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.

Build a house in 150,000 easy steps.

A guest recently came to my house to give me money (I’ve got things worked out pretty well), and remarked that he liked my house.  That was nice of him, and it reminded me that I like it too.  In fact, after living in it for more than thirty years, I like it a lot.  I got a lot right, so I thought I’d brag about it tell you about it.  I watch “Grand Designs” on the TV because I have tried my hand at every stage of the process of house-building and have developed my own opinions.  Unlike what is called ‘owner-builder’ in that programme, I was architect, draughtsman, builder, carpenter, tiler, roofer, electrician, plumber and drainer, painter and decorator, foreman, labourer and bought and brought all the materials.  I was also workplace health and safety officer, but I was quite lenient on the other chaps.  I drew the plans on a single sheet of paper with elevations, dimensions, details of cyclone strapping, tables of timber sizes and classifications, etc, and it was passed by the building inspector without modification.  Every stick of wood cut and nailed (about 80,000) was driven by me.  I had the help of 2 mates for a morning to help grunt some trusses I had made up on to the roof.  I even felled the trees in the forest and debarked/desapped the stumps.  

So you see, I am very intimate with my house.  It has no secrets from me.  It gives me daily satisfaction to live here.  

The design process was interesting and difficult because there were no restrictions imposed by the site.  You may think the many restrictions normally encountered on a suburban block would make design more difficult, but the reverse is true.  Those restrictions may be confining and annoying, but at least they define some boundaries and reduce choices to a manageable number.  For instance, the road defines the ‘front’ and the garden defines the ‘back’ for a suburban house.  Required setbacks from neighbours centers the house and limits the proportions.  Instead, I designed to the environment and efficiency, considering prevailing winds, proximity of bathroom/kitchen/laundry to reduce plumbing costs etc.  I also wanted connection from inside of the house to environment.  Poly-functional endospace if you will.  I didn’t want to live in a box.  I wanted it to flow in easy stages out towards the wild environment.  

At this stage I got some input (orders) from my wife.  I had been thinking entirely of structures, building it, costs, efficiency and stuff.  She was thinking of lighting, the spaces created and living in it.  I would like to say I had an epiphany, a revelation, but at the time I grudgingly conceded points.  I should have thought of the Chinese proverb about the value of a pot is not in the clay, it is of the space inside.  That is what you use.  I dutifully increased the windows and bedroom sizes.  Thank you Hilary for your insightful contributions to the design.  

The 300 sq m house (500 sq m of roof with carports and workshop), was built for $14,000 including slow combustion stove, plumbing wiring etc etc.  No trouble with building inspections, I was over specifications on beam sizes and cyclone-proofing.  When you build for yourself, you don’t spare the nail or bit of strapping.  It has withstood 3 major cyclones of category 4 & 5.  The $14,000 was 30 years ago but still cheap.  The magic ingredient was my labour.  Plenty of it, but not taxed.  Hard work, but very satisfying.  Constant up-skilling required, but the skills remain to use again.  No deposit required and the foundations (stumps) completed for about $200 paid to forestry and 4 weeks hand-blistering work debarking and de-sapping and digging holes for the 45 stumps.  

I was sustained in my toil by my wife looking after the kids and sometimes working as a nurse, and by an echo of the pioneering spirit that enabled the early settlers to overcome the obstacles.  Just do it, you have no choice.  

Dear readers, you have Buckley’s chance of doing the same thing.  Not that you can’t build a house, but authorities won’t let you.  Authorities, by definition, authorise.  To justify their very existence they have to make rules.  Some rules are necessary.  Some rules are useful.  And some rules are questionable.  Many rules now are ‘cover your arse rules’ where the authorities suspect they may be liable/criticised for not making ironclad rules.  I for one, am totally pissed of with rules specifically designed to make the regulating authorities impregnable to legal liabilities even when the rules are burdensome, unworkable or even impossible in practice.

Dear readers, you are being herded into a space of total compliance.  Your illusion of freedom is like the  ads for an SUV.  Escape with this magnificent vehicle crashing through creeks, and ignore the ball and chain of the repayments that keeps your nose to the grindstone.  The creeping dominance of the government sector in the economy and the increasing regulation of every aspect of society is perhaps inevitable, but I don’t like it.  Beware the ongoing takeover of your finances with the abolition of cash, real folding money, in favour of digital bank held ‘assets’.  Then the government can impose negative interest rates, ‘haircut’ accounts, impose a surcharge (steal), or simply appropriate at will.  If you think that could never happen, then I take it you have not implemented any precautions.  

