Reason No 32: 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.

 

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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).

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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.

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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?).

Reason No 29: the wildlife executioner

One day The Man and I are out contemplating our apples – more about that later – when something moves under our gigantic bay tree.  I’m pretty short sighted, so my first thought – it’s a creature! – is replaced by my second thought – it’s a pile of bark, don’t be silly.

But it is a creature, a yellow-bellied wallaby, resting on the ground, not moving when we come to look down at it, only metres away.  That’s strange.  We move closer, and it gets up painfully and limps a little way, dragging its right back leg, then sits down again, further off.

The dogs are ambling around the house – elderly and short sighted as they are, it’s better not to tempt them with easy prey, so I shut them both inside.  The wallaby’s backbone and ribs stick out from its humped body – normally they’re fat little hoppers, like lively dowagers.  I ring WIRES, the wildlife rescue people.

“Right,” says the woman “so it’s a ‘euthanase’ situation.”

“Well I wouldn’t necessarily say that,” says me, “I couldn’t get a good look.  Maybe you can save it.”

“Maybe,” she says, “We’ll be round there in an hour.”

So for an hour I keep checking on this little wallaby, who’s now hiding in our front garden, eating the flowers.  Can an animal who hoes into bulbs so enthusiastically really be unsaveable?

IMG_20170723_144707Turns out, yes.  The wildlife rescue man takes one look ” he’s been sick for weeks, by the look of it..” and gets his gun.  I’ve never seen anything shot before, never even seen a gun fired.  It gives me the shivers.  He drags the poor little thing’s body down out of dog-reach, and leaves us some medication for the wombats down in the gully (who’ve caught mange from the foxes and wild dogs).  I wish myself luck catching them.

So that’s a sad day.  As The Son points out, nature is not kind.  We don’t usually see the suffering of a wallaby dragging a swollen leg around for weeks until it dies of starvation or is torn apart by predators – but it goes on, every day, all around us.  On the bright side, the wildlife man says, “he must have felt safe, near the house. He must have known you wouldn’t harm him.”

Back to the apple trees.  These, neglected, have grown to monstrous proportions (not that it puts off the bats, birds, possums and such like).  It’s impossible to keep these apple-eating predators away because you literally can’t fit a net over the tree, unless you want to try flinging one from a helicopter.  Anyway, armed with a chainsaw and a ladder, the Man has pruned them down so hard you could now fit a tea strainer over the top (note – a slight exaggeration).  Sink or swim.

IMG_20170729_155315_HDRI haven’t been (entirely) idle – I’ve been mulching and snipping, including a really messy experiment with a bag of old papers I got from a client.  When spring comes we’ll see what happens…

IMG_20170729_155348The Man has got his work cut out – for instance, this enormous gum tree has carked it (next to its twin, still alive and rooting).  It will probably, in the fullness of time, fall down (either on me, as I sit in the shed next to it scribbling, or on some unsuspecting roo).  Some guy got killed a few months ago in The Village, trying to solve just such a problem – now that’s cheerful!

IMG_20170729_155552And finally – it looks lovely and warm, but it’s not.  In about half an hour the sun will start to go down and the temperature will nose dive to around zero.

Reason No 28: we designed an English country estate…and NOW look at it!

Last weekend the very nice elderly couple who turned our property (well it was theirs, then) from virgin bush to an English country estate came to tea with us.

‘We had seven dogs when we were here,’ they said (The Man said nothing, but when two dogs are a crowd, seven dogs are what – a riot in China?) ‘and threw amazing rock and roll parties with disco balls and drunk neighbours doing nudie runs on the lawn!’

Over tea and cake they showed us what the property used to look like – the house going up step by step, from slab to outline to walls to roof, the views out over lawn and saplings now turned to full grown bush, the creek with walkable banks, the little shed that’s now a big one…

And the hazelnuts, then the pride and joy, now the huddled masses with their suckers unplucked and their catkins withering in the winter cold, and the irrigation system neglected and forlorn – I’m pretty sure I caught a tear in the husband’s eye as he brought out a polite phrase.

So they walked all over, and looked at this place that they thought they’d grow old and die in, nearly twenty years ago left.  There was lots of ‘oh, there’s the…’ and ‘do you remember when we…’ and ‘so what’s happened to the…oh THERE it is!’.  Life happens. And now they’re caravanning it across Australia, adventure a way of life, feet never still enough to get itchy.  Who can say which is the better life?  (And would we really have wanted to buy a paddock with two old people buried in it?  Personally, I think it would’ve added character.)

We’re more wattle than oak-tree oriented – but I’d kinda like to have parties like that. Although I don’t like parties, and the Man is even less enthusiastic.  Still….all the neighbours letting their hair down, nobody worrying about the designated driver, music loud enough to wake the roos, crazy lighting and dancing in the firelight….

