Monday, 30 April 2012

Return to Community Garden

On ANZAC Day (kind of like Remembrance Day only it’s a public holiday and even has its own biscuit. Don’t our veterans deserve that?!) I cycled up the big hill to the community garden and found more people there than last time! The guy who was very…reserved last time was there again, and a couple of other people and some kids. I had been told the guy was just like that and not to try and take anything from it, so I said ‘Hello!’ and he said hello and I said ‘Can I do some gardening please?’ on which he snorted a little laugh and showed me the carrot beds which I could weed.

So here was my little world for the afternoon. Those of you vaguely horticulturally exposed will probably be able to identify the main plant I was ripping out – tomatoes! I couldn’t believe it, it felt so wrong! In the UK people spend so much time and love trying to grow tomatoes in greenhouses, watering them twice a day but not too much and leaving the door open the right amount on warm days – and here they just pop up everywhere!
Don’t you think it looks all smart after I’d done it? Look, I found a little row of lettuces.

I was startled by a spider that popped out of a hole, and got scared that it was a funnel web. I was assured that funnel webs don’t have fluoro orange fangs, so got a bit more comfortable, and got a photo of it when it popped out completely:
The fluoro fangs didn't come out in the photo but honestly it did have them!

I started at 2:00 and at 3:40 found myself rather exhausted, so zoomed off down the hill and went home. Get me being all active.

Friday, 27 April 2012

Tent Day

Zappa has gone off to Byron again so I have been amusing myself. This morning I put the Australia tent up in the garden, filled it with cushions and our duvet and had a lovely time in the company of Senor Pepe the cat (she’s called Pepper according to her nametag but Zappa has taken to calling her Senor Pepe and it sticks awfully well).

I made a story of our adventures. Here is a taster:

It includes me saving the Clangers from annihilation and both of us undergoing a personality change. Those wishing to get a FREE copy need only to send 6 stamps from packets of Weetabix to my email address. 
At about 3pm I heard thunder, which was weird as the sky was clear, but I dismantled everything just in case and packed up, and then lots of cloud of all different weird colours started appearing from all sides, swirling about and heading straight for each other. It was a pretty still day but then I saw the trees across the road bend over really suddenly, and this gale hit, and the leaves were falling off the trees but it was still warm with no rain, so I just stayed outside and watched. It was a really good show – how often do we just stand there looking at the sky? I suppose it’s not normally that exciting. Loads of lightening started going off and then the rains came – I felt a drop and ran inside and then I have never seen rain so heavy – it was deafening and you could hardly see anything outside for a while. I heard my Mum’s voice in my head saying ‘It’s absolutely hosing it down out there!’ in a jolly way, and thought it fitted very nicely.

Anyway I stayed inside to watch it – the street turned into a shallow river and the garden my tent had been sitting on turned into a collection of lakes, and I felt very happy and smug in my nice warm, dry house. Well, I still do, I haven’t moved. It’s so weird though, looking at the pictures I took this morning, it feels like a different day looking out of the window.

Thursday, 26 April 2012

Finishing Project Chicken

We did it! It took us 10 days instead of 3, and we ran out of wood and had to patch bits together to make parts, but we did it – and we even got to stay for dinner and go and snatch the chooks out of the trees and put them in it when it got dark!

Please excuse the poor quality of and general lack of photos, I was so exhausted I wasn’t on the ball in the slightest.

The hutch has removable nest boxes and removable floors and is divided into 3 parts, both for ease of cleaning and so that separate chicken cliques are catered for (that’s serious by the way). The perches are also removable are made from fallen branches found on site, so ethical and locally sourced materials have been used (tick). The rooves are covered with recycled horse and chicken food sacks. More eco points.

The fence was a complete mission, right from the pipe-bursting start to the racing-to-finish-it-before-nightfall end, with leeches in the middle. It includes one layer of chicken wire that’s dug into the ground and another from ground level to 6 foot high. While we were making it some of the chickens came for a look round and seemed to be enjoying it.

It was SO SATISFYING to see it finally done and even put chickens in it! A really good project. Thank you so much to the Ashtons for putting up with us taking so long and making a mess, for feeding us home-baked cookies and even multiple gorgeous suppers, and generally just being absolutely lovely.

Saturday, 21 April 2012

Trip to Hospital

After working on the fence for the chicken run at Quigley and Jean's, we got home and showered and Zappa found this weird lesion on his hip. There was a little puncture wound and around it was a circular area of just beneath the surface bleeding. It wouldn't stop bleeding but the weirdest thing was he couldn't feel it at all. It didn't hurt or itch or anything.

I had absolutely no idea what it was but we both knew Australia is a country with all kind of hideous small organisms out to get you. Plus we've all seen those films where insects get into you and burrow through your flesh, or where aliens lay their eggs inside you and then a while later you suddenly rip apart and the alien comes out. I've seen a video taken by a lecturer of a dog with a tiny worm suspended in the fluid in the front of its eye, wriggling about. So we were uneasy. I rang Jean who works at Bellingen hospital, and tried to describe it, and he said it sounded very interesting and pop on over. So we did, me in my pyjamas, clutching our new UNUMC journal which we'd found in the postbox that evening (thanks Alice!).

