Tuesday, January 29, 2008

eee by gum

I decided to spend some of my hard earned cash on a new toy, and being a sucker for all things miniaturised I am now the proud owner of an Asus eee pc. Stupid name...great toy.
It is a tiny wee subnotebook computer, under 900g in weight, with a 4g SD hard drive so no noisy fans and great battery life.

Obviously being me I did my research somewhat too quickly and assumed that the little devil's Linux OS could be persuaded to work with my 3G mobile broadband gadget. After hours on the eeeuser forums I was confuddled by xandros, ubuntu, kubuntu, and kernels ( swahili not my first language) so went in pursuit of a geek in Mudgee.

The guy at Dewdrop Computers admitted that he had a room full of eager geeks, but there was a hushed silence when I mentioned Linux. I distinctly got the impression that those versed in such practices had moved over to the dark side....he knew of some who dwelt underground in Sydney, but I felt that without the aid of Gandalf or a white wizard of similar might, my quest was doomed to failure.

However I was saved! The windows geeks have installed XP lite, and with a little twiddling and tweaking here I am online using the fabulous machine. Only $500, light, tiny, cute and working!
All I need to do is work out how to enable the sound, get the integral webcam working, install a second SD card and life will be complete.

Just need a few more days to resolve fatfingers on tiny keyboard issues, but this is a grey nomads dream....unless they have bad eyesight or arthritic fingers obviously.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Australia Day

Jan 26 th is Australia Day, so it is a much celebrated public holiday weekend. Equine influenza has been eradicated in the Mudgee area ( the days of boiling in the biohazard suit were not in vain ) so there was a race meeting at the Mudgee race track.

I have never been to the races before. Our betting system based on close and informed veterinary professional examination of the horses in the parade ring resulted in last place in the first race, so we re-examined our system and devised another one. Our second method, based on choosing a female jockey wearing colours that resembled the Scottish flag netted 3rd place. James claims victory by betting on a winner, but as it was only a 3 horse race and he bet on 2 of the runners, I am not sure that his 50 cent profit was entirely honourable.

The place was packed with people, and we met up with friends and roasted in the fierce sun. Apparently on Australia Day the wearing of thongs and drinking beer from stubbies is mandatory so we were more than happy to oblige. The atmosphere was brilliant, a real family occasion. We tried to persuade Vanessa to enter the pie-eating competition as she has had months of experience now but she declined. Most upset we arrived too late for the thong-throwing competition.

Dress code varied from Ascot style frocks and hats through to shorts and singlets.-not a top hat to be seen.

See slideshow for more pics.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Tour de Mudgee

Been a busy week, so the blog has been somewhat neglected. Just spent 2 days at work which has been manically busy, and I am feeling decidedly pleased with myself for managing the 8km trip to work and back on the newly acquired bicycle. Those of you who know me well obviously realise that under the deceptive dumpy exterior there lurks a finely tuned athlete so will not be at all shocked by this lifestyle change.

Vanessa has meanwhile been touting the Winnebago around town organising autoelectricians to fit 12 volt sockets in more sensible places, and aerial technicians to fix up our shoddy tv reception. The lovely people in Dick Smith electricals have supplied me with a 12 volt laptop adapter so now instead of firing up the petrol generator to boost the rubbish batteries I can use all the lovely energy generated by the van's solar panels. This is officially now a green blog!

Last night a baby possum arrived at 'Possum Towers', a tiny cute chap.He has a pink button nose, a black moustache and thick black eyebrows so we had to christen him 'Groucho'.

Will update tomorrow with tales of my veterinary escapades- need to go and watch the tennis semi-finals.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Flight path

For the last few nights we have experienced the 8.30 pm fly past of hundreds of fruit bats. Apparently the red fruit bat is currently migrating from Queensland and has taken a detour through Mudgee. They do not like grapes very much so our vineyards are safe from disaster, and they appear to be dining on eucalyptus flowers.

Several hundred flew over last night as we were outside enjoying the end of the rain and a tipple or two. I suspect a night safari with the powerful torch may be on the cards tonight- I will try to be brave as I find bats rather scary. Having spent an hour in my pyjamas sitting under a tree in the pitch dark last week to get a picture of Rolf I am not sure if I will repeat the exercise for a bat pic. Dedicated though I am to my readership, getting showered in bat poo may be a step too far.
Maybe I could see if fairdinkum sheds do a non-daggy portable wildlife photographer's shed.

Saturday, January 19, 2008


Solid rain for the last 2 days, it is amazing how it can be an unbearable 36 degrees one day then torrential rain and 11 degrees the next. Warm duvets back out of storage, sweat shirts on.
I did another locum stint this week. Fortunately Ralph the pet carpet python was brought in for a health check on a day I was not on duty. Clinical notes read 'Looks Ok to me'.

Working 2 days a week for a while, so I have made a major purchase so that I can get to work without Ness having to pack up the van and give me a lift. A $20 mountain bike from a garage sale. Ok, so it cost another $50 to fix it up with thorn proof inner tubes and get it all going, but I will be cycling 8 km to work from now on. Ness collected it from the mender man and did the maiden trip on Friday while I was at work. She has bought a pastel blue cycle helmet with flowers on which I am looking forward to wearing enormously.

