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The smoke house

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Simplicity provides for me great peace of mind.

This makes me wonder why I continue to fill my life up with unnecessary electronic and mechanical clutter.

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Okawiong was a leader of his people who lived in the remote and rugged foothills of Papua New Guinea’s Saruwaget Mountain Range.

His brother was once my workmate, and during the 1970’s Okawiong’s family became my family.

In 1998, after receiving news that, at 74, he was not expected to live much longer, I made a return visit to P.N.G. and “my family” after an absence of 19 years.

This involved a tough 8 hour walk carrying a rucksack after a single engined Cessna had dropped me off at the little grass ‘strip at Pindiu.

It proved to be an emotional and life-changing week for me.
I returned to Australia with an incredible peace of mind that comes from finally having said all those important things that need to be said to people you care about….. before it is too late.

As a reminder of our P.N.G. life, and of the hundreds of nights I spent huddled around cooking fires being fed, educated and entertained by villagers, Mrs GOF and I built this modest attachment to our house.

Partly built with recycled materials it is our preferred place of comfort for much of the wet season when we have no electricity to watch television, and no inclination to venture out into the blowing rain to do any work.

It is always warm and cosy and filled with the aroma of taro or sweet potato baking in the coals, and a kettle and Mrs GOF culinary creation bubbling away on the griddle.

Auxilliary electronic entertainment is unnecessary.

Our own company, the daily musical comedy of birdfeeding viewed through the “window walls”, reading books, or just vacantly staring into dancing flames knowing that this is the way mankind has lived for centuries, fills my soul with contentment.

We also use our smoke house to filter out “acquaintances” from “good friends”.

Our friends embrace the occasional lungful of delinquent wood-smoke and tolerate their clothes being perfumed with Eau de Firefighter.

The others sneer at the “doghouse” and our apparent life of “squalor”.

If I won a million dollars tomorrow in a lottery, the smoke house would remain the same.

No, I lie.

I would buy two new matresses to replace those with erupting stuffing and protruding springs that are now 55 years old, and I would install a whirlygig smoke extractor in the roof to take some load off the under-eaves vents.

About GOF

"Life is like a sewer. What you get out of it, depends upon what you put into it." (Tom Lehrer)

45 responses »

  1. A whirlygig! Are you kidding? Next thing you’ll be wanting to install a TV, 3 computers and Nintendo flightsim.

    This post makes me feel honoured to have been invited in. Thank you. 🙂

    • Thanks for joining my little blog circus Mike…….you passed the “Smoke House Test”. 😉

      I appreciate your timely advice that I am heading for the brink of technological overload……I’ll try a chimney instead. 🙂

  2. I want one, too! That looks totally cool.

    • Easy to build and really cheap too kimkiminy……I’m sure you could make some design improvements to suit your own place.

      • I’m going to show this to hubby. We’ve talked many times about building a little hang-out on our property, filled with bookshelves, a futon, loads of cushions, and a wetbar.

        • You probably need a fully enclosed wood-burning stove then you can keep all your books and cushions in good condition. In your climate you would need a well insulated building……here in the tropics we are not bothered by snow flurries blowing in through all the spaces under the eaves. 🙂

  3. What a wonderful cozy spot – It would be great to spend time there.

  4. Anyone who sneers at it is not worthy to be allowed into such luxury. I would be honored to hang out in there.

  5. GOF! This is awesome! I’ve always wanted something like this, a rustic house with just a fire pit to cook over and candlelight to read by.

    The PNG houses resemble the traditional old farmhouses in rural Japan: high peaked roofs made of thatch or straw, sitting on pillar foundations raised above the ground. There has been speculation that the Japanese may actually be descended from South Pacific islanders, though the right wing nationalists go berserk when anyone suggests this. I kind of like the idea myself, since my father’s family is darker-complexioned and muscular, rather than fair and slight like mainland Asians.

    • Thank you HG, and I find your story about Japan thoroughly fascinating.

      We once had a Japanese exchange student stay with us for a few months. She really enjoyed spending time in the smoke house because she said it reminded her of her traditional culture.
      Additionally our PNG cooking style really suited her tastes, and we discovered many linguistic similarities between Japanese and PNG languages. Evidence for some sort of historical connection?

  6. I have no building abilities — can demolish much better! — but I’d *love* to have something like this on the SE corner of the property.

    • Thanks for the link MT……I figure if ever I have to build a house again in this lifetime, it will be one like that.

      I don’t believe you have no building abilities (even tho’ I’m not questioning your ability to demolish better) 🙂 All you need to build one of my smoke houses is a chain saw and a hammer and I believe you are very competent using both.

  7. *wistful sigh*
    This is just perfect!

    I would love nothing better than to spend hours and hours in your smokehouse. With rain pouring down. The cozy coals of the fire.
    Oh it sounds just perfect! 🙂

    • Thanks Lauri…….you’re welcome to spend some time with us in it if you ever travel this way.

      • Thank you, GOF!
        I will definitely take you up on that when I do get over there!

        The men in my house are addicted tv watchers. So, I only get away from tv when they are at work. I was happily building a little smokehouse in my head for hiding in when I can feel the tv sucking my brains out!