Bellingen hospital is small, quiet and cute. We waited next to a guy having an asthma attack and Zappa filled out a form, and eventually Jean and a lady doctor took us into one of those rooms with lots of stuff in that you partition off with curtains. There was a little old lady sitting on a bed while the lady doctor talked about her to a nurse in front of her, and she kept saying things to them which they were ignoring.

The doctor was saying 'So we're running bloods at the moment, if you could do a urine sample that would be fab, heart rate is 85bpm,'

'I'm wearing some of those safety pants,' the old lady said. 'They're quite itchy.'

'The family is quite concerned,' the doctor continued, 'they said she coughed up a bit of blood this afternoon, so we're just going to keep an eye on her,'

'At 89 you've got to expect anything!' the old lady said.

The lady doctor came over to us and drew a curtain in front of us. Jean came back in from somewhere, drew back that curtain and drew a different one to the side of us. The lady doctor looked annoyed. They took a history and looked the wound and said 'Oh, it's a leech bite!' We felt pretty stupid then. Jean then spotted that Zappa had put Jedi for his religion and had a small laughing fit, and soon we were going home.

Better safe than sorry though, right?!

Thursday, 12 April 2012

Bellingen Community Garden

Taylor told me about Bellingen's community garden on Snake Day so I went to check it out.

It really did feel like a properly lovely community space, apart from the fact it was totally deserted. Clearly, though, that is not normally the case, and I'm going to try and find a way into the gardening posse. I must be prepared to be inventive and patient, as a part of me suspects that these people were actually there all the time, that day, but were just hiding underground in their hippie burrows. Or maybe they only come and garden at night, by the light of the moon. In any case, I will do some investigating and report back.

Monday, 9 April 2012


The other day I was round Suzy's house with her and Taylor, we were doing some gardening, when their neighbour gave us the heads up on a snake coming through the fence!

It was a big python, about 6 foot. Python's aren't poisonous. It had obviously eaten recently because it had a big bulge about two thirds of the way along it, which it got stuck in the fence for a while. It was then that we started to suspect it wasn't a very bright snake.

It slithered across the garden and started going up a tree beside the house. I touched it!

It went pretty high and we lost interest and started chatting away. I was mid-story when suddenly the snake fell out of the tree!!! It landed on the bottom branch and folded itself into a comforting knot, and sat there looking shaken for a while. We couldn't believe it. What kind of a snake falls out of a tree?! I can't believe it got that big, it clearly isn't very good at being a snake.

Then it composed itself and snaked along a branch, trying to get to the roof. This was its plan, snakes like living in people's rooves, and people don't tend to mind as they keep the rat population down. However, once again, the snake's IQ let it down, because the further it went along the branch, the lower the branch drooped.

When it had gotten all of its weight onto the branch, it realised it was headed for the ground, so decided to go along with that idea. It went round to the other side of the house and found a palm tree right next to the house to climb.

It was so crazy watching it go up the trunk, so clever and so weird!
Taylor called her friend's Dad out to come and get the snake as they were worried about their two chickens, two cats, mice and dog (quite reasonably). The snake managed to reach the roof just as he turned up, so onto the roof he went.

He took the snake off to the bush to release it.


Saturday, 7 April 2012

Home Alone


I’ve dropped Zappa off in Byron Bay and now he’s working Bluesfest! I’ve come back to Bellingen by myself, and I am going crazy with my freedom. I am:
·         Living off lentil casserole – that’s right, not only am I not having meat in my supper, I am having the same meal for multiple consecutive days

·         Playing classical music

·         Meditating and learning about self-hypnosis

Am I a crazy cat or what?

On Wednesday morning Zappa was packed and ready, we’d shovelled breakfast down us ready for the drive (4 hours), ready to be off soon so that I’d have enough time to drive back to Bello the same day. Zap did the oil and coolant, then happened to look at the tyres…one of the front tyres had worn right down to the steel on the inside edge, and the other one was on its way there too! Since we had loads of stuff done to Dingo in Byron, including having the wheel alignment adjusted, the tyres have been squealing and basically burning rubber every time we go round a sharp corner. Dave at the garage said that was fine, and it was because now the tyres were aligned properly, they were wearing in different places. We thought it was a bit strange that they’d worn down so quickly though. Anyway emergency tyre trip! The second place we went kindly fitted us in and we were only an hour and a half late in total. They didn’t have any cheap tyres in stock so we now have Supercats on our front wheels! The name totally makes up for that.

On the way to Byron, our new Supercats started squealing as well. Clearly all was not right, and it was painful to listening to the rubber being scraped off our brand new tyres. The wheel alignment was obviously wrong – we’d take it back to Dave and see if he’d tweak it back for us.

