Greetings from the dustbowl called Sidmouth

Hi All,

Next week I will be heading into Launceston to spend 2 days with my daughters. I had fully intended to do this last week but was laid low by the dreaded lurgy of Western Australia and so I had to postpone my visit. I intend on tidying up the garden, making the electricity meter box clear of present danger so that the poor meter reading man doesn’t get allergic reactions from the blackcurrant shrub that is growing underneath it (sad and most pathetic men and their even sadder and more pathetic excuses as to why they are NOT going to be bothered getting out of their air conditioned car to walk a few metres and read your meter box). I now have a bit of work to do in the unit out the back as the girls brother Stewart is moving to Melbourne to live and work and wants to come over for a few days before his work commences and so it would be nice for him to have a pleasant space to stay in while he is here. He wants a few days of peace and quiet in between the manic planning of moving from Albany Western Australia to Melbourne C.B.D. His firm must think that he is something worth keeping because they are bending over backwards to keep him happy so that is making his move a lot less stressful than it could have been. My daughters are heading off to Polytechnic this year, my eldest Madeline will be attending the same Polytechnic that Steve and I attend and will be studying towards becoming a lab technician. My other daughter Bethany has signed up for an arts course and I already have my order in for when she does the jewellery section of the course. We will be a bit later at starting our course but I can’t say that it is going to upset me as we lost 2 weeks recently and need to pick up the pace to accomplish what we want to do here before we head back to full time studies.

I have a lot of computer games that I can head off to spend a bit of “mindless vacuous” time playing. This is my stress relief. I love games that are all about collecting things and collating things. Stacking things up, moving things around, puzzles etc. I especially like the Wii game “Animal Crossing” It’s a great game of collecting and talking and trying to elevate yourself socially (or not, depending on how well you want to score :o). I can pick up playing this game any time that I like and it soothes me when I am stressed out. The only problem is that if you leave your game for any length of time (that would be over a year for me!) your town grows all sorts of weeds that you have to rid it of and you get cockroaches in your house (same deal but more fun, you get to stomp them to heaven!). I have just been playing a couple of games that promise stress relief but that lie. The first is called “Hammer Heads Deluxe” and is one of the craziest games that I have ever played. Its premise is that you have to use a wooden mallet to hit gnomes on the head somewhat along the lines of Whack-a-mole fame but a whole lot weirder. I love this game but I end up more stressed out the longer I play it. I just managed to get a great score and elevate myself to a good place to start the  next time that I want to play and the second game is called “Tip Top Deluxe” (no idea why everything is “deluxe” but my guess is so that they can charge you more…) and this game is also weird. I love weird games, especially those that are difficult to work out how to play! I love the Rabbids set for Wii and totally appreciate the whacked out little creatures that are apparently inbred, obsessed with the moon and the sewer system and mental. Tip Top Deluxe can only be explained as 1950’s cocktail accoutrements in martini glasses meets Tetris. I really like it and just managed to get ONLY my name on the score board. There comes a day in every “gamers” (yeh, I know that the REAL gamers would lynch me now to be talking about myself in their company but it’s like getting a tricycle and dreaming of joining the Comanchero’s, you gotta have a goal!) life where they attain the “name on the whole screen and no matter what game you are playing it’s a matter of pride that needs to be shared. Steve was just very polite and said “yeh great” but wasn’t listening as he is watching the wrestling. If I was a vindictive bitch I would use this against him later to my avail, but I am not so I now have to move on to my next sphere of influence and that would be you constant readers. I expect lots of kudos for my amazing achievement. Choose to express it how you will…I merely want to bask in the glory of my peers :o). I have given up playing games for the day. Sometimes you need to bask at the pinnacle before you head right back down that slippery slope of having to learn a new game all over and being the worst at playing it (we are already there with Mario…sigh…). Consider me basking :o)

Here we have a photo of Mr Earl who appears to have taken up residence inside Steve’s doona. We have to have 2 queen sized doona’s on our king sized bed to make sure that the human quotient of the bedroom population actually get a little bit of doona when it gets cold. Earl has taken a liking to Steve’s doona and has eaten half of it. Lucky it was a cheapy from K-Mart isn’t it? Our good feather and down doona’s are safely hidden in another room but hopefully Earl is over his doona fetish by the time winter rolls around or it is going to be a most interesting sight that greets us after he has a sample of all that down and all of those feathers!

