Saturday, September 27, 2008
Conversation with Tess:
T: Mum, you're not going to work today are you? Not like that you're not.
Me: no, love, I'll stay home today. But how shall I explain to my colleagues why I'm not coming in?
T: Just tell the truth! You're really tired AND you got run over by a couple of donkeys and you've done your back in.
Me: Not sure they'll believe the donkey bit, Tess. It's a bit unusual. Escaped, semi-feral donkeys may not be very common around the university, but hey, this is the wilds of Booyong.
T: To the donkeys themselves they're not unusual; they're just donkeys. And the donkeys haven't seen many lecturers either. In fact they haven't seen anybody I think. Which is why they go completely bonkers when you need to catch them. We're not going to keep donkeys, are we Mum? Horses are heaps easier, they don't go off their rockers like these do and charge you and climb walls and go completely psycho.
Me: Um, no, Tess. We're not going to keep donkeys.
T: Good. They're nuts. How's your back?
Me: Oh, okay I guess. Help me get up.
T: You're not going to work.
love from Mieke & Tess, see ya in a few days ...
It says a lot for my colleagues that they took this in their stride ...
... during a walk in King's Canyon, Northern Territory, February 2005. I had been to a CAUTHE conference in Alice Springs and afterwards had gone walkabout for a week in the desert with my friends and colleagues, Noah and Erica. Noah took this photo of me.
With no light pollution for hundreds of kilometres around, at night we slept on blankets under the incredible Northern Territory stars.
On reflection, I think being a university academic is not a bad life at all ...
Wednesday, September 24, 2008
Don't worry, I didn't disturb her ... I just smiled as I sidled around her and left her to catch her dinner, drawn by the lamplight shining through the panes of glass. Came back later to take the photo.
Yarrow's on YouTube again! This time she's singing The Eagles' Hotel California. (We needed to record her singing a song for an audition for voice & singing workshops). Lovely voice, Yarrow ... And as Uncle Marc wrote when he heard it: "Little girl with a big voice: WOW!!!! Well, her timing and her diction are better than Don Henley's, and he wrote it!"
Sunday, September 21, 2008
Quite appropriately, the beautiful Welcome Swallows (Hirundo neoxena) have built their nest above the front door of the farmhouse. The other day I came home from the university to find these eggshells cast out, and four of the tiniest faces peeping over the side of the nest.
Spring has sprung...
Saturday, September 20, 2008
I’m down at the sheds, feeding the hens. It’s a cold morning, the lowest parts of the valley white with six a.m. frost; and I see that already my neighbour Peter is working his cattle, on foot - and barefoot at that - with only his kelpie for assistance. The hens fed, I stroll into the bottom paddock to watch, and soon feel sorry for him as one cow after another breaks free and lumbers out of range, cattle leaking through the inexperience of the young dog and slipping through the gaps. As my mare is lying down – an easy target - with sudden resolve I slip a head-collar over her ears and slide onto her back; and she gets up with a sudden lurch. We trot amiably over to Peter and help shepherd his cattle into the stockyards. He’s hopping from one foot to the other to warm his toes. “Thanks. They kept getting away from me.”
“No worries, Pete. Happy to help, I was up anyway.”
“Hey, Mieke, seeing as you’re on your good mare …”
“Um. Yes. With no saddle, bridle and no helmet though ….” I know where he’s heading. He pauses and looks up at me beadily.
“My good bull. The new Brangus. He’s crossed the river and joined Rosie’s mob…”
I sigh. I know what he’s asking. I hadn’t seen the bull for a while and had been wondering where he’d gotten to. But the river is treacherous and hard to cross. I am mindful of my mare’s legs, easily caught and cut on unseen underwater branches and forgotten bits of fence as the current rips coldly. And I know that the bull, after his joyful frolics with his new harem, may not want to come back. And it’s hell, trying to get cattle to cross water.
