Friday, 31 December 2010

A single Swallow doesn't make a summer

Trev, Cal and I watched a young swallow playing with a white feather. It flies up with it, drops it and then swoops to catch it before it hits the ground. Over and over again. A great game and just a wonderful symbol of the joy of summer.

Not sure if it's from the same nest, but we have four wee swallows in a nest outside the bathroom window, if you crane your neck you can watch them coming and going. We've been watching them since they were eggs, great to watch their wee beaks open for food, and then to see them fly.

The three of us were standing together on a hilly knoll having one of those 'Lords of all we survey' moments when a pair of swallows decided we were too close to their nests and swooped us making clicking noises to scare us off. If you closed your eyes you could feel the wind from their wings as they brushed past.

To offset the wonderfulness of birds we have a blackbird who got under the netting and ate every last cherry off one of the trees and has now demolished the majority of the raspberries, or any worth eating. Plans to evict him are in progress.

But one of the loveliest things I saw this summer so far is just below. This was taken after the three of us did a marathon session with shovels making ditches around three 20 metre rows of raspberry plants. I looked back and saw these three, Pappa Bear, Mumma bear and baby bear shovels, planted in a row. Kodak moments like these make the blisters worth it.

...only that was months ago and I never did get back to take that Kodak moment picutre. Hence this has remained in drafts till I rediscovered it. Summer over, the swallows long gone.

Tuesday, 28 December 2010

Peg (who's not silly) and the bearded Tilly

Months ago now we bought two Saanan goats, Peg and Tilly. Peg quickly taught us just how smart a goat can get. She can take the lid of anything, and when Trev built a goat palace extension with a gate and a 'helicopter' latch, she showed us how quick she could work that out too. While Peg is a character we both fell for Tilly. Tilly is the smoochiest goat I've ever met. She's very gentle, nuzzles up to you, tenderly gives your ear a nibble, rubs her head up against yours, kisses you and loves her affection returned.

Bella got the 'ump' for a week or so and either ignored the new two or took a half-hearted swipe at them if she could. They've settled down now, though Bella still remains aloof. Between them we get around 4 litres of milk a day.

Peg and Tilly haven't been in kid for years now, and we've been warned they give around 10 litres each when first freshened. An amount that makes my hands ache just thinking about. But will try to have them in kid a year out of sync.

Saturday, 27 November 2010

Minding our Own Beeswax

Caleb recently purchased a new laptop. He's paying it off by working for us on a low $5 hourly rate (more for excellently completed jobs). He helped me hammer the nails in his room, Trev punched them in. Caleb puttied the holes and washed the floor and then using my freshly made beewax polish, polished the boards.

The colours in the timber came out beautifully. Not like you'd see with estapol etc where it looks like a layer of reflective water on the surface. Much more subtle.

Beeswax Floor Polish100 grams of beeswax chopped into small pieces and placed in a wide mouth glass jar.
In a small pot of boiling water place the jar with the lid loosely on. Heat the water slowly (do not boil) and stir occassionally to help melt the wax. Wax has a low melting point, do not over heat. We used some of our own beeswax and strips of old beeswax off cuts from the hive. The cheapest way to buy it is from apiary suppliers. Or, if you have a friendly neighbour apiarist, ask them.

When the wax is melted remove the jar from the water and, while stirring, blend in 100mls of mineral turpentine. Allow to cool.

With a lint free cloth rub the wax onto your floor boards. 'Dries' within half an hour, you can then buff it for an increased shine. We tested a spare board for staining. Water simply beaded on it, and dirt wiped off. We realise it's not going to have the same kind of durability as synthetic finishes. But that's a compromise we're willing to make.

Friday, 26 November 2010

Little Brown Pigs Big Adventure

I was in the garden and heard an outbreak of piggy noise. It was coming from two directions. Off I flew and sure enough, there's a little brown pig at the gate wanting to come through. Bleeding from under her eye, and her mouth and looking thinner than her little pink piggy mate. We did the re-capture dance... she runs and squeals, we turn and dive... many times. Finally Trev had her and we reunited the pair.

Little pig piggy has been getting lots of smooches, and scratches. Scratch her belly and she falls over in ecstacy. So she's been getting very used to interaction with humans, especially of the food producing kind. Not so little brown pig, but hope to inaugurate her to the delicacy of home baked bread soaked in goats milk and have her eating out of our hand soon.

Wonder just what adventures she's been in.

Also apologies for the last title. Not sure what I was thinking, 'something or other' not 'rather' Doh!

Sunday, 21 November 2010

Empress of Blanding and ... something or rather

We have two new wee piggies. A Large Whites and a Berkshire. They're about the 6-7 weeks of age and cute as buttons. Though there was a lot of muttering, 'I like suckling pig!' under Trev's breath while we ran hill and dale retrieving the wee buggars from neighbours when we discovered their fence breaching powers. Both gilts. We hope to eventually raise guilt free pork/bacon for Trev and Cal to eat. These two are breeders. They'll largely be fed on whey, comfrey, boiled spuds, windfall apples, carrots, sunflower seeds and food scraps. They're free range so will supplement their diets on grass and bracken fern root while ploughing up areas and fertilzing it for us. Very much looking forward to having them happy to see us and the scrap bucket at the moment it's the sound of stuck pig when we go in for the cuddle. A bit more positive food reinforcement to go yet.

Trev wants to call them the Empress of Blanding and something else even longer as they're references to pigs in PG Wodehouse books, which he loves. My guess is they will end up being Piggy and Wiggy or something less illustrous.

Busy as a beaver and as bald as one too!

Trev's hair could have been said to have been coming out at a rate of knots (it was pretty tangled). The bald spot from the bedsores on the back of his head is slowly coming back, but just as fast everything else is falling out. Trev hasn't cut his hair since 1993, so today was a bit of a shock to the system. Apparently high temps and severe illness can make the hair go into a resting phase. As such everything falls out, and well, it's time to start again. So a scissor cut followed by a number 3 buzz cut and Trev's hair twirling days are over for at least the next three years. (He gets his pig tail and twirls it in his fingers, thumping it on his shoulder). It's going to take a while to getting used to Trev's longest hairs being the nasal variety.

Trev's mum will be pleased, even if he does look like a bit of a crim. When he was in a coma she did mention, with a certain gleam in her eye that now would be the time to get out the scissors.