I decided to show you what greets me in the mornings when I head out to the hen house. There are 2 little doors (that can be shut) cut into the side of the woodshed/hen house and one of them has a ramp (the other has a nice wooden orange crate). This outside area can be isolated from the inside area of the hen house for aberrant broody hens who refuse to see reason. After a couple of days and night isolated in here they can’t wait to get out with the other girls and very soon forget why they decided to go broody in the first place. You can see that we have a good mix of hens now. The ducks decided to stay out last night and were standing next to the water bowls (that they had half filled with sand for some reason) quacking loudly at me to give them fresh water (so that they could mess it up again) and the 5 feral chickens (who are amazingly still all alive) sleep outside the hen house as well (their mum is back in with the others).

This is the view from the end of our driveway. I can just head down to the little rocky beach below those teatrees and find all sorts of debris and driftwood. There are tiny little red crabs that race about amongst the rocks and a resident enormous European seagull who likes to sit on a rock and stare out into the river.

I might finish off my book today. I have been waiting for the Earl munched book to come back into our local library with its accompanying bill but as yet it hasn’t come. We got my grandmothers walking cane in the mail today. Mum had been using it since she had her hip operation and for some reason Steve decided that he would like it to remember her by. It wasn’t high on anyone else’s list so I took it back from mum’s place and had it ready to bring home with me and promptly forgot it after leaning it up against the wall at my sister’s house. She found it and had a most amusing time finding some white plumbing fixtures to fit it into to prevent it from getting damaged and sent it on. Kudos to you Pinkie (and Jason) as Steve got it today and was very happy to do so. He is so happy that he has given up trying to play the clarinet (thank GOODNESS!) and is now wailing away on his guitar in honour of his birthday (remember I type up this post the day before…). I am getting deafer by the minute and Mr Hendrix appears to be the sound of choice today as I am certain that last rendition of “The Star Spangled Banner” rendered my one remaining ear totally deaf. Earl is laying in the music room with Steve totally oblivious to the noise. He is Steve’s little shadow but Bezial and I had to go out on the deck to preserve a modicum of our shredded ears. Steve doesn’t play plugged in much but when he does it would be enough to remind the neighbours that they are indeed lucky to be living next to nice people like us as we have the propensity to be absolute nightmares should we see fit! We are quaffing back light fruity white wine like it is fruit juice but I just spelled “juice” with 2 “u’s” so I think that it may not be as light as it tastes. It’s just about time to get stuck in to making our evening meal and tonight we have settled on most delicious rolls for our tea. We have 2 long sourdough bread sticks waiting to be buttered and slathered with salad cream (doesn’t sound nice but unless you have tasted it you have NO idea how good it is!). I like a bit of wholegrain mustard on mine and then some avocado and some soft rind cheese and a whole massive pile of salad leaves. On that I add some sliced black kalamata olives and some sundried tomatoes and finish it off with a nice shave or two of parmesan cheese. Steve has all sorts of meat along with everything that I just mentioned and we have been marinating some chicken overnight in mustard, garlic, chilli and other delicious flavours to cook up and slice in his rolls as well. We will probably quaff some more of that latent white wine along with our meals and we may even fall asleep on the couch and have to be woken up by Earl slobbering on our faces, but when we do, we will be able to stagger off to bed at our leisure. If you go out for a meal you have to be well behaved…limit your booze…choose things that don’t make you look like a heifer when you eat them and generally follow many social rules that you can throw out the window when you are eating at home. That’s the way we like it! Uncouth aren’t we? And you are now wondering why you follow us here…because you love us that’s why :o)

I thought that you might like to see a few photos of the Heritage apple and pear orchard in the tiny little community of Deviot, the next suburb along from us. As you can see the entire area needs to be isolated from the possums, rabbits and wallabies. This whole project is down to one woman and her passion for her community. Her name is Bettina. I don’t know what her last name is but she is one of the most “go to” women that I have ever met. Since she moved to Deviot the Hall is now host to regular basket markets, the hall has been repaired and a lovely deck has been added. The tennis courts, once sad and dilapidated, are now bright, repaired and a wonderful addition to the hall. Bettina has also raised the funds to get a childrens playground added to the hall grounds and this amazing Apple and Pear (and herbs) heritage garden that anyone can harvest from or plant things in. What an amazing force Bettina is. I would like to help her and be part of this small but vibrant community. We did offer to help once but that was when Earl was initiating his eating phase and we couldn’t leave him for more than 10 minutes on his own (who are we kidding…we couldn’t leave him on his own full stop!). He is getting better and we should be able to start thinking about helping out again. I am all for communities working together to facilitate amazing change. If there are lots of people doing it, it isn’t so hard to get stuck in especially when you can have a bbq (another repair thanks to Bettina) or make pizza (a prospective build in the works for the near future) in the prospective pizza oven and you can even have a game of tennis or a good brewed coffee in the hall. Bettina is one of those people that needs that order of Australia. I don’t see Maggie Beer or Geoffrey Rush racing about to help the people of Deviot…

