Note to Younger Self: A Retrospective

I feel it is about time for a bit of introspective contemplation about my life now that I have completed the many stages of:- childhood, puberty, teenage angst, young arrogance, adult optimism, marriage and kids, middle-age cynicism, and now spending time with my grandkids.  Now as my grandkids recruit me into their games, it somehow seems to complete a cycle as my ambitions fade and their’s grow.  

So what would I have told my younger self if I had a Tardis instead of a Nissan?  Not so much actually.  Just the general advice that every older person gives, which is to be bolder, as few regret what they did, but many regret what they didn’t do.  My missed opportunities were definitely in relationships.  As a teenager I was such a dork, it is embarrassing to even think about it.  In the 60’s it was popular to believe that aliens had landed on Earth and they were living amongst us perhaps performing sexual atrocities on unfortunate victims.  I thought they were called girls.  Unfortunately, no such atrocities were were performed on me.  I have plenty of excuses, such that I went to boys only schools after primary, and at uni, the mechanical engineering department boasted 200 males and 1 girl.  Talk about being up against the odds.  So upon graduation I worked a couple on months in a warehouse stacking boxes and bought a ticket to New Zealand.  A real and symbolic flinging my fate to the winds, as you can’t walk home from New Zealand.

Decided in a few seconds, it was the most spontaneous, brilliant and courageous thing I had ever done.  That was what I was searching for when I wrote the title.  Leap out of your comfort zone was the only useful advice I could give to my younger self.  And if it doesn’t work, do it again.  And again.  That seems to contradict Einstein’s definition of insanity, but hey, the boundary conditions will be different.  So eventually, after many disappointing or painful failures, you will splash into the right pond.  After wandering through such places as Iran and Afghanistan Indonesia and Thailand, I had found many places to challenge my comfort zone.  So then I sought another challenge that I have found in Possum Valley, which may contradict the advice of my older self suggesting I leap again.  But hey, give me a break, a frog gets tired.  So after 42 years I have established a comfort zone entirely of my own making from a wild plot of rainforest.  Even that long ago I could see the threat of habitat loss and ecological damage by clearing and thought to protect a tiny bit as a wildlife fortress enclave in the wilderness.  

In recent weeks I have seen the folly of my naive thinking.  Reports from around the world have been flooding in about the catastrophic decline in insect numbers and diversity.  This is very serious for the world, as insect are a vital component, deep in the foundations of the pyramid of life and perform many life services for humans such as pollination of our food crops and moderation of pests, also feeding a host of birds and frogs, and …. well just about everything.   My folly was thinking this was happening somewhere else and that Possum Valley was far enough ‘away’ and isolated it wouldn’t effect me.  But it already has.  But as they say about rubbish we throw away, there is no ‘away’ anymore.  The decline in insects is happening in Puerto Rican rainforests as well as in national parks in Germany surrounded by cropping land.  I should have seen this earlier, as I just had to search my memory to remember the profusion of bugs when I first came here.  Mass swarmings of big brown beetles in droning clouds rattling on the tin roof and clattering into a chicken wire fence.  masses of caterpillers known as army worms devouring the grass, dazzling arrays of moths in a profusion of colours and bizarre patterns that came particularly in December.  I have been patiently awaiting the return of the moths as I realised then they had good years and bad, but I have been too patient for too long.  I should have realised a decade ago, they are gone.  It used to be I could get endless entertainment in the weeks before xmas sitting on the loo with the window ajar.  The moths attracted by the light came with astonishing patterns and colours seeming more like a children’s colouring competition than the often demure garb of nature.  

I wonder if I have unconsciously been in denial, that it could happen even here in my precious bit of paradise.  I wish I had methodically recorded the numbers and varieties of insects, particularly moths over the 40+ years I have been here.  It would have been a giant undertaking, but longitudinal studies are often the most revealing.  So now I have only anecdotal evidence.  I have read that not all insects will suffer decline and ones that thrive are likely to be the annoying, sometimes dangerous, biting ones exploiting the rapidly expanding human biomass.  When I came here in 1976, I think PV was mosquito free.  In the last 15-20 years they have been occasional visitors.  Now regular visitors but only one or two at a time following rain.  This year for the first time ever were some midges, or sandflies hovering around in the shade.  I thought they were tiny fruit flies until I felt the itch.  

