Time For A Yarn By The Fire

The billy is on. Pull up a stump and take a load off ya feet. It’s been as slow as a wet week these past few days and I feel like chewing the fat for a while. If you want, I’ll translate that last sentence from Australian to English for you.
‘I’m boiling a pot water for a cup of tea. Find a chair and have a rest, because the past couple of days have dragged on and I would like to talk with you for a while.’

Went back to work on Tuesday after four days off (but broke) and my baby has been crook most of the time. Her neck is giving her bad headaches and making her feel sick…like throwing up sick.
I took today (Thursday) off to stay with her. Poor Tina has been in some pretty bad pain since this morning. We have no pain killing drugs until we go to town tomorrow. She is sleeping now though.
The weather has been typical dry season here. The sou’ east and easterly winds generally blow from  the end of May through to October/November. The winds on the coast get up to 30 knots or more, with an average of 15 knots through those months. Come November, the winds will ease and the temperatures will rise. The humidity will remain as usual, in the high eighty and ninety percent range. It will be tropical. Then the rains will come. Monsoonal torrents will soak the Far North for the better part of six months, isolating towns and properties as The Wet revitalises the landscape.  At the moment we’re lucky to be getting the odd coastal shower to keep the coconuts, our baby tomatoes, Paw-Paws (papaya), passionfruit and chilli bushes thriving.
Yes, we are cultivating.
This may be a sign of our evolving from a nomadic lifestyle to that of a combined hunter/gatherer farmer. But probably not. What will be nice is the thought that in five years or so, someone will turn up here and there will be ‘wild’ paw paw and passionfruit growing next to the coconuts. Maybe future visitors will plant more seeds, or help by replanting seed from the fruits they eat.  We’re planning on growing some fast greens like Bok Choy or Rocket. I’ve also got to catch up with Willie Gordon and ask him about local greens and fruits that are around here. I would prefer to cultivate local native foods than exotics.
We discovered a Mango tree at the Southern end of the beach last  week too. If wasn’t for the profusion of flowers on it, we may have completely missed it. It is well back in the scrubland, about 100 metres from the high tide mark. The tree is surrounded by Wattle, some She-Oak, and other native species that grow in the old, mulch rich former dune zone. Come November it should be laden with juicy, pink/green skinned, orange centred fruits of wonderfullness. I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned it yet, so I’ll tell you anyway. A few weeks back, a bloke roughly our age, and his presumably youngest boy of about four, came into the camp to say hello. It transpired that this very cool gentleman once had a shack on the beach back in the late eighties to nineties, and planted the majority of the Coconuts that thrive around here. Not only was this a cool bit of local history to have learnt, but it also gave us an idea of how old the local palms are.
We’ve been boiling the billy on the pig a lot. 4:20 is usually the best time for tea and we’ve had a bit lately. 😉
Coffee too. Oh, and we have been cooking bigger and better meals on the pig with one frypan and a big pot. Cheaper than the meals in the previous post. I might relate some recipes in future posts because they are “To die for darlings!”
You might be wondering how we can grow food in sand country near the beach. Well, we found an old scrub turkey nest. Basically a 4 metre by 6 metre mound of well rotted leaf, branch, root and other organic debris. All mixed with some sand to enhance drainage and composted by a dedicated bird a few years back. We collect this from in the bush and use it straight as a potting mix. It’s bloody brilliant stuff. I’ll show you some photos later.
I wanted to tell you a few little snippets of trivia that have been flitting around my head of late. That’s why I boiled the billy in the first place.
Actually, some of it isn’t mere trivia. One factoid is actually a sobering thought for some depression sufferers.

Consider this. Recents studies have shown that sufferers of depression who treat themselves with some thing or method other than prescription anti-deppressants, have a 25% chance of relapsing after ceasing treatment. However, those studied who used chemical anti-deppressants had a 42% relapse rate after ceasing treatment.

