadside...

To discover it won't fit on its side on the beast - a matter of about one and half inches (as with the tow-hitch...)

Now we have a tank on the roadside that probably won't go back. Once again, I'm stuck.


But with some extra man-power it will go... on top. We tip it and shove and haul. Frankie says 'I think it would be better the other way around. This is not happening. With careful alignment and four of us shoving... it gets only overlapping the mudguards - about an inch and a half (and that's my story and I'm sticking to it). I tie it down. Now, this is a round object with a smooth bottom, but there are lifting holes on the strengthening fins on top. We use a lot of rope...

This is Flinders, just after the shops close on a Saturday - ergo, most graveyards are livelier. Not a car or person to be seen.

I trundle slowly and cautiously toward the block, along the back road, where I see precisely one vehicle, and get off the road and let them pass.

And then there is just last mile to the block along the 'main' North-South road - which can be oh, 2-3 cars an hour on a normal day. I turn the corner onto it...

And the tank decides this is such fun it'll do that too, and slides sideways.

Now, the ropes stop it sliding right off, and beast is so big and heavy it is not affected. But instead of being in the middle - the tank is now inside the mudguard one one side and has got about an inch and half spare from the edge of the trailer. It now protrudes generously into the road on the other.

The ropes are now super-tight, as it sort of swiveled to do this. It took us four people to move it on and I can't budge it. The beast is still level. It thinks the tank is light. I'm close to my destination and machinery. Oh yeah, and my mobile phone says 'to recharge your credit'.

So... I drive on cautiously, ready to get off the the road. if there's a car - maybe I can ask for some help. And about a hundred yards from my place there is one, and I do. It's a police car (and the two local coppers would help. They're country coppers. This is not Africa). But we live on an island where everyone waves. So they see me wave... and give me a wave back, and drive on. Ah well. I'm close.

I haul through my gate and into the paddock and walk off to fetch the liddle tenk AKA T.rex the Terex - which I borrowed for this exercise. I've driven T.Rex a long way before this, at least 10 feet (or maybe an inch and half, it just felt longer). It's a joystick drive - and I have to reverse it out of my tractor shed, going meep meep like a cross between a banshee and a chicken. I didn't hit anything important that can't be replaced (not really, but it came close). Some very nervous driving followed given the sort of day I'd had... I can't afford to replace the tank and certainly can't afford to replace the T.rex. I lifted jawed bucket and ever so slowly sidled up to the tank on the beast.

Liddle tenk meets liddle tenk. It was love at first sight

and this is the charming wedding picture. Just after the knot had been tied.

That was another little adventure which involved pulling up on the T.Rex's jaws (motor running to keep the hydraulics running, and a great deal of balance on a slippery sloping surface, now well lubricated with spare sand from the T.Rex's bucket, with nothing much to hold onto. Rock-climbing has been a lot more useful than anyone could have guessed.

There is no next picture, on account of the fact I was inside the T. Rex's safety cage, and... um, I might still be there. On account of when the tank gently swung off, it did so without any drama. Only it was also almost flush with the cage - like maybe an inch and a half gap. I've gotten too fat, mostly between the ears, to fit out. Like Pooh Bear I'll be out as soon as I slim down.

OK I did figure it out before I got hungry, reversed and put the tank down, and re-rigged the ropes.

And lo, things actually proceeded according to plan, even though I expected them not to. This was a reasonable expectation because I couldn't see past the tank, so I kept having to put it down and have a look.

Still, I got there. The tank is in place, on the bench that Mark cut for it, next to where the house will be.

I was on Ambo call last night and I am very grateful no one needed us, because I slept the sleep of the tired little monkey.

But an inch and a half... sometimes it really feels a lot longer... or shorter.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Whatever they pay mechanics...

It ain't enough.

Now, you may be somewhat take aback by this statement - especially if you just got a vast workshop bill for stuff that really is quite basic. It's even more surprising from me, as I tend to cling so hard to every last dollar as to rub the ink off on my fingers. But it's all relative.

To get the relativity on this one, you need to be in the same place I got this great epiphany. It struck me... well, not like a blinding light, but more like an oily vice-grip hitting me on the forehead as it cascaded down from my numb fingers, somewhere in greasy morass of pipes and cables and mysterious bits of sharp steel in the Blue Slug's engine.

To get the full impact, as it were, you have to be in very tight quarters under the blue slug, wrestling with the pipe for the heater - which when the stupid spring clamp and bit of rust-welding give way and a radiator full of ice cold water (there is still frost on the grass) comes to join you. Then when you leave this happy scene, amid the oil and puddle, to say nothing of the grit and mud to get the new pipe, you realize... you have to slither under there again. You see the engine was designed by engineers (for whom I hope there is special place in hell, just next door to the inventor of clam-shell packing) who worried about making it, not repairing it, once all the making was done. The pipe attaches to a flange unreachable by normal hands from above, because there are metal brake lines and other essentials in the way. Even my crayfish-out-of-'orrible holes hands struggled to get there, and getting it off had required me to shuffle between below and above and try and exert force in a place that had no room to move let alone add pull.