I am sorry to post such a downer, but the take-home message is that environmental degradation is happening everywhere and there is no avoiding it.  You may already live in an mostly sterile city  environment and little notice decrease in insects apart from your part in the industry of trying to eradicate cockroaches.  Then you may wonder that as you wage unceasing and deliberate war against your chosen insect foe without lasting success, we humans have accidentally trashed a vital part of the ecosystem that sustains us.  This insect demise could be worse, but part of, the climate change catastrophe.  Whatever we do or don’t do to change things, there will be a reckoning.  It won’t be an accounting of money, as that will become trivial or totally irrelevant, it will be a reckoning of lives and hardship, starvation and violence, survival or death.  

The only way to avoid it is by great effort to alter the trajectory we are on.  To avoid insect Armageddon we must redesign agriculture, to avoid climate change we have to stop emitting carbon into the air we breathe, to avoid poisoning the planet we have to stop consuming and recycle everything.  So many important issues.  So I despair of our politicians who are maneuvering for votes with such minutia as a medical treatment for a few people on an island WHEN THE FUTURE OF THE PLANET AND HUMAN EXISTENCE IS AT STAKE!  They promise the electors that they have the solutions to their problems.  Solutions?  They don’t even have the right questions, let alone coming near to a solution. 

I think I might go for a cold shower.  

Droughts and Flooding Rains

The poem by Dorothea Mackellar promised the extremes, but Australia is big enough to have them both at once.  The red center and the south have been sizzling for the past month and yesterday Adelaide achieved the dubious honour of a record highest temperature ever for a coastal city in the southern hemisphere of 49.2C .  Here today at Possum Valley, a couple of thousand kilometers nearer the equator and in the height of summer, the maximum was 18C and bucketing with rain.  Flood warnings are out for the Daintree river and the crocs are paddling furiously to avoid being washed out to sea.  

There are threats, dangers and inconveniences with floods, but they don’t compare with the terrifying threats of bushfires and the ongoing agony of drought.  Floods bring growth and renewal, droughts bring …….. well nothing except dust and despair.  

This is in accordance with climate change models which predict little change in the tropics rainfall except more violent cyclones, but drying and hotter conditions in southern Australia.  Have our political models been updated to take account of the new realities?  Not even close.  All the parameters measuring climate change have shown an accelerating trend with both ice caps melting at over 200 billion tons each of ice per year.  That is land ice that adds to sea level rise and does not include sea ice melting which does not.  The arctic may be navigable to shipping in 10 years and countries are already jostling to take a share of transport economies and resource extraction that will allow.  Australia and the world are hitting higher temps every year this century.  

There is a federal election coming up soon this year.  The law requires it and I can tell it is soon, as the present government has abandoned any pretense of actually doing any work and is already on the campaign trail.  Scomo is scampering round pork-barreling for all he is worth under the impression that the old strategy of “it’s the economy stupid”, might just get him across the line.  I am hoping that the voters are realising that it is only the distribution of the economy that will do us any good and the trickle-down effect has never worked and never will.  It is not altogether surprising that the money sticks at the top.  

No, this election I am hoping that a huge chunk of voters realise that the one thing we all share, regardless of economic status, is the environment and how important it is.  Australia is a highly urbanised society with half the population in just two cities and its people not in daily contact with earth and mud, trees and sky, rivers and dust.  Scalding heat has reached into the cities this last month.  Uncontainable fires have raged despite heroic attempts by firefighters.  I hope this enough of a wake up call that we hold the next and future governments to account for their stewardship of our country and environment.