Sunday, 7 November 2010

Cheap Christmas Copies

Give someone a giggle this Christmas... copies of Who Killed Dave usually retail for $24.95, I'm selling them for $20 (including postage) up till Christmas. Saves you around $10.
My Christmas fund, your Christmas fun :-)

Cheap Christmas Copies

Remember to ask if you want them signed to a particular person

reviews here and here

The book is printed on recycled paper, printed with vegetable inks and is carbon offset. While it's an environmental print, it's definately not about the environment!


Dave died in mysterious and grotesque circumstances and the murder has caught the imagination of a
nation. There’s a television poll running and 46% of voters believe Robyn is guilty.

Maybe she did, maybe she didn’t, she wasn’t in any state to remember.

But hey, if you’re pointing fingers then Kaos Court is full of people crazy enough to commit the crime.
This part time masseuse, part time tarot card reader is going to need all her skills to find out who killed
Dave, because it’s the only thing standing between her and Detective Mark Hood, a man she could never
marry, not when your first name is Robyn. Right?

A whacky whodunit comedy that cartwheels from one chaotic moment to the next.

And who killed Dave? ... You’ll never guess!

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Did I mention...?

That I've mastered the final coat of mud on two rooms and am quite impressed with the final result. Played with types of sand, clay (including hacking out an old Kaolin hill in the area with Cal and Trev) adding various 'hippe' additives of cooked flour paste and linseed oil and tried lots of techniques to get it right and seemed to have got it right enough to have no cracking and not too many lumps. I keep seeing hand rendered walls in movies and remarking, 'Hmm, should have got me to do that, look how uneven that is' kind of remarks. In jest, believe me, in jest. Once these walls are done I'm hanging up the trowel for good.

The Progress Meter

It's been sitting on the same mark for almost two months and then, within two days had a sudden, not that inexplicable, leap forward.
All down to John 'The Workhorse' Fibbens. Workhorses in carpentry are usuable fairly stationery objects, and John doesn't really come under that category. The photo of John is perhaps not his best view point, nor his most distinguishing feature. He's a force to be reckoned with. Thanks John. Trev working alongside and Caleb offsiding, two rooms have now been enclosed, insulated and a floor laid down, plaster walls are up in two rooms. It's amazing to see what a difference a floor and internal walls make. Yeah, seeing it written like that you'd expect a fair bit of difference. But I've been walking across gaps and joists for so long now a solid floor is fairly miraculous. Caleb occupied the room within two shakes of a lambs tail (not yet born). Unfortunately he decided to revisit his old room where the insulation was stored and watched TV for an hour using it for a pillow. Not unsurprisingly we had a red cheeked Cal visit us late one night complaining he had an 'agigitated face.' A quick shower appeared to have resolved those issues.

Of course, human nature as it is, now I want ALL the rooms finished. Another day on Saturday will see a third room completed. Then up to Trev to finish off the last upper windows. But due to the ulcerated bedsore on Trev's heel it's still hellish to climb ladders for him.. But he is getting there. A week or so ago he had a sudden turn for the better, energy, stamina and strength seemed to, after what seemed a long gradual return, make a leap of there own on the progress meter.

Little Lambinos

Louise has been wandering around doing the woolley beach ball thing for a while now. She spent most of yesterday near the top fence (they always go as high on the property as they can, a flood instinct perhaps) and had two wee female lambs. We left her to things for 24 hours, but now it's time for a cuddle. Born female they're off the butchers list, thank God. Lamboghini is due to have first sometime soon too. I don't think she has any idea why she's stacked on the weight of late.

Saturday, 16 October 2010

Environmental Thrillers

LA Larkin, the author of The Genesis Flaw will be discussing the Rise of the Environmental thriller with me (forgot to mention that) in Hobart 26 October. Should be an interesting discussion at my favourite bookshop, Fullers in Collins Street. All welcome.

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Who Killed Dave? - Now an e-book

I created a digital online version some time ago - but wasn't that impressed with the quality. I've finally got around to creating an e-version with Amazon.

It's just come on line at Who Killed Dave? - Amazon and costs $11.99 AUS and $9.99 US.

I've yet to embrace e-books at home, but see it is a good way forward. Maybe a Kindle Christmas present Trev? How do you feel about paperless reading?

Faith in Human Nature - Restored

Been a couple of weeks now of having Trev back home. He's taking it slowly as it seems that's the only way possible. He continued to lose weight at home due to lack of appetite and he's now lost 15kg, most of which is muscle judging by the lack of strength. He's slowly increasing this however. It's been blowy of late and I saw Trev almost knocked off his feet by a gust the first week he got home. But doubt that would be the case now. He had a go at chopping wood the other day and had to ask me to help him get the axe out of the puny bit of wood, which he's used to picking up a big chopping block size of wood stuck to his axe and whacking it down upside down to get the blocksplitter through it. The kind of wood I couldn't pick up in way too many Sundays. To say that losing 30 years of hard won muscle in 12 days has been hard on him is putting it mildly. He's had a few dark days there and still finds it hard to understand how something so mild in Caleb and I could come close to killing him has also been difficult.

But the one thing that we come back to again and again is how bloody wonderful everyone has been, how when we didn't have a car, lo, there was a loaner, when there wasn't any wood in the woodbox, lo, there would be wood. Goats needed milking, lo, udders would be empty. While in the motel we had a call to the room to say a box was downstairs for us to pick up. Bemused Caleb and I went down to pick it up and it was full of organic fruit/bread, goodies and a card with $100 in it.

I can't remember what bought it on, but one day I stood up and in a computer generated voice I said, 'Faith in Human Nature - restored'. It has been a tough year in a lot of ways, one's I'd not share on the blog, and Trev becoming so ill was major icing of the decorate mountain tops kind. But it hasn't been entirely negative, we get to keep Trev and the restoration of faith in human nature... well, the two insignificant words Thank You, keep popping up, they hardly do justice to what it feels to have been on the receiving end of so much caring.

Even so, Thank you! to all those who offered support in all its guises.

H1N1 (swine flu) vaccinations are free, only 20% of the population in Australia have opted to have it, mostly because they think, like Trev, that they're bullet proof or that the threat has passed.