So when the new pipe goes on (replace pipe. 3 minutes work if it is not in impossible places or requires special tools. Knowing what you're doing also a major plus, and not one of my advantages) it requires a return to the ice cold oily puddle under the truck. That'll make a man of you... or at least cause shrivel-nipple. But it has to be done, because it's off now, and doing it myself saves money...

So back under I squirmed - one hand up though the steering rods and the other wishing for an extra joint or a tentacle to get up the other gap. Vice grip on spring clamp, dirt showering down onto my glasses (and somehow still getting in my eyes) and push... And then get out again, and do it all over again with the smaller vice-grip. Which I can't open wide enough in the small space. So back to the bigger one... that doesn't quite fit. Push. Wiggle. Push. repeat...

Ya gotta try harder boy. No leverage, hard to see. Hands squirmed into places where whole hands do not fit. And then epiphany. The choir of angels... well my digital watch, which is now keeping my wrist inside the engine for eternity has had some of it buttons pushed. It is going beep beep beeeep beeeep with a steady insistence - and there is no way I can get to it to shut it off - I can't even move my hand, as the watch strap has twisted and is attached to something and is now too tight to come out... At this point the vice-grip which is slightly too big for this job, comes off the spring, which zings into my fingers, and the vice-grip comes bouncing down through the engine to have a little meeting with my face. I try to dodge (fail but save glasses) and scratch my nose on a spilt-pin.

And as I lay there saying... hymns and praises, I'm sure -- I received this great revelation.

'It ain't enough.'

For the curious, I did get it all together. No lives where lost, and the 3 minute job was done in about 4 hours and a great deal of bad language, wet clothes sore fingers and eyes and hair full of oily dirt. Yes, it was cheap, compared to a mechanic, and yes, that's a necessity - we're not broke, but there are at least 10 places to put money with trying to build the new house. And yes, lack of experience and lack of the proper tools did make it harder. There is a satisfaction in doing this, but if I ever make my fortune that's one aspect of self-sufficiency I'd give up. Unfortunately that's not likely, so persevere. But doing 'orrible jobs is worth paying for, if you can. And appreciating not having to do.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Gundalina and misadventures...

Ahem. gather round ye peoples and listen to the tragic tail... tale of Gundalina the tractor's terrible betrayal, tragic fate and miraculous resurrection.
Now, it came upon a Wednesday clear that Barbs and I sallied fifth (or sixth) to go and get some firewood. The track onto the block being slippery let alone getting near the wood, I (and it was my fault alone, I bear this manfully (or at least without whinging too much) decided we'd use Gundalina the magnificent Mercedes tractor to trundle fifth into our jungly parts and carry out the wood. I offered to let Barbs drive as we went Gundalina-trundalina-ed around to pick up the chainsaw, earmuffs, safety glasses, gloves and whotnot-associated-with-chainsawing - everything from a spare chain to various tools and wedges. She retreated from this offer, but 200 yards of my driving was quite enough: she decided to try after all, and found great glee in driving the mighty roaring beastie.

Now, Gundalina has no brakes. She has a handbrake (which works quite well) and of course a hydraulic bucket, which is a very good brake. She also has an accelerator that you have alter throttle with a lever. You can put your foot down, but it doesn't deccelarate - you have to make it do so. Still, if you're calm, and sensible and use her gears and the terrain, she's a foine, foine wee beastie. To kill her engine, you have to throttle right down - she doesn't die if you turn the key off.

Barbs successfully came to a stop and I put Gundalina into one of her worm-crawl gears and pushed cautiously a track, humpty bump through to the fallen trees I wanted cut up. I put on the various accoutrements of safety and was soon wielding the chainsaw manfully (or at least doing a plausible imitation) and had a reasonable pile of logs. Barbs piled them into Gundalina's small tray - and then announced that she'd take the load down, if I would turn the tractor around.

This was, of course, easier said than done, but I did a magnificent 48 point turn in the confined quarters of a medium-sized dance floor (not a great turning circle, remember this.) playing do not run into any large trees - back or forth. Barbs drove away and I resumed my cutting - with the earmuffs designed to blank noise at over a certain level. It's so you don't hear the screaming... Keep in mind Gundalina is in first in gear, at one of the crawler speeds. A moderate walking speed for a bloke in a Zimmer-frame with a ball and chain, so not precisely a speed of great danger in which you have no time do anything.

I got on with cutting, in the earmuff-induced silence.

I look up to see Gundalina has returned, roaring at full throttle. Well, was, or so I am informed. I am in blissful silence. Why didn't I know about these earmuffs when I had young kids with broken volume controls? Barbara is shrieking, but I am unaware of this. Remember this is worm gear... not a place where anything happens fast...