I apologise for starting off on one subject and finishing on another, but that is where my thoughts take me.

The New Machine

Last weekend the ultimate catastrophe occurred.  The washing machine broke.  Now you may be able to take that in your stride as a little inconvenience until it is repaired, but for me it is calamity, the ultimate  apocalypse.  I already had washing mounting up to rival Vesuvius, and another days delay would see an avalanche of linen and a tsunami of towels.  Of course it was a weekend, where I am at my busiest and the rest of the world decides to take those days off.  So I decided to fix the machine myself as I have done before.  The problem is that it would not do the spin cycle.  I tried it on every part of every cycle. Dead as a maggot.  (don’t know where that expression came from because in my experience, when things are dead, maggots are very active).  So I up-ended it and polished up all the connection terminals (about 40) using a dremel with a tiny diamond burr for the males and a tiny rat’s tail for the females.  Ain’t that a metaphor for a man’s world.  Males get diamonds and females get rat tails.  Cleaning terminals has worked before, but here my electrical expertise failed me.  

So bright and early Monday morning I headed into Atherton to buy a new appliance.  It is quite possible the old one could be repaired, but I needed an immediate solution.  I found that “bright and early” doesn’t work in Atherton.  The appliance shops don’t open until 9 am when the day is half over, so I kick my heels, fill up on fuel, read mail, do sudoku etc until the sales staff drift in.   They would find another definition of ‘the working day’ if they worked on a farm, which starts when you can see your hand in front of your face.  

The appliances on offer were all electronically controlled with comprehensive sounding but unfathomable specifications.  Which lead me to the conclusion that I wasn’t meant to understand, I was meant to be impressed.  So I bought one tempted by price and stated capacity of 10kg.  I removed the fantastic amount of cardboard and expanded polystyrene that would have safely landed the appliance to a bounce landing on Mars, to find a gleaming white Tardis.  I was to find out later that despite not being dark blue, it did indeed have time travel capability.  

My first job for this machine was to spin dry a load previously washed but caught in the rain on the washing line and now had to be spin-dried before being put in the dryer.  I examined the cycles available (12) and the settings available, 6 functions by 4 possibilities each which comes to 288 even before I explored the possibility of doing things in a different order.  I did not manage to find the critical path through the “fuzzy logic” programming.  Had to run the whole cycle from wash.  There are also a whole heap of things I can’t do if I select a cycle.  Certain settings are forbidden and blanked out.  The operating instructions mentions a few, but I think it would take a flowchart the size of my veranda to define the options available.  I have later discovered the ‘progress’ button which may enable me to navigate my way to a spin only solution, but may vastly multiply the 288 things that can already happen.  

Recently I noticed that the ‘time to finish’ display was not a clock.  It showed 16 mins, then I went off to do something and it showed 13 mins.  No, I was away longer than that.  Then I came back and it showed 18 mins.  Hence the reference to the Tardis.  Perhaps fuzzy logic, like quantum computing, are incredibly powerful tools to arrive at the wrong answer.

So I feel rather helpless.  At the mercy of the machine and it’s manufacturers.  And I like to consider myself amongst the technologically literate.  But I am falling behind.  I am sure that most of the people gave up long ago , but I am still striving and struggling to comprehend.  I really need a conceptual model in my head of how things work to be able to cope with the world.  I think I will have to give up my pretense of understanding everything and admit that I only understand little bits here and there.

Rant Warning! Toxic Waste Floods Canberra!

The LNP used to make much noise about factionalism in the Labour Party.  At least some of that huffing and puffing was justified.  But now it seems the LNP is wracked with worse.  Turnbull et al are paralysed and Abbot lurks like the ghost of Christmas past doing what he does best, wrecking things.  It was because of LNP internal dissent that we had to have a postal referendum on marriage equality, which was a complete no-brainer as the polls were so clear about what us proles think.  I bitterly resent $122,000,000, not including the nasty and irrelevant advertising, being spent to relieve Turnbull of the discomfort of being told off by a few of his own party, if it was dealt with in parliament.  Poor Malcolm.  Assailed from all sides by people who want him to do something or not do something.  I like the bloke.  I would invite him and his dearest to dinner except I doubt spaghetti bol is up to his usual fare.  It is unfortunate he isn’t temperamentally suited to be leader of a nation.  He would really like to please all of the people all of the time.  

