Visit my Etsy Shop!

Tuesday 31 May 2011

Luke & Bronte woke me this morning triumphantly yelling "pinch, punch, first day of the month, no returns" (& pinching & punching me at the same time). After a dazed moment I muttered "isn't it the 31st May today?" "Oh yeah" says Bronte looking at his watch "well, never mind". Never mind! I'll just have to make sure I get them tomorrow.

Feeling rather guilty as I missed my Mum's birthday on the 29th - my sister rang to remind me last night. I knew when it was but lost track of the days somehow. Spent a frantic evening on the internet (snail speed) and phone trying to sort something out. Finally got a gift voucher from a garden centre near to Mum (they were a bit amazed to be getting a call from Australia!) and left a message to that effect on Mum's answer phone. I dare say I'm still in the doghouse though. The ironic thing is I started this blog partly because of Mum. Support was withdrawn from her Amstrad e-mailer & I missed e-mailing her my news & thoughts and Bronte gets bored with it all. Now Mum & my step-dad have a fancy new netbook so in a way it renders my blogging redundant. But now I've started ...

Gosh, it's getting cold in the mornings. We have had frosts each morning for the last week or more & it's still pretty icy out there now (9am), hence I'm huddled in front of the computer instead of braving the weather to do my outside jobs. Luke & I were too late to walk to the bus this morning. On the way back I paused on our drive to look down the valley - fog lay in it, so flat and pure it might have been a lake of milk, covering all but the triangular-tops of the tallest trees.

The sun comes late to us now we are so close to the shortest day here in the southern hemisphere, but has been glorious during the days following these frosty mornings. The mountains block the early and late sun so by the middle of June we get it from around 9.45am to 2.45pm. However, even that short time is enough to make our living areas toasty. We designed the eastern and northern eaves to block out the high summer sun but to allow the low winter sun to stream in through the large picture windows. We are well insulated so retain the heat.

We thought long & hard about 'thermal mass' but in the end decided against it. It's not unusual here in Tassie to get several days in succession with no sun, in which time one's thermal mass will have cooled & be sucking what warmth there is out of the house. The only way we could imagine it working here, would be to have ancillary heating within it for those days of no sun. Even then, I cannot think of it without remembering those wretched old storage heaters we used to have in the UK, that warmed up overnight on off-peak electric & then let all that warmth out during the day whilst one was at work, and be cold by evening, when you came home. With thermal mass, it presumably warms up during the day, releases the warmth overnight (when you don't need it) & then is cool again when you are getting up in the morning. The only problem with our house is that the bedrooms downstairs do get chilly (they are shaded by the upstairs decks) and unless we keep the room doors closed, the heat from the panel heaters goes straight up the stairs to be lost in the double-height entrance hall. I have been meaning to make and install a curtain across the bottom of the stairs as a thermal break, for about two years and it's just one of those things that never gets done.

What's happened since I last wrote? Friday was a busy day, preparing and giving out two days' worth of feed for all the animals, so that we could go biking on Saturday on the riverside cycleway in Hobart - Luke was very excited about it all. We spent three hours slogging up the cycleway (I don't know if it was 'up', but it certainly felt like it), straight into a chill wind. Luke & Bronte loved it and I was glad of the exercise and  time out from the farm - but on the way back my poor bum suffered dreadfully! I've only been on a bicycle twice in the last seven years! Bit disgraceful really, but honestly the terrain here is just not conducive to a leisurely cycle ride. Later, a measure of my tiredness was that I had to retire to bed half-way through Doctor Who.

Sunday was spent mostly catching up on the things I should have been doing on Saturday, as well as showing off four small goats to various sets of people. They were all small being the offspring of three young does who were deflowered by my poison-dwarf buck, Charlie; but Microlite was truly minute for her age. The man who bought her & Petal was delighted as he breeds miniatures. I still have the two wethers and if they don't sell as pets, then unfortunately they will go for meat when older.

