Reason No 44: Rain

I sometimes wish I had a nice, orderly property. It’s two weeks since I mowed the grass around the house and already it’s getting problem-long. But it’s not dry enough to mow it again – plus it’s fiendishly humid. That said, nobody around here likes to complain about too much water. “I never complain about the rain,” says my friend, “I just remember the fires.” Fair enough, he stayed up three nights running raking up embers and putting out spot fires on his place; he was THIS far from being another Rural Fire Service statistic.

The family came over and we all walked to the creek, and then the waterfall rock pool. I usually swim there in summer, it’s deep green with a fall of clear glass coming over the rocks. Now it’s a raging yellow torrent, full of dirt the rain’s washed away. The two guys got in anyway, while most of the women rolled their eyes. Still, they were vindicated – inasmuch as they didn’t get swept downstream and bashed unconscious against the rocks.

Properties are like babies: they make you feel constantly guilty. A couple came round yesterday for a potential house sit – I caught myself apologising for things. The grass – really, I did mow it! The ivy on the solar shed – I do cut it back! The jungle that is the paddocks – well, I’ve been calling the guy with the slasher, but he hasn’t called me back. Guess he’s busy, who would’ve thought! But then of course there’s pride. Have an apricot. Only planted it last year, how about that?

When I come back from Europe, at the end of winter, I’ll start getting the fences fixed. I’ll just make a few paddocks at first, enough to keep a few horses or sheep in, then if that works I’ll expand from there.

I’m thinking about putting up a ‘tiny house’ and leasing it to somebody. Maybe a nice handy young couple who need somewhere to live and love tromping about cutting stuff up. I don’t think you could do it for less than $50,000…

Ideally? Half the year travelling, half the year enjoying my beautiful, wild property and communing with cows. Not nature – nature runs away and hides in the tea tree scrub. And a person with a chainsaw taking care of all those annoying CHOPPING problems.

Excuse the burbling – it’s just a sort of diary, for me. I do, actually, love it here.

On another subject – books. My (as yet unpublished) sexy Byzantine adventure novel Pandora’s Jar is available for free, for a limited time, in return for your feedback. It’s a bloody good read, so I’ve been told by unbiased sources. You can find out more and download half, here. If you like what you read and want to know what happens next, just email me at fallaciousrose@outlook.com with your comments, and I’ll send the other half.

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Reason No 43: Weeds

It seems to have been raining for months. The roos can’t keep up with the grass in the paddocks; it’s already past knee height and every step is more of a slosh, really. This is the more remarkable when you consider that I live in a kind of bowl, with a watercourse at the bottom, and even on the upper sides of this bowl, my feet sink into mud.

The upside of all this is flowers. Trees that have been sulking for years of drought have now suddenly come into bloom, in red and honey-white and hot pink. Things have popped up in the garden that I didn’t even know were there – waiting it out, I guess. Roses are climbing all over the place. I have a rose-covered cottage (well, almost).

The downside is weeds. Although to be honest I can’t always tell the difference. Yellow strawflowers cover the dry banks, Patterson’s Curse is colonising the paddocks, what my mum used to call ‘wet the beds’ show their sunny little faces everywhere, thistles produce purple furry statements of intent to conquer, and little blooms of unknown origin dot the grass. Also, fireweed. Like dragonseed, for every one you pluck, fifty laugh in your face. The Council won’t be pleased.

I walk the paddocks with my dog bouncing through the tall grass, and wonder if I’m ever going to get this mess under control. Should I even try? Maybe just wait for the next fire season to sort it all out, and sort me out too. They said I couldn’t do it, but…yeah, they were right. I can’t do it. Only money and men in blue singlets on large yellow machines will do it. Hmmm.

Reason No 42: Ambulance Bankruptcy

I wish I had a photo of my hand to stick up here. I mean, when it was gross. So gross that even my closest relatives refused to look at it. I’m talking Frankenstein monster gross, cosmetic surgery live gross, zombie sex gross…ok maybe not that bad. But bad.

Here’s the thing. I’m moseying around the farm, looking at all the shit that should have been done but isn’t getting done because…general laziness and so on. I see that the timber-framed netting thingummy around my fig tree (to keep the birds out) is falling down, because it’s rotten and nobody has done anything about it for about three millennia. I decide, NOW is the time!

