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The wonderful world of barets………….and coffee.

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baret = drainage ditch  (in Melanesian Tok Pisin)

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baret2

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Ask my daughter and she’ll tell you in quite colourful language that I have an obsession with digging and maintaining barets. It’s my spade and shovel physical workout. Popeye biceps and barrel chests do not maintain themselves just with spinach you know.

So what’s with all the barets?  We live close to Australia’s wettest meteorological station which is located on top of Mt Bellenden Ker. (It’s records include 5.3 metres of rain during January 1979, and 12.4 metres total for the year 2000.)

I have around 200 metres of barets on this farm. They prevent my gravel roads, marijuana plantations, buried bullion, plant nurseries and buildings from being washed down the mountain and ending up in the hands of some undeserving layabout mooching around on the coastal plain at Innisfail.

The road barets are very important to prevent scouring of my steep 300 metre gravel driveway. The following pictures illustrate why the local Council should be employing me at the rate of K100 per annum to oversee maintenance of it’s road network instead of the incumbent indolent and incompetent slackarse.

GOF road after 100 inches of rain in 100 days

GOF road after 100 inches of rain in 100 days

Council road after 100 inches of rain in 100 days

Council road after 100 inches of rain in 100 days

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Council have NO functional barets, whereas I have seven magnificent ones.
Seven!
Number 1 is at the top of the hill. Next one down is Number 3, then Number 7 followed by Number 2, (I maintain a conscientious objection to numerical order) and then, right near the steep corner is my pride and joy. An engineering masterpiece. The mother of all road barets…    NUMBER FIVE….one foot deep and two feet wide.

Baret Number 5 doing nothing

Baret Number 5 doing nothing

Baret number 5 midway through recent 12" rainfall in one day

Baret number 5 midway through recent 12″ rainfall in one day

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Baret Number 5 has two purposes;
1.  To capture and redirect floodwater.
2.  To trap and/or deter door-to-door salesmen and other unwanted visitors, including Katerina and Katya the Russian twins who keep sending emails twice every week saying they want to do some things that my mother never told me about.

Every few weeks I need to shovel silt and leaves out of my barets and collect any other miscellaneous debris which might have accumulated.

I found the following objects in, or adjacent to, baret No 5 during the first quarter of this year. If any of them belong to you, please contact me so I can arrange their safe return.

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1 only Volkswagon towbar with a cutoff tennis ball protecting the towball.
1 only sump plug and four litres of used engine oil. (now gritty)
6 only assorted exhaust systems complete with mufflers …..probably suit small Mazdas or Hyundais.
1 only Honda Civic plastic bumper bar with a “Bonk a smallholder farmer now before they’re all gone” sticker attached.
(I didn’t have these stickers printed for bloody city slickers to whack on their woosy toy-plastic bumper bars. They’re for proper 4WD bull bars.)
1 complete Volvo station wagon (white) with fluffy dice hanging from the rear vision mirror, and a “Jesus loves you” message on the rear window. There are two large boxes filled with “Watchtower” magazines on the back seat.

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Thank you.
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Oh yes, and I’ve just discovered a new coffee shop in Cairns.
Why was it not there 40 years ago when I was in the mood for this sort of thing?
Sadly, in the wake of my senescence, I no longer have a passion for caffeine.
Bang and Grind3

 

Cyclone Ita report………..and thank you.

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Cyclone Ita track prediction.

Cyclone Ita track prediction.

It is with profound thankfulness and appreciation that I write these words today…..at 2 am in the calm which always follows a departing tropical storm.

Firstly I thank YOU for your concern and thoughtfulness. Especially those who took the time to leave comments here or call me on the phone. This is the second cyclone Mrs GOF and I have weathered with the support of my WordPress friends. Apart from a little flood and wind damage to shade houses we have come through Cyclone Ita unscathed.

Last night Mrs GOF and I enjoyed a 34th wedding anniversary dinner to the accompaniment of rain pounding on the tin roof, (giving thanks that it was still attached to the walls) the whistle of wind gusting through the rafters and the roar of the West Mulgrave waterfall four kilometres away as it disgorged the 12 inches of rain which fell in it’s catchment during the day .

Now….I’d like to get some more thankfulness and thoughts about cyclones off my chest before this blog deteriorates into it’s normal programming.

Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology is often the subject of much ridicule, but it’s record of cyclone track prediction during the last decade has been impeccable. The complex movement of Cyclone Ita was predicted with astonishing accuracy two days in advance of landfall. These days only fools ignore the cyclone warnings and predictions.

In today’s world of television, mobile phones, Facebook and Twitter it is worth remembering that 100 years ago advice about imminent cyclones consisted of ships ‘accidentally’ discovering the storms in the Coral Sea then relaying messages to the Cairns Telegraph Office. The Post Office would then raise a red flag on the roof. Whenever the residents of Cairns felt an abnormally strong wind they would travel into the Post Office to check if there was a red flag flying.

