Welcome 2020

I wish a happy new year is in store for all my faithful readers.  Both of you.  For me 2019 was a good year when most things went right, business was good, weather was OK though often inconvenient, and I got to spend a lot of time with my grandkids.  My 2 grandsons who live just down the road aged 3 1/2 and 5 1/2, spent mostly 2 days a week with me at Possum Valley.  Up from 1 day a week the previous year because my daughter Alice was doing a uni course in pediatrics via home study, and I think we all know that little kids demand a lot of attention.  I am lucky in having an occupation where I can service cottages, meet guests, do maintenance etc with a couple of kids in tow.  They are even a handy excuse if I haven’t got the cottage ready when very forgiving guests arrive.  And for new guests, it encourages them to see me as gentle and human, rather than an old hermit/ogre when I have a couple of naked kids in tow.

Though for the elder one, greeting guests in the nick may be a thing of the past as he still likes to meet them, but rushes to don a few clothes when he hears a car coming down the track.  His recent modesty is probably my fault.  We were showing a family around Blackbean Cottage and he was talking their ears off as usual, as he does know a lot about Possum Valley and bush life in general, when I interrupted him and suggested he stopped playing with his dick when talking to people as it was rather distracting.  I said it very lightly, not at all in an admonishing tone, and the guests laughed and suggested it was going to happen for a while yet.  But I think I have inflicted a permanent inhibition on him.  He still likes running around naked, and come to think of, so do I, though the running bit I can do without.  I got up this morning and it was 18C and a sunny day coming, and a rare occasion with no guests, so being quite comfortable, I didn’t bother to put on any clothes.  It steadily climbed to 30C and is now gently declining.  On such a day it is very comfortable to let it all hang out.  And hang it does, in unsightly bulges in all directions.  Guests may rest assured that I will never present them with such a horrifying spectacle and will be suitably dressed in my usual shabby clothes when I greet them.

As recorded above, I had a little “inconvenient” weather.  For a lot of 2019, many people down south had disastrous weather.  Drought and fires has been the reality lived by people in the bush in southern states, and the city people haven’t escaped unscathed with choking smoke and baking temperatures.  Even people in Dunedin in NZ can see it and smell it.  And our grinning spin-doctor-in-chief, otherwise known as Scomo, has empathised for all he is worth (about nothing), and said this catastrophe is what we can expect so suck it up out there, while I get on with business as usual and send our thoughts and prayers rather than any actual help.  I’ll be digging coal, fracking gas, making money etc.

Have we had enough fun yet?  Can we plan a little bit further ahead than the new year’s resolution will last?  Has Scomo any plan beyond managing optics?  Pass round the fig leaves and try to make it to the next election everyone.

It used to be that managing the present was good enough for effective government.  That was about 200 years ago, because things didn’t change much.  Since then there have been accelerating changes that governments have hastily dealt with by makeshift remedial actions. Now the future rushes upon us and governments should leave maintenance in the hands of bureaucrats and focus their entire attention on the future.  Scomo and his government seem the least likely people on the planet to achieve that aim.  I could convene a committee at the local aged care nursing home that is more progressive than him.

It has got to the point where on a press-the-flesh ultra sympathy tour, people left his handshake just dangling.  The ultimate Aussie insult.  How could a PR specialist have got it so wrong?  Because he is decades behind what the Australian people already know and is still in denial.  The climate emergency is happening now and accounting tricks won’t make it go away.  The laws of physics can’t be amended, suspended or repealed at the whim of government.

The authorities have admitted that the fires can’t be extinguished despite the valiant efforts of the firefighters, but must wait upon gentle, beautiful rain to rescue a nation in torment.  Perhaps in February.

Grandpa, are you going to live here forever?