On a completely different subject, the other day Bronte read that Australia has 21% of the world's poker machines ('pokies' as they are called here, 'one-armed bandits' they might more commonly be known as) - an astounding statistic if true. Much as I like living in Australia, there are things about it of which I'm quite ashamed. This obsession with gambling is one. All pubs and clubs have TV screens showing constant games of 'Lotto' -with gaming cards on the tables. Horse-races here are occasions for public holidays, & underneath all the glitz & glamour, the 'fascinators' and tails, there is a much murkier world based on betting. If not the worst, Australia is certainly among the worst countries for the amount of money spent on gambling per capita. It's also the highest carbon-emitter per person (higher even than the US) and has one of the worst records for domestic violence. It seems strange doesn't it, when the overseas image of the Australian, is one of laid-back heartiness? Tasmania is a microcosm of all this and being that much poorer than other Australian states, has these problems multiplied. In addition, the small population leads to nepotism, small-mindedness, lack of vision (is that a tautology?) and a general lack of professionalism in all areas. That gets us back to the forestry industry, where a minority of the population hold the politicians (who barely rise to the calibre of decent councillors) and the rest of us in thrall, through a combination of old money, cronyism and aggressiveness.

Going back to cosmology (or astro-physics?) Bronte suddenly asked at dinner last night, how come we can see back 13.7bn years when the universe is only apparently 14bn years old? I think I got what he was trying to say - that unless the universe was itself expanding at the speed of light, wouldn't the light emitted from something 13.7bn years old, be already well past us & you can't look at the back of light can you - or maybe you can, think of the batman spotlight. Perhaps in those early hours the universe was sort of instantly populated with matter & it's just continued to expand & agglomerate since then. I have no idea & it makes my head hurt thinking about it. I have problems with the big bang theory anyhow.

I really must get on. I have a contract to read, animals to feed, piglets to wean, huts & birds to move etc etc.

Friday 27 May 2011

There are now three more chicks out in the garage, a slightly disappointing result from twenty eggs put in the incubator three weeks ago, but perhaps not all that surprising considering how close to mid-winter it is now. When I candled the eggs (looked through them with the help of a bright light in a dark room) a week ago, sixteen were infertile & ended up as pig food (annoyingly I'd been carefully turning them three times a day for two weeks at that point). One chick hatched on its own but the other three needed help - the shells were very hard so they would never have managed it on their own. One was very weak and unfortunately didn't survive many minutes. At this time of year when the days are so short, the hens go 'off-lay' & eggs appear only sporadically. Sometimes there's a complete break for three-four weeks until the days begin lengthening again. The hens have all been moulting which makes them miserable too.

I've just been out to the garage to check on the babies & it's bitingly cold out there (they are snug in a lined box with a heat lamp above). Since we have no light pollution here, the stars are quite astounding. It seemed fitting to take a good look as we'd watched the first of Stephen Hawking's programmes on the universe & the possibility of alien life last night. I don't buy this notion of life having come to earth on meteorites/ comets etc. If life was going to originate anywhere, it was just as likely to appear here as elsewhere. Plus, I'm inclined to think there is a bias towards the creation of life if the ingredients & conditions are in place, ie that it's more likely than not to appear. There are too many weird & wonderful creatures that have evolved to live in even the most remote and seemingly inhospitable places on earth for that not to be true:  next to hot sulphuric volcanic vents on the bottom of the sea, in saline lakes, hidden in the earth's crust, in dark damp subterranean passages and in the ice of the Antarctic for example. I've just heard that some new form of microscopic pond-life has been identified, something akin to a fungus but that has animalistic traits.

Thursday 26 May 2011

I loaded up Word 2010 yesterday – what a pain, now our already slow computer is down to snail’s pace & the screen looks so different, it will take an age to figure it all out. I only did it so I could open .docx files sent to me from other people. I wonder how many people have need of all this functionality. It takes many more clicks now to do the simplest task.

