Thursday, May 28

Test and Meaure or Jump in the Deep End.

When I raised the idea of having Cheesemaking classes at the Historical Village, I had no idea if they would be popular.  Still, I figured we could try and see.  So I found someone qualified to do an introductory course, advertised on Facebook, the local paper, our website and local papers.

I recall on the Monday (9 days from the course date)  we had only two people booked and I started to get a bit freaked out.  Would it be a failure?

The next day I was advised we had 18 people booked and paid - phew.  At least we wouldn't make a loss.  Then it all went berserk.  We closed the bookings with enough for at least two more classes.  And still the calls and emails came to try and register.  They are still coming.

As it was the first one, and we had not met the lady doing the course, we were a little bit uneasy.  As it turns out she was late - at least according to us - there had been some confusion around the time, and her GPS sent her on a merry journey - which was not so merry as she was in a hurry!!

By the time she arrived the attendees were all sitting waiting, so she had to rush to set up.  We had tea, coffee etc, and it took a few rushed minutes to get organised.

The class was good - in fact all the feedback I had was positive - though a couple of negative comments (the hall was too hot?  What?  Some thought it cold!)

At the beginning, and thankfully I was outside, I had a call from someone who had just turned up, knowing the class was fully booked but just hoping we would let her in.  I refused her admission.  Really, if you start doing that ....................... and we already had overbooked.

The first time you do anything is always taxing.  We learned several things at the first class.  One is that we need two volunteers, as there is always something to do and just one was not enough.

We have booked three more classes - and decided to move the venue to another room.  Some folk had trouble hearing as the noisy trains pass close by the Stanmore Hall.    I have a list of things that I will do differently next time.

Next time in less than three weeks.

Today I got out my Mad Millie Cheese Kit.   A mouse I think has been trying to get into it.  I thought I killed the beast, but perhaps he had attached my cheese kit before his death.

Will have to sort out some new bits and pieces and perhaps today I will make some Marscapone.  Sounds good to me.

Sunday, May 24

Next time I will get an ambulance, I promise!

 Do I need an ambulance?  Well, yes, no, maybe.  I still hold the record for being the only member of the family who has not been carted to hospital in a ambulance, and in some ways I regret not having the experience.  But let me explain.
Last Friday night, as I lay in bed watching television, my heart went “berserk”.  I could feel it pumping and behaving like I had a manic frog in my chest.  I tested my pulse rate.  Mmmm.  Racing. Irregular.

I waited a while before leaving my bed to find my blood pressure machine.  Blood pressure within normal limits.  “Pulse error”.  I tested it every few minutes and recorded it in my phone.   The B/P machine also sounds the pulse – so I recorded the sounds.  Scary.  Missing beats.  I phoned the Health Hotline and was told to go to hospital.  I leapt out of bed, dressed quickly, packed a small back of things I might need.

Should I call an ambulance?  It was midnight. 
I envisaged an ambulance turning up with lights flashing, alerting all the neighbours to something going on in my house, waking some, and then endeavouring to transport me down the very sloping driveway. 

I climbed into my car and without turning on my lights, quietly drove down the driveway into the street, turned the lights on, and set off to the hospital about 15 kms away, promising myself that I would stop, and dial 000 if I should feel unwell on the drive to the Caboolture Hospital.

At Beachmere, there had been an accident.  I passed the police and ambulance with flashing lights attending an incident near the shopping centre.  I kept going.

The roads were quiet and I passed few vehicles, arriving and parking in the “short term” carpark, before finding my way into the Emergency Department.  I waited about 10 minutes as there was someone being assessed.  She was the victim of domestic violence.  A man had tried to kill her.  I waited.

When it was my turn, I sat and gave my details with my finger in a pulse machine.  Within seconds I was told to go to the door, push it and enter the ED.  I was met on the other side by a nurse who rushed me to a cubicle, told me to put a white gown on.  As I sat on the bed, a nurse came to me and asked further questions, and attached me to an ECG machine.  Then it all went busy. People came and went, I was attached to another machine (assessing my pulse and blood pressure) an intravenous cannula was inserted, and IV fluids pumped into me.