That was a question from Philip, my 3 1/2 year old grandson.  He had been sitting quietly on a stool at the breakfast bar as I busied about the kitchen.  He had been thinking about the future, and I was quite taken aback.  That he even had a concept of the future was news to me.  Me, him and Possum Valley go way back to when he was a baby only able to crawl.  I was looking after him a day a week with his elder brother Henry doing the grandparent thing and freeing up time for his parents to do work and establish their farm.  So Philip sees me and Possum Valley as part of the furniture.  Always there and perhaps rather musty smelling.

I groped around for an answer, and told him forever is a really really long time, and I wasn’t going to last that long and was going to die before that.  He didn’t have a problem with that as he lives on a farm and has witnessed animal death, nor a problem when I said that everybody dies.  I don’t believe that hiding reality from even the littlest kids does them a favour or even gets past their bullshit filter for very long.  Then came the curious anomaly that he thought his mother would die, but his father wouldn’t.  I let that go.

I went on to tell him that I intended to stay and work at Possum Valley for as long as I could, but would get old and weak so that at some time I would have to stop working and maybe leave Possum Valley.  I couldn’t tell him what would happen after that as I don’t know myself.  I have rarely had such an incisive conversation with anyone, let alone a 3 1/2 year old.

I have always been of the opinion that it is important to respect children, what they think and what they say, and to listen to even incomprehensible ramblings because even if you don’t get the point, it is important to them.  This time it was important to me.  I really need a more comprehensive plan rather than just totter into the future until I fall over.  I will have to have some conversations with my daughters and their partners with a view to phasing me out as required.  Hopefully I can put the plans in place, but the implementation off for a while yet.

Thanks Philip.

Fortress or Glasshouse?

One of the reasons I bought Possum Valley 43 years ago, was to preserve a bit of very important rainforest I saw being thoughtlessly cut down. For timber or cleared for farming.  Another was thoughts of a hippie colony and self-sufficiency, communal living and free love.  I never did get there, especially the last one.  I now recognise there was also a bit of survivalist thinking as the cold war ground on and nuclear Armageddon was a possibility.  I figured that Evelyn Central with a post office and a small wooden hall for the occasional moon dance wouldn’t be a prime target for an H-bomb.  I was right.  It hasn’t been nuked, and the post office isn’t even there anymore.  That threat has passed, but another one, just a vague rumour in 1976, was climate change.  I could clearly see the human threats to the environment back then, with bulldozers and such, but only dimly grasped that the whole atmosphere could be altered by human activity with catastrophic results.

So I bought 63 Ha of precious rainforest and have successfully protected if from being flattened by bulldozers.  But only recently have I realised that I can’t protect beautiful Possum Valley from droughts, rising temps, more devastating cyclones and possibly even being wiped out by fire.  Traditional thinking has it the tropical rainforest doesn’t burn.  It can be badly singed on the outside, but doesn’t burn.  Until recently.  Fire penetrated into the rainforest south of here and burnt out 250 Ha.  It had been damaged by a recent cyclone, but it does point to the possible vulnerability of rainforest.  Unlike the gum forests, rainforest trees aren’t equipped by evolution to recover from serious fire damage.  I had taken solace in the climate change modelling which showed that FNQ would maintain it’s average rainfall while it would decline in the south east.  I was pitying the poor farmers down south already rainfall challenged, but didn’t realise an increase in seasonality, more in the wet, but less in the dry could hammer the rainforest.

This spring has been a wake-up call to many including me.  My fortress is being assailed on every side.  I have not had the terrible experience of the horrible bushfires that have swept through QLD and NSW and devastated so many homes and properties, but I have been forced to think about the changes I have seen here over the years.  When I first came here in 1976, I was astonished by the abundance of insects of all kinds.  Sudden swarms of beetles that appeared in billions and set up a constant drone and clicking as they crashed into windows.  Around this time of year there were so many moths at night they were a real nuisance flying round the lights, but were amazing in their diversity and garish colouring.  The Ulysses butterflies flashing across the valley in the day, and the fireflies that came as soon as it was dark.  Where are they?  They had their seasons and were always variable from year to year, but now I realise I haven’t seen any of them for many years now.  It has been so hot recently, 32C today, that I have left all the doors and windows open day and night.  Years ago the place would have filled up with bugs, but not now.  This is only anecdotal evidence, as I have not taken any quantitative or reliable observations.  Around the world there is concern about crashing insect numbers, in Europe mostly put down to the agricultural use of pesticides, but here it has been very infrequent perhaps one or two times a years by a crop sprayer and then several kilometers away.  And not at all in the last few years as the potato farmers seem to have given up and beef cattle taken over.