Here’s the bampf on the use of the garden. It runs on the principal of people volunteering to keep it looking good and they have regular workshops (at $5 a day) to help pay for its upkeep. What a great situation? I saw Bettina wheeling her wheelbarrow down the other day when we were walking the boys along with her 2 children and cleaning out all of the weeds that had gained a foot hold over Christmas. I really like this woman…

Once you get inside the garden all of the trees are heritage trees purchased from a specialist heritage orchard nursery down South. Each tree is labeled  so that you know what it is. The place is full of herbs and vegetables around the outside and even though those pea bushes in the middle are on their last legs, there are still snow peas to be harvested should anyone want them and no doubt Bettina will be removing them soon for something else to take their place

We are in the throes of doing our evening chores. We start by feeding the dogs. There is a special unspoken order that needs to be followed if calm is going to be maintained. First feed the dogs or if anything else happens first, you are going to suffer the consequences. After feeding the dogs it is time to cut up the cat’s food. We buy large dog rolls somewhat akin to polony (Devon to you strange people in the East) or Luncheon meat to those of you not from Australia. The cat’s love it and it removes cans from the picture. I figure that a little bit of thin plastic is better than a can and the ensuring waste of water to render it clean enough to be acceptable to the recycling men. I learned about false economy at a sustainability meeting. The man that was talking most pragmatically about making sure that your efforts are actually helping the environment was talking about how it was kinder on the environment to buy tinned chick peas then for you to cook your own. I would have been rooting for the cooking it all yourself but they pointed out that you need to use fuel to cook the beans (and a lot of it) and that is after you have had to waste water to soak them in overnight. Once you cook the beans (even if you cook them in bulk you still have to use energy to store them in the freezer or they will go off) you have to wait for them to cool down etc. so you are wasting your time which can be quantified (even if you are a penniless hippy student apparently…I asked…) so it actually works out kinder on the earth to buy tinned chickpeas. It was at this point that I started to realise that sometimes you need to think about what you are actually doing and make sure that it fits in with your own personal ethos. I also learned that women of a “certain age” wearing felt hats and handmade alpaca shawls with Birkenstock’s on their feet and who have hemp bags with handmade paper and pens made themselves out of wooden twigs or goose quills are the most annoying of people. None of the speakers presenting their most interesting ideas were able to get away without being thoroughly bollocked by this group of women akin to the knitting nana’s who watched the beheadings in Paris throughout the revolution. I could see them sitting together and helping each other batter the presentation of each and every speaker. Bored older women without a cause are to be feared above all else. They get a certain set of their mouths and as soon as you see that bicycle clip on their hand woven hemp skirts you can just forget about anyone else getting a word in edgewise. This is where I learned to really look at what I was doing to make sure that it was actually doing the right thing for the planet. I also try to buy food grown locally. Not because I am a wanker and want to be seen as a patron of the “Slow food” movement, but because I figure that the people locally are doing it tough and need our support so that they can keep doing it at all. We need our primary producers. We might not like how they are “producing” but we need to keep them producing so that we can help them to see how to produce in a more sustainable manner. No point shutting the gate after the horse has bolted is it? There is also no point bollocking people to “CHANGE YOUR WAYS” when they can see nothing in it for themselves. You need to show people what’s in it for them. It might sound mercenary but you try getting someone to listen to you if they are not even vaguely interested let alone getting them to change their ways. It needs to be explained to them in black and white and shown to be of benefit to them and their families before you even get inside the front door of their minds. THAT is our mission. To show people how good it is to look after what we have here and how it can directly benefit them to join in and do the same. Once you have them hooked and listening, THEN you can teach them how to change.

There is even a tiny section for citrus

This shows you the pumpkin patch at the back of the enclosure and how they are growing herbs and companion plants all around the base of the trees

The heritage apples and pears line the side of this path. All of this work was done by volunteers in the Deviot community. They did a lovely job didn’t they?

