Grab a cuppa or a tinnie – whatever floats your boat – and settle back, this is gunna be a long one.
I’ve mentioned, from time to time, that doing a tree change and renovating a crumbling cottage is a bit of a five steps forward and four steps back affair. Nothing is ever quite straightforward. Nothing ever goes quite as you planned.
The first thing about doing a tree change is that you deliberately go and live near trees. As trees are a real estate developers natural enemy, you have to leave urban areas. Cities have lots and lots of real estate developers. Living far away from everything complicates pretty much everything. Those of you who live rurally may be thinking; “Aw diddums. Toughen up princess.” But you see, people who have been living rurally for a couple of years have everything sorted out. They have their routines. They know how to manage everything and have their contingency plans already tried and tested.
Let me give you an example; when the power goes out around here, dozens of homes and farm houses go dark – briefly. Then somebody wanders over to the shed with the generator and starts it up. Most will be muttering colorfully, I admit, but they will have power after a relatively small amount of hassle.
But. If you’re new to living in the bush, it’s just possible that you won’t know that you need a generator. As a newbie, you won’t realize that power companies don’t really ‘prioritize’ rural supply. We’re far away from the power company offices, there aren’t a lot of us living here, and the really big factor is that we’re spread out and our power lines are hundreds of kilometers long. Consequently, blackouts here can last a couple of weeks.
Tradesmen and government services are the same. When something goes ‘ppffffttt’, the rural resident generally has to find a temporary solution themselves. If you’re new to all of this, the solution will involve a trip to town. It will also involve spending money that you weren’t expecting to spend.
I started my renovation and tree change knowing that my property wasn’t connected to the power grid. So I had the generator from the get go. Shame I didn’t know how to service the blasted thing. There are four dead generators in one of my sheds. None of them work. Why? Because I didn’t know what I was doing. One of them accidentally got a teeny tiny amount of water in the fuel. One of them wasn’t serviced regularly enough or properly – it might be recoverable, but the jury is still out on that. One of them was simply misused. The fourth one? I still don’t know why it died. I might be able to fix it, don’t know yet. One day I will take them all apart and see what I can jury rig.
I am not an astoundingly stupid person. I have skills. I have abilities. If you need a 60,000 word thesis proof read, I’m your guy. If you need some powerpoint slides whipped up that are chocker block with snazzy maps and graphics; look no further. If you need an insanely complex spreadsheet thrown together for an analysis of whatever; I can have that for you in under a couple of hours. Unfortunately, no volume of powerpoint presentations festooned with pretty pictures will coax a water flooded generator to do anything other than rust. Which it was going to do anyway. Because it was flooded (Some people might observe that only an astoundingly stupid person would allow water to have gotten into a fuel can and then into a generator… well… once I come up with a snappy riposte, I will post it!).
Moving on from the generator, my chainsaw won’t work. There is a safety lock, a kind of reverse clutch on chainsaws that make them merely hellaciously dangerous. If the clutch safety lock thingy doesn’t engage, then as soon as you start it, it starts wanting to rip huge chunks out of things. I am fond of my spleen and my knees and my elbows. They do various wondrous and nifty things. I’d notice if I suddenly didn’t have them anymore. Being around a chainsaw that doesn’t have a safety lock clutch doodad is, I suspect, somewhat like lathering yourself up with barbecue sauce and then jumping in to swim with the sharks. After stenciling the word ‘CHUM’ on your forehead. With bacon.
I don’t know how to fix it. I want to cut up some old logs, but my chainsaw will try to kill me. I don’t know how to fix it. I could google it, but lately i have come to the conclusion that its just easier and faster and much more reliable to ask one of my neighbours. I am convinced that my neighbours know more than the internet. The world wide web has only been humming along since about 1980, my neighbours have been around way longer than that.
There is another frequent fly in the ointment. Another kind of calamity. Nothing is ever as easy as it looks. Running lots of pipe and hoses and whatnot from water tanks to faucets sounds fairly straightforward, but the blasted things leak. You don’t lay out the pipes and hoses, hook them up, put water through, identify the leaks, fix the leaks, move on to the next job.
No. You start to lay the pipes and hoses out, discover a couple of awkward obstacles that you have to either go around, under, over, or through, then (after much hacking and hewing with axe, spade, or dynamite – your choice), you lay out the hoses and pipes and start to hook them up.