I’ve been picking up little bits of information at night when I’m not sleeping. Late night ABC Radio from about 10pm when Tony Delroy has ‘Nightlife’, through to Trevor Chappell at 1am onwards is 3 to 6 hours of brain food.
For example. Stephen Spielberg had a lecturer at uni when he was studying  drama and art. The lecturer’s name was Alan…Anakin. No, I kid you not. Darth Vaders real name Anakin, was Stephens lecturers name.

Peter Wier(sp?) first movie was ‘The Cars That Ate Paris’. You really should check this masterpiece of early Australian  cinema and classic sci-fi. Apparently this movie is widely regarded amongst sci-fi afficionados as a hallmark movie of its genre.

Another presumably tax payer funded study has found that the worlds happiest places to live, also rate in the places with the highest rates of suicide. Eg, Hawaii at number 2 happiest place has the worlds 5th highest suicide rate.

Here’s something that maybe one of you dear readers might find interesting. This a mash up of Captain Cook trivia that I knew as well as some stuff I didn’t know that I heard today when Dr Karl was on the ABC Local Radio.
Cooks ship, the Endeavour, was an ex Coal haulier that once carried loads of the stuff around Great Britain. The bark was renowned for its sturdiness in the wild North Sea. What I learnt was that James Cook chose that particular ship because of its robust reputation. He also picked this ship because of its size. The Endeavour wasn’t so much long as it was wide and spacious. The good Captain knew that the ex coal hauler could easily accommodate food, including livestock, to keep 90 odd men alive for three years.

More on the Endeavour. The United States Space Shuttle Endeavour is named after Captain Cooks vessel. You see, the Endeavour made many journeys in what may as well have been outrr space in her day. Also, one of Cook and the Endeavours primary tasks was to plot the path of Venus for some mathematical equation that would make Gt Britain superior in navigating the oceans or somesuch. Anyway. On her final flight, the shuttle crew spoke to the crew of the Endeavour replica ship that is currently circumnavigating Australia. The echange happened as the shuttle came in over Australia and the Great Barrier Reef.
The shuttle took 8 minutes to cross the Australian continent from the far South West through to the North Eastern tip where the HMB Endeavour replica was located. The same journey will take the ship til next year some time.
Another Endeavour related piece of news. I promise it to be the last in this post. A few posts back I mentioned that the Endeavour replica did come to Cooktown. But the harbour was too shallow for her to moor at the wharf. Plus, the weather was too rough where she had to anchor for the crew to put ashore.
As an indirect result of that circumstance, the government has committed a few million to the Cook Shire (I think) so that the harbour can be deepened. Of course, this will allow the larger cruise ships to berth at the wharf as well. This will enhance tourism, but geeze it’s gunna piss the local fishermen off! Dredging fouls the water for months. It takes a good ‘Wet’ to flush the detritus stirred up by the process. Then the big ships block off the fishing spots on the wharf!

Ok then. What else has happened of note?
I saw a very large Brown snake this afternoon. Jack the Dog and I were heading to the beach and this snake crossed the track roughly ten metres in front of us. My conservative estimate put this big Brown at 1.6 metres long and 2.5 to 3 cm in diameter at its thickest. That’s about 5’6″ and 1 to 1&1/4 inches respectively in imperial scale.
We’ll need to stay aware of snakes here. That’s the third snake I’ve seen around here. So far it’s one Taipan, one Brown, and what I think was a Red Bellied Black snake.
Snake trivia time. The Red bellied Blake snake is as its name describes it. Jet Black, wirh an almost Scarlet underbelly. But it is actually a member of the Brown snake family. The three snakes I have mentioned above are in the top five deadliest snakes in Australia. Now, normally this wouldn’t concern me. Snakes generally avoids humans. We’re instinctively dangerous to them, so they stay away. But they also love rodents.
The rodents love where humans live.
Conflict of interest methinks.
We are controlling unwanted rodents though. Jack the Dog has caught and killed at least four. We’ve drowned three in traps and I’ve caught two by hand. Oh, if someone ever tells you they killed a ‘Yellow- bellied Black snake’, explain to them gently that they just killed a green tree snake. The Northern from of the common Green Tree snake has a very dark back. It’s almost Black. The underside is Yellow. The southern form has a much lighter Green back. They’re also more commonly seen on fences, low tree branches, or in your rafters. If you disturb them when they are on the ground, they tend to flatten their necks to appear bigger than they are. Green Tree snakes are usually quite slender snakes, growing to 3 metres (in our experiences). They are harmless to humans, so please don’t kill them. One last thing about venomous snakes. Don’t rely solely on colour to identify a snake. I have seen Brown snakes, the venomous type, ranging from a dark brown through to fawn. I’ve also seen a brown snake in the wild that was orange. To add to the confusion, I’ve seen photos in snake field guides showing juvenile browns with banding patterns. So I guess if you want to be sure, avoid or at least don’t purposely upset a ground dwelling snake. Chances are around here is that it is venomous. The only pythons I’ve seen are couple of Black-headed Rock Pythons, dead on the highway at the southern entrance to town.
You’d think that we’d be trekking through the local scrub with our hiking boots, thick socks, spats and denim jeans on after the above stories. But no. We still get around in shorts and thongs. We’re just more aware of our surroundings when we do.

