January 2012
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Last month

Wow, nothing stands still for us these days. The news on the car has become progressively worse over the last few days. The Engine Management Warning is a simple warning light that covers a multitude of sins. In this case, it's a couple of sensors in the auto transmission that can't decide whether it's in neutral, reverse or something else. The end result is that the transmission has to be replaced, at a cost of up to $6,000! Methinks the lease company & I will need to renegotiate the contract for my salary sacrifice. Ugh!

Meanwhile, back in the paddock, I decided that neither of the horse owners was going to do anything about moving the horses (we have only 2 at present, belonging to the same family) into our paddock, so I'd do it myself. Lesson: NEVER, EVER, throw out that hank of cable-pulling rope that your Telstra mate got you umpteen years ago, it WILL come in handy. And it did, with about half a metre to spare. I simply strung the rope between 2 existing fence posts & across a few star pickets that have been in place waiting for weeks. Then went down to the tennis court paddock, closed the horses out of it, carried the electric fence bits'n'pieces up to our campsite & proceeded to string an electric fence, on the "horse" side of the rope fence.

When I let the big guy, named Rajah, into the paddock, he galloped around it several times, some of those with Kelly in hot pursuit. Now there's an exercise in futility! Meanwhile, I have left a small gap where we can walk around the end of the electric fence without getting zapped. Julie was suitably shocked, amazed & impressed when she got home. No, I hadn't done the dishes today, but I had taken in the washing. Of course, what she chose not to see immediately was that I had fixed the mower (twice), cut the grass, moved the bus, cut the grass under & around it, as well as figuring out how & where to put the fence(s) up. Yeah, I know, blue jobs & pink jobs. I would have, but by that stage my back was buggered.

Tonight, we were sitting here watching out for Angel as she made her way up the driveway track towards the horses. When Kelly followed her, it turned into a delightful scene with the 2 horses & the 2 dogs in the same vicinity, all politely ignoring each other. The photo doesn't really do it justice, but it's all we have, for now. The last picture in the set is not Julie crippled in pain, but rather showing how we leave the campsite these days. Duck under the rope & then walk between the table & the electric fence. Yes, it is live! No, we haven't tested it personally!

The other piece of information from this scenario is that we realised that both horses are now wearing their face protectors, which primarily shield them from grass seeds, which means that their owners have been around & have put them on. Which also means that the owners don't mind that we have shifted their animals. This care-taking gig could turn out to be fun!

And it continues to be non-stop action out here. Rajah, the big brown gelding, & Queenie, the old grey mare, are owned by David & Nicolle & their daughters. Another horse arrived, Flores, a younger grey mare, recently purchased by Pete & Vicki & their daughters, the owners of Clover, the original horse who was here. Rajah is extremely over-protective of Queenie & won't let Flores anywhere near her. Meanwhile, Flores just wants to say hello, & gets chased off by Rajah, with the pursuit often ending in Flores kicking out at Rajah with her heels. Queenie, who we're told is about 17 years old, is now standing at the gate as if to say, just get me out of here! Update: Queenie's owners dropped in & saw that she was being set upon, & promptly put her into the middle paddock. Upon reflection, they returned later & put Rajah back in the middle paddock as well, to enable Rajah & Flores to get better acquainted over the fence first, before putting Rajah back in with us again in a few days. With all the kicking going on, they couldn't risk any injuries.

The next day, Rajah was readmitted to our paddock, & a day later, he & Flores can be seen wandering around the paddock together, or standing at the gate waiting to talk to Queenie. Tonight, when Rajah was taken off into the middle paddock to be exercised, Flores paced & ran up & down the fence line - there's a movie on the photos page. Also in the photos, our first tomato & the first capsicum flowers developing nicely into fruit.

But here's the real kicker for the evening. As you know, Julie has lived in apartments for virtually all her adult life, so moving to a house with a garden was enough of a shock. Then moving to the house in Holder that had a very active garden that had to be tended was even more shocking. And now, with huge paddocks, wildlife, horses, electric fences, and so on, you get the picture. So it was to my great surprise that she found a gecko in the shearing shed & between us, we managed to scoop it up & bring it inside the bus. It seems she developed a great respect for these tiny lizards in Guam during her time in the Air Force there, on the basis that they eat flies & mosquitos. So the city dweller is suddenly the local authority on a wild animal. WTF! Photo of the little guy before he scuttled off under the couch.