Ok, let’s be honest – it’s somebody else’s idea of a good time, I’d be looking at the clock around ten and wishing everybody’d slope off home  – but it sure sounds like the glory days.  We shall not see their like again.

Reason No 27: Country people sing out of tune.

But at least they sing! I’ve discovered a weird, antique phenomenon here in the sticks – a creature that is virtually extinct in more thickly-peopled areas, although much talked of nevertheless – a sort of urban myth if you like.

This myth is called ‘our community’.  Where I come from, ‘our community’ is discussed with annoying regularity, especially by people in government and people hanging off it, and sometimes, also, by people who ride bikes with cane baskets on the front and grow vegetables on their nature strips.  But in a city, this creature ‘the community’ doesn’t really exist, in my experience.  What you have, if you’re lucky, is neighbours.  Maybe a friendly street.  That’s it – unless you’re all united in righteous fury about a halfway house being established up the road or something.

But out here, ‘the community’ really exists – and it holds singalongs.  In the local church, with the ladies preparing Anzacs, scones and home-made party pies in the annexe, and the village schoolkids trooping in to perform wobbly dance numbers, and the local talent singing covers of Neil Diamond songs and sometimes their own compositions, guitars at the ready and concertinas unfurled.  Someone read a funny story (it WAS funny, if curiously formal).  Someone dressed up as a town crier and MC’ed.  There was a choir, and little tables.

It reminded me – if that’s the right word for something you never even experienced in the first place – of some scene in Jane Austen where the hostess calls on Amelia to play the pianoforte, and then Edward accompanies her in his excellent amateur bass baritone.  Some people sang a little out of tune.  Some people’s guitar skills were a tad rusty. But who cares – they gave it a go! Would I be any better? (No, I wouldn’t)  Would I have the guts to get up there and recite to the scone-crunching masses? (Maybe.  Next time.  If they’re lucky.)

Afterwards, ladies with large upper arms drank tea with flannel-clad farmers, hippies tamed by long domesticity sat down with their wheelie-walker-enabled friends, and relatively young parvenus to the area like me made a few new acquaintances (mainly by butting in to conversations with a plate full of someone else’s biscuits and no shame).  The elderly lady I came with pointed out the local landmarks (‘there’s Henry Hickory.  You can’t turn around without bumping into a Hickory down here’, ‘…and that’s Margaret.  She’s chief of the Fire Brigade – you’ll want to get to know HER.’  And so on.

So it turns out, the Community  is NOT a legend born of nameless urban yearnings.  It exists.  It gossips.  It cares.  It’s here.  I think I like it (at least till they all get their pitchforks out).  On the way home, however, it bit me – a big stone in the sump and that was the end of my fancy pants city car (they won’t even pay $100 for parts, down here).

 

Reason No 26: does country living kill your brain cells?

Am I getting boring?

I called my sister the other day and she was just rushing out to see an opera.  ‘I’ll call you tomorrow!’ she said – and then she didn’t, because she had to go to a poetry reading and then out for lunch at some cafe and then….

So when we finally DO get on the blower, it’s my turn to entertain her with all the things I’ve been doing.

‘Oh ahrrr, turnips’re coming along nicely…’

I exaggerate, as usual – but really, in the country, nothing much happens.  The weather does stuff.  The plants grow, or don’t.  The elderly folks tell me tales of their doings in the early 20th century, and the parlous state of the glassware.  Nothing to write home about.

To add insult to injury, The Girl is now at some picturesque village in France having adventures and freshly baked baguettes.  Ok, our home is also picturesque and (sometimes) adventuresome, but it’s our HOME.  I don’t know if there’ll ever come a time when my feet don’t occasionally itch to be Somewhere Else – especially, for some reason, Europe.  I know I’m not supposed to like Europe, because getting there warms the globe, and Asia is only next door, and why not ‘see your own country first’.  To which I can only reply, shut up, I like castles (and if you’ve seen one golden Buddha you’ve seen them all)!

Which makes me wonder, am I becoming a cud-chewing rural?  I read, I write, I compose a bit – but I’m not exactly over-stimulated.  Does this mean my brain pathways are turning into potholed back roads, and I’ll get dementia in another year or two?  Does it mean I’ll get boring? (Maybe I already was boring. Whatever.)

I’d rather live here – watching grass grow – then THERE, watching traffic flow – but I probably have to start getting out more.  Maybe I’ll start a local writers’ group (only with some sort of exclusion clause covering the local poet who writes odes to nature which would make a wattle wither).

Do people’s higher faculties shrivel up and drop off in the country?  Should I be worried?