In this driest spring on record, I had 3mm of rain in Nov and that was better than most around here.  The trees and bushes in the rainforest hang limp and sad.  Leaves cover the ground shed by trees no longer able to support them and are crunchy underfoot.  Worst is along the track in because it follows ridges and even the narrow track lets more light in.  I read in a recent report by the Wet Tropics Management Authority that the rainforest is under as much threat as the reef.  Great changes to the ecosystem could be expected with increasing temps.  Several species of highland mammals were at risk, such as the lemuroid possum and lumholtz tree kangaroo.  Apparently the lemuroid possum starts falling dead out of the trees at about 29C rather like some bats recently.  As it has been over 30C for the last week, perhaps they are already extinct.

Australia burns.  Hundreds of houses destroyed.  And Scomo says it is not time to talk about the climate emergency in deference to the people suffering loss.  Mealy-mouthed, simpering PR crap you worm!  The people burnt out responded by dumping the charred remains of their once beautiful house on the lawns of parliament house and said “this is exactly the right time to talk about climate change”.   The accumulating evidence of climate change and the recent and continuing devastating fires even before summer has started, seems to have galvanised people around the country.  Even here in conservative rural Atherton, 60 people staged a demonstration to try and get local, state and federal government to address the issue of climate change.  I’d have gone along if I’d have known it was happening.  Placards, marching, speeches and chanting slogans.  Gads, it’s been a long time since I did that.  And in Atherton!  From the picture in the local rag, it seemed that most of the marchers were of my vintage.  So the young have been aroused by Greta Thunberg, the middle aged with children are not so visible as they have to get to work and feed the kids but have been installing solar panels on the roof in fantastic numbers, and the silver-tops like me are very concerned for our grandkids and the fate of the beautiful planet we inherited but didn’t manage to look after.  The only people in Australia oblivious or in denial about the climate emergency are the people we have elected to guide us into the future.  Their focus seems to be bent on denying a few seriously ill people on Nauru any medical help.  It just seems pointlessly punitive. I don’t think they have a grasp of the big picture and the perils facing Australia.  Nor does Dutton seem to have a single drop of the milk of human kindness.

A rather sad post, but I do have to assess where I have been and where I am going.

Catching Up

I haven’t posted for a while, and I guess that it is because I have no earth shattering news, or that I suspect nobody is interested anyway.  My ego had been inflated by having 2500 subscribers, until I realised that most of them were robots dedicated to spreading spam (an unwholesome meat product).  And as my website sent out notifications of new posts to each, I had been turned to the dark side and become a spammer myself.  So I disabled and deleted the subscriber app.  I just don’t know that many people in Russia or Romania.

So this is in the nature of ‘letter to self’.  A review of the last month to see if my life is improving or declining.  Got the sauna finished and new guttering up on Blackbean Cottage, but a mouse disabled my hydro generator control system in a suicide attack.  That issue yet unresolved.  The unusually hot spring weather has dissuaded me from heavy labour, but been a boon for my grandkids to play in the creeks.  The rainforest is suffering with the wild ginger curling up it’s leaves, the brambles and small trees drooping and browning off.  The creek is dwindling away putting further pressure on the already crippled power system.  And I am one of the lucky ones!  Much of Queensland and NSW has been subject to unprecedented fires with total fire fronts 6000 km long.  Think about the word ‘unprecedented’.  It means hasn’t happened before.  But it has happened now, and will happen again with increasing frequency.  There was a time when climate change by human agency was proposed.  There was a time when climate change was debated due to short term data.  Now we are in the period of abundant, comprehensive and overwhelming data that it is happening now, with disastrous consequences.