Unless of course you take it OUT of gear. Then she'll ROLL faster (or stop if it is flat) Did I mention this spot wasn't flat? How very remiss of me. Anyway, being one of those perceptive sort of fellows (as well as delicate, modest and with BO rather like the scent of a rose - which by any other name would smell)I look up at the machine thundering down on me - and gather by the waving of hands that not all is well, put the chainsaw down (always a good idea) and remove ear-muffs to witness - amid the thunder of the diesel and plaintive yells of "Dave! DAVE!" lady Gundelina going up in the world. On her bucket...

Barbs, having for some reason decided that taking Gundalina out of gear on a downhill to stop was a good idea (the good idea fairy was active that day) had had her accelerate - as a heavy machine on a gentle downhill will. Panic had ensued and she had been unable to switch Gundalina off (which would have made no difference as Gundy was not in gear) forgetting she had to reduce the throttle by hand. She'd turned uphill (and would have stopped in about 5-10 yards in actual fact) had suddenly remembered I had said to put the bucket down as a brake. Only she went the wrong way, realized her error but grabbed the tip not the up and down lever. So facing the bucket straight down she then realized what was wrong and used the other lever - ending up on Gundalina standing on her bucket front wheels in the air... but stopped. By this time I'm on the stair and can remind her how to pull the throttle back and stall the tractor.

She then informed me that she was never going to play with my toys again, and she'd been yelling at me for ages... Heh. It's only the depth that changes.
But alas, poor Gundalina, she lay - or rather purched on her bucket, stricken in the field. Stricken in among the scrub, anyway. She had roared her last, defiant to the end... Ahem. Gundalina wouldn't start anyway. Made that ominous click that goes with a flat battery or a short.

I, in payment for my sins, and for wearing earmuffs, had to carry a heavy tractor battery (first port of call, troubleshooting) to the ute.

Fortunately, as fortune favors the stupid anyway, that was the problem. She is Gunda-gunda-ing again. It doesn't look like the alternator is charging the battery. This is fixable. Not sure about Barbs' nerves...

Friday, July 7, 2017

doorways opening.

Okay that month flew by! Slack me. Partly sapped by 'flu, and frustration with the lack of progress...
Anyway... some progress has been made. Many more trips out to the block, cutting, clearing, showing the Architect the site.

This is her assistant, helping

Bringing home loads of firewood. And then doing the incredibly difficult - reaching lots of decisions. Where do you put the solar panels? Where should the veggie garden go? Where will the orchard be? Where will the cool-room and butchering area be? Where's the pig sty? How do you get water to xyz? And so on...

Relatively limited construction has happened, but quite a lot of destruction! I've been getting some of the huge amount of recycled wood I need for the list projects de-nailed. Yep, I'm in denail. I dug my first two holes, and am actually quite positve about it - they're about a meter down to clay - more than I expected and more than I hoped. Great for planting piles and poles.

I got my owner builder course done and passed, and have done and passed my 'white card' OH&S exam. I'm going to have to re-evaluate whether when the revolution come one sends the lawyers or OH&S or the politicians that passed this load of rubbish to visit madame Guillotine first... It's largely a lowest common-denominator, one size fits all rent extraction scheme, worth about 20 cents if you were feeling generous. But $260 dollars is what it costs and you really have no choice: that's your cheapest option.

I've been slowly working on my door at the Community shed. It's made of red ironbark - salvaged from old fence poles.

That's the upper half. The lower half is about 1/4 longer, convenient height for elbows. Lot of work in it - it's going to be more than 100 posts laminated. The wood is among the heaviest in the world (more than a metric ton seasoned, per cube), fire-resistant and will do 25 years underground as a fence-post, so it should see me out. I'd like my coffin made of it which will see my pall-bearers either drive front end loaders or join me.

Considering this is the original posts - it's an exercise in making a very heavy silk purse out of a sow's ear. I left the outside as it came - so it will very rustic indeed on one side.

I did manage one trip to sea this month 1! and caught near nothing. It was pretty cold and bleak, but we got a great rainbow

I've been attempting to drain my body via the nose, which has been a little unpleasant on the body and brain, but a bit offputting to others... and to me going out to do the necessary gardening and work on the block - to say nothing of shooting wallaby for the dog, cats and ourselves (see priority ranking) -which involves a fair amount of walking in the dark and cold to say nothing of processing it. We've had vicious frosts - down to minus 4 - with even the puddles freezing over.

Fortunately one did wander into my veg in the dusk last night, just as I went out to get some spring onions for our evening repast - and so I didn't have to lie down on frozen ground - or puddles and could turn it into more food. I'm just glad of the freezers. They are going down a bit, and we probably only have about 5 months meat and fish in them... My plans on an early easy night went down the drain with an Ambo call, so I got to sleep at 2 AM. I don't mind doing Ambos calls but it has left me tired... so good night.
(an eagle over the block)

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Trailer times

It's been an interesting and busy week - the trailer has worked hard. The blue slug pulling moans that she has worked harder still. There's a little fairness in that - I drove her up Jamie's horrendous hill to fetch an old garden shed, that will become our generator shed. Up there we had the interesting times of pulling the shaft out of the hydraulic ram... a task that took another tractor - to put an O-ring in. It's funny how huge powerful machine rely so much on teeny weeny bit of rubber. I mean you just have to look at the disasters born out of rubber failing. Anyway... all achieved with a lot of brute force and ignorance (hey it's what I'm good at. Stick to what you're good at.) And then it leaked more oil. So rinse and repeat with a bigger O-ring.

