One day at the lookout

HI. My name is Ashighasa. I’m a kite. No not that sort of kite like the ones we saw in the Flying Working Dog, but a kite, you know, like the bird kite. Well, anyway, I found this fantastic spot to sit and watch the world go by, and while I’m at it, to maybe spot dinner.

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It’s a great lookout. I get up here all by myself, no competition for finding something to eat. Just me and all I can see. Such a good life.

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Hey!! Where did you come from? Turn you head for just a minute and look what happens!

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OK buddy, you can stay but just sit there and don’t copy what I do or I’ll get upset. OK Bird!
Sure thing pal.

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You got that bird!!
OK mate, I’ll just look over here. I’m sure there is something happening over here.

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Hey!! You!! What do you think you are doing? What did I say!!
Me? What did I do? I’ve been looking over here for ages.

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I told you before. Don’t copy me.

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Look bird. I am serious about you being up here on my lookout. You have to do whatever I say!!

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He he he

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The Cowards Punch

When I was about 16 or 17 in the 70’s, two mates and I were heading from my home in Lidcombe along Kerrs Parade to Berala where some of the girls we used to hang out with were sitting around listening to music and doing stuff teenage girls did in those days.

I was a tallish skinny kid with thick glasses, long hair and quite happy-go-lucky sort of kid. I never had fights at school or anything like that as I was, and still am, a peaceful sort of person. Although Stephen Cash, a bit of a bully in about 4th class wanted to fight for some reason and I somehow managed to get him in a head lock and made him cry. Thank goodness for World Championship Wrestling on the TV on Saturday mornings lol. But in the main there wasn’t any sort of physical activity from me. I was quite skinny and not much meat on my bones so I didn’t have the physique to be some sort of stand over kid.

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Steven and I playing at a concert or school dance

There was quite a group of us kids who all went to school together and once at High School, the boys went to Homebush Boys High and the girls went to Homebush West Girls High School or Auburn Girls High School, depending on which side of the railway line they lived. During this time we met a lot of kids from all around the area who didn’t go to Lidcombe Public School. Kids from Berala and as far away as Burwood.

Most weekends we ended up at someones house to play music, dance and generally goof around as teenagers did and we always walked to each others houses, sometimes with a couple of mates or in a bit of a larger group of boys and girls, quite often carrying guitars.

One day, as I started to say, a few of us were heading to Keryns place at Berala, just walking along, probably joking around and talking the rubbish that teenagers do, having a good time on a warm sunny day. We were about half way to Berala when this motorbike went past, did a U-turn and came back and stopped in front of us. One of my mates said something like this looks like trouble but I just said it’ll be OK as I knew most of the people in Lidcombe and I had seen this bloke on his motorbike around.

As we got closer he got off his bike and, as we walked past, said “What did you say when I rode past?” to me, probably as I was the tallest. He was blocking the footpath which made us stop. I said I didn’t know what he was talking about as none of us had said anything, we weren’t even talking amongst our selves. Then I noticed a light blue Holden sedan stop and four blokes got out. One I recognised as the brother of one of the girls, Janet Church, from my class in Primary School but didn’t know the other three. I didn’t really look at them as I was too busy with this dickhead in a leather jacket.

I said I didn’t know what he was talking about and he just kept saying “What did you say” and I kept saying nothing until I finally said “Well what did I say.”

His reply was “I’ll tell you what you fuckin’ said” and with that swung a punch that hit me just above my left eye, sending my glasses flying but I didn’t hit the ground and managed not to get hit again. One of my mates picked up my glasses and we just walked off. I don’t really remember if there was any further “conversation” with him and we just kept going towards Berala, me with blood streaming down my face and not really seeing much as once I didn’t have glasses on, everything was rather fuzzy.

We were almost to Berala shopping centre when the thump thump of a motorbike once again pulled up along side of us. I think I must have had enough of this shit and said “What the fuck do you want now! Haven’t you had enough fun” or something similar. This didn’t go down too well with the other blokes as they had escaped unscathed. He came over and asked if I was going to the cops in Berala which was in the general direction we were headed. I said no and probably gave more lip, I wish I could remember!!