I was outraged by Scomo’s pronouncement that “this is not the time to talk about climate change while grieving Australians are suffering”.  Many of those grieving for loss of life or home got right up him and said this is exactly the right time.  His mealy-mouthed, sly, disingenuous piece of PR, trading on the loss of victims, earned him the odium he deserves.  Still a few days to go before summer when the official fire season start, and the rural firefighters are just about dead on their feet and 150 fires burning in NSW with  64 uncontained.  The forecast from BOM until the end of Feb is for hotter, drier conditions than normal to come for the whole of Oz except for a tiny patch just inland in the north west.  Congratulations Marble Bar for just getting your usual blistering temperatures.  Most of the rest of us have an 80% chance of above average day and night temps.

I am appalled that new fossil fuel projects have been advanced by government approvals.  Adani in Queensland, fracking in the Top End.  It took geological forces 250,000,000 years to sequester that carbon.  If we burn it and put it back into circulation in 50 years, doesn’t that seem a bit hasty, a bit rash.  In fact total insanity!!

The powerful neoliberal and corporate forces seem to have such a strong grip on the levers of democracy that elections are window dressing, a mere nod to the idea of the people having representation.  The people are voting with their feet to support alternative energy with so many people installing solar panels.  The government, lump of coal in hand, is doing everything to stop the future from happening.  Our government in thrall to legacy industries, doomed to extinction but with plenty of accumulated wealth, is wringing the last residual money from a collapsing system.

My Personal History of Electronics 1950-2019

I was born in 1950 when very few homes had any kind of electronic device.  In the early 50’s television started to be broadcast in black and white and 2 channels which shut down at 10.30 pm I think, and wished viewers a good night before displaying the ‘test card’ which was a geometric pattern so installers could ‘tune in’.  My parents weren’t too sure whether TV was a good idea, and might displace family activities such a sewing, games, conversation and sleep, so I had to wait a couple of years until they relented.  They were totally right about it displacing family activities.  The television arrived resplendent in a polished wooden cabinet casing, with half of the front a screen and the rest large dials and switches.  It was of course powered by valves.  These are large glass vacuum tubes with heaters in every one.  The TV sucked a huge amount of power, got very hot, and I dare say it was possible to cook one’s evening meal on it.  Giving new meaning to ‘TV dinners’.

The valves burnt out with great regularity, so TV aficionados often had a box of spare valves to plug in in place of the blackened ones.   “Dad, the TV’s gone again and I want to watch Noddy and Big Ears” was the frequent cry.  I also remember having a portable radio with valves and a 67 V battery which lasted about half an hour.  The battery was also used as a child bravery test by putting one’s tongue across the terminals.  Voluntary torture.

Then somebody invented a workable transistor.  My, how the world has changed.  You probably own 20-50 million transistors.  They used to be worth $1 each, but you will be disappointed to learn they have not retained their value, so you cannot retire yet.  There are several million on a computer CPU, or smart phone, or even your fridge or washing machine.  Not to mention your TV, where we started this electronic adventure.  Your car has more computing power than available to Armstrong at the first moon landing.  In the 1960’s an IBM executive said the world market for computers would be about 10.  Which is why they are still making pencil sharpeners.