Meanwhile, I could see and hear the events unfolding in the ED.  It was a busy night.  There had been a death, the police appeared, and people, nurses, doctors, ambos, police and other people rushed back and forth.  Often pushing machines or people on stretchers. 

I was asked at one stage how I came to hospital as there was no one with me.  “I drove” I replied.  A disapproving frown appeared on the face of my inquisitor. .  “From Beachmere?”  “Yes. ” Deeper frown.  “Next time, get an ambulance!”  The disapproving frown appeared on my face.  

I did not feel unwell.  I did not feel dizzy, there was no pain, and I felt fine. Just had a “jumpy” heart.  The nurses found it hard to believe, but it was true.  The “jumpy” heart persisted.
Other medication was inserted into my vein. Another drug was pushed into me with the intravenous fluid.  I became friendly with the commode!!  They pushed so much fluid into me, it had to get out somehow.  It was not easy getting to the commode with all the tubes attached to me – and sometimes they would fall out and the monitor would scream.

The doctor came several times and explained my diagnosis and treatment plan.  They might have to give me an electric shock to make my heart beat normally.  I was to be admitted.  No, I would not be going home.  “My car is in the short term car park” I advised.  “Don’t worry about that.” They advised.

By six am the night staff were preparing for their end of shift, and by 6.30 am the doctor appeared again, as it turned out, seconds after my heart beat returned to regular.  He stood watching the machine for a few seconds, before announcing.  “All’s well.  You can go home.  Do you have someone to take you home?” 

 “No, but my car is in the car park.”   I was allowed to drive myself home, but with a slight look of disapproval by he who must be obeyed in the ED!

I was given a pack of papers for my GP.  I could not give them the name of my GP – as the one I had recently attended had resigned.  I knew no other GP in the practice.  That I will have to change this week, as I must go for more advice, treatment etc.

I grabbed my things, the papers and after they had removed all the tubes from me, I left, still bearing the “scars” – little sticky bits all over me where the tubes were attached.

Sleep had not been possible at the hospital, so when I arrived home, I had a quick half breakfast and despite it being broad daylight, I slept for a few hours.

Later, I spoke to my neighbour.  I wondered if she had heard me leave at midnight. I had planned to tell her that a rich, handsome man had contacted me online and offered me a night of glamour, debauchery, and fun, so I had left home at midnight to experience this wonderful offer.  I started with the story, but she had not heard me go.  We laughed and I had to tell her the truth.  

Again more frowns, and disapproval that I didn’t call an ambulance, or call her.

Next time, if there is one, I promise I will call the ambulance.

Friday, May 22

Stone Walls

One of my favourite things to do on a Sunday if I am at home is to watch ABC program Landline.  There is so much fascinating information about the goings on in the agricultural communities around Australia.  The program has been going since 1992.

Last week there was a fascinating story about the stone walls around Australia.  They have always fascinated me - though I don't think I have been close to any really, but as I am aware of many.  It was interesting to see the way they are put together, and get some understanding as to how they have stood the test of time and manage to continue to be useful fences.

In many parts of Australia there are plenty of rocks on the land - so not only was it an opportunity to clear the land to make it more useful for cropping but also provided the material for fencing - and in the early days of Australia there was a lot of fencing needed!!

I know that in other countries around the world stone walls are part of the scenery - particularly in the UK, and I know when I drove around Ireland there were many to be seen.

(From ABC website)

The program discussed with the author of a book about dry stone walls, Bruce Munday who has done some amazing research on dry stone walls for his book.   There was a very interesting story about a drystone walled fish trap created by an aboriginal tribe to catch fish.

There is also a Drystone Wall Association - visit their website here.

The whole program is here.

Monday, May 18

What to Take on a Solo Drive Around Australia

When I did my journey around Australia in 2012/2013 I did a lot of planning in the weeks before I left - trying to get my head around all the places I would visit and all the things I would need.  I didn't know where I might stay, so I took camping gear, and I knew I would be away for up to 6 months so I had lists and more lists before I left.

