The New Lodger

In a few days time I am going to have a lodger staying for an unknown length of time at the homestead.  I have lived alone for about 16 years and rather got used to it, and come to rather like it, not having to take anyone else’s opinions into consideration and having the luxury of living in my own batchelor squalour.  I wonder how I will take to having to cater to an other’s needs.  The arrangement isn’t for financial gain, after all tree kangaroos don’t have credit cards, but to relieve a ‘situation’ for a nearby wildlife carer, Margit, who specialises in caring for tree roos.  The ‘situation’ is that this 2 year old male tree roo is flat out bent on killing a baby roo already in her care.  Margit’s reading is that the baby roo is the offspring of a tree roo that traumatised the 2yo in his infancy, but the smell reveals the parentage and cross generational feuds are settled in blood.  Anyone with a Walt Disney view of animals is advised to stop reading now.  Tree roos are capable of infanticide.  The males have a particularly hard time, having to fight for territory and being aggressively attacked for trespassing even inadvertently.  This particular roo was found alone when very young and only 800 grams.  All skin and bone (I saw a pic) and would not have lasted another night or two.  Now two years old and a healthy 5.5 kgs.  He also has mental problems with OCD and spends many hours of the day just grooming his feet as a calming strategy.   

So I met this handsome youngster today at Margit’s house, going from floor to kitchen counter, to perching on Margit’s shoulder, as we discussed the feasibility of him staying at PV.  Margit is totally satisfied with the location of PV being far from roads and rainforest as far as the eye can see, my lifestyle can accommodate the needs of a young roo, and I have a spare bedroom that can be furnished suitably.    Although he has lived for 2 years with humans roaming in the forest and coming back for the scary nights, he may do a runner on the first time I let him out.  I think I will be equipped with a radio collar to be able to find him, as long as he doesn’t stray more than about 200m or dive into a gully.  The idea is for him, like any human kid, to be able work from a safe place and eventually establish a place for himself in the wild driven by his own instincts.  The possibilities include him becoming ‘institutionalised’ and deciding it’s just too wild out there, bolting and coming to an early death due to inexperience from not being raised by parents, or finding his mojo and establishing a territory and harem.  I would like the latter on a time frame of say 6 months.

Not the roo but another taken at PV

Not the roo but another taken at PV

I have run the idea by my darling daughter Alice, as I also serve as babysitter to her two little kids.  In  case you didn’t know, tree roos have a powerful bite and long, sharp hooked claws.  I have first hand experience being severely lacerated when a tree roo ran over my foot. It wasn’t even trying to hurt me.  I will have to introduce them carefully, ensuring that they have mutual respect.  Actually Alice has more experience tree roo wrangling than I have, as during her senior school years she used to babysit Margit’s tree roos when Margit had to go away.  Alice is OK with the idea with careful introductions.  The roo didn’t seem at all wary of me and I could stroke him and he jumped on my shoulders as a way of getting to another piece of furniture.  They can’t be trained much at all, including house training, but I’m assured that the pee isn’t offensive like a possum’s and the poo is hard pellets much like a possum’s.  It is fortunate I don’t go for rugs or carpets.  

So on saturday Margit will come over to PV with roo and starter pack of food such as glycine and privit, a bag of almonds and some other nutrients.  She will stay a while giving me further briefing, helpline numbers and settling the roo in.  Then she buggers off to Germany and I find out what it’s like living with a tree roo.  

Water World, G-Rated Version

March has been a bit damp up here in FNQ.  At times the whole world seems to be water.  Water falling in torrents, pouring off the roof, pooling into puddles and lakes, sloshing around underfoot, running in rivulets, before roaring off down the creek in raging brown torrents to torment the coast.  But without the violence the film featured so prominently.  

Cairns has featured recently in the news where caravan parks have had regattas for Winnebagos and sugar cane became the new seagrass.   But my flooding woes reported in the last couple of blogs were 2 weeks earlier where I had much more rain.  I am a bit miffed that the media did not flock to Possum Valley to record my trials and tribulations, and no helicopters or drones were buzzing overhead to witness my heroic repairs lashed to a rope in a swollen waterfall wrestling 9m long pipes.  Oh well, news reporting is prejudiced and population baised.  10 years of mischief, mayhem and slaughter in the CAR (Africa), goes mostly unreported, but the poisoning of a couple of people in the UK reverberated around the world.  Unfortunately Stalin was right when he said that “one person killed is a tragedy, but a million killed is a statistic”.  Actually one of the poisoned has recovered.  Queensland weather reports have a similar weighting.  A lengthy analysis of past and future weather for the tiny SE corner and eight words for the rest.  Queensland stretches 2,500 kms north from Brisbane.  Like being in Manchester where I was brought up, and being given the forecast for Istanbul.  

