These are a few of my thoughts and experiences of farm life here. Farm life here as I’ve said earlier, isn’t like a more normal farm.
Discovering Cedar Pocket [my farm here]
Many years ago before I had discovered my place here, I knocked off work and accompanied a friend of mine to his parent’s house. Believe it or not, the mother had only just arrived home a little before us with two charming American girls who had been hitch hiking and she had talked them into visiting her and her home. This was quite a pleasant and unexpected surprise! My friend invited them to accompany us to a friend’s farm house that he was renting with another friend. Yes, it was my introduction to Cedar Pocket and an introduction which I shall never forget! Picture the scene at the secluded farm house with the adjoining state forest and Mothar Mountain dominating the landscape. There were already there two willing hippy girls and the other tenant. I arrived with my friend and the two girls looking for adventure and opportunity. Another friend also soon arrived to make a total of 8. Our arrival was celebrated with hugs all round and a welcoming cup of tea. As dusk approached, some of us went for a walk under the evening light and a waxing full moon while others prepared dinner on the wood stove in the kitchen. It was summer and we had a swim in the huge dam to cool off. It had been raining and we found some gold top mushrooms. Everything seemed happy and peaceful and some of us had a mushroom or two. I wasn’t so sure but with a bit of a dare, persuasion and conviviality convinced me to join in as well. We then walked back to the house for dinner and a small party. After dinner, I accompanied the two American girls on to the verandah which was a bit more peaceful and to allow me to take in the strange effects the mushrooms were having on me. I moved closer to one of the girls and put my arms around her. An enhanced sensuality is one of the mushrooms effects together with strange visual patterns. She was wearing a dress which to this day I still find interesting because it had a slit in each side of it that I could put my arms into feeling the bare flesh beneath. She also was most willing and me in my heightened state of awareness felt that I was being presented with quite a rare opportunity. The other girl though glared at us in a disapproving way but I and I’m sure my new friend couldn’t help but go with the opportunity. After a little of this against the verandah rail, the two of us walked down stairs to the more private grass a little away from the house. Here we felt and cuddled some more. There was noise coming from the party but we choose the quietness and seclusion to be together. We then went and got some bedding and laid it down on the grass and starting undressing. Beyond doubt ,it was a most rare and fascinating mind altering time of great pleasure with her willingness for sensuality under the full moon. I had taken the mushrooms but she had not. I certainly felt the altered state and of even being vulnerable and she was a most willing and cooperative companion perhaps even though what I maybe ignorantly thought was a little voyeuristic and opportunism. We rolled around together for an indefinite time and then went for naked walks under the full moon in the humid summer night’s warmth. We constantly reassured each other with frequent hugs before returning to our make shift bed. Sleep eventually overcame us.
In the morning, I attempted to return to a detached normal state of affairs thought a little confused and unsure about the night before. In the afternoon, we all went to a walk to the dam and a general swim. After this we sat around talking and my companion departs on her own and sits away from the group. I though stay with the group and we eventually return to the house. She returned a little later. That night, I go to bed on a single mattress and she goes to bed on another single mattress close to me. We turn off the lights for sleep. She then says to me, “I suppose that I have to tell that I’m disappointed in you”. I said, “Why is that?” She said that I should have come over to her when she left the group at the dam. I understood that she meant that she wanted another cuddle. My thinking though was a little confused because I didn’t know quite how much was genuine and how much was opportunism with me being so willing with the effects of the mushrooms. I have to also admit that there was also some degree of myself denial Presbyterianism coming out and “doing the right thing”. She though was most willing and so why didn’t I take the opportunity and just do what was so obvious and friendly. Now I was being given another opportunity and so I offered to make amends which she accepted readily. This time, I didn’t miss the opportunity when it was presented so directly. This time, I can remember she kept saying “Oh wow, oh wow, oh wow…….!!!.”
We departed the next day on friendly terms, me back to work and she and her friend up north. I did though meet her again by coincidence in Brisbane a few months later. We spoke just a little as she now seemed to have a boyfriend and was quite detached. What had happened between the two of us had seemed for her to have slipped into the irreverent past. Her name was Gloria and she came from Miami, Florida. Maybe it was even this visit or another around this time that I was told about my farm coming on to the market for sale. I then made a visit to it which was still operating as a functioning dairy and through good fortune was eventually able to purchase it. I also walked to the top of the ridge between the two farms and looked across to “my” farm in the distance. It looked depilated but most pleasing with its verandahs and unpainted drab grey and rusty iron roof and how it sat in the landscape with the pyramid shaped peak in the background and its imitation in the shape the roof. This is the defining formative image I still hold in my mind’s eye. I still fondly remember much, I wonder though how much she still remembers?
At midday, I usually have a nap or maybe they are a reverie. These little sleeps are most peculiar. I usually fall asleep so easily and in a matter of usually 5 to 10 minutes and very occasionally up to 30 minutes. I may have dreams and thoughts and then to wake up so completely refreshed is extraordinary. Today in my little nap, I recall having a sort of dream where I was being dictated to and writing down some sort of story. I was about 2/3rd of the way through when I awoke. I completely couldn’t recall what the story was about but this little incident I wrote down straight away afterward my nap but I don’t think that they are related at all.
Early in 2007, I was needing a calendar and since I didn’t have one, I then usually look through my old calendars and see if any of the previous years coincide with the coming year. Fortunately I found an old almost unused diary that my mother kept from 1962 which is the same as the required year. A few years later she had written a bit more in it but this time using it as a note book. After using it for a while, I happened to notice that on the 13th November she had written the words, Eucalyptus cloeziana. Now this is very significant to me because it is the botanical name of Gympie Messmate, one of the three main trees that I’ve planted here. Gympie Messmates are deeply important to me and I am very familiar with all aspects of them from seedlings, young trees, large trees, their timber both sawn and in the round. Several good looking Messmates also occur naturally on the farm as well. I can even remember the first Gympie Messmate that was pointed out to me. It was while I was working in the Department of Forestry close to here. It was a young tree that was planted a few years earlier and it looked very impressive. The old overseer/ganger who pointed it out to me was a committed member of the local branch of the Freemasons. I was only 19 years old at the time and I’d like to think that he was impressed with me because, although he couldn’t actually invite me to join the Freemasons with him, because one needs to make the move oneself, he said that if I wished to join, he would recommend it.