I get out my wobbly ladder, my rusty saw and my claw-hammer. I plant the ladder on the side of the hill next to the thingummy, climb up and prepare to dismantle the structure, with a view to building (well, ok, getting someone else to build) a new one. What could go wrong?

The wobbly ladder…wobbles. I fall off. Clutching at straws on the way down, a rusty nail rips right through my palm next to the thumb and next thing I know, I’m sitting on the ground, looking at a chunk of raw flesh hanging off my hand and thinking, shit, now what?

I call my nearby friend. He doesn’t answer. I consider the lady next door, but she’s ill. In a blood-soaked (by now) panic, I call the ambulance. An hour later I’m in hospital and being (very slowly) dealt with, and the emergency is over. BUT – two weeks later I get the bill. Nine hundred dollars, or near as makes no difference. Ouch!

The lesson? If you live on your own on a rural property, 1) don’t climb ladders 2) if you do, make sure a friend is standing nearby with bandages and a fast car 3) if you don’t have any friends, learn to like bleeding to death at home. The alternative, at least for the financially straitened, is worse!

Oh, and the above is the hand NOW. Not gross (much). Safe to look at. But a healthy reminder that caution is the better part of valour – and also an interesting challenge for palm readers, don’t you think?

Reason No 41: Doomsday

I’ve watched Contagion. I’ve lived through six weeks of Coronavirus lockdown. I’ve seen the shelves stripped bare of toilet paper and noodles. I know what’s coming for us!

Kidding, sorta…but I’m gradually coming around to the view that some sort of large-scale catastrophe is heading our way. Of the ‘if it’s not this it’s that, and if it’s not that, it’s the other’ variety. If it’s not a REAL pandemic (by which I mean, something more like the medieval sweating sickness, or bubonic plague), then it’s war with China. If not war with China, then it’s climate change, drought, the collapse of our food supply system, hoarding and looting…and if not that, the Great Depression Mark 2.  There are numerous other candidates – soil degradation, bee extinction, running out of water, you name it. SOMETHING is gonna hit us.

So since I live on a big block of relatively isolated land, I’ve been thinking about what I can do to make it disaster proof. I’m pretty skint, so that puts monster water tanks and impregnable fire-proof bunkers out of the ball park for the moment, but I can do veges. I’ve been planting salad stuff, which means I haven’t had to buy it for ages, but what I’m going to need is carbs – potatoes, turnips, all that kind of stuff – and variety. I guess some chickens wouldn’t go astray…well, the problem with chickens is that they probably would.

I’ve noticed that if you don’t go to the shops much, you work out what will feed you cheaply for a long time, and really, you don’t need much. Any kind of pulses, for instance – a handful makes a huge difference to any meal, and dried pulses last for ages if you can keep the moths out.  Flour – you can make bread (which I do, when I feel like it), biscuits, rissoles, muffins…none of which I routinely eat,, but I could.  Oil. If you’ve got these things, you can survive.  (And stock cubes, of course. With stock cubes you can LIVE!)

Well, maybe I’m going nuts. At least I haven’t applied for a gun licence yet…

Here’s my possum Edgar. I’m training him to attack intruders instead.

IMG_20200410_103119_HHT

Reason No 40: Goats and stuff…

I’m quite pleased with myself because, armed with only a pruning saw, I managed to prune both the apple trees – and also managed not to be hit by the sawn-off bits as they plummeted to the ground. All credit to the Man, before he left he chopped off their heads with a chain saw – but I completed the slaughter!

It’s not so easy doing these things because my damn shoulder plays up. I’ve been reading a few things recently where someone suggests that 55 is the teetering borderline of old age – where you still feel kinda like 25, but one push and you shoot straight through to the geriatric ward. Hope not, because there’s a lot to do.

I looked up portable electric fencing for goats and it seems relatively cheap and easy to install (and move about – which it should be, being portable). Meaning, sometime, I could get a couple of cute little kids of the horned variety and point them at my blackberry. There is a temptation,when faced with so many choices (and so little money) to live entirely in the future. I sometimes feel very happy at the thought of what I WILL do…COULD do. The thing is to DO IT.

At the same time, I’ve been singing some more. I wonder if my friends and relations secretly think I shouldn’t sing, because I sound like one of those poor people who go on Idol and make the audience snigger. But there’s something about putting lyrics to music and then belting it out…I love it. So here is the latest offering – a little grumpy, but there you go.

Reason No 39: 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…

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.