Cold singing

The front garden’s almost clear of grass now…not that it isn’t waiting to leap back in as soon as I lay down my gardening gloves. I’ve been filling it with plants…food plants, daisies, natives. Only trouble is, the possums and wallabies are very fond of new plants, and they especially like their salad. As a result, the garden looks like no-man’s land at the Somme, minus the landmines and dead bodies.

Meanwhile I’ve been composing songs and sticking them on YouTube, in flagrant disregard of the fact that I can’t play an instrument and can’t really sing. I have a feeling some of my family feel that this should be a deterrent for me….but what can I say. It’s not. I have this urge to record. Shoot me. This one’s about my mum. I miss her.

Popped up to my neighbour’s for morning tea and her alpaca had just had a crea. The little thing was just trying to stand up…I’ve rarely seen anything so cute. Mind you, alpacas ARE cute…although when you’ve seen them mating (as I have, on another visit to my neighbour’s) you realise they’re also narky. And hilarious. The girl’s sitting there clearly thinking about the shopping list while the boy’s straining away like Clive Palmer on Viagra, groaning. Apparently he’d been at it for hours. Let’s hope Clive doesn’t last that long.

It’s getting cold. I light the fire late to conserve wood, and hug hot water bottles. It’s not for everyone, this country life. Anyway, I guess there’s always bed, if it gets too cold…

Advertisements

Reason No 38: you will be forced to sell your soul to the devil for a load of firewood

I don’t want to be helpless. I know my arm muscles are pathetic, and if I had a decent chainsaw I’d be more likely to cut my leg off than achieve anything useful. Still I don’t want to return to how it was when I was partnered. That is, resignation to the fact that as an intellectual woman I’m useless for all practical purposes – and sit scribbling in my studio while the bearded man takes responsibility for everything outside the kitchen door. It helps that there is now no bearded man.

I’ve been setting myself a job every day – but I have to acknowledge that I can’t do everything. However, if I don’t do something, my 52 acres of pasture will rapidly revert to native bush, and while this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it will affect the resale value and increase my fire risk.

So since I don’t have any money to hire a team of guys with corded forearms in checked shirts and steel capped boots, I’m looking at swaps. For instance, I’ve reluctantly decided that I’m prepared to agist cattle in return for help with fencing. Reluctantly, because I don’t like the meat industry, don’t eat meat, and secretly sympathise with those vegan protesters that get such a bad press for chaining themselves up in abattoirs. So that’ll make me a hypocrite but it might get my paddocks cleaned up. I’ve had some bites.

I’m quick to seize any opportunity. This morning a couple of guys dropped over with a load of firewood (chopping up firewood being something which is, in this early stage of my development as a feminist farm goddess, beyond me). I asked them if they’d consider felling a big dead gum that’s dropping leaves in my garage gutter faster than I can scoop them out – up in return for getting half of it to sell. They were open to the idea.

Now… What else can I sell? My body? Nope, it’s closed for renovations. My soul? If the price is right…

Reason No 37: you will turn into an eccentric old witch

It was dark, I was tired, and there was three hundred kilometres to go… but I just wanted to be home. To sleep in my own bed.

On Friday night I drove back from Melbourne to my beautiful, isolated home on the east coast. The Man wasn’t there when I got in… only the little missing things that remind me of his going (which is…ongoing). The scores of pottery goblets, packed. The glass display case with his Pegasus collection, packed. No matter.

On Saturday morning I wondered with tea in hand, how will I find this alone-ness, once it gets properly underway? The relatives ask, will you be ok, all by yourself? What they mean is, will you go all funny? Funnier than you already are, that is. Will you forget how to speak, how to reply, to present yourself to humankind?

Maybe. I’ll have to take measures. Join up to something. Force myself out and about. I’ve noticed before that only the first few days by myself feels odd; after that I get used to it. More than that, I like it. There lies the risk.