Another thankfulness; Cairns has the WORLD’S MOST WONDERFUL radio station. ABC Far North. During every cyclone the local announcers sacrifice their own sleep and comfort to provide 24-hour talkback radio including regular weather updates, connections to emergency services, companionship for the lonely and words of comfort for the isolated, frightened and distressed.

No matter how many cyclones you survive they always remain terrifying reminders of the fragility of life and the vulnerability of the structures which we build.

Most people never get to experience the other-worldliness of being in the ‘eye’ of a cyclone. In a strange way I feel privileged to have done so on two occasions during cyclones Winifred and Larry. There is absolute stillness and silence while looking up at a clear sky for ten or fifteen minutes before all hell breaks loose again unleashing several more hours of destruction.

Mother Nature is toying with us. She will be the ultimate winner on this planet.

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P.S.  It will take me a couple of days to undo all the pre-cyclone preparations which we made, so please cut me a little blogging slack….I will catch up with you all again soon.  Thank you my friends.

 

Things up with which I must put.

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1.   A wife whose breakfast-time summaries of TV programs she watched last night take longer than the actual programs.

2.   The only two-legged grandsomething I’m ever going to get from my daughter will most likely be a foul-mouthed kleptomaniac cockatoo or an unbalanced double-amputee wombat which she has adopted from Animal Welfare.

3.   Timmy the new kitten and Kebba our dysfunctional pig dog are shamelessly flouting the laws of nature.

It’s very fortunate that at least one person in this family is devoid of peculiarity. You may consider me to be like an electronic room deodoriser…… spurting out fragrant poofs of wisdom and sensibility ad libitum all over my fiefdom to overpower the foul absurdities which surround me.

It is hard being normal.

Now if you don’t mind I’d like to go now and finish writing my current academic gift to mankind; “Digital procedures for estimating core temperature and determining textural anomalies in fresh cassowary faecal deposits.”

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Type 72 textured cassowary poop

Type 72 textured cassowary poop

KebTim1

KebTim2

KebTim3

Inga and the bird

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First some essential definitions for the benefit of my new reader;
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Inga is my adult daughter who lives and works as far away from me as she possibly can without having to leave continental Australia.

Birds are 2 -legged animals which fly in the sky. They all have feathers unless one happens to be a plucked chicken equipped with a GOF Mk1, 3-stage experimental rocket strapped to it’s undercarriage.
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Oops……newcomer’s gone already.
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Next thing;  I now need to waste some of your time with history;

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I have occasionally written about the ‘sense of place’ and connection with the land that Mrs GOF and I feel after having lived for 30 years on this soggy and secluded place which has nurtured us, provided food and water, and protected us from harm.
 
White-fellas in Australia have a difficult time coming to terms with the spiritual depth of connection to ‘country’ that aboriginal people feel, but I think I am beginning to understand.

I’m guessing Inga feels something similar even though she will have her own unique perspective.  She was only an infant when we arrived here and to this day she remains the only child who was raised to adulthood in this neck of the woods.  Today there are three children in the neighbourhood, but in Inga’s day there was only herself.  She grew up with Merial her pet cow, played in the mud and wandered around our 46 acres making her own entertainment. Inga’s formative years were spent being an integral part of this very special natural environment.

Something attracts her back here for holidays every year and I’d venture to suggest that there is a force at play which is greater than simply the close relationship she has with her parents.
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And finally; The main event;

parrot feeding time

Every morning either Mrs GOF or I distribute a cupfull of bird seed on the garden path as supplementary feed for the wild birds living in the rainforest.  We’ve been doing this for at least twenty years.  Depending on the season, between 50 and 100 individuals arrive. King parrots, emerald doves and assorted finches. Whenever we try to approach them, they all flock-off up into nearby trees until we’ve disappeared from view, then they fly back down again to resume eating.  We’ve made several attempts in the past to ‘tame’ some of them and failed, so they will forever remain wild birds.

Last Christmas Inga came home for two weeks. Apparently this must have been a very tiring experience because most mornings she got out of bed well after the birds had eaten their breakfast and disappeared back into the rainforest.

On the final morning she was up early making preparations to travel back home to Melbourne.  As soon as she went out onto the verandah with a small handful of seed a lone King parrot came out of the blue and landed on the roof above her head. It peered over the guttering at her before fluttering down and landing on her arm.  Then it ate all the food from her hand before taking off again into the bush.

There is only one acceptable explanation. 

Inga was offering a token departing gift to Mother Nature in appreciation of the connection she has with this ‘country‘ and the bird was accepting it on behalf of all the spirits of our land and thanking her for returning.

