Another Country Diary gumboots
Another Country Diary


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24-25 June '02
More doing than writing about it this week. 

Stephen who's been working to rebuild Jan's garden, helped me to re-roof the shed (actually he did it and I helped). The 'shed' is big, about 12 metres long by 6 wide, with a front section where we store the tools and firewood and some of my accumulated electronics gear. The rear has a concrete slab floor and is general family storage. Ever since we've been here the roof has leaked and it has been getting worse as the old translucent fiberglass panels have broken down and cracked. I've patched every bolt and join with asphalt, but it still has meant we've had to use buckets and rubbish bins to catch the drips, and there are boxes of stuff that are ruined with damp rot on their bottoms.

That is compounded by the fact that the inside of the roof drips moisture after every frost, so we've covered almost everything valuable with plastic and tarps. The old roof of heavy painted pressed metal panels was originally put on upside down, with bolts fixed through the gutters rather than the peaks, so it was always a losing battle with rain. It had to go.

I didn't research the choice of replacement material that well, and the sheets we ordered were much thinner. Putting them up was easier (except for when the wind picked up on the last day) but the rafters are a long way apart and there is not enough support in the sheets to walk on them. We got by with inserting a new rafter at the join of the front and back roof panels and by moving around an old slatted mattress base over the panels and walking very carefully.

It's now nice and dry inside and the frost doesn't seem to condense underneath, probably (I surmise) because the thinner panels are not holding the cold as long as the air warms up. Anyway, it now means we can shift some things that we've brought inside for protection, back to storage. I had all my VHS tapes and Super8 archives there, but quickly realised they'd be ruined. I think I'll leave them inside permanently, but the magazine collection that is left without mildew, can go back.    

28 June '02 
The construction of the second story on Dean's house next door has only changed the skyline view marginally from our windows. The two long narrow horizontal windows that look down into ours, are placed as high strip windows in his new bedroom and ensuite. Unless he stands on a chair to look out, our privacy isn't compromised. What was a surprise was to stand in the kitchen  this morning and to have a ray of light shine in from the west, hitting the old mantel clock. I hadn't noticed any change in the angle of the planet so worked out that it was light reflected from Dean's new windows. Marking a spot on the wall to register a post winter solstice Druid standing stone shadow, or Incan calendar event, seemed inappropriate. So this photograph will have to do. Oh, the clock stopped ages ago but as the saying goes 'it's right twice a day', and this photograph records one of those times - to within minutes.

The clock belonged to my grandparents, on my mum's side. When her dad died I asked if I could have the clock. I remembered it chiming the half hours and hours throughout those summer school holiday nights as a kid, when we were sleeping in a strange house that smelt unfamiliar. Old carpets and of wood smoke. The kitchen of their place at Eildon had a big slow combustion stove and the clock lived on the mantel above it. It resisted my attempts to get it going for years until I placed it on the mantelpiece above the slow combustion stove we had when I was living at Hill End. The stove was always on as it was the only source of hot water heating, and one day I wound the clock, swung the pendulum and it kept going. 

It kept losing time however, so I took it to a local clockmaker. He said it was so full of fat and grease that it obviously couldn't move, unless it was somewhere warm that kept it all soft. He cleaned it and I've had it running for twenty years, through a few different relationships and different mantelpieces. I overwound it some time ago and I need to have it fixed again. We stopped winding the chimes when the kids complained it kept waking them up in the night. When they leave home, I'll start it again and the future grand kids will remember it.  
4 July '02
Aurora arrived for a school holiday week with a brown bag of bread she described in terms as if it was almost the elixir of life. She and Annette get a few loaves of Phillipa's vine bread a week, if they can, and eat it toasted for breakfast. It's a solid, whole meal loaf with rolled oats, and raisins and sultanas and (what Aurore likes about it most) no peel. The crust is quite hard and it's best sliced thinly and toasted. It's different to the usual fruit loaves, and I like it too. Why vine bread? it doesn't appear to have any vine leaves in it so I'll have to ask Phillipa I guess. The only reference I found to 'vine bread' on the web, was as a slang term for vodka, as the liquor is made from grain, the fruit of the 'bread' vine.
5 July '02
It was dark by the time I left  Canberra (I'd been in working with Canberra Arts Management. Their website is finally getting close to launch. The only reason it's been slow is me.) Jan had rung earlier to say she was leaving the office then as well. As it happened she was just a few minutes ahead of me, and I saw her hazard lights flashing by the roadside as I passed Sonza. She'd pulled over, because the car was spluttering and engine running erratically.

I picked her up, went home for some petrol as her car was almost empty, and returned to see if that would get it going. In the cold and rain, I obviously didn't put enough petrol in, or she'd stirred up some dirt in the tank and it started ok but still didn't run. We took the easy option. I towed her off the highway into the nearby driveway of Millpost, and resolved to call the NRMA the next morning. 

When I met the NRMA roadside service man, he couldn't help and called the tow truck. 
Jan had another appointment so she had left me to wait. It was freezing cold but sunny, and instead of just sitting in the warmth of the car, I went off photographing. The middle picture of the silky dried grass bent by the wind, really called for a movie image. It shone as seductively to me as the hair of those fresh washed platinum blondes in a shampoo commercial. Gaea? You're beautiful.

I don't know what variety the grass is, but I'd noticed for weeks that the small, much yellower seed heads and stalks were breaking off, getting blown into corners and collecting up against the netting of the fences. Backlit by the sun that demanded another few shots trying to capture the warm straw translucence.

I was ready to come in from the cold when the tow truck arrived. Of course as soon as we backed the car off the truck at the garage, it started and has run without a hiccup since.

6 July '02
Coming back from the car episode above, we turned off the highway into King Street as usual, into a dark street. The street and house lights were off and at the end of the block there were flashing lights and the electricity worker cutting back an overhanging branch from the power lines. We'd left Aurora at home by herself and I was worried that she wouldn't know where the emergency candles where. I had the torch. Luckily it was just the first few blocks that were out, our place was fine. 

Just a few weeks back, I'd helped Phillip, the local tree 'surgeon', cut back the overhanging and touching branches on the power connection from the pole to the house. In the recent high winds and rain it almost certainly would have caused problems. It's something we're always aware of, as the two big cedar trees at the front of the house, planted when the house was built in the 1880's, have been cut back heavily to clear the overhead power lines that run along our side of the street. It isn't pretty and the tree shapes have been altered and would never return to a natural shape even if the lines were transferred underground.

I'm sure when the lines were strung that no-one thought about the esthetics, and most people don't even think about it now. The areas in Canberra and the new estates that have underground power lines, will all develop in a more natural way. It would take another 100 years to return our streetscape to the country lane it once was.

The power lines do have one important function (other than powering our lifestyles), and that's as possum routes. We've often come across a surprised possum caught in the headlights at night, who has quickly climbed a pole, and skittered along the power lines from one side of the road to the other, back into safety of the trees. Hanging branches make it easier for them but wet trees and electricity are a poor mix.
Fred Harden  
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