Monday 15th August 2011. Finch Hatton
I prescribed a day off today. Not much of anything got done.
You know, it felt quite good not to do anything and not be bothered about it.
Water in the house tanks is getting low. Although Steve is a little concerned, he feels getting water trucked in is not an option – yet. Instead he pumped water from another two storage tanks elsewhere on the property. All going well that water will last until the rain comes again. Some of the horses are in a paddock with a dam. There are another two storage tanks for the remaining horse paddocks, stables and chook pen. If they get too low, we can pump water from the dam. The next 3 months are, traditionally, the driest months of the year with little or no rain. The grass begins to dry out and becomes brown and brittle. Water and food for the horses will become more of an issue over the coming months. There are 14 horses on this property and another 2 “retired” horses next door. One horse, next door, TEQUILA, is well into her late 30’s. For a horse that is quite old. She is going grey around the face and mane. This was Melissa’s second horse and started her along the path she is now following.
Found this poem on another blog site. The blogger copied it from the back of a toilet door in a caravan park located at Mt. Surprise north Queensland. If you have ever stayed in a caravan park, some or all of the following will mean something to you. If you have never stayed in a caravan park you might just have to use your imagination. I particularly like stanza’s 7 & 8.
There was movement on the station,
So wrote the famous man,
But how did Banjo know this?
Had he towed a caravan?
Perhaps Banjo had been woken
In a van park from his sleep,
Some two hours before sunrise
By strange noises from the deep.
The eerk, eerk, eerk of van legs
Being wound up in the dark,
As the nocturnal traveller
Starts to wake the sleeping park.
Then just like some feral mating call
Some others answer back
With their eerk, eerk flaming chorus,
As the first starts down the track.
Everything they pack is metallic,
And it clatters, bangs and dongs,
As they bark out loud instructions
Amid the hollow clack of thongs.
And now it’s best to warm the motor,
If you’re leaving in the dark.
Especially if it’s diesel –
Why not wake the whole damn park!
When it comes time to hook on
You hear the circus start
More left, not right, I said this way
You brainless old fart
How dare you call me brainless,
You ungrateful, senile drone.
If you don’t want my directions,
Do it on your bloody own.
By now the doors are slamming,
Just to finish off the show,
You sure you turned off the gas?
She yells “just bloody go go go”
Now it’s almost daylight
And the camp picks up the pace,
As these grey nomad gypsies
Begin their morning race.
For the next park is their target
Where like metallic ants they flock,
For the first in gets the best shade
And the nearest to the toilet block.
There’re miles of zippers zinging
As the tents fold up to go.
And the campervan doors are grinding
As they whiz bang to and fro.
Now in the park it’s show time,
Magic moments all can share
You prepare for the entertainment
As you grab your beer and chair
For here comes the new arrivals
With their wives all looking terse
If you thought leaving was a hassle
Well arriving is ten times worse!
Cause hand waving female logic
With male thingking don’t compute
So a jackknife on a van site
Soon erupts in hot dispute
It’s as good as any circus
Wives and husbands on attack
As spectators in their deck chairs
Watch the rigs shunt up and back.
There’re trees and shrubs to back thru,
And water taps of course,
Then the happy couple go inside
To contemplate divorce.
It’s 7pm cheap phone calls
It’s a rush for all to get through,
Three phones for ninety people
And you’re the last one in the queue
The callers are always yelling,
Because they’re are far away,
Forcing half the park to eavesdrop
On every word they have to say.
You drift off in peaceful slumber,
Sweet dreams flit through your brain,
Till 5 o’clock in the morning
Eerk, eerk – here we go again!
Ah well you might as well as get up
For you feel your bladder screaming
You rush up to the toilet block
Oh no! It’s closed for cleaning!
So if you reach the caravan park
And things are quite amiss
Don’t worry it will all come good
It’s part of Caravan Bliss!!!
Tuesday 17th August
It was a day off for Donnis so we drove into Mackay to get new tyres on TERIOS, a doctors appointment for each of us, a bit of grocery shopping and a few bits n pieces to make life easier on WWWGO.
There is a shower screen on board WWWGO and although it is efficient, the runners in the I-beam track have started to break off from the screen. A replacement screen costs almost $300 plus postage. We have opted to find runners (or gliders or sliders as they are also called) to fit the I-beam track. A regular house shower curtain can be fitted with washer type weights in the curtain hem. So, for around $40 we get a new shower curtain for when we are on the road again. Although that is probably more than 2 months away, the time will fly by. Regrettably we cannot buy the runners off the shelf. They have to be ordered and picked up next time we are in Mackay.
