An arm restrained my forehead, whilst the cold sharp blade of a hunting knife pressed at my throat. Was this to be the end? It was embarrassing how easily I was over powered, and was glad that Sensei was not there to see it. It was an unexpected move, and only my step father would have a hunting knife ready to hand. A few weeks later, I moved out.
He was even tempered most of the time. He used to show me how to fix machines and construct things, so it wasn’t all bad. But on that occasion he felt the need to make an extreme statement, which he did. He also had a lot of guns.
At the age of eighteen a decision was made. Leave. Leave now, and don’t look back. Making a decision like that, you get a lot of judgement. A whole lot of judgement. People hailing from happy and supportive families, can’t even begin to imagine why anyone would willingly choose such a path. What, have you met them? I ask in jest. Except that it isn’t funny.
Drifting away from them all was the easiest path. About a week before the cancer got my grandfather, he asked me to fix the family problems. It seemed like a big call to me, and I guess it did no harm asking. That request aside, we spoke as adults about the character of the people he was trying to burden me with. The conversation wound itself out, he fell silent. A few days later, he was dead.
Prior to our wedding, Sandra got to know my mother. At first the family were very warm and welcoming with her. It looks bad to say to someone else, you see that nice old lady over there, she’s a right nasty piece of work. A persons inner workings are hard to conceal for very long, and slowly bit by bit, they turned on Sandra. It was brutal, because for her it was so unexpected. And there was no comfort to be had in ‘I told you so’ when the very same people were going all out to mess up the wedding day. After the day my mother phoned to say: “Come and pick up the cat, or I’ll get her put down”. It would have happened too, and so we went and got the cat. That was the last bit of leverage, after that no more was allowed.
Not long afterwards, my mother and step father moved to far north Queensland (Australia’s version of Florida). It was something of a relief. There’s a lot of miles between here and there. But mostly the explanations became easier. “Nah, my mum moved to Queensland” is an easier explanation than “My folks have got a bit of a temper and a lot of guns”. Nobody wants to hear that story, and even despite that story, a lot of blame still gets heaped at your feet. Surely they can’t be that bad? What, have you met them? – is the inevitable reply.
Over the years, and despite all of the written words, both here on the blog and in published media, I’ve kept something of a low profile. You won’t find me on social media, and unless you know where to look, or are invited, you won’t find me at all on the interweb. About maybe a dozen or more years ago, an old mate contacted me. My mother had tracked him down on Facebook. She wanted him to let me know that my step father was dying of cancer. Spare a thought for my old mate, who has a very loving and supportive family, but was rudely thrust into the mess through no fault of his own. He knew the story, and he sat on telling me about it for almost a month. We haven’t spoken since. There’s a lot of judgement.
On Thursday night Sandra and I were in the local pub enjoying a pint of dark ale, having dinner and keeping warm by the open fire. It was a cold winters night, and only the hardiest of locals were out. We got to talking about the recent death of Sandra’s father. The question hung in the air. Was my mother still alive? We hadn’t thought about her for many years. Turns out, she died in 2017. That was unexpected. The funeral notice described her as the matriarch, and the ungracious thought popped into my head that the Godfather would have been more appropriate. My older sisters and their children were also listed. All the same it was a bit of a shock.
There was a name missing from the death notice, it matters not. They would have liked me better had I been needy, dependent or seriously dysfunctional. The intellectual, Gore Vidal, is attributed as having said: “Every time a friend succeeds, I die a little”. It’s not a perspective I respect, for you can choose to see other people, but just as easily a person can choose to see a reflection of themselves. And those mirrors may reflect poorly upon those who choose to do so.
It all sounds a bit bleak doesn’t it? The truth is otherwise. There are obvious costs, like not having siblings or parents to pick you up when you fall, or to support you when you need help. And I’ve never known familial warmth. It’s like being on the wrong side of a plate glass window staring in at a mid-winters feast in a particularly unpleasant Dickensian tale. However, with costs, there are always benefits, and I’m an independent person, able to think my own thoughts, find my own paths and importantly, I know how to get by. And if I have not known familial warmth, I have known both love and the companionship of friends. And that’s enough for me.
Moving half a dozen citrus trees to a sunnier location is easy to say. In reality, the job took me most of a day to complete. New holes had to be dug and the soil was fertilised. Then the trees which were to be relocated, were lifted from their existing locations, moved and then replanted. And lastly the trees had to be fenced so as to protect them from the destructive capabilities of the wallabies (a slightly smaller forest dwelling kangaroo).
Eventually the area where the citrus trees now reside will be fenced off with access gates and wide paths, and it should then be easier to maintain and feed those trees.
A days work was also spent on splitting and hauling firewood. It seems counter intuitive to do this work during the winter months, however there is a snake risk with this task during the summer months, and so it is best not to push your luck in that regard. The new yellow power wheelbarrow was pressed into service and I’m very impressed with its capabilities.
A few weeks ago, we moved a steel rock gabion cage near to the large shed. This week we half filled it with rocks which had been collected in various locations over the past few months. The steel cages contain a huge quantity of rocks when filled and sewn shut.
Last Tuesday there was a rare heavy frost. We woke that morning to discover the outside air temperature was freezing at 0’C / 32’F.
The red Dirt Mouse Suzuki was resplendent in its coating of ice.
Ice covered the paddocks and orchards and turned the ground white.
Most of the plants growing at this time of year shrugged off the frost. At this time of year one of my favourite leafy greens are the red and green mustard plants.
We leave water out for the dogs, birds and insects, and that had frozen solid.
At this cold time of year, only the citrus trees produce any fruit here. And right now there are Meyer Lemon’s, Mandarin’s and Pomello’s (a grapefruit). I’m hoping that in future years now that they are in a sunnier locale, the rest of the citrus trees will produce as well as these.
When we first moved here, it was commonly held wisdom that citrus trees would not grow in this mountain range. It’s hard to know whether the climate has shifted, the farm is in a micro-climate which favours citrus, or the common wisdom was wrong. The citrus trees moved over the past few weeks have been very slow growing for many years, but time will tell whether the plants are outside their range, or the original conditions were inappropriate. My best guess is that the plants needed more sun than they were getting, but I can’t say for sure whether that is the case. The experiment however, is worth the cost.
Onto the flowers:
The temperature outside now at about 10.00am is 9’C (48’F). So far this year there has been 557.6mm (22.0 inches) which is up from last weeks total of 549.2mm (21.6 inches)