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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 Support was withdrawn from her Amstrad e-mailer & I missed e-mailing her my news & thoughts and Bronte gets bored with it all.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.