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Earthquake New Zealand photos

While Trev was in hospital there was a bit of a tremble in my place of birth, and where my parents live. My mother, who's not long had a heart attack or two and didn't need the extra stress of has been giving me updates on the constant shaky state of things in Christchurch. She's sent through a link of photos of some of the damage. The earthquakes continue...

Earthquake damage

Trev's at home

Not sure I'm totally happy about that. Thought it wonderful at the time, and while he's generally behaving he did manage to fall into the caravan, and this morning, without my knowledge, back out of it. Had to extricate him from under the step and haul him back up. He's peeved there is so much of him to haul up. He's lost 10kg, once he knew the full horror of where he'd been for the fortnight he was keen to discover the weight reduction benefits, and while keen to keep them has been demolishing food ever since. Which is great. Interestingly he constantly thirsts for fruit juices, lemons/oranges, fresh squeezed.

They weren't that keen for him to leave, but having heard bad weather was coming and having been transferred to another ward where he was able to take advantage of the quiet open spaces of 2am. He hauled himself around till he was capable enough of walking (like a tight rope walker, said the physio and encouraged him to walk with his feet further apart, now he walks like he's pooed himself) nevertheless, he's walking. But very weak and breathless.

We had another drama the other day when Val and I leapt into the car to go see Trev, who was finally conscious only to discover that our car, which has only ever needed maintenance, never repairs, needed repairs of the kind requiring tow trucks. Just about pulled out my hair, a neighbour leant us their car, and now other friends have given us a loaner till ours returns. Expecting to pay $1200 for that. Someone remarked that we were clocking up a lot of good luck in the future, but I have to be honest and say we've clocked up a lot in the past, and getting Trev back, while not luck, it had skill involved on behalf of his caregivers, is pretty lucky too.

Last night after our semi-successful attempt to get Trev into bed without mishap, he started hyperventilating and breathing very noisily. Almost convinced myself to take him straight back to hospital. So spent a lot of the night coaxing him onto his side where he breathed easier and listening to see he kept it up.

Trev fully intends to test out his coordination on the keyboard and respond to emails soon. But considering I watched him brush his hair this morning (it exhausted him), it might be some time away yet. I just have to convince him to stay still long enough to recover.

Thursday, 9 September 2010

Trev's in Dubai

Well he is, according to him.

We asked him why he thought he was and he told us it was because of all the muslims. 'Not that I have anything against Muslims' he told us. 'And why is the clock going backwards?' then diagnosed the issue as being in the northern hemisphere and the coreolis effect.
He wasn't supposed to be talking but he wouldn't stop and mostly so quiet no one could hear. But when I told him to shush for a while I heard a distinct.
'Fuck the shush'.
He was grumpy as hell. He kept trying to enlist Caleb to get him a drink. We weren't allowed to do it because of the risk it would go straight into his lungs. He was pissed off. 'Why are you all against me?' Glares all round.
'Would you like to be on your left side, or your right side?' the nurse asks.
'I don't care as long as I have a drink in my hand'.
'What would you like to drink?'
'A beer'.
He couldn't understand how he'd got to Dubai, and how we were all there too.
I explained we were in Australia and Tasmania, at the Royal Hospital,
'Oh yeah, we came here to get married'.
He was disabused of that idea pretty quickly.
He was, as we all thought, shocked he'd been in hospital so long. He can't remember much, he thought he'd spent some time at Gary's. But I don't know of any Gary. He also thinks he may have seen the white light.
'Can I have a beer yet?'

Later we see him, we're allowed to rip off the gowns and masks because he no longer needs to be in iso, his swab was negative for swine flu. He keeps repeating, 'I've had tamiflu?'
He's out into the main ward now where he's a little less belligerent and eventually the 'fuckin' clock' is going forward once more and he's able to drink and eat, the best yoghurt ever and pureed icky looking stuff which he tosses back. His face mask is now a nasal prong thing and he hates it. He wants it out. He struggles to get his hand to his face to pull it off, but he is so weak, and his muscles so wasted he physically can't touch his nose. He's warned why it is he can't remove it, but he continues to try. Later he looks like he might make it, and Caleb touches a finger to his arm and restrains him with the pressure of a butterfly. Caleb gets the glare from hell.

Of course all these antics impress us hugely. We have ear to ear grins. I try to impress him about how ill he's been. I read him lots of emails from people and blog comments. I tell him all the wonderful stuff people have been doing for him and us.
'Hmm, I must be an Ok kind of bloke then'.
He looks overwhelmed, his bottom lips trembling.
'You OK Trev?'
'I thought you were crying'.
'Yeah, well I'm feeling emotional. Can I have that fuckin' beer now?'

Monday, 6 September 2010

I won't be blogging for a while

Hi All,

The hospital made a complaint yesterday about the blog, seeing it as a breach of patient confidentiality. While I believe care has been taken not to name any staff, and of course any other patient in ICU, or said anything negative about his care, which has been fantastic, I'm prepared to comply. Human nature being what it is I'm not going to jeopardise our relationship with the hospital.

Trev has an oft repeated phrase in regards to freedom of speech, 'I might not believe what you have to say, but I'll fight to the death for your right to say it.'

Thanks for all your kind thoughts, your support has been a real boost. I have made a journal of blog posts and all your comments,emails etc for Trev which he can read when he's ready to read it.



Sunday, 5 September 2010

Trev, Trev, Trevor!

Should have seen the look on the nurses face when she asked to see what I was giving Trev in a little dropper. Told her that the medical profession can't find anything but water and traces of alcohol in homeopathic medicenes, that seemed to allay fears.

Trev went back a bit today. High temp, upped the level of PEEPS and oxygen and bowels still not moving despite two hit men of interns giving him two enemas. They stood at his bedside, 6 foot something, with hands behind there backs and unsmiling faces till I left. If Trev could have seen them it would have given him the shits all on its own. No shit moved however.

He's stirring, not when I told him I loved him, no, only when I told him that he came fourth in the footie tipping competition! Hard to see him go back, even a little bit.

Had a really shit day really. Started when I found Daisy dead. Ehren fed the goats half a bale of hay, Caleb did tell me, but I was distracted with other stuff and didn't realise just how much, and the silly thing did what she always does, guzzled herself till she gave herself bloat. I didn't even realise she was sick I've been too busy washing dogs (Nuju decided to sit in the rain then roll in dirt till he was a black dog), feeding people and answering the telephone. So I didn't even do my goat check when we got home. Looks like a miserable death for her.