As soon as I sit at the computer, Murphy-cat appears as if by magic to sit under the heat of the angle-poise lamp & then make himself comfortable on my lap with his chin resting on my left elbow (which I now can’t move). He’s been sick throughout the night, all around the wood-heater. That’s the next task, to clear that up. I’ve poked furball laxative down him in the hope it will do the trick. He’s such a thin shadow of a cat now – big golden eyes in a tiny pointed brown face, fur & bone, & that’s all there is. I’m used to him being like it now so at least it doesn’t make me sad to see him, but I worry & wonder if there’s anything more we can do. He went downhill a few months back & when I first took him to the vet, they diagnosed diabetes, but the insulin they prescribed nearly killed him on two occasions. He was only saved by copious amounts of honey spooned painstakingly into his mouth (while he bit me in his stupor), warm baths & hot water bottles (when your blood sugar is very low, your body temperature plummets).

Eventually, I bought a glucose monitor & tested him daily for two weeks (it requires a drop of blood from an ear which is not easy to obtain from a small, frail cat with cold ears & apparently rotten circulation). At no time did he need insulin – the vet had not allowed for the ‘Murphy factor’: ie that Murphy is neurotically anxious & suffers much more from stress hyperglycaemia than other cats. So he always appeared to the vet to be diabetic. This wrong diagnosis cost a fortune of course: glucose drips & overnight stays, regular visits to the vet etc, all adding up. The last set of bloods taken showed nothing except a possibly slightly reduced liver function, for which nothing can be done. He was on cat anti-depressants for years (if at all stressed, he’d break out in eczema & his fur fell out in clumps. Even if un-stressed, after days with no pill, he’d become so itchy & scratchy that he couldn’t settle. You’ll understand that Murph is no ordinary moggy).

Now he lives in the main upstairs area, only venturing onto the deck on very warm, sunny days. He’s mostly as close to the base of the wood-heater as he can get, otherwise on someone’s lap or shoulder, or in his cosy house with a hot water bottle. He has a litter tray, food & water on hand & tit-bits of food to tempt him to eat at regular intervals. If his litter tray is outside, he pees in the bath! He seems happy, purry & contented in his own way & looks like a supermodel. We’d miss him so – he’s an important, eccentric element of our family. All our WWOOFERs have fallen in love with him & even Bronte’s teenage nephews spent hours nursing him.

Luke and I have begun walking to and from the school bus. I’m not sure how long this will last – it’s about 1km each way, on steep gradients – but it certainly gets the cardio-vascular system pumping & is probably doing us the power of good. The dogs enjoy it too & it gives us an opportunity to put Rosie on the lead & try to teach her to sit while we wait for the bus. We ran part of the way this morning as we dare not miss the bus – if we’re not there it goes right on past & we’d have to tramp back home so I could drive Luke to school. We’re pretty high here, about 220m altitude, so we can look down the valley as we walk & can see the bus parked across the hill at one of our neighbours’ houses (handily, she drives the bus). It was frosty again today, so I’m hoping for a sunny day like yesterday. The days are getting so short now though & by 4pm the chill is really setting in again.

Apart from the usual chores, on the agenda today is: marketing work, research into micro-hydro costs, cooking animal food & clipping the big goats’ hooves. The latter is a long job so may not get finished today. Then it’s off to pick up the bear (Luke), animal scraps & shopping.

Murphy before becoming so thin

Recent photo of Luke and Murphy-Cat

Murphy's domain

Tuesday 24 May 2011

Finding time to write this is not easy at present, and if I leave it a few days I forget what I’ve done! I was listening to one of my radio science shows the other day (I download them onto my ipod – it stops me going mad when doing tedious tasks on the farm). It said studies have revealed that analysis of a person’s vocabulary & their use of concepts in their writing, can indicate a propensity to dementia. A decline in the extent of one’s vocab. etc can be picked up much quicker than other signs of declining mental agility. Even at an early age, those with a more limited vocabulary & less complex ways of expressing theirselves, may have a slightly increased risk of developing dementia in their old age. I’m not sure what the point of this is, except that I keep forgetting things! Apparently putting on weight is a major risk factor too. Sigh.

