Last Wednesday was Chloe’s birthday, and Susan very kindly threw open her house for about 14 hours for an At Home. We had a stream of guests beginning at lunchtime and going through until about 11:30pm; C must have given the Earthbag talk / explanation / show ‘n’ tell about fifteen times (which is fine, she’s great at it and she loves it, and her audience was totally enthralled.) Much food and drink and merriment was had by all, we met lots of new lovely people, and interestingly not an instrument case was cracked in the evening despite many of the folk night folks being present – too much to talk about!
On Thursday we built a chookhouse, entirely out of salvage except the netting for the top. Matters were somewhat complicated by the grinder wheel being unopenable (Neighbour John came to our rescue once again, but this time the problem actually presented him with a challenge, in contrast to the 20 seconds it took him to open the chuck on the drill the last time), but after a fair bit of hammering and sawing by hand, we had a gorgeous place for our new feathered friends to live.
Friday was the big day: early up to nip over to Margate, meet another lovely Susan, collect our new family members and some seed potatoes (Susan has a farm gate stall, just had to grab some), and drive back home via a neighbour from whom I bought a couple of bales of hay. I got back in time to get them settled, collect Neighbour Matt, and zip back down the Hill to Neighbour John’s place – he has been so extraordinarily generous as to provide us with a temporary dropping off point for our container, which was arriving that afternoon. While C again stayed up the Hill in order to scream around like a small Northern Irish tornado, organising the big shed (a BIG job), Matt kept me company until the container arrived and was slid rather hair-raisingly off the back of the truck by the admittedly expert driver (it was a much more rough and ready approach than the careful crane-lifting we had in NL!). After that I took Matt into Cygnet to collect his genny from some mates, who sadly weren’t home – they had a really nice place, would have liked very much to meet them. For my trouble Matt showed me around his mates’ place (lovely shack featuring a gorgeous woodfired stove with a wetback), let me neb at his boat – a small, sleek-looking wooden number from the 1920s(!) – and then grabbed some cuttings from his mates’ (huge) bamboo stand (we’ve planted them in the runoff from the earthworm incubation bath in the hope that they’ll be well-fed and watered and grow up big and obnoxious), AND bought us a longneck of rather excellent stout. And of course, the evening was Folk night, which as ever was delightful.
Saturday was a jarmy day until mid-afternoon, with a bit of errandrunning in the afternoon and a gorgeous dinner at the top pub (where the Folk Night is held), shouted for the regulars by the owners (and after a mere month we apparently count as regulars, which gives us a lovely feeling!). Lots of musicmaking by all and sundry, including me – oh, and I finished C’s other pair of birthday socks
On Sunday John and Paulette came up to visit us for morning tea – it was a lovely surprise to see them! The day otherwise was spent doing a dump run, various other sortings, and getting food scraps from the Lotus Eaters.
Monday was volunteering day at St James – and the happy news is that we are indeed going to be doing an earthbuild with them! Watch this space for more info Susan also very kindly let us borrow her trailer, which we promptly used to collect fertiliser and mushroom compost.
We had a bit of a shock when we opened the container for the first time: whoever repacked it basically threw things in completely willy-nilly, including a large number of breakable (and now broken) things and original canvases by C. Will be interesting to see if our shipping insurance covers us for other people being appallingly, thoughtlessly sloppy with our most precious things.
Yesterday we wanted to get a really good run at finally building our compost pile – something that’s been getting steadily more urgent. C had the idea that the terribly placed, mortally dangerous woodpile housing could better be repurposed as the central straw and carbon repository for the Humanure Hacienda.
We tried; we really did. C emptied the last of the wood, we used the ute to pull the frame over onto its front…
and the bugger stuck fast. We reckoned, belatedly, that it probably weighed more than a ton. It took two car jacks, three logs, and equal parts profanity and prayer, just to get the bloody thing into a position where we could reasonably tow it with the ute. And then it was not at all clear how we were going to manoeuvre it into place where we needed it, and even if that could be achieved, how we would then drag the thing upright again. We struggled from 9am until 3pm, and finally, having at least got the thing out of the way, gave up. One thing: the front of the shed looks amazingly less cluttered without the former woodpile, and we do feel safer with our wood stored in the lee of the sheds.
We went to Theresa’s for dinner that evening. We met Theresa (who runs Nala Pakana in Charlotte Cove) on our third day in Cygnet, when we did the kitchen garden tour (one of the gardens on the tour was St James). It was she who encouraged us to volunteer – thank you Theresa!!! We had the most delightful afternoon / evening with her and her animals (chooks, indoor pusscats, puppydogs, geese and two delightful goats), and looking at her gorgeous garden and orchard, breathtaking views, and amazing tiny wooden house. We talked about possumproofing, solar power, digging holes in rocky ground (the goss is: use a crowbar!), brushcutting (you can get brushcutters with different blades for different stuff!) fire safety (we really, really need a good plan and soon) WWOOFers and about a thousand other things. As you may gather, Theresa is a font of information, has an amazing array of skills, and is in general a wise and beautiful person. We enjoyed a vegan feast, checked out her tipi and formed a plan to put in an Adobe floor for her (another gig!!!) and rolled home exhausted but happy with a huge bunch of various cuttings from her garden.
Today was another gorgeous day – Gerard, who we know from the folk club (and whose place the party was at the night Teesy got stuck under the caravan) came all the way up the Hill this morning to rehearse some songs for Friday with me – not the folk club, but a fundraiser for the local Green mayoral candidate, Liz. He was vastly amused and delighted by all the massive piles of rubbish – er, sorry, salvage – and turns out to be a ceramicist, kilnbuilder and mosaic specialist, not to mention a dark horse with musical interests well beyond what you see him doing of a Friday at the top pub. While C once again raced around digging holes, planting plants and getting possum protection in, we exchanged life stories, roared with laughter and sang songs ranging from soulful (Cohen’s “Hallelujah”) to really, really silly (Lehrer’s “Rickety Tickety Tin”). Tough life I have, eh.
We looked up and four hours had zipped by, and we were scandalously late (as in HOURS late) for a long-overdue meeting at Michael and Joanne Gissing’s place. Michael was the sound engineer on my beloved but alas, not-yet-released CD project of some years ago, the one which involved Riley Lee, Zen Meditations, Gregorian Chant and electroacoustics. Shortly after I recorded the CD at his studio in Avalon, NSW, he and Joanne bought land in Cygnet and embarked on a tree change which incorporates chooks, ducks, sheep, cows, a wonderful kitchen garden and a strawbale home and recording studio with incredibly clever passive cooling and heating systems – and I’m sure there’s more, but it was a lot to take in! We spent a long, fascinating afternoon with them, again talking shop, gathering info and swapping stories.
Today we were given more carrots by John, and from Joanne we received more cuttings and a dozen freerange eggs (incidentally, our own tally is up to 8 eggs from the Girls, and we harvested half a kilo of Swiss Brown mushrooms from the supposedly spent mushroom compost!).
The wildlife gets more astonishing each day – on the trip home from Theresa’s on Tuesday night, we saw a number of owls, a bandicoot, and actually had our first near-hoppity-miss – happily, having jumped out practically under our wheels, the wallaby in question hopped away unharmed. Today at Joanne and Michael’s, we saw falcons, a wedgetailed eagle, honeyeaters, parrots, swallows and any number of other birds, and on the way back up the Hill tonight, several possums (including one with a joey clinging to its back!), another owl, the usual immense cast of potaroos, and FOUR quolls in two different colour schemes. It is such an honour to share our space with all this LIFE!