A person gets a lot of status working at the top end of town. Did that for years and got the t-shirt. Owned an old Porsche 911 too. A cool car, the thing has authority and street cred. People try to drag you off at the lights all the time. You don’t have to worry about that, it’s a Porsche, you’ve already won. Had a nice inner urban Victorian era terrace house, which we’d restored ourselves from a shell. That had status too. The thing is though, forget about all that stuff, living up in the bush is the most fun thing to do – ever.
It’s funny, but sometimes you think you know something, then life proves that you don’t. Living up in the bush has been a truly remarkable experience. That’s something I’d never expected at the start of this journey way back in 2008. It got me thinking about what else I have liked which has surprised me. So, in 2018 I began writing down those things, and will share some of them with you below.
2018 – Big dogs: The animal shelter lied about Ollie. They reckoned he was an Australian cattle dog at six months of age. Turns out he is a Bull Arab (Australian pig hunting dog) and was probably only about three months of age, maybe younger. Who knew he’d get so big? And he’s a fearsome looking dog too. Sadly, his looks don’t do his personality justice, because he’s such a sweet natured dog. If he were smaller, he’d be the perfect lap dog, he just isn’t small. Over the years I’ve known dachshunds with really bad attitudes, and we’d only ever owned small to medium sized dogs before. But by the time we found out how big he’d get, it was too late, he’d wormed his way into our hearts. Then we had a big dog.
2018 – Landscaping: Long term readers will know by now that we spend a lot of time and energy in cleaning up the property. As this work gets done, ever more wildlife turns up, and the place gets easier to maintain. What’s not to like about that? Of course it takes a lot of physical work to achieve those ends, and it’s been remarked upon before that we work hard. That’s a perspective, another point of view is that the struggle for status ain’t worth it. I’d much rather be digging the earth.
2019 – Subwoofer: Who can forget the dramas with the old Suzuki Swift AKA Dirt Mouse? The car had come to the end of it’s life, we just hadn’t acknowledged the fact. Wanting to be environmentally responsible we’d spent half the cost of a replacement vehicle on repairs. Then on one dark evening in the big smoke of Melbourne, the old dirt mouse broke down, even after all that care and attention. Spare a thought for the taxi driver who dumped us off in the middle of the forest in pea-soup thick fog with nothing to be seen but tall trees. He didn’t find the response: Yeah, we know where we are, to be reassuring, but seemed satisfied enough with the tip. The dirt mouse was replaced with the new model Suzuki Swift. Not a flashy car, but good enough for us and it’s lighter and more economical than previously. The factory speakers in the car were terrible, and below my minimum expectations of such things. The speaker upgrade kit came with a subwoofer which is an additional amplifier and big speaker which reproduces deep bass notes. You’ve never heard RÜFÜS DU SOL – Alive , until it’s been replayed with a proper subwoofer. Whoa! Who knew I was a techno fan?
2019 – Dark Ales: The local Mount Macedon pub had organised a take over of the public bars taps, with stouts from a local brewer. The brewer and the staff at the pub had set the challenge to come up with some whacky flavours. It was quite the festive atmosphere when the brews were finally delivered and put on the taps. Previously I’d taken no notice of the darker ales, but the mushroom stout completely floored me for sheer excellence. It’s been said before that a tiger can change its stripes.
2020 – Puppies: By sheer luck, just prior to the bonkers lock downs due to the health subject which dare not be named, we managed to obtain two Kelpie puppies at twelve weeks of age from a local farmer. Didn’t know the first thing about puppies because we’d always had older rescue dogs before that. And Kelpie’s are working dogs, so they have a well earned reputation for high energy levels which should make a person think twice. Turns out, puppies are lovely, and yes Kelpie’s are high energy dogs that need to be worked. But then we’re probably high energy people and they’re a good fit. Having Kelpie’s for us, is like meeting your peeps (as the kids would say).
2020 – Globe Artichokes: Strange looking plants, easily mistaken for weeds. You wouldn’t want to cook up a choke which had been on the plant overly long and was in the process of opening the large spiky purple flower. But get the timing right, cook it right, and the vegetable is a superb addition to the list of: Stuff I like to eat.
2021 – Spelt Flour: 2021 was a strange year due to society collectively deciding to lose it’s freakin’ mind. There were a lot of shortages that year, and that’s what you get when businesses get shut down – stuff runs out. Anyway, since moving up into the bush we’d baked our own bread. It’s not hard. We decided to pad out the flour supplies with some spelt flour. Now, I don’t reckon that spelt flour makes a nice loaf of bread, but when you roll the more usual bread wheat flour based dough in spelt flour, the crust becomes superb. An experiment which delivered. Yum!
