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.
It was about 6:40am. It was dark, the wind was blustery. Sporadic bouts of rain spat down unpredictably. The side of the road was very rough, hard, and frigidly cold. It sucked what little warmth I had right out of me. I laid there on my left side. My right arm was raised as much as I could manage. I was dizzy. My diaphragm felt like it was biting me with every breath. My back and right side hurt. I had blood all over my face, hands and arms. It was sticky and dirty brown from having mixed with bulldust. The fine desiccating dust had coated me from head to toe. Some kind of vehicle drove past; then another, then another. None of them stopped. I couldn’t see them very well. My glasses weren’t on my head. Couldn’t exactly remember when they’d come off.
Something big and rumbly geared down and slowed. It’s airbrakes whistled that it was coming to a stop: hard. After that, more vehicles slowed and stopped. First one figure, then another walked into my blurry field of view. I heard one of them talking on the phone. It was definitely a phone kind of voice. Police and ambulance were asked for. A description of where was provided. My dizziness swelled up and I started trembling a fair bit.
Then Andrew came along. Nice chap. Dark hair, Round face. Small beer gut. He was wearing one of those high visibility vests that everyone hates being saddled with. Andrew put a blanket over me. It helped a lot. He got a towel or a sweater or some such under my head. I bled over the blanket and towel a fair bit. I feel a bit guilty about that.
Someone walked up with my wallet and my phone. Someone else (Andrew, I think) was asking me if I knew my name. It all got very chaotic for a bit. I answered questions as best as I could and tried very hard to lay as still as I possibly could. It was a bit uncomfortable when I moved.
After a while, it occurred to me that someone – probably a police officer – would phone either my best friend or my mum (or both). I didn’t want them to be upset. So I asked for my phone and dialed my mum. She has caller ID and knew I was travelling on the highway. She expected that I’d phone through the day. “So where are you?’ she asked. I tried putting a bit of strength in my voice. Took a real breath, one where the diaphragm did the biting thing and answered: “Laying on the side of the road. I am afraid there has been an accident.”
I can’t remember much about that conversation. Basically I tried to reassure her that I was fine. Unfortunately, I was a bit of a liar. I had pain in my back in several places; pain in my lower abdomen, I was not really at my best. But I really didn’t want her to worry. After a moment or two, I fumbled the phone over to Andrew. I was dizzy and the biting diaphragm was kinda getting to me. I can recall phoning my best friend later and waking him up. I can’t recall what I said or what he said. I can’t honestly recall much of the accident or the waiting for the ambulance bit. It was cold, damp, I was covered in bulldust, and I was not at my best.
The ambulance arrived and whisked me off to Tailem Bend. From that hospital, I was whisked off to Royal Adelaide Hospital. In all, there was about two and a half hours of being whisked in an ambulance. Then I was at the RAH. I could wax lyrical about the various phases of the journey. The enormous beer gut on the ambulance medic, the complete lack of services available at the Tailem Bend hospital, I could talk about the discomfort of being whisked (Now somewhat controlled by quite a lot of morphine). But I am not really sure that all of that is terribly relevant or riveting.
The main points are simply: I had an accident while travelling at 110km/h. I rolled the ute (Pick-up truck) several times before the scrub and a strategically placed tree stopped me. Apparently what caused the accident is that I hit a fox and my rear wheel blew. I am mostly fine now. It appears that I cracked some bones and tore some muscles off their strands or some such. So while I have a sore back, none of my organs ruptured, split, exploded, or just generally ceased to function. I am an extremely lucky fellow.
This wasn’t part of the plan. This changed everything. Moving house from Adelaide to North West Tasmania was now terribly complicated. I wouldn’t be physically fit for who knows how long. I didn’t even have glasses anymore (Which, when you need to lip read is a bit of a bugger). My Tree Change had definitely thrown up a new adventure. BUT. I am alive. I don’t appear to have any permanent crippling injuries. While the ute is completely and utterly demolished, I am not. So the Tree Change continues.
I don’t intend to blog about the convalescence. I don’t even think I will bother to detail the kind of headaches and complications that all of this has caused. Badger’s Tree Change is about the Crumbling Cottage and what adventures I find there. There is not much in this particular adventure that anyone would much wish to know about.