“He’s my good bull. I’ll take your girls on the tractor, they can help; they’ll enjoy the ride. Together we’ve got a chance”. He knows me well enough to know I won’t leave the girls alone on the farm while I go mustering. “It’s not that I mind him donating a few calves to old Rosie, it’s just that he ain’t here, he ain’t here doing his job with his own…”
His concern for my girls sways me and I relent. The bull means a lot to him.
“Alright. Let me get the girls dressed warmly, and I’ll saddle the mare and I’ll see you in twenty minutes”.
At the river, the mare balks. She’s been hurt, there, before: the blood at the time flowed red down her leg; but at the time I was heedless and did not notice. I still feel bad about that. I cajole her, bully her into the swift dark current, and against her will she launches herself into the winter waters. A brief period of surging current, and at the other side we are hindered by deep swamp and bog. The mare flounders, up to her belly in peaty bog, and after an eternity of wild snorting plunges, with a mammoth effort she heaves herself up the embankment onto dry ground. I find I am trembling. A huge long snort and the mare shakes herself from nose to tail, and then tosses her head as if to say “I’m here”.
In time, Peter and Tess arrive on foot; having left the tractor, not wishing to bog it, on the river flats further downstream and on the other side of the river with Yarrow for safekeeping.
We commence the muster. As usual, as I am swift on the stockhorse, I am given the role of outrigger, or ‘dogger’, ranging far around the mob to bring them together – circling the mob in a flat gallop I gather them, weaving an unseen net of whistles and calls of ‘move on lass’ and ‘hey up there’, a net of bluster and push. Never handled, never tamed, Rosie’s mob are wild and mad, scrawny, unruly; so unlike the doe-eyed Murray Greys of our river flats. Most of Rosie’s mob have horns.
And so we come closer to the river. The big bull is there in the middle of the wheeling mob: his unlikely, well bred form stark in contrast to the rough bush cattle. They don’t want to get near the river, never mind cross it. Peter has placed himself at the right side of the crossing and Tess at the left. My job is to push the cattle though.
They don’t want to go. At one stage despite my mare’s chest hard against a recalcitrant cow, it breaks free, whirls and with lowered head charges straight towards Tess. Time slows as Tess stands, a horrified expression on her face as the cow thunders towards her yet it all seems slow motion. I dig my heels in the mare’s sides – an unmistakable signal to the sensitive mare who bounds forward with her ears flat and we place her body and mine between the charging cow and my child. At the last moment the cow brakes hard, swerves and heads for freedom.
“Let the old bitch go!” Peter yells.
Tess looks at me. She is still standing where she was, rooted to the spot. “Christ, Mum. That cow went for me”. I lean down from the saddle and hug her to me. She is shaking, and so am I.
“She did indeed, love. I saw. And you stood your ground. Well done. That was very brave.”
“You got inbetween. That cow could have hurt you really badly”.
“Yes, but I couldn’t let her get you now, could I?” She hugs me, briefly, passionately, her young arms hard and tight around my middle.
By now the cattle are crossing the river in wild plunges, churning the water to mud. The idea is to bring them all to the yards, and then separate the bull and let Rosie’s mob go to find their own way back to the hills. The next part should be easy, now that the bull and the majority of the mob are across the river. Soon we reach the disused railway embankment and I think with relief that it will form a natural barrier along which I can herd them.
But no; one cow starts and the rest follow and they surge up the steep slope, a river of brindle and brown, black and white and grey; with the sleek black bull in there with them. They reach the top and disappear over the edge on the other side; their tails giving disdainful flicks as they leap down the embankment.
Peter swears and thumps the tractor. “Christ almighty, I can’t follow them there on the tractor; the other side of that is a sheer drop and the rest is bog and there’s the trees. See if you can bring them back Mieke; meet you at the stockyards end of the railway.” I wheel the mare towards the embankment and in a few leaps we’re at the top where we teeter for a moment, and then she leaps into space and we land with a jar on the steep downwards slope and slide down, the mare on her hocks and me with my heart in my mouth but my trust in the surefootedness of the mare.