Well he came over and stuck out his hand and said that I was OK and he had seen me around the place blah blah blah. He then said that if anyone gave me any grief to tell them that I knew Terry Wilkins and I’d be OK. And with that, he rode away accompanied by the car full of blokes.

When we got to Keryn’s place, of course the girls made a fuss of me, washing my face and making sure I was OK much to the other blokes dismay.

After we were there for a while listening to records, first time I had heard Big Brother and The Holding Company Cheap Thrills which was Keryns older brother or sisters LP, and straightening my glasses as best we could, we left to head back to Martins place.

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That night I was staying at Martin’s place, so we jumped the train and went to Burwood. Once we got there his Mum took one look at the gash above my eye and took me to the hospital where I had three stitches to close the wound.

I’ll never know why he decided to pick on a skinny teenager. When the girls asked why he punched me, all we could think of I was the tallest and the only local as Steven and Martin came from elsewhere.

So, the cowards punch has been around for quite a number of years. I don’t know if Mr Wilkins had been drinking but I can’t remember smelling booze on his breath and it was in the middle of the day and in those days only the hardened alcoholics were in pubs at that time, not the young folk.

That was the last time I have been involved in a physical fight although I didn’t throw a punch so it wasn’t much of a fight, it was just one punch that could have had a worse outcome than it did.

From my window

My window at the office is quite good with a lovely view of the Clarence River, across the park where the citizens of Grafton and visitors often stroll about, sit on the benches, sometimes to canoodle, sometimes a ball game will start up or they are off to the toilets as they walk beneath the window.

But this is not about the people, this is about the tall cypress pine that is almost in front of the window. The distraction is that the tree is often a resting place or a place where there may be a snack or two or somewhere to gather twigs to be carried off to the bird’s nest. There is often a bird or two bustling about the foliage, going about their business.

Of late, there has been a few Superb Fairy-wrens hopping about the branches.

This is their story…..

He said, “I’m sure it is down there somewhere”

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“I’m saw it too. It just has to be there, it was earlier I’m sure,” she replied.

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“Do you really think it is still around, down there on the ground,” he asked.

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“Of course,” she said. “Look again and see if you can find it.”

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“I’m not so sure any more but I will have another look, just in case.”

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“Perhaps it has moved and is over there or somewhere else,” he pondered.

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“Or maybe over there.”

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“This is hopeless,” he said. “I’m going to find something else to do.”

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And with that he was off, closely followed by his mate. Lovely little birds aren’t they?

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Mrs Flowers Make-over

Mrs Flowers has been the mainstay of the permaculture garden of old. She has been proud to be able to ensure the garden was always cared for, whether keeping predators at bay or providing a place for the homeless, bringing them to her bosom so that they have a place to shelter and feel safe.

Mrs Flowers has been not feeling herself of late and with the gardens renewal, being filled with all manner of edible plants, she thought that she should really tidy herself up. “A new me!” Mrs Flowers was purported to have said. “I need to have a touch of make-up, a new dress and hat. That’ll do me just fine.”

A stylist was summoned to help Mrs Flowers find her new look and after much deliberation, Mrs Flowers decided that her old self, an Aussie woman who stood stead fast in her usual get about the farm wear of a skirt and old pink cardigan with a straw hat placed resolutely about her head, needed to go. Mrs Flowers intimated to her stylist she wanted to have a more worldly look so the workers were sent forth to find the necessary accoutrements to give Mrs Flowers her new look so she may once again enjoy the garden.

Meet Mrs Flowers before her make over

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Once you have seen Mrs Flowers face before her make over, you can never forget it.

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The stylist made sure that Mrs Flowers new look fitted just right.

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And her make up  gave Mrs Flowers the look she wanted.

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And now there has been a few changes she decided it was time for her to change everything. So may I now introduce you to Senora Flores from Peru.

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Senora Flores can now once more look over the garden to make sure those who would like a free feed think twice before venturing into her gaze.

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Animals…Yes I said it….Animals

There are animals everywhere, especially around my place. Some are small, some are large but most don’t mind having their picture taken, as long as I am quick. It is certainly a privilege to have them around, not only in the bush but sometimes close to the house. The garden always has a wallaby eating or resting, there is always lizards of course, or should I say skinks and sometimes a snake or two will rustle through the undergrowth. I have heard Koalas at night but not seen them but possums are always somewhere around even in the chook house.