I’ve put in a momentous effort over the last couple of days. On Sunday morning I had to catch & deliver four young goats (Bront & Luke disappeared for the morning swimming & basketballing). However, when I wrestled the goat float onto the ute, I realised I’d not moved the three young roosters out which were currently living in it in palatial, sheltered splendour. So, I hurriedly decided they would have to go to rooster heaven sooner rather than later – they’d been given to us & although they’d been quarantined for a couple of weeks, I still didn’t want to risk putting them in with our flock. Then I yarded the goats & managed to catch the four chosen ones remarkably quickly, but it was pretty hard work manhandling them into the trailer.

I got back and ate my lunch talking to a neighbour friend of ours who’d kindly returned something of mine, then two sets of people turned up to buy piglets. I was obliged to wade in mud to grab them while they kicked, wiggled & squealed for all they were worth (at least they didn’t bite). On the second occasion, I thought I was stuck forever – it took a major effort to get my foot out. Another one went yesterday, making four in total. I advised on a goat or two instead, owing to their circumstances, but they were dead set on a pig. This time I managed to avoid the worst of the mud, grabbed the chosen piggly & stuck it under my arm while it howled fit to burst. None of the buyers bought a container – thinking perhaps they could just hold a piglet on their laps – so all got bundled unceremoniously into feed bags & tied up with bailing twine! Again, that was all pretty hard physical work & I was plastered in pig mud. Not as bad as the time last year when I caught a piglet, tripped & lay face down in mud hanging onto its back leg for dear life! Nor quite as strenuous as when a large pig got out & in desperation I grabbed it by the tail & hauled it bodily towards its pen. Once it got going in the right direction it happily trotted back in. So there are just six piglets left now, which is about right.

I’d been keen to do some mincing as we are currently awash with pork. While we are now fully self-sufficient in meat, the forms in which it comes are rather unvaried, being mostly roasts & chops. So later on Sunday, I sat & cut 5kg of pork off the bone & trimmed off the rind etc before spending two hours laboriously mincing it with a hand mincer. There must be a better way! I put a couple of kilos of the fattest mince back through, to turn it into sausagemeat. I’ve bought some sausage skins so plan to have a go soon at making some proper pork bangers – Australians don’t know how to make a decent sausage (nor do I for that matter, so I can feel a bit of internet research coming on). At least now we have mince for spag bol (which we had last night - delicious), lasagne, shepherds’ pie, burgers etc.

Then of course, there were the dead roosters to deal with. Yesterday was a busy day of feeding creatures, cooking food for pigs & birds, replacing rat baits, tec-screwing the targa roof onto the farm Suzuki (the velcro & self-adhesive ties provided, just weren’t up to the job), catching a piglet & picking Luke up from the school bus. So after clearing up the dinner dishes & packing Bronte’s lunch for today, I went back out in the garage & had a peaceful couple of hours plucking & drawing roosters, listening to the Archers on the ipod (if only it wouldn’t play the most recent episode first – it’s so frustrating) & watching the dogs growling & playing together. Brucie treed a possum at one point & when I went out with the torch (he was barking madly) it was a great fat furry brushtail, peering down at us from the top of the veggie-patch frame. I tried to show Rosie but she was too dopey. Bruce must have given up eventually - he returned to the garage tired and pleased with himself.

The weather has turned today. We’ve had a marvelous few late autumn days - warm & sunny - but now it’s turned chilly again & it’s drizzly & overcast. I was hoping the warm days might last a bit longer, to completely dry out the pig pens which have not recovered from the terrific rain we had a few weeks back (when I tried to take extra bedding out to the animals in the evening & slid out of control down the hill, through a pig pen fence & straight into the pear tree – it was a horrible experience I prefer not to dwell on now! Needless to say, the ute was trapped in the pear tree paddock with two pigs for several days & now the pear tree paddock is no more. Insurance is paying for repairs & it should all be sorted soon). The autumn colours have been wonderful just lately. We’ve had a long, pleasant autumn & the leaves turned late in the season - now they are quite vibrant. Of course the Aussie trees are generally evergreens so it is the introduced deciduous trees in gardens and orchards that bring the colour. They make a bright contrast to the always rather grey-green austerity of the Aussie bush (majestic of course, but more akin to the 18th century notion of the ‘sublime’ than the soft, lushness of European garden landscapes).

