The Editor, Sandra, had warned me about the perils of relying on the country train services. It just wasn’t all that great a service way back in the day. The infrequent services were inexplicably cancelled or late with little warning.
A formative memory for her was heading into the city in order to sit a Botany exam at University. Sandra’s mother had dropped her at the train station, waited a bit, and then departed. All seemed well. Then the train was cancelled, and she had to draw upon all her resources to get into the city and sit the exam. This was in the days before mobile phones. Taxi’s were mind bendingly expensive. And it was no easy feat to get in touch with anybody. Fortunately, a friend came to the rescue.
But there I was at the country train station car park on Saturday morning. For a summer’s day it sure was cold. 14’C (57’F) and the windscreen of the car was soaked with drizzle. The radio station was playing a haunting and beautiful song from a few years back by Vallis Alps (East). I was reluctant to step out of the car, but the country trains wait for no man, or song.
A woollen jumper was necessary to protect against the cold wet weather. Thus armoured I walked through the empty car park towards the station – which admittedly wasn’t far. The station dates back to the Victorian era where it was an important stop along the train line from Melbourne to the goldfields and distant inland river port of Swan Hill.
The station was not manned that morning. Standing on the platform the information screen displayed the next train as being due in over an hours time. What had happened to the 10.33am train? Bing bong sounded a noise from a speaker. Mumbling is never pleasant when you need to hear what has been said, and the ability to enunciate gets about as much teaching time in the education system these days as does spelling.
I couldn’t be entirely sure, but the message over the speaker was either ‘Big Brother is Watching You’, or ‘the train had been cancelled’. Usually when trains are cancelled, a bus replacement service is provided – but not this time. A young lady who was also waiting for the train informed me that she had heard that there was a shortage of train and bus drivers due to the health subject which dare not be named.
The few passengers left the station platform and headed in all directions. Fortunately with a mobile phone, I could have a whinge to Sandra about the situation. A knowing sigh was as good as ‘I told you so’. We’ve suddenly gone back to the past and it’s now thirty years ago, without all the super angsty alternative grunge rock bands.
It would be nice if the only disruption was a cancelled train, but things are very strange right now. That morning I drove into the city and paid for all day parking. The restaurant where I grabbed some lunch had more staff than customers, but hey, at least the business had staff. And compared to two years ago, the city streets are quiet.
I’m of the opinion that the future belongs to the adaptable, and both Sandra and I learned how to survive the recession we had to have in the early 1990’s. Back then you had to struggle to put food on the table and keep a roof over your head, what with the low wages, 10% unemployment, angsty alternative grunge rock music etc. We’re adaptable.
One of the constant themes I hear since commencing writing this blog eight years ago, is that we work hard. I’ve never been entirely sure what the comment means. Working hard compared to whom? Anyway, whatever the case, I’d prefer to have infrastructure and systems on the farm which work and have been tested by time. And if there are systems or infrastructure on the farm which have proven to be good, but not good enough, we’re adaptable. We have no problems modifying or replacing them. It is harder to live with systems that fail or could be better.
Right now however, it is not just the train system and restaurants which are looking a bit strange of late. There are shortages of building materials, and when you can get them, they cost heaps more than only just recently. Who knows where this strangeness will lead us all? Probably nowhere good. But with that uncertainty in mind, we’ve decided to modify a number of items of infrastructure.
Regular readers will know that over the past three months the new shed has been completed. Except that once we put all of the items in the shed, the building proved to be too small. Sandra had warned me about this possibility several weeks earlier, and I can only acknowledge that I was wrong. This week, we extended the new shed by six feet.
The three days of work that took did not include the time I spent gathering materials for the extension. That itself was no easy feat and neither was it cheap.
The first step was to dismantle the front of the shed.
The front posts for the shed then had to be set into the ground six feet further in front. And because the cladding was steel and had already been cut to size, the new posts had to be set at exactly the same dimensions – to the millimetre – as the original front of the shed. Just for a touch of excitement the weather that day was 35’C (95’F) sunny and humid. Sweat poured out of every pore of my body and Sandra suggested that I was a bit snippy towards the end of that work day. I’d have to suggest that she was also a bit snippy. When we took the photo at about 2.30pm that hot afternoon I had my best mardy bum face on. By way of explanation we’d gotten up at 5.30am that morning in order to beat the heat – yeah right.
Just to add to the fun, later that day a tropical air mass increased the humidity but brought no relief from the heat.
Even the super upbeat Ollie had had enough.
Another early morning – who knew it was dark before 6am? And another mid afternoon finish on a hot and humid day. But by then, all of the carpentry had been completed and the barn doors had been rehung.
At that stage the mardy bum face had not quite been replaced with my more usual upbeat expression.
The next day of work was again hot and even more humid than previously. A storm was forecast to hit the farm at some point in the afternoon. Fortunately, I’d managed to install the additional drainage and all of the roof and wall cladding before the storm reached here.
The tools were put away and the area was cleaned up. Then it got dark fast. By 3.30pm it was so dark that I had to put the lights on in the house in order to see what I was doing. Lightning flashed nearby like a rave, and the thunder cracked loudly over head. It was one of the loudest thunder storms I’d heard and fortunately none of the tall trees on the farm were hit by lightning. The wind picked up, and the rain smashed down. It was an awesome storm and it continued to rain into the next day. I cooled off after the mornings work by heading out into the torrential rain just to make sure that the many water tank inlet filters didn’t clog up and overflow. Even with a large and sturdy umbrella I was soaked. It wasn’t cold that day, the cold weather came the next day.
The new shed is working really well, and we’ve finally been able to neatly store all of our hand tools in one place along the walls inside the shed.
All the other work which goes into keeping this juggernaut on track continued quietly in the background. Batches of strawberry and raspberry jam were made. Yum!
The combination of heat and rain is causing the plants to finally grow. This is great because the start of the growing season was very cold and wet and plant growth was so slow. But that seems to be changing now.
Due to the cold early start to the growing season, there wasn’t a lot of fruit on the trees. But the very late plants such as kiwi fruit vines are making up for that lack and have produced hundreds of fruit. They should be ready to harvest in a few months time.
Triffid alert! The tomato plants have doubled in size this week:
And they have produced a lot of green (as yet unripe) fruit.
The tomatoes will still require some decent hot weather in order to ripen, but compared to a couple of weeks ago, the plants are doing amazingly.
The beans were also a bit late to start this year, but they too have made up for lost time and are producing heaps of beans.
Most days we are harvesting a decent sized tub of large blackberries. Some are used in breakfast, some will be made into jam, and the remainder will produce a very tasty wine.
The combination of the heat and rain has been very good for the vegetables, and even the pumpkins have finally begun to grow.
The tree frogs are enjoying the plentiful rainfall and feed this growing season. I like the tree frogs as they happily consume spiders.
Onto the flowers:
The temperature outside now at about 10.00pm is 22’C (72’F). So far this year there has been 100.0mm (3.9 inches) which is up from last weeks total of 33.8mm (1.3 inches)