Once down we hunt the mob together again as they scatter in the trees and mud. Time and time again one cow after another breaks out, and I race to head her off, and turn her back, leaning at forty-five degrees as the horse and cow wrestle shoulder to shoulder until the cow wheels and slows and heads back to the safety of the mob. All this time, the bull stands separate, aloof, watching, noncommittal. One particular cow seems to be the leader, and she’s intent on heading back to the river. But where the hell is everyone else? Why am I doing this alone? I can’t do this on my own; it’s madness. My mare is dripping sweat, my shins are a mass of bruises from clouts with various cattle, the ground underneath is treacherous, the small wood disorienting; trees and branches snatching at my hair and my arms.
The lead cow breaks away again and we head her off; shoulder to shoulder; until my thigh is hard against the cow’s shoulder as the mare turns on her hocks and pushes the cow back. The cow balks, shoves; her horn catching me on my inner thigh, nearly upending me out of the saddle. I swear under my breath but don’t give up; give the mare her head, she knows the game, knows what she’s doing. We push the cow back to the mob.
All of a sudden the mob gives up. I don’t know why, but all of a sudden they have had enough. Or maybe they see that I have had enough. I don’t know. Meekly they turn; they join the bull; and they amble towards the low part of the railway and over the embankment, down to the stockyards. The bull knows where he is, now, can see where he’s going. He walks calmly into the yards and Tess slams the gate shut with a cry of relief. I rein in my exhausted mare; run my hand along her neck; let my hand run briefly over the bruises on my thighs. They’ll take a while to heal, but the bull is back.
The wild mob head back for the hills but the bull doesn’t even watch. He’s looking at his own herd possessively, rumbling greetings in this throat.
Friday, August 29, 2008
Monday, August 11, 2008
The Dichotomy of Shampoo
In my friend Denise’s shower I lather my hair with shampoo, “Sebastian collection”, which exhorts itself as “a shampoo that uses expanding texturizers to make the hair's fiber feel bigger: fluff it up!”. I follow that with “Xtah raw sensuality” a “hydration conditioner” designed to “tame the frizz and generate those sleek locks”.
Do they cancel each other out, I wonder; like some mathematical formulae of negatives and positives, leaving my external demeanour one of mild confusion; a marketed smoothie of contrasting objectives; a feminine concoction of illogical mood swings.
I turn to the back of the conditioner bottle for some deeper insights. “Raw hydration, daily sensual conditioner for hair. Penetrating amino acids derived from botanical sources plus body-enhancing proteins to help promote optimal condition. The slippery feel creates a unique experience while vanilla spice & orange blossom entice and calm the senses. Color safe. For all hair types.”
For all that the text itself would be rated M-for-mature-audiences if showed on the wide screen, I am none the wiser. Indeed, if I go by the label my senses are both enticed and calmed at the same time. I run my hands over my body: is it a unique experience? My body feels quite ordinary in its own contrasts: soft from childbearing in some places, lean and taut from the rough and tumble of farm life in others; a scar here, a blemish there, the oft-charted shores of familiarity. As I later stand by the window, wrapped in a towel, my wet hair dripping trickles down my back, I consider whether I am separately enticed and calmed or whether these colours, safely or unsafely, mix to a plasticine grey. I don’t know.
Outside, the sky is heavy with dark grey clouds. The Amsterdam harbour stretches its windscuffed water to the far bank where the neon, freon and halogen lights of the factories, shipyards and refineries proclaim the industriousness of the Dutch nation. Seven stories down below on the grey quayside a man cycles past with his dog trotting alongside. Under the streetlamps the rainslicked wet concrete reflects them so precisely, so clearly, that the dog, mirrored on its paws, seems to be trotting on an echo of itself; while the man, seemingly precariously; cycles on the narrow reflection of his own tyres.