Enjoying the opportunity to watch the Australian Open tennis this week, despite the dreadful sexist commentator who patronisingly calls the women players 'girls' and constantly comments on their breasts, backsides and thigh length. It makes me retrospectively miss the BBC, and ad breaks every 3 minutes do not enhance the experience.

Also extremely tiring being a couch sports fan- it is hot in Melbourne, so the key matches are played at night under floodlights. We managed to stay up until 2 am watching the Roddick 5 setter, but I confess that we fell asleep last night and missed Hewitt's marathon which ended at 4.30am.

Meanwhile, back to the tv ads. I assume the costs involved are not high over here because they are all of the very provincial type with the bloke who works in the local DIY store badly stumbling through an autocue script urging us to buy power tools at bonzer prices. The wobbly low budget Acorn Antiques style sets on many ads are priceless.

My favourite currently is fairdinkum sheds ( I kid you not ). Apparently you can visit their website where there is an exciting competition- you view photos of sheds and vote for the ‘daggiest’ shed. The winner of this thrilling experience will win......a shed!

They love their sheds here, with real estate agents giving more details of the abundant shedding than they do the property. M & N even viewed a property which had a house and an enormous shed which had another house in it. The shed had been described in detail but the presence of a 2 bedroom house was not deemed worthy of comment.

Subtlety is missing in most ads, with the tag line for buying Australian lamb is because it is ‘bloody nice’, and Medibank the health insurers sponsoring the tennis plug their preventative men’s health screens with the voice-over ‘new balls please’.

The shed competiton does however not beat the photography competiton in ‘Outback’ magazine where viewers submitted humorous pictures of their boots, and the lucky winner received....a pair of boots.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Rite of passage

It had to happen soon, so I guess that it is a relief in a way- this morning I saw my first snake. A red bellied black, fair to middling on the venomous scale ( as in, you could die if it bit you but would probably survive).


The worrying aspect is that the farm is 150 acres and we wander around it regularly, and where was the snake? In the garden obviously.

James and I were deciding where to position an irrigation system for the newly planted trees, snake was in the mulch at the base of one of the trees. It slithered under a bush ( a bush I pruned a few weeks ago ) so we threw the three dogs indoors, donned our wellies, and prodded the bush with a big shovel. It shot out and disappeared into the field.

Kids have had a lecture on appropriate garden footwear, and I have returned to the van with James Dog to watch the Australian Open Tennis in a cowardly fashion. The next few weeks are the height of the snake season so extra vigilance required.

Not as scary as I thought it would be, they obviously try to avoid any human contact if possible, but a worry that it was where the dogs and the children play. Just another thing to get used to but I may not be gardening for a while, and will be picking vegetables with extreme caution- the risks of sourcing your five a day!

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Elvis has left the building

The town of Parkes, NSW has a population of 10,000. This week the annual Elvis convention attracted 8,000 'Elvi' from all over the country, many caught the special Elvis train from Sydney. So disappointed that we missed that one-all shook up in fact. Hard to imagine that for 5 days a town's population can almost double with sad worshippers of a long dead fat American.

Had a bit of trauma at the weekend. Woody the puppy, now 10 weeks old, was attacked by a large mastiff/pig dog on Saturday. We were sitting having a coffee outside a cafe, Woody fast asleep under the table, when a lady walked the beast past ( on a lead ). In an instant it had grabbed the sleeping puppy from under the chair and had him in its mouth. I have never seen an attack like it, totally unprovoked.

Good news is that he survived, although we still do not know how, as he was in the dog's jaws for almost a minute. He has a few sutures and is very sore ( the local vet surgery is sprinting distance from the cafe ). The person walking the dog was bitten on the hand, James managed to get puppy out of its jaws without being injured, only for it to grab the pup for a second time around the pelvis and proceed to play tug-of-war. It still makes me sick to think of it.
Ironically, there were 4 vets and a canine behaviourist sitting in a cafe discussing the Dangerous Dog's Act in Australia just as the incident occurred.

Onlookers called the police so it got rather messy. The owners paid the vet bill, but police have indicated their intention to pursue the matter. It could so easily have been a small baby in a pram. Fortunately the kids had stayed at home with Vanessa in order to make a scarecrow ( see slide show for pic of 'Mr. Chaseaway' ) so they did not witness the attack.

Meanwhile I am in the van with my foot up, having learned a valuable lesson. Never kick a 50Kg pig dog in the ribs when only wearing flip flops ( sorry, thongs). I have 2 swollen blue toes and am somewhat hobbly, hopefully I will not be summoned to work for a few days.