At my parent’s home, there are two Gympie Messmates in adjoining suburban blocks that I used to walk past whenever I visited and when for a walk. My mother had a great love of nature and has an interest in my enterprise. My father though has no interest in me nor my 34 year tree planting project. I find my project interesting environmentally, financially [years of austerity to possible eventual returns], and psychologically but he in that time has never ever asked how I’m getting on or what I’d doing on the farm. He would be utterly incapable to do so. I once showed him a 3 minute video of a small sawmill I needed to purchase and maybe he could help but he fell asleep while watching it, when he awoke, I showed it to him a second time but he fell asleep a second time. I’d say his lack of interest is genuine and not put on. Any spare cash, he has invested with my developer now ex-brother in law and seems to have some interest in that.
The Cutting of a Big Tallowwood
The original owner of the farm had 5 children and over the years, all have visited. One day, I went to my front gate to collect the mail and there was a car parked there with an old couple inside. This is certainly unusual at the end of my bush track so i asked them what they were doing. There reply was that they were brother and sister taking in the atmosphere. I asked them to explain and they said that they lived here as children. I then invited them to come up to the house. I then took the old bloke for a little walk around the farm. He told me a few of his stories. He said that as a young lad, he cut this very big tree. It was so big that the crosscut saw was only just big enough to cut it down by having an inch of movement on each side. He said it took him a long time to cut through it but he eventually did the job and the tree crashed to the ground and speared a long way down the hill side. I believe that this is the photo of the stump and believe it or not, there is the same species of tree growing up on the inside of the stump. The log although now greatly rotten still remains across my walking track at the spring and a few flitches of it make a little bridge.
There is no doubt that life in those days was certainly tough.
I host the occasional visitor who comes to my farm to experience a full dose of rustic Australiana with a life on the edge of the jungle. On my farm I plant and grow trees for timber. A long term and idealistic project where the plan is to repair the environment and to eventually make some money. All of my visitors speak English to some degree. This is most fortunate as this is the only language that I speak. As a consequence I always thank my visitors for all the effort that they have put into learning English and I hope that it has been worthwhile for them. This has made me to be an advocate of English and its many merits. English is a very dynamic language and is always picking up new words and concepts that it likes and adding them to its already huge vocabulary. To help me in my English appreciation lessons, I have made up a list of my favourite words suitable for here. Words such as serendipity, silviculture, arcadia, bucolic, shrine, conviviality, cadence and lingua franca are examples and now the word wabi sabi has been added from the Japanese. This is an old fashioned Japanese word that is the basis of their aesthetics meaning the subtle beauty of nature, the profound in the ordinary, and the aesthetics of imperfection. Its opposite is probably the modern. I have mentioned it to a couple of Japanese and they said that they had heard of the word but had never used it.
To emphasise the point, I’ve had carved into a solid block of wood, the obscure Japanese characters for this word. I then carved on the reverse side the word Wabi Sabi in “English”. So far, I’ve only shown this to one Japanese visitor. Upon looking at the Japanese characters, he couldn’t read it as expected. I then reversed the block and he could now see the word in “English” which he could read in a flash! His immediate comment was, “Oh, how most unfortunate”. Meaning he knew the importance of the word to Japanese culture and yet he couldn’t even read it in Japanese and could only do so in “English”. Oh yes, the joys and responsibilities of being a custodian of the great eclectic English language. Wabi sabi, maybe it is found here in even an over abundance!
How I Found $350,000
This story is in two parts and has nothing to do with the million dollars worth of marihuana found on the hill behind my farm.
When I purchased my farm in the aptly named Cedar Pocket, I always knew that there was some red cedar growing here. In 1989 I cut and sold one of these trees because it was damaged and although it would have remained alive for quite some time, the timber would have started to deteriorate and its value would have declined. I did quite well out of it selling the best of the wood for $5,000 /m3. This then prompted me to do an inventory of all my red cedar trees to see how much I actually had and to clear around and prune them to form. This involved much struggle through lantana and weeds and into the rugged nooks and crannies but eventually my figures indicated that I had about 70m3 of standing volume of red cedar, much more that I had anticipated. If I sold some timber for $5,000/m3, then 70m3 must be worth an incredible $350,000. This is fantastic. Some people walk down the street and find a dollar coin and think that it has made their day, me, in effect go for a walk “up the back” and find more or less $350,000!
This is the end of Part One. Part Two of the story isn’t so good and if you only like good news stories, you should stop here. The problem is that the top money is for the best wide boards and only from big trees and this is only a small fraction of the whole as unfortunately most of my trees are small and young. The other serious problem is that sawmills are mostly devices for making sawdust and fire wood and sawn boards are really just a by the way product. A realistic valuation would be very much less. Red cedar may be Australia’s premium cabinet timber, a timber of remarkable beauty. It is a valuable asset here, which I greatly care for and appreciate. The standing volume has increased to over 100m3 but certainly there are other more commercial species to grow for timber that would give a better return. At the moment I can’t even give away the tops of the recent tree that I’ve cut. Cabinetmakers and antique dealers even give the wood a mythic quality with its deep red inner glow and the subtle figure of the wood and yet I see this figure growing daily in my trees.
I wonder who else has some hidden asset in the back blocks of their farm?
Fire Come Quick!