Maybe that’s what it’s like. Perhaps in all of us there is this dichotomy of emotion, the contradiction of desires, as we trot on the shadowy mirror image of our own paws through life; as we teeter precariously on the narrow tyres of our choices. For me, right now, it’s the ambivalence of my feelings towards the Netherlands – there is the joy of seeing my much loved friends, my adored brother; the delight in skirling bicycle wheels over cobbled canals; the thrill of the band’s live music weaving through my body and striking gentle chords of regret that I no longer am part of this scene. These feelings are counterbalanced by the gusts of cold wind ruffling the equivocal harbour of my heart as I look over the water: and I yearn for the rolling green hills of my farm; the subtropical trees silhouetted on the high ridge; the susurrating chuckles of the kookaburras heralding a new blue-skied day easing over the red earth of my great south land. Against the reminiscence of these vibrant hues my feelings for the Netherlands are not “color safe” as they blend and merge to a muddled grey, and I feel disloyal to this city so genuine in its valiant attempt at liveability, throwing its defiant architecture at the winter dark.
Sunday, August 10, 2008
Tuesday, August 5, 2008
Anjes has just arrived home again, and what better way to celebrate than a good bonfire. Briony (body artist extraordinaire) had some great new body paints that she and I were keen to try out. Hans and John had some superb curry recipes. Britt had some new songs to try out. Toby had some hugs to dispense. The Tree (you know, The Tree) beckoned climbing sprites, somersaulting youths and laughter hidden among the leaves.
So friends and family were invited and bonfire was lit, bodies painted, wonderful curries tasted, and young voices soared under the crystal clear stars.
In the morning there were farm-fresh scrambled eggs cooked on the hotplate; pancakes baked on the open fire by Yarrow; a brumby mare to be tried out; sweet custard apples; and The Tree with climbing sprites, somersaulting youths and much laughter heard hidden among the leaves.
Afternoon somehow nudged us to the beach for swimming and fishing and ballgames ... Hot fish and chips to finish the day.
Thank you Anjes, Britt, Tess, Yarrow, Briony, Tui, Sam, Toby, Ongel, Grandpa, John and Hans for sharing a wonderful weekend at Moreton's Myth.
Saturday, July 26, 2008
Monday, July 14, 2008
Here is Rascal Darius running with his dam when he was only a day old. The mare is our very own Duchess, a brumby caught in outback Queensland during a muster. All credit to my good friend and neighbour Bruce (The Kangaman) who took this stunning photo.
Monday, June 30, 2008
Thursday, June 19, 2008
Monday, June 16, 2008
The original was made in the Han Dynasty, somewhere between 206 BC and 220 AD. This version was made by Tess on Sunday afternoon on the back deck.
She used board, papier mache, poster paint (thank you Briony!), fimo and a good dose of concentration.
Myself, I really like the goose. A superb likeness. Good work, Tess!
Saturday, June 14, 2008
I decided to pick the girls up from school this afternoon, on the horse.
Rain bucketing down, the horse and I canter along the track to school.
Slick with sweat and water
we clop through the school gates, turn left at the girls’ toilets, and pull up under the covered play area, hooves loud on the concrete, the canopy redirecting the rain to fall in rivulets from the roof. The girls tumble out of the library, yelling “Cooooooper!!!!!!”.
With practiced ease, Tess tucks her bare foot on mine in the stirrup, grabs my hand and swings onto the horse’s rump in one fluid movement. I lift Yarrow onto the saddle in front of me.
“Let’s go home, Mum”
I turn the horse and we clop out of the school gates, together on the horse in the teeming rain.
Sunday, June 8, 2008
- She is loving
- She is caring
- She is fun
- She is imaginative
- She is patient
- She is giving
- She is funny
- She is pretty
And a whole lot of other things! And here is a list of things that aren't special about her:
So Emily you are very special and we all love you!
Tuesday, June 3, 2008
Sunday, May 25, 2008
For years Yarrow has been playing guitar with the Northern Rivers Conservatorium Arts Centre. Not that she plays a lot now, but she's made some great and close friends through the Con. Recently they made an television advert, and Yarrow's in it! See if you can glimpse her two microsecond appearances. You can click on the YouTube picture above to view the advert. Of course, it's best with the sound on!