Listening to ‘Witness’, downloaded off the World Service, I had a jolt of recognition when they began talking to people about the poll tax riots & the death of Kurt Cobain. Gosh, now I’m at an age when things that I clearly remember are reminisced about on the radio. I was in fact in London on the day of the poll tax riots & got mixed up in the fringes of it. I’d gone down with a group of university friends to watch the boat-race (we were Cambridge supporters) & just have a fun time. I don’t think it had even dawned on us the protest was happening that day. Later we got out at Leicester Square tube station and the police closed the station behind us. My main memory from thereon was watching someone hurling a brick at the Swiss Centre in the Square - & the brick just bouncing off the window glass! There was something quite comical about it, despite the violence. Obviously, the Swiss build their centres strongly! We saw groups of police with riot shields & running, shouting protesters but soon holed ourselves up in a cheap restaurant in Chinatown for the rest of the night. As for Kurt Cobain, I liked Nirvana, but was not a devoted fan. It took my recent Woofers, both only about eight years old when Kurt committed suicide and hence ended Nirvana, to tell me that one of the group then went on to become the lead singer of the Foofighters (I don’t know anything about them, except that they must now have been going for about 17 years so must be getting a bit long in the tooth). That conversation only came about because the neighbour I do a lot of marketing work for, apparently looks like him! Hmm, enough for now I think.

Taken a while ago. Suzuki is looking considerably more battered & dirty now. Pile of sticks & manure behind is now all tidied away.

Pear tree paddock before I crashed the ute into it!

Burning old fenceline after gettng ute out of the pear tree paddock

Saturday 21 May 2011

It’s been another busy day and an eventful week all together. I spent the first part of the week on nervous tenterhooks, waiting & preparing for the forestry public meeting on Thursday evening – and the last two days recovering from it! It was a bit of a riot. Around ten minutes before we were due to kick off, someone muttered that there were a hundred or so people waiting to come in. On enquiry I was told it was forestry workers and Forestry Tasmania staff. In they came in their green FT jumpers or orange contractor outfits & filled the seating. People stood at the back & jostled in the foyer. Someone stood in the aisle holding a placard. If I was nervous before, now I was terrified (but determined)!

From the start there was constant heckling and abuse. People shouted with venom in their voices and stood pointing aggressively at the speakers. It started with a slideshow of photos of high conservation value forests – there was constant noise throughout and the speaker could not make himself heard. Then it was my turn. I just kept talking as loudly as I could & in fact they did quieten a bit. I tried to ad lib & answer some of their points in the presentation. At the end I lost my voice & croaked “thank you for your time”, sat down in relief & had to have a few asthma puffs! It pretty well went from bad to worse after that. That night I was too shell-shocked to sleep & wandered the house until 2.30am, finally getting about four hours sleep. Yesterday I was too exhausted to do much. I wrote a rather acid e-mail to the community liaison officer at FT who claimed I’d made mistakes in my talk & was deliberately ‘misleading’ the WWPG members. I’ve checked & the information I gave out was accurate. I didn’t send the e-mail straightaway – I thought I ought to sleep on it rather than sending it in a hyper, revengeful frame of mind. However, I have just re-read it & decided to send it after all – I copied it to some other senior FT people too – I hope it might put the cat amongst the pigeons.

On a happier note, amazingly the stuff I put in the car radiator appears to be working. The hours I spent trying to empty, then re-fill the cooling system & heater, run it to a “hotter than normal temperature” (who knows what the normal temperature is?) for 20 mins (“but don’t let it boil”), then “add the contents of bottle slowly”; seem to have paid off. I’m not too optimistic for the long term but who knows?