Anyway, with great care I trundled the wee hoosie back down the hill. And then to the farm, where I got very brave driving to where I thought it should live... (2 wheel drive blue slug, and a trailer.)

As I am writing this you can gather I am not still stuck up there.

I'd no sooner got back before Barbs called to say could I bring the trailer, one of the builders had kindly offered us some old internal doors he was replacing. Had to be done right now. So we fetched and loaded all those, took them out to the old house we will be moving onto the farm.

The next day I went to my friend Peter's place with the trailer to pick up some fence palings for the battery box... well. In a manner of speaking. The fence palings are still attached to fence, and we loaded that in in sections. I've been reducing it to palings and 2x4, with added scorpions for flavor.

Far too much of my non-writing life revolves around vehicles which I have a magnificent hate-hate relationship with - especially Barb's red rocket, which has been an unremitting lemon with horrible brakes and terrible thirst, to say nothing of her many other fine characteristics, like the corroded fuel line, power steering leak, various burst water hoses, corroded fittings, stuffed electronic bits, and many other minor fixes. Hopefully this passtime will improve as we just replaced it with a Diahatsu Pyzar for an into-work car. It is 18 years old but new to us! It used to belong to a dear friend who died just a few days short of her 90th - so one owner, a little old lady who drove it to church on Sunday- actually is accurate. Poor little car. A hard life awaits it. As you can see it has no roo-bar - which is near fatal around here.

So I wrestled the one off the red rocket. It may be worth more than the rocket was. It had mag wheels I plan to keep for boat trailer wheels. Otherwise I won't miss it. I spent a good few hours cutting some heavy steel plate and drilling holes in it for brackets for the roo-bar for the Pyzar. I need lessons on how to re-sharpen drill-bits.

The brown ute has been having hiccups. That's what it feels like anyway. It farts and stutters and jumps around, and nearly dies. Stop, shake the fuel filter, and hey presto, all is well... sometime for 50 yards sometimes for twenty km. I replaced fuel filters... and it went away. And then started again. So I tried again. And again. Cheap filters I ordered in bulk, fortunately. (cheaper for 5 than 1). Alas I am onto the last one. I figured it might be rust in the tank (the brown ute stood, undriven for about 2 years. So I spent time draining the tank, filtering the petrol, filling the tank, draining the tank, filtering the petrol. draining the tank, etc, and getting this really manly petrol bouquet. My darling wife said 'you stink.' No appreciation of the cologne... There wasn't much that came out of the tank, so I dunno. Haven't tried driving it yet.

Anyway, tomorrow I must take the trailer with a few poles and some scrap timber for the tractor's temporary resting shed to the block and start at least clearing the spot. Next is a lot of hole digging - framework for the solar panels, and the foundations fro the little shed, and putting in four poles for the tractor-port - I have a hand auger but it's still quite a job. I'll bring back a load of firewood, and then on Saturday fetch a cupboard with it... The blue slug I hope survives. It now has this front-tow-hitch which I love. I still suck at reversing a trailer, so with so much trailer use, a serious blessing.

Friday, May 19, 2017

One to six, pull

Or something like that (that's an old boatswain' call, from whaling days, not just my inability to count.)

It seems to have been a week of carrying. First loading these, then offloading these, then carrying them and then packing them up. It's kinda like digging holes and filling them in. (well, except with slightly more point.) That was my Monday. Tuesday I did a relatively minor load of collecting some scrap hardwood.

Then on Wednesday we bought 50 square meters of Macrocarpa planks, and took them out to the old house (our 'store' and shed-to-be on the farm next door). This was done with a big heavy borrowed trailer. I kept expecting the blue slug to expire like puff the tragic wagon. I'm not too sure what I'll do with the timber - it is a little soft - would make pretty internal doors window frames, and the like. I worked a little more on my front door. The job seems endless, partly because there are only a few hours to do it (I'm using the tools at the community shed.) The wood is curious... it sinks like a stone. That leaves it as almost certainly Ironbark, probably Grey, which makes it Australia's second hardest wood (ranked no 11 on the Janka scale, at 16 300 Newtons. White Oak for comparison is rated at 6 000 N) That's good because I plan to make a countertop of it and I have a lot of heavy cast iron pots and pans. There is an excellent reason for me cooking - a skillet related injury with frying pans is terminal. It's also one of the few timbers not to need fire-proofing in bushfire prone areas. In case of flooding do not attempt to float away on the door

I'm also scavenging old timber for a battery box for the solar system - I have enough bits left for 'carport' for Jamie's tractor. We have -thanks to John Tulloch got the Hydraulic ram apart, and hopefully have a new O-ring soon. Then (rubs hands gleefully) digga digga... A shortcut to England. Well - some track-flattening, flattening the site for the generator shed, clearing the orchard site etc.