Oh, & we've started developing a supply of dried horse poo pieces on our green mat. At first (yesterday) I thought that the howling gale blowing from the West under the bus was blowing the dried dollops in from the paddock. But no, the wind has now stopped & they keep appearing. Who else likes these? Kelly! We think he's bringing them in, either so that he can play with them or as little gifts for us. Lovely! BTW, there's wombat poo out there in the paddock too. Charming topics we discuss here, huh?

And the excitement continues. Yesterday, we were sitting in the bus having lunch, watching Angel come in from the driveway. She became aware of this BIG thing following her & did a fancy side step. The big thing was still there & she eventually decided to gallop home. We could actually see the thought process going on & were suitably surprised to see that there WAS a thought process going on! Later on, both she & Kelly decided that the horses were too close to us & that they would chase them away. Lots of barking ensued, to very little effect until the horses themselves decided to move on. There is no single picture from the batch that I took with my camera from the bus that typifies this scenario, so I have loaded all of them.

Today, the owner of Rajah came down as usual to exercise him & in the process, Flores managed to escape from our paddock into the middle one, so she needed to be caught & led back. I went out with carrots to help & Julie took some pictures with her phone, all of which were unfortunately too far away. However, once we got Flores (& me) back into our paddock, she started her usual thing of running along the fence line. Kelly than decided that he was going to "chase her off" (as if he's going to make the slightest bit of difference) & got a kick flung in his general direction. Nowhere near connecting, but dangerous enough! This time, Julie's pictures were good. He, of course, thinks he's protecting us, & the frustrating part is that the horses do often run away, causing him to think that he has indeed chased them off.

And to end the weekend, after rescuing Angel from trying to grab Flores' tail, with the obvious risk of a kick in her direction, I decided to introduce Angel to Queenie (the older mare) over the fence. Holding the camera at arm's length & hoping it would focus properly, I managed to capture the final picture of the sequence.

Ouch! Here it is, the middle of next month & I'm now only just catching up. We took a Friday off & drove to Melbourne to get Julie's hearing tested (again). The first picture is the line is Angel sitting on the suitcase. Now the background to the story. Hearing aids from Costco are $2,000 per pair, compared with over $5,000 EACH. But there is still only one Costco store that employs an audiologist, & that's in Melbourne. When Dr Susan mentioned to me that Julie's hearing was becoming a real problem, in that the messages she was taking were often garbled, we bit the bullet & booked an appointment in Melbourne. We stayed with Des & Helen in Glenrowan on the Friday night, then drove in to Docklands on Saturday morning. Her test results showed that yes, she has hearing loss & that it is significant but not really bad. The audiologist programmed a test pair to counteract her loss & we went for a walk to test them. With all the noise of a huge warehouse environment, she could hear everything. Even when I dropped my voice to my "I'm very tired & I'm talking very softly" level, she could still hear every word I said. We cleaned out all of our spare funds to pay for them & will drive down again to collect them in 4 weeks.

The next photo is of a flat topped cloud, which neither of us have ever seen before. Then there's Angel (again), this time she had got it into her head that the campsite needed to be protected from these marauding thingies. I have a sequence of shots, of which I have included only the best ones here, as Rajah moved down the driveway track, with Angel baying at him & moving backwards at the same time. Seriously, the photos just don't do the situation justice! And the crazy little bugger stood her ground (until she almost got stepped on) & drove both of the thingies off! She then returned triumphantly to the campsite with her tail flying proudly like a flag.

Then our inside fridge, which had been refusing to start if the battery voltage was anything less than 13.3V, just stopped working altogether. Fortunately, it was on a weekend, so at least we had the time to deal with the emergency. Julie called the local tavern & asked whether they could sell us some ice. To my great surprise, they said that did sell ice, but didn't advertise the fact. What I found out when I went down to collect some, is that their ice making machine generates a fresh batch every hour, which provides enough for the bar with some left over to sell, unless the weather is really hot. So the outside fridge got converted into a freezer & we survived with the esky keeping everything cool outside. When the retailer who would supply the new fridge offered to rent us a portable fridge for the week that it would take to arrive, Julie almost begged me to take him up on it. We then survived another week until the new one was installed. Its fridge volume is somewhat smaller, although the freezer is bigger. So we have had to switch our thinking, to put all the big things out in the outside fridge. So it has finally become the true "drinks fridge". The picture shows the portable fridge protected from the sun by the esky.

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