Ruff_Hi's Antics

All Happiness is the Release of Internal Pressure

Pre Trip Home

The last time I was in Australia was Saturday, September 17th, 2000. Just to prove that I actually went this time ...

Rainbow Lorikeet

A Rainbow Lorikeet feeding taken from the back balcony of the farm house with my Dad's camera.

Anyway, that Saturday was the first Saturday of the Sydney olympics. Even that was a flying visit as I had left to go to England some months earlier. A lot has happened in Oz since I have been gone: Goods and Services Tax (GST), new government, public very aware of global climate change, Mum and Dad retiring and moving to the Pratt family farm to mention just some. Kareyn had been home earlier and she originally had travel booked for a few months with the plan for me to come and 'visit' her while she was in Oz. Various things derailed this so my trip (Nov 3rd to Nov 12, 2008) became a trip back to visit the family.

Day 1 (92 emails)

It started with a car trip from home to JFK – sailed through check in and security to only sit around at the gate for the boarding to commence. It was really good hearing an Ozzie accent from the hosties. The flight to LA was pretty smooth (dinner and the middle of the movie Hancock – KAreyn and I had gone to the ficks to watch this movie but it failed (film spooled off projector). We snuck into another sitting (to try and catch the end of the movie - we missed the middle part) and thought we were watching a totally different movie – very strange.

At LA, I exited Terminal 5 so that I could catch up with David and Dapple – our English setter that is living with David - the good news was that she still recognized me. It was really good to see her. Back through security and then boarding a very full flight from LA to Brisbane – a 14 hr flight. Sleep, another dinner, more movies (X Files, The Incredible Hulk and another that I cannot now remember – ones that I had seen before but I wanted to watch again), book reading, sleep and breakfast.

Looking out the window was pretty boring – clouds, water and more clouds. There was one brief period of excitement when we flew over an island and it contained a mountain high enough to thrust through the clouds.

My dad picked me up and we then drove 3.5 hrs SW to my parents farm – a place that I probably haven’t visited for 25 years (Edit: Kareyn assures me that it hasn't been that long, probably 12 or so, but I have less than zero memory of that visit) – it’s the same but different. We went for a tour of the farm in the ute, looking at the trees, the steers and the river that isn’t flowing. We also saw a huge bird of prey – the Australian wedge tailed eagle) – nice. Oh – and we watched live free of CNN reporting the US election results scattered with Australian commentary on what is going on.

Day 2 (? emails because I forgot to check)

9 hrs of sleep – up in the middle of the night and it was pitch black – very very black. Strange too. At breakfast, I asked my Mum what the standard day at the farm is - her reply:

Then bed.

So, food related is my guess. We fixed the ride-on lawn mower this morning – the drive belt was broken. Then Steve (older brother) mowed the front lawn – looked like fun but decided to leave him to it. I carried a green table over from the shed and some chairs to set up on the porch. We also discussed jobs – looking for a small, concrete task that has some lasting benefit so that years from now, Dad and Mum can point to something and say “Tim did that”. They have a small part of their retaining wall that isn’t finished – from the back of the car port to their veggie patch. They said that the ground work was done - (trench, gravel base, etc) so I just might finish that off for them.

Mum, Dad & Steve spent some of the early afternoon talking about application(s) for grants. They have a few that are currently pending. They also discussed a river based one that involves their neighbours. I should give you an overhead shot of the farm:

View Larger Map

My parent's farm is located East of Calamia Rd and West of the river (Richmond). It is a lovely part of the world. They are currently running 65 steers on it, aiming to grow them nice and lean before selling them.

Steve and I talked about hoofing it up the mountain (East, over the river and up a couple of 100 meters) early one morning – before it hits 30 (90F) here. Something that I haven’t done for about 30 years. Sounds good.

Day 3 (35 emails)

Today started early, waking at 5am and, after a short stop, looking out over the valley of the farm. There was a slight fog rising from the land and some lightening of the Eastern sky. Dad joined me outside and we chatted about birds, the dawn and the lights of The Gold Coast. But not for long, as I went back to bed for another 2 hours of sleep.

After breakfast, Dad and Steve rounded up the 65 steers and the three of us proceeded to weight them. They have a special crush that is also a scale – my job was to wave a ‘wand’ over the bovine's right ear (it would read their tag number) and press a green button once the animal had stopped leaning on the wall, etc. The average weight of these guys was 400 kgs (880lbs) – that is a lot of animal. Dad is looking at selling them when they get to 240kg (dressed weight) – that is about 480kg (live weight). We returned to the house at about 9:30 and I had only made 2 weighing errors (forgot to press the green button so didn’t record a weight for a beast and didn’t get an updated ear tag on one so I had the same ear tag with two recorded weights). I checked with Mum and 2 errors is about her average too so I didn’t feel so bad.

Mum and I went into Kyogle in the afternoon (she had a hair appointment and I was just along for the ride). I spent the time just pottering around town and talking to the Aussie shop keepers. I purchased a few simple things but mainly sat and had coffee (and read my library book). We also did a shop at the supermarket (me picking up some pepsi, beer – aussie cold filter beer and some other stuff). We stopped for some snags on the way home and I got some Icy-pole – yum – one thing that I can cross of my list of things to experience while in Australia.

After dinner, I was looking for the book that I had been reading in town – dang it, couldn’t find it. Rang the supermarket to find that I had left it there. I wonder what they thought they might do with a library book that clearly says “New York” on it. The response from the shop keeper was “no worries, we have it.” I’ve arranged for one of my cousins to pick it up on her way to a largish family bash here tomorrow. I’m not sure why people are coming here for a family bash? Probably because I haven’t seen them for at least 8 years, maybe as long as 15 or 20?