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Other possums, that aren’t here but at my besties place, are the Ringtailed Possums. This bloke was high in the tree and it takes balls to climb high.

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At her place at least I can see the Koala!!! This bloke was in the front garden about 10 meters from the house.

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There are small bats somewhere around, in hollows and sometimes they stop inside for the night. Summertime, the windows and doors are open to catch the breezes and the little micro bats often whizz around sweeping up moths and other bugs attracted to the lights. This Lesser Eared Bat found a box to rest in.

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Geckos have many a spot around the house. Most of the pictures on the walls have a gecko or two behind them, When they get frisky, the pictures jump and bump on the walls. This Velvet Gecko was stalking a moth and didn’t really want my attention.

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Outside the skinks have the run of the verandas, garden and basically everywhere, all through the bush.

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I have a recycling and garbage area, as I don’t have a garbage service, where I store all my garbage and recycling until I get a good sized load to take to the transfer station in town. I open the bale flaps very slowly each time as there is usually a frog or spider under there. This day as I opened the bale up, there was a small Red Naped Snake warming under the flap.

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One of the hard parts of bush living is life and death. I love my chooks but so do a lot of others who mainly love them as dinner. Over the years I have lost a few to Spotted Tail Quolls. One time, after around 6 chooks were killed, I took a carcass and put it into a trap hoping to get the bugger and take him for a ride up the mountain to the National Park.

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But mostly it’s the wallabies that get attention as they are quite calm around me and they come closer to the house than most other animals. Here is the “Whole lot of Wallabies” part. I couldn’t decide which one to use so I just included a selection of different wallabies, their young and places they hang out.

Sometimes they come in groups. The Red Necked Wallabies are everywhere.

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They don’t mind hanging out with the chooks. The Whiptail Wallabies, or Pretty-faced, seem to hang out in the back.

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The Red Necked Males are quite large and in breeding season, the red really stands out.

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I was lucky enough to get a photo of a very young joey before it grew any hair.

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The Joeys are so adorable.

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Sometimes the come to the front door…..

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….and sometimes to the back door.

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I love the animals that are around my place.

Do you have many at your place?

A Small Fire

It was the last day before fire restrictions. The pile of garden waste, sticks, bits of tree branches, leaves and some timber that had been munched by white ants or was just too rotten to use that had been there for the last couple of years. It was about time that I lit it up.

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After the fire had died down a bit, I grabbed my camera as the fire made some great shapes and colours.

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Every now and then the sparks would leap into the sky and dance about

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The colours were quite unreal at times. The difference in colour of coals and flames as they licked the wood, the yellows, oranges, reds and pinks were rather striking.

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Deep within the fire, the embers glowed and the reds deepened and shapes became alive.

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As with any fire, there is always someone who has to find a stick to poke around among the coals.

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Fire can be a wonder of shapes and colours but at the same time a fire can be a bit scary…..

The Accidental Landcarer

There was an advertisement in the local paper, the Daily Examiner, in 1991 for expressions of interest in being part of a Nymboida Shire Council 355 Committee.

This committee was set up in the 1970’s to manage a small wetland on the outskirts of Grafton known a Cowans Pond. I drove past Cowans Pond every time I went to town and thought that I could help out planting trees, weeding and other activities.

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In 1992, I received a letter informing me that after an interview with the committee members, I was accepted onto the Cowans Pond Wetland Reserve Management Committee.

I had a young family and thought seeing that I had a bit of time as I wasn’t employed, I could potter around this wetland and make it a better place for not only the birds and animals  but for the people who would be able to share the space when things came together.

