Burrowye Station Express

Arts, Agriculture,Community,Country

Month: February, 2014

A bit of a Pickle

A very wise lady once advised us that marriage was a spiritual quest, a challenge laid down by the fates.  After three years I am still not yet comfortable with the challenges that arise from staying in place, but I know it’s an invaluable, massive learning experience and a great privilege.  James’s recent hint was to try to let go of attachment to outcomes and to learn how to relish process. We always have about 345 things on the to-do-list and I am learning how to chip away at it all, after having wasted a good amount of time standing in one spot and spinning in slow circles. So much to be done, where to start, so many little hurdles…such a great gap between how we live now and how we want to live.  The kitchen here is set up for preserving  – lots of shelves, ancestral Fowler’s jars, an established orchard, and a massive tin lined drawer to store the sugar in.  But to be honest? I did one lot of olives just before getting engaged and have pickled nothing since.  Over in the home valley, where my brother and mother are leading the charge when it comes to “Everything Domachi” (everything homemade) there has been a glut of cucumbers (grown in the vegetable patch turned over by none other than Gunther the Edible Pet who is now home-smoked bacon).  We were given one shopping bag full and I announced my intent to make Bread and Butter Pickles (Preserving Exercise 101 – cucumber, onions, salt, soak, rinse, sugar, vinegar, spice, heat, add vegetables, heat at bit,  bung in a jar, bung in the fridge, eat).  That shopping bag sat on the bench, then in the fridge and then probably became responsible for the funny clear sticky juice on the second shelf.  I spent thirty bucks on some spring lidded jars (Fowlers jars scare me a bit). Then another bag of cucumbers arrived. Last chance. Deep breath. Looking at  a recipe from Roald and Felicity Dahl’s family cookbook. Remembering the way they had guest cooks. (Note to self: Somehow Attract Guest Cooks). Then not following the recipe – culinary base jumping but hey.  The outcome was a little bit salty and the cucumbers were not as crunchy as they might have been, but I enjoyed the process. Now we are engaged in the time-honoured farming tradition that involves slowly eating the not quite right outcomes of the pickling, subjecting guests to the outcomes of the pickling, seeking re-assurance from said guests that the pickles are OK, and looking about for the next project.  That would be Job Item Number 344.

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Don’t Mention the War (ter)

 

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Too much rain, not enough rain, a 25% chance of 5-10mm of rain, so many points more or less than the place down the road…Farming is all about water. Some years ago i joined my father and a band of fired up farmers on a trip to the high court.  They were protesting legislation that ruled that farmers were only allowed to use the water that fell on their heads for stock and domestic purposes.  Any excess was to be captured by the catchment and sent downstream for licensed users. Licensed users (and those who lobbied for the legislation) happened to be those engaged in some pretty unsustainable and damaging practices.  Our Rumpole-esque QC sourced some British common law examples that suggested that land and water rights are indivisible, some slick government lawyers argued that the farm dams legislation was legislation and that was that.  There was some tittering and the band of renegade farmers were furnished with a bill for costs that may or may not have sunk to the bottom of some-one’s shoe box, never to be heard of again.

Burrowye Station sits on the banks of The Murray, just before it bloats and turns into the great evaporation pond they call The Hume Weir.  The beauty of the River Road drive is haunting, ironic, and drowned. In moments of high emotion, when I feel overwhelmed by the place and the space and the demands and the moral dilemmas out here, I see myself chucking an Ophelia and floating face downstream into it all.  I remember sitting on a hill with an elder from Arnhem Land, watching one of our cattle trucks wend its way along the muddy edge of the weir with its skeletal river red gums and we didn’t say anything but I felt we were both looking at the same thing.

For the past three years we have drunk river water, and I have been sick with it.  On the one hand, you could just write us off as being lazy and impractical – visitors are astounded and ask why we don’t just put in a rain water tank.  I have complained about health and well being not being a priority when it comes to spending money round here, but on contemplation, our stalling is about something deeper than that.  James sums it up when he says that not being able to drink the river water separates him from the land and goes against our efforts to be at one with it.  Our prayers and purifications are not enough.    If this water, at the very start of its journey, is fouled, what is the rest of the country swallowing? Pest species, cattle, boat fuel, god-knows-what else, and all the chemicals required to get it to potable quality. Errgh.

I wonder about water separated from land, and what nutrients it loses.  About the scared pools that have dreaming stories on billboards that ask that people do not even swim in them.  About all the summers where I do not swim in the river and feel un-australian for not joining in and yet can’t overcome my instinct to remain on the bank.  About the silt and faecal matter that sits in the bottom of the granny pink bath.

And now, in the seventh month of my ninth and only viable pregnancy in three years, I carry chlorinated water in plastic boxes, over 100km, from taps in town, along The River Road.

Beating Birds

The cockatoos have effectively dealt with any potential fruit fly risk this year – not a fruit or nut remains in our orchard. Back on my parent’s farm they’ve won the battle with nets, better pruning and an outside radio that plays cricket (apparently the birds can’t stand the rhythm, pace and sudden volume shifts). This is just to say we have all eaten the plums that came from my mother – little firm purple green bloom and so sweet! The bowl is Katrina Kell’s “Cosmic Fruit Bowl”. A most treasured wedding present.

Space, clutter and the case of the missing couch

IMG_0026Over two weeks later..and where have we been?  I worked out my nesting instinct on fixing up a rental property in Albury.  At the end of the project our son Joseph said: “So. You’ve bought a house but we’re not going to live in it and the tenant is going to pay for it and you’ve stolen all your own furniture to go into it?”  Even James is missing the three seater couch he never really liked and wanted to replace with an L-shape.  It makes me smile to remember the days when a little two seater was enough for both of us, and how my husband’s legs, knees and feet have seemed to grow and grow as our marriage has progressed. Perhaps because we have all been highly transient in the past, the hunt for a couch has been a bit of a theme for us.  I have a habit of fixating on achieving a “couch level” brand of settling down, attaining “couch level” and then getting rid of the couch within weeks ofacquiring it. The fixed address would usually follow. Television dreaming is another one for us  – we haven’t had a telly for six months, but when we are in need of entertainment we have discussions about where the box might go and how we might arrange our imaginary furniture around it.  My father-in-law, who is no doubt remembering his mother’s house full of furniture, gets a bit nervous about the way we seem to be settling in by un-furnishing the place.  I always used to quip that I’d be a minimalist if I had proper storage space.  We have acres of cupboard space now, so there is no excuse.  It’s been interesting to see the size of our living space increase as we have removed furniture, and to note how the way we live in it is changing.  This photo is of the old dining room – once inhabited and dominated by the big table and used mainly on ceremonial occasions.  The room is at the heart of the house, is one of the coolest, quietest and easiest to heat.   The fireplace is a scorcher and used to burn the backs off guests and ballon chairs. Now we can give it plenty of room and I can use the space to make tentative meditative steps back into the worlds of craft. Is this achievable without drowning in clutter? We shall see.

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I’m sure there were 65 people at the Australia Day Camp this year. After almost everyone had left, I tried to make tea. It was 38 degrees and a total fire ban day. All the gas stoves had been driven away. I raked together some coals, fussed and flapped for half an hour and boiled […]

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