I have just totted up the rain for March and it comes to 1048 mm, with a total for the year of 1815 mm.  Ample by any standards, but not as much as some.  Australia is the world’s driest continent and huge stretches of land go years gasping for a drink, so it is tempting to think that ‘saving’ the excess at one place and channelling it to another parched place is good news all round.  Not so fast.  The huge rainfalls are actually in a very thin strip down the coast.  Not as much as some might think.  To ‘harvest’ the rain requires huge storage capacity, ie dams.  Massive projects subject to rapid siltation and short life span.  Also prone to huge disruption of the ecosystems at both ends of the pipeline.

There were a couple of fine days in the month when I got busy with repairs and the local animals came out to party.  The animals get fed up with persistent rain too.  Some just sulk and do just enough to stay alive, and some take to raiding my house more frequently.  The Lewin’s Honeyeaters fly round inside looking for food scraps such as rice grains on plates waiting to be washed, or failing that they knock off the spiders.  Scrub turkeys come out of the rain and stand around miserably on the covered patio or risk stealing some food from the duck when I feed him.  He is much stronger and often grumpy, but they are much quicker. 

Duck & Turkey

Duck & Turkey

While I was working on the waterfall, a handsome Eastern Water Dragon came out to take advantage of some weak sunshine.  It is about 350 mm long and only a meter from the cascade.  They are usually found near water and often sun themselves on the jetty near the sauna.  If disturbed they can dive in the water with a splash and disappear as I think they must swim underwater and leave no ripples.  If dear guests have been mystified by a splash when approaching one of the dams, it was probably this dragon, a Boyd’s Forest Dragon (which is smaller), or perhaps even a snake bird or a little cormorant.  Occasionally the platypuses come out of the water, but I fancy they don’t dive back in but slither without a splash. 

Eastern  Water Dragon

Eastern Water Dragon

This dragon obligingly stayed put while I went to the house to get my camera and when I came up to within 1 m.







On the same day as the pics above, I took the picture of the red-bellied black snake next to its old skin shed about a month earlier.  I am pretty sure it is a permanent resident of the shed living somewhere in the shelves of junk on the west end.  I don’t go looking for it or seek to evict/kill it, as that is the surest way of inviting an attack.  Live and let live is the best policy with these docile snakes.  It is only the 14th most venomous snake in the world, and hey! you might even survive.  My grandkids frequently play in my shed, but when the eldest has seen it, he beats a hasty retreat rather than mess with it, which is just the right  thing to do.  I brought up 2 little girls to maturity here, hoping I can do the same with 2 little boys.  

Black snake in workshop

Black snake in workshop


It is about 1.2 m long and looking resplendent in its new skin and just cruising past my main workbench.  The floor, which is dirt, hasn’t been seen in a decade, is covered with a generous layer of wood shavings and no doubt much to the liking of the resident.  I am confident there are no rodents in the shed.

Picking up the Pieces

After the flooding and my adventures in childminding, I got to survey the damage to the hydro system and the ram pump.  First glance, it’s still there, and so is the lightweight roof suspended on cables spanning the creek.  This tells me it isn’t a maximum height flood, but it was the longest and the generator must have spent about 2 days underwater.  I had it chained to the frame.  Amazingly enough, a light aluminium cowl to keep drifting rain and spray off was still there, though flattened over the top of the generator.  I had considered that a sacrificial item.  I just shoved that back into place.  No water coming out of the nozzle, but that is to be expected as the bottom section of the pipe and nozzle usually jammed with debris.  So I go up to the weir at the top to put a plug in the pipe and drain the pipe so I can disconnect and remove the debris.  No need.  The pipe wasn’t there.  The top 2 lengths (18m) had been ripped away and mashed up and crushed and I could see some jammed under a fallen tree down the waterfall.  Have to be replaced, as you can’t straighten or repair.  Oh well…  Back down to the bottom to clear the debris out of the pipe.  Can’t move the pipe as the blockage is a perfect seal and it hasn’t drained so heavy with water.  I have to remove a 1 inch plug under high pressure, and I know I am going to get an instant shower like from a fire hose, but I try to have my hand over the plug as I know it could be blasted into orbit when the last thread disengages.  Bugger!  I got the instant and thorough shower I expected, but the plug was blown out of my hand.  I was lucky.  As the water drained away to a trickle, I could see the plug underwater near the pipe.  I didn’t bother moving as the water hosed over me.  I had been saturated in the first second.