On Sunday I tugged more runner grass out of the garden. For every string I pull out, there’s three more pale roots writhing through the soil, deeper than my gloved hand can fossick. What do you do about runner grass? Can you conquer it for good, or are the grass and I going to be skirmishing forever over the contested territory of my front garden? Still, I’ve bared and riven the earth: now to plant something which will gladden the bees and the honey-eaters and, particularly, me. Reds and blues and yellows.

That picture above – that used to be steps, once. Perhaps I could settle them with sweet-smelling, wallaby-repelling herbs. I wonder what would fit the bill?

Sunday night, and I understand why people who live alone put the TV on at night. It’s voices. But I think I’ll be alright.

Reason No 36: hang on, what?

If you have a genuine passion for turnips, you might wonder why I haven’t posted anything about them for yonks…and WHY NOW?

To answer the second question first – because NOW, I’m on my own. For nearly three years, I’ve been sitting up in my studio on this 52-acre block in the deep south, watching The Man busily chopping and sawing and burning and tinkering, as (some) manly men do. It’s been relaxing.

But now we’ve split up, and it’s just me. Woman (again) versus Wild. “You won’t be able to manage this place on your own,” he said. “You’re not that kind of girl. You’re a sitting-around-writing kind of girl, not a hoeing-around-the-paddocks sort. Nothing wrong with that, it’s just how you are.” (Which kind of answers the first question. I haven’t been writing about working on the land because I haven’t been – working on the land. HE has.)

I’ve never liked people telling me how I am…but in this case, he’s got a point. I can’t even lift a chainsaw (although I am looking for a wimp-sized one). It’s a genuine challenge – how does a middle-aged woman with virtually no practical skills control an acreage that’s practically bursting out of its fences? With difficulty – that’s how.

However, I will Give It A Go. Actually, I’ve already started. I’ve bought a pump sprayer and I’ve been tramping around the paddocks poisoning Serrated Tussock – of which there is a lot. If I don’t, NSW Agriculture will come and spray it for me, for the paltry sum of $10000 (probably). So..

I’ve dug out ten or more Scotch Thistles from around the dam. Those things are lethal – even their roots stab you!

Yesterday I went down to the vege garden. I haven’t seen it since last summer. Well, it was gorgeous – but it wasn’t a vegetable garden.

IMG_20190416_135500[1]I’ve started pulling out cooch grass from the front garden, too – it’s going to be a long process.

IMG_20190409_124344[1]If I’m going to tackle this, I’m going to need encouragement. So I thought, what better way to encourage myself than to chronicle my progress, not forgetting to take the ‘before’ pictures that make the ‘after’ pictures look so impressive.

One day I will look back at all this and think one of two things.

You nailed it – and proved him wrong! 

You failed it – but at least you tried.

Which will it be? (And talking about chainsaws, that has got to be the dumbest image. I almost hope the tree falls on her.)

Reason No 35: The Late Great Planet Earth

Whilst the northern hemisphere will be wiped out, we in Australia have excellent chances of survival, for several reasons.

This is good to hear. Bugger about you though (my British and American comrades).

Isolation is best, I always say. If another war comes, it will take a lot to find me.  Hear hear. Although maybe this isn’t such good news for my book marketing efforts. Still, if my books survive…

Thanks to the hoarding habits of The Man, we have lots of old Grass Roots magazines from the 1970s in our bathroom.  The excerpt above is from a letter to Grass Roots circa 1981, from a lady called Margaret who’s looking to buy land with a few co-survivalists in anticipation of the apocalypse. She’s put a lot of effort into it.

  • She’s got rid of all her furniture and replaced it with beanbags.
  • She’s researched how many vitamin tablets you’d need for five years in the wilderness.
  • She’s looked into underground home construction techniques – because the surface will be contaminated by radiation.

When’s all this going down? When the Jupiter effect occurs – that is, when all the planets are in line with each other. This is something that is fact. It will happen – no matter what. ..I figure we have about two years to prepare.

