Power Pole Problem

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

grandkids on tractor

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

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




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

beautiful spider

Sauna Mishap

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

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

Remodeled sauna hut

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

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

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


My Mate Owen

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

beautiful sun shower

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

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

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

Henry and possum

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

Possum Wrangling

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

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

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

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

never mess with a mom

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

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


Turtle Time

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

Unknown Turtle

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

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

new stove burners

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

Possum Valley Heat Wave

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

bring back the leeches

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

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

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

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

Memories, memories

It is often said that memories fade with age, but I have very vivid memories of some places and the places have faded within my lifetime rather than my memory.  I find that very sad.  I am forcefully  reminded of this by recent news that this summer the forecast predicts that there is a 60% chance the Great Barrier Reef will see coral bleaching and this time further south will be more in danger.  Given that it takes 10 years for the reef to recover from a bleaching event and that three of the last four years have been hot enough to cause it, I see little hope the reef will ever see a sufficient recovery period again.  In less statistical language, it’s stuffed.  Notwithstanding the conservative IPCC report gives the reef a sporting chance if climate change can be limited to 1.5C.  I first dived the reef about 45 years ago and it blew my mind with life, colour and beauty.  I almost forgot to breathe, which is not recommended in the snorkeling handbook.  Subsequent dives have been diminished experiences.   I don’t think I will go to the reef again, despite it’s tempting proximity.  I fear that the youthful memory of my amazement and joy will be overwritten by the grey ghost of the present.  

For the same reason I declined an invitation by my darling daughter Alice to accompany her on a trek to Annapurna in Nepal.  I had done the same trek decades before and feared the ravages of time.  And so it was, with thousands of people on the track where I remembered a dozen, and a hotel where I remembered a pristine snow ridge at base camp among the spectacular mountains.  On a previous trip with my daughter to the rift valley lakes of east Africa, I marveled at the sight of hundreds of thousands of flamingos at one of the lakes, to be brought to earth by Nancy, a very well traveled lady from new York, who remarked there was only a quarter of the birds since the last time she was here.  From a lady who had been to every country in the world not actively at war, and Antarctica twice, I had to believe her.

Reaching further back, I thought to get a warm nostalgic glow from looking at internet pics of the village where I grew up during the amazing and difficult years from 9 to 17.  I found the imposing stone house easily enough, but in the field behind where I had built mud dams on a tiny creek only to have them washed away as the water built up, where I had often shot an air-rifle at the crows in the trees and abruptly given it up in shock and horror when eventually I killed one, where I had ripped out a fingernail after colliding with a rock while sledging (for Queensland readers this is sliding down a snow slope, not tormenting cricket players).  Gone, all gone.  Now there is a subdivision and suburbia.  Sometimes it is best not to look back.  

So is this just the nostalgia of an old man, or a real degradation of the environment during my lifetime?  I fear it is the latter.  Part due simply to increased human population, and a lot more to the accumulating and accelerating effects of pollution.  When I was born there was 2.5 billion people on the planet and now it is 7.5 billion, a threefold increase. 

world population chart

That alone makes it a different place.  I was aware of pollution in my early years in Manchester when if it started to rain everyone one would rush outside to grab the washing off the line.  Not because it would get wet, but because it would be covered in black greasy spots as the drops combed soot from the air.  The Mersey river nearby had a lurid hue with a noisome stench and the slightest cascade produced thick rafts of dirty yellow foam from the industrial detergents dumped untreated into the water.  But in those days it was supposed that pollution was a local problem and nobody imagined that people could pollute the WHOLE WORLD!  Indeed some of those local problems have been mitigated and the air in Manchester and London is better now than when I was a child.  But now the awful truth is dawning (to Amazonian tribes-people, Mongolian goat-herders, but not Australian politicians) that indeed we are polluting the whole planet.  

So I have positioned myself as best I can, in a tropical rainforest in a stable country with tools and self-generated power, practical skills and abilities, reliable water and far from the madding crowd.  But no place will be unaffected, no place is an island (don’t even think about pacific island paradises), no place a citadel and I have one fatal flaw in my planning ….. I can’t grow food.  I have tried with great labour but little knowledge, and failed miserably.  Herculean labours over many years has produced a few bonsai carrots.  Any other produce has withered with the galloping rots or been carried off prematurely by the local thieves.  Among, but not limited to, the local thieves are 207,450 species of insects, 586 mammals, 763 species of birds and a few bats.  OK, I may have exaggerated a bit, but that it what it seems like.   