(Friday): I’m going to set up a bucket trap for tonight to catch some rodents. Tina was sick still today, so I let her sleep and stayed home again. I have to go to town this afternoon and see the boss. We can’t phone from here because we have no reception. I also need to get the pain meds from the chemist for my Baby.
We’ve had some fairly good rain overnight too. The temps have stayed in the 20’s from my estimate. That’s the poroblem with no reception. No weather reports except for the radio. I need a rain gauge and a thermometer!

Back from town.
I couldn’t find the boss, but I did get groceries. Just the basics. SR flour, sugar, powdered milk, oats, peanut butter and some bread & butter. Bought some discounted garlic steak and turned it into a stew with onion, spud, tomato and some spices. Simmered over the pig for an hour or so until the beef softens.

Tina is still basically bedridden. We didn’t go into town today. I started the table work and did some gardening. We did manage a short beach walk, but that made Tinas neck worse.
I’ll have to go to town tomorrow. For nothing else but to see if I still have a job.
Saturday evening. The fire is going. It’s a clear, cool evening. The sea breeze is finding its way through the scrub, giving the wind chimes an excuse to sing. The crickets have started their nightly ritual, trying to find a mate. The ocean is kissing the beach. The moon is almost directly overhead and almost half full. It is casting a nice glow across the ground and on the trees.
Tina has been asleep most of the afternoon. I hope her neck eased a bit for her. In the past three days I realised how lonely it would be here without her. She has slept on and off when she could. But only half hour or hourly. Each time she rolls, the pain wakes her up. As a result, conversation and interaction with her has been fleeting, even though we’re less than a metre apart most of the time.

Righto, that’s enough. Sometimes I can talk underwater with an apple in me mouth.
Photo time!

For your viewing pleasure:

The billy on the boil.
Jack the bodysurfing Dog.
Jack wants to go to the beach.
The baby Tomatoes.
The beginnings of our new table.
The Bamboo is seasoning well.
The back of our pig pen.
The front, with our wood drying fire.
We need firewood.
Late afternoon. Vegie patch at centre, with our ‘Guest House’ in the background. Jack and the pig on the right.



Of Crocodiles, Echidnas and Taipans

First and foremost. A BIG Happy Birthday to Tracy Macy! Happy Birthday sugary plummery! We hope you had a good day today/yesterday xxxx. We’ll FB you on Monday. She tweets as @tracymacy so follow her! She’s our titta (sister).

So, here I am, relaxing on my driftwood and bamboo lounge chair (padded with towels because I have a bony bum), in front of our flash fire place, and I got to thinking how damned lucky I am to be where I am/we are.