The dogs seem finally to have made friends this week. It seemed that Bruce (the ‘brick), would never accept Rosie-dog, but I tricked him into playing with her by attaching tennis balls to either end of a longish bit of rope before throwing it to them. One grabbed one ball, the other grabbed the other end & a great tug of war ensued! There was much growling & grumbling but eventually a great deal of tail-wagging too. Now they are playing a lot – Bruce is usually standing over Rosie while she wiggles beneath. They seem to be able to go for hours on end. Sometimes Bruce gets too rough & Rosie squeals, but she’s irrepressible & always goes back for more. It’s one of the more appealing things about her. Two dogs more different would be difficult to find. When you pick Bruce up you need to find the balancing point in the middle because he just does not bend – he’s literally like a hairy log of wood with four short sturdy legs. Rosie is so wiggly and slinky, she’s more like a cat than a dog. With her puppy-dog eyes and forehead wrinkled in puzzlement, she’s difficult to resist.

The piglets were advertised in the paper today. We had two calls, but ended up selling a big fat zero. Looks like they’ll end up as suckling pig roasts.

Previous spotty & black litter

Thursday 18 May 2011

The fateful day of the public meeting has arrived. I have written my presentation & even run through it a couple of times, but I shall be so glad when this evening is over. Apart from the nerves of presenting itself, I’m sure the whole event will be endless. The Wilderness Society has suspended involvement in the forestry negotiations, which may create added interest. I absolutely must get on with my marketing work today for our neighbours, to whom I feel most beholden.

I put a turkey brew on when I got back from taking Luke to the bus & sorted the scraps for the animals. Spotted Henry, our Wellsummer-rooster-with-attitude, out of the pen. After herding him into a corner & catching him, I decided I couldn’t clip his wings any shorter & instead shoved him into the fully-roofed peacock run. He won’t be getting out of there in a hurry. I left him being attacked by the peacocks & looking ruffled. There are a couple of young pullets in there so he might be happier once things settle down. I’ll move the two young roosters out of there sometime soon. Once I’m better organised, Henry can have his own little coterie of girls. But that means building more runs & proper coops.

Feeding the babies in the garage reminded me of the rat I found dead in one of my mouse traps the day before yesterday. It was the mummy rat that had bitten & led to the death of one of my little peachicks. I had thought their cage rat-proof, but it transpired it wasn’t. So I didn’t feel too much compunction when I found the rat, although we only get the rather pretty black ones here, long-whiskered & beady eyed. I was glad it had died quickly, not as a result of poison. It must have been very cunning to avoid all the bait I’d left temptingly by its runs. It had also eluded me & the dogs on the day I tracked down its neat nest & found its five helpless babies. They looked more like little salamanders than rats, with their soft grey leathery bodies. Afterwards, I couldn’t help thinking of the mum searching for them. Spending so much time with animals these days, we’ve come to realise that they have so much more depth to them than we normally imagine. We ascribe feeling & personality to our closest pets, but rarely extend it to other creatures.

Wednesday 17 May 2011

The last thing I should be doing is writing this blog, but anything to distract me from the fact I’ve got to dial-in to an Environment Tasmania Committee Meeting this evening – for which I am not in the least prepared – a presentation at a forestry issues public meeting tomorrow night in Huonville – for which I’m only slightly more prepared – and a million and one things to do for my marketing clients and on the farm. I’ve just booked a leg waxing and back massage for Friday – I feel I shall be in need of a treat & a bit of relaxation by then.

Got very excited yesterday because my new cordless phone works in the garage & the integral answering machine did its stuff without any prompting from me. I expect I’m meant to record a message or something when I find time to read the instructions. Took a call outside the garage yesterday. It was from the editor of The Mercury (the only real newspaper – rag - here in Southern Tassie) for whom I’d left a message in the morning. I rang to complain re double-page spreads from Forestry Tasmania personnel which at first sight appeared to be reported as fact, not opinion, and which were not countered by any other opinions, for instance from university scientists or environmental groups. Aforesaid editor very defensive & harangued me – however, I feel I gave as good as I got & finished the call feeling better after a good constructive argument! It’s great getting middle-aged & crotchety.

