March 2013

Long before we moved to Gundaroo, on the approach road into Sutton, there has been corrugated iron sculptures of two sheep and a dog, occasionally dressed for the season. Since the Real Estate agent bought the property, they have added a man and boy (or pig, or something). In the recent rain, the man was carrying an umbrella, the sheep wearing shower caps and the dog wearing a waterproof jacket.

Where else in the world can you look out the window at your work place and see a view like this.

Angel continues to grow into her own persona (finally). Occasionally she sits and strikes a post that makes her look almost intelligent. She has also taken to spending lots of time outside in her kennel, including all or part of the evening or even overnight. She simply taps on the door when she is ready to come inside.

Meanwhile Kelly continues to be as faithful as ever. I only have to step out the door and he’s awake. If I happen to say “walk”, he’s out the door.

We’ve decided to stay away from the crowds celebrating Canberra’s 100th birthday today. I suspect we have become too countrified and can’t handle crowds any more.

And, as celebrations invariably do, it came and went. And we were completely unaffected by it out here.

Easter is coming up, which a 4-day break for us, and we are looking forward to hauling the bus out of the paddock and going to Bookham to volunteer for BlazeAid for a few days, mostly repairing fences after the fires in the area last year.

Somewhere along the way one day, I (or we) came across an echidna wandering across the road. Tracked him down for lots of pictures.

Thursday will be a busy day for me. I need to have the bus to Queanbeyan by about 08:00 for its annual safety check. While they do that, I’ll walk across the road and ask the people in the wood yard if I can run each wheel over their weighbridge, now that the bus is fully packed for living in. I need to know how much weight is on each axle. Then I plan to stop in a the caravan place in Fyshwick for some advice on what we can do about the tear in the awning fabric. And I’ll get to work when I get there. Meanwhile, Julie drives the Sierra to work and when I am finished for the day, I’ll take the bus over there and hook it up, and away we go. Fortunately our destination in only 90km away and should take us a little over an hour.

Easter weekend. Well, here we are at Bookham. The sheep and dog have Easter colours,

the bus passed its safety check with flying colours, we are carrying about 3.5 tons more than we should be, the awning will be an insurance claim, the dogs survived the day outside my work and I managed to get the Sierra hooked up before the rain started, although I finished work early at about 1pm and had to wait for Julie to finish at 4:30. Ugh! It only took us an hour to get here from Belconnen, well in time for dinner. Julie volunteered for the kitchen and her offer was immediately snapped up. It was an early night, as most of them are out here, in bed by about 8:30.

Friday, Julie was up at 5:30am (gasp!) to be in the kitchen at 6:15, preparing for breakfast at 6:30 with other duties to follow later after the field teams had left, such as dunny and shower cleaning, vacuuming the main hall, etc. Then morning muster at 7:30 for a run-down on the various safety issues, sign in, sign out, etc.

What I didn’t know was that for months, Julie had been training Kelly, that with a sweeping two fingered arm motion, she would order him to leave her “unguarded” and go with me. This is exactly what she did that morning. He baulked at the first one, but when she repeated it, that means she really, really, really wants him to GO, and he did.

I was assigned to a small team of 4 with my forum mate Col. We started on the side of a hill, repairing a fence that had been damaged not just by the fire but also from old age. At one point, Col needed someone the other side of the fence, so I just ducked through an area where the chicken wire hadn’t yet been attached. Some time later, he noticed that Kelly, who was with me all day, was fretting about not being able to be by my side, or rather, two feet behind me. So he lifted up a piece of fence, Kelly shot through and after that, he was happy. Morning tea was delivered by the station manager and then we attacked a 500m length down the hill, where the team on the previous day had run a new bottom wire. Our job was to staple the new wire to the existing chicken wire. I started off on the staple gun and did about 150m before I had had enough of crawling backwards downhill. After that, I alternated between pushing the chicken wire with my boot and crawling along and pushing it by hand. Lunch was provided by the station owners and then we headed off further downhill to tackle another section of mangled fence, again a combination of damage and decay. We finished the day by setting up a creek bed section for a proper repair tomorrow. Dinner, evening muster and bed!

Saturday, a half day of work, as the camp had been offered tickets to the Brumbies (Rugby Union) match against the Bulls from South Africa in the evening. Julie and I elected not to go to that, but I still went out for the half day. Kelly didn’t even check in with Julie, he justed jumped up into the cabin of the truck. The team finished the creek section by straining and fixing the original wires, leaving the original chicken wire still attached, and running a new piece of chicken wire onto those wires and attaching the original to the new to cover the bottom of the creek bed. Old stuff will get pushed into the ground with the next rain and it will all become quite solid. Then we headed further up the fence line to finish off where another crew had been yesterday, stapling a new section of chicken wire to their wires. Meanwhile, another fence in the area had to be strained up to the new strainer post. Let’s just say I now know how to use a wire strainer!

Sunday, and unfortunately, I have done too much and my sciatica has flared really badly. After a rough night, I was in no condition to go out in the field again, so shared kitchen duty with Julie, as she had “ordered” the kitchen coordinator Colleen NOT to show her face until at least 9:00 for a sleep in!  (She lasted until 8:00.) One of the coordinators also had a rough night, slept in and needed a lift out to join his team, so he and Julie and I piled into the Sierra and we went out to give her a look at some of the recent work. The Sierra quite happily climbed straight up the hill in first gear, low range. Unfortunately, I didn’t take any pictures of the event.