I think we reached the nadir (lowest point) when we had an MP, who shall remain nameless for fear of everlasting shame, brandishing a lump of coal in parliament extolling its virtues.  Now we have this bottom benchmark of environmental destruction to work from, we can steadily work towards a future that holds some promise of a good environment for the next generations.  I am encouraged by recent activism from school kids who have said “hey, it’s our planet too” and are calling out my generation for trashing it.  Actually, they weren’t that harsh, but were calling for future action.  Go girls!  Maybe it was media who picked out the girls, but likely they were leading the way.  

My dear daughter in Darwin doesn’t preach like me, but has installed solar panels on the roof.  Last year for Xmas she gave me fridge wraps of cloth impregnated with bees wax to save leftover food, and this year robust shopping bags she had sown from chook feed bags.  I love these individually made economy presents.  I hope this is a sort of groundswell of thinking and feeling for the environment that persuades a future government it’s survival depends on addressing these issues.

This was not the blog I set out to write.  I don’t want to do political stuff, but I just have.  I just wanted to point out how curious it was to be 31C hotter 2000 kms to the south.  

The rain is still pouring down on the roof and I shall go to bed with the beautiful sound.


Power Pole Problem

A few days ago I heard a crack and the power went off.  I went outside and the inverter had tripped out.  Then a guest from Blackbean Cottage came to tell me the power had gone and a brief investigation showed transmission wires from the Homestead were lying on the ground.  The most important pole where the power from the hydro comes to the house, which then goes through a great deal of massaging before being re-transmitted again to the cottages has 8 wires connected upon it.  Spaghetti junction was now lying on the ground in a tangle of wires.  “Don’t touch anything”, I advised the guest who had come with me.  He was probably way ahead of me there.  I went back to the house to pull plugs and isolate the transmission.  Then headed down to the hydro to shut it off.  I touched the generator very briefly but it still burnt my hand and muttered “not good”.  In my haste, I wasn’t as diligent as usual in turning down the spear valve slowly to ensure that I didn’t stop the flow abruptly.  If you stop the flow in a pipe abruptly, it results in a water-hammer effect and a very large pressure spike.  That is how my ram pump for pumping water works, but it is designed to withstand that force and the hydro is not.  So water exploded everywhere as holes were blown in the last section of pipe and I got instantly drenched.  Corrosion had weakened the aluminium pipe and a decade ago I had patched it with a stainless steel sleeve, but now water was blowing everywhere.  Staring at my blunder, I rationalised ‘not my immediate problem’, and anyway the water loss is not too much for it not to work’.  Generator burn out more likely.  

Abandoning that set of problems, I got back to my guests without power.  It was getting dark and I couldn’t do much except to resort back to 15th century technology and provide my guests with a box of candles.  The other problem was the fridges, which would gradually get warmer, but the short term stay of my guests would probably not make much difference to the food viability.  

Next morning at first light, for those of you who have never seen it, in mid summer that is about 5.45 am, I was assessing the damage.  First thing required was a pole.  The collapsed pole had lasted 36 years but was totally shattered.  I have perhaps a million trees on my property, but only a rare few species are resistant to rot when dead.  I had to go to gum country for a new pole.  Fortunately, my daughter and partner have a 250 acre property on the edge of the rainforest/gum tree zone.  Unfortunately access to their 70 acres of gum trees is quite difficult, so I resorted to stealing a small young turpentine from the adjoining state forest.  I chopped the tree, trimmed the pole and then there was only the minor problem of loading a 7 m long 100 kg pole onto my duel cab.  I must confess that I can no longer lift 100 kg, so it had to be one end at a time.  Having done this before I have a short bit of scaffold pipe to bolt on underneath to the front chassis (the shell is just plastic), and a plank across the back tray and I lash it on to the side. 

I was quite prepared to pay the tiny fee for the log, but finding a ranger and doing the paperwork would have taken days.  As it was I had the pole within 2 hours.  Where I had to plant the pole near the creek was about the only place on the property where I would find rocks.  I could only get down 600 mm.  I normally go down 900 mm, but a big rock stopped me.  Could have been bedrock because I couldn’t blast through it with a big bar.  Then I press-ganged some guests for a few minutes of labour to erect the pole.  I had them over a barrel as to get some power to the cottages, I had to get that pole up.  They did get a free stay as I have a policy if there is a major loss of services like power of water, the stay is free.