OK, now to see the damage if any to the ram pump.  Didn’t seem to be any.  Whoopie! My efforts of star picketing the top section in place, suspending the middle section by cable between trees, rock bolting the lower section, and fastening the pump by a couple of pitons 300mm by 12mm hammered into rock and fixed with stainless steel cable had managed to keep it in place.  Oh!  In place yes, connected no.  Fail.  Hard to see as the creek still flooding, but the top section was not in line with the rest.  The top length of 75mm steel pipe had got ripped off at the threaded joint as it was weakened by rust.  Double bugger!  I needed new steel pipes as well.  

I could see my way to the end of repairs with some labour involved, but first I had to get replacement pipes, so onto the phone.  Steel suppliers have have 2 1/2 inch pipe (as 75mm diameter pipe is known, the maths doesn’t work), but they don’t supply it with threaded ends.  An engineering shop has to do that.  OK, I find and engineering shop that will pick up and thread a pipe.  Great.  That will happen when it happens.  Only took a couple of days.   The guy brought the 6.5m pipe out on his forklift and looked round and asked where my vehicle was.  “I’m standing next to it”.  He was looking for a truck, not a 5m duel cab with no front and back carriers.  I had bodged up some wooden sticks for the purposed and started to bolt and clamp into place.  See pic but with the 9.2m by 5 inch Al pipe on.  He made no comment about the legality of the arrangement.  I very rarely see cops out and about, but I thought I wouldn’t go through Atherton center, but sneak around by the High School.  Oh bugger! There were cop cars everywhere!  Came round a bend and there was a cop car at the junction with its lights going.  Too late to do a u-turn so I stopped just 10m in front of them at the T-junction waiting for the traffic.  Fortunately, they had better things to do, and after what seemed like a very long wait, I gingerly pulled away and down the road.  Turned out the batten relay for the Commonwealth Games was going through Atherton that morning and they were closing roads and diverting traffic.  The pipe was pretty easily installed.  Although the top section only needed one thread, I got both ends threaded and cut one off to store in the shed.  Pipe and clapper valve were stuffed with stones and the little weir for the poly pipe to the header tank had disappeared with only a couple of bent star pickets sticking up.  But they had kept the pipe in place and surprisingly, it had survived.  

Not entirely legal

Not entirely legal

Onto sourcing 5 inch aluminium agricultural sprayline pipe.  I can buy it new as a crate of 25 by 9.2m lengths, but no less.  The only way to buy a couple of lengths is second hand from farmers.  I get onto Dave at Malanda Rural supplies and he knows everybody and will get some and is onto a farm where they have heaps for sale.  But it is the avocado picking season and the farmer doesn’t even have time to point the way to his pile of pipes.  I understand.  When your annual income depends on a few weeks of the year, Gabriel sounding the last trump wouldn’t stop you using every hour of the dimmest daylight.  

But it wasn’t going to get me pipes in a hurry, so I put the hard word on Dave and he came good with a list of farmers he knew with a surplus of 5 inch pipes.  You can’t find this on the internet, in the yellow pages, in small ads, these farmers don’t advertise, you need local knowledge.  After much phoning around, I got a lead just 20 mins away.  I raced over and he was most helpful and had hundreds of lengths.  We grabbed one each and carried them back to the car.  They are impressive size but light.  Back at the duel cab he looked dubiously at it, but got the drift when I clamped and bolted the carriers back on.  I told him they were for a hydro and he said he uses a lot of diesel for pumping and deciding to go solar.  He took me to a shed where he had pallets and pallets stacked up and wrapped in plastic.  300 by 320W solar panels there.  Getting on for 100KW of power.  And a 75KW motor to replace the diesel.  And an inverter the size of a small car.  He said many farmers and industry were switching over to renewables.  This gritty horny-handed son of toil is not driven by any ideology, environmental or political, but has a clear view of the bottom line.  It is encouraging to see.  Though our dear leaders are in the thrall of the coal producers, all bought and paid for, coal consumers such as the electrical power companies are building solar farms, as are some communities and many industries are deserting coal.   I’m most encouraged because ideology will drive a few people, economics drives the rest.  