Olives are now bottled. It's a month now before they can be tested.

So no use visiting before mid June.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Doorways, olives and electricity

It's been a busy week - writing and doing other self-sufficiency type tasks as well as making some fairly large steps toward the new home - and some that take a lot of patience... always my strongest suite. But you know, you can have it two of the following good, fast or cheap - not three. And as writers get 64 cents for that paperback WHEN and if they get it, cheap has to be one. And I kinda like good. I don't like endlessly replacing cheap junk. It still happens...

One of the slows has been progress on the door - I've now laminated into 6 sections the upper half of the stable door. For a job I thought I'd do in a day, it's taking an amazingly long time. I'm still no wiser about what the dense timber it is made of - which is sort of relevant as they may fuss about fire retardation. Personally I suspect it's a lot more fire-resistant than the expensive imported tropical timber I am supposed to use - but can I prove this? The internet is being no help.

So: Olives
I bottled the green ones de-bittered for 6 days in wood-ash lye. I only did just over 600 grams - it's pretty much experimental. The patience with the black olives (and they were all at least mostly black when I started) goes on. Daily the water is changed and they go into another 5% salt solution, I'm planning to give them 10 changes.
notice that some are hardly black any more.
Anyway a couple more days before bottling.

I went out to see the legendary John Tulloch with the tractor's water sheep... hydralic ram, and to consult him on setting up my own off-grid system. John is an amazing man - a sort Nikola Tesla character, with the same incredible breadth of knowledge -anything from Quantum Physics to how to fix hydraulic rams - and the same ability to visualize thing in 3D. I'm not the bluntest pencil in the box but he makes me feel a trifle dim. He adds being pragmatic to all of this. Anyway one of his favorite fields is alternate energy sources, and he talked me through getting my Solar power set-up. I've got 9 panels, I will soon have 29. An old shed, and one of John's fiendish devices, und vith ze power galvanic... ahem. You get the picture. I hope to have power on the site soon - We have water, we will have power. Now all we need is get some form of shelter.

I'm also looking at the possibilities of buying some macrocarpa to do my floors - a bit soft but beautiful. It may just be an expense too far.

On another tangent, I took in a 7 foot log of Cape Barren pine - a kind of cypress native to the Island. Also rather soft, but with a lovely cedar-like scent. I hope to get slats of this to make shelves for the linen cupboard.

I've got a load more bulbs to plant, and no further developments...

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Diving, Tractors and doors

Ok with financial stalls temporarily holding up progress, I've been a bit lax about reporting in. That and having a surprise visit from my son James and my daughter-in-law, Alana, kind of put a temporary halt to major works.
Which involved a fair amount of diving, fishing
And my first 5kg cray.
Normally diving crays here is pretty hard - not easy for the inexperienced, as they're few and far between, typically in deep, narrow caves or cracks at least 10 meters down, and very hard to reach and hard to pull out. Norman and I have got very into diving the way my bruv and I dived back in the old country - as a team. This has upped our joint catch a lot as so often you go into one side of a cray hole, only to have the spiny lobster leave out of a second hole. In among huge underwater boulders and chasms and cracks... that usually means you've lost them. So we work together - any large boulder if he swims left I'll scout right, and fetch the other if we spot a cray - if there is time. We keep a very close watch on the other diver, or at least their bubbles. This time Norm spotted a cray, went in to have a look... and quite unbenknownst to him frightened another into leaving quietly by the back door... only I was swimming past his back door and saw him coming. So I just settled, stopped breathing, with my hands apart on either side of the cave. He just kept looking backwards... until he was between my hands. I just had to scruff him and swim over to Norm, who has the catch bag.

Anyway - as I've been a bit stuck with the actual building, I've been working on making a hardwood stable door - from insulposts - a hardwood they used for fencing back in the day. Mostly these old fences are/have been replaced - but the wood is still undamaged after 40-60 years out in the weather. It's a heavy dense beautiful dark red/brown timber. Hell to work - an inch and a half thick - the door will weigh at least 100kg. It is made up of 49 posts - quite a job cleaning and gluing... and heavy. Man... I reckon in case of a nuclear attack - just take shelter behind my door. The house will blow away, but not that door. When it is done I will put up pictures.

Today I was up at Jamie's taking a piece out of the hydraulics of an old tractor - if we can fix it, we can borrow it... it's got a bucket on the front, and will make road building, as well as taking apart and moving the old house a lot easier. Besides I get to play digga-digga...

Sunday, April 9, 2017

hot smoked mackerel

I went for a dive here and set my little net, and didn't get a lot - but there was one yellow-tail scad - mackerel

They're common enough at this season - we get huge shoals feeding on the galaxias, with predatory fish feeding on mackerel beneath them - this isn't something I'd had within 40 feet of the shore in about 3 meters of water. typically a schooling fish, so I was surprised to get one.

I filleted and salted it.
Left the salt on for about 20 minutes - I normally aim for 3 for frying. Rinsed it off, patted it dry and ground tassie mountain pepper onto it. I let it airdry for a bit and then hoy smoked over some gum saw-dust. It was less golden than I liked - a bit too dark. I served it on buttered cous cous with morrocan salad and little black-skinned tomatoes.