The next morning I was up and down the ladder to the top of the pole to heave up and tension each of eight wires, and then fix them.  Plus two stay wires to keep the pole upright.  I could then restore power to the cottages.  The next problem was to get the hydro going.  Rather to my surprise, the generator cranked up and produced power.  Not as much power as expected, so I think a partial burn-out.  

I was going to post here a picture of my new 7 m pole with bark still hanging and sap still glistening, but the pic would be boring and badly lit with bright sky behind, so I offer you a much more appealing pic of my grandkids playing on my tractor.  Two live nearby, and two have flown over from Darwin. 

They did bring with them a parent to handle logistic problems.  Let me introduce Evie and Henry at the back with 

grandkids on tractor

the eldest Huon in the driving seat and the cherub Philip in the middle.  Not so angelic really, as he has his own style of mischief to add to the mayhem.  After some hectic days of kids demanding attention/food etc. I can now relax back into my bachelor squalor and indolence.  

A salute to my daughters and partners, and all the parents out there doing the hard yards with love and patience.




And another random pic taken a few days ago outside the carport of a spider with amazing colour patterns.  My apologies to arachnophobes, but I think it quite beautiful.  I wonder why so many spiders have amazing livery.  Perhaps because there are so many species that they require an elaborate bar code to find the appropriate mate.

beautiful spider

Sauna Mishap

Yesterday the sauna hut burnt to the ground.  I am pleased to say that nobody was hurt.  Some guests had lit the fire then gone for a walk.  A guest from the other cottage had gone past, not to partake of a sauna, but as is his bent and and pastime, in search of birds.  and managed to take his eyes from his binoculars long enough the wreck, the fire and the smoke.  He immediately came to inform me, heroically giving up valuable birding time, but when I got there there was nothing worth doing to quench the flames, but water from the burnt out plumbing was shooting everywhere except onto the fire.  That had to be dealt with or the homestead and Blackbean Cottage would soon be out of water.  I couldn’t cut off the water in the wreckage of the sauna as it was still burning.  I couldn’t just turn it off at the tanks as the homestead and Blackbean would have no water.  I had to find the tee connection where 15 years ago I had patched the supply pipe into the homestead supply pipe and block it off there.  All I had to do is remember where that was and dig it up.  First of all dig across the suspected direction of the pipe to find it, then dig along the pipe to find the connection.  I had started 10 m away with my best guess.  

I looked through my collection of plumbing bits to determine that I didn’t have anything to fit and would have to bodge something to plug a 42 mm hole.  I found a 45 mm cap and put it on the lathe to turn a 41-43 mm taper, put a bit of thread tape on it and flogged it into the hole with a hammer.  Then a clamp to hold it in the hole against the pressure..  Emergency over and water restored.  About that time along came the guest who had inadvertently incinerated the sauna.  I informed him that his sauna wouldn’t be happening.  We went to inspect the remains. 

Remodeled sauna hut

He was distraught, probably from a mixture of guilt, the possibility that I might get angry, and the possibility I might demand restitution.  I told him that I didn’t think he meant to burn it down deliberately and it came under the category of ” shit happens”.  Later on when I had fixed the emergency situation, I informed the guests in Blackbean that they could shit and wash again and went up to see the guilty party and relieve their anxiety.  We had a long wide-ranging chat lubricated with red wine.  I will rebuild the sauna again at my leisure.  This time around it will require money as I no longer have left-over building materials.  But Xmas is not a good time to start a project and many retailers are closed for up to 3 weeks and the weather is often unhelpful.  

So dear guests, no saunas for a while, but I am told that many from the coast have had plenty of saunas in recent months and may not be demanding more anytime soon.  My daughter Josie and family are coming over from Darwin soon in the last event of the Xmas family calendar and festivities, and I am hoping they have had enough saunas already.  