The url is: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZV2okosgU54
Friday, May 16, 2008
Here is a photo of this week's unexpected harvest of pumpkins. We didn't plant them on purpose - they just decided to grow under the date palm near the pool. After I found Rascal playing football with some of them I decided to harvest the ripe ones rather than let him pulverise the rest of them (I'm such a spoilsport, I know).
The nice thing is that next year there will be another surprise crop growing in the same area. For now though I better go find some good recipes for pumpkin. Anyone got any suggestions?
Saturday, May 10, 2008
The Booyong Fettuccini-Sucking Championships!!
The contestants must each take a strand of cooked fettuccini of equal length. The longer the fettuccini, the better.
The contestants must each hold one centimetre of fettuccini in their mouth and let the rest dangle down their chins.
This is serious. Don't smile. Smiling is not conducive to successful outcomes of the Championships.
An outsider not in the running for the Championships must count down from three and say "Go!" The outsider must attempt not to smile however hard this may seem to be.
At the word Go, the contestants must suck the fettuccini as quickly as possible into their mouth.
Remember: laughing on the part of the participants is catastrophic and not conducive to successful outcomes of the Championships.
Laughing helplessly and falling off one's chair and onto the floor is *particularly* not conducive to successful outcomes of the Championships.
Five rounds are generally sufficient to determine the Great Booyong Fettuccini-Sucking Champion, and to render the rest of the family absolutely feeble with laughter.
PS: Older siblings are of course, permitted to take part. They're generally hopeless at it anyway 'cos they just *lose it* :-)
· Chopping board
· Sharp knife
· Large saucepan
· Large frypan
· Medium bowl
· Measuring cup
· Scrap bin
· 1 lb. ground round beef (mince)
· 1 can whole tomatoes
· 1 can tomato sauce
· 2 med. onions
· 5 tsp. minced garlic
· 10 “cup” mushrooms
· 1 tin sweet corn
· Fresh oregano
· Fresh basil
· Fresh thyme
· Fresh ground pepper
· olive oil
· 500g spaghetti or fettuccini
· 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
· Extra virgin olive oil
1. Peel and chop onions, and mushrooms.
2. Put large frypan on burner and heat olive oil on medium high setting. Add onions, garlic and mushrooms.
3. Fry for 5 minutes or until onions turn clear and garlic starts to smell strong. Pour all ingredients into a bowl and reserve for later.
4. Return frypan to heat and add ground beef.
5. Fry until browned and break apart into small clumps.
6. Add tin of sweet corn (drained)
7. Return fried vegetables to the frypan.
8. Add whole tomatoes and chop them up.
9. Add tomato sauce, oregano, basil, thyme and ground pepper.
10. Mix ingredients well.
11. Cover frypan and turn heat down to simmer.
12. Simmer for 30 minutes.
13. Bring a large saucepan of salted water to the boil.
14. Add spaghetti, a little at a time.
15. Stir and add extra virgin olive oil to avoid sticking.
16. Cook for 10 minutes or until just cooked through (no hard white centre).
17. Drain and run cool water through spaghetti.
18. Transfer to a bowl and add a tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil and a half cup of grated Parmesan cheese.
19. Mix well.
20. Remove sauce from stove and pour into a bowl.
Friday, May 9, 2008
Did you know: A TE20 was the first vehicle ever to be driven to the South Pole, under Sir Edmund Hilary? If you'd like to read about it click on this link: http://www.fofh.co.uk/articles/pole.htm
And while we're on Friends of Ferguson heritage website, have a look at this article: http://www.fofh.co.uk/articles/interests.htm
... Describes my life to a T.
A much later (Feb 2010) PS: for the enthusiast, this Ferguson is a TEA-20, serial no. TE A 474606. It was made in Britain in 1948 and was exported to NSW soon thereafter where it was owned for many years by the Kirklands family of the Booyong, Nashua and Pearce's Creek area. It stayed with that family for many years. doing sterling work in the area. After 2000 it was purchased by Dirk and Tracey of Houghlahan's Creek Rd. Dirk did some amazing restoration work on it. I bought it in 2008.