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This is Cowans Pond in 1992

The first meeting was a decision to use a herbicide to control the water plants, Water Hyacinth and Salvinia. I voiced my concerns but the new boy was dismissed and the spraying of the wetland with the Diquat Reglone took place. I had commenced working part-time with the Dept of Water Resources, with duties involving water sampling, testing the water on-site and gathering water samples for lab analysis. With the various meters and water testing equipment, I did a grab sample and found that the Dissolved Oxygen in the wetland was ZERO. The decaying plants had robbed the water of the oxygen virtually rendering the wetland into a dead ecosystem. This result did surprise the Committee a bit but, as they already had used a dragline years before, knew that mechanical removal was expensive, around $5000, whereas spraying was just over $1000. Good side – the Salvinia has not returned to the Pond but the Water Hyacinth….well…..more of that later.

During the term of that Committee the cattle grazing still took place as the landowner donated land to the reserve and had a grazing lease. We managed to erect a small fence around the Pond, build Island for nesting safe from predators, construct a birdhide, a couple of picnic tables and plant about fifty trees and shrubs. Also the first time the pond had shrunk to a small waterhole.

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As the Committee is tied to Local Govt elections, the old Committee was disbanded and a new one formed in 1995. It was this Committee where abandoning previous “rules” I was elected  (railroaded) as Chair, probably as I was the only member, apart from the adjoining landowner, from the previous Committee. I just wanted to plant trees not be responsible for the Committee.

This Committee sourced funding, moved fences to exclude the cattle and planted thousands of trees and shrubs with the assistance of people who were on Work for the Dole type of  employment programs. It was during this period that the Committee also became part of Clarence Landcare Inc.

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In around 2001, the Chair of Clarence Landcare Inc decided to step down and once more with a feeling of deja vu, I was elected (railroaded lol) as Chair. I just wanted to be part of the executive committee to try to help other Landcare groups in the Clarence Valley, not be responsible for the whole of the valleys Landcarers. Clarence Landcare Inc’s money plus other funding that came into Clarence Landcare at one stage totalled just over $1 million which was rather frightening but all was in good hands as the committee had/has some very experienced and capable people.

Now I am the Chair of 2 Landcare committees – how did that happen!!!

Also another drought hit the north coast of NSW

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At the Landcare Muster in Tamworth I was only one of two north coast Landcarers when the decision was made to form LandcareNSW…….yep you guessed it….I was nominated to be the north coast representative. This time I was doing it for the Landcarers of the whole state!!! No, I have not been Chair of this committee (learnt how to dodge I suppose lol)

Being one of three representatives, I thought that it was time there was a coordinated approach to Landcare on the north coast and put wheels in motion to have a Chairs committee similar to the one that existed on the Tablelands for a number of years. This evolved quickly into what is now the North Coast Regional Landcare Network and through a teleconference of Landcarers, yep that’s right, I was elected (railroaded) as Chair. Now three committees had The Accidental Landcarer as Chair.

It has been a long twenty years involved in Landcare from all levels, the Pond planting trees, The Valley helping other groups, the Region trying to lobby for the whole coast and the State where it gets a bit more political.

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A LandcareNSW Council meeting.

Well I have decided that 2013 will be my last year being involved with so much. I have made commitments for this year which I will see out. I am feeling frustrated at many things outside of the world of Landcare. A State Govt which is trying to dismantle the environmental gains made over the past twenty or so years, a Federal Govt which doesn’t really understand Landcare and I feel is afraid of what we do and achieve.

I am proud of what I have helped build with the assistance of many many very enthusiastic and capable community members. It’s time to step aside and let more capable people take over as I have with the North Coast Network, still a Deputy Chair and North Coast Network Steering Committee member. Will stay on the Clarence committee to help with the change over and I cannot abandon Cowans Pond even though the Water Hyacinth has defeated me but will not stand as Chair for the next incoming committee but go back to weeding and looking after a special place – Graftons only wetland.

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Do drop in sometime and if I am around, I would only be happy to show you around.

House Sitting, the Horse, the Cow and the Garden

It was a hot summer….almost too hot to be living in a caravan, which was thankfully under these huge Iron Barks which cast shade over a fair bit of the ground…. unfortunately the setting sun blazed onto the least protected side.

But that has nothing to do with what I was thinking about was it…..a downside of the caravan being under the Iron Barks was that the flying foxes loved the nectar from the flowers….interesting fact number 329:- flying foxes can shit whilst flying….seemingly, and especially on caravans in the bush.