We had to bury her Sunday morning. Ehren and Caleb being the grave diggers. Then I fell arse over tit in the mud and hurt my back. Got to the hospital to find Trev has gone, just slightly downhill and they can't find the (expletive deleted) $800 Vitamin C. Will need to jump onto it first thing today. It's probably sitting around somewhere. So much for spending $200 to get it there by Saturday morning. Still trying to convince every doctor and nurse, one at a time, the value of trying it. Yes, it may have no effect,but also nothing detrimental, it may be beneficial. Worth a go.

(wrote the above last night before ringing the hospital)

Trev's bowels (bells) are clanging... moved 'em. Which is great news. Still no improvements elsewhere.

(now morning, rung for the report from the night nurse)

Temp down, but a restless night where he appears to have been stirring and trying to open his eyes. They suspect the ventilator is causing discomfort, which is probably true, but as he has a bad back and it's the worst possible position for him to be lying in, it's probably that too. Can't stand ten minutes in that position and it's now the tenth day.

Gathering all my info on Vitamin C, courier names etc and going in to see if we can sort the C.

Saturday, 4 September 2010

Father's Day

Seems he may be the one giving us the present! That of his presence.

Yesterday he stirred for the first time, almost didn't believe it. The physio was seeing him for the first time and she was shaking his lungs to try and loosen the muck. It disturbed him enough for him to come to enough to move his head. She was asking him to take a big breath, and lo! He did.
His peeps are down to 14 (the gate posts moved though, we've been hanging out for 12 and the possibility of having the ventilator out, but now the numbers 6).
They're giving him 50% oxygen blend, and his blood oxygen levels are 92-95% which is good. He's full of fluid and his hands look like puff fish. His bedsores and dusky patches are growing, his stomach still isn't working and they're now delivering all his nutrition intravenously.

They've backed off giving him the Vitamin C, I have to wait till Monday to go in and battle that one out. Had a good nurse who asked about why we'd got it for him and she was receptive, which is better than others. I went to Gould's Naturopathica yesterday and bought Trev homeopathic drops that are supposed to help with the right lung expelling gunk and blood, which is the big thing he has to do, mostly on his own. We gave it to him and later on I looked at what it was. Arsenicum. Glad the nurses/doctors didn't see that!

The nurse said she thought he'd got to the turning point. We're all repeating, 'turning point' to each other and looking smug.

Then... last night I rung up to see how he was and was told they'd changed his sedation medication and that he was stirring and trying to open his eyes. We're off soon to see him and hope that's still the case. He's off the noradrenalin (which was supporting his blood pressure which had been getting extremely low), so hopefully peripheral circulation will improve and he'll have less issues with the bla bla skin. Still has a low grade temp, but nothing major. They're giving him special foot splints as he's starting to get 'foot drop', and he'll have a hard time walking when he's ready too due to muscle wastage.

So, even though he's not out of the 'woodwork' (as one nurse termed it) yet, it's more and more unlikely that it will go any other way other than up (with a few slips back to be expected).

We're all very tired, Caleb was almost completely silent yesterday, so even though it's fathers day today he can stay with friends and do something 'normal.' Today is the 9th day, feeling guardedly hopeful I'll get to say gidday!

Thursday, 2 September 2010

On All things Trevor

Hi All,

Trev remains stable. No real progress forward apart from the new trick he has of coughing up muck and rolling his eyes to the back of his head. His lung x-rays show no improvement. They're going to lower his sedation a bit, but not so much that he wakes. They are hoping that will result in more coughing and more up mucking.

I've had success on the Vitamin C level (please forgive if I've already said this, I can't recall), but the hospital couldn't source it, said it would cost $25,000 - $30,000 to get it through Canberra (and Trev would probably have died of old age by the time it got here). So I made lots of calls/emails and found an Australian supplier in Melbourne. It's expensive, especially when they said it would cost $600 to deliver it by 7pm tonight. So I opted for the $200 to get it there by lunch time tomorrow. Sorry Trev, figured I'd make sure I can afford the next batch instead of pay so dearly for the first).

Just cleared it with the hospital and they will start administering it tomorrow when it gets there. I'm pretty excited about my depleted bank balance. I hope this is the thing that will get things moving for him, and in the right direction. He's been piddling around so long he's getting bed sores and the noradrenalin levels concentrate his blood in his organs and his peripheral circulation is bad and he's getting dark necrotic looking tissue on his feet and heels and lower spine They can't turn him on his side or his oxygen levels plummet dramatically. I'm so glad he's on morphine, even if he does wake up an addict.

We're at home now as we couldn't stay in the motel any longer. We won't see him again till tomorrow morning. But Ehren (Trev's oldest son) is busy chopping wood that a neighbour dropped off to us and I'm checking chooks, ducks, garden, cleaning up and generally making myself busy.

About to start work on a journal for Trev with clippings and cuttings of emails/blog comments/cards etc from all you wonderful people so when he wakes he gets to feel as overwhelmed as we do by all the love and well wishes coming his way.

Thanks to you all for offering it!



Wednesday, 1 September 2010

Update on Trev

Hi Again.

Trev had a good night with his temp finally near normal. His PEEPS came down for the first time from 18 to 16. This is the amount of pressure the ventilator is using to force air into his lungs. The amount of oxygen in the mix came down too. He was on 100%, now he's on 40%, coming down 5% at a time. This is all good. If he keeps this up, which we have been warned against thinking like, as steps forward are usually followed by steps back, they'll be thinking about taking him off the ventilator soon.
Hopefully his digestive system will start up again as it shut down and he's not been on the nasal tube feed since the beginning. I just hope he doesn't see this as a weight loss strategy!

Very much looking forward to tempting his appetite with all things gourmet and nutritious soon.

Learning to try stay on an even level for all those around me. When things are good you just about have to scrape me off the ceiling, when he has a step back it's sweep me off the floor. Not fair on those around me as I take them with me on the giant swings. Having said that, we're all feeling pretty darn good this morning after this mornings good news.



An Update on Trev

Hi All,

Trev recovered from his bad night and is again stable.

