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.
It seems that anywhere you go these days will have a fleet of slightly harrowed looking mothers navigating the streets and avenues in their own ‘Good Ship SUV’. These monsters are generally mildly enormous. They are virtually impossible to park and I am quite sure that they set off earthquake alarms whenever they go over a bump. They are ghastly vehicles and they serve little or no purpose.
That said, I do have a 4WD truck. But here’s the difference; my driveway is unmanageable even with a 4WD for several days of the year. I also have about 20 acres of overgrown paddock. I also tend to need to move a ton of this or that at least once or twice a month. My 4WD is a workhorse. It doesn’t have ‘climate control’ (Well, okay… it has windows), its seats don’t massage ones buttocks. I don’t have cinema like dolby surround sound. It does have an absurdly monstrous bull bar which is great for ensuring that when some daft pillock fails to take a corner in their idiotic SUV, their SUV is going to be much worse off than my truck.
I also have a little Mazda 121. It’s small and zippy. Comfortable to drive, great handling, great brakes, great fuel economy. It’s also over 20 years old and still steadfastly reliable. It, however, can not get up my driveway for most of the year.
Musing on my vehicles led me to rant about SUVs (done that bit) and to ponder how my various vehicles and tools and gadgets have shaped my tree change experience. So I thought it might be a good idea to mention the shining stars. If you’re contemplating a tree or sea change of your own, then mayhaps some of my experiences will be of use to you.
Number One – Big fancy rechargeable LED lantern. It’s great. It can be charged off the mains, by a generator, or from a car’s cigarette lighter socket. It has the ability to break into two different lanterns. It is highly water resistant. It’s incredibly rugged. Its inbuilt power pack lasts for hours. You can comfortably read a book by its light. Given my lack of electricity for the first year or so, this gadget made an ENORMOUS difference. So. Choose a really good torch and a really good lantern. Don’t go with an el cheapo. This is one of those areas where you want to get the one you like the best and ignore the cost. Stumbling around in the dark is a bummer. Having a nice illuminating beacon ready to bathe you in reassuring not-dark-and-creepiness just seems to make the world a nicer place.
Number Two – Okay. I admit it… there’s a bit of potty humour coming. It IS the second best thing to arm oneself with… and well… I couldn’t resist. Number two is my portable toilet. Basically it has a tank for effluence and a tank for flushing with. It looks like a gray box. I call it the bucket of shame simply because I ALWAYS vow to empty and clean it long before it is burstingly full. When it is full, it is much harder to empty and clean. Emptying and cleaning it are NOT fun. Unfortunately, I always put it off to the last minute. This often means that I have to do the chore in the rain and while feeling miserable. At those times my language is not very polite. Oh. One thing. If you have one of these nifty portable toilet things, be sure to put it on a level surface. A LEVEL SURFACE. Very important. Don’t forget. LEVEL. Moving right along.
Number Three – Ooh… gets tricky, now. I am going to go with the little 2 stroke generator. Basically these things will produce about 700 – 800 watts. Plenty of energy for recharging phones, computers, running a handful of lights, maybe running a CD player. DO NOT TRY TO HEAT OR REFRIGERATE. One thing nobody mentioned to me is that the wattage on an appliance does NOT include the start up. Some appliances will use ten times their running wattage just at start up before settling down. Using a generator that is not rated for such a drain will kinda kill your generator. So don’t do it. Keep the wattage usage really low.
You can of course get a much larger generator. They produce more power, but use more fuel. For me, the little 2 strokes did what I actually NEEDED. They also did it with a minimum of fuss. Servicing them was easy. That said, I have been here a year and I have gone through 4 generators. The two more expensive ones didn’t really outperform the cheap 2 strokes… but they cost a lot more. It may be that I will be able to repair a couple of the generators. Being mechanically ignorant to an astonishing degree means that I am kinda chuffed at knowing how to clean and change spark plugs. But I will persevere. One day, I will get one of these sods working again!
Number Four – My tractor. It is seriously cool. Basically, when I looked at the property, I realized that there was a LOT of work to be done on the land. thistles, bracken, irish heath, etc. all needed slashing. A dirt road would be needed to afford access to the more remote parts of the property, and the area around the house needed extensive earth moving and cleaning up. Back of the napkin calculations indicated that I was looking at 30 – 40k in earth moving costs. Being rather poor, I couldn’t afford that. I spent some time thinking about it and then started looking into possible alternatives. What I found was a flatpack tractor. Basically you buy it and they send it to you as bits in boxes. You then assemble it yourself. This struck me as wonderfully cheap and an outstanding opportunity to reduce my level of mechanical ignorance. Then I had a bit of a motor accident and for a variety of reasons paid a few hundred dollars to have the distributor assemble it for me.