That’s when you discover that you have the wrong gauge connector for at least one pipe to a hose or some such, so you spend ages sifting through what odds and ends you do have to see if there is any combination that can be daisy chained to solve the problem. Eventually you discover that there is not, so you drive to the nearest hardware store to get what’s missing (unfortunately, that takes almost three hours – what with the rather long bit of driving),
When you get back, you hook everything up and run water through the system. After you have frantically sprinted to the tank to shut the water off so that it will stop cascading forth from about 40% of the connectors, you wander around with some tools and little rolls of white plumbers tape and try and ‘fix those leaks’. Then you try the water again. Then you sprint again. Then you go back to the old leaks and tweak them some more and then you go to the new leaks and swear at them for not having leaked before. Once you have tightened and taped and tweaked everything (Including a cat who got too close while you were really focused), you try the water. Again.
Okay. This is when you decide to get serious. Every connection, and I mean every connection is taken apart, cleaned, beautifully taped, and then carefully (but firmly) tightened to within an inch of its life. Every hose and pipe is checked. Everything is thoroughly scrutinized and made as good as is theoretically possible. No step has been ignored. No sloppy bodge job tolerated. This is meticulous craftsmanship and care of the finest calibre. This time, it’s right. You put water through the system. Then you sprint to shut it off. You console yourself that as it’s winter, the weekly rains will probably refill the tank faster than the leaks can empty it. Probably.
Oh… how I wish that I was exaggerating.
But, here’s the thing. My neighbours don’t have any where near this kind of hassle. They are well equipped and provisioned for unpredictable eventualities. When something goes pear shaped, they have the tools, the plan, and the experience to resolve it – at least temporarily. They still have a long way to travel when they go to town, but they make a day of it. They sort out 12 – 15 issues with each trip. When I go to town, I sort out about 3.
That’s the trick. Learning. Getting a handle on how to deal with things when they go awry, building up the tool chest and spare materials to deal with come what may. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. But you’re only racing against yourself. No Olympic Medals are on offer. Just a lifestyle.
My neighbours are unfailingly friendly. Always helpful. I am sure that they are highly amused by my bumbling incompetence… but I think that they have noticed that I’m still here. I think that they’ve noticed that I’m still trudging along getting the crumbling cottage on the hill sorted out. Five steps forward, four steps back. You still get there in the end.
Hail and well met, one and all.
Have you ever met someone and just instantly clicked? I am not simply talking about whether you liked them, I am talking about that communication short cut where you just get what they mean pretty much immediately. You understand their point of view and their raison d’être (while I like the concept of raisin d’être, I can’t help but think of those little raisin filled pies whenever I hear the phrase). Usually there is a bit of overlap in interests, but usually, there is more a sense of the same kind of energy.
WARNING: Badger neglected to bring ‘the funny’, today. Having one’s cat cough up a fur ball right in the middle of a fresh home made pizza does tend to lead to a mirth light sort of blog post. You may be thinking that a mirth light blog post is like light beer; kinda ‘what’s the point of that?’ Well, I had a peanut butter sandwich for dinner and am feeling quite okay with you lot being left grumbling and muttering in grizzled dissatisfaction. 🙂
So. Back to where I left off. I am increasingly inclined to think of people who I meet that I really connect with as being of my tribe. Being around people of your own tribe is intoxicating. Having a synergy in your perceptions and ambitions is a heady thing. If you look around through the calendar pages of history, you’ll find instances of many individuals of the same tribe getting together and doing amazing things. The Algonquin Round Table is such an example. Perhaps, too, the Manhattan Project (just because something is awful doesn’t mean that it can’t amaze). Music scholars could cite examples as could entrepreneurs, engineers, artists, etc.
I think that there is a coterie of same tribe folks who have found each other and are doing some pretty nifty stuff in new media. Members of this group include Joss Whedon (creator of Buffy the Vampire Slayer), Felicia Day (creator of The Guild), Wil Wheaton (yes, I know he was Wesley Crusher, but he was an actor, he was given his lines, he didn’t write them. Read some of what he writes, then gauge the mettle of the man). Where was I? Oh yeah, there are several others to mention, Sandeep Parikh, Jed Whedon, Maurissa Tancharoen, and probably a bunch of others who I am unaware of. As individuals and in occasional collaboration, these people have used the Internet as a delivery mechanism for their material and have redefined how things have to work in terms of television, movies, and even music. They are creating hugely successful shows without big studios or networks being involved.