Yes I know……the caravan was on a friend’s place while I was looking for somewhere to live and they had taken off for a holiday. While I was there, I started a vege garden, plus other gardens ‘cos thats what I did….always make a garden if I’m staying somewhere for a bit. Especially veges ‘cos its one thing you don’t have to spend money on….Nannas “lessons” in being thrifty somehow emerged from the weirdly assorted filing system my head seems to possess….plus hanging in the garden with Pop hearing all sorts of stories….like the dangers of worms….once they latch on….phew…..over the other side of the house yard, beyond the windrow, was some good soil to start the vege garden.

The soil was a bit sandy….with a bit of feeding and a good talking to, the vege garden started to come on quite well.

Now the vege garden was a bit vulnerable to the house cow…..a very hippy….at least dairy farmers will know what I mean and those from the 60’s and 70’s will have to think anatomy….hippy with a nice disposition, large eyed, huge lashes softly spoken Jersey. One of those cows where you just have to walk into the paddock with a bucket and stool, milk, give her a bit of a pat and walk back without so much of a fuss….can’t think of her name….oh yeah, that one was Jugs….interesting fact number 583:- don’t get a 16 year old boy to name any animal.

One day, I had to move Jugs into the paddock that had some good feed in it…..it was the paddock that adjoins the house yard close to the bit of space where I dug a vege patch. I know what you are thinking already, but I am smarter than a cow and had the fence in good order….in fact there was another small fence around the vege garden to keep out the smaller stuff like possums and rabbits. With that task done, a nice cuppa was in order.

I went back to the caravan, which was heating up in the summer sun…..actually what I did was open up the whole of the canvas annex to try and catch a breeze or two. I built a low wall and frame and made the wall of the annex into a roof so the annex size was doubled and then insect screened the opening. Sitting at the table having a cuppa and doing the crossword puzzle in the Post…Mr Wisdoms Whopper….when I noticed that the horse….oh yeah the owners also had a horse. Seemed to have some fancy idea of saddling up and riding out to check the back 40 or down to the dam out the front and riding into the water after a warm day of riding around…..the horse, it appeared, had other ideas of what a nice day on the property meant. You know those horses…you walk towards the fence with a carrot and at once, the horse comes trotting toward you ready to have a snack, a bit of a rub down and the halter fitted.

Well…that wasn’t this horse…….this horse was just cantankerous, nasty and mean…if you ever got close to it, you got a case of “what the hell am I doings” as a bite or a kick was most likely the outcome of a close encounter. This horse was smart….almost too smart…..and no I can’t remember its name…..something like Prince.

Well I saw this horse walk down the fence line…..had another sip of my tea…..pen poised above 5 Down, when the mental picture of the horse became clearer and yes the fence wires were on the other side of the horse!!!

Interesting fact number 211:- a small rabbit fence is no match for a very large horse with a bad attitude……so there you go it wasn’t the cow who munched in the vege garden….the beans took the biggest hit before my “coaxing” had him galloping back down the track to where he managed to get in……an open gate……now I am sure I latched the gate…..OK I am exaggerating the term gate….it was a Queensland gate….loose wires and a stick with a loop on the post to fasten the stick, tightening the wires. The horse just stood there with its evil eye watching while I picked up the gate, refastened it, making sure the bottom of the stick was in the wire loop on the bottom of the post and top loop was tight……I headed back to the caravan and my cuppa.

It was all of five minutes before I saw the horse trotting back down the fence line…..but at least this time, I was still outside, near the clothesline…..have you ever built one of those old-fashioned clothes lines…the posts in the ground and a moveable cross-bar with a prop to hold the wires up when there is heavy stuff on the line…..I love building stuff…..that probably comes from my other grandfather who was a wheel wright….it’s in the genes I guess.

Well as you can imagine I was off in a flash to head off Steven or whatever its name was from getting back into the vege garden….this time he saw the error of his way and turned around and cantered down the track, through the open gate….wait….the open gate….hmmm something isn’t quite right. I refastened the gate and walked back down the track a little way, stopped and hid behind a tree…..don’t think that was an Iron Bark though…more likely to be a Spotted Gum…..well who should walk to the gate but Roger who proceeded to nudge the wire loop with his nose…..I just walked up to the gate and the horse, who didn’t seem to know I was approaching, such was his intent on opening the gate…..this is the only time I have punched a horse….no not a solid whack ‘cos a horses head is rather hard….just enough to release my frustration and to scare the bejesus out of the horse…..now the gate had an added bit of wire to keep it shut…..you have to be inventive don’t you?