I really got to the cutting edge of electronics when I went to university to do mechanical engineering, a heavy user of number crunching.  In the labs we had a PDP8 computer to process lab tests.  It was programmed in machine language.  That was digital, or all it could understand was 0 and 1.  I can’t tell you how laborious that was to code onto a strip of paper with punched holes a program, then the data, and instructions to output the results.  It made a slide-rule look good.  Another lost art I mastered.  However there was a mainframe computer in the university that understood high level languages such as Algol, Cobol and Fortran.  One computer for 3000 students.  It didn’t contain any stored programs.   I had to create the internal logic with iterative operations such as ‘if I=20 then go to line 486’ for the program to take each step in computing a result.  I went to a room with typewriters where I punched holes in cards.  Hundreds of them in exact order that I bound with elastic bands and left on the stack of in-going programs.  I got the result perhaps 2 weeks later by daily checking the out stack.  Usually the result was failure with “Failed to compile” with error routines 27,104, 337, 582 etc and it would give a line number.  Then go back to the massive tome of errors and look up the number to find the cryptic words such as “integer not declared”.  I did so declare that integer!!  Then back to a previous line not mentioned as an error to find the card, pour over it to see I had mis-typed a semicolon instead of a colon, obscured by the fuzzy pin printer.  Then wait another 2 weeks for the next try.  Probably another failure.  In my entire time at uni, I managed to get 2 programs to run.  I could see computing was the future of engineering, but that was probably why I went to smoke hash in Kathmandu instead.

All the above is a lengthy preamble to try and convince you that I am not the world’s worst plonker when it comes to electronics and stuff.  Or perhaps to convince myself.  I have recently had a major problem with a mouse.  No, not that thing close to your right hand, or to be stroked on a pad, this was the real thing with fur and whiskers.  It got into the box housing the hydro governor, crept under the circuit board that controls it and got toasted.  It’s boiling body fluids shorted the circuit board, burned holes in it and coated the board with a thick layer of carbon residue.  Not surprisingly, it ceased to function.  Both mouse and board. The first I knew of this was the smell.  I was at the computer and got the stench of burning insulation.  Oh bugger! this isn’t good.  I got down on hands and knees like an airport beagle but couldn’t sniff it amongst the computer/internet equipment.  I went to the laundry where the washing machine was thumping away.  No problem.  Then outside to the mass of electronics that controls the electrical system.  I got the acrid stench of burnt electrics and could see the thick carbon deposits.  It took a while to see the tip of the nose of the mouse peeping out from under the circuit board.  I pulled it out with pliers and had a moment of sympathy with the hapless animal.  Just a moment, before I tossed it off into the bushes.  Oh bugger!  This electronic device was made especially for me as a one-off.  By a company that no longer exists, commissioned by my father-in-law now long dead, composed of components 37 years old, and made by an unknown person who is probably retired.  For those of you who have pursued warranty clauses, you can possibly see a problem.

I dismantled and surveyed the charred remains of the circuit board with little comprehension.  Time for phone a friend.  My techie mate Martin is in Canada but has a mate in Cairns who has been to Possum Valley.  He is willing to look at the problem and thinks he may be able to resurrect this ancient piece of electronics.

Here’s hoping.


New Sauna Completed

After much delay by the weather and other commitments such as running a business and one or two days a week looking after young grandkids, I have finally managed to complete the rebuilding of the sauna hut and it is now open for use.  The weather in particular has been most uncooperative with persistent rain up right up until late August.  The very narrow, unsurfaced track is very slippy and one tiny mistake would see me, my vehicle and building materials sliding sideways into the dam below.  The slope at the site is very steep and most times I could hardly stand up on the slippy ground, let alone attempt work.  I am sure you understand it is miserable working in the rain and things go wrong so easily, especially on makeshift scaffolding with muddy boots and power tools.  So weeks went by with no progress.  Also a highly unionised work site so two drops on a shovel and I’m out of there.   So here it is.