Installing the new pipe for the ram pump was straightforward, though the pipe is heavy.  The aluminium pipes for the hydro much lighter though more troublesome as I’m actually standing on a steep slope with slippy rocks in a waterfall.  Any loss of footing would result in a very rough ride.  I rig some trailing ropes in the torrent in the hope I can grab them and waterski.  Every movement has to be thought out, every support for the 9.2. pipes before linking has to be planned.  I am acutely aware that if I have an accident, there is no backup or help.  Slowly slowly.  

After some very wet days, after feeding a forest of leeches, things are back to normal, if anything at Possum Valley can be described as normal.  I cannot count how many times I climbed up and down the waterfall, but my aging body can.  In aches and pains, in scratches and blood, but it is somehow revitalising to know I can still do it.

I hope to greet new guests with a smile and confidence that has no trace of difficulty and inconvenience, to assure them of a trouble free stay.  



BOM Bomb

The Bureau of Meteorology is pretty good most of the time, but they missed out predicting the amount of rain that would fall on Possum Valley in the last few days.  By about a factor of 10.  Even after a day or two of deluge, they were still out by a factor of 10.  I think perhaps because the rain fell in a fairly narrow band mostly between Cairns and Innisfail streaming in from the ENE according to the radar images I saw.   Flooding was often outside that zone, because the river catchments were inside.  At Possum Valley I had about 700mm in 4 days.  

I had my regular babysitting gig on Thursday with my grandsons Henry (3 1/2), and Philip (1 1/2).  But by Thurs afternoon, the creek crossing was flooded to 40m wide and probably navel deep.  I say probably because it would have been folly to try and verify that in the swift flowing water.  Although my daughter Alice and partner Blue have a 4WD equipped with a snorkel, I considered it too dangerous to risk life and limb and expensive machinery when there was no life-threatening emergency.  To my dear guests, it is probably hard to reconcile your memories of the little splash through the creek where you barely got your tires wet, with a raging roaring torrent, but the wet tropics up here is a land of extremes.  The roaring sound of the creek is multiplied by the fact I have acquired an extra waterfall.  The flood has overtopped the dam wall and there is now a mass of water crashing down 3m of freefall.  I am a bit worried that it will erode the dam wall and collapse the road.  The advertising blurb for Queensland went something like “Beautiful one day, perfect the next”.  Well yes, but they missed out “except when it’s totally terrifying”.  

Anyway, I had 2 little kids on my hands.  My support logistics was a bag amply equipped with spare clothes and nappies supplied by Alice and designed to last the day.  My whole world had turned to water running and streaming everywhere including the kids favourite haunt, my workshop where serious puddles appeared inside.  For some strange reason, little kids don’t plan for the future where they have no more dry clothes left, but wantonly pursue new experiences that may include streams of water falling from an overpowered gutter for instance.  The day bag was going to be sorely tested.  

I explained to the kids that because of flooding they were going to have to stay here the night.  I totally believe in telling kids the reality, just how it is.  Henry got it immediately, but I have no idea what Philip understood.  My advice is do it anyway, as kids understand far more than they can communicate back.  And anyway, they can sense they are being treated with respect as real people.  

I get a reminder of just how high maintenance and time intensive little kids are.  It’s full on.  You can’t just tell them to bugger off and I’ll see you in a couple of hours when I’ve got lunch ready.  They want to know everything you are doing and when they want to do something, they also want your attention.  Henry says it directly with “will you please supervise me”.  Powerful words from a kid that doesn’t reach my navel.  Philip puts his arms out in the universal signal of ‘pick me up’.  I did know all this, but had rather forgotten.  

So how will bedtime go without parents?  Philip first, and I thought I had lulled him to sleep by cuddling him over my shoulder and he relaxes against me.  A beautiful feeling, but when I put him in the cot his eyes open and his steady gaze is riveting.   I murmur soft words and stroke his head and bid him goodnight with little hope of success.  But silence ensues.  You beaut!  Henry resists when I suggest bed but a little while later admits to being “a little bit tired”.  A goodnight kiss is all that is required for the blissful silence of sleeping kids.  I am feeling masterful having provided them with a gentle and secure environment.  