Had some advice about large doses of Vitamin C intraveneously. We just pitched the idea to the ward director who rolled his eyes but came at it. Said he'd already been to a conference where they were talking about how families were all asking for intravenous vitamin C. Said it couldn't hurt and was going to arrange it. He said, 'If Trev dies in a couple of weeks you'll blame me for not giving it to him.' I agreed with him. He made a few derogatory Kiwi remarks as that's where the Vit C info came from. But I let him get away with it. We'd already snuck in straight rosehip oil and massaged every bit of skin we could find with it. Only 3% absorption through skin, but better than nothing. He said Trev had been given an 8.5 out of 10 for seriousness that first bad night and is now down to 7 - which is good.

Some small improvement in lungs, he's off nitrous oxide and still holding his own. The Doctor says it's going to be rough going for the next while as in a couple of days they may look at weaning him off the ventilator and he will be coughing and choking on all the crap in his lungs which will be unpleasant for all, but most particularly Trev. We're all very selfish in wanting him back and conscious so we can tell him how much we love him and that he needs to get well and make us more hummus, his last batch is almost finished.

We've been incredibly lucky with neighbours pitching in at home with the various menagerie, Nuju, the sheep, goats, chooks and ducks. Which is fantastic and a load off our minds to know it's just not a problem. But hope to be back home soon. We're really keen to know it's an upward curve he's on.

Thanks for all your support and well wishes! It's great to hear from everyone, and a good reminder of all the good in the world.

Monday, 30 August 2010

Trev is very ill

Hi All,

I've a favour to ask.
Trev went into hospital on Saturday morning with a fever and difficulty breathing. He was diagnosed as having pneumonia as a result of a flu virus. It turns out it's swine flu. Caleb and I both had it and were fine, but Trev's immune system came close to killing him. By 4am Sunday morning the hospital called to tell us to hurry up and come see him as he had deteriotated very quickly and was on life support. It's Tuesday and he still is. His temperature has come down from 40 degrees to 37.7, but his lungs have yet to show any improvement. He is in an induced coma, paralysed so the ventilator can do all the work for his lungs and as such is not aware of the life and death struggle he's going through.

We're currently staying in Hobart and spending as much time as we can with him.

I'm a great believer in the ability of people to help or heal others with the power of thought. Yes, I know, very hippy trippy. But it can't hurt to try. I'd like to ask that you might find a moment to send Trev a bit of healing energy. We love the silly buggar a lot.

Thank you.

Sunday, 25 July 2010

Red Robin Take Two

This little guy is so cute he's cutting into my gardening time, 50 blackcurrent cuttings went in yesterday, going to try transplanting the gooseberries too, but must admit to looking dubiously at the length of the thorns and finding myself other things to do.

Little Red Robin

Every time I turn over a clod in the garden I have a little red and blue army of watchers appear. The red robin's pose nicely on any available post, raspberry cane, fence, branch. While the blue wrens tend to hide becomingly behind clumps of grass and scrutinise every lump of earth. The moment I walk away they dive in and help themselves to a squirming worm dinner.

Monday, 12 July 2010

The Stark Conspiracy and Total Toxic Overload

Years and years ago I read Ben Elton's book Stark - and over the years the memory disintegrated to vague recollection of a guy called Zimmerman and the plot involved a camel. So it was with interest I watched the movie adaptation of the book, which starred Ben Elton himself as the whimpy pommy anti-hero. Written in 1989 and destined to become a million seller (a rariety for a first time author)it's a comedy based on environmental issues and set in Australia. A link to the wikipedia entry Out came the remote control when super bad guy and meglomaniac has his monologue. De Quincy says,

'Recently our politiicans have been playing the green card in the grubby scramble for support. As we STARK conspirators know, such tokenism is entirely cynical, the ecological situation can never be reversed while market forces remain superior to political will'.

I think we all recognise that, but how does it change, or even stronger how 'do we'as a personal responsibility, make the change? In the past great change has only ever really come about through bloody revolution. But our stomachs are too refined for such vulgarity (at least in the West), so a bloodless coup? But our current system is a great machine that swallows idealism whole and spits out personal interest/greed in a cynacism shaped cookie cutter.

It does seem as though, as the inventive species, we need to find a new and relatively harmonious way to tap into change on a broad scale. Any ideas how this can be done?

Monday, 14 June 2010

We love carrots

But these guys love each other more. We couldn't bear to part them, so cooked 'em and ate 'em whole.

In the X, Y, Z of things we're in the W's

Walls and windows forever...

Or so it seems. I was just reflecting on the obsolete professions post and how I'd like there to be earth renderers a plenty.

Trev has had to take a break, by necessity, from the window side of the story. He accidently managed to dangle his little finger in the buzzer, which, at 4,800 revolutions and freshly sharpened, removed its fleshy pad but left a nice new angle -which he will no longer dangle (at least not in moving parts). Lots of blood intially, and still changing dressings each day, but it's looking less like raw meat in a butchers shop. My squeamishness is making it hard to type. Change of topic required...

Trev's windows look fabulous, he has 8 out of the 10 of the windows in the walls completed, just the bathroom and our bedroom to go. Still 8 small windows in the celestry (sp?) to go. He's as sick of windows as I am mud.

We've continued to change the render recipe but you'll see one of the images showing up a heck of a lot of cracking. I've decided not to go the way of the bulk coat and just go thin layer of mud over thin layer. No cracking that way. Tedious however. And before you say less clay our experiments show almost 100% sand still cracks. By the time I'm finished I may even be able to say Linda Cockburn M.M & E.R (Mixer of Mud and Earthern Renderer.)but I doubt it.

Obsolete Professions

I've been researching obsolete professions. The context being that as an evolving world some industries do, by necessity, die. In our modern world we clutch at them, desperate to make sure no one's livelihood is in dispute. But in the end things change, professions and professionals need to evolve and change with it.

Here are a few I found that fascinate. There were some listed in The great Cat Massacre - and other episodes in French Cultural history, that we have not just lost the skill, but what the skill even was.