One day, a doomsday theorist will be right. In the meantime, what must it be like to have booked the end of life as we know it into your calendar – and then for it not to happen.  And you’ve put all that work into it!

I feel we’ve lost our innocence since Grass Roots had robust looking people in beards and plaits on the cover, and letters from nine year old girls seeking penfriends.

grass rootsAnd the Late Great Planet Earth? Apparently there’s been a revival of interest in this 1979 bestseller since the election of the Trump – can’t think why.

In other news, Turnips is looking for people who’d like to receive one of five advance (print) copies of her upcoming kids’ book, BAD DOG!

BAD DOG! is about a corgi cross who runs away once too often – with hair raising consequences. If you’d like an advance copy, send me your email address by clicking this link.  And of course, if you do score a copy of the book, I’d love for you to leave a review on Goodreads.

 

Reason No 34: going to the movies costs lives!

A trip to the movies costs more in the country.

On Saturday night we went to see Home Again. It cost:

  • My dreams. The forty year old woman (Reese Witherspoon, who I was pleased to see now has actual width – ie, three dimensions rather than two) does NOT end up with the 28 year old hunk. She never does. What, don’t Hollywood producers think older women deserve to be partnered up with young nubile men? (as opposed to those older men who for some reason are always being rewarded with women at least ten years younger and a hundred times better looking than they are).
  • Three wallabies, two wombats and a bunny. Not really – they were all near misses (though I wouldn’t have been completely heartbroken if the bunny had caught it, if only so that my border collie could enjoy an ethical meal). But nine pm is native animal cocktail hour. They’re just lucky The Man has a Masters degree in Motoring.
  • Several years off my car’s life. We’re talking dirt roads, corrugations, rocks, choking dust, and  bumper-bar-seeking biological missiles (I mean roos).
  • An hour and a half off MY life. That’s how long it takes to get there and back. No wonder date night is once a month (and don’t think I hold this against you, darling – watching Outlander in bed is a pretty good substitute).

Fun movie, though. We country wives don’t get out much so a trip to the local cinema gives us the same buzz as, say, Pretty Woman being taken to the opera (that’s kind of sad. Oh well.)  One of my favourite lines was ‘women have to think about things, like people’s feelings…men just do things.” So true.  Don’t you think?

And – if you know anyone who likes horses, Turnips is giving away $100 worth of horse equipment! You’ll find the official giveaway here – and don’t forget to share on Facebook (because even if you don’t like horses, and I don’t blame you, someone else might).

 

Reason No 33: dancing snakes

Opening the gate to your vegetable garden in the morning to see a couple of large, glossy black snakes doing the fandango next to the lettuce bed is – one of the perks of living in the country.

I wish I had a picture. These two shining coils of thick black rope, twisting and winding around each other like a couple of movie stars making the sort of sweet, sweet love you never see outside of the silver screen. But I don’t – because I didn’t have my phone and anyway I was scared to go anywhere near them. Well – we don’t like to be interrupted while bonking, do we – and we haven’t got fangs. I do have someone else’s Youtube video, though.

Mind you, they could have been making war, not love.

Yesterday I decided to construct our Nature Loo – which has languished in the garage since I bought it months ago. When I got it out, I could see that the gap between me and nature was going to be quite short, and visible. We’re not used to contemplating the steaming results of our digestive systems – but I guess that’s what the sawdust is for. A friend who came down on the weekend was nauseated when I told her about this system (fair enough – it was over breakfast) – but I think that producing nitrogen-rich compost for the fruit trees is more important than these trifling city-bred qualms.  And, after all, the fruit will be up there and the, um, compost will be down here.

naturelooApparently, after about three weeks, what’s in the nature loo turns into something as nutritious but innocuous as old potato peels. Apparently.