New sauna hut

I actually prefer the previous model of old timber boards scrounged from around the place, But I’ve done so much scrounging in the last decade, there’s nothing left.  The last bits went into the tree house.  So I had to actually buy the materials and that was a shock to the system.  Not just having to put my miserly trembling hand into my pocket, but also the cost of building materials seems to have moved on in the last few decades since I have done any substantial building.  Especially timber.  I had to settle for Hardi plank compressed cement boards which are strong enough when fixed, but a nightmare for one person to pick up.  They are not that heavy but 4.2 m long and awfully wobbly and when you try to carry one on edge it twists itself at the ends and snaps in the middle.  I had to clamp them to a long stick of wood to even pick them up.  I bought for the first time ever a few metal studs to use around the stove and chimney so I wouldn’t have to build a Mark 3 hut.  Compared with the 3 by 2 hardwood studs they are meant to replace, they are awfully light and flimsy.  Accidentally step on one and it would just crumple.  I understand that most new houses are framed with the stuff.  Hmmm.

I gave myself a holiday in early September, the first one in years.  As I’m the boss here, I can have a holiday whenever I like and for as long as I like.  All I have to do is scan my booking diary, find some patch of white paper and scribble “hols” across it.  In practice, it is not quite that easy as the weekends at least are booked up months in advance, so I have to think ahead.  I’m not very good at that.  So I went to see my daughter Josie, partner Kairne and two grandkids Huon 6 and Evie 4 in September.  I would have liked mid-winter for Darwin, but missed booking it in with myself (how dumb is that!), so went later.  They have bought a post-cyclone Tracy house, known locally as a ‘bunker’.  The walls and ceiling are solid reinforced concrete.  Now that’s something to fix a roof to!  The garden is nice with well established trees and Alexandria palms.  They are fortunate enough to have a pool to flop into on hot days, which is pretty much all year.  While I was there it got up to 36.6C with 80% humidity.  My first day back at Possum Valley the max was 16C.  More than 20C difference.  Somewhere in the middle would be nice.

In Darwin Josie and Kairne had work to do of course, Huon was at school, so I was dutifully hosted by Evie aged 4 in her serious mode as she took me on a tour of the house and gardens, naming the chickens and most of the plants as well as she could.   A most charming host.  This was what I was there for, some one-on-one time with Evie that I had not really had before.  So then we were taking each other’s measure until a little trust was established.  Later I saw her fun mode with squeals of laughter and wide shining eyes.

Evie 2019

On that first day I disgraced myself.  I failed to pick up Huon from school.  I didn’t even know it was required to pick up kids from school.  The house is only 200 m from the school grounds.  As a primary school kid I walked over a mile through a city each way, every day, rain or shine.  Evie gently said “Is it time to pick up Huon?”.  Though I hadn’t explicitly been told to pick him up, both parents were at work and I should have been able to work it out.  As I dashed out of the house in panic, Kairne drove up with Huon.  He had been summoned from work concerning an unattended, abandoned child languishing in the principle’s office.  I suspect that will go down in family history.  Perhaps history will also record it is sad that kids can’t walk the streets and roam as I did.

Later I did get to see a lot of Huon’s school.  I spent a day on a school outing to the NT Wildlife Reserve sponsored by the government and very professional and interesting.  I attended classes to assist Josie give a small group assistance to cook choc-chip cookies.  I was fortunate to attend the school concert.  I was blown out by the difference in philosophy and practice from my day of ‘talk and chalk’ and quills and inkwell in the desks.  Yes quills, just like Shakespeare except that we had up-graded to metal quills rather than feathers.  They had giant touchscreen monitors which the kids confidently manipulated with sweeps and taps to bring internet news and events.  The whole open plan area was stocked with physical resources just waiting to be used.  The kids went in small groups without direct supervision and later reported back to the class what they had achieved.  Another positive is the huge cultural diversity and ethnic mix of Darwin.  Innuit were a bit thin on the ground, but all the world’s people were there and celebrated at the school concert.