        • Relying totally on a mini solar power system sorts out the TV addiction problem.

          Maybe you can get the men to dig you a special little “Lauri Dungeon” under the house …..a place of refuge just for you. 🙂

  8. Eau de Firefighter – I think I saw Brad Pitt do an ad for that recently!

    I love this post. I could tell just from glancing at the smokehouse that it had a special quality. Baked goods, hot meals, big windows……I can’t imagine anything more perfect. You all must visit New England so we can take you to a similar place where you can watch the snow fall on the mountains. Hot chocolate in hand. You’d love it. Maybe some day that will be our home.

    • Thanks Emmi……I was becoming totally convinced that a trip to New England was a good idea until I stumbled across your 4 letter word S N O W. This human being wasn’t designed to function at temperatures lower than 15 C.

      Please just let me IMAGINE what is would be like…..I have seen enough of the New England countryside at the movies or on television documentaries to know that it is one of the most beautiful places on earth…..especially in fall. I hope you realise your dream to live in your own special place.

      There is even a remote, very remote possibility that Mrs GOF might convince me to accompany her to Minnesota one day…..then we could do a road trip East?

      Please keep an eye on Brad Pitt for me…..I’ve got a patent on Eau de Firefighter. I’ll sue him.

  9. Well, this changes matters GOF.

    Mrs Mc now wants to be included in my visit when we restart the grey nomading tour.

    By way of inducement I am secretly offering her services as an assistant fence builder and pig shooer awayer (except for the cute baby ones).

  10. Supplementary comment.

    What happened to the excellent entry about the school girls? Luckily Google Alerts keeps a copy so I still got to read the nice line about the word “like”. A new fashion that sits right up there with “going forward” (usually followed by a line of bullshit).

    • I was wondering the same thing …

      • GOM….just a copy of my reply to Pete about the deleted Two Cinderellas story;

        “I try to maintain a semblance of objectivity in the things that I write and post on this blog.
        When I re-read that story I was disappointed that I had not given the girls sufficient credit for having had the courage of conviction to stand up against what they perceived to be injustice.

        Had my own daughter been one of those girls I would have treated the matter with greater respect.

        I apologise for having deleted the thoughtful comments of my readers Snowy, LOM, Freedom and Emmy which did not deserve to go the same way as my inept composition.”

    • Pete………Re my deleted “Two Cinderellas” story;

      I try to maintain a semblance of objectivity in the things that I write and post on this blog.
      When I re-read that story I was disappointed that I had not given the girls sufficient credit for having had the courage of conviction to stand up against what they perceived to be injustice.

      Had my own daughter been one of those girls I would have treated the matter with greater respect.

      I apologise for having deleted the thoughtful comments of my readers Snowy, LOM, Freedom and Emmy which did not deserve to go the same way as my inept composition.

      • Damn. Google Reader doesn’t store the comments.

        I hope the attack on the “like” word makes a reappearance. The younger generation has replaced “Umm” with “like” and I think I prefer the original to discarding the meaning of like.

        • Parts of the story will probably make a reappearance somewhere.

          Fortunately they seem to grow out of the “like” speech impediment by their early twenties. 🙂

          • Have you noticed how every young person (everyone under…oh…35) starts answering a question with “Well, I mean….”?

            It’s been driving me nerts lately!

            • Well, I mean………….. 🙂 I’ve never had the “nerts” before……I wanna start right now……and I’m going to do it with even our most respected radio announcers referring to something being “one of the only”……..surely if it is the “only”, it must follow that there cannot be any more than one of them.

  11. How did I miss this yesterday? I am now even more impressed with your ingenuity, GOF.

    Is that an epiphyllum growing in the foreground? It must be a real picture during bloom season.

    • The plant is a cuctussy thing that we threw off the verandah Snowy because it threatened to poke children’s eyes out with it’s spikes. Mrs GOF thinks it might be a Euphorbia (spelling?)

  12. That looks vaguely like a Finnish sauna. But great story and glad you made that trek back to PNG to see your wantoks. PNG is a strange, weird but intoxicating place at the same time. I’ve found it most intriguing indeed.

  13. GOF if I ever visit, please allow me to sit with you in your smokehouse. Do you have a transistor radio? I would love music to listen to if it were my retreat. I suspect that you will live until 102 at least as you havl crafted the sanctuary that we rushing around in the stress of the modern world only dream about, because we don’t have the courage to embrace it.

    I do hope that you help with the dishes…

    • Thank you FD….both you and Mr FD will always be welcome in our Smoke House. (Just leave him and I alone occasionally…..I think we have a few things to discuss) 🙂

      We have a cheap car 12V radio cassette player in the smoke house so we can listen to all the wonderful Margaret Throsby interviews on ABC Radio National, or our favourite music.

      I suspect Mrs GOF might have been leaking confidential information about the dishes……… 🙂

  14. Wow! I am so jealous – I would love one of these – what a wonderful environment for contemplation. I’m sure you realize how lucky you are……

  15. Hi GOF – I am a grandson of asa Okawiong and just stumbled onto your blog. Asa used to tell us good stories about your friendships and how he was excited to see you when you returned to visit him.

    He has since passed on.


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