I wish you all a happy Xmas and in the new year may the bluebird of happiness shit upon your shoulder.


My Mate Owen

It will not be often I will offer thanks to a cyclone. I’ve been bashed about and mangled quite a few times over the years.  But Owen has brought the much needed rain and greened up Possum Valley and the Tablelands, put enough in my creek to give me secure hydro power and pushed up the grass to feed the stock on my daughters’s farm.  Owen also had the decency to drop below cyclone intensity before it went over the top, and to do a u-turn in the gulf and scoop up a heap of water for follow-up rains, and again decay below cyclone intensity as it goes over the top the other way.  It has relieved the long dry season in no uncertain terms.  Both passes have tracked almost exactly over Possum Valley.  It is not often I imagine designer rains and actually get them.  I got a modest 40 mm of rain from Owen on his second pass which is a nice amount of follow-up rain but not too much because it went just to the south of Possum Valley.  For those on the coast that it went to the north of some got an inconvenient amount like up to 681 mm in 24 hrs and the rain intensity got up to 120 mm in an hour.  2 mm a minute is like standing under a waterfall.  From my rain records, the most I have had in 24 hrs is a paltry 625 mm

beautiful sun shower

There was of course the minor inconvenience of having to hack and chainsaw fallen trees of the track before I could go anywhere, but hey, they were going to fall down anyway sooner or later.  During this time of bounteous rain I was supposed to be resting and recovering from a severe infection (not of the contagious type) in the middle of my back.  I had a couple of BCC’s (basal cell carcinomas) removed from my back and one of them got infected so I had fevers and discharge so they cut a couple of stitches to allow pus out and put me on antibiotics which didn’t work.  So more severe discharge and change of antibiotics, which did work.  Apparently, some antibiotics work well on some bugs but not others.  A biopsy confirmed the second lot of antibiotics would be most likely to nail the little bastards.  I was told complete rest, very little movement so as not to pull the stitches and close observation of the wound was required.  I said I have 2 hours chainsawing and heaving logs off the track on the way home, every bed in the cottages to service and I live alone and the wound is between my shoulder blades so I won’t be closely observing.  Reality trumps theory every time.  Doctors and nurses are amongst the most intelligent and educated people, so it didn’t take them long to adjust.  All good and healing well now.

I am getting increasingly angry with the leaders of certain 1st world countries that are dragging their heels about climate heating as demonstrated in the most recent world meeting in Poland.  Of course the US Federal government leads the world for historical CO2 pollution, current pollution, climate denial, callous disregard for the plight of the most vulnerable countries, refusal to contribute to poor countries for mitigation efforts and is currently slowing or dismantling efforts at renewable energy.  To the credit of people and the individual US states, they are making efforts to go it alone.  About the same sorry story in Oz really where the people get it, some states are trying, but the national government is well in the pockets of the energy lobbies.  It is clear that in both countries that the representatives of the people are not delivering what the people want on climate, treatment of refugees, preservation of the existing environment, and especially the equitable distribution of wealth that have seen any gains in the last few decades go to the top few percent.  Old money is corrupting our democracy and working furiously to prevent change and inhibit disruptive or innovative technology.  Dinosaurs and fossils inhabit our parliament.  One old fossil recently brandishing a 250 million year old black rock, “way to the future people”.  It comes to my mind about Nero fiddling (with an instrument) while Rome burns.  Actually, he actually went out with the fire crews to personally assist in putting fires out, but history is so unreliable and often cruel.  Yes, ancient Rome did have fire engines, and professional crews.  Mesopotamia used electroplating and ancient Egyptians invented writing cheques on their accounts.  The sophistication of the ancients is often overlooked.

I parked my car outside the library in Atherton today and as I left my car, a lady came up to me and asked did I have any frogs in my car.  I can’t recall ever being asked that before.  I said, er, no, I don’t think so.  “Oh! I thought I heard the type of frogs that call before the rain comes”.  No, no frogs.  A pleasant conversation but it occurred to me later that I have heaps of frogs at Possum Valley, but they call after the rain has come.  ‘This is what we have been waiting for, let’s get it on baby’.  I am guessing that my car could do with a bit more grease in places.