A few weeks ago I received this dreaded call. A close by lady friend rang and her exact words were a jumbled and agitated, “There is a fire and the house is about to catch alight. Bring a spanner to disconnect the gas bottle. Click”, and that was it! Luckily I recognized the voice and knew instantly where she was. The weather was dry and I suspected the worst. I immediately grabbed my shoes, pulled on some long pants and a long sleeved shirt, grabbed my knapsack and filled it with water, jumped in the ute and drove off down the road. The spanner will have to be the adjustable spanner in the car’s tool kit. In a moment or two, I look across to her place and can see a column of smoke rising up and I wonder what I’m going to be in for. As I approach her house, I can see the fire in the long grass around the side of house and into the pile of timber stored for the planned house extension and the flames licking the side of the half completed house. The owner meets me distressed and exhausted from beating the flames in an ineffective effort to control their spread. I immediately start work with my knapsack. Many years ago I used to work in the Department of Forestry and it was quite a common occurrence to control small fires with a knapsack. The first task is to extinguish the perimeter and to stop it spreading up the hill and then completely out of control, and along the side of the house. I do this and then start to extinguish the fire as it is just starting to get a hold in the pile of wood with the aid of the dry grass. In just a few minutes, the fire is extinguished and I can now relax a bit and over look the blackened site and put out a couple of relights. The house owner is extremely thankful!
A few minutes after the fire is out, the local town’s fire brigade arrive and with their huge pump and hose, they completely soak the area preventing any more relights. The chief fire officer then asks a few questions as to how it started and so forth. He then congratulates me on my effective and prompt action to arrive so quickly and to so effectively put out the fire. He then says that it might have been a good idea if I was wearing some shoes. I said that in the rush, I just didn’t have time to put then on and just had to be a bit careful and to step carefully over any hot spots.
May I strongly recommend to country listeners that they always have a knapsack and water ready, suitable clothes which means long pants and a long sleeved shirt and yes shoes, if or more likely probably, when they get the dreaded call. It is completely impossible to fight a fire close up without long pants and a long sleeved shirt. Yes shoes are essential as well, it is just that I didn’t have the time and could get away with not wearing them this time. I have received a few such calls over the years and a simple knapsack is a very effective tool in controlling small fires before they can turn into something much more serious.
And What’s Even More!
I suppose that it must have started when I got the idea as a child to plant and grow trees. After completing my university studies and from a zero base, I saved enough to purchase my run down farm, in cash. I then started planting trees in the thousands. I looked after these plants and nurtured them to grow. They eventually grew into large and tall trees. I’ve then cut some of them down and one was even over 120 feet tall. Quite an excitement in itself! I’ve then snug the logs back to the house with the tractor. Here I’ve loaded the logs onto the back of my vehicle and hauled them to the local sawmill. I’ve then had the logs sawn into boards which I’ve carted back home again. Here the timber has been used both internally and externally. Some of the outside boards have rotted away with time and have been replaced. These decayed pieces have been cut to length and used as firewood in the wood stove to cook my dinner. The ash from this wood has been used to sprinkle on some seedling that I’m growing and a rare cycle has been completed. How many people can claim to have done all of that and what is even more, there is still enough left of me to still enjoy life!! Oh yes!
The Pathway Called Pain
On the farm there are some terrible biting ants called Jumper Ants because they have a characteristic of jumping but more correctly, they are stinging ants and they give a terrible sting. Whenever one goes for a walk, there is always the risk of being bitten and being bitten for the first time is quite an experience. I must have been bitten many thousands of time and sometimes in trying circumstances such as when I’ve stood on a nest and several run up the inside leg of my trousers before all biting at the same time which brings about a lively response from me or when I’ve been bitten picking mangoes and there is the danger of forgetting in the heat of the moment where I am. There is an even larger Jumper Ant called Inch Men but these are not so common and I’ve never been bitten by one of these but several once had their stingers stuck in my leather boots and couldn’t pull it out again.
Recently a polite and educated girl visited me from England who in fact was a psychologist. I was with her when she got bitten, she said four times but maybe I privately think that it was only the once though. She in the passion of the moment calls out, “Oh f..king hell! Oh I’m sorry mother!” [That is for swearing freely and spontaneously]. Yes she gave my autobiography the all clear which I thanked her for.
My daughter had been bitten so often that she poses the question as to whether pain can ever become boring or does it retain its freshness every time? If one is bitten a thousand times, is the thousandth time as painful as the first. If so pain has a timeless quality about it something like how an infant likes the same joke repeated over and over again as being always funny, that maybe we could find useful in some esoteric way.
Working in my young timber plantations is quite a challenge because of the dense growth of lantana, the steepness, the broken gullies, the washouts, and the boulders. Occasionally, in this very constricted situation, I might come across the further complication of a wasp nest. This is something that I must always be on the lookout for because the consequences are exceedingly unpleasant. Usually I see the nest first and all is okay. Sometimes though, I bump the nest and all the wasps fly out at me. Only one response is possible and that is to freeze and not move a muscle. They will still fly out aggressively but hopefully won’t sting as they bump into me. To try to flee or to brush them away is quite impossible anyway and even dangerous because the theory and it is controversial and I believe in it, is that wasps only attack moving targets. I can even prove it with some lucky breaks.
This time though, I wasn’t so lucky as I was committed to the move that cut off the branch that held their nest with the brush hook and they all came out at me and I was stung about 5 times about the face. To be stung by these insects is an extreme experience and fills one with pain. It also seems to have an unnerving psychological effect as well as one suffers anguish and becomes full of dread and extreme hatred for them. On this day, I just slowly moved away and kept working and ignored the pain and loathing. This time though, my heart started to pound faster and faster, I started perspiring and became weaker and weaker. I then decide that I’d better walk back to the house. I didn’t go far before all I could do was to lie down and let it pass. All I could do was to lie flat on my back and try and to relax with my heart beating so fiercely that I wondered if it would jump out of its socket. I felt now that I’d entered an altered state called, approaching death and all I can do was to just lie here and take it. I know that it would be rare for a healthy person to die this way but what can I do about it? After a few minutes of this I can gradually feel life returning into my body again and I eventually sit up. I remember the perspiration running off my forehead and dripping onto my trousers and I am still alive!! I then gradually get up and walk slowly back to the house. This was an intense experience and I wouldn’t want to repeat it.
I still believe my theory though. If one upsets a wasp nest, freeze. They will not attack a stationary target and dangerous situations can be averted. I also have had lucky escapes. It may require an act of will but really there is no choice.
