Country Mud Crab. What?

Few house sitters would have cause to ponder farm fence maintenance, unless like us, they’ve branched out into farm-sitting or they are absolutely crazy. Or both.

Aside from cattle and sheep, the most common rural fence problem comes from kangaroos but hidden away in all that, is the inexorable march of Mother Nature out to reclaim her own. Yes, I’m talking about trees. When we’re thinking ‘farm,’ getting plenty of practice with the chainsaw is guaranteed. Aside from doing the little things, like avoiding direct contact with the sharp, moving chain and dropping branches onto your head, to do the job properly, there is a lot of walking involved. After lopping overhanging branches, one must then pile up the debris for later burning or as they do in most cases, leave it to return to the soil. Cutting back the branches is not difficult if you keep your wits about you, but dragging the branches to a central spot is not the best fun you’ll have today.

Near the end of our stay I was especially conscious of the risks attached to being in the paddock with a chain saw but still managed to clear a kilometre or so of fence line, mainly in the area closest to the homestead, making piles of branches as I went. Actually it went without incident if we skip that part about the log that jumped onto my toes when I wasn’t looking and reminded me that I was supposed to be wearing steel caps not sneakers.

Over the next week or so I was reminded on several occasions that while medical science may have found answers to some quite complex problems, so far the repair of a broken toe is not numbered among them.

cows country 35

The limitations of science on the matter of broken toes leads me rather neatly on to rainy days. Then, and when there was little urgent work that needed to be done in the paddocks, I took time to devote to my passion for science.

Web sites and blogs

For four years I had been putting spare moments into creating a simple list of all the great events of the universe. I had no idea what I was going to do with it when finished, just read it I guess, but as the months became years, the concept was born for putting it into the form of a wall chart. A very large wall chart as it turned out. Others might also be interested too in seeing everything that was really important, that had ever happened, all in the one place.

What I was contemplating was creating a place to see everything in context, every catastrophic asteroid or comet impact, track every continent scurrying about the earth, all the extinction events, the earth collision with the moon, the super-massive volcanos, the date of the first fire, the first humans, everything in its own niche of time.

I began to build a web site that I called, as a working title, Big History Poster in a nod to the work done by the Australian professor David Christian who had got Bill Gates on side to create the Big History Project. This university course encompasses the events and scope of the universe from the beginning and was directed at students to give them an understanding of our place in the Universe.

I was able to get my new site on line and in the process improve my skills in creating and maintaining the web site, but still I had no idea of how to offer a copy of the chart to others or how to produce economically or post it to buyers. There is so much to learn before the finished product is sale-ready and at this point, without even an official, final name. It was to be more than a year before it became Earth History.

With just two more weeks remaining on the farm, we had a visit from Luca our 9 year old grandson who brought our daughter and his father along as well. Dammed decent of him don’t you think? Tracy and Mark are well known on the Sunshine Coast, mainly through Mark’s job as a breakfast jock on Mix FM. Tracy’s work is mainly in film production so I was keen to get inspiration and ideas about how I might solve at least the promotional aspect of the poster.

Luca and Dan

Aside from enjoying a couple of lovely days of their company, we discussed blogging.

They both knew a lot about the subject but between us we didn’t really have enough knowledge to show how this might solve the promotion problem. My task was now to work on this aspect and what you are reading now is a direct result of that discussion. We will talk more of this as the blog progresses together with progress and development of the poster concept.