Henry and possum

For no particular reason, I include a picture of my grandson Henry getting up close and personal with a possum.  Direct information on the environment not mediated by David Attenborough.  Getting rarer for many children these days.  Yesterday he was holding a chicken in his lap and stroking it.  He didn’t have any clothes on and I was a little concerned for his tender flesh if the chicken should freak out and vigourously use it’s claws.  He wasn’t worried, nor the chicken, so all went well.  Children learn so much more by touch and feel than by lecture.

Possum Wrangling

Having lived in Possum Valley for 42 years now and I  can say, without undue modesty, that I am expert in the art of possum wrangling.  It is an arcane skill which, alas, has little commercial value in the wider world’s job market.  Indeed, it is a skill few of you will have occasion to use.  Perhaps some future guest will recall my words of wisdom when dealing with a kitchen invasion.  Please bare with me, oops Freudian slip, please bear with me, as every man likes to boast of his achievements.  However slight.  

First thing to realise is that possums are not basically carnivorous in that they don’t hunt other animals.  They certainly will eat meat raw of preferably cooked and possibly will kill and devour wounded or dead animals.  As will many animals when the opportunity arises.  A few days ago I heard a thud as a bird flew into a window.  Probably a pigeon I thought as they are heavy birds which fly fast.  It was perhaps 30 seconds as I followed the sound and saw the grease smear on the window and a stunned brown pigeon on the ground with its wings spread.  I recognise that as a defensive posture.  10 seconds later a currawong landed a meter away and the pigeon turned to face it.  To no avail as the currawong leapt upon it and grabbed it by the neck with a claw and dispatched it very quickly by smashing the pigeon’s head in with its powerful beak.  After plucking some feathers for a while it tried to fly off with it but only got 10m.  

Meanwhile back at the possums, the best wrangling equipment is welding gloves.  They are thick leather gloves that come up to the elbow so the claws and teeth of the possum can’t hurt you much.  Can also be used for welding and doing stupid things with hot fires.  Grab the possum round the neck and by the tail and you can do what you like with them, though you wont be friends for life.  For more advanced students, simply pick them up by the tail with your hand.  You will have to hold them at arms length or they will rip your shirt off and very likely large chunks of flesh as well.  A few will hang in a docile fashion but 95% will twist up and shred your hands and forearms within a few seconds.  You can avoid being flayed by vigourously shaking your arm from side to side as you walk out of the house to the disposal area.  I did say it was the advanced students course.  

For beginners perhaps the most effective method is to shoo them out.  For this to work smoothly, without excitement, accidental injury or massive loss of crockery, you have to plan a safe and easy exit route for the possum.  Preferably the way they came in as they are not too bright and can’t see very well in bright light.  I suspect the clearest trail is by scent back along the the urine they deposited on the way in to declare their ownership of your kitchen.  This is easily spotted as a dark yellow sticky zigzag trail that never dries and stinks forever.  Approach slowly at 90 degrees to the escape path as what you have to do is keep the possum calm, but increase the proximity threat.  If you get to within 1m and it shows no signs of moving, perhaps a reappraisal is required.  You have one truculent possum.  A strategic withdrawal may be advised to go and watch the tele or make a cut of tea. 

never mess with a mom

In this picture a couple of days ago, the latter alternative was not available.  You will notice the poised posture and the impressive array of sharp claws.  I did.  So I went for another half hour of essential television viewing whereupon I found that the possum(s) had exhausted my resources and left.  I prefer to call it the diplomatic solution rather than abject capitulation, but hey! it worked.  This hardworking mom also had a distinct bulge in the belly which suggested another one in the pouch.  This is a coppery brushtail possum, the most common and boldest possum at possum valley.  The coppery brushtail is a subspecies of the grey brushtail, but only found in the rainforest.  Flannery suggests that its genetic relationship to the grey needs to be clarified, but I have found that the possum itself is in no doubt of its status.