I am so lucky to have been born in a prosperous country, been given an education, lived in prosperous times and not been marched off to war.  I have lived most of my time in optimism for the future in awe of the technological advances that have enriched our lives and hoping for a tantalizing glimpse of TOE, the ‘Theory Of Everything’ that explains life, the universe and all that shit.  TOE keeps receding over the horizon, rather like fusion power.  That’s OK.  I think I would have been rather disappointed anyway if the chase ended.  What is not OK is that I bequeath a world to my children and grandchildren that is not as beautiful and is more degraded than the one I inherited.  It’s not all my fault I hasten to add.  I had a lot of help from my cohort of boomers (large consumers not large kangaroos).  

So you see I have completed the inevitable cycle from the boundless optimism of youth, to the miserable pessimism of old age.  You can find this cycle represented in even the most ancient writings by the most brilliant minds, but they were all wrong.  Only I am right!  How do I know?  Because I have broadband and I am guessing that Aristotle didn’t.  So I have much more available data, and more data makes for better judgement doesn’t it?  More is better isn’t it? ?   ?     ?       ?              ?                      ?                                       ?

A Ramble

Nothing of great significance has been happening at Possum Valley, so if you are looking for drama, change channel.  Certainly nothing much in the way of rain.  Hot and dry for the last 4 months and I’ve just looked at BOM forecasts and that is likely to continue into January.  The creek is down to a trickle, so the hydro power now less than half full power and soon to go into emergency mode where I can’t keep the generated volts up to 240V and it slides down to 180V where I decide I can’t punish the equipment any more and have it survive, and shut the system down.  But honoured guests will not notice the difference as that is the generating side, on the delivery side all will be normal as I rely on the solar panels and patch in a standby generator as required.  I will glide about like the proverbial duck, all serene on the surface, paddling furiously under the water (or lack of).  

I shouldn’t complain as I had my average annual rainfall already in the first half of the year.  But I will complain anyway, as it may be with climate change this sort of nonsense becomes an annual event.  The tropics is predicted to retain its rainfall according to the models, but in more extreme events and perhaps wetter wets and drier drys is part of that.  Yes Martin, I know this is also a El Nino year, but allow me to postulate ripples on trends.  But hey! it’s great for getting the washing dry.  Can’t remember the last time I used the dryer.

Had some guests from Europe recently and they were well pleased with the show the wildlife put on.  Some Belgians came wanting to see satin bower birds and bowers, but I couldn’t find any so I said will golden bower birds do? 

By Andrew Zemek

The bower was close, the bird turned up to do house decorating and the Belgians were blissed out.  They didn’t imagine they would see this rare bird.  One of them took this picture.  A couple of biologists from Switzerland were here for 5 days and invested their time to see tree roos, platypus, golden bower birds, snakes and much more.  Their daughter got to feed and stroke possums.  I’ve been to Switzerland.  It’s mostly rocks covered with ice, but with a couple of big lakes and limited lowland crammed with people and farms of 5 hectares and so neat and manicured like you wouldn’t believe.  They said biology conservation in Switzerland was looking at plots of half a hectare containing some interesting snails.  

Update!  The creek has gone down and the hydro now in emergency mode with the entire creek going through a 22 mm nozzle that I can’t get my thumb through.  

My source of entertainment in recent weeks has been politics, with the ever popular farce of the Trump Show, the long running soapie called “Brexit” and our very own tragedy drama series by the name of “Canberra”.   I like to think our homegrown comedy was the best since Clueseau, Inspector Gadget and the ‘Carry On’ films for its hilarious and idiotic bungling.  Our politicians, having given up any pretense of running the country, resort to outlandish plots to win a few votes.  Scomo’s feeble ploy of floating the idea of moving the Australian embassy to Jerusalem, was so inept and transparent that even the Jews in Wentworth were hooting with derision and insulted that he thought them stupid enough to take the bait of mirage pork barreling.  And so, our erstwhile PM fades into the sunset as slain PMs do, leaving only the evil ghost of the mad monk to haunt the corridors of parliament house chortling and grinning over his latest victim and scheming anew to wreak havoc on anyone who dares to mention climate change.

 The only thing the Swiss biologists didn’t find that they wanted to see was a leaf-tailed lizard (gecko?).  Ulrich, my new Swiss friend, is a herpetologist which means someone who studies creatures with scales.  That name annoys frog experts no end, as they are also included as herpetologists but frogs don’t have scales. 

leaf-tailed lizard

The leaf-tailed lizard is a beautiful animal with amazing camouflage on a lichen covered trunk.  I have an excellent picture from of one in the wild (thanks Mandy), but it’s like a ‘where’s Wally’ puzzle, it took me ages to find it, so I post a pic I took in my workshop where this one was behind the door and shows up much better on the plain boards.  Ulrich, if you ever happen to look at my blog, this is what you missed.