The Cow, a Tragically Cursed Animal
The next time you sit down to eat a steak, bear a thought for that proud but tragically stupid animal, the cow that has had do donate its actual self for you and your passing pleasure. For each mouthful you take, think of all the mouthfuls the cow has had to have made of grass, a food that is so lacking that us humans can only barely eat it at all and then to have to regurgitate it and to chew it a second time before sending it off to the second stomach for further digestion and eventual conversion into meat and milk. The ratio would have to be a million to one. Not only is it a totally inproportionate imbalance, it is somehow even worse that slavery because it is a mockery so extreme that we don’t even see the joke. We have become too far removed from the reality of the situation. Us humans can be gross lazy fat slobs and the cow, even perhaps bulky with muscle but not fat as us humans are, and having to work so hard just to live on that most desperate food of all, grass; us humans are so totally unaware of the situation that we are blind to the fact that the cow must be carrying a most terrible curse, a jinx from God the Creator, for it all to be so self perpetuating without us even noticing or questioning or being even slightly concerned.
Our connection with cattle goes back to the dawn of civilisation. The cow goes extinct in the wild probably because it is just too bulky and stupid to compete in the world but somehow survives in the margins of human settlement because the predators of the cow keep their distance from us cunning and ruthless humans and so the close association of humans and cattle is established. Nature must have then decreed that if humans have saved the cow from extinction, they can have as a reward the right to treat them as they like. We then ruthlessly and persistently manipulate the situation to our advantage with the implicit justification that as a creature they only exist due to our protection.
The cow would have to be the laughing stock of the animal kingdom. They are big, commonly grow to over one ton in weight but their most notable feature is their stupidity. They have a big brain but it doesn’t work very well. They have eyes that look sidewards and can only just see forwards out of the corner of their eyes. Their nose points forwards for smell and their ears can listen either sidewards or forwards but if listening forwards they often block the sidewards vision of their eyes. If you approach a cow, it will try and listen for you and smell you but it cannot see you clearly straight ahead. This sends a confusing message to their dull brain which again further jumbles the information. Maybe a life of grazing is very dull and so a dull brain is a help to pass the time but it comes at a cost which the cow is perpetually paying.
The cow knows that it is an at risk creature and so has a furious appetite for grass. It wants to get as big and as fat in as short time as possible for in its great bulk it feels safe. This would have to be the cows biggest error of judgment for this is also the point of common interest between us humans and the cow. We also want them to get as big and fat in as short a time as possible so we can then send them off but here our interests are clearly divergent to the cow’s. I’m a small time cattle producer and I know their ways quite well but even me who is sympathetic to their life’s dilemma, sometimes as a joke, call our to the cows and ask if they are getting big and fat as fast as possible knowing they will answer yes, which is to my advantage, and they mistakenly think is to theirs. In fact the cow has such an appetite that it will even get through fences to get to better grass to get big and fatter quicker so much so that it becomes a nuisance and has to be sent off for processing even sooner and even bigger. What a tragic joke at their expense.
The life of a dairy cow is most disciplined. Me as a minor beef producer an envious of the well controlled and regulated lives of the dairy cow. My beef cattle just wander around aimlessly and look to cause me as much trouble as possible while the dairy cows are so controlled and under the thumb. Any form of dissent is treated most harshly and a tightly regimented order is maintained.
Usually the working life of a dairy heifer is set on its dairy path when the young heifer, living with her many sisters and sharing a common boyfriend, falls pregnant and gives birth to her one and only love child. Usually the father is a beef animal and the calf is sent off in a few days and she is inducted into a life of a dairy cow. Here she is fed plenty of grass and in the morning and evenings even comes willingly and lines up outside the dairy to be herded inside, to have the milking machines applied and the milk forcibly pumped out of her. This indignity she does willing all for a few licks of molasses and a cup full of rich grain. Where are her free spirited animal principles? About a month later, she starts to cycle [hormonally] and is fixed up by this time by an unknown and impersonal father who arrived in a test tube. A cow is now lactating and carrying her new infant. No wonder when you look into the eyes of a milking cow, you can see the strain of overloaded motherhood. Cows produce milk in proportion to the amount of grass they eat and life’s treadmill is set in motion. Any cow that realises that she is on this working treadmill for little personal gain, decided not to participate in the system and instead of furiously eating grass all day just to have her milk pumped out of her for just a taste of concentrated food and none of her maternal instincts satisfied decides to reject the system and sits under the tree all day. Unfortunately there is a fascist regime in place and free loaders on the system are discovered straight away. Each month there is the dreaded herd recording. Here all cows have their quantity of milk recorded and any cow that is lazy and below her fixed quota is immediately removed from the herd and compliance is maintained. Those that keep up the good work have eight months of lactation and simultaneously carrying the child, an annual month’s holiday, birth and back to the treadmill. This time if the calf is a heifer, it is kept to grow up and to eventually replace the non performers of the herd. A couple of days of mothering which is all the only mothering it gets, the young calf is placed in a solitary confinement jail cell and fed plastic milk from a plastic tit attached to a metal bucket. The mother is distressed at the loss of her calf but after a couple of days seems to get over it. The situation is made even more ironically tragic by the fact that the mother walks past the calf’s cell with its infant and is within two feet of it and yet it is too stupid to recognize its own distressed baby. Obviously the calf must feel severe rejection. It is then given this plastic milk for a month and is then released to wander aimlessly with its peers, given a bit of grain until it reaches adolescence. These calves are lost souls with no parental guidance at all and the only contact allowed is with others in a similar predicament. Generation after generation of no mothering, no wonder they are poor parents and yet breed to produce vast quantities of milk from udders so large the cow can hardly carry it. Us humans have become now the consumers of all this milk produced in vast quantities for their now lost babies through the impersonal milking machine as a cold substitute for the babies suckling. What a tragic caricature this long, long, ago noble creature has become.
Some cows are so addicted to a life of work and obsessively eating grass that they can actually lactate all the way, passing the repeated dreaded herd recording tests, until they give birth to the next calf while lactating for the first calf and so miss out on their annual month’s holiday. A feat I didn’t think was possible until I received one of my present generation of calves. Initially he was very runty as too much of his mother’s nutrients had gone into milk production and not to him and he was also a quite stressed young calf. I hand reared him with the others on the plastic milk and tit but as he grows older, he is given extra food as molasses and grain and it becomes clear that he has an eating disorder probably similar to his mother as he become crazed and frantic when this food is presented to him and excessively and neurotically suckles his friends ears and other appendages. His name is, Son of Workaholic Mother. Yes, I give all my animals names and yes they all do have rudimentary personalities with their little likes and dislikes.