Not too bad, really. Total cost half a cup of cous cous and a little salt.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

The Teeny-Tiny home

Well, the process of strangling new home building with red tape continues apace. Honestly, the entire exercise seems to be designed to make it as difficult and expensive as possible - for no benefit to the new home owner. We'll still get there but the time line keeps growing. So does the expense. Most of building money is now going into things like the septic system (which is a prebuilt unit a monkey (even me) can install - but needs a $90 an hour plumber) and its soakaway which -once again - has multiple possible and effective solutions - but one permitted one (far from the best one), which involves importing stone - an expensive exercise and unnecessary. Putting in a fire tank - although we have a permanent waterhole which is easier to use, getting the track gravelled and so on.

So one of my friends pops up a picture on her sidebar on facebook showing a 'tiny home' built on a truck. I was amused (it's a mobile home, and therefore not subject to all the endless crapola, unless you actually plan to take it on the road, which would make it subject to road regulations.) so I sent it on to Barbs.

So guess what I am doing next? :-)

The reality is that living on site will cut our traveling time, and our expenses (no rent to pay, no fuel and wear and tear to-and-fro) by a lot, enabling us to build faster, and save the money needed for the sea of relentless red-tape. And at the end of the day we have a little one-room place on the back of an old Bedford as guest lodging.

Anyway, as you can see, the clearing goes on. I've brought back two loads of wood as well as taking a load of corrugated iron scrap and old timber and poles
from the tip for the orchard and pig-sty. We had some little adventures there as Barbs wanted to see what I'd done and got to the steepest part of our 'circular' drive and got into the slithers with the trailer. All fun-and-games until someone gets killed as they say! Anyway, no lives lost. The grass is very slithery.

Had the NBN guys here today, saying they could do nothing - the service is just intermittently rubbish - but they did point out that I am going to have dramas with getting the internet satellite dish put up at the new place. It isn't simple ever. But we go on.

Friday, March 31, 2017

One step from Earth

I think my new (new as in new to me - bought at a garage sale)ladder may well kill me. I was doing some roof work yesterday, which involved a fair amount of ladder standing and odd angles on the back (ouch this morning). Now, failing off ladders is a common-place disaster. They're ricketty things and lateral pressure on a long lever - leaning over sideways, makes them fall over very easily. My ladders have always come under the 'extremely dodgy, expect it to fall over, collapse, lose a rung' heading. They've usually rejects or cheap. I've hated and distrusted them... and lived with them, expecting the worst (which has happened, once. No serious damage done to me or the ladder. I was sort of expecting it.

But the new ladder may well be the death of me. You see... it isn't ricketty, or spindly. It stands, seemingly as firm as any pylon. I can stand on the very top of it with ease and comfort. Its legs splay at the bottom so it seems much more laterally stable. Which may sound good, but I found myself forgetting I was 2 meters off the ground on something inherently unstable... which can have consequences.

But in the meanwhile, I'm rating it as one of the best buys I ever made, and wondering how I put up with such rubbish for so many years :-)

Thursday, March 30, 2017

red tape and other follies.

I'm still trying to go through this required course for owner builders.

Why is it taking me so long? After all I only look dumber than rocks, and, um have 7 years of post school study in a demanding field of science. I graduated rather well, actually. Is it hard math, calculations of what you need to know to build? No - it contains absolutely zero of this kind of valuable information that I'd be eager to study.

Does it teach the use of the materials or methods possible, and the limits on these? No: there is no real substantive building information in it all.

Does it walk you through costings and quantity calculations? Nope. All it says is that I am too dumb to do this and should hire professionals. This may be true - but it's of no value to me because I'm doing this because I can't afford to hire professionals.
So why is taking me so long?

Well, partly because it is 90 pages long and so far my record is 3 pages before shutting it down in a fury. It's 90 pages of red tape and 'don't do this: hire an architect, hire a builder, borrow money to pay the literally at least 400% extra costs for no benefit we impose'. Most of which is inapplicable, of no or negligible value to the owner-builder, all of which is written SO badly that, if it were subject to the same standards as they impose on me, it would have to be destroyed by specialists in haz-mat suits operating robots from 10 miles off, the ground scraped to 100 feet into bedrock, and the entire mess buried in a lead casket encased in six feet of concrete in a disused salt mine.

And the cherry on the top? As an owner builder you pay an extra tax to pay for producing this appalling drekk and 'improving' the rules. Yes, they tax you to make your life far more expensive and more complicated. AND tax you to support training in the building industry - to train people to do work you can't afford because they've made the process so expensive. I'm an owner builder because I must be. I enjoy actual building, but, realistically, I will be slow and less good than a skilled tradesman (well, I may not be less good - because it is mine and I care more - but the same job will take much longer.) But seriously, I have little choice but to do it myself because of cost. So: logically I must be taxed to pay to train more people I can't afford to employ.