It’s kind of hard maybe for some folk to realise that we are very happy and very comfortable in our modest little home. Our water supply is a bunch of plastic bottles of varied capacity that we refill in town. Our toilet is a hole in the ground out in the scrub. We shower in town, or we bathe in the ocean. Our ‘kitchen sink’ is a 10 litre, square bucket. We have a 12 volt lifht for when we need it that runs off the car, and we have a gas fridge on loan, courtesy of our friend, The Guitarist. But we are sooooo content! We eat well. We also have time to make mobiles and bracelets and stuff. My work in town allows me to be home well before sundown. So, I can walk on the beach wirh my favourite person in the world, throw a stick for Jack the dog, and collect ‘stuff’ for our art.
I just bloody well love being alive now!
Not many of you know this, but 5 months ago I explained to Tina that if we didn’t get away from where we were, I would probably ‘off’ myself. We were existing. We weren’t living as such. I was making twice as much money as we do now, but it was gone before we knew it. The only good thing about where we were was that we were close to the majority of our kids and one or two special people that we care for dearly. But the place was killing me emotionally and spiritually.
So we made our move. I no longer feel ‘dead’. Nor do I contemplate suicide anymore. I am spiritually and emotionally comfortable (for want of a better word).

But enough of that maudlin stuff. I’m supposed to be writing about Crocodiles, Echidnas and Taipans. But first, since our last post, Tina has made half a dozen more shell and driftwood mobiles. We’re thinking of hitting the markets one weekend to see if anyone wants to buy some of them. $10 each sounds fair don’t you think? Check out the photos. Some of them tinkle, but some don’t. But they’re all very organic and pretty.

OK. Back on track. Last week we saw our first snake near our home. It crossed the path we use to go bush to our ‘business’. I’m pretty sure it was a small (1metre) Taipan, but it could have been a Brown snake. We decided not to get close enough to check the scale count to properly ID it. We just let it go in its way. It was a very nice snake though. No doubt we’ll see more as the seasons change. Hopefully they’ll help control the rodents. Jack has killed two mice so far. Jack is NOT a pig dog. He barks at wild pigs, but is smart enough not to chase them. God idea too. The pigs we’ve seen here are twice his size.

For those of you who don’t live in croc country, you may be a little surprised to know that big bitey saltwater crocs are just as at home in the ocean as they are in estauries. There was a 14 foot (4.5 metre) croc tagged in the Endeavour River a few years ago. The tag had a beacon attached. This crocs movements were tracked as it moved around. They (DERM) found that this croc regularly went up every creek that fed the river. Then it would travel 20 plus kilometres out to sea and cruise the Great Barrier Reef. Then it would do a bit of a coast run before heading back up river.
Now, we’re croc aware. We know they’re about, so we don’t really think about the signs that are common around here and other croc friendly parts of the tropics. So, as my civic duty demands, check the photos from our favourite beach. It’s less than 10 km from town. Funnily though, the ‘recent sighting’ sign has been there for nearly a month. However, recent sighting signs in town are removed after a couple of days. Maybe they don’t want to scare the tourists

The very last thing I expected to see around camp was an Echidna. I mean, we’re pretty close to the beach. I’ve seen them in the mountains, the desert and the bush. But for some strange reason I hadn’t even considered that Echidnad might like to hang out near the beach. Well there ya go. The Echidna in the photos was nearly inside our home. Time for some edjamacashun. Echidnas are monotremes. If I recall correctly, there are only two animals in the monotreme family. One is the Echidna. The other is the Platypus. Both are egg laying mammals. And both are completely dissimilar to each other. One has a duck like bill and beaver like tail and spends most of its life in still, freshwater creeks. The other is spiny, likes dry country and lives mostly on ants.

Anyway, I’m off for now, but check the last pic. It’s a random view from where I’m sitting. Wish You Were Here to enjoy it. Especially you Twistyman, and you kidlets. Oh, the tent is our guest house. We sleep in the back of Jimmy. So remember, if you come for a visit, you’ll be sleeping in luxury on an airbed in the mansion 😉
Lastly. Do a Google for Geoffrey Gurrumal Yunupingu. The go to YouTube or somewhere and find some of his music. Gurrumuls music is just too cool to not sample some of it. Seriously.