Until such time as science can provide me with a more sublime conclusion, I’m going to cherish this one.

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A flabbergasted Mrs GOF hurriedly found a camera to record the moment.

Ingabird 1

Ingabird2

A flight back in time. (Part 2 of 2)

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Part One is here.

So we’ve already established that GOF did something strange and irresponsible back in 1983 by moving his young family to an isolated, abandoned and waterlogged paddock in the middle of the tropical rainforest.
No services.  No close neighbours.  Access to the nearest road via six kilometres of disused logging track which was trafficable only by tractor during the worst of the wet season.  A place which would guarantee permanent financial uncertainty, but also offer the greatest challenges and rewards of a lifetime.

Mrs GOF must be one of the most tolerant women on the planet.  (Quite apart from the most obvious cross she’s had to bear for 34 years.) Together we have dug house foundation trenches with picks and shovels, built the house and numerous sheds, installed tanks, irrigation and water supply systems, grown food crops, constructed plant nurseries (then rebuilt them each time they were blown away in cyclones)  and re-forested the farm…..mostly just the two of us with some help from Inga’s child labour.
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In December 2013 we decided to overfly our little piece of paradise so Mrs GOF could take some aerial photographs.

Today these pictures remind me of our long journey and I feel some pride that we have made a living from our land when many people said it could not be done, but more importantly that we will leave most of it in better condition than when we arrived.  In return, the spirits of this country have always looked after the three of us.

The photographs also prompt me to remember all the sweat and swearing and occasional blood and tears which went into this place, but I still can’t help wondering whether we’ve done the right thing by the planet…..we’ve brought an awful lot of crap onto this land which previously had none.

And so my friends, this is how GOF’s Paradise evolved;

GP1

 

GP2

 

GP3

 

gofs place 6     …………………….                                  Click to enlarge.

Snakes alive……..and some not.

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Brown tree snake (Boiga irregularis) rear fanged, mildly venomous

Brown tree snake (Boiga irregularis) rear fanged, mildly venomous

Each one of us enters the world with a special gift to bestow upon the remainder of humanity.

Franz Liszt enriched the world with his music. Nigella Lawson was endowed with multiple gifts, one of which involves the preparation of food, and Homer Simpson iced the cake of responsible parenthood with lashings of paternal wisdom.

Now let me tell you about my gift.

I just happen to instinctively know, even with my eyes closed, that a snake has weaseled itself out of the jungle and into my living room, mistakenly believing it to be GOF’s Refuge for Homeless Serpents.

Just one example of my extraordinary sensory ability;

Last Monday night Mrs GOF and I were watching the big bash cricket (the game….not the insect) on TV when my gift suddenly kicked in.

It’s hard to explain to mere mortals exactly how my instinctive faculty works.  It probably has something to do with my rare ability to detect the subtle sounds of cups, plates and framed photographs being dislodged from display cabinets and crashing onto the floor, or hearing Mrs GOF’s “Eeeeeek! Snake!, Snake!, GOF get rid of it!” echoing in the vacant recesses of my cranium, or smelling the carpet-burns on the soles of her feet as she accelerates like a bipedal drag racer into the bedroom before slamming the door shut.

Anyhow, suffice to say I detected a snake in the room last Monday.

It’s my perceptive gift.

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I did not always have this finely honed gift of snake detection.
It was a late-onset gift, deferred for thirty years, perhaps as a consequence of the botched forceps delivery which saw me skidding headfirst across the linoleum floor of the birthing suite like a bar of soap in a bathtub, until I came to a shuddering and whimpering halt against the varnished redgum skirting board of the nurses station.

Or perhaps not.

Anyway, forty years ago, giftless, on a balmy moonlit night at Pindiu in Papua New Guinea I strolled the 100 yards from my house to the office, stepped inside, and thought very little about whatever it was that slithered across my bare foot.

Returning to the light in my house I was astonished to find two distinct puncture wounds on my ankle with blood oozing out of them. They looked just like the photographs you see in medical books under the heading; “Snakebite”.

Being all-knowing, (as is the wont of the young) I immediately thought “This is not good.”

I’m living alone. No medical facilities. No communication with the outside world. No chance of evacuation by plane until first light the following day. Having established that I didn’t want to die alone, I motor-biked across the airstrip and up the hill to stay with the only other expatriate who lived there.

He refused to suck the venom out of the wounds on the grounds that my foot was unhygienic and smelled vaguely of manure.  Having been the recipient of basic first aid training he guaranteed that application of a tourniquet for 12 hours would result in the onset of rampant gangrene followed by the amputation of both my legs and some other important bits as well.

We concluded that I’d probably only have another hour to live, and that it would be best spent drinking beer, an activity in which he’d obviously been engaged for quite some time.

That I am still here today indicates one of two possibilities.