To get a sense of what I mean, download Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog and check out geek and sundry at http://geekandsundry.com/
But there’s a yin to this yang. What happens when you don’t find other members of your tribe? For my part, I am an expression-geek. A slightly curmudgeonly one, I admit, but an expression-geek nonetheless. I fiddle with words and graphics and play around with computers and games. I gravitate towards science fiction and fantasy like a moth to a flame. I revel in communication in all of its forms and manifestations. If I wasn’t so abysmally ill suited to graceful motion, I’d be cheerfully willing to do an interpretive dance routine to get a point across. Fortunately, I am self aware enough to know that all I would manage to communicate with Dance would be the concept of lumbering clumsiness (bad luck for any witnesses come the day that I find myself wanting to convey the concept of lumbering clumsiness).
There aren’t any other expression-geeks in my neck of the woods. I have friends, very good ones. Some are even geeks, too. But there aren’t any other expression-geeks (yes, I made up that term, but it suits. Geeks are normally somewhat socially… out of step. Expression-geeks can talk to anyone. That said, we’re still geeks). So. Do you have a sense of being the only one of you’re particular tribe in your neck of the woods? When you’re a soloist looking for a choir, do you sing your choral part in isolation? Or do you belt out a mildly satisfying solo number and just get on with it?
I’m afraid that I don’t have an answer for that. I am in the right place at the time that I need to be here. But doing that solo singing bit isn’t my little raisin filled pie. So I guess I will do my choral bit in isolation (slightly off key, I’m sure, but in no way involving interpretive lurching) and I will keep being a slightly curmudgeonly moth about science fiction and fantasy. That said, I am interested to know what you think. What are your thoughts and experiences in terms of tribe.
My guess is that the normal style of badger blithering will resume with the next post. At the very least, I can promise to endeavor to do my blog post before I make a pizza for my cat to contaminate.
There are people who vehemently assert that they NEED the new(ish) 4WD Porsche Cayenne (or whatever it’s called) simply because they quite frequently need to park their car on their lawn, or because thereare an awful lot of leaves and branches on the lane that they live on. Or worse still… because they have a gravel drive. <Cue gasp of horror>.
Look, sunny jim. Unless your driveway is frequently a slurry of mud, clay, and free running water, AND is so steep that you keep having Sherpa guides enquiring if there are any positions vacant, then you don’t get to claim that you need a 4WD because of your driveway.
My driveway is steep. It also turns into a clay soupy fun slide whenever it rains… which in NW Tasmania is somewhat frequently. There have been times when I have been out and about and come home and known that somebody has visited. Not because they left a note, but rather it was the huge churned up slide channels in the lower part of my driveway (Henceforth referred to as the swampy bit). It’s mildly amusing, actually. I usually hop out of my truck and have a quick look to see how close they came to the neighbour’s fence and to wiping out the world’s most pointless shed.
I can claim ownership of the title ‘World’s Most Pointless Shed’ because the shed has no doors. I don’t mean that the builders did three walls and a roof and then thought ‘bugger it, that’ll do.’ No. They did four walls and a roof. Why they didn’t put in a door isn’t the big question, though. The big question is why they put 20 bales of hay and half of a shower cubicle into the shed while they were building it. Seriously. 20 bales of hay and half a shower cubicle. Then they finished walling it all off.
Perhaps it’s the One Shower. Sauron’s ablutionary furnishing walled off (with some hay) to protect the people of Middle Earth. I meain, something had to be used to wash the crack of doom, it just stands to reason.
So the World’s Most Pointless Shed sits amid the swampy bit at the end of the Driveway of Death. So. I have to figure out how to deal with all of this. The One Shower (and the hay, though I have promised my mum a couple of bales for her chooks), the swampy bit, and the Driveway of Death. I have taken the first step already. I and a friend went all barbarian beserker on the Most Pointless Shed in the World and tore off a wall.
It’s amazing. Suddenly I care if visitors smash into the shed while careening wildly out of control. Fancy that. A simple point of egress and the structure is magically transformed. I have also been scraping and cleaning up the driveway with my tractor, it’s mildly less homicidal, now. Soon I will put a couple of truck loads of gravel on it so that it doesn’t get so infernally muddy. Gosh. A gravel drive. Good thing I have a 4WD.
G’day, what follows is about writing… the inertia that opposes writing to be more specific. I had originally started to write something on how emergent technology affects renovations of century old buildings…. then there was going to be this nifty bit on useful equipment.Then the iPad I was fiddling with gobbled my text… that led to a bit of stream of consciousness blather. Rather than delete it and spare the world, I have decided to put this explanatory paragraph here and consider you warned. I will – from time to time – ramble about something unrelated to… well, anything. Sometimes writing – like life – goes to unexpected destinations.