That is an amusing contrast to another leader not fit to lead a country.  His fault is that he doesn’t want to please anybody, any of the time, except occasionally to suit his own ends.  You are way ahead of me …. Trump.  He also has a raft of psychological problems such as reality disconnect, a disdain for logic or reason, total lack of mirror emotions that could give him a hint of empathy, and a monumental ego.  How the US could make the transition from Obama to Trump, leads me to think I don’t understand the US despite all the information I have and despair of the notion that an educated people leads to an ideal democracy.  Oh well, the only consolation I have is that he is old.  He has limited time to do damage.

Meanwhile, back in the land of koalas, bilbies, turnbulls and other cuddly things, we have the power debate.  Debate is a good thing to air all the different sides of the arguments and bring them to the attention of the populace.  All the debates in history have never changed any parliamentarians’ mind, and that is not the point.  An elaborate charade where they sit in the house and supposedly talk to each other.  Except they don’t.  All the rhetoric is for people not actually there.  When searching for some direction about where Australia might source its future power needs, this government has been an abject failure.  To be fair, Labour has also failed before them, but now matters are coming to a head and still there is no direction or definite signals to the energy companies where to invest huge amounts of money.  So they don’t.  I don’t blame them.  Huge amounts of money at stake that may be trashed with a change of government.  Until there is a clear way forward they will keep their hands, and considerable cash, in their ample pockets in the sure and certain knowledge that their existing overstretched assets will provide a nice little earner as shortage makes electricity prices skyrocket.  Can’t lose.  Don’t need to compete.  

Nero fiddling as Rome burns comes to mind.  To his credit, Nero actually went out with the volunteer firefighters, but perhaps this is further evidence of the duplicity of politicians, as the fire did conveniently make way for the building of palaces he rather desired, and he is still a pyromaniac suspect. 

As to the future of energy sourcing in Oz, my mind is quite clear.  Or would be, but for a few glasses of vino.  Renewables are now cheaper, with or without subsidies.  The planet may/will become a nasty toxic place if we change the atmosphere, and I don’t want to take the risk.  I regularly babysit my grandkids, and this extends my view beyond my own lifetime.  The public in Oz get it, and have the highest uptake of solar in the world.  Another case, along with marriage equality where the government is way behind.  Leave the coal in the ground, because the steam age is over.  Let us preserve a few monster locomotives as a reminder, but let the smokey old power stations retire as we embrace the future.  Let us remember the fate of those that didn’t.  Kodak, swept away into history. 

Trivia Trove

I have now sufficiently recovered from the excitement a couple of months ago when I had a MAJOR EVENT happen at Possum Valley.  I am now back to the usual beat of reporting insignificant trivia.  I like insignificant trivia, because major reportable events are mostly bad.  Just look at the news.  Some news outlets struggle to find the last 20 second ‘good news’ story.  Some don’t bother.  So my deduction is that news is nearly all bad, especially when it happens to you.  So be careful when you ask for some excitement in your life, you might just get it.  The Chinese had philosophy worked out before the Greeks even invented the word, hence the well known Chinese curse “May you live in interesting times”.  The Rohingya are living in interesting times, Puerto Ricans have had a surfeit of excitement.  So pardon me while I settle back into the comforting arms of the boring, the mundane and the inconsequential.

So the headline news is that I am sad to report that the white female duck died in my arms a few days ago.  A boy from Blackbean Cottage came to see me saying the white duck was rather sick.  I went down to the cottage to find the white duck gently wrapped in a towel lying on the veranda.  It was completely floppy and didn’t respond to the insults of being molested.  The only sign of life was blinking of the eyes.  Oh dear, this duck was way beyond ‘rather sick’.  I said some serious, but I hope consoling words to the boy about how maybe I could give some food to the duck.  A total lie, but not all lies are bad.  I think the duck died before I got her to the homestead.  I laid her in the workshop for some time still wrapped in the towel in case of divine intervention.  There was none, so I tossed the corpse off into the rainforest. 

The next night I heard the usual clatter in the kitchen of a possum raid, but managed to ignore it for some time.  When I belatedly decided to exert my authority, I discovered a possum scampering for the exit, and a dead possum in the middle of the kitchen floor.  Ah, a changing of the guard.  Senior possum dies and a new generation literally steps over the corpse to pursue the high value food source that is my vegie scraps bin.  The expired possum had no signs of attack.  I have not a single night of respite before another raider steps up to the mark.  The dead possum joined the duck.  

Other notes on the changing seasons is the new blush of leaves on the hairy-leaved bolly gum, also known as brown salwood to forestry, also known as black wattle to the woodies, also known as litsea dealbata to taxonomists, but hey, even they can’t agree and I think it may be neolitsea dealbata now.  Or perhaps the other way around.  Also the sasparillas are at peak flowering and the hum of bees fills the air.  March flies are about and also swarms of flying termites this afternoon so I had to vigourously shake the sheets on the line before folding to exclude these insects.  I am sure future guests will have no idea the lengths I go to to ensure their comfort.