Last night we did a tomato test. Steve had bought some “Vine ripened” tomatoes from a supermarket and the other day Glad (our 88 year old neighbour) phoned us up and asked us if we would like some of her home grown tomatoes. She hasn’t bothered to grow anything else this year and told us “veggie gardening was Ted’s (her late husband) bag”. She potters around growing things that she actually likes now especially tomatoes. We also got a large bag full of delicious green beans grown by Glad’s adult daughter Wendy. We decided to test one of Glad’s home grown tomatoes who have been doing it tough of late due to limited water and the supermarket tomatoes grown hydroponically. We cut a slice from both and we both taste tested them and there was absolutely NO comparison. We could have done the test blindfolded as Glad’s won hands down. They were sweet, juicy and delicious. The supermarket tomatoes were tough and bland. Another lesson about growing your own. You might not have the latest greatest raised garden beds from the nursery but who cares! Make what you can. The veggies don’t care; so long as they get the right conditions you can grow them in your shoe…in your hat…in your undies! They simply don’t give a damn. Plants want the chance to grow and could care less about the container that they are in. Have you ever seen a plant growing from the trunk of a tree? How about a plant growing in the road or footpath? They simply don’t care where they grow, so long as they get light, water, nutrients and mulch to keep the water in the soil. It is very easy to forget that people in the Middle Ages didn’t have all of the amazing products, weed killers, pre-made raised garden beds etc. to grow veggies. They had their brains, some seed that they had saved (or bought) and the knowledge of how to grow them passed down through the generations. Their veggies were the difference between them eating and starving (along with their livestock). Today we think that we need so much before we can even think of growing vegetables (let alone anything else). There are many vested interests out there attempting to tell us that we can’t even plant a seed unless we have paid someone “trained” to do so. We need to take back our ability to choose what we do and make sure that we do something that feeds our souls. I have been discarding all sorts of “stuff” both physical and mental of late. I have also been discarding some old excuses that have been hampering me from doing things. I think it takes you becoming the oldest left living member of your immediate family to start to think about “things” more. It most certainly makes you want to stop wasting time and make sure that whatever you do is going to feed your soul rather than lining someone else’s pockets. Well its tomorrow (really today are you confused yet?) and I am running late. I decided that I would do the washing, vacuum the house and do some general tidying up as I am starting to feel better (which is coinciding with Steve feeling worse). We have lost the last month due to bereavement, stress and now illness so I have decided to get stuck in to make sure that we don’t waste too much more time. Our friend Nat wanted to come out to visit today but we would have sucked at being hosts today. She certainly doesn’t need this cold to start her year at Polytechic with that is for sure! Sorry Nat, we will come and have a coffee and a natter with you when we are next in town. I might be able to catch up next week when I am in with the girls. Now I am off to make a start on tomorrows post, hang out the next load of washing and think about what I am going to cook for tea (as well as finish that muddy house book!). See you all tomorrow when hopefully I will be somewhat less manic than I am today!

Doesn’t this tennis court look good? All thanks to Bettina and her band of faithful volunteers… but to be honest, if she didn’t have any volunteers, I think that she would still do it all herself. It would just take longer

Isn’t this Golden Honey Locust (Gleditsia triacanthos ‘Sunburst’) absolutely beautiful? I think we might have to get ourselves one of these beautiful babies


4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Kym
    Jan 28, 2012 @ 15:28:50

    Well done on you getting to the next level with you game, bask away! I have no idea what the game is but feel sure it is worthy of basking 🙂 What a lovely job they have done with the voluntary garden. It must feel good to go there and pick the “fruits of their labour.” Sorry to hear Steve is now sick. I take exception to you calling it the “Western Australian Lurgy.” What proof do you have eh! It could have been anyone on the planes you flew, from any state. Why bash us over here, lol. Well have to go and get some more food to feed the hungry beasts, that’s the boys not the dogs. Look forward to reading your next adventure, and please put a picture of your brother’s little cottage in it for us to see, thanks xxx


  2. narf77
    Jan 28, 2012 @ 17:07:31

    Hello Kym Sick Steve here, Frans said she got it from her niece in WA so therefore its proved thats it WA lurgy. Sorry to bash you WA ites . Stewart her son your godson had it to lol

    we are feeding our hungry beasts now by the way
    Fran said the diesease chain will have to hit you to as you are next in line however as you say its no WA flu you cant blame her when you get it


  3. Kym
    Jan 28, 2012 @ 23:16:45

    Lol I will call it the Fran flu! So it will be the Tassie strain ha ha…


    • narf77
      Jan 29, 2012 @ 08:57:13

      Enjoy that “Tassie flu” it’s remarkably like the Perth flu…identical in fact! Is it hot over there with that cyclone off Exmouth? It’s been constantly dry and hot over here and we are all heartily sick of it. Tasmanian’s get paid less than people on the mainland of Australia, those of us that move here have to learn numptiese so that we can talk (make that grunt) to the locals and no-one has a job and everyone in power is corrupt…oh, I forgot that the entire place is ruled by cyclists! The ONLY reason you would want to live here is to smirk about how mild it is and we don’t even get to do THAT this year! mutter…mutter…mutter…


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