A Word of Distraction

November 29, 2009

nano_09_winner_120x240.pngLast year I used the NanoWriMo competition of bash out the Iraq novel. This year it was used to smash into the biography of Herb Money. Bash and smash are the only way to describe trying to write 50,000 words in 30 days, when lots of other things are out there distracting you. I now confess to taking the laptop to the shearers quarters in South Australia. Happily I can report that it was not dragged out for the purposes of writing – which meant I had to do a lot of catching up. Crossed the 50,000 word line tonight – though all I think I have achieved at this point is a good idea about how the publishers book proposal should look. That cannot be a bad thing. Now, that short story for the writers group. Oops, no, better get back into the prospectus we need to have concluded in the next 24 hours or so.

Fixing the Back Fence

November 28, 2009

fence-repair290.jpgThe boundary fences out here were built in 1898. Or to be more precise, the wire you lean on today was strung out in 1898. The steel posts replaced the wooden posts which are still lying where they were pulled out of the ground more than 110 years ago. We stood in awe of the steel and wire for it stretches as far as the eye can see in a perfectly straight line. More than 110 years old and still straight as a die.

We take some of the original posts, still strung through with original wire and sue them to dam up the trough burrowed under the bottom wire by the goats. The rabbit wire mesh is rehitched, and clipped and in some cases it is replaced or patched. We start this work as early as possible but it is not early enough. The morning is cool and fresh but he oven door opens about 9 am and by 11 we are done. Working with no hat and with minimum water intake catches out some of the team on the first day, a lesson quickly learned. We coach everyone to keep an eye on the colour of their urine as a guide to how hydrated or otherwise they are. It is a novel concept for some of them, but that is what this time away is all about after all.

We get one of the lads hydrated, get him loaded up into the ute and start back to the quarters. It is 17km from the back fence to home – as the crow flies. A bit further as the lizard wanders.

Miss Betty

November 23, 2009

miss-betty290.jpgMrs Betty. Miss Betty. Or Joy. And sometimes confused as “Betty”.  A legend in our minds. She farms a massive block of arid country in South Australia on her own. A yard with nothing out of place. Stock, which despite drought conditions are in very good condition. Over the years her family kept on top of feral animals and noxious plants. It is property that is all the more productive for that. But we are there to help since she is in her seventies and some things are trying to get away on her. We look at fixing the boundary fences, closing up holes where the goats come through in their hundreds to chop out vegetation and consume vast amounts of hard won and treasured water. Some of us will attack the range of cactus plants which are starting to creep back. The spines catch up in sheep wool and can penetrate a shearers hand. They have been known to strike though the leather sole into the foot, so we will be handling these things with care. If, in the course of our visit we espy a goat it will be culled. The government chopper borne cullers were through here in May so I am not sure if we will see any. And the mechanically minded and skilled will be able to get a range of machinery serviced, repaired or tuned. Or even all three. So in the meantime we get the brief from Miss Betty on what we can do to help. She misses nothing, sees much, sizes us all up in a heart beat, yet despite what she sees is prepared to put up with some of our nonsense for a week. That alone is worth a medal.

Sunrise at Bulyninnie

November 21, 2009

sunrise290.jpgThe hot night does not make for sound sleep and I wake in the dark. Again. It is 0430 but still dark outside, with no hint of light or noise. A little over thirty minutes later I resurface and I can hear the polite chatter of young galahs as they slowly chirrup each other awake. (they get a lot noisier in the evening). I pad out into the early morning and find the outside air fifteen degrees cooler than inside, and crisp and clean. The dust is talcum powder soft and cool under my feet. A pair of Blue Bonnet parrots change branches high up in the gum – I would not have spotted them if they had not moved. The first fly buzzes past, the lone reconnaissance flight preceding the teeming squadrons of them which will appear once the sun jolts them along. It pauses on my naked shoulder and all is quiet and still again. I leave him alone – knocking off one fly is a definition of absolute futility out here. He stands very still, as if anticipating all his busy work later in the day. As the light lifts I start to see the trudging march of sheep coming in single file out of the saltbush, plodding towards the dams and troughs for a drink. They don’t hurry but there is a doggedness of purpose in their step which is not something I usually associate with these dumb animals. But water is everything out here after all.  The sun finally lifts in a flood of silent light and the birds hush, the sheep pause and the fly rotates 180 degrees preparing for launch. The lull is over. In a few hours it will be too hot to stand on this earth and too hot to be doing any work. The signal is up – get on with it or stand down now. We have lots to do out here so I turn to head back to the quarters and find a couple of others standing there in silence too. We grin at each other, recognizing the magic of this time of the day will only fracture if we speak. So we don’t. But get girded for a days work.

3400km later…

November 21, 2009

out-there-somewhere290.jpgA road trip of any length in Australia is never something to be taken lightly. But if you have to treat it with anything approaching the cavalier, then just throw caution to the wind, and you just might get away with it. The trip clock stopped right on 3400 when I finally switched off the engine in the early hours of the morning. Read more

South Australia Road Trip

November 8, 2009

day-one-ffbc.jpgIt is way past departure time (0600 was the plan) but everyone needs to be not only upright and breathing but actually awake. So walk in circles, wait for Nick to have his Macca’s delivered then get in cars and drive a kilometre down the road to buy petrol. Then get geographically challenged in the suburbs of Sydney before actually hitting the highway and pointing the car at 1500km of highway. More from here later in the trip – where we are going there is no such thing as www or 3G or anything except Don 10 telephone cable. And there is a blessing in that I am sure. The main crew headed out this morning but two of us are delayed as final exams are sat. Then we are hitting the road and catching everyone tomorrow. Couple more photos below. Read more

Lyrebird Track

November 1, 2009

ffbc-recon-290.jpgSeven days ago more than 4 inches of rain fell on the suburb between 1030 in the morning and dinner time. Today the creeks are back to normal but the thrumming of insects in the canopy is a hard, driving buzz and the reptiles are out and about in a warm, damp and sometimes sodden bushscape. We were alert for snakes but fortunately saw none – but five or six water dragons of various sizes. It’s been three weeks since we have been out. Some of us have to confess to creaking joints – out of form already. But 11km on a hot sunny day in four hours was a reasonable effort on what is graded a “hard” track. And we took the time to “smell the roses”.

Halloween Privileges

November 1, 2009

dan290.jpgBeing asked by (adult) son to paint his face is a rare thing! So make the most of it. I could have completely flipped out with the colours but kinda behaved myself. Dorky Scooby Doo is a nice finishing touch.