Belleyetere - Bellfounder.
Burneman - Carrier of barm or water for brewers.
Chaloner - Dealer in shalloon, a material made in Chƒlons.
Cissor - Tailor (not lost, but an interesting word association)
Combere - Woolcomber
Dubbere - Cloth dubber, i.e., one who raises the nap of cloth.
Dudder - Probably a maker of coarse cloaks.
Daunsel - Gentleman in waiting, groom or squire.
Dysshere - Probably a ditcher, or in some cases a disher.
Frereman - Servant of the Friars.
Furber (Furbour) - Furbisher of armour.
Hetheleder - Provider of heather for fuel.
Latouner - Worker in latten, a metal resembling brass.
Palmer - A Pilgrim, one who had been, or pretended to have been, to the Holy Land.
Pannebeter - Pan-hammerer, or perhaps clothdriver.
Pardoner - One licensed to sell Papal Indulgences.
Pattenmaker - Maker of iron-rimmed pattens for footwear.
Pinder - Keeper of the Pound or Pinfold.
Seinter - Girdlemaker.
Sleymaker - Maker of instruments to part threads in weaving.
Spurrier - Spurmaker.
Vaginarius, Sheather - Scabbard maker. (another interesting word association)
Whittawer - Preparer of white leather.
Blockmaker - One who crafted pulleys
Whitesmith - Tinsmith; or one who finishes & polishes after the Smith

This list was adapted from Olive Tree Genealogy

What it makes me wonder is what professions will become obsolete in the future? Obviously those who serviced typewriters have now moved onto other industries. I know the makers of clay pipes are nearly all gone due to the perfidy of PVC.
I admit to sometimes walking in the city and looking around at the businesses which would fail spectacularly if my spending habits were typical of the majority. Gone are the jewellers, the perfumeries, bags and shoes. Female fripperies are history, hairdressers are in short supply, sports equipment, obsolete.

On the up side, every second shop is a bookstore.

What business are you in? Will it still be around in a low energy/resource future? Will it be able to evolve? Are you part of the evolution?

Monday, 5 April 2010


I'm always striving to find the most humane methods for dealing with animals. I figure we're intimate enough with our sheep (leave the kiwi/sheep jokes right where you found them)to know when their behinds need a trim to keep away dags, flies, and their cute little white offspring. So their tails stay on. But with three boy goats born this year, and only one requiring the continued use of his testicles I had to come up with a better method than the elasticator to castrate them.

Ramses, the black sheep became pointlessly named after his run in with the elasticator. I watched the process with dismay. He was in obvious pain for some days.

I did a bit of research and found the burdizzo, which is a large hand held clamp used to crush the blood vessels leading to the testicles. The device is bloodless, so little chance of infection, and it's painful for a short period only. We used it on Chalk and Cheese. I held the poor fellows down, Trev gave them the squeeze, the squawked, got up, walked away and within minutes were eating again and giving us wary looks. It'd be nice to let them stay intact, but intact boy goats smell horrendous and don't make good pets, which is what Chalk and Cheese are.

The cost of the burdizzo's? I found places I could get them in Australia - for $300plus dollars. But in the US - $30 - you can guess where I got them from.

Wednesday, 31 March 2010

An Exodus of Animals

We had nine goats. I loved all the frisky baby animals. But it wasn't to last.

Bint and her noisy mother Charity were sold to friends who were told of her strident qualities. They're both happy and Bint has been renamed Africa. A definate step in a less perjorative direction. We've visited them both since.

Next went Puggles, who, unlike most male domestic animals is not going to be eaten and has kept his wobbly bits, and was recently seen trying to use them on the female members of his new herd. Lucky boy. I also heard he gets off on electric fences and stands on it making obvious little frissons of delight as it pulses through him.

Then we had Chalk and Cheese, my favourite little fellows. I'm not sure I even recounted their birth story, which involved their John Travolta like entry into the world (one leg completely folded back, the other out front). Cheese had a folded ear, and was runty in comparison to his brother Chalk. But he has an adorable nature and loves nothing more than a cuddle. I didn't think I'd be able to get them a home which didn't involve a large roasting pan and a carving knife. We advertised. I'd already told Trev, they can be wethered, but not tethered. Sure enough, phone call number one wanted to tether them. Trev sighs and tells them, 'Linda won't sell to you if you're tethering, sorry'. We think the end of the story, next day we get a call to say, 'no worries, we're going to keep them as pets in a mobile cattle yard'.

Daisy, was a terrible mother. She just left them all the time, she never had a clue where they were, they huddled under the goat palace on their own at night. I'm so glad they had each other for company. She fed them, but tossed them around when she'd had enough and socialised with the other animals instead. Trev called her the kind of mum who went out late at night, left her babies at home on their own, and wailed loud and long when the house burnt down and her children died. Well, he was right. They came and took Chalk and Cheese, and she wailed for days, searching high and low and calling out. I fed her tidbits and molasses water as I had for poor Bella too. It's a horrible part of rearing goats that you just can't keep all the kids.

By this time we're down to 4 animals. Bella, Daisy (who we are milking) and Brie and Hazel, the six month plus twins who are our future milkers. Brie died. She was healthy at breakfast, and then dead. Lying beside a fence, no marks on her. No sign of illness. She was a healthy, happy animal. Poor Hazel, (who had a voice like a ten pack a day smoker) spent days calling out for her. Caleb and Trev buried her in the orchard, where Trev, overcome with emotion quickly planned to grow asparagus over her body (practical sort is our Trev).

Two weeks later Hazel was found dead. Almost the same spot, exactly the same symptoms, happy, healthy, hearty appetite... hours later, dead. We've never had a goat die. This was horrendous and really upsetting for everyone. This time I wasn't at work and helped in the grave digging, burial duty. We buried her, and then thought about looking for a snake bite. Which is the only conclusion we can come to. Bella and Daisy continue to be happy, healthy and hearty a month later.

I miss my rowdy herd.

An Influx of Ducks

We introduced Nobbler to Nibbler several months ago. He was seen trying to mount her head a few times before he got his orifices sorted out and Nibbler laid 12 eggs and sat diligently on them for the prescribed time period, only getting off to harrass our ankles and to take a quick drink. We went away for the day having heard the peeps of little ducklings in the shell that morning. We returned expecting ducklings and indeed there was one. Dead, the rest of the eggs scattered over a metre area, the nest torn apart and one disorientated duck. The eggs were cold and silent. Caleb and I took them up and hurried them inside where we warmed them under the fire, in a box with a hot water bottle. Most died inside the shell, but three eventually struggled out of their shells, fixed their apple pip eyes on us and imprinted on the wrong beasts.

