Villa Marti: Part 3

[Note: Corrections and additions made in bold, about eight hours after the original post– I had to check my work log and spend forever uploading pictures.]

It’s been a whole week since my last post, and we’ve been busy as all out! I’ll have a massive photo drop here soon, as soon as the 6 dozen or so photos upload, but I’ll do a quick rundown of the things I’ve been up to, and go a bit more in-depth about the things I wasn’t able to get photos of. (I probably won’t get to the accommodations post until just before I leave, but I’ll get there!)

Let’s see, last you heard, we’d hung the roof frame on the shade house, so that was last Monday. I’ll do a quick rundown of what we’ve accomplished on each day since, and I’ll follow up in the next post with photos where I note they’ll be attached. [Pictures have been added to this post, instead! NOTE: IT IS VERY PICTURE-HEAVY BELOW THE FOLD.]

Monday night, we had dinner by the firepit outside– there will be one photo for that. Fire-baked potatoes and then a delicious chocolate-banana dessert.

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Tuesday, we hung the battens for the roof and sides of the shadehouse, giving it real shape. Many photos of that to come. We also went rummaging through a neighbor’s scrap metal to see if we could find something that would become our door. We succeeded, and there’s a photo there as well.

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Wednesday, we got out the MIG welder and the bench grinder and fashioned the door out of our findings. Well, I say we, but Graham did the work there. I did the work of digging holes for the door posts, and we got the door set up and hung– photos to come.

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That had us finishing what we could of the shadehouse until the shadecloth comes [word is that we’ll be getting it tomorrow and hanging it Wednesday], so on Thursday I helped Chris around the house in the morning, and in the afternoon we cleaned up the little orchard and remulched, as well as other general upkeep Graham and I went to the Mt. George town hall to measure the interior for a floorplan he’s MicroStationing, and then we went into the bush [which in this part of New South Wales is the equivalent of forest] and pulled up lantana, an invasive plant. In the midst of ripping it from the earth with my bare hands, I discovered a skull, and Graham found a couple of shin bones. No worries (or sorry to get your hopes up), it was just a cow that’d died probably ten years ago. We couldn’t even get Asher interested. No photos there, really– maybe a few of bees on flowers, because I’m easily entertained I left my phone back at my flat.

I spent every one of those evenings battling Telstra, the phone/internet company, so I won’t say more of that here. Too much time spent trying to correct a problem they’d made, that STILL isn’t resolved. [Note: this has FINALLY been resolved after a week and 20+ hours dealing with some incarnation of customer service, either online, on the phone, or in the store 45+ minutes away. Those of you who know me can guess how much I loved that.]

Just to make me feel better after thinking about the Telstra terribleness again, here are the photos of bees and flowers and things. They were actually taken Saturday afternoon.

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On Friday we cleaned up the little orchard and re-mulched, but knocked off early to go meet Alan and M, a couple of their friends, for lunch at a lovely Thai place (Em’s Thai Kitchen) in Harrington, where we all shared our dishes around the table in my preferred style. Then we all went for a walk in Crowdy National Forest. Many photos there, of kangaroos and kookaburras and gorgeous views.

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IMG_20150612_153030_323Shortly after this photograph, Graham got near enough to touch/bop the kangaroo on the nose. It did not kick him.

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IMG_20150612_154033_272Panoramic view, worth enlarging, I think. Nothing like the original, of course.

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Afterwards I also went to a grocery store for the first time here, which was a treat! Bought more Earl Grey to replace my emptied stock.

Saturday, Chris and I spent the morning cooking gumbo according to my friend Roberta’s recipe, and although it took all morning and made everything smell delicious forever, we decided to hold off eating it until we could share it for Sunday dinner at the farm of some of their other friends (more details later).

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Then Graham and I did a bit more work with the mulch, and then  went out to this old church on the property (circa 1869) to start work on the retaining wall for an outdoor seating area he wants to add. Definitely pictures there. On Sunday, we went out to their hive (they lost one over the past few months to hive beetle), and I was stung three times! Quite aggressive bees, they’re talking about requeening.

IMG_20150615_202955_924This was taken tonight, Monday, and actually doesn’t look as bad as it is, but my whitey skin doesn’t photograph well and legs always looked funny-shaped anyway. The third sting is covered by the boxers in the bottom corner– an area too delicate to photograph. That one doesn’t look as bad, though, because my clothes don’t rub against it the same way. The two seen here are finally reducing their swelling. I think being pantsless currently helps. The swelling has otherwise taken on the shape of my bandaging, strangely enough.

Saturday night I was invited out by Alan, seen with Graham and kangaroos in the Crowdy photo above, to go to the Wingham town hall for a talk given by a couple of excellent women, Eddi and Barb, about their experiences working in and around the indigenous village of Yuendumu. I got to meet many Wingham townfolk, and after the talks we had a bit of a potluck and then a delightful group-sing. Well, it started off as an open mic night, but half the attendees were members of Wingsong, the Wingham community choir, so it got really cosy and a capella fairly quickly. Yes, count me in heaven. I met a few more Americans who’ve settled in Australia, as well as a gorgeous cast of characters from this area. I look forward to coming back through and spending more time with them later this year or early next. Also got some ideas for other places to adventure.