Camping Gear

  • Tent - I took a 5 man tent with floor.  (I am tall and with a "delicate" back I didn't want to have to be bending down all the time.)  The only time the tent has been out of its bag is when I practiced on how to erect it before I left!!
  • Fold up chair - used on many occasions.
  • An inflatable bed - still unused
  • A sleeping bag - still unused
  • A small folding table - used occasionally
Safety Gear
  • First Aid Kit - still unused
  • Tow Rope - still unused
  • Fire Extinguisher - still unused
  • Two way radio - only used to practice and listen to truckies on some occasions
  • Cooler bag with three ice blocks that I froze at night
  • Water 
  • Biscuits, nuts, dried fruit, non-perishable foods, muesli,
  • Meal replacement shakes
  • Shaker
  • Cups, plates, picnic cutlery
  • Cans chicken, fish, 
Camera Gear
  • Cameras
  • Cables
  • Tripod
  • Laptop
  • Dongle for Internet Access
  • Printer (yes!!)
  • Data projector
  • Projector screen
  • Various cables
  • CD's for Music
  • USB for downloading podcasts
  • Mobile phone
  • In car camera
  • GPS - in car
  • Summer and winter clothes as I would need both
  • Sneakers
  • Casual summer gear
  • Hats
  • One larger suitcase for storing clothes
  • Small overnight bag
  • Blankets  (hate being cold)
  • My favourite pillow
  • My personal details - next of kin etc in the glovebox
  • Car insurance details

I remember looking at the piles of items I had collected to take - and wondering if it would all fit in my Mitsubishi Lancer - NOT the biggest car!!!

I had been given a gas cooking thing, but I was concerned about taking bottles of gas in the car (in the very hot Australian outback I feared it would explode!)  I was able to cook on camp BBQ's etc.

Some days before I left, I loaded up the car, working out how best to pack the car.   The data projector and laptop went behind the front seats, and everything else fitted in neatly.  I only had to re-arrange once, when I considered another slightly different option.

In the weeks before I left I got "cold feet".  I wondered if I had not been stupid and overly confident to choose to do such a crazy thing.  If anybody "warned" me of the dangers I put on a brave front and ignored the warnings.   Inside though I stressed.  So many "What if....?" scenarios ran through my mind, and sleep was difficult.  But I was NOT going to back down.

One of the options I had was to drive to Adelaide, and then return home to Brisbane if I felt overwhelmed by what I had set out to do.  It didn't happen.  I kept on going!!!

This photo was taken at Port Germein - South Australia.

Sunday, May 17

Elora Hardy on TED talking about Green Village.

When I checked my email this morning there was an update from TED Talks.  It so thrilled me.  

Why, you may ask?  In January 2012 I flew to Bali to do some research on Bamboo.  I had a 20,000-word assignment for university (I was doing my Masters in Writing at Swinburne University) to complete by the end of the month.

I had initially intended to submit another piece of writing, about my life in China, but finding that a colleague was doing a similar project (We both taught English in China) I suddenly switched to a project on Bamboo, and after reading all the books I could lay my hands on at the time and visiting bamboo properties around Queensland, I felt compelled to seem information further afield.  Bali it was!

In my online research, I found out as much as I could about  Bali and bamboo, and it was then that I discovered The Green Village, just out of Ubud and I made contact with someone there and arranged to visit them.

I stayed in Legian the first couple of nights, and then on my way to Ubud for the last few nights, I asked my driver and tour guide about going to The Green Village.  They did not know about it, but decided it was easy to get to.  As it turns out it was not that easy, but we did eventually get there and they were both gobsmacked. So I asked if they took could tour with me, which happened especially as my tour guide had previously worked with the fellow that was to show us around!  Sadly I was not permitted to take photos.

It was while I was at Ubud that I learned about TED Talks, from a man from Holland.  Subsequently I became a great fan of TED Talks, and have even attended on of their events.  
It was on the TED website that I learned about John Hardy and his Green School, which sadly I did not see as it was school holidays when I was in Bali.

As well as visiting The Green Village, I was taken to several bamboo factories and bamboo forests and on return to Australia completed and submitted my assignment.  I am glad to report that it was well received and I did graduate!!