In the last few days the dire forebodings I suggested in my previous post “Heat Wave”, seems to have been fulfilled.  Temperature records tumble sometimes only lasting a day.  Meanwhile, a two year exhaustive report by hundreds of scientists from many US government agencies in the US predicting dire consequences of global warming has been dismissed by Trump with “I don’t believe it”.  Ever prepared to back his ‘intuition’ against a few hundred scientists with a lifetime of study, he will go down in history as a villain to rival or excel Hitler or Genghis Khan.  I suppose Atilla the Hun should get a mention and perhaps Vlad the Impaler.  Though Vlad could at least claim he was successful in turning back home the Turkish forces in disgust.  Rather like Australia’s refugee offshore processing policy really.


Turtle Time

I was servicing Maple Cottage recently when I saw someone had dropped a hat outside on the grass 10m in front of the kitchen window.  I really don’t need any more hats.  Closer inspection showed it to be a turtle apparently trying to dig a hole, but it froze and regarded me suspiciously as I had a look.  I have lived at Possum Valley for 42 years now and this is the first time I have ever seen a turtle. 

Unknown Turtle

I knew they should be here in the rainforest creeks and have seen pics from guests to confirm their presence (thanks Martin & Marco), but have never laid eyes on one till now.  I would like to tell you the species, but there are many and I’m no expert.  I did a bit of web searching and discovered that freshwater turtles go nest-building in November and also there is a web site TurtleSat to report sightings which I duly did and uploaded the pic here to aid identification.  So I may yet learn what species it is.  You can see some damage to the top of it’s shell.  That would have taken considerable force.  I also learned on TurtleSat that many species are under threat from habitat loss and foxes.  The foxes can find and completely consume all the eggs in the nest.  I have seen dingos, but never a fox at Possum Valley.  

I was also on the web recently to find spare parts for my gas stove at the homestead as the larger front burners were well …… burnt out.  Totally crumbling away so the lazy yellow flame burnt inefficiently and curled round the saucepan to burn the handle.  First thing I found was that I needed model numbers and serial numbers long and complicated enough to describe the position of every subatomic particle in the known universe, let alone a gas stove.  ‘Simpson Super-Nova’ wasn’t going to get me anywhere near my target.  There were any number of hits, but they all had only the small back burners in stock.  Of course the back burners are much cooler and less used, so why didn’t they keep the burners people would actually need?  Then I came across a site that helpfully added “model out of production”.  Ah! that explains it, I was chasing remnant spares already exhausted, so I had only two chances and one of those was ‘Buckley’s’.  I wasn’t impressed with the exorbitant prices asked for these scraps of metal anyway. 

new stove burners

So out to the workshop and my teetering mountains of junk to find a thick metal tube outside diameter 59mm to fit the stove aperture, that abruptly increased to about 70mm for the burner.  I turned over half a ton of assorted junk before finding a 2 inch BSP nipple.  For those of you not initiated into the arcane language of plumbers, a nipple is a pipe joiner with 2 male threads.  Writing this, I contemplate why plumbing has such gender specific jargon, and just how does two male threads make a nipple?  Or how I can, and have, gone into a hardware store asking for a ‘ball cock’.  “How big?”  Oh, 3/4 inch will be enough for me.  I think I would get an entirely different product in an adult shop.  So I chopped up the nipple with a hacksaw, and cut slots with a thin cut-off blade in an angle grinder, and Bob’s your uncle, I had 2 new burners.  Bodging, and world affairs generally, would be much enhanced if everyone had an uncle called Bob.  In the picture upper left is the nipple alongside the discarded bits (I had several nipples). Middle, the new burners, and bottom the crumbling remains  of the 20 year old burners.  It took me no money and less time than I spent searching the web to produce the required items.  Two obtained from 1 nipple.  They burn with neat blue efficient flames.  I will also have a little glow of satisfaction each time I light them up.  Which I will do right now to cook some fish and vegies , perhaps with a cheese/curry sauce.  See you later.