On a different tangent I was ordering bugle head inset hex screws. I use these a lot in most large construction and they're solid. I tend to break or strip screws ;-/ - but not these. I used to do most construction with 10mm bolts (I'm that sort of guy) but these are pretty good. I made an interesting discovery - it's cheaper to order these by the 500, than the 1000 - while the base cost per screw goes down nicely with volume, the shipping goes up dramatically. 2 boxes of 500 cost $10 less than 1 box of 1000. You've got to watch that postage.

Chainsaw follies. I'm trying to switch over my 445 Husky to 3/8 chain (and bar). I'm tempted to spend money on a larger saw for timber-milling, but... it is a pricy exercise. And seeing the red-tape manufacturers are dead-set on taking every cent - or stopping the process, it's hard to justify spending that. I'd love to at least do some of the 'trim' (window ledges, doors, kitchen units, cupboards, out of my own timber - a sort of psychological joy, if not a vast saving.) but well the 'levy' for training building tradies I can't afford, is more important. And of course paying politicians to make more laws to impede and increase costs to home-builders, vital.

Plans are also afoot to take Jamie's old tractor out to the farm to start work on the site and track. It's got a digger-digger on the front and I must admit I can't wait. Mind you I might have to wrestle Barbara out of the driving seat to get a turn. Yes, we're both SO grown up :-).

Monday, March 20, 2017

It's easier emigrate than to build.

Batman the cat's death, and the subsequent failure of Activ8's internet service has put a damper on my posting.

Barbs and I went out to the block on the weekend and cut 6 tanks of brush-cutting. I work out the area we need to clear is around half an acre. Which is amazing large, a plant at a time. My Chainsaw is acting up, and alas the parts I ordered were the wrong ones.

On the council wrestling for the building permit - I still need to do my Owner builder's test, and then get a white card (which is like a white feather but different) for construction safety. I must admit to having a problem with the Owner builder piece of total drekk. Summary: we will make this difficult and unpleasant so you borrow money from our friends the banks, and support our friends the professional architects, builders, plumbers, and electricians. We will tell you repeatedly how dumb and what a bad idea this is. Most of it is as relevant to the rural guy building his own home as Astrophysics is to digging ditches.

The paperwork, and requirements for this... Well the paperwork is going to be a more than I had to have to emigrate. The costs are hugely more - for something that will make the govt and council long term money! It is going to cost so much - most of it completely without situational justification. In migration context - You're immigrating from Luxemburg... where is your military record! No we can't let you in without a military record. We need to check for atrocities. Yes the country has an army of 10 who stand guard in pretty uniforms and haven't been to war in a couple of centuries... but we must have that record...

The Australian government wants to limit migrants to those who will help the country and fit here - it should be hard. The opposite is true for home ownership - they should want (and do benefit from) as many people owning their own, and not paying the bank rent as possible. So why is the latter harder than the former, and deliberately forcing the people who can least afford it to borrow?

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

An ode to corrugated iron

So I took a trip to the tip to scavenge some roofing iron yesterday. I’m an unashamed scavenger – re-use everything and anything I can. Look, there’s not a lot of spare cash so I make up for it by repairing things at about twice the cost in parts and four times in labor what buying new would cost… well, sometimes this is true.

This isn’t Africa, and while there are other scavengers, there is still a lot thrown away because the cost and effort of recycling bits is too high, especially in a relatively affluent society like Australia. The tip is divided up: household waste going in one area, green waste to another, building/demolishing and general iron/wood another, so it’s not digging through rotting garbage. Broken glass and sharp iron yes, and I’m sure eventually the nanny state will step in and fuss about it. But at the moment, there is a chance to save a few dollars on materials.

Now Australia is pretty much built on corrugated iron. It is relatively easy to transport, covers a large area, is waterproof, fairly strong and very adaptable and used to be pretty cheap. Termites and bugs don't eat it. It’s hot as hell – and cold as the Norse hell – uninsulated. But it’s a roof, walls… and so much more. Among the things we need is more carport/storage space (boats, nets, pots and the like – can get wet, but you don’t want out in the weather and sun) and a pig pen, and possum proof walling on the orchard (which will have to be netted against birds and fenced against wallaby, and foot wired and electrified against wombats… it’s not all easy growing your own food here, or cheap.

Without the corrugated iron it’d be harder and slower to do it all. But at around $12 a meter by 760 mm – without transport, it can add up pretty quick. And this sort of use isn’t that fussed by a few holes or a spot of rust.

Anyway, I found a few nice off-cuts, and bits and bobs. Not pretty, but functional… rather like me.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

The olive and the fig

We took our first 'owner' trip to our block yesterday, with the poor olive tree that's been surviving in a pot - waiting on this day for nigh on 6 years, a fig tree, wire, chainsaw, brushcutter, spade, mattock and various implements of destruction.
First act was to stake our claim.

Then I got down to digging a hole near the gate, and Barbs took a large bag off to collect the dead horse bones (isn't this what every new property owner does?)
Without too much drama, the olive was planted. I didn't bury any corpses at its feet. But where you plant an Olive, an old belief goes, you plant a piece of your heart. And figs of course are symbols of fertility and possibly, knowledge :-).