A beef calf on the other hand is mothered obsessively but true to the tragic state of the cow, the calf still grows up to be as stupid and as useless as a dairy calf which receives almost no mothering. It would be nice to think that the loved calf would be a more rounded individual but unfortunately that isn’t the case. The excessively mothered beef calf if left alone, eventually grows to be even bigger than the mother and yet she continues to see it as her precious baby who she eats much grass for to keep lactating which the calf keeps consuming all the while she keeps thinking of it as her baby. If feed is in short supply, she can lactate so much and produce so much milk for her calf that she will loose condition and can even die to feed her fat baby who becomes fatter and even more indolent. As the calf grows bigger and if a male reaches maturity, this can lead to such scenes of such debauched and unnatural derrido I balk at describing. Suffice to say that the calf will suckle, then try to mate with his mother, then attempt to gang bang her with his peers, then watch voyeuristically a friend taking a liberty, then fight with his peers, then run off with his mother and suckle again from her for comfort before the whole debauched sequence will occur again and again and this lasting over several days. Yes cattle need the firm guiding hand of us humans.
Yes, the bull specifically, but cattle in general, are the symbol of excessive libido energy and with good reason. My neighbour had a bull which he kept well behaved and locked in the bull paddock who couldn’t even contemplate the world outside his bounds but occasionally one of my fresh heifers who had been reared on a much more liberal regime, would get into his paddock when their hormones say all systems go.
Male calves are fixed up not long after they are born. I have an instrument that I applied to the young calf and although it is almost totally painless in its application they always struggle and resist strongly. This can turns it into quite a wrestle before I always eventually win. On rare occasions, the application hasn’t taken and has had to have been reapplied especially if there has been much too much toing and frowing and lack of cooperation. Once applied, their lives are much more contented and satisfying but again gratitude isn’t shown to us humans for successfully managing their lives.
As an animal, the cow is a very immature creature. They are happiest in a herd where they just wander around and generally think nothing other than eating grass. For sport they seem to take pleasure in butting away their friends from any particular tasty mouthful of grass. If they find themselves on their own, they immediately become self conscious and aware of their massive psychological inadequacies, become hysteric and bellow uncontrollably until mania and fear allows them to find the herd and they calm down again. Why the cow is so close to mental instability I don’t know but I know from observation that they are very poor sleepers. They only seem to doze lightly even at night and so I suspect that they suffer from sleep apnoea [depravation] and its destructive psychological effect. There have been many occasions when humans, children, in particular have reared an apparently cute calf with much loving care and attention and yet they always grow into something non cooperative and belligerent so much so that it is impossible for anyone that knows the situation to love an adult cow. They do not return the love that has been invested in them. A dog recognizes in us humans something greater than itself. We successfully manages a dog’s potentially disorganised lives which they appreciate and so worship us with their faithfulness becoming man’s best friend. There is totally no comparison between the two of them. The cow becomes arrogantly aloof and stupid and also hates the dog as being a sell out to the animal kingdom and its unholy close relationship with us humans while it sees itself as being true to its animal heritage. The cow particularly hates the dog’s smile and seeing this makes the cow feel sick yet the cow knows that it has a most fragile personality. If it wasn’t for us humans managing their lives, they wouldn’t even be here. A cow looks at a human and thinks, boring old you disturbing our lives again. I admit that it is at a price but we keep it a guarded secret and the price they pay. A cow can live to 20 years and even 30 years is possible but a dairy cow is kept working until she is about 10 years old and a beef steer is kept until 4 years. What they don’t know they can’t worry about.
I once had an animal that had 4 collapsed hoofs and so it couldn’t compete with the rest of the herd who bullied it,[note the word and its derivation] and took advantage of its crippled condition. I then delivered it personally on the back of my utility to the local processing plant. An easier word to use than the more direct and unsavoury alternative word. I dropped him at the back door as told to do so and I could just look in and see the one way conveyor belt and I admit things looked a bit grim. I then went around to the front door and walked into the pleasant air conditioned office with the pretty girls and their smiling faces and were asked simple questions as to where my address was and where I wanted the cheque posted to. Yes, I fortunately felt happy again and left with in an untroubled frame of mind. The cheque duly arrived and was happily banked.
Passing a butcher’s shop and seeing all those big strong animals now cut into small pieces and put on display is apparently appealing to some but to me it is strangely macabre. Wives go in and choose a steak which they closely inspect for the slightest blemish to select the one the seems the most appetising. Some butcher’s shops even have photographs of big fat steers on one side and on the other, the result of him being cut into small pieces. Yes it is all explained there. Maybe there is a reason why the cloven hoof is the symbol of the devil?
Why have I written this article. As I have previously mentioned, I’m a small time beef producer and I personally wish to thank all the people who purchase and consume beef. To me beef seems very expensive and I personally don’t buy it myself because I don’t get much satisfaction from eating meat but meat eaters support me and my idyllic life style because of the price they pay and the money I receive. Yes I admit it, I suffer from the curse of vegetarianism. The Achilles’ heel of the beef industry. The so called moral high ground. How can I justify these apparently divergent views? To me, the cow must be a divinely approved joke. How else could it all pass by without scrutiny or even notice? The cow in its previous incarnation somewhere else, another planet, another time and circumstance, must have been humans who were excessively lazy and indolent and so this is their ordained punishment. Yes I can accept this and maybe even a sober lesson for us. We punish them so relentlessly and it all seems to be ordained from above and I go along with it all so willingly and my conscience is amazingly and happily clear. What a grateful convenience!
Snakes as Metaphor
My reward so far is in being philosophical and my Religion of Good Ideas.