From snakes to horses. Just published – the story of Diablo, the World’s Worst Pony, and the girl who mastered him (sort of, and ok, he wasn’t really that bad).

Available to buy on Amazon in ebook and print versions – 10% of proceeds go to Horse Rescue Australia.

DIABLO cover

Reason No 32: Fat is a farming issue

Call me naive, but I thought living in the country made you thin.  I thought you could eat scones and jam for breakfast, scoff real cream and butter, sit on the porch reading – and you’d still shed kilos like a lactating whale.  Fresh air, green things, having to get out of your car to open the gate…

Well, nope.  Mind you, I did think I’d be living off what I could grow.  As a vegetarian, I expected to be eating things like spinach and carrots – nothing that’s supposed to make you rotund.  So far, I’ve managed to grow edible amounts of just one thing – salad.  I can pick enough green stuff every day to make the obligatory cupful that nutritionists say (on what basis I have no idea) that we should eat for proper health and vim.  Still, I take that immovable roll of belly fat as a personal insult from Nature.

Unfortunately I’m forced to eat things that I’d rather not.  Yesterday an old lady offered me fresh scones with jam and cream – well, what could I do!  The day before, another old lady presented me with coffee and chocolate biscuits (not only that, but she checked back to make sure I’d eaten them).  People are always giving me things out of their gardens – eggs, zucchinis, spinach, eggplant – which I have to eat straight away, due to having a freezer compartment the size of a small glove box.  This leads to an excess of quiche, pasta, and pie.  It’s a tragic situation.

So the belly, it seems, is here to stay.  But there is hope.  Recently (I mean the day before yesterday) I took to running up the hill from the vege garden to our house (which is harder than it sounds).  I read that two minutes’ strenuous exercise and lots of puffing does more for you than half an hour jogging down a road on the flat like the Adidas lady.  I did heaps of puffing.

The other thing that really lightens you up is walking around European cities admiring the architecture.  Even if you keep stopping for coffee and cake, you still lose weight.  That- and not the Mediterranean diet – is probably why Europeans aren’t as fat as Australians and Americans. I’m renaming my biennial overseas holiday ‘the Culture Diet’.

It could be worse.  The apocalypse could strike and I’d have to make do with what I, individually, actually have, right here at home – ie, salad.  And THEN I guarantee myself I would be thin.

So what’s the secret to effortless sveltitude (and don’t say, effort)? Btw, the pic above is of the magnificent Magda Szubanski in Babe: Pig in the City – on my Must Watch list.

If you’ve read this and enjoyed it, would you consider doing me a favour?  I need people to review my book The Wyndham Werewolf on Amazon – and it’s proving hard as finding hens’ teeth.  If you’d like to help a poor struggling author…head on over to Amazon and get yourself some karma. If not, I’ll still love you.

Reason No 31: no country for old cars

Ignorance means not being able to flush the toilet.

It’s the first hot day of the year.  Hot winds. Hot grass. Hot dog (pictured below).

WP_20170513_10_46_25_Pro.jpg

Yesterday I turned the tap on and nothing came out.  Too many winter baths and one of our two tanks has run dry – just before what’s probably going to be the driest summer that ever was.  No worries, there’s always the other one (tank, not summer).  But The Man is away at work.  Seems this is a job for Super Turnip!

I look doubtfully at the various pipes and levers running from the ‘bottom’ tank to the ‘top’ tank, and the generator that serves them all, and think, come on girl, you should be able to do this.  Then I think ‘suppose I don’t turn some lever up when it’s meant to be down, or down when it’s meant to be up, and the whole system blows up in a fanfare of flying hose connections and water fountains?

I’m too chicken to risk this, so I decide to wait till The Man gets home and does the job in the smooth, effortless manner he’s justly famed for.  My task (which I set myself) is to watch the water pouring into the top tank – where I’m bemused (and sorry) to hear a frog screeching in alarm as it gets shot out of its resting place somewhere in the pipes and into the deep churning water of a new home.  I hope it has sticky feet.