While shopping we picked up a sensor type hand soap dispenser. Instead of pushing on a pump nozzle we can now just place our hands under the dispenser and the correct amount of soap will be pumped into our hands. Due to limited space on our vanity handbasin, the sensor dispenser seems an obvious way to go.
We also picked up some new carpet runners for the entranceway, under the table and over the in-floor storage hatch. I have not liked the current set-up of 4 different styles and colours of mats and would be happy with just the bare vinyl. Donnis says she wants something soft under her feet, especially when she gets out of bed in the winter.
While wandering around Mackay I realised I have not written anything or taken photos of the town. Simply I have taken Mackay for granted, it is about time I included some stuff about Mackay in this blog. The thought is on the back burner and once the Census work is complete I will do a story on Mackay.
Melissa and Steve left this morning, taking three horses with them. They are travelling to NSW, not far from Sydney where they will take part in an endurance ride. Melissa said they will be away for 10 days, Steve said 3 weeks so I guess we see them when we see them.
Wednesday 17th August.
Wowee! Those new tyres make a difference to the ride and handling of TERIOS.
Today it was back up the range to Eungella and Dalrymple Heights. I have collected all but 26 of the Census papers I handed out. Of those, six belong to the families who work at the dam and they will be collected on Saturday. Some are people who agreed to do an E-Census and I have not yet received a message to tell me they have. Several are people who wanted to mail the Census. Again I have not had a message to say they have done so. Finally there are those who have taken the papers but not yet put them out for me to collect. I will have Thursday and Friday off and travel the range again on Saturday to tidy up the remaining households.
While driving along the gravel Bee Creek Road,
I spied with my little eye, a man. Wearing a Telstra shirt. A Big Pond van was parked off the road beside the jungle. At the first opportunity I found a place to turn around and squeezed up close behind his van. Although there is not much traffic on this road I do not want TERIOS hit by another car coming around the corner. I talked with the Big Pond man for 10 or so minutes and discussed my mobile phone and Internet lack of signal. As soon as I mentioned Finch Hatton he agreed it is a black spot and no matter how many people complain there are no new transmitters or other improvements planned. We discussed options for my external antenna and we parted company. At least he seemed to know what I was talking about but more to the point, he knew his subject, with 20 plus years of experience, not some fluffy teenager in the Telstra Shop who has no hands on experience and not like some voice on the Help line who only reads from the official book.
Tonight our new desktop antenna arrived in the mail. It has a magnetic base, 2m of cable and gives a 3dB of gain. I attached it to the roof top metal plate I installed last year and ran the thin cable through the rooftop hatch to the modem. Although the signal strength did not change – it remained on low – the signal, so far, seems to be constant. If I can maintain the signal, even a low signal, the antenna will have done its job.
Thursday 18th August.
Last things first. The internet signal via the modem has remained constant all day with no dropouts at all. So far, so good.
It was a day off for both off us. Donnis has started a new fad diet and drove to Walkerston to buy “white fish”, skinless chicken and spa water. The fish and chicken have been cut up into 4oz portions to go with the 9oz portion of a single vegetable, excluding root vegetables that she is allowed for each meal. She must drink many litres of water and she can do that more readily with the spa water. Time will tell if she loses weight and now is an ideal time to do it as she can buy new clothes while she is still working. I will need new clothes as well.
Tonight I cooked a composite meal for myself in the pressure cooker.
Composite meal? What’s that?
I took a meal from Amy’s blog
which she named Chicken Drumsticks and Dumplings in the Camp Oven. I also took a meal and methodology from our Pressure Cooker Recipe Book called One Pot Chicken with Dumplings. I used Chicken Thighs and lots of soup mix plus chick peas both of which I soaked all day. I included carrots, onion, parsnip, parsley, and coriander but forgot the peas. I also tossed in some dried Rosemary, Thyme, Oregano and a few chilli flakes plus cracked pepper and ground salt. I cooked everything except the dumplings for 10 minutes under pressure then took the lid off and got the mixture simmering again. I made dumplings (first time ever) filled with parsley. (next time I will include spices in the dumplings) I simmered the dumplings in the pot for 15 minutes. Next time I will fully submerge the dumplings instead of just allowing them to float on top. (unless readers who know how to cook dumplings can advise me) The incredible yummy smells in WWWGO almost drove me crazy and when I took it into the house where Donnis was eating her 4oz of chicken and 9oz of cabbage, it drove her crazy as well. I have three containers of leftover which I froze as I will be having this again while Donnis is on her diet.