We got to Byron and went straight to Dave, who said he was booked up solidly til after Easter. We told him what had been happening and he looked worried and said I could turn up early tomorrow with it and he’d have a look. By the time we’d done that, it was mid afternoon and I didn’t fancy driving back in the dark for hours, so I decided to stay the night. And so off we went for a surf! To The Pass! My favourite (possibly only actually) place to surf in the universe. Zappa took Ray’s 7’6” board out and I took our big board. I didn’t have any changes of clothes so I just went in my shorts and one of Zappa’s tshirts.

The waves weren’t too big but the water was still quite strong for me, and I just couldn’t get past the white water and started getting frustrated. Zappa saved the day and gallantly powered my board and his out while I struggled to follow by myself! Eventually though I caught up, and after making a pact that we were allowed to drop in on each other’s waves, one reared up and we both paddled furiously.

I caught it and it was AAWWWWESOME!!!!! Properly surfed it I did. Neowwmmmm, zooming diagonally down the face, back and forth on the board to keep it in the right place – ahhhhhh it was so good! I gave a massive whoop as I caught it. It ran out and I hopped off, and suddenly another one was coming and Zappa was catching it behind me, so I wasn’t going to pass that by so I scrambled back on my board and caught it too. I popped up – and er, my shorts weren’t done up anymore, so they fell down a bit, flashing my knickers. I pulled them up and did them back up whilst riding, which made me do a wide right turn which actually looked rather stylish! Boom.

I got tired and went to lie on the beach, and Zappa caught what was apparently the best wave of his life! We were both very chuffed and agreed it had been an awesome day, which was impressive considering the start. We went back to a fantastic bbq, cooked by Jenny and Ray in honour of Ben’s last day before he goes to Europe on tour. We were treated to a sneak preview of Parkway Drive’s new DVD – an early draft without all the narration and general polishing, but it was still fantastic to watch. It’s going to be really good!

Really good day. Anyway, the next morning I got up and took the van to Dave. I was worried he’d find another million major things wrong with it but thankfully it WAS just the wheel alignment, and he put it straight.
‘I can’t understand how it got like that so soon,’ he said. ‘Have you driven over any potholes?’
‘Dave,’ I said, ‘This is Australia. You can’t not drive over potholes. That road right outside there has got a million for starters.’
‘That’s true,’ he said, ‘I’ve got a mate who went to Zimbabwe, and he said they have better roads over there than here.’
‘Over around Bellingen there are plenty of roads that aren’t even surfaced,’ I said. ‘What can you do?’
Another customer came in and he went and did some stuff and finished with Dingo, and came back in and handed me the keys.
‘Brilliant!’ I said ‘Er…what do I owe you?’
‘Oh, nothing,’ he said. ‘But just remember: It’s not a 4x4, ok?’

Sunday, 1 April 2012

Project Chicken

Quigley and Jean wanted us to build a chicken coop and run to keep the chooks from roosting in the trees, and laying eggs in bizarre places for them to turn into stinkbombs. We designed a setup that they liked and got building!

Foxes (and dogs) are a problem in the area so the fence needs to be dug in properly. As the total fence length will be 108 metres, we rented a trench digger (called Ground Hog).

Off Zappa went, unaware of the large pipe he was about to hit a couple of metres away...

Uh oh.....

Disasterously high sums of money for the total cost of this chicken home were suddenly invading our brains, remorse was wrapping its tentacles around our heads, and a nasty smell was wafting up from the hole. We didn't know what kind of a pipe it was, it was so big and in a funny direction, so Jean went to fetch the very Australian very handy neighbour. He gave us some wonderful news: the pipe was a run-off pipe from the septic tank! It already HAD holes in it to leak out lovely fertilising liquid into the ground (the solid stuff stays in the septic tank and that's the stuff that gets pumped out), so we didn't have to call out any expensive plumbers and replace it at all!
Zappa didn't think this news was all wonderful: 'So I just put my whole arm in sewage,' he said. 'Great.'

Baxter (above) thought the trench digger was amazing. 'I like wadching Zabba use the trench digger,' he said, 'becod it makes him shake aaalll overr.'

On the second side of the rectangle, Zappa and Ground Hog chomped through the phone line. Zappa then electrocuted himself on it whilst repairing it. No, no, that's not all. He electrocuted his FACE. Don't ask me how. And don't worry, it was only a small shock, like a mild electric fence, but he said he was suddenly standing up and didn't particularly remember getting there. We didn't know phone lines carried a little current, and if you didn't either, some useful trivia for you. Anyway, now the phone line sounds crackly so we're going to have to drive to Coff's Harbour to a proper electrician's shop to get a special underground connector box for it. Ughhh...

Since then, Zappa has been digging the trenches the old-fashioned way, with a spade.

The coop so far, and a mournful Dolphin who is in season and seems to have chosen me as a boyfriend. She just can't understand why her advances haven't paid off.

Stay tuned for project development. I'm dropping Zappa off in Byron for Bluesfest on Wednesday and coming back here for blissful alone time! It will give us a chance to miss each other (hopefully).We will recommence Project Chicken after I go and get him a week later.

A lovely sky at the end of a long day!