On another topic, there seems to be something about farms that attracts cars, much like dog shit attracts blowies.  We started off with his, mine, and the previous owner’s unregistered farm runabout.  A year later we have two of his (so far anonymous), mine (called Arthur), my absent daughter’s (Bertie), and the farm runabout, Bill.  Then there’s three more in rusty retirement at The Man’s bush retreat near Yass, and The Harley – which The Man has dreamt of fixing for years.  If he is good I may allow him to repair the Harley at some point and bring it to our new country paradise – but I am not getting on it.  This is the price of my approval.

Right now on this property there are not only more cars than people (a lot more), but more cars than pets, living lettuces, and worms in the compost heap. On the other hand, I managed to lure nine king parrots and a satin bower bird to my back patio yesterday – with the crumbled remains of the Weetbix packet.

Moving on to slightly larger mammals, The Man got took whale-watching in Eden for his birthday.  Wielding my trusty smartphone on the boat, I got lots of great pictures of a strange woman with a red beanie, from the back.  Who is this woman? It’s a wry comment on modern life that the best I can do with a smart phone is take pictures of other people taking pictures with their smart phones.

IMG_20170917_093815_HDR

Enough about whales.  Would you get on a motorbike? Even if it was a Harley?

 

Reason No 30: Sally, git your gun…

Happy anniversary us!  It’s been one year since we bought The Country Estate – and spring is, again, sprunging. The plum tree is in blossom and the wattle looks like someone threw an egg at it.  This means WAR!

Enemy No 1: the Front Garden.  Full of grass.  Also, some idiot planted Invincible Ivy, which is snaking into every corner like the Monster of the Black Mere, and will have to be slaughtered.  Like Trump, The Man has his finger hovering above the Red Button – but I feel some compunction for the long-suffering daisies and azaleas, which have hung on despite all the insults thrown at them.  Collateral damage?

IMG_20170813_160026Enemy No 2: Crouching in the couch jungle this afternoon, Vietcong-style, I came eye to eye with Ferdinand, our skink.  If Ferdinand has woken from his winter sleep, I guess Cecil and Melisandre the black snakes are probably yawning and stretching as well. Beware the thing that lurks camouflaged in tall spring grass, like an ISIS commando enjoying a quick nap before his morning mayhem.

Enemy No 3: the vegetable garden (or maybe the neighbours, with their annoyingly luxuriant patches – I can’t decide).  Ok, vegetables – there’s no such thing as a free ride. Pull your weight here – no more fucking around.  You’ve had the compost, you’ve had the cow shit, you’ve been dug over and weeded obsessively.  You WILL produce (or pay. Like NATO).  Mind you, I’m already getting as much salad as I can eat (I don’t like salad, but since it’s supposed to stop me getting Alzheimers and bowel cancer I chomp through it anyway).

Yes, on this first anniversary of my Presidency (of The Property), I’ve decided to get in there and lead from the front.  It’s been nice watching The Man toiling away (Rambo-like) in his cut-off tee shirts, but the shame of being a mere civilian in my own private warzone has got to me.  I’ve more or less divided my day up as follows: two hours sweating it up in the garden etc, two hours creating literary masterpieces, two hours earning filthy (if inadequate) lucre, and one hour on housewifery (having not, as yet, trained the dogs to do this – they’re much better at laying mines than cleaning them up).

However, to  entertain the troops, we now have the Wonder of Television (via a satellite dish on the roof).  This provides, as they say in the ads, ‘hours of fun’ for The Man (who enjoys footie shows) and a free pass for me (I like to read).  But we can now laugh together over the latest pronouncements of the Trump (imminent nuclear incineration notwithstanding – anyway, this is the sort of place people flee to, in case of apocalypse, and aren’t we lucky we’re already here!  Now, all we need is guns to hold off the would-be refugees, right?).