I’ve spent much of my life in growing these trees and so far I’ve made very little money from it. I’d like to think that the prospects are good but so far as I’ve said earlier, my rewards are philosophical, probably though the greatest reward of all. I have a life most conductive for introspection. A most wonderful and comfortable house, the profound satisfaction of watching my trees restore health to the hillsides and a parade of interesting and inspirational visitors who are usually lulled into a relaxed complacency by me and my Arcadian paradise. It has been okay for me to write of their confessions and experiences and now I have to make some confessions myself. The essay “Snakes” has actually three parts. The third is called, “Snakes as Metaphor”.
Snakes seem to have played a symbolic or even totem part in my life. Here is the sequence of events. This farm that I’ve owned for over 30 years I was told by my neighbour only came on to the market when the previous owner’s elder son died tragically from snake bite. It must have been the bite from a taipan. Looking back, I find this a most poignant symbol and I can’t even state the obvious. I also walk around my farm daily knowing that these snakes are all around although obviously they are not too common.
At the moment I’m building an attic in the pyramid shaped space of the roof and I’m sharing the space with a carpet snake who is there most days. [Yes today as well!]
When I was a child of about 5 years of age, I recall sitting in the long grass well behind the house and reaching out with my hand behind me and feeling this smooth and slippery thing slither between my fingers.
When I was 9 years old, the news came through by telephone of the sudden and distressing death of my grandfather who I was very close to. I can recall what I was doing at the time as even then I thought it a bit unusual. I was lying on the sofa in the lounge rereading a letter I’d just written to him before posting telling him of a snake I’d seen a few days earlier swimming in the creek. Even at his young age, I’d play in the creek some distance from the house on my own. I’d written that I’d seen this taipan. This I confess now was a deliberate error, in fact quite untrue, made for effect because I’m quite certain now and then, that it would have been a water tiger. A taipan had recently been killed in our back yard which had even made the local news because it was as far south as they had been discovered at the time.
As a young adult, I’m swimming naked with a group of friends as is the custom here when simultaneously I bump into a snake while swimming in the deep at the same moment a young lady dives down and grabs my penis and gives it a playful tug. A bump into a snake while swimming in a rather murky and overgrown water hole is an unjustified and harmless phobia. Even as a child, I would occasionally find myself in the creek at the same time as a snake, something that I didn’t like at all especially when the currents were strong. To have my penis pulled even in jest is an archetypal arresting moment and to have this happen at the same time as I bump into this snake is a bit strange.
As a mature adult, I have a lady friend who sometimes visits and although we are platonic in our relationship, we occasionally go for naked swim and a walk together. On this occasion, we walked to the hut, about 10 minutes away. On entering the hut, there at eye height, is the head of a brown tree snake hanging down from the ceiling [collar tie actually] and spewing out some white stuff. It takes no notice of us at all and continues with what it is doing. We are transfixed and our bodies move closer together and touch in shock and comfort in the presence of this strange event.
I have an art book which has a whole chapter devoted to women and their affinity with animals. Naturally there are several paintings of naked females being entwined by snakes and one of these paintings is titled, “Sensuality”.
In the 30 years that I’ve lived here, only once has ever a snake been found in or more correctly on, any bed. The only time that it occurred was when a lady was visiting who was a student of Tantra yoga. Yes, this was in fact, Meiko who I’ve written about earlier, and it was found in her bed and bedroom. At the time though, she and I were studying and sleeping together in my bed and her bedroom was her dressing room. She had made quite a study of Tantra and told me that she hadn’t had the opportunity to put any of it into practice. She asked me directly one morning would I help her with her tantric studies? Naturally I agreed. She said that I would need to be very disciplined. She after all worked in a Zen monastery. For her and by implication me, it wasn’t sex as commonly understood but meditation and study and I was strictly told to speak about it only in this way. For her it was meditation, study, and pleasure, for me it was discipline, meditation, study, work, and pleasure in that order. She said that she was an initiate of her monastery and that me, because of my lessons from her, I would be expected to help educate and enlighten anyone I was given the opportunity with. She was of an abstract nature and always looked to the symbolic meaning of things but she wasn’t used to something like this and was even shocked and perplexed. I tried to reassure her by saying that it was just bad luck and that it never happened before but I don’t think that she believed me. Yes, I appreciated the lessons and took the study and discipline very seriously.
These stories are all 100% true. Yes, as my teacher above, I’m also even shocked and perplexed. The only thing is that I don’t think that it is just luck and nor did she naturally. It is Fate, with a capital ‘F’. The path of life is more mysterious and real than we dare to imagine.