Friday 19th August
Last things first…again.
I have had internet signal all day with no dropouts.
I sat up late to watch the critical Cowboys V Rabiitohs game. The bunnies needed to win to get into the top eight while the Cowboys needed to win to retain fourth position. At ten minutes to go the bunnies scored and converted a try and with two minutes to go they scored another converted try, Scores locked up, 24 all, at the end of the game. In the first minute of 10 minutes extra time the Cowboys attempted a field goal which bounced off the post. Then the Rabbitohs were awarded a penalty in front of the posts and it was game over 26 to 24.
Sigh! I am wide awake and it is after midnight.
Saturday 20th August.
Once more. Last things first. In case you are not aware I have been driven near to distraction with the lack of or inconsistent internet and mobile signal while based here at Finch Hatton. I solved the mobile problem by installing a small, window mounted antenna. That increased the signal. Previously the signal would sometimes be up to three bars but mostly less, sometimes nil. Installation of the antenna gives me a constant mobile signal of three bars and often as much as five bars. During the week the Telstra 3dB antenna arrived and I installed it, via the magnetic base onto the roof of WWWGO. The signal since then has been a constant “Low” and often moving to “Med” with no dropouts. Prior to the antenna the best I could get was a “Low” signal with constant daily dropouts. Those antenna’s have given us a new lease of life with consistent mobile and internet signal and removed annoyance and frustration from our days.
Today I drove over the range to collect any outstanding Census material. Have I mentioned how bad the roads are? Getting access to some of the farms is along pretty rough bush tracks. The collection phase of the contract is almost complete. I now have 16 outstanding homes to collect material from. I plan to do the final collection or delivery on Wednesday. These will be my third and final collection visit. I will now leave the same material along with a letter advising the Census is compulsory.
I have met some characters in my visits but the greatest character is the one I never met. I had been told by many sources there was a 92 year old gold miner, way out in the bush, His gate is locked and I would never find him. He is well known in the area and he walks most of the time but has a camp “somewhere out there” as it is described to me. I found the first of his two gates and left his Census material, including a reply paid envelope, in a plastic bag, held down with rocks, on the ground under his first locked gate. I did not expect any response, believing I would have to collect the blank Census after three visits. Last week while calling on a couple in their ramshackle house in the jungle, they told me the old miner was their friend and he was coming to town the next day and bringing his completed Census, in the reply paid envelope, with him. Today I received a text message on my phone to tell me the miners completed Census had been received. His friends told me he walks 5 klms each way, every day, from his camp to the gold mine. He walks in all weather, crossing creeks and mud holes wearing his trusty gumboots.
Other characters are the two couples who live in houses which are being reclaimed by the jungle.
The conspiracy theory man who lives in his defunct dairy.
The couple who have built an entirely self-sufficient property where they live with their two husky dogs.
The couple who have built their own TV tower out of old steel bed frames.
The coal miner and his corporate wife who escaped to their own little bit of rainforest.
All these people and more, live in remote locations and simple things city folk take for granted, such as electricity, water, TV signal, phone, internet, sealed roads, shops, neighbours, they either do without or provide their own.
If anybody ever finds themselves in the Mackay area I suggest you explore but reserve some time to drive out to Eungella and enjoy the drive up the range then have lunch at the chalet and stay late enough to view the platypus at Broken River. Of course just a drive along any of the escarpment roads, Eungella Dam Road or Dalrymple Road to enjoy the changing landscape which includes cleared dairy pastures, native open timbered hills and untouched deep rainforest, sometimes all three can be seen, several times over on Dalrymple Road.
Arriving home this afternoon my senses were arrested by the sweet smell of the cut cane as it came to me on the wind passing the harvesters about 1klm away. It was a nice change from the clinging dust which follows me every day I am over the range. Whenever I stop, to open a gate for instance, I stay in TERIOS as few moments to wait for my dust cloud to drift past. TERIOS is thickly coated with the stuff but I will not wash it until I have finished my workload. The new tyres already have streaky drizzles of dust congealed over the markings left by, not only Melissa’s dogs but of every dog on every property I visit.
Sunday 21st August
A day off. I had a day of lazing around, playing on the computer, talking with friends on Skype and talking with the nearest neighbour about motorcycles.