The taming of the shrub

Hi All,

I am a day ahead of myself. I thought that tomorrow was Tuesday…that’s what happens when you are living the life of Reilly and don’t have to go to work which is an incredible leveller and keeps you well aware of what day it is from one day to the next, unlike we penniless hippy student bums who often think that Wednesday is weekend. I just posted a little post apologising to individual American’s. I know that it was sort of out of context but I have a few anti-American rants coming up in my A.W.O.L. posts and wanted to clarify my position regarding individuals vs. the state. We walked the boys over the Batman Bridge today and unlike the last time that we had to drag Bezial, who had assumed the flatness of a wolverine, to try to get him across the bridge he was up for it this time and Earl was rapidly racing up behind him which gave him an added incentive to get to all of the good smells first which tempered his natural desire to hit the deck like a limpet whenever something scary happens…(you try getting 40kg of flat dog off the ground when it doesn’t want to move…nigh on next to impossible!) and when we got over the other side of the bridge the boys got to sniff themselves senseless in the overnight camp that tourists can use for free. They get a toilet and shower block and a free electric bbq and a lovely place to stay for nothing. It’s so nice there that we had a man and his small son living in a caravan there for well over 6 months and no-one asked him to move on. Life is good in Tasmania if you know where to camp :o). The boys dragged us from tree to tree investigating every scent and there must have been all sorts of foreign small fluffy dogs peeing with glee on just about every large conifer around the place. The boys had a ball. We then headed back over the bridge and Steve took some photos of jellyfish being swept out to see turning tentacle over blob in the mass of whirlpools that the bridge pylon’s cause.

We met some friends at a distance (they too have a dog) and while our respective mutts were yowling and trying to scrabble over the tarmac to see each other while we strenuously resisted their efforts Sandy reminded us of the benefits of halties. A halty is a lead with a nose strap that directs the dog’s snout where you want it to go. We used to have one for Bezial and he learned to walk really well on it. After initially spending days walking with his nose on the ground and every time we stopped he would try to peel the halty off his nose with his paws, Bezial settled down and pretty soon learned his limitations. We could walk nicely with very few problems and even when Bezial decided that he was going to head over and investigate something we were quite easily able to wrangle him with minimal effort. Our boys are big, strong, wilful and defiant in their desire to do whatever they want. It is difficult to manoeuvre a 30+kg and a 40kg dog at the best of times but they are wide and low to the ground and when they decide that they want to head off somewhere it’s like watching a tractor kick into gear and not much can stop a tractor in its tracks. We need something to take their minds off it and I think that the humble halty is going to have to be “it”. Caesar Milan’s enormously expensive collars didn’t work. Sorry Caesar, I daresay you know what you are doing and if the boys were walking with you they would be perfect angels but for us they are scrabbling insane hoards who drag us from pillar to post and your collars DON’T WORK! There…I have said it. He can blame us for our lack of persistence, but the collars simply don’t work and do sweet bugger all for any dog who doesn’t already know how to behave well (which beggars the question as to why you would buy this “training collar” in the first place if your dog is that well behaved!). I think it is back to what we know works. A good old “Black Dog” halty each and a week of Earl dragging his nose along the ground with a paw firmly stuck in the nose bit.

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Here are some pictures that Steve took on our walk. Most of the photos are of the bridge and the surrounding scenery. As you can see it is pretty dry here in Sidmouth at the moment. The final shot is of what we have to put up with on a daily basis. Cyclists do whatever they want, whenever they want because their lobby group encompasses our local politicians, lawyers, doctors and anyone else with any clout here in Tasmania. They are allowed to cycle 3 abreast  on thin winding roads when drivers (who pay the road taxes that cyclists don’t have to…) have to stick to 60km/hour because the “roads are too dangerous”. Whenever nature calls. The rest of us look for rest stops but cyclists are apparently allowed to urinate publically. This man (and his off camera mate) didn’t want to leave their precious bikes and peed where they dismounted. When we walked past them they smiled at us. Cheers guys, just what I wanted to see on a sunday morning… Next time I will let Earl decorate your bike (while he is chewing the tyre).

Here’s a link that Roz sent to me about aquaponics. Roz is my ex mother in law and we are much better friends since I left her son than we ever were before :o). I am really glad that we can keep in touch and our new found appreciation of each other from afar. Next time we are in W.A. we can catch up if you like Roz. I would love to have a natter about old times over a good cup of W.A. coffee :o) Here’s that link by the way people, most interesting if you don’t know much about aquaponics. It takes the best from both hydroponics and aquaculture and combines them in such a way as to use the waste from aquaculture to fuel the plants grown in the hydroponic side, thus minimising some of the problems involved in both systems and minimising the waste of water by using 2 types of bacteria to clear out the system forming a very closed cyclic system. Here it is being used to enhance the experiences of people living in a retirement village. If you used koi rather than eating fish you would have exactly the same system only you wouldn’t be eating the results. I personally think it would be hard to eat the fish as I always make everything my pet and spoil it rotten…

If this makes you want to learn more, try downloading this free PDF about Aquaponics and the principals behind it. Very interesting and who knows…it might be right up your alley! It can be set up as big or small as you like and even if you live in a tiny 1 bedroom apartment you can apply it to your own situation. I recently found a most interesting plan for making a vertical hydroponic indoor growing system for apartment living. I might have to post it one day…I got it from the Instructable site. If you haven’t checked it out “Do yourself a favour” and go there right now! It’s well worth it if you like to make and do things for yourself.