I wake up to the sound of the creek still roaring and the rain hammering on the roof.  But hey, I had the luxury of waking up to the very dim grey light of dawn.  The kids were still sleeping and I had the chance for a shower and a walk to survey the creek.  Still impassable.  Still bucketing rain.  Being right at the top of the dividing range, I know that the creek will go right down again after about 3 or 4 hours after the rain stops or goes to drizzle, but the deluge continues.  Henry has trashed my workshop, turned my dining table into a cubby house or fort by dragging every moveable item of soft furnishing underneath, pillaged my kitchen drawers for interesting implements that haven’t seen the light of day for decades, and generally finds uses for household objects that I could never have imagined.  Philip tries to emulate his big brother but only manages to leave half the trail of destruction. By the end of the day chaos reigns.  Nothing new, just a day in the life of parents.  The creek still too high for Alice to rescue her children, so another night at Possum Valley.  Food for kids is running low and they have already ransacked my fridge for the very last bits of fruit, so in desperation have turned to eating raw carrots which they have stolen from the fridge and smuggled into the fort under the table.  Lunch is re-fried sausage pancakes.  OK, not a classic dish I know, but a revolution would occur if I didn’t put something on the table.  

In an evening telephone conversation with Alice, Henry is complaining about a lack of toys at grandfather’s place.  Alice is complaining to me that without the kids, she doesn’t know what to do with herself of an evening.  This is the longest they have been without each other.  Philip is down to the last nappy.  I am wondering if I can revive the skills I once had with cloth squares and nappy pins.  The kids are just as good the second night going to sleep and sleeping through the night.  Alice is a bit miffed that they rarely afford her the same luxury.

Overnight the rain eases and the creek goes down.  The touching reunion of parents with kids.  Big hugs and kisses.  Alice and Blue congratulate me and thank me for my fortitude in looking after their kids.  I am thinking this is one of the best things that has happened in a long time and remembering the  enlightening conversations I had with Henry.  Kids have astonishing insights, unconstrained by rational boundaries. 

Next blog picking up the pieces as I know that the floods will have trashed the hydro and pump, but have not had the chance to survey the damage.  So no power for several days, and am wondering what the damage is.

Job Satisfaction

It might be a bit presumptuous of me to talk about job satisfaction, given that I went from school to aged pension with less than a total of 5 years in paid employment, but hey, that might be give me perspective rather than being a disqualification.  Most of my thoughts are borrowed, as I cherry-pick from the 2 non-fiction books a week I have read for the last 40 years.  Hey! that comes to about 4,000 information books.  I suppose you have to be unemployed to enjoy the luxury of time to read all that stuff.

So what I have gathered about job satisfaction is:-

  1. It is the second most important factor in determining one’s happiness.  The most important being good deep personal relationships.  I leave that one to the dear reader.
  2. A very important factor is the ‘discretionary role content’.  In other words are you a ‘programmed operator’ who is instructed to provide output B in response to input A, or is your judgement required.  Are your personal talents involved in decision making?  If not you are on the production conveyor belt and unlikely to achieve satisfaction at work.
  3. Are you valued by your colleagues?  If no, then get new colleagues.  If you don’t own the business, then mass firings may not be an option, but taking your talents elsewhere always is.
  4. Do you think your work is making the world a better place for someone?  I do, and that is what sustains me through the very ordinary and humdrum chores of making beds and mopping floors and large amounts of washing.  

I have the daily requirements of meeting guests and servicing cottages, and I get a genuine buzz with serving people.  Not being subservient, and no way is it bowing and scraping, but it is providing something that people seek and need.  Even better anticipating their needs and suggesting something they might be reluctant to ask for.  The maintenance part is quite varied and I cope as it arises.  I recently rebuilt a part of the bridge near Blackbean Cottage.  All the old wood was 40 years old and well past its use by date.  Having taken it all away, I had the problem of constructing the new span.  The carpentry was elementary, the problem was where to stand while constructing it.  It was over a swamp where I would sink to my crutch in the loose decaying leaves and debris.  So I put the old boards in the swamp to stand on.  They sank about 300mm down under the ooze so I had to remember where they were.  So I spent the day nearly knee deep in gunge and only once missed a hidden board to sink right down and floundering around clutching a post to pull myself out.  At the end of the day I hosed myself off but found my lower legs still stained blue/black.  It took considerable scrubbing in the shower to remove most of the stain.  To many, this would sound like a day in purgatory, but I had built something that would last another 40 years , so for me was a good day.