In Possum Valley news, it is sarsaparilla season with the trees blooming in profusion.  This pic from my bedroom window.

saspirella from my bedroom window

Long Time, No Blog

There is a reason, or several why I haven’t made a blog in over a month.  The first excuse reason I haven’t blogged is that I haven’t done much that is noteworthy.  Mainly due to the wet season hanging on with drizzly days making progress on the sauna rebuild and other projects impossible.  I have other feeble excuses for my sloth, such as being fully booked for accommodation and looking after my grandkids aged 3 and 5 for 2 days a week.  I can get some things done while the kids are here, such as servicing a cottage, or a bit of building, but they require regular feeding, beg for book reading, demand that I watch them drill holes in wood, cut grass with scissors, or splatter paint on paper and proudly proclaim it a landscape.

Sauna progress

So I regretfully report I have missed the winter deadline for the sauna rebuild.  Both my guests and I could really use a sauna at the moment with a drizzly day that reached a max of 13C.  God what!  You’d expect better in Glasgow.  I’ve just looked up Glasgow.  Gales and rain but 17C.  I’m wearing socks would you believe!  After a brief glimpse of the ‘dry season’ with brilliant sunny days, I am disappointed by the return of cloud and drizzle.

My other grandkids aged 6 and 4 came over from Darwin last week to stay for a few days.  Yes, they did bring parents to take care of logistics.  It was great to see the cousins reestablish relationships.  I have just put the floor in and waiting to nail off and coat it on a dry sunny day so the coating will dry rather than go to a tacky emulsion.  It was drizzling and 15C when I took this (30 mins ago).  Give me a break Huey!!  I had my grandkids when laying the floor, and they played happily while I laboured on, but they were playing with my tools, and elder Henry 5 has understood how important tools are from me and his dad, so wanted my tape measure when I wasn’t using it.  Partly my own fault for stressing how important measuring and numbers are to ‘do stuff’ so that when he gets to that stage in school, he knows what it is for.  Which left me negotiating with a 5 year old to get my tools back.

Recently, the hydro generator had a burnout of a brush and slip ring.  Nothing unusual as it happens every 6 months or so, but while trying to turn down and refurbish the slip ring it came loose.  It was a paper thin strip of brass worn down by constant friction.  Re-engineering required.  I managed to bodge it up to last for a very limited period, so I could press-gang Blue, my daughter’s partner, to help me carry down an old generator to replace it.  I know it is old because the manufacturers ceased production pre 1982. We arranged a date for the ‘big grunt’.  The track down to the hydro site follows the waterfall and is very steep, slippy and littered with loose rocks.  The generators weigh about 65 kg.  Rather like mountaineering in the high Alps but carrying a body on a stretcher.  One wrong step launches everyone off down the hill.  The most difficult sections negotiated by lowering the carrying cradle by rope.  I wanted to install and fire up the ‘old’ generator before trying to lift the failing one up the hill in case the replacement didn’t work.  A few adjustments were required as the support feet had different dimensions, but when I started it off I could tell from the sound it was taking up the load.  You beaut!!!!.  Rather like me, you thought you were past retirement, but still good to go.

The next task was to hump the failing generator up the hill to my workshop for re-engineering to be a back-up.  There was some negotiation as to who would take front and uphill position on the carrying stretcher and who would carry the rear.  On steep hills the weight falls on the rear.  My negotiations skills must be failing as I got the arse end.  I called 4 halts in the ascent as I couldn’t gulp enough oxygen.  The legs were willing, but the lungs were weak.  I have installed new (homemade) slip-rings and brush calipers from an old generator to increase the brush contact area and decrease the contact pressure which I hope will give much increased life to the components.  If you didn’t understand a word of that, don’t worry.  Your incomprehension is very unlikely to impact your life.  You only have to be good at one very small thing to earn a living.

Hang in there and try and survive the trifecta of buffoons now running the English speaking world.  With the honourable exception of Jacinta of course.