When cleaning up the Rosie-dog poo & pee in the laundry this morning, stopped to read the fashions section on the newspaper spread on the floor. Can’t help but feel how awful & impractical most of them are, and how thin, unwell & unattractive most of the models look. When I have time (ha ha what a laugh), I’m going to design a collection of beautiful clothing, which fits well, is easy to wear & wash, made from the best fabrics, on which the buttons don’t fall off, threads don’t fray & zips don’t get caught, for women with curves, colour in their cheeks & hair which doesn’t make them look like GIs. Women with a bit of a podge under their waists because they’ve had kids & can’t give up chocolate; women with smiles & dimples. I’ll display this collection each year in my alternative MONA – to be called LISA – in which the signage is clear and obvious; buildings are colourful & fun; tea, coffee, cakes & buns are cheap & plentiful, & the technology is easy to use by even the most computer illiterate members of society. A non-elitist place where anyone can come & not feel inferior. I’ll also display my collection of ‘rock-art’ photographs, taken down by the seashore near MONA when I had to look after the pup & couldn’t go in – intricate, purple, mauve, speckly & swirly rock formations. I can even display some of my very own poo machines – Rosie being the most productive of those.

Sunday 15 May 2011

It’s 10.30am & I feel I’ve done a day’s work already! By 9.00 I’d cleared up poo, (the puppy’s) & sick (the cat’s), hoovered – I must remember to say ‘vacuumed’ - the living room (narrowing avoiding sucking up lego-Buzz-Lightyear’s visor, turned the eggs (incubating eggs must be turned 3 times daily), cleaned the en-suite bathroom and mucked out the laundry. My hoover (sorry, vacuum), whilst being excellent in many ways, doesn’t go around corners & keeps feebly flipping onto its back (I shan’t name the brand but YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE).

While much of this was going on, Bronte & Luke were using binoculars to view an eagle at the top of our hill, an odd eagle as it had a distinctive white head. By the time I ran upstairs, still only half dressed, they’d made so much noise it had wisely moved further up the hill & all that could be seen was its head poking up from behind sedge. Earlier, (just after Luke had woken me at 10 to 7 to ask what time he was allowed to wake us up), I’d sleepily claimed that the “dark triangle on the hill” was itself a lump of sedge. After being partially revived with a mug of tea & reading several pages of ‘Grimble’ (by Clement Freud, it’s a good read) to Luke, I crawled out of bed & began the day’s chores. After breakfast saw yet more poo on the upstairs deck, found the puppy & stuck her nose on it, then nailed the hearth rug to the living room floor (to stop it creeping about the room”) before lighting the fire. Oh, & sometime inbetween all this I put on a turkey brew outside, which is now boiling merrily in its 44 gallon drum, & fed the fluffy black chicks & lone peachick under heat lamps in the garage.

Bronte & Luke have gone swimming – I hate these Sunday morning swimming lessons. They return at lunchtime having stuffed themselves in a cafĂ©, then go outside just as I’m coming in for my lunch & we end up being out of sync all day.

The day’s next challenge after feeding the animals, is to tackle my car. The cylinder head’s cracked & it’s going to cost $3,000 to fix. I’m trying some magic stuff that’s meant to fix it first. It means draining & flushing the water system, re-filling & running to hot (not boiling) temperature & then (slowly) adding the magic gunk. I don’t hold out a lot of hope frankly. Yesterday afternoon after a day of working in freezing conditions, I did manage to find the radiator drain plug & flush the system. It’s possibly the most difficult to reach drain plug in the universe. After lying under the car with icy water dripping on my face & running down my neck trying to replace the plug, I gave up for the day. My dark mutterings about “how many women have to fix their own cars?” were met by “you’d be surprised in Tasmania”. I refrained from pointing out that although the proportion of women who fixed their own cars in rural Tasmania, was probably higher than that in say suburban Sydney, it was still VERY LOW. I came in instead & made dinner – a turkey that had escaped from its pen a couple of days before & thus sealed its fate.