A couple of days ago, I set of with nothing more ambitious in mind than shopping in Atherton.  I was stopped at a cattle grid where a steer had got its rear legs jammed in the bars.  It was right in the middle so it was stuck and I was stuck.  I phoned 2 numbers for the owner of the steer and property but got answering machines.  I phoned my son in law, Blue, who lives close and runs cattle and he reckoned that we would have to shoot it and tow it out with a chain breaking its legs, but it would be past caring at that stage.  Then he remembered he knew a relative of the owner so phoned them, who didn’t know his mobile number but thought of someone who might.  Many phone calls later he was found.  You can do that in the country.  We met at the cattle grid and found the steers legs well jammed up between the the top bars and the support bars.  It took an hour of levering the legs this way and that, 2m crowbars, ropes, boards and straps to get him out of the grid.  All of that time the steer was trembling in fright and trying to kill us.  Even when we had wrestled him out and dragged him clear, and our noble intentions were clear, he was less than appreciative with murder and mayhem still on his mind.  I thought it prudent to climb on the truck.  We did a good job.  He could easily have broken his own legs in a frantic attempt to escape. 

So I arrived in Atherton to do the shopping well plastered in mud, but in a country town nobody notices or cares.  And I was pleased and satisfied with my unexpected task for the day.  In a town or city if something goes wrong, you phone it in.  In the country you deal with it.

Fab Feb

Barbequed  possum anyone?

Barbequed possum anyone?

I have survived my busiest 2 months of the year, December and January, and can now relax into sloth and indolence.  When the school holidays end, bookings go from being just about 100% to mainly weekends.  I like what I do, so it isn’t as though it’s a chore and drudgery, but it is a challenge.  My workload has increased in recent years from sole operator of a busy B&B, with the addition of child-minding duties for my grandkids.  Two boys, 1 1/2 and 3 1/2 years old.  They are a delight and full of mischief and I have fun (most of the time), and they have fun (most of the time), but of course anything to do with little kids is punctuated by mishap and misadventure, accident and willful destruction, differences and altercations, and unpredictable random events.  ‘No, it wasn’t a good idea to put your book in the toaster’.

In the school holidays, my child-minding days double as kindy ceases and my working daughter ropes me in for another day.  She gently feels me out to see if I am up for the extra day.  Thus I have found I can service a cottage with two little kids as my efforts are efficiently directed towards a goal, while their play only messes things up occasionally.  But I can’t service both cottages in a day with the kids.  It is nearly impossible without them.

Then on December 22nd, the inverter blows up.  A branch fell down near the sauna 200m away  and shorted out the transmission lines, and with a loud bang and stench of burnt insulation, I have no electricity.  

Just an aside here.  I have just eaten a hasty tasty that exceeded my expectations.  Wholemeal bread, salad, fried eggplant and fish.  With a dab of homemade hummus rich in garlic and cumin.  I drenched the eggplant slices in crushed garlic hours before cooking.  The salad was lettuce , spring onion, tomato with a few dabs of jalapeno taco sauce.  Hey, I know that’s not right, but as long as the sauce doesn’t overpower the flavour of the mildest ingredient, lettuce, it works.  It was middle east, Mexican magic.  

Meanwhile, back at the blackout, I discover that the company that makes and services the inverter goes on holidays on the 22nd of Dec, the day it blew up, and doesn’t come back until the 15th January.  Oh bugger!  Murphy’s law strikes again.  I have a stand-by inverter of just 1 KVA that I plugged in.  I was surprised that the little inverter did so well and kept the lights on at Possum Valley.  It could even handle the washing machine along with the lights and  fridges etc.  The guests never knew the critical state of the power supply.  But I couldn’t use the clothes dryer.  It just killed the inverter.  I got mountains of linen and I could wash it but not dry it.  This led me to try and find the days where I had no guests arriving, I didn’t have the grandkids and I didn’t have to service cottages.  Then I would race to the Atherton laundromat and stuff the dryers, four at a time, with baskets of wet linen.  I was lucky that Dec was a pretty dry month and by careful cloud and humidity watching combined with the forecasts and radar, I managed to dodge the washing on and off the line at propitious moments.  