Possum Valley Heat Wave

Today is the hottest at Possum Valley in the 42 years I have been here.  The temps in the last three days have been:- 32C the second hottest day ever, 33C equalling the hottest recorded over a decade ago, and today 34C for a new record.  That is outrageous, especially as it is still October and technically still spring, not that season names or periods imported from Europe have much relevance here in tropical Australia.  It doesn’t bode well for the coming summer.  Nor does the BOM outlook bode well, with an El Nino developing and less than average rainfall going into Jan at least.  The ground is so dry and crunchy underfoot as many of the trees look limp and stressed out and have shed a lot of leaves.  

bring back the leeches

I have responded to the searing temperatures by not doing much, which works for me.  Unfortunately I didn’t have much warning and didn’t get enough books from the library for some serious lazing about.  To compound the problem, I have also completed the 880 Times cryptic crosswords from the books I ordered a few years ago.  In desperation I have looked back through them to fill in some clues I couldn’t get the first time around.  Two weeks ago I put in an order over the internet for another 800, and saw estimated delivery time 3-4 days.  I had a good chuckle at that.  Perhaps, maybe, if you live in a capital city which company websites and even government websites assume you do.  If you live in a rural town you can double that and if you live at Possum Valley you can read it as 3-4 weeks.  It might be a week between me checking my mailbox which is a modified beer-brewing barrel stuck on a fence post 4 km away at a windy road junction.  I only get a delivery service once a week, so if me and the dear lady who delivers are out of sync, that’s two weeks blown right there.  And I’m not even out bush! 

I just had a flashback to the early 1970’s when I caught a goods train from Port Augusta to Alice Springs in a carriage straight from an old western tacked on to the end of long long goods train where the engine was a distant rumour over the horizon.  It slammed to a stop in the middle of nowhere.  The slamming was the distant engine coming to a stop, but there was enough slack in the chain connections for it to take a minute before the message got to the back.  You could hear it coming as each carriage crashed into the stationary train with increasing force.  Enough warning to brace yourself except when deep asleep and I got thrown out of bed a few times. On this occasion we stopped we stopped in a bare desert that went forever without tree or bush or blade of withered grass.  The only feature was a post with a barrel on top, right by the tracks.  The guard stepped out of the last carriage with a handful of letters and a dozen eggs.  I have no idea how the engine driver over the horizon managed to pull up the train so the guard could just step out and put them in the barrel.  The trip took 3 nights and 4 days with BYO food and drink, or die.  The connection in my mind was the barrel on a post and erratic deliveries.

It is not quite true that I have done nothing in the last few days.  On the first day of the heat wave I woke to a temp of 10C.  At 6.30 am I actually needed a jumper so decided to use a time with no guests and very moderate temperature to do a bit of hard yakka and make the world hideous with noise.  So I made a selection of a couple from my extensive range of chain saws and went off to chop and haul some logs from fallen trees in the rainforest.  It was a good move to get going early as the temp soon pushed on to 32C.  Such a temperature range is rather unusual.  The wood is for the sauna, but it requires chopping, humping, stacking, splitting with an axe, re-stacking and drying for six or more months before it is good to go.  

I have on several occasions taken my grandsons, 2 1/2 and 4 1/2 along when I do this macho power stuff with the chainsaw.  Also their father on the farm does the same for firewood for the house fire.  It is not surprising that they both have adopted toy chainsaws when they stay with me for the day.  Henry uses a bit of junk I think might be an insulator for an electric fence, but does have some resemblance to a miniature chainsaw, and Philip nominates a back scrubbing brush from the bathroom but insists I detach the brush from the long handle before it is fit for use.  They then go off into nearby bushes to go to work with very realistic buzzing sounds.  The good news is that they respect work and are doing their best to emulate their elders.  The bad news is that unless I can educate them in the appropriate use of chainsaws, I may have created eco-monsters.