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.



Spammed to Death

To the few people interested in my Possum Valley blogs, I have to inform you that you will no longer get a notification email that I have posted a new blog.  In fact you probably wont see this advice because unless you casually check my blog from time to time, as I have already deactivated the ‘subscribe’ plug-in.  I have had about 1800 subscribers for some time, quite aware that most were machines as I really don’t know that many people in Russia or Poland.  I really don’t understand what advantage ‘the bots’ give to their originators, but recently I have been overwhelmed by about 20-30 new user subscriptions every day and all those notifications from my website land in my email.  They are all from the same source as the form is the same with “meet Carmen and Alice (or any combination of girls names)” as a link I have never clicked on.  I first thought I may be able to block them as the were mostly from .ru, Russia, but they are coming from all over the globe now on an industrial scale with different domains and countries.  So apart form my own website spamming me to add to the piles of spam I already get about such things as “SEO optimisation” for my website, when I add a new post, my own website adds to the Worldwide Waste of bandWidth (WWW), with thousands of unwanted emails.  I have inadvertently become a spammer myself.

OK, so I have deactivated the subscribe plug-in but still got spammed, so I deleted the app and all data and still got spammed.  I looked at the front end of my site and the invitations to subscribe are gone but I still get a few from “chat with Carla and Simone”.  But the numbers do seem to be dwindling.  

Amongst my IT woes are my tax returns.  The only work I don’t do myself is tax returns.  Australia boasts the most voluminous and complicated tax laws in the world and when you have a business, however small, it is almost impossible to understand.  So I have employed an accountant for the last couple of decades.  In the first few years I used to take in masses of bits of paper for the accountant to muse over.  Then in 2002 I joined the digital era with ‘Quickbooks’ and took in a CD and then a DVD with the data on it.  After a decade, my program was no longer supported by up-dates and the accountant could no longer open the files.  But I found if I emailed the files to them they could open them.  This has worked for the last 8 years or so, but no longer.  I only found out about this last week when Centerlink was hassling me about business detail updates and I realised I had seen nothing from the accountants since I submitted the data in Sept 2018.  Only when I called in did I learn they couldn’t open the files I sent then.  8 months of inaction left me jammed up against a Centerlink deadline to submit my tax returns.  So I was faced with the prospect of purchasing new accounting software and the nightmare of setting up a company and defining accounts and categories of expenses and incomes, suppliers and customers and all that shit.  

Then my accountant emailed to suggest if I printed out a few reports from my program and brought them in they could process my tax return.  So I printed out the data onto 20 sheets of crushed trees, and took them by hand to the office of my accountant who I have never met, and left them with the receptionist.  It struck me as ironic that after 20 years of digital accounting, I had gone full circle and was again submitting my accounts on paper.

In other news, I must apologize to guests that my rebuild of the sauna burnt down Xmas last year has been much hindered by a protracted wet season, other obligations, and now more bad weather with a cyclone in mid May.  Mid May??!! Yeah, OK, excuses excuses, but I am working on it.  I now have the frame and half the roof.

For the forthcoming election I have already voted like 3 million other people who couldn’t endure the puerile debate.  I wasn’t offered my first choice which was the popular option of kidnapping Jacinda Ahern and chaining her to a desk in Canberra.  Then again, perhaps not a good choice as the prospect of the all blacks rampaging in retaliation in the streets of our capital is too frightful to bear.  

Recent Wildlife Sightings

Wildlife gets out there and has to hustle for a living come rain or shine.  Birds, having a high metabolic rate have to do it every day.  Snakes, being cold-blooded can endure weeks of bad weather before hunger drives them to action.  Humans for the most part have divorced themselves from any effect of the weather and now more than 50% of humanity lives in cities and can go from garage to underground car-park in sealed pods we call cars without having to put up with inconveniences of inclement weather.  Those people greatly affected by the weather have dwindled to less than 2% of the population in Australia and are increasingly elderly, but manage to totter about to provide everything we eat and add significant export revenues as well.  We call them farmers.  Somehow, we have entirely taken them for granted and lavish riches on sports stars and IT entrepreneurs catering to our whims.  Actually, I think eating is far more important.

Tree roo

Oh dear, I have already gone off-track.  Try again.  In the last week, guests at Blackbean Cottage had a window seat of a tree kangaroo contentedly feeding for 3 hours.  For most of the party it was their first view of a tree roo in the wild.  They could not believe how clumsy it was getting about in the trees.  I’ve seen goats that were more nimble at climbing trees in Africa.  They have got a way to go before fitting the “adapted to environment” paradigm espoused by Darwin.  





2m red-bellied black snake

In a few recent days of sunshine (two to be precise), after a long wet spell, the snakes were about.  Black snakes, probably red-bellied but I didn’t trouble them for identification, were everywhere.  Only the world’s 14th most venomous snake, they are close to harmless.  They are so passive as to be no threat.  The Zen Buddhists of the snake world.  I have stood on them half a dozen times without reprisal.  They do flatten their fore-body though to warn off assailants.  Thank you Mick for this recent pic

I look after my grandchildren for a couple of days a week and Henry the elder at nearly 5 likes me to go along the track hacking back fallen vegetation with my machete that I boast about in my last blog.  So though I didn’t think there was urgent need, I gave in to his demands to clear the track.  He also advises me when the road drains need attention.  Can’t say I have ever come across another kid with an eye for drains. I am hacking away at obstructive plants when he hangs out of the car and says “cassowary”.  He has never seen one but relates to story books I read from the local library.  I turn around and just three paces behind me is a cassowary.  We regard each other for a while before it turns and slowly paces around the car. 

I only intended a quick hack so I had left the engine running.  I turn it off and talk to the kids about cassowaries and how they can be dangerous and have strong legs and big claws.  It continues to circle the car just a few meters away, so I put the kids in the back tray of the duel cab for a better look but out of the way in case the bird is having a bad hair day.  It crosses the road again and we can see its robust legs and long claws even bigger than I remember.  I point out the brilliant colours of its head and neck and the glistening iridescent of the feathers to try and key their memories.  It was at least 5 minutes circling the car when I heard traffic.  Guests arriving and we were just around a blind corner so I walked past the bird to slow down the new arrivals.  The cassowary decided that was too much company and disappeared so they didn’t get to see it, but they didn’t think I was having them on as the driver pointed out some droppings on the road.  A fresh turd bigger than a cow pat with seeds the size of walnuts was sitting in the road.  Many trees with large seeds rely entirely on the cassowary for seed dispersal. 

tree roo and joey

About a week ago I was on the veranda hard at work with the Times cryptic crossword when a tree kangaroo hopped around the wood stack on the patio in its usual halting leisurely way before climbing the fig tree right next to the veranda.  I knew the guests at Blackbean Cottage were interested in wildlife so I went down to invite them to see it.  We got back there a few minutes later and I was embarrassed to find it had gone as I examined the small 4m high tree.  But the guests looked harder and saw its tail hanging down and then the whole animal.  I knew where it was and just a few meters away but I was unable to see it until I got in just the right spot.  A couple of hours later when it was satisfied it wasn’t being watched, it clambered down onto the veranda and looked around for a while bewildered by it’s new and barren surroundings before hopping down the stairs and off into the forest.  I have an affinity for these strange, clumsy, intellectually challenged animals.  

Recent possum pic. thanks Jim

I think there is the possibility that my grand kids might be the last generation to see any remnants of an intact ecosystem.  It seems that the complete dominance and subjugation of the environment for human needs is imminent and inevitable.  I won’t be around for the end game there, but it seems to be the way it is going.  It won’t end well.