Sunday, Graham and I went out to this old church on the property (circa 1869) to start work on the retaining wall for an outdoor seating area he wants to add. He’s hoping to convert the church to an 1860s style guesthouse, complete with guzunder! We did some woodcutting, log-hauling, and head-scratching as we talked through how exactly to set up the wall.

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Sunday night, we went to Marge and Tony’s house, a couple comprised of 50% Canadian (Marge, from the Albertan prairie farmlands) and 50% New Zealander (Tony, master of farming, mechanicking, homebrewing, and more). Their young son James was a delight, and Marge brought us around a small portion of their holdings, which includes over a thousand acres of farm and grazing lands, three horses, chooks, dogs, and more. I didn’t get a picture of it, but I think the most synechdoche-y thing at their house is the carseat mounted on the tractor. When James was a baby, they weren’t able to take time away from running their farm, so they’d strap him up, pop on the baby earmuffs, and keep rolling. AMAZING.

We ate the gumbo there, and it was a pretty big hit! We also played SET, and it was also a hit! We drank their homebrewed beer and bantered and had a lovely, lovely time, all told. When we got I home, I fell into bed happy and exhausted, although it wasn’t even 9pm. That’s not the first time it’s happened here, though–that seems to be the trend.

And today, Monday, Chris and I spent the morning at Honeycomb Valley Farm, and boy do I have pictures for that! I hope to WWOOF there later this year, or early next. Great work they’ve got out there, very committed to sustainability and alternative thinking.

IMG_20150615_101741_949Australia’s largest solar oven! SUPER COOL.

IMG_20150615_101917_990Solar dehydrator, through which they turn their citrus scraps into firelighters. I didn’t ask about beef jerky, though I really really wanted to. Sometimes I can restrain myself.

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IMG_20150615_104017_137Native stingless bee hive!

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This is a native stingless bee, which is super tiny and often mistaken for a flying ant. (Ed. note: WordPress doesn’t recognize the word “ant,” it thinks I mean “aunt.” I am a flying aunt. The picture above is neither a flying ant nor aunt.) These guys build spiral hives, and only produce about 1kg of honey per year. Because it’s hard to harvest and the yield is so low, Honeycomb Valley sells it for $60/jar. Fortunately for me, they also sell it by the Tiny Drop and Teaspoon ($1 and $5, respectively). I shared a teaspoon with Chris and it was marvelous. It’s called Sugarbag honey, and with good reason– very sweet, very light, very tempting to drop the dough on it. Instead I bought a sampler of three honeys and a mustard, and a surprise gift for Chris that I’m not going to tell her about until I leave Friday morning. I already mentioned it to Graham, and he’s keeping it secret too. She’s going to like it, I think, though she doesn’t like me spending money on them, which I find unfair. Anyway, I’m sure she doesn’t read this, so it doesn’t matter that I mention it here.

IMG_20150615_104329_259Wormtropolis, made of PVC pipes leftover from building and compost.

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The farm had a number of different gardens set up, to demonstrate the different plants that can be used for different purposes. There was a Tea Garden, a Bathroom Garden, an Aromatherapy Garden, and more. All of the gardens, and indeed the whole farm, was planted with things that were pleasing to bees– and edible to both humans and animals. In addition to bees, they keep chooks (at least three different breeds), cattle (miniature Galloways, which are fancy and adorable), goats, sheep (Dorper, which are silly looking, and the more classic-style sheep), horses, alpacas (doofy-looking like llamas, but actually useful and far more likeable) and some things that I’m no doubt forgetting. They take in a lot of rescue animals– one of their horses was found on a horseback-riding farm that had closed three years before after a tragic accident, and the owners just locked the gate and left. Of the dozen horses that were there, only three survived– and this was after his career as a (not very good) racehorse.

 

IMG_20150615_104923_537Big Buddha Belly bamboo, which pleases me greatly.

IMG_20150615_105054_686The caravan in the distance there isn’t for WWOOFers, it’s for a roving band of Hens on Holiday. They’ve ripped out the interior of a couple of caravans and turned them into roosts, so that they can move their chooks around the farm to dig up and fertilize different patches of land. This is an excellent, classy idea!

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IMG_20150615_110542_025More native-bee hives.

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Anyway, if you couldn’t guess from my saying so above, I really enjoyed Honeycomb Valley, and hope to see more of that place later.

Anyway, it’s lunch time now, and I ought to get next door for the eating! Pictures soon. (For those interested, lunch was a delicious spaghetti dish made from all the fresh-but-leftover things Chris had in the fridge. I’ve eaten far too much since Sunday night.)

It was an incredibly busy week, and even more socially-busy weekend, but I’m excited about the next few days. I move on to Adelaide on Friday– Tansley Farm e-mailed today to say that a ewe might be lambing while I’m there, so extra excitement is in store!

After having updated all this, I realize I probably, really, should have either just made a new post or waited to post the old one, but it’s too late now! Besides, I don’t think anyone’s eagerly anticipating these updates, so they’ll get read when they get read. Future readers, please forgive the superfluous use of formatting! I really just do all this for myself.

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