Friday, January 11, 2008


That will teach me to laugh at the poor man who had a funnel web in his trousers. This morning I felt a foreign body up my leg just after I had put my newly laundered shorts on and flicked a huge arachnid off my thigh. Luckily I was not bitten, it was a huge thing. A local identified the squashed remains as an orb weaver, which can deliver a nasty bite when threatened. I assume sharing a pair of trousers with a human qualifies as a threat.
No more hanging the washing out on the line we have strung between 2 gum trees.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

By dingo!

Well, 2 days into the locum stint at the local practice, and it has been an experience. Felt like being transported back in time to the RSPCA hospital in the mid 80's, both in quality of equipment and drugs, and insane throughput of creatures. James reckoned was like being in a military field hospital.....incoming wounded!

Really nice bunch of people, but getting used to the drugs, parasites, and scary conditions and scarier dogs has been a challenge. I had been warned about Australian cattle dogs and their erratic temperaments, but was not prepared for 60 kg mastiff x great danes ( no muzzle big enough available ) , pig dogs, and dingo x cattle dogs ( nastiest piece of work I have seen for years). So many breeds I am failing to recognise but I am getting better at sorting out the kelpies from the cattle dogs, and nodding knowledgeably about them on examination.

One cat currently paralysed and on intravenous fluids for snake bite, jack russell on intensive treatment for strange neurological symptoms- snake or spider bite. It is that obsessive theme again!

Favourite comment of the week..... 'Can you go and see the next patient in the car park, he has been suspended by his scrotum on a barbed wire fence all night and is unable to walk. You cannot miss them, it is the malamute in a ute'

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

G'Night Possums

Rolf returned tonight, so we sat in the pitch dark with the bright torch, camera on tripod, finger poised on timer button and managed to capture him. How cute is that?

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Red wine and spiders

Not a great deal to report, no rain since Christmas and very hot today. J & G have returned, so we have no farm duties today. We celebrated their return with far too much red wine last night, so we are camping out in the van watching tennis on the tv with the aircon running.

A lesson learnt- do not sit outdoors until midnight drinking. We are both covered in mosquito bites, itchy, irritable and hot. Ventured into house at midday to make brunch, only to spot the large and hairy leg of a huntsman sticking out from under the dining room pelmet. Biggest yet, the size of an outstretched palm. Way too hungover to deal with it, so we screamed like girls until an equally fragile James dealt with it ( insect spray and a vacuum cleaner was the method of choice).

Doing my first day as a locum on Wednesday, so need to research symptoms of snake bite, tick paralysis, heartworm, and all the other obscure things that creatures suffer from over here.

Vanessa is reading out snippets from the Australian reptile book as I type this. I think we are becoming obsessive

Thursday, January 3, 2008

This is getting silly..

I think I should stop reading the local newspaper.

I fear Dr. and Mrs. Dixon are somewhat careless to both have been bitten in the last 2 years. Maybe Dr. should consider a change in occupation.

Yet again the dangers of gardening are highlighted- the moral being after a day in the garden, boil your trousers! Unless of course you are unable to launder them because of an infestation of fairy grass or carpet pythons.

I particularly enjoyed Dr.Isbister's advice, would never have thought of that.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

More perils

The clips below have been selected from local newspapers this week. I am already getting an idea about how ridiculously dangerous this country can be, but articles like these make me wonder just what we were thinking of coming here!

Carpet python? Fear not, it is a misnomer. This 2 metre snake is only named thus because it has a pattern like a 1950's axminster. Phew, it does not live on my carpet then? No you silly non-Australian person,it lives on your ceilings.

Maybe the poor lady in question should have thought long and hard about booking a holiday away from the lovely sounding Deception Bay.

As for the fairy grass- beseiged in your own home due to a piece of vegetation. I thought we only had to be wary of the fauna, not the flora as well. I do hope poor Mrs. Ripani has found a safe way to launder her husband's clothes, and if she had to resort to an indoor drying rack suspended from the ceiling that she checked carefully for carpet snakes.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Christmas and New Year

This is Norman the Grey GNomad, who appeared on Christmas morning outside the camper clutching gifts for the farmhands. He is set to travel Australia with us, although we are rather fearful about what people may think when we rock up to a campsite with a garden gnome.

Christmas was excellent, weather hot, house full of people, and J & G provided a full traditional turkey dinner ( in true ex pat style, we ignored the extreme temperature and had a sit down hot meal). P & W had joined us from Sydney, so dinner for 12 including Georgie's family.

On Boxing Day we did a tour of vineyards. Paul particularly wanted to visit those growing Italian and Spanish grapes, which made an interesting change from shiraz, shiraz and more shiraz. Found a very drinkable tempranillo, and have become rather partial to white port on ice with lime as a mid afternoon aperitif.

Boxing Day at Frog Rock.

Went over to the Blue Mountains and spent new year with M & N and the kids in their new house. More food, wine and good company, with a swimming pool thrown in for good measure. I think we are getting this freeloading business down to a fine art.

Click on xmas for more pics.

Back at Mudgee, and the family have gone off to Sydney for a break, leaving us in charge of pigs, chooks, geese, ducklings, goats, dogs, and the ferret. There is a sow due to farrow, so hoping for a trouble free delivery.