We raised the wee darlings for weeks in the warming drawer and Caleb made a great mini mobile duck house for them to stay in during the day. A paint tray made a great sloped swimming pool. I wanted to call them Gold, Nugget and Bouillon (as in the soup not the gold bars). But they have firmly remained generic 'duckies'. We've tried to reunite them with Nibbler and Nobbler, who harrassed them horribly. They're in a large cage close by and hope we can get them gradually used to each other before trying to reunite them again.

As it is Nibbler has complicated things and is currently sitting on another 10 eggs.


A $27,000 quote for windows had us scratching chins. It just isn't going to happen like that. We have set ourselves a pretty hard task of building the entire house for under $80,000 and we're doing very nicely - till then. We also wanted to use native timber - but no, everything was Western Red Cedar, from the US, which, while durable is also very flammable.

If in doubt work, work it out. Our DIY motto. We've invested in $2000 worth of additional hardware. According to Trev any time he takes on a new job and saves us money is a good opportunity to tool up. We now have a Festool Domino (makes big fat dowel joints incredibly easily) and a jointer, or buzzer. We're also looking at saving $20,000 on the windows. Guess this is the point when I bat my lids at Trev again, pretend to swoon, use possessive nouns and mention the word hero. Kinda got to really, obligatory. Got to say his windows do look pretty darn good. We're still waiting on the glass order to turn up. So no pics of the installed thing. But not far away.

We've had lots of discussions and internet searches going trying to come up with the best window hardware to match his lovely windows. They've easily been the most difficult decisions to make over the whole build. What kind of walls do you want? No worries, what colour roof? What kind of roof? Ten seconds decisions. How do you want to open the windows and keep them open or closed? Weeks and still deliberating.

The windowless view from Trev's and my, one day will be bed.

Sunday, 28 March 2010

sh*t Kicker and Mud Slinger

That's me. Official title.

Trev keeps saying he's retired from mudding (having gone onto more important and skilled work) but keeps being dragged back into the fold for the high bits. But I've not been alone (all the time). We've had a wonderful group of people helping out. I'll try remember everyone - we've had Luka, Kika, Monika, (three German backpackers) - Hugh & Kari, Tanya and Jamahl, Glyn, Joe, Ehren, Leela, Ginni and Leanne. Between us we've managed to give the outer and inner walls their second skin.

I've done one room in its thick coat/bulk coat/infill coat/brown coat (it goes by many names) but it's all just thick fat layers of mud. If the scratch coat was mud massage, this is mud pack. It's about four centimetres plus thick. It took me five days to do one average size room (two walls). About 2.5 metres a day. I learnt a lot - including;

1. I needed more than just PVA and sand over wooden posts - the array of hairline cracks spreading out from it look almost like tree branches.

2. I learnt to really feather it well between one days mud and the next - big fat mother of all cracks that meant we chipped it back away and remudded the area resulted when I didn't.

3. That going inorganic with orange plastic mesh around windows and corners really reduced the cracking, and was worth the compromise.

4. That the best wall (no cracking) was achieved by making a mix and not getting back to it till a couple of days later and the straw was starting to get a bit stinky.

5. And that minor hairline cracking still happens despite putting orange mesh across one whole wall area.

It's a long, not unrewarding job. I now know what a birds eye sore on the tips of your fingers feels like. It was hell for typing, maybe part of my inexcusable excuse for taking 2 months off blogging. (I wore through plastic gloves and ended up wearing my fingertips off too). I have yet to fall victim to the desire to make butterflies and frogs on the walls, (too hippy dippy for me), but I suspect there will be a small mud lizard somewhere inconspicious at some stage.

The soles of my feet are permanently yellow, all my old work jeans are no longer blue. But sometimes I get a little that way when I look at how much further there is to go.

*photos to come

Friday, 29 January 2010

Who Killed Dave - reviews

Thank you to all you kind people who've now reviewed Who Killed Dave?
There maybe more that I'm not aware of, so if you have posted a review and it's not on this, please let me know. (actually Donna didn't) Not sure this is actually a review

My favourite review is still my mothers - as made in earlier comments.

Robyn's mother (the main character in Who Killed dave?) is based on my own. Though my mother isn't nearly so awful... but she does have the same verbal dsylexia. Spoonerisms, malapropisms are common fare with my mother. She has a repertoire of them that have entered into the Cockburn lexicon. Some of them made it into the book, the rest I made up. Mum's keen to tell me that she's never said Incompetence pads instead of incontinence pads.

Mum's review is based on a comment I made about 25 years ago when she recommended a Catherine Cookson book and I said CC was 'Milly Molly Mandy for adults'. I forgot all about this - naturally, but Mum never did.

During a telephone conversation (25 years later) mum suddenly blurted out.
'I've read your book. It's the sexiest Milly Molly Mandy I've ever read!'. Apparently it gave her nightmares.

Fair enough too - it's not the kind of book you share with your mother, but I couldn't see myself not sending it to her either. She did well to read it at all. Don't think Dad got past page 2 - can't blame him either.

It's not for the faint hearted. The screenplay version is almost complete... a fair bit of swear-age removed. Onto writing something completely different - literary fare this time, humour playing a very small role, if any. The change in genre is a rusty gear change in my head.

Tuesday, 5 January 2010

Three men and a sheep

Yeah, yeah, bugger off with the Kiwi/sheep jokes.
This was all above board, I chaperoned.

Our neighbour, Tony, gave us a couple of sheep to help keep the grass down. The amount of rain we had the growth has been phenomenal.

First they had to be caught. This is not so easy. It was the most exercise I've had in years running up and down hills, trying, vainly, to herd the sheep through a gate I'm not sure they even realised existed. Eventually two were rugby tackled, trussed up and put in a wheelbarrow, and wheeled over to our place for release. I admit, the scene caused a few outbreaks of cackling.

Trev catches a tiger

He did. He really did. We had a tiger in the backyard, and Trev caught it. Tiger snake that is. He kind of had to. He went to start on the mud pit and a tiger snake fell out from underneath the black plastic sheeting. It was in there after a mouse. About a metre long it was a youngish snake. Trev put on chaps, gloves, armed himself with sticks and went about demolishing the pit to find the thing. I was incredibly brave and perched on a window sill and gave directions (don't ask me to hold the bag, not going there again). Eventually he had it pinned down, it attacked the stick Trev used to hold it down, and even managed to bite itself a few times. Later we looked it up and found that snakes are immune to their own venom. Just as well.
Trev bagged him, showed the boys the snake, we all piled in the car, drove a couple of km's away to an uninhabited area and released him.