Bother. The bloody thing just deleted half a page. Oh well, it was hardly timeless prose. I suppose I should explain why it doesn’t particularly perturb me to lose half a page. You see, the challenge for a writer is to find a story that wants telling. Most stories don’t, you know. Want telling, I mean. So us writer types tap away at our keyboards or scribble with our pens. We put one letter after another till we have a word, then a sentence, then a paragraph. Usually we end up with several paragraphs or pages of some nicely crafted word play… But no real story.
Real stories are messy things. Meaningless bits of mundane action, large slabs of dialogue that don’t advance the plot, and pages and pages of characters doing things in settings that are irrelevant to anything much other than paying the bills or ensuring that there are clean socks. Writers have to wade through quite a lot of prosaic to get to the prose.
Then there are the words. Nifty things; words. Humpty dumpty said something along the lines of: ‘When I use a word,’ … ‘it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.’ I like the sentiment very much. It is particularly soothing when I mangle harmless sentences or try to use words that are simply innocent of the expression that I try and foist upon them.
I don’t mean sentences like: “I’ll be sure to get that to you tomorrow.” When I say that, it’s just a lie. But when I try describe where I live, I tend to trot out things like ‘very pretty’ or ‘wonderfully relaxing’. Those words really don’t do the setting justice. I could rely on hyperbole or wax poetic in metaphor, but even then the words only rarely convey the full measure of the scene.
With extraneous material obscuring the simple thing that we are hoping to express and even the words we use sometimes resisting being where and what we need them to be, it can be difficult to produce a story that wants telling.
So with this blog and with my other writing, I’ll just go on putting one letter after another and hope that I somehow manage to craft that rarest of gems; something where the detritus has been cleared, the right words found and placed just so. A complete and true accounting; a real story.
The view that greets me in the morning. It’s very pretty and wonderfully relaxing.
Okay, let’s talk about wildlife. Living – as I do – in a fairly remote area with lots of wilderness and a couple of national parks being a fair bit closer than an actual town, there is a bit of wildlife about. We’re talking wallabies, pademelons, bandicoots, possums, brown snakes, white lipped snakes, tiger snakes, tasmanian devils, and platypus. Don’t get me started on the bird life.
But here’s the thing. It’s actually not quite as nifty as it sounds. I like animals. I do. I especially like wilderness settings chockerblock with critters. But… well, it’s a bit of a nuisance when you have a breeding pair of European Swallows (unladen) who have made a nest in your living room. First of all, there is the bird poo. You can tell where the birds like to fly because they leave a squishy dotted line along their flight path (I did say unladen). There’s also the feathers; they float around and stick to everything. On top of that, they have little baby swallows, so I can’t just evict them or I will feel like a complete bastard. I have been assured that they will go back to Europe… In three or four months. Sigh.
Then there are the Tassie Devils. They are cute in a toothsome way, and they have a lot of character. Unfortunately they also sound like fiendish monster created by HR Gieger that is trying to deal with a particularly unpleasant case of piles. My Godson Oliver came to visit for a few days a while back. For various reasons, we didn’t get to the house until after it was dark. Armed with a flashlight, I took him around the crumbling old abode and into the cottage; where we found a young Tassie Devil. Cool, huh? Nifty way to impress the Godson. Up close and personal with a wild Devil. First night and everything. Yeah… riiiight.
You see, not long thereafter, a devil (Might have been the same one, might not) decided that it liked living room dining. So it killed something and ate it in my living room. I know this because there was a pool of blood and some Devil paw prints beautifully stained into my century old blackwood floor. Sigh.
Then there are the birds (Shudder). On my block I have european swallows, blue wrens, golden wrens, kookaburras, starlings, blackbirds, sparrows, and about a dozen other birds that I don’t know the name of yet. Now, those that know me will find it odd that I know about these birds. I am not really a bird watcher. But my cat (His name is Pigeon. Ironic, really) is a bird watcher. A keen one. And he’s also a bird catcher. And a bird torturer. And – eventually – a bird eater. Apparently he’d quite like me to join him in his hobbies because he keeps trying to encourage me by leaving a watched, caught, and tortured – but not eaten (well, completely, anyway) bird in or about my caravan. If I am asleep at the time, he will quite thoughtfully leave it on my pillow so that I can find the bird when I wake up and open my eyes. If I’m working outside, he’ll leave it on the steps so that I can admire it when I pack it in for the day. Sigh. For a while there, I was getting five a week. Now it’s down to about two.
Here’s the thing. Given all of this… and the many, many, many animal related events that I haven’t mentioned, why on earth is it that I am planning on getting six chickens, four goats, a dog, and a Clydesdale?