We took ourselves on a tour of the boundary - walking the property line. It's an interesting combo of beach sand, limestone rocks and granite. I can grow two varieties of rock! There's a dam/waterhole, that exists simply by getting down to the water-table (we're between 25-95 feet above sea level) and there are surprising hummocks and little hills and valleys, meaning there are spots that face North, and could be reasonable for grapes. Yes, a daydream. No you can't order a case. There's a winter stream, and quite a lot of bush, more rush-tussocks and bracken. And rocks. Did I mention the rocks. This includes sheets about 30 yards across in the house-paddock. Houses can forage on rocks, which most other animals find indigestible.

Then we set cutting weeds and dead trees around the house site... well, temporarily. The brush-cutter and its shaft decided they'd had enough of each other, and started divorce proceedings with a trial separation. This was something the weeds greeted with delight. I had the dead tree twist on me and pin my bar - but nothing a well-applied wedge and brute force could not sort. There is a wealth of dead trees (firewood)- they're mostly she-oak, shallow rooted and tend to fall over at a certain size - making a tangle of dead flammable stuff - better cut and used than left to be a fire-hazard. We have weeds, thistles, nettles too as extra benefits - but once the area is tidied up should be lovely, and less good for fires and snakes.

It's a start, that's all I can say.

We sat and had spiny lobster on home made bread, and a glass of wine to celebrate. There's a lot to do, but every step is one less that we have to take.

Friday, March 3, 2017

Death to the landlords... oh. Wait...

"Death to the landlords!"

Looks at watch.

Um. 12.31...

"The peasants are revolting!"

Or in other words, we are now land-owners as of 12.30. Peasants are admittedly in short supply, and we may have to make do with Pheasants. Still waiting on replies from council about the building permit. I am reading the regulations... seriously, they need one new regulation: "No regulations may be more than 3 pages, and in total cost (in fees, added expenses etc,) more than 1% of the value of project. You can tell these bastards have no work to do and are not paying for the costs out of their own pockets.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Shrove Tuesday

Is pancake day. The Anglican Church do free lunch-time pancakes, with a vast selection of sweet and savory fillings. I do my bit as the pancake cook - I had 4 pans working flat-out for just over 2 hours. I also took in 4 large pots of savory fillings - long on meat and veg off the land. It's free - like several of the functions and feeds here - although there is a collection box for donations for some form of disaster relief every year: Australia - fire or drought. People I suspect give more than we could charge, because that's the nature of the people and place.

I'm good with getting up a 5 to cook, doing my bit. Once, in what seems like another lifetime we came to the island... pretty broke. It cost nearly all we had and the exchange rate was very against us. I was still learning the local fish and how to catch them, and we had no access to meat or poultry. Veg, rice cheap noodles were a lot of what we ate. Now, I raise or shoot our own meat, and meat portions are generous, my deep freezers bulge, and money doesn't come into it much - then, well we made a point to buy some meat (whatever was cheapest) every two weeks. Aus prices made my eyes water. Going to these 'feeds' meant a lot to us. I'd like to think I pay it forward a bit, play a small part in a community that does this kind of thing.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Resume the position...

2016 turned into the sort of year largely best left un-mentioned. Partly sheer battle-fatigue. We did go and see Paddy and Clare in the UK and Patrick and Judith in Brittany, but something about that turned occasional tinnitus into a permanent chorus in my ears. My writing career went along swimmingly... as the man said of how things were going when his home flooded. It's still going. I'm planning on doing more self-publishing through Amazon in the future, and have started a mailing list - if you're interested you can sign up here. We did more pigs and more bacon and ham... just battering on, not losing too much ground, not gaining any really.

But in the latter half of the year we had a bit of a financial shock - the great deal we had on the present house we are tenants in got revised. Now, we're very grateful for what we'd had, and this was fair enough. But... it pushed things into a situation of instead of saving furiously and hoping we'd have the cash in hand when property prices fall (as they must, eventually. If interest rates rise, the Australian job situation worsens or the farming situation changes for the worse - Flinders will be one of the first places hurt. All those second holiday homes will, if it is a choice between paying home mortgage, or the holiday place mortgage - you know which one has to go)- to one where we felt we were going to lose ground, or take the step of buying something with what we had.

So... on Friday next Barbs and I will start the next phase of our adventure. We'll have 43 acres of rocks, bush and not very arable grazing land, about 800 meters from the beach. Oh yeah, and next to no money. So what else is new?

But somehow we're going to raise a house on it. Sheds, Veg gardens, an orchard, and eventually some fencing and livestock. It's not ever going to be commercially successful farming at that size - but we should be pretty much self-sufficient.

It's going to be tough. Make and scrape, paint it blue and make it do. But... I have done tough. And I am longing for a place of our own. I want to build... for me and mine. I want to plant trees I will see fruit and harvest from.

I want to say 'this is my land.'

And I will.