By this time next year I will have completely amortized the cost of the tractor just with earth moving… and I will still have the tractor. I have not made the kind of progress that I would have liked in the last year… but that’s not because I didn’t have the tool for the job. If you are looking after 10 acres or more – particularly if you have some earth moving projects scheduled, seriously consider getting yourself a small tractor. They are amazingly nifty things to have around.
Number Five – Netbook/iPad. My sanity was preserved by my netbook. Basically I could read or write, play computer games, watch DVDs, listen to music. A desktop wouldn’t have cut it. It would have taken up far too much room and couldn’t have readily been run by a little generator. Now I have a second hand iPad. It’s nifty, too. Smaller and a bit more rugged. It serves most of my internet and writing needs. I can also take it around the block with me to check diagrams or work plans. I like it very much. Mind you… I am a geek, so a computer was bound to be in the top 5 no matter what. 🙂
So there you have it. My five essential must have necessities (Yes, that’s a tautology, but I don’t care. If you want me to care about dangling modifiers, tautologies, spelling, grammar, etc. pay me to edit, proof read or write something… it’s my blog and I’ll blither illiterately if I want to!)… okay… now I have forgotten what I was going to say. Oh, yes. These are some of the things that I HAD to have. Without these items, doing the tree change probably wouldn’t have worked for me. While settlers in the 1800s made do with an axe and a steely gaze, they were made of sterner stuff than I. Mind you, soft I may be, but at least I don’t think that I need an SUV so that I can whip round to do the weekly shopping.
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.
It gets dark at my place. I mean really dark. You might think that it gets pretty dark in your average city, town, or hamlet, but there’s a profound difference in a remote place on a moonless cloudy night. The depth of the darkness is absolute. No stars, no porch lights, no street lights gamely crying out to the sable ink ‘c’mon, if you think yer hard enough!’.
Most evenings, there are exactly two artificial lights visible from my property (Not counting my own). One is a small underpowered streetlight that sort of indicates where my road joins on to the main road. It’s a kilometre away (That’s a little over a thousand yards). The light from it looks like a slightly bright star that has gotten tired from all of the energetic capering about in the sky and has decided that lazing around on the ground sounds good. Seriously, it’s only a little bit brighter that venus or mars (mind you, as I have had a few eye operations, I might not be a leading authority on what something ‘looks’ like). Anyway. It’s not a shining beacon.
The other light is a sort of yard light, porch light thing outside of my neighbour’s house. It’s quite close. It’s only 400 metres or so (About a quarter of a mile). But as it’s a 60 watt globe it’s not exactly lighting the place up, either (Okay, I admit it; I don’t actually know what wattage it is. Sneaking up to one’s neighbour’s place with a ladder to check the wattage of their garden light might lead to a rather awkward conversation, so I haven’t checked).
Anyway. It gets really dark here. I have two cats. Pigeon and Sophie. Being cats, they are of the opinion that the universe (well, the bit around my house) is their empire. They apparently never tire of wandering around catching and torturing the local wildlife. My fervent hope is that the local wildlife stops wandering into my house. There are many, many hectares of tree festooned hillside. I really only frequently wander around a small part of the property. The cats cover even less of it. So if the wildlife stays out there, we’ll stay in our bit and there will be peace and cohabitation for all.
So. Dark. Two cats. Wildlife. At this stage, I could describe the baby Tasmanian devil in my kitchen. But that story didn’t involve the cats. I could talk about having to get out of my truck to move the echidna out of the way so I could head to the shops. But that didn’t involve my cats. Or I could tell you about waking up one morning and finding half a rabbit on my pillow next to my face (Napisan really is good on those pesky rabbit entrail stains. Can you imagine what life would be like without Napisan? I wine and dine a charming lady, bring her back to my place; “Don’t mind the stains on the pillow case, it’s from the digestive tract and reproductive organs of a rabbit that one of my cats partially ate.” Thank GOD for modern cleaning agents. That story does involve the cats, but I don’t like talking about it coz I get this horrible headache and a I start sighing a lot.
Anyway, let’s get back to the story. By the way, there is a point. It will actually all lead to a (sort of) coherent finish. I promise. It’s dark, I’m outside noticing how terribly dark it is. As per usual, there is a furry obstacle trying to ensure that I will trip and fall and shatter my spleen (Yes, I know spleen’s aren’t things that you can shatter, but my cat’s don’t, they’re mental.) As usual, I reach down to pat the furry obstacle, musing to myself that by doing so, I am actually giving them positive feedback in their efforts to shatter my spleen. But it’s not one of my cats. There’s a wheezy kind snort. It’s a possum. He doesn’t scuttle away in terror. He doesn’t claw my arm off. He gives me a wheezy snort. I don’t know if this is possum equivalent of a: ‘Careful mate, I’ll have you if ya try that again!’ For all I know he could have just sneezed. Australian Possums are not the same thing as Opossums. Firstly, Possums are MUCH cuter. Secondly, they tend to have talons that can slice into Australian hardwoods. I elect to withdraw carefully.