There are a lot of chores that I don’t do while guests are here.  Obviously cottage maintenance and noisy stuff like chainsawing trees and chopping up the wood for the sauna, slashing etc.  I have now slashed everywhere.  The slashing is not only to cut the grass, but to chop up the weeds that would become shrubs then trees if I let them grow.  When I bought the block 40+ years ago, about 30 acres on the south side of Possum Creek had been cleared during the war (WW2).  There were patches of grass, patches of small bushes and patches of more established regrowth trees.  Without me defending the 3 acres around the buildings, it would be all trees by now.  You have to live here to appreciate how vigourously, steadily and inexorably the forest pushes back.  

So I have now come to the leisurely maintenance season, and perhaps you dear readers could help me.  Not by any hard labour, but by correcting a certain lack of perception I have.  Like many blokes, I am quite capable of being totally blind to what I don’t want to see.  Ranging from dust bunnies under the bed, flaking paint on the windows, dodgy collapsing plastic chairs on the veranda, to massive piles of junk I don’t seem to have gotten round to removing.  My wife who left me long ago, suggested that it was a common trait of men, perhaps genetically transmitted on the Y chromosome.  The most insignificant and information poor scrap of genetic material, but hailed by men as the crowning achievement of evolution.  So perhaps kind guests could suggest what needs to be done to improve things at Possum Valley.  I am quite aware I have blind spots, OK, boundless areas of ignorance, so I would take it as helpful advice rather than trenchant criticism.  

Breathlessly awaiting your suggestions.


trump (1):- a trumpet. *v.t  To impose (a thing) upon by fraud.  Last Trump:  The end of the world.  to trump up:  to fabricate, to concoct.

trump (2): Any card of a suit ranking for the time being above the others. v.t to take with a trump. v.i to play a trump-card. *to put to one’s trumps: To reduce to one’s last expedient.  trump-card: the card turned up to decide which suit is to be trumps; any card of this suit; (fig.) an infallible expedient.

trumpery n.  Worthless finery; rubbish.  a. Showy but worthless, delusive, rubbishy.

Source “The Concise Oxford Dictionary”.  

Thank you for following me through this exercise in definitions from that wonderfully antiquated tome, but I doubt your thoughts were unaffected by a man of that name.  All the above was probably printed before his birth as the copy I am holding is in worse condition than he is.  The covers are missing, the fabric spine is exposed and shredding, every page is dog-eared from extensive use and many pages hard to read from creeping mold taking its last revenge.  Then again, perhaps it isn’t in worse condition than Trump.  At least it is modest.  On the first remaining page (many before now lost), is:-

“In this work, when it shall be found that much is omitted, let it not be forgotten that much likewise has been performed.”

Dr Samuel Johnson (born 1709) in the preface to his “Dictionary of the English Language”. 

I have been diverted from my purpose which was to rail against Trump’s outrageous statement about “shithouse countries”.  For one of the self-professed most intelligent persons on the planet, his grasp of reality is remarkably tenuous.  People love the country, culture and society they were brought up in.  There are no ‘shithouse countries’.  Sometimes people find the conditions in those countries to be untenable because of persecution, poverty, imminent death or catastrophe.  The Rohingya do not flee to Bangladesh because they see it as the land of milk and honey.  They truly love the land they were fleeing and would not expose their children to harm, miserable refugee camps,  exploitation and hardship unless they were desperate.  In Australia’s own struggles to understand and conceptualise refugees, let us not think of them as economic opportunists.  First of all they were wrenched from their societies and then had to consider their opportunities.  As someone who came from the UK and then had the leisure to survey my opportunities, I feel as if I had a red carpet laid, and someone from say Afghanistan had the fire pit laid.  I am the economic opportunist not driven by great need.  My attraction to Australia was not its wealth opportunities, but the vast size and wilderness, its beauty and contrasts.  I suspect refugees attraction is Australia’s stability, rule of law and a safe place to bring up kids who might have a brilliant future, good food on the table every night, and they, like me, would see money as secondary, just a means to an end.  That many refugees work so hard, if given the chance, is not so much that they want money or want to take over the world, but they are so motivated by traumatic experiences, that they would do anything to protect their children from the same.