Here's a photo of Moreton's Promise who is now two months old. She's in the cute, kind, cuddly phase of her youth (maybe though she's just a cute, kind, cuddly kinda horse. Who knows? Time will tell). We bred the filly to fulfil a promise to our Anjes who wanted a horse of her own (great choice of name, Anjes!).
For those who would like to know, she's a pure-bred Australian Stock Horse with double Abbey bloodlines. Her pedigree goes back to 1880 (keeping tabs on all those bloodlines is an amazing feat of administrative competence on the part of the ASH Society if you ask me).
I like the way the early morning sun catches the beautiful golden colour of her foal coat (which will change to a much darker liver chestnut in time); and the scattering of freckles on her face.
To do Rascal justice, just after this shot Promise tried to eat the camera, too ... ("Who knows, it might not be poisonous?").
- Demolished 2 soccer balls ("Why kick them? Chewing holes in them is *so* much more fun")
- Fished out the pool toys from the pool: noodles, surfboard, fake crocodile; and bitten chunks out of them ("The crocodile tasted best!")
- Flung the swim flippers about until they were shredded ("That is *heaps* of fun. Where can I find more?")
- Shredded a saddlecloth ("Hey look, it's filled with cotton wool. Cute! Let me scatter this all over the stockyard for a fetching effect.")
- Eaten the front door mat ("Tastes kinda like hay - why waste it by wiping your feet on it? You humans are so silly.")
- Done a demolition job on the green tree-frog haven (I built it using the broken wheelbarrow and old sacking). The poor frogs were most put out and are now homeless. ("You don't need this roof, do you? Let me remove it for you, and tip the wheelbarrow over. There, now you're free.")
- Chewed the antenna off my car ("Look, if I pull it, it telescopes outwards. Hmm. How far can I go with it?")
- Pulled the cutter strings off the whipper-snipper ("Curious pink things, I'm sure they don't belong on a machine.")
Teenage colts: ya gotta love 'em.
Thursday, April 24, 2008
Hello everyone!!! How's things going? (I just woke up). This is a picture of Oce, Anjes and Kat (Oce's friend) in Sydney. Anjes is my half sister (but to me she is a full sister) and Oce and Kat are family too. Anjes comes here once a year and stays here for about 3-5 weeks. Oce and Kat come whenever they can come and I love it when they all do!!!!
Wednesday, April 23, 2008
One such student is Mike. Apart from studying for a Bachelor of Business, he works as a professional surfer for the company Billabong, and as such, he is sent where the waves are to promote the company’s products and perform other sponsoring commitments. He has just returned from Los Angeles, and he is about to go to Tahiti to surf in the Billabong Pro. Under time pressure, he’s worried and stressed that he is late with submitting his essay and that he won’t be able to access internet, and might not be able to access the library databases for a suitable article to include in his essay. These are honest and real concerns and pressures in his life, and though he may never set foot in a classroom, he’s a real student in a real world.
He’s got some unreal photos though! That’s him on his board.
Here is a very thought-provoking YouTube video on students today.
Sunday, April 20, 2008
Saturday, April 19, 2008
Rain falls in subtropical torrents on our verdant valley this morning, rivulets trickling down the hillside, filling the frog-happy billabong, swelling the river. Not only do we all here feel it's been a wet month - it has been! This month to date we've had 200% compared to our average amount of rain for March - April.
The sound of the rain thundering on the corrugated iron roof ... mixed with the curling song of the currawongs wheeling above the house, and a sudden skirl of lorikeets chittering past. These are the sounds this morning. Sky sounds.
Friday, April 18, 2008
Thursday, April 17, 2008
We went for a wonderful picnic at Blackbutt Lookout, overlooking Wollumbin (some call it Mt Warning), in the Border Ranges National Park. The rain came but did not deter the culinary art of marshmallow toasting on an open fire. The billy was put to good use for a wonderful cup of tea: hot, sweet, and strong enough to trot a mouse over ....
More on Bundjalung nation and Wollumbin at http://www.bigvolcano.com.au/stories/minjung/aborigin.htm
By the way: a blackbutt is a tree, not what you get by sitting too close to the fire ...