Another seasonal adjustment occurred this morning when I went to change the nozzle on the hydro turbine for a smaller one.  The creek is diminished and so the power delivered is reduced.  Rather early in the year for this to happen.  Very little rain over the last few months.  Very warm also.  Seems like summer has occurred in spring.  Perhaps we should forget spring.  So many temperature records being broken, I think global warming is accelerating at an alarming rate.  Most models of a few years ago are behind the current data.  Mass extinction events typically happen every couple of hundred million years.  I think you would have to say it was amazingly bad luck that I am living through one of them.  I am an optimist so think humans have the ingenuity to survive the crisis.  However, I think would be a pity to have only scrubby bushes and slime molds for company.

The Heavy Metal Ensemble

Possum Valley today was ringing to the tunes of large machines rather than the tranquil piping of the birds.  First to arrive was the 35 ton excavator which had to come across the neighbouring block to the south and despite having tracks rather than wheels, had some hairy moments of going sideways.  The driver had the boom lowered ready to dig in the bucket if required.  It announced it’s arrival with the throbbing of a heavy engine and the crackling of smashed vegetation sounding like gunfire as the trees splintered and snapped.  It finally emerged from the forest to a crowd of spectators up near Maple Cottage.  I didn’t realise there was such a thing as ‘machinery tourism’ before, but my guests including a mob of kids, were faithful followers throughout the day.  They did perhaps have another important interest, having been imprisoned for a couple of days, escape!  The excavator then smashed it’s way down a steep wooded slope to the dam at the only possible access point to land between the bogged truck and it’s trailer on a bit of nearly level ground.  Because the truck was dug in to collapse dam wall on one side and leaning and an angle threatening to tip into the dam, the hitch to the trailer was twisted and under considerable stress.  Which meant they could not be disconnected because the pin couldn’t be taken out.  A strap was rigged from the hitch point on the truck, over the body of the truck to the excavator boom so it would lift and drag sideways the bogged wheels.  With very careful inch by inch movements this was managed.  

I always wanted a toy like tis

I always wanted a toy like this

It dawned on me how skillful these guys were, and I realised that these skills took a long while to acquire.  Starting in a sandpit at age 2, like my grandkids now, and extending to the truck driver, in his sixties.  Another revelation was the amount of halts and discussions there were between the workers, most of whom hadn’t met before.  Communication, pooling of ideas, reaching agreement, and again signalling as the work went on.  And if plan A didn’t work, a different approach was quickly worked out.  Everybody was focused on problem solving.  If only our politicians could work in such harmony.  Thanks guys, I dips me lid.

The next addition to our heavy metal band was a D6 D dozer.  Once separated, the trailer was manipulated by the dozer to the open area near Blackbean cottage.  This gave the imprisoned guests a window of opportunity for their dash to freedom.  Well done Chantall in the only 2WD on the dozer compromised hill.  There were were 3 4WDs after her, but I didn’t expect any problems with them and there were none.  The guests spotted me on the way out and offered money for their stay which I declined as I hadn’t exactly delivered the peaceful quiet stay that I advertise.  They thrust money into my hands anyway and said they would be back.  Dear forgiving guests, thank you.

some members of the heavy metal band

some members of the heavy metal band

The next addition to our heavy metal band is another dozer.  The D6 couldn’t find enough traction to tow out the trailer, so another dozer was summoned to pull in tandem.  Just an hour ago I heard them throbbing away into the distance.  Once more Possum Valley is returned to it’s tranquility.  

All gone now and silence returns.  I actually enjoyed the experience and excitement.  There are some consequences and damages to repair.  My guests responded the same way.  Deal with it.  I think there is a great capacity in Aussie culture to do just that.  In a land of drought and flooding rains.  A struggling Top End lady farmer, who won Aussie of the year, said “Don’t wait for the light at the end of the tunnel, stride down there and light the bloody thing”.  Wise words in the Aussie shorthand.

Possum Valley now open for business again.  