1. It was a non-poisonous snake, or
2. Beer is a powerful anti-venom.

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Footnote;  I could have been saved from this shitload of anxiety had I known then that bites from venomous snakes normally don’t bleed as profusely as those from non-venomous snakes.
 
In the interests of responsible journalism I should point out that in 2013 compression bandaging and limb immobilisation are the preferred primary treatments for snake bite.

Sucking, limb-strangling with string, and riding around in blind panics on motor bikes are no longer acceptable practises.

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Brown tree snake 2I have no idea why WordPress published this picture sideways.  Please tilt your neck 90 degrees to the left.

The decline and decline of GOF

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The cost of not living up to the expectations of others.

 

Taking a different point of view

Taking a different point of view

The decline started early and I take full responsibility. My parents did their level best to raise me as a sociable, successful and communicative contributor to Australian society.  It is no reflection upon them that they failed. Many of the principles of life which evolved in my young head as I wandered alone through the Victorian bush just happened to be poles apart from those of my dear parents.

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My parents decided sixty years ago that sending me off at the age of five to the local Yandoit Primary School for one week of initiation would act as a kick-start to my academic learning.

I took the more instantly rewarding view that the 12 year-old girl assigned to chaperone me was far more interesting than anything being written on the blackboard.

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My parents believed that unquestioning adherence to their brand of Christianity would provide the most structurally sound framework for me to live my life on Earth, but more importantly it would guarantee a front-stalls ticket to the heavenly afterlife.

I progressively formed the view that except for teaching the Ten Commandments, organised religions were a divisive sham, and attachment to any particular brand was not a prerequisite to being a good human being.  I could not discover any evidence in the natural world which surrounded me that there was a possibility of life after death.

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The White Hills Technical School Headmaster apparently expected much more from me.  He generously pasted the following unsigned 1963 end of year character reference in my report book which conveyed the idea to potential employers that I was worthless.

I took the point of view which I now hold with even greater conviction that Headmaster Robt. M. Wiseman was a disgrace both to his profession and the ancestors who bequeathed to him that surname.

Robt. M. Wiseman's gift to GOF.

Robt. M. Wiseman’s gift to GOF.

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My father believed that joining the secret society of Freemasons was the best way for me to enhance my career prospects and social status.

I chose instead to walk in the opposite direction and take complete responsibility for my own success or failure.

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In 1974 my Public Service employer in New Guinea generously promoted me from doing rural development field work to a much more highly paid administrative position in town.

I took the view after just six months in office that I would use my newly acquired executive powers to post myself back to the bush from whence I came to work with the people in the place that I loved, and in doing so relinquish the higher salary and all future prospects for promotion.

(It is a very special time for me and Mrs GOF at the moment as we read our daughter’s continuing series of stories about ‘returning home’ at the age of 30 to this place she never knew.) (here)

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My capitalist society believes that accumulating wealth and expensive houses and possessions should be amongst the highest priorities in my life.

I chose the view that this is a totally ludicrous and mindless preoccupation best left to others.  Beyond having a roof over my head, a modest financial reserve and some land from which to make a living, I don’t give a rat’s arse about company shares, financial indices, interest and exchange rates, negative gearing or any other form of accounting trickery.

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In accordance with my strict Rules of Engagement with Humans, I occasionally tolerate visitors to GOF’s Paradise.  Some fail to see the natural beauty of the landscape or appreciate the sounds of silence, instead preferring to take note that our mains-powerless home is of inferior quality and size to their half-million dollar residences in town, and they conclude;
“The GOF’s live in squalor in the middle of the rainforest.”

Plumbing held together with Araldite superglue.

Plumbing held together with Araldite superglue.

Insulation falling off the verandah roof.

Insulation falling off the verandah roof.

Lichen farm on the roof.

Lichen farm on the roof.

Snake-shit stains on the verandah wall.

Snake-shit stains on the verandah wall.

I promise I’ll clean up the snake shit……everything else will take care of itself.

Mrs GOF and I built and furnished this little home with our own four hands in 1983 for the cost of just $8000.  It, like us, is now showing signs of age.
It has survived three major cyclones and many other gales, been struck by lightning, sheltered us from 150 inches of rain every year, kept us warm through thirty winters, been a safe haven in which to raise a child, and provided a barrier most of the time to tree snakes who also like to call it’s roof space home.

I take the view that it would be a fitting end if, shortly after Mrs GOF and I fall off our respective twigs, our house collapses of exhaustion from a job well done and also returns to the earth from whence it came.
“Resale value” is something for others to worry themselves sleepless about. I don’t give a rats about that either.

So as you can see, my life has been a series of abject failures to live up to the expectations of others.

Regardless of all the other bloody stupid mistakes I’ve made along the way, you cannot begin to understand just how happy, fulfilled and contented this makes me feel.

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