Steve is waiting for me in the lounge room. We are going to have an assignation. This might be conjuring up all sorts of ideas in your minds but we have a date with destiny. We NEED to conquer a specific level in the Mario game that we are playing. We have spent 3 days on the very same level dying constantly. My son Stewart will be here on February 8th for a few days R & R between moving “from” W.A. and moving “to” Melbourne. We have his last saved game of the very same game that we are playing now on the Wii. He got to level 7. We are stuck on level 2. I am hoping beyond hope that we don’t have to ask Stewart to do the level for us because we are so pathetic that we can’t even get through what took him all of about 2 seconds to complete with NO EFFORT WHATSOEVER! Sigh… sorry if I appear highly strung about something so mundane and unimportant as a computer game but when you are in the throes of failing for the 1000th time and show no sign of being able to complete the level any day/week/month/year soon it does start to take precedence in your immediate thoughts for most of the day. It’s now so much more than a matter of pride in both of our minds. If we can pass this level we can do anything! The completion of the painting of the ceiling of the Sistine chapel would have given Leonardo Da Vinci less satisfaction then we are going to get on the completion of this level. We might even retire on a high! All I know is that this bloody bollocking level is NOT going to defeat us and we are going to keep on trying till we forget how to try any more (most probably next week…).

Today has been forecast to be the hottest day this year in Tasmania. There is a place in the south of the state called “Ouse” (pronounce ooze…) that is going to have a temperature that is only 2 ½ degrees C less than the hottest ever recorded day of 39.5C (if you can’t work it out it is going to be 37C in Ouse today). Inland is going to be hot. Launceston is going to have 31C which feels like 40C anywhere else. We will have about 24C which is hardly fair on those poor sods living inland, but hey, whatchagonnado? You win some, you lose some. They get instant gratification from living so close to supermarkets and cinemas and 24/7 department stores and we get the cool of the day…I know which I want right about now :o). We have walked the dogs nice and early so we all don’t get too hot, we have given the hens and ducks water and Steve, as sick as he is, emptied out the duck pond and refilled it for them so that they can float algae free for a few days till it gunges up again and we leave it for another couple of weeks till we clean it out again. We have fed the hens; done the washing, put away last night’s dishes, posted our respective posts (Steve’s was most interesting). Just a small aside on Steve’s post. It was from the Shirley Maclaine movie “Sweet Charity”. I have to admit I loved her. She was a fantastic actress but the older she got the more the fruitcake took over and spoiled that incredible talent. In a past life when I was much younger than I am now I played the tuba in our small school brass band. I got to play the tuba more from my stature than from my choice. The band leader looked at the few mottled and spotty specimens that had signed up to do “band” on the list and sized us up against certain instruments irrespective of our prospective musical talent. As a somewhat portly 11 year old I got stuck with the tuba. Cheers Mr Diggins. Mr Diggins was a painfully thin Canadian with a massive adams apple that went up and down alarmingly the more excited he got about anything. He had some crazy idea about forming a marching band of our motley crew and went about spending the entire school budget on a pair of massive great Sousaphones that I and a poor long suffering girl who really should have played basketball she was that tall had to twist around ourselves and hobble painfully for miles down the street wearing shoulder pads to try to take the load of both the instrument and our respective breath. I am sure that no-one short of an adult male would be allowed to lug one of these massive great instruments around for any length of time nowadays but back then, Mr Diggins was on a mission and there was no stopping him. If you want a visual picture of Mr Diggins…think along the lines of Mr Mackey from Southpark and you will be bang on the money. Mr Diggins allowed us to express ourselves how we saw fit when we chose our exam pieces. I was sick to death of “Oompa”. That was the extent of most of the music that we tuba players were allowed to creatively show so I chose “The Rhythm of Life” as my exam piece. I remembered that today when I was watching Steve’s post for the day and had to smile. I got an A+ for my exam. I doubt that any other tuba player had picked this piece nor delivered it with quite the passion that I did (all in fortissimo and as fast as I could go…”I will show you bastards!”). Not bad for a stout 12 year old girl who really wanted to play the trombone…