2021 – Old Detective Fiction: Sandra obtained for me as a very special birthday present, the back catalogue of my favourite dead author, Jack Vance. Many years before 2021, fans of the author had put together a completed set of works and reintroduced much of the text which had been removed by editors concerned with page length. The author had serialised a lot of his works in magazines way back in the day, and so page length was an issue. The collected works were known as the ‘Vance Integral Edition’. I’d only learned about the effort two years after subscriptions and printing of the edition had ceased. A regret. A few ago, the rights holders began reproducing the works as individual books printed on low acid paper. We’d originally planned to purchase all of the books over a number of years, but the general craziness of the times combined with supply shortages made the decision for us. An order was placed with a book retailer, who was otherwise closed, for the entire lot of books. They turned up in the mail, and there were smiles all around. The author wrote successfully in a few genres, and in among the books were a couple of detective stories – The Sheriff Joe Bain mysteries. Wow, but were they good or what? Completely unexpected.
2022 – Large sheds: Many years ago a mate described our property as a house and a small village of sheds. It was an astute observation. By 2022, we’d outgrown the village of small sheds, and had to do something about it. A new machinery shed and much larger greenhouse was planned and then constructed. I don’t know what other people do on weekends… The larger sheds have made life so much easier, and they look good too, being custom designed and made to fit the site. And doing the work ourselves meant that we didn’t have to worry about the tradesmen shortage.
2022 – Chilli: A few years ago we began growing chilli plants. The run of cold and wet summers has made that task harder than it should be, but that’s life for you. By 2022, we produced our first reasonable harvest (this year is better again). The chilli’s get dried and then blitzed up using a mezzaluna. Nothing quite brings summer heat into winter food, than home grown dried chilli flakes. And they taste way better than the store purchased items.
2023 – Stihl battery chainsaw: Late last year there was a lot of flooding. We went to an agricultural expo up north towards the end of the year, and it was very wet there. It may have gotten even wetter after we left the expo early (a benefit of reading the weather forecast). Anyway, at the expo was a supplier of farm tools, and they had a little hand held battery chainsaw for sale. Sandra suggested it would be a good idea to get it. When surrounded by forest, a person can never have too many chainsaws. It’s awesome as a pruning tool. This little beast of a machine will cut through a couple of inches of hardwood. Utterly bonkers, but so good and useful.
There’s been some other stuff…
The weather this week has been mostly dry, sometimes hot, with occasional early morning fog. One morning looked particularly eerie.
Last week’s Antarctic blast of cold and wet weather motivated us to bring in yet another days worth of firewood. It all was stored in a shed out of the weather. Sure, it’ll be hot again this week, but on average last year was very cold and wet, and we ended up being a couple of days short of firewood. That’s not good when it is your only heating fuel, so a decision was made to bring more in, then we did something about it.
Regular readers will know that over the past few weeks and months we’ve made many necessary modifications to the solar power system for the house. Saturday was a hot day, so we decided to stress test the power system and observe what happened. Heat and electronics is usually a problematic mix. The modifications have proven to be successful, and the system worked a treat. Due to the position of the sun in the sky, the time of day, the heat on the panels, the capacity of the batteries etc. we were unable to obtain the full output of the solar panels, but I’d say 95 amps at about 56V was pretty darn good.
During the day I regularly checked the electronics and connections to see whether they were getting warm. The system just ran smoothly. After many hours we ran of out of new ideas as to how to use more electricity. And overall we used 398Ah at about an average of 56V which equates to 22.3kWh for the day. Many people expect to use more electricity than that amount every single day. Expectations are nice and all, but I dunno.
Another day was spent cleaning up the surrounding forest. Why the old timer loggers did some of the things they did, is a true mystery. Many trees appear to have been simply pushed or pulled over, presumably by a bulldozer – then just left there.
The clean up is well worth the effort, and the large old trees here have a much better chance of surviving the next bushfire when it comes through, not to mention everything else here. It’s almost forty years ago to the day that the 1983 Ash Wednesday fires swept through this mountain range. So much damage, so much loss of life – of all kinds. Some species never re-established in the mountain range.
I had a spare hour or so of free time, so the final component of the early 1990’s era most excellent Yamaha T-80 FM tuner was installed. The quality of the sound is nothing short of amazing, and I doubt many devices produced these days could match it.
The garden terrace bed with the Globe Artichokes was looking a bit ratty, so the plants were cut back and the soil in the bed fertilised. The plants should grow back.
The soil in the new citrus orchard was given a good feed and the plants received some deep watering. The burst of summer weather has dried out the top layers of soil.
The warmer weather has somehow produced even more insect life, and at times clouds of butterflies and moths hang over the garden beds.
The warmer weather has increased the size of many of the pears and apples. The local bird population is assisting with the job of thinning the fruit.
And finally the burst of summer weather has produced many small cherry tomatoes. I hope they get to ripen this year.
We’ve got some peas growing which I’m a bit dubious about eating lest they be sweet peas. Apparently those are toxic, but I thought they only grew earlier in the season. Dunno. If anyone can identify these peas, I’d be happy to hear what other people have to say? The peas may be: Pea ‘Purple Podded Dutch’ otherwise known as ‘Capucinjer’ but I’m not really certain.
Onto the flowers:
The temperature outside now at about 10am is 11’C (51’F). So far this year there has been 63.2mm (2.5 inches) which is up from last weeks total of 62.4mm (2.5 inches)