Disaster Strikes Possum Valley

The television doesn’t work.  I went to switch it on tonight and not a flicker or a lonesome LED, dead as a maggot.  Which is an oxymoron of a phrase, as when anything is dead, the maggots certainly aren’t.  however the television dead with no sign of maggots.  Which has driven me to my computer, and having absorbed enough of a dose of dismal news, gives me leisure to compose a post.  Not that I have a lot to report as I have been in hibernation due to persistent rain, mist, mud, leeches and sheets of drizzle driven by gale force winds.  The sauna reconstruction is at a standstill though I did take advantage of 3 whole days without rain to get half a ton of materials down the precarious slippy track.  Even the ducks have had enough and loiter in my patio area undercover in a semi-catatonic state.

I must say that my guests have been taking the dismal conditions with a cheerfulness that defies reality and an optimism that is a credit to the Aussie ‘can do’ spirit.  I am reminded of a Giles cartoon that I grew up on that caricatured the grim British determination to have a good time.

Happy holidays by Giles

Just departed today is an extended family who have been coming for decades.  They said they a great time and saw plenty of wildlife, which of course doesn’t have the option to go on strike.  I think a large part of the ‘great time’ was the opportunity for 3 generations to get together without piling into one house and creating ‘hosts’ and ‘guests’.  They could come to neutral territory and just muck in together.  Muck the operative word.

Other recent guests have been forgiving for other reasons.  Despite the atrocious weather for the last …… well … forever, guests have seen the golden bower bird in the last couple of days. I had a couple of wildlife enthusiasts from WA and they were thrilled to see platypus out the window and the tree roos, possums and for them the highlight was the golden bower bird. They forgive and forget the mud if they get to see the special creatures they certainly wont see elsewhere.

The few fleeting days when I managed to get some materials down to the sauna was due to a blast of cold air from Antarctica I think.  On a day where the max temp was 12C, my grandson Henry, 5, gets all his gear off and goes round naked.  I had resorted to long trousers while he resorted to just skin.  I didn’t make a point of it as I was sure he would soon realise the error of his ways, but an hour later where he showed no signs of discomfort, I persuaded him to to put on a few clothes.  Philip, 3, didn’t show as much resilience to the cold, but then he had fallen over in the creek and was drenched from head to toe.  I tried to get him to walk up from Blackbean Cottage to my house as I was carrying piles of linen and bags of garbage, but he shuddered to a stop crying miserably and I dimly remembered similar incidents from my own childhood and abandoned my load in the paddock to whisk him to warmth, safety and dry clothes.

To say I was disappointed by the result of the federal election would be an understatement.  I couldn’t believe that a coal brandishing reactionary twit could possibly be elected.  I don’t think there has been a more idiotic result since the praetorian guard in Rome after several assassinations and much wine elected a horse as emperor.  Actually, I think I’d rather have a horse.  Winx for PM!!  Yeah!  At least Winx has a track record, so to speak.  Now our esteemed premier in Queensland has seen the political writing on the wall and is grovelling at full speed to provide Adani with the permits it requires.  We have to leave coal in the ground where it has been for the last 250 million years,isn’t doing and harm and isn’t going to poison the planet.  Digging it up, setting fire to it and choking on the fumes isn’t a rational future policy.  So now my federal representative is Bob Katter and has been since the dynasty was founded sometime around when the pyramids were built I think.  So, what now?  Nothing I think.  It is the business of government to look into the future and make sure it doesn’t happen.  Because they represent the interests of old money and old generations.  The Morrison government didn’t even try to put up policies because they thought it could be a target and anyway a waste of time as they didn’t expect to get back in.  Now haven’t a clue what to do.

I think I am like many old people who realise we have lived through a charmed period of peace and prosperity but now realise our profligate ways threaten the future of our children and grandchildren.  The worst effects wont impact us as our use-by date is fast approaching, the calamitous results are yet to come.  I am thinking of my grandkids and want to make some real changes to our economy of consumption and resource exploitation.  Little adjustments wont be enough.  More radical changes, even uncomfortable changes are required.