I made suitable fluttering of lashes and comments along the line of, 'You're my hero' for the rest of the day. Trev stopped trembling with adrenalin sometime after dinner.

House Massage

It's what it feels like I'm doing. Not in-house just yet, it's all external. Mixing up big mud packs of sand, clay and straw, stomping around on it till my feet are stained yellow, filling up a bucket climbing various arrangements of ladders, scaffolding and giving the house a deep tissue massage of mud, getting it right into its pores so it stays there, ready for the next coat. There are four layers, the first Trev did when he sprayed light clay slip onto the walls, in and out.
Then it's been packing the 'holes' around doors, windows, between bales with straw (if it's a big hole) or a mix of light clay slip mixed with straw. Once dry the wall is sprayed with water to make the next layer adhere to the first. It's the scratch or discovery coat, the one I'm working on. I started off with bare hands, but soon wore the skin off it. Back to gloves. Over three-quarters of the way there with that coat. Then it's the bulk coat - a much thicker coat that brings the wall, hopefully to level and packs out any hollows etc. Then a final coat or so of lime paint.

Not sure if I'll be able to do it, but we've found lots of natural ochre in shades from pink to red in the clay pile from out of the dam. Maybe it can be used to colour the lime paint - maybe by the time I get to the final coat I'll be happy to buy something off the shelf. Would be nice to know as much as possible came from our block. Having said that I just rushed outside for a 20 ton delivery of sand, our decomposed sandstone from the holes Trev drilled just isn't up to it.

This weekend we're having a strawbale 'thingy' where people can come have a go at rendering too. We won't even charge them for the experience, we'll pay them in beer and pizza. The whole thing is such a big job it's nice to share.

I'm on holiday till the 20th ... my holidays revolve around extended sessions of mud massage.

The image is Trev with his form work corners. He places the formwork, tamps down a mix of clay slip and straw, and works his way up the side of the house. It's incredibly hard when it dries and gives a nice sharp corner to the house.

Silly Bint

I'm not that keen on Anglo Nubians - it's true. I think they're stupid, docile, complaining and un-co. This uncharitable opinion is entirely based on purebred, papered Charity.

She looked the least pregnant of all the three does and as she's 'long in the wheel base' compared to the Toggs, she hid Bint well for most of the 5 months of the gestation period. In the last few days her rather large teats filled out, her pin bones became sharp and obvious, her vulva protruded, she made her way to the top of the block and stringy threads of clear fluid started to drip, - yep. Enough signs to know I needed to hang around just to make sure all went well. So far I've always been lucky, and just a small amount of assistance has been required. Caleb was with me keen to watch the process, eager for more babies.

Things didn't go well. A single hoof appeared, nothing else. Charity, who is a vocal girl, was clearly distressed. Caleb became equally so. Nothing for it but to find the missing hoof, locate the head, see if I could arrange them in the correct order. The leg was pulled back. I found the small hoof and very gently bought it forward. Charity pulled back her head and screamed. I've not heard a goat scream. Once the hoof was right I could feel the small face, the next push and out she popped.

Caleb wanted to call her Hope ... he hoped there was another one behind her. He'd then have Faith. Anglos are renowned for multiple births. We'd almost bought another goat instead of her, but once I found out she had 5 kids in difficult circumstances we decided on Charity. But here she was, her third gestation producing a single kid.

We tried to call her Hope, but Bint it has become. She had great difficulty finding the teat despite a lot of effort, once found, she would lose it, she'd come looking in our armpits, crotch, necks for teats, and bunt against us. We'd relocate her time again, and she'd repeat the same frustrating sequence. Trev called her Silly Bint and it stuck.

She may be silly, but she is without a doubt the most gorgeous, calico patchwork rag doll of a kid I've ever seen. Despite her mixed parentage she's managed to retain almost 100% of her anglo nubianism, with only a touch of Togg about her face in the white blazes.

Last night we heard a distressed bawling from Charity. The kind of bawling that alerts us that something is terribly wrong. Caleb and I went out with the torch and Charity rushed down the hill to us, hysterical.
'I've lost my baby!' she roared.
We checked the dam first. It's one of my fears, but no baby. All the other goats were rushing around frantically too. They knew the problem. Charity's distress reduced to small pathetic bleats of a mother in a supermarket searching for a lost child. Eventually we found Bint, fast asleep in long grass. We reunited them, and relocated them to the goat palace where they both should spend the night without losing one another.

Last on the list is Daisy, who is being rather laid back and lazy about popping anything out - she'll need too and soon, she's so wide I'm worried she'll brush up against something sharp and explode. No signs, she just keeps her head down, bum up and eats. It's her first time, I get the impression she thinks the additional girth is the result of all that mastication going on. She's in for a surprise.

Hopefully, with my new nickname ... the goat whisperer, I'll be able to help see her through.

The Pugalist

Pug for short - was born on Boxing Day to Bella, our way too old Toggenberg doe - we knew she wasn't pure bred, we accidentally bred her with a black Toggenberg who looks suspiciously like a Britist Alpine to me - and she gave birth to a wee buck who looks 90% Saanan with a bit of Togg thrown in. Generally goats have twins, but older goats manage to keep it to a dull roar with just the one.

Bella managed it with only a little assistance from me and, as in all things she does, with quiet aplomb.

She'd been producing copious amounts of milk for months and we'd had to milk her out as she'd looked like she was going to explode. Yesterday I milked 2.5 litres from one side alone as Pug only drinks from the other, her leathery teat is just too much for him. He's now over a week old and a wee ball of 'Yeah, I have legs and I can jump, and run rings around my mum'.

I've put in a few photos of his birth - they may not all be pretty, but they're a good example of how they are born. Two little hooves with a face appears, the rest is soon over. Mum licks off the yolk like sac, and when the afterbirth comes - eats that too. Not a pretty sight. But good for them.

The future for most bucks is either on a spit or wethered and tethered. Neither of which we want for Pug - we think we've found him a home where he will spread his mixed breed heritage of great milkers.