Living in the Wilds

I was raised in a city, but I love living in the wilds in an isolated place.  Yesterday somebody gave new meaning to ‘isolated’.  I had an unexpected visitor who had got lost.  Happened before and will happen again.  Unfortunately, he was driving an unsuitable vehicle.  On my website I have a discussion about vehicles unsuitable for the track into Possum Valley under ‘location’, but I had neglected to give an assessment for the vehicle he was driving.  It was a huge Mack truck with an equally huge trailer, both fully loaded with gravel.  Total weight 50 tons or so.  Total length maybe 30m.  I heard this behemoth grinding and screeching it’s way down the hill, and thought ‘WTF? this doesn’t sound good’.  The screeching was from the brakes heavily applied at very slow speed.  Or perhaps it was from Rodney the driver, who was freaking out by this time.  I ran over to the road and he was stopped 20m from the creek with white knuckles fiercely gripping the steering wheel.  To add to his terror, I clambered up the passenger side of the truck, popped my head through the open window and said ‘gidday’, surprising him greatly as he thought he was totally lost in trackless rainforest.  I suggested he get out and walk ahead a bit.  We did and walked into the clearing around Blackbean Cottage.  He thought he would be able to get round the 2 tight corners, pull off the track a bit and tip about 15 tons of gravel out of the trailer, somehow do a u-turn on the grass then negotiate the hill again with the gravel still in the prime mover providing traction to get up the hill.  I knew even then he said this with more optimism than conviction.  But there didn’t seem to be any other options.  Absolutely no way to back up the hill.

Vehicle not recommended for Possum Valley

Vehicle not recommended for Possum Valley

To my surprise he got the trailer (the truckies call it a dog), around the first corner, but trying to get round the second, the dam wall collapsed under the weight of the prime mover dropping the right side driving wheels almost into the dam and bottoming out the truck and the hitch to the dog.  The truck is leaning at an alarming angle and threatening to tip over into the dam.  That is the situation as I write.  

A day has passed and plans considered and discarded.  The local heavy equipment contractors (Kidners) have been called and come down to assess the plans for ‘equipment recovery’.  My guests now trapped here have been making their own plans for abandoning their vehicles and goods so they can call friends and relations to get them back to civilisation and how they can manage until their cars can be liberated.  

drive wheels buried, fuel tank grounded

drive wheels buried, fuel tank grounded

Dear guests, if you should ever read this, my sincere thanks about how calmly you received the news you were trapped, and how practically you adjusted and planned your escape, is a tribute to Aussie resilience.  It was a moment from the Eagles “Welcome to the Hotel California” where you can “check out, but you can never leave”.  Though greatly inconvenienced, you saw there were no villains in the piece and acted immediately to calm the shaken truck driver’s nerves.  I brewed him a cup of tea, my dear guests offered him some chocolate birthday cake.  He had bravely volunteered to come along with me to brief the guests of the situation in case anyone wanted to punch my lights out, so he could be there as scapegoat.  Not required.  You all came through as champions of forgiving and coping.  This was a practical demonstration of the universal rule “deal with the emotions first, then together plan the solution”.   

truck falling into dam

truck falling into dam

Now the solution isn’t all that easy.  Any attempt to tow out the truck will likely result in tipping it further right into the dam.  A very savvy guy from Kidners, the local heavy earthmoving contracting company, has come to look and determined that they have to get a 35 ton excavator between the truck and trailer and lift/tow the mid point sideways away from the collapsed dam.  There is a patch of flat ground slightly larger than a jacuzzi from which they might be able to do this.  Of course they will have to clear it first.  Then disconnect truck and dog, then tow and back the dog into the jacuzzi space, drive the truck back around and re-hitch.  Oh, I have just thought of something.  At this point it may be advisable to dump the trailer load of 13 tons.  Once connected to truck, it will have the hydraulics to do so.  Then the dozer tow up the hill has 13 tons less to battle.  They will likely destroy the track on the way out.  

Just learned from BOM that the weather window is closing and rain expected Sunday.  For the first time ever I have informed future guests that their bookings were cancelled due to circumstances beyond my control.  Services will be resumed as soon as possible.  I just don’t know when that might be.  

Getting the vehicle recovery machines into Possum Valley is already a challenge.  Required 1 dozer and 1 excavator of 35 tons.  Can’t get along the track because of the bogged truck, and great difficulty getting round because of the creek on one side and a dam on the other.  Best bet for getting the machines on site is through the neighbouring farm to the south and a couple of kms through his paddocks.  But my neighbour says that the recent rain has made 2 creeks impassable, possibly negotiable by Saturday.  This would be reopening the route I used for the first 10 years at Possum Valley with 7 gates to open and close.   But the width of the bucket on the excavator is 3.5m and might not fit through some of the gates.  It would have to clear some regrowth of 20 years and widen some abandoned tracks, but it could do that in third gear on the way in.  

I will post another report when Possum Valley is again connected to civilisation.  If the rains come back before a resolution, it may be some time.