But he just wheezed and snorted. Then he wandered off. What’s with that? It got me thinking. He was about the size of my cats. Maybe 7 kilograms (About 15 pounds). So I am about twenty times bigger than he is. I am not sure that if a Black rhinoceros came up and prodded me with his foot that I would simply wheeze and snort. Quite a remarkably brave creature is your average Possum. And your Echidna. And your Pademelon. And your Bandicoots (but only fleetingly, because I have had halves of several of them left behind, too. Sigh). So all of these critters – these Wallabies, Platypuses, marsupial mice and the rest – are wandering around full to the brim with courage even though there are lots of other critters trying to eat them. But when the prod comes, wheeze then snort.
This encounter has taught me two things: Firstly, the critters aren’t going anywhere. They will bravely (albeit at times unfortunately) go about their business where they want and when. Courage truly does come in small packages. Secondly, I really need to change the light globe on my outside light.
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?
It occurs to me that one of the really useful things that I could do with this is to offer up the lessons that I have learned in this insane venture project. If you decide to buy a ‘fixer upper’ be aware of a salient point: it is not one great big job. It is lots and lots and lots of small to large jobs. Many of those jobs don’t even register on your ‘jobs list’ or your ‘plan of attack’. Let me give you an example.
Access in and around my crumbling cottage was impeded by plants, piles of rubbish, bizarre egresses that effectively led to either nowhere or certain death. While I knew that cleaning up the messes and sorting out access was a priority, I failed to understand what labour that would involve.
So. Picture if you will a deck at the front of the house (Or better still, I will picture it for you). Now… see that three foot drop? That’s my main access point to the house. Given that I will be living in a caravan, if I want to nip inside the house for something, I can either climb a steep hill and loop around the house to the back door (While hacking my way through vegetation), or I can put up a ramp that will give me easy access.
Okay, ramp it is. Rummaging through the odds and sods and detritus around the property, I found some long boards that would span the distance and hold my weight. I also found some chicken wire that I could wrap around the boards to give me some grip when it was wet. I also found some round disks with prongs (A bit like gang nails) that could be used to nail down the chicken wire. Oh… and a quick rummage turned up some wood that could be used as backing boards for the ramp.
Took me three hours and an enormous amount of exertion just to find all of that junk. You see, none of this stuff was in the same place. I found the main ramp boards down the hill in the big shed. I found the chicken wire up by the studio. I found some of the backing wood in a hayshed and the remaining boards and gang nails in the house. Once I had all of the stuff, I had to clean it up. The worst bit was that the chicken wire was designed to keep genetically engineered super chooks safely under lock and key. Ordinary chicken wire is easy to bend and shape, this stuff requires someone like the Govenator to come and lend a hand or you will spend ages twisting and levering and sweating until you finally fold it into submission.
I could have driven to the hardware store and bought everything that I need. Probably would have cost me less than $50. But it would have involved a 100km round trip and the $50. It would have been easier, though.
The longer I am here, the better I will know my environment. I will remember that old bit of Ag-pipe in the carport, or the dozen or so old bricks piled up near the long drop. But that will take time. Cleaning the place up and putting things into a useful order will take time and effort.
There’s a rock I want to move down near the carport… problem is, I don’t have a tow chain. When I did my list, I wrote ‘move boulder’ what’s not on my list is ‘drive 100km and buy great big scary chain’.
If – like myself – your tree change involves a complete change of environment and immersion into skills you simply don’t have yet, then your list will be longer and more expensive than you might expect. It probably won’t be the big expensive jobs that will drive you insane, it will be the little things; the jobs that should only take half an hour. But stick with it. You will get better at the little snarls. You’ll know where that handy bit of corrugated iron is. You’ll remember where that box of 6 inch spikes is lurking. You’ll anticipate that you’re gunna use 16 rolls of duct tape. Once you’ve mastered all of that, the job will only take an hour and a half.
That said, I am afraid that there isn’t much you can do for the short, sharp, nasty surprises that you may find that you sit on. Protective gear is wonderful stuff… but gang nails will still get right through them. My advice is to use loud and colourful language, lurch around bellowing while clutching your backside for a while, then go and staunch the bleeding. Remember to disinfect it with something medicinal, and then don’t admit it or tell anyone about it for YEARS. Unless you have a blog, of course.