Lost and Found in the Jungle, by me
My son in law, Pip visited for a few days and he brought with him a helper to operate the tractor while we did some sawing of the logs. He was a retired heart surgeon and had conducted about an incredible 8500 operations but this didn’t prevent him from getting lost in the jungle. About 2 pm in the afternoon, Pip and I went off to do actually a very difficult job to roll the big flitch that was left over from the slabbing of the big 5ft diameter log and snig it back to the house. We would do this and our visitor would walk up to the hut, a place he had been to before. We completed this job by about 4:30pm and our visitor had not returned. We discussed what we should do and decided that when the sun sets at 5pm, we had better set off and look for him. The sun set and I got myself ready for the 12 minutes walk to the hut by putting on my boots and while I was doing this, Pip checked he mobile phone and miraculously and against the odds because it hadn’t been working, it recorded a missed call from our visitor 20 minutes earlier. This was a bit ominous and set us thinking as what could the call have been about? Our friend was a deaf 72 year old. Just as I was about to call our friend’s mobile, I received a phone call from Debbie, of the police lost person department. She told me that our friend who luckily had his phone with him, called his wife and told her that he was lost. She then called 000, the emergency number to let it be known he was lost, somewhere. I then called him on his mobile and it incredibly worked and I spoke to him about his specific location. Once in the past, I had received another phone call from someone who was lost and she told me that where she was, there were plenty of trees and rocks. To be honest, not much help but luckily with her, I knew where she was and found her almost immediately. She also wasn’t deaf! He gave a lot of muddled information about east and west, logging tracks and impenetrable lantana but said specifically that he could see a repeater station and that there was a flitch remains from a Lucas sawmill operation. This indicated to me that he was some where up Bacon Road, close to the repeater station and the owners of a Lucas sawmill. I then set off up the hill to call out for him and sent Pip off up Bacon Road to perhaps find him there. I got well up the back and called and called but no reply.My call was even heard by my neighbours in the other direction so on this still night, my voice certainly did carry and would have reached him. My walk took me half way up the mountain but I had achieved nothing and my phone did not work so I decided to return to the house. I had seen Pip return in his car and thought that we should compare notes again. When I returned, Pip told me that the police had successfully contacted him and told him how to get his phone to do a geopositioning. This was successfully done and although he didn’t have his glasses with him, he was able to get his phone to do an enlargement and could pass on the data. The result was that he was on a road called MtTeitsel, something more theoretical than real but importantly, I knew what it meant and that I could get there to find him. I then set off up the mountain in the complete dark with only the help of a very dim head torch being told by Pip that the batteries could go flat at any time. To be honest, it was a challenge to walk in the dark, through the jungle and up the steep hill, to get to the top and to then walk east until I reached the MtTeitsel Road. When I got there, there was no visitor so I called and there was no reply. My question was now, should I go north or south? For better or worse, I choose north and set off. I kept calling as I went in the almost complete dark down a steep hill and through lantana. The further I went, the more I worried as to where was he? I seemed to be coming to the end of the track when suddenly just infront of me was a figure. Yes, I had found him to both our relief. I then lay down to rest for a while and to take stock. He had made a little nest for himself to prepare to spend the night on the mountain but we were now about to set off on the perilous return. Back up the hill, to the top, turn right and along the ridge to the west and then down. Unfortunately though I veered right too soon and went down a steep bit but luckily we pressed on, onto the spur and down and all in the dimmest of light with the batteries fading. For an old person, I admit he was nimble so we were lucky and on to Pip waiting for us in his car and back to the warmth of the house and the lit fire. The next evening, it was our topic of discussion. How could he have walked so far from the hut, at the bottom of the mountain to the top of the mountain. How could he so late in the day, go so far and take so little notice of where he was going? It is hard enough to find some one lost but to then find them when they are deaf, that is an extra challenge. Yes he certainly thanked me for my effort. Pip thought it was as if the Fates had sent up the situation for a problem to occur and for me, the only one who knows this place like the back of my hand to set off and rescue him, in the impossible situation of the dark, steepness, jungle and his deafness to find him and to bring him back. Yes, I was the hero of the moment but the next day, all was back to the boring ordinariness, well sort of anyway. We did some more amazing things with trees, logs and wonderful boards. What a remarkable beach house it is going to be, an exposition of Gympie Messmate timber some naturally occurring ones we walked past on our trek.
The same incident but this time from my son in law’s perspective.
Lost in the Jungle ,by Pip
‘Jungle’. It summons images of dimly lit weaving paths in crowded and chaotic forests, filled with the high pitched squawks of unseen birds and maybe the chatter of monkeys. Nature in its fullest flood. Every cubic inch hosting a powder keg of life, in a tumultuous, thrusting, explosive rivalry, itself within an intricate web and balance too complex to consider. Bob’s jungle is different, at its very core. It has the impenetrable forest, steep and treacherous paths, it has the occasional squawk and even the odd deadly snake. Nature too is in a rising tide, but Bob’s forest is man-made. Or, to be precise: Bob-made. Bought in the mid 70’s, having being cleared in the late 20’s, these 125 acres of steep granite ridges and valleys had been farmed out. Bob’s plan was to re-plant it with mainly Hoop Pine and a few other hardwood species and then harvest and mill the timber for a profit. All he needed was forty years. Certainly it was not a usual plan, but then Bob is not a usual kind of person. His plan eschewed the mainstream consumptions and aspirations of life and espoused the value of repair not disposal. Every item in Bob’s house is an artefact, with a provenance and an innate value of itself. Chipped and cracked maybe, but still functional and perfect within its imperfection. A visitor to ‘Bob’s Place’ has to adjust to a place so‘off-grid’ it doesn’t know what the grid is.
Last week I brought a friend to Bob’s Place, a delightfully witty and intelligent 72 year old retired Sydney heart surgeon, preeminent in his field, Don. Used to leading opinion and deference, Don is a self confident, left-leaning, nature-loving, establishment bashing, old half-hippy. Imagine his wonder, epiphany even, on meeting Bob, the full measure, real McCoy, brimming authentic hippy, whose total life expenditures are less a year than Don spends on car services. Don was a good help controlling the tractor that drives the mill that cuts the timber. That morning we worked fast and in the afternoon Bob and I applied ourselves to the retrieval of a giant flitch half way up a mountain that we had slabbed up a week or so prior. Don was given free rein to wander in wonder – in the jungle. Blithely confident in his own (considerable) bush-walking skills he had enough sense to come back, some 100 metres in to the walk, for his phone (not that any mobile phone gets coverage at Bob’s). He sets it on vibrate, as without his hearing aids he’s mostly deaf. And, as we discovered, even with them on he’s mostly deaf, the difference being that he thinks he’s not, which is even more frustrating. Bob and I return to the deck about 4.45 p.m. we’re pretty tired, but the big flitch is in the paddock so we’re satisfied with a good job done. As we open a beer we joke about who is to be set to find Don, but confident he’ll appear at the bottom of the track before sun-down. He didn’t and our jokes turn to curses as we feel we have to formulate a plan. At about 5.15 I decide to go to my car and get my phone, on which is Don’s number and we can then call him from Bob’s landline (1970’s style plastic handset). To my surprise, I see text informing me of a missed call from Don, very unusual as I get only a very limited signal, but enough I suppose for a text to get through. Somewhat relieved I call Bob over and I call Don from the landline…
Pip: Hi Don, its Pip calling.
Don: Who is this?
Pip: Pip, that why I said it was Pip callin…
Don: (Rather tersely) put Bob on.
A long call ensues, filled with landmark comment, with Bob becoming evermore incredulous and his shaking head slowly descends to his one free hand.
Bob: Frankly I don’t know where you are.