Day 4 (34 emails)

Last night my younger twin sisters and a friend of the family turned up at the farm. Another set of people that I hadn’t seen for quite a while. Up at about 6am this morning – rain and a bit of noise outside – to see wallabies and native Australian birds feeding in one of mum’s flower gardens (see below and the first pic above).

Some other Ozzie Bird

This morning it was scrambled eggs and bacon for breakfast – not for me, I had cereal. But the eggs were from the farm chickens – a plucky little band of ladies (+1 rooster) who scratch the soil and keep the weeds down … oh, and lay eggs. Very, very yellow yoke eggs.

During breakfast, the first of the uncles / aunties (Ron and Ivy) arrived with their oldest (Leianne) – I couldn’t remember Leianne’s name (but I did remember the voice) so I had to run over to a long list / family tree that mum had printed out and stuck on a wall. Ron and I had a good talk about their kids and what I remembered of the few times that we had got together.

Shortly thereafter, Iris and some of her kids turned up (Susie, Karen and Sue) plus assorted children … Erin who I had actually met in the US when she and a friend visited us. We all had a good chat, cold salad + meat lunch and just generally caught up on what the extended family was up to. Its funny, here is a bunch of people that I have probably met less than 20 times in my life but we share so many connections that it is very easy to relax in their company. We actually had a pretty funny discussion about facebook and what it all means (does anyone know?). Karen didn’t want to be on facebook just so she could claim some distance between her and her kids (Edit: However, that night, she did sign up).

The balance of the afternoon was pretty slow (my sister playing a bit of Civ4 on my pc, she had played Civ3), my older brother showing me a Russian nuclear meltdown game ( S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Clear Sky ) and others just generally having a sleep.

Day 5 (7 emails)

Sunday started with breakfast (no eggs this time) and a good chat with Steve. It was so good that I only realized that I was pushed for time at 8:18 and I had promised Mum that I would go to church with them (leaving at 8:30). I ran through the shower, grabbed a set of good clothes and was sitting in the car, good to go, at 8:32. There were 42 people in church today, 6 or 7 younger than me – another church congregation that was aging. We say hymns and choruses and the minister spoke about being prepared for the second coming, about being the light and about having enough oil to wait for the bridge-groom. He drew a good parallel between feeding our Christian soul and having enough oil to last the night. It was interesting and personally challenging given the number of times that I have been to church lately. I really want to look into other churches in our region next week.

After church, we had a cup of Maxwell House (Mum said not to worry as MH isn’t really coffee - lol) and a chat with the church members – a very nice bunch of people.

Margaret (another cousin) dropped in for lunch at the farm. After lunch, Steve and I went for a walk through a small rain forest that was full of flying foxes, really noisy bats that just annoy people – eat their fruit and pass judgment on their roofs, etc.

Moore Park

Steve and I had a chat about Dad (and his grand-dad impersonation – Steve agreed with me BTW), about the farm and what Steve is doing here. He shared some of his desires for setting the farm up as self contained minimal maintenance as it can be – so that it sort of runs itself.

It is raining here again – Dad just asked me to bring up the rain radar to see how heavy the rain is and how much we should expect.

Day 6 (15 emails)

The morning was spent going through old school stuff that Mum wants to get rid of. I cannot believe that I (or maybe it was Mum!) horded all of this stuff – my 2nd Grade Report Card!! (Tim needs to improve his reading – man, it starts early). I also found a bunch of High School Year Books including pictures of my class mates – but no list of names. I scan through them and recognize a bunch of people, but cannot fully put names to people. I jumped onto FaceBook and actually found some people that I went to School with – fun times.

Al, Fran and Richard headed off to Brisbane to catch their planes home – it was really good to see them and ‘thanks’ for making the effort to come to the farm for a Tim weekend.

Steve and I finally start on the wall that we have been threatening to complete. Small trench, aggregate, sand, brick, check level, front to back, left to right, current to previous, bash with rubber hammer, too much so it is too low, remove brick, put in more agg and sand, repeat … and repeat. We finished the first row and then had dinner. The other rows should go very quickly now that we have a good base.

Day 7 (25 emails)

Today started early with a trip up the Eastern mountain. Steve and I took about 2 to 3 hours to walk up most of the mountain. We passed the lemon tree that Andrew once fell out of while wearing speedos into a carpet of stinging nettles, further up to the rails (fence with no gate) and then the apple tree. The lemon tree had at least 2 pieces of fruit on it but I couldn’t see any on the apple tree. Thus Steve felt bound to jump to its defense as I was giving it a hard time – what sort of an apple tree are you? His sharp eyes did identify one green small piece up in the branches.

The balance of the morning was filled with completing the wall - things went pretty quickly with the main slowdown due to having to transport aggregate from the front drive to the front of the house (Dad got the tractor out), from the tractor to the back of the house (wheelborrow) and then behind the wall. Its finished now and looks pretty good. I got a bit too much sun (didn’t put my hat on early enough) and, thus, have a head ache.

Dinner tonight was a Wiangaree wopper – a rather Aussie burger (beetroot, pineapple, egg, bacon, beef, tomato, lettuce, etc) – totally yum!

Oh – and there was a bath thrown in there and packing my bags for my return trip to NY.

The Wopper, the Apple Tree and the dreaded Lemon Tree

Day 8 (54 emails)

The day started early with a drive from the Farm to Brisbane airport – traffic was pretty good and we got there with a bunch of time to spare. My cousin (Jacki) who I think I have only seen once, about 25 years ago turned up at the airport and we all shared coffee and chat prior to heading through security, passport control, etc (me) and / or driving home (M&D, Jacki). Another set of flights (14 hrs and then 6 hrs) was full of movies and some documentaries (the making of the A380 Airbus). As it turned out, I saw Qantas' one and only A380 as it pulled into LAX from Sydney.

Home now – all is good – yay.