A few days later, further into the hot summer, the corn was now looming large with ears that looked very yummy….the silks blowing in the afternoon breeze while I watered and picked off the bugs that were trying to get a free snack…..an ideal scene…..a very tempting scene you think?

During the night, I wandered out of the caravan and down to the dunny…….it was almost a classic out doors dunny….tin sides and an old real dunny door with a wooden seat on a tin….and in the moonlight could make out the shape…..something big down the house yard beyond the windrow and in the vege garden…….JUGS!! I shouted but her intention was obvious…..eat as much corn as possible.

The fence was no longer rabbit proof, other vegetables were either tasted or stomped as this lovely cow, raising her head with a stalk of my corn hanging from her mouth and huge soft brown eyes looking with as much innocence as she could muster, Jugs then went back to her task at hand.

Again, a bit of gentle coaxing….Jugs was a sucker for a bucket of hay and grain…..I had her on her way down the track and back into the front paddock with a now grumpier than ever horse.

Morning saw the extent of the damage……a tomato or two survived as did most of the autumn seedlings….and I had a meal or two of corn.

Interesting fact number 478:- Make a vege garden and they will come!!

The Seeker Part 6

I hoped the greenness of the mound would lead to there being water…..water that would sustain me for some time.

I am sure I again heard the sounds of water but not being visible on actually running over the rocks and stony ground must mean that it is somehow flowing underground. How can I get below this hard baked ground to get to the water that keeps this small patch green in a desert landscape alive.

Near the top of the ridge, which is only a few meters high, there is some larger rocks which I could use to dig…..scrambling over the rocks of the scree slope once again to the base of the ridge I found a good sized and appropriately shaped rock that I could use to get below the surface.

I wonder where I was when I heard that trickling sound…….down the slope slipping and sliding as the rocks gave no solid purchase…looking left….looking right….everything looked the same…….down on the edgewhere the tufted grasses came up to meet the bare rocky ground.

I stood….straining to listen to the slightest sound other than the occasional rocks tumble…..nothing….perhaps I should move down to where the grass evens out before abruptly ending to meet the desert once again.

Lifting my stone age implement, I struck the ground between the tufts sending smaller pebbles out of the way…..again…..again….again I hit the ground making a small divot.

Now I could scrape the hole into something bigger as I tired of hitting the hard stony surface…….sweat glistened on my now brown baked skin. I managed to struggle to a point where the small rocks and pebbles changed colour….a deeper colour…

The Seeker Part 5

Was that a trickling sound I heard……perhaps my thirst was giving way to dreams of desire……but I am sure that the trickling sound was real!!

On the lower part of the slope the ground was still stony but many of the rocks were rounded….like rocks that have been rolled about by water. I knelt on the ground on the soft grass and dug my hand between the tufts where the ground is cooler. Gripping onto a tuft, I gave a hard tug ….nothing!!….it didn’t budge at all.

The ground under the grass was hard and rocky not soft as I had hoped. If I do dig down to see if there is some moisture…..what can I use to dig…the sticks were too crumbly and brittle to be of any use in digging through the hard ground.

I started to try and scrape the ground away from the base of a grass tuft…..it didn’t take long before the skin on my fingers to become sore with small cuts and I had hardly gotten anywhere…..I lay down on the soft grass……the frustration and weariness was getting too much….what do I have to do….why am I on this world…..the sun beat down on my back but the grass was cool on my body and face ….as I drifted off to sleep I was sure that I heard water again.

Water…….I awoke with a thirst…..rolling over, the cool relief on my back was welcomed………looking around I wanted to find some sort of a digging tool….maybe a rock from further up the slope might be suitable as the stones here were too small.

Walking back towards the ridge I hoped I would be lucky and be able to find water….allusive water…..something I desperately need to survive….but what will survival do if I am just to wander this domed world…..