Finally the call ends and Bob upends the sack of information Don has relayed. Prominent in the pile was the “repeater station”. This could only mean Don was a long way further south, as that was the only place such a station could be seen from. As we were making a plan Bob’s phone rings (a notable event of itself), we think its Don. Its not, its the police. So, Don did not note Bob’s number, so he could not ring back, as it came up on his phone as ‘No caller ID’. But the police could. But how on earth did the police know to call Bob? Don, in his efforts to get through to anyone, called his perhaps panic-prone friend in Sydney, who raises the alarm in Gympie. The sun is going down, the police start to give Bob instructions on how to turn on GPS location and compass functions on Don’s phone. Bob drives a brand new utility vehicle, bought in 1980. He would only know what an Android was in its SciFi sense. Still the police persevered with the “..select compass from the settings menu etc”. Finally at 5.45 Bob set off high on foot and I set off low on wheels, to sweep the Bacon Road catchment in the hope Don had walked down from espying the ‘repeater’. Fairly sure this was a wild, or at least a goose chase, I returned to the house to man the phone.
Bob saw my headlights returning to the house and having spent 45 minutes shouting and climbing to the South decided to come back to the house to compare notes. Most residences in the valley had heard him shouting. Don did not, mainly because he was nowhere near and of course, he was mostly deaf. However the Police had been in contact with Don, told him to stop moving and had garnered his coordinates. The Police called me and luckily I was there to take their call. They duly gave the two meaningless strings of 14 digits to me, which I advised them was somewhat pointless as firstly, neither our phones worked and secondly, we didn’t know where we were in the first place. When I asked Debbie, the officer coordinating the rescue, roughly how far and in what direction Don was to the house, unfortunately the computer didn’t know. Still we did have his useless GPS coordinates that Debbie was insistent on passing on. Also the Police had managed to place him on a map, he was on Mt. Teitsel Road. This sounds easier than it is. Mt Teitsel Road is an old forestrytrack ascending Mt Tessel not marked on any ‘civilian’ maps. It is completely over-grown and impassable on foot and very steep and rocky. Also it is right at the back of Bob’s Place to the East. It was now 7.00 p.m. Bob knew roughly where Don was. He was right up high, out back. I luckily had a head torch in the car and there was some chocolate in the fridge. I called Don on the landline, he was putting a brave face on, but he was cold. He’d found a hole and had covered himself with grass to insulate himself. I told him to expect us in half an hour. Bob shook his head“at least an hour”. Don laughed and said he was looking forward to the night on the mountain.
We set off, I drove my ute to the base of the track that led in-directly to Mt Teitsel Rd. I gave Bob the torch as there was never any doubt who was going out to get Don, Bob is wiry and much fitter and anyway, it was Bob’s Place and so he had some responsibility to find people who got lost there, right? So, with my assurance I would wait in the car at this same place, Bob set off. This was Bob’s second ascent for Don in as many hours after a hard day’s work and a beer. The footing and walking in Bob’s jungle is hard, it is steep and rocky and trees and under-growth are everywhere. There are trailing vines like steel rope to trip you constantly and numerous thorny and spike vines to scratch and catch as you, face, chest and leg as you pass through. Slipping on some precipitous stones, you might reach out to a stem to steady yourself only to be gouged by a Cockspur vine and tripped by a low vine to sprawl and tumble down the hill or land hard on your face going up. Also, it was dark, really dark. Useful moon light would not be until 10.00 p.m. and then only on the east side of the ridge Don was on, Bob was climbing three hours before, on the west side of the ridge. It was a dark night, but under the Hoop Pines it was pitch. With just a flickering head torch (to conserve unknown battery strength) Bob went into the jungle. But, it was his jungle. Every single Hoop Pine Bob had planted. Every single Red cedar and every single Queensland Maple, Silver Ash, Gympie Messmate, Bob had planted, in dell and ridge, wet and dry. They had all been planted, numbered and many photographed by Bob, and in placed in an album from which to be admired. Bob had built the dams, had walked up stones and lumps of concrete over the years to stem the soil erosion. Bob had built shrines and a hut, had dug the swimming hole and put up the bench and the seat and the standing stone. Bob had embraced this rocky degraded land with love and care for forty years and sowed and reared his jungle. He knew every inch of it and every tree on it, every fence post on it and every upturned stone upon it. Day or night. So like a fox in his own wood, Bob slipped quickly into the trees and up the hill.
Don, inured to the sure thought of a night on the ridge, dug deeper into his hole and pulled grass over himself, pulled out his hearing aids and his hat far down over his eyes, such that despite shouting himself hoarse, Bob practically had to step on Don to find him, after striking the ‘road’ and by luck alone deciding to turn left, shouting his way forward with a bright flashing light on his head. It was true to say Don had practically done everything he could not to be found, and yet he was. At about 8 p.m. as instructed. Surprised and elated Don demanded they set off immediately and waited disappointed while Bob rested for a few minutes and they shared some chocolate. Then they set off back. Don was surprisingly spry and nimble but even so the going was tough and the way difficult to know. Imagine it. Pitch black, steep hill, treacherous footing, unsure of direction, on a vast, effectively untouched jungle mountain at night. Despite a wrong turn, Bob brought them both off the mountain and according to Don, it was the trees that navigated Bob back. He’d stop, look at a tree, stand under it and look upwards, hands on the bowl as if communing with it until sure of its identity and place, could move on assured of the direction.
Once back in the house, it was all smiles and beers and dinner. Though displaying little in the way of contrition, Don was sensible of Bob’s achievement and thanked him earnestly. For it was a cold night and Don was 72 years old and who knows what could have happened. But as I sat there in the homely light of the wood fire and single globe, cold night outside and listened to Don’s protestations of his navigational brilliance and amazing and surprising one-off misfortune, I reflected that here on Bob’s mountain, there was literally no one else that could have done what Bob did, or even come close, never mind the sheer physical difficulty. It was the navigational impossibility, the proverbial needle in the haystack, only the haystack was more vast and the needle doing its best not to be found, on a black night on a steep slope, in a dense forest on a huge mountain. It was almost as if the fates had wished to test Bob on his life’s work, could he thread his own maze? The answer, luckily for Don, lost in the jungle, was yes, just, Bob could find him his forest. And maybe, Bob found himself in the forest too.