Digressed again.  Wolff’s book “Fire and Fury” I haven’t read, but the fallout could be very entertaining.  It seems the theme is that the irrational and fickle Trump rushes around everywhere like a bull in a china shop and is used to having an entourage of acolytes follow him around to clean up the broken Ming vases and the bullshit.  I think the entourage is getting very tired, and many have dropped out like Bannon who actually got him the job in the first place.  I think perhaps Trump may be quite right when he claims a high IQ.  It is more likely his problems are in emotional development where he seems to be stuck at the level of a 4 year old.  I have more respect for Henry, my 3 1/2 year grandson to sort things out with his little brother, than I would entrust to Trump.  Henry can understand ‘Hey, we have all got to have fun for this to work’.  Trump hasn’t got this far yet.  It’s all about him.  I doubt he will have an epiphany at this late stage in his life.  

I hope we survive this experiment in chaotic leadership.  It may come to the only coup in history where his underlings gently surrounded him and slip on a suit with all the fastenings at the back and lead him off to a very nice quiet place in the country.  


Breeze through Life

Here are some observations on how to have a good life without much stress or doing a lot of things you’d rather not.  Of course it is taken from my own life and what has worked for me.  It is not THE answer, because there isn’t one.  It may be a guide if it suits your style.  

I have a couple of pre-conditions that unfortunately excludes at least half the world’s population.  Get born in a reasonably affluent country, to non-abusive parents and without a major disability.  To those who thrive without one or all of these advantages, I dips me lid.  You are way beyond me and should run the masterclass.  

1)  Be optimistic and trust people.  People sense trust and usually return it with generosity.  When someone fails your trust, don’t draw it in, allocate it elsewhere.  

2)  Go after what excites you and what satisfies you.  Make material gratification and earning a living secondary.  In affluent societies there are plenty of niche opportunities to put bread on the table. 

3)  Value relationships over money or status.  Don’t keep up with the Joneses.  They are going in the wrong direction.  

4)  Keep debts small and manageable.  Debts greatly curtail one’s range of life choices.  Don’t exchange freedom for immediate gratification.

5)  Work outside the financial system as much as possible (and stay legal).  Work for yourself and duck the taxes, fees and interest rates the system is so adept at creaming off.  They spread the net wide, but can’t catch the fingerlings.  Nor apparently the big fish.  Don’t be their cash cow. 

6)  Reduce consumption.  My pet hates are coca cola and bottled water.  What a con! generating mountains of garbage, some of which I have to deal with.   Wear clothes till they fall off and value things which have lived a long life.  Thank you old mop, but you are too bald now.

7)  Don’t worry about what you can’t fix.  Move on.  Don’t worry about what you can fix either, just think of a hundred ways to fix it, and do one or two of them.  Apply work, delete stress.

8)  Be confident you can do things beyond your present knowledge.  Nothing is as quick as learning on the job.  Every scrap of information is saved and used.  Never pass an opportunity to learn a new skill.  With persistence, frustration transitions to eureka moments.  Rejoice in failure, as it means you learnt a lot, or at least gave it your best shot.

9)  Look for and appreciate the skills, virtues and philosophy in other people.  Then there is a good chance you will acquire them.  They will be gladly given.

10)  Enjoy happiness, but let it pass.  It is ephemeral and cannot be kept except as a ghost in memory.  Try for contentment which can be satisfying and maintained indefinitely as a state of being.  

There you have my 10 point plan for easy living as gleaned from a million books.  Nothing new.  Just what I have found useful.  So just ease back, relax, and visualise what is really important to you.  

leaf-tailed lizard

leaf-tailed lizard

Nothing to do with this post, but I thought you might like to see one of the residents of my workshop.  This leaf-tailed lizard is often behind the sliding door.  It is obvious against the wall boards, but if it were on a tree in the rainforest you would be hard pressed to see it even when staring at it.  This one posed nicely for me relying on his wonderful camouflage not realising it was a bust with a plain background.  I also sized it up with a ruler at 22 cm.  He shares the shed with a sizable red-bellied black snake I saw yesterday cruising through the shelf with the plumbing bits.  The workshop is a favourite place and  frequent haunt for me ‘doing stuff’, like in the last couple of days constructing a heavy-duty pipe clamp to repair the ram pump steel drive pipe.  I cut up the stainless-steel body of a burnt out pump combined with S/S bolts from a dead dingy to endure the weather and the very high pressures in the ram pump.  I love repurposing junk to make valuable tailor-made items.  My grandkids also love the workshop and its infinite mess and possibilities.  They have a healthy respect for snakes and sometimes send me ahead as scout. All shed residents tolerate each other and perhaps the key word is respect.  I look around the world and many places are in a sorry state.  Where respect is entrenched, harmony reigns.