Country mud crabs

We had been carrying ‘opera house’ yabbie traps with us for several months in the hope that we would put them into a water course and have fresh yabbies, small crawfish, for dinner. We made a futile attempt on the way to Adelaide but the opportunity had not presented itself since. It seems strange but after sitting on top of more than 20 farm dams for a month and a half, so far with less than 2 weeks to go, we had not yet put a trap into a single dam and I resolved to remedy that situation.yabby pot

To say we had an abundance is understating the case. This was not the result from the first dam I tried which gave up nothing, but the second, third and fourth produced so many yabbies every day, we were entirely satisfied by the end of the week. I could not believe our luck, sitting by the fire in a warm farm house, many miles from salt water, eating fresh mud-crab sandwiches. (Or so it seemed. At least we could not tell the difference and we’ve caught a lot of mud crabs from our years of living on the boat.)yabbies 50


Our only regular visitor is Ron, Jo’s brother, one of nature’s gentlemen and who owns the adjoining farm. Ron appeared singularly unimpressed by the thought of eating yabbies so we did not pursue the subject. He was a very welcome backup during our stay and the disposal of a couple of dead beasts was managed very efficiently. I was grateful that I did not have to figure that out for myself.

ronHe also provided a lot of advice on managing many aspects, some of which I only need file away for future reference but others were put to use immediately. We had an offer to take a look at his farm and went over on the second last Saturday before we left. Ron’s been on the farm most of his life and is not a traveller. I think he said he went to New Zealand with his parents once and since then he has been to Melbourne, once. His love for his farm is evident and for me it was best illustrated by a comment he made about picking up stones in the paddock. He said 20 years ago, he could fill a trailer every morning but now the rocks are so small it takes him a couple of days to get a trailer load.

It was an easy pleasure to be chauffeured all over the hilly paddocks which were clean of weeds and stones. The cattle were obviously well looked after and to my unprofessional view, a model farm. Forty years of unrelenting work does that, I guess.

We had not really spent much time sight-seeing in the district, not because I was tied to the farm, but more that there was a lot of work I wanted to do. ‘Spare’ time was taken up with developing the web site, but the following Saturday we attended the Crookwell Hospital  fete, almost out of a sense of responsibility but also to take the rest of the day for a leisurely fundraiser Julie was truly grateful the staff at the hospital were such supportive and caring people so we felt that we wanted to do whatever we could to support them. We were there long enough to have a coffee and a look around but there was no much by way of product to buy that would be useful to grey gypsies like us, so on the spur of the moment was drove down to Canberra, about an hour and a half south east.

When we arrived in Canberra, we remembered why we hadn’t been there for a long time. After opening the thermos in one of the parks, which means stopping almost anywhere in this one big park, we tried to think of a reason to stay but failed. We took a different route home, stopping off in the quaint village of Gundaroo  so the day wasn’t a complete loss.

In a sense, we were winding down now that Ian and Jo were coming home but in terms of getting things finished, it was a bit of a self-imposed race to make the place look as good as possible. I spent a full day on mowing the whole area with the now ‘young again’ self-propelled mower repaired in a previous post and another day raking the driveway all the way from the back yard, past the house and down to the house paddock entry which was probably bit of overkill but the drive did look pretty neat.

I should mention (in case the words ‘self-propelled’ gives the impression there are interchangeable with ‘easy’) that every square metre still has to be walked and every turn man-handled. For every down hill run there is a compensating uphill run and because it is ‘self-propelled’ run is the right word. My point is that after 2 months on the farm, my corpulent neglected body was as fit was it had been for a very, very long time.

We ended up staying a day after our hosts returned so I could answer questions and account for our time, although they were understandably tired, if not disoriented. One of the things we noticed, which we would not normally see, was the sub-conscious realignment of items, the ‘putting-back-to-right’ of those small changes that, as we all do things slightly differently from each other, naturally occur.

Remarkably, I thought, they did not notice that the ladder holding up the gutter was gone or the realignment of the garden, the absence of rocks on the driveway and several other changes but thinking about it, I could do no better myself in recognizing objects that are not there and they had been away for 2 months, so it should not surprise.

We were at the one time sad to leave, they were such gracious hosts and the farm was so beautiful, but we were also keen to get on the road, to see what was around the next corner.

We said our goodbyes the following morning and pointed our trusty campervan north for our next assignment in Toowoomba Queensland.

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