I think I might finish up there for today. Over the holidays we have had a lot happen. I guess you have to just go with the flow sometimes and get buffeted where the stream of life is going to take you. We feel most well and truly buffeted and hope that the stream is going to settle down for a while and allow us to trundle along the riverbed trawling for guppies and being Huck Finn and his friends rather than hurtling us over any more massive great unexpected waterfalls. It’s just about time for us to be heading back to studies for the year. That’s our form of “work” that keeps us on track and somewhat able to ascertain where the weekends are but that also gives us a degree of freedom to choose when we study and for how long. This year is going to be interesting as our course is being run for the very first time and it is going to be interesting to see what our lecturer comes up with. There is a difference in teaching something that you have taught for years. You can have a degree of comfortable security in knowing exactly what the course content is and how to deliver it to your students. This year our poor lecturer is behind the 8 ball and we are all setting out on the journey of “Diploma in Landscape Design” in the same boat. At least he has a good idea who his crewmates are and as Captain of our sloop, he knows that he has our loyalty and I can’t vouch for Steve (who has his lifesavers certificate) when I say that we will all go down with the ship should that occur as I can’t actually swim so I guess I don’t have much scope to do anything otherwise…(I wonder if Nick can swim?…I would hate to have to put money on who Steve would be trying to save in that situation!). Tomorrow is the first of my A.W.O.L. posts and remember…I don’t hate ALL Americans…I will pick the blackberries from the mother of all blackberries BEFORE I mangle her AND I will actually be doing stuff in town, not just pretending to do things and sitting back having a small holiday with my daughters :o). See you when I get back on Thursday. Don’t do anything that I wouldn’t do!


5 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Roz Takes
    Jan 30, 2012 @ 09:33:09

    Hi Fran
    So funny that you mentioned the Halty as I was going to suggest them to you a few days ago. Greg uses one on Nicholas who is a very large Guide Dog. Many of our Guide Dog owners use them.
    Glad you read the item on Aquaponics. I would love to set one up at The Association for our gardening class but I am sure it wouldn’t pass the budget.


    • narf77
      Jan 30, 2012 @ 10:18:03

      The halty allowed Bezial to stay living with us for quite some time when he was young. Earl doesn’t have the exclusive rights to being top eating machine as Bezial topped him with eating the gear stick (twice in a row!) in the car when we left him for 10 minutes once as well as sampling the steering wheel and the handbrake at the same time and Bezial also ate some of the wall in our bedroom in town and started eating the window ledge as well. Earl has only eaten “things” rather than Bezial’s earlier career of eating house fixtures and fittings (as well as a short but illustrious career eating shoes and electrical cords of irons, clock radios and various other expensive machines…).

      Halties are great but they do rub on the dogs nose. That is why we stopped using one on Bezial. It took him all of a week to re-learn his old pulling ways and perhaps it is time for him to remember those days of the old school yard! Earl will spend the first few weeks with his nose on the ground and his paw firmly wedged in between his nose and the halty strap but we are just going to have to live with that for a bit until he works out that this is going to be the way that it is! Earl is very clever. He gets up and is straight into the hallway prodding his lead with his nose whenever anyone walks past him (hard not to do when the toilet is en route). He often absently chews (pretending not to be doing it in earnest or we might tell him off) his lead in the way that prisoners work away at their cell bars with a nail file or dig a tunnel with a spoon…he is very persistant and never gives up so hopefully the halty would live a bit of a life before Earl found a way to dissolve it (his spit would be able to be used as a leathal chemical weapon!).

      They are much cheaper than the Caeser Millan failure collars and we can’t even give those away! It looks like Halties are the go all round and the boys are just going to have to learn to live with it!


  2. Pinky
    Jan 30, 2012 @ 10:15:54

    Hi Fronkii,
    I had the chance to catch up with Robert while we were with Jasons family at Rustlers Steakhouse the other night. It was good to see him and his family with Stewart. I also have a lovely picture of you and your tuba which I discovered at the bottom of Grandmas old painting/art trolley. The weather is very dark and stormy over here and thankfully cool, only meant to get to 21 degrees today HURRAH! So you should get some cool stuff over there in a day or so hopefully.


    • narf77
      Jan 30, 2012 @ 10:56:50

      Its finally raining here after well over a month of no moisture whatsoever! Glad you had fun at Rustlers. I hope you didn’t throw food at Robert…that was a BAD PINKUS! Stewart will no doubt chastise you when he next sees you! Rustlers is great for “moit oiters” but very VERY bad for vegetarians as they charge the same for their “vegetarian steak” (mashed potato cake) as their meat steaks. I think that is to keep vegetarians OUT of their steak house! (It certainly keeps me out of there :o)


  3. Kym
    Jan 30, 2012 @ 22:05:02

    Good luck with the blackberry bush Fran. I had a halty for my darling golden retriever who was very big and strong. At home he was a lamb, but open the door to anything, house, car, gate, and he was off! Must have been a grey hound in his last life eh. It worked quite well, although he could still pull like buggary if he saw/ smelt something interesting. Amazing how a dog can walk with his head pulled onto his shoulder and still get to what he wanted lol. He’s passed away now. I had a nasty experience with a bike rider the other day and felt like putting the window down and shouting at him! Made me think of you lol. What a pretty area you live in. I am very keen to get to see it, so have been looking at all the specials that come up for Melbourne. Might see you twice in one year! Another thought I had was to buy a caravan over your side of the country, as they ask alot more for second hand ones over here. We could drive over and pick it up and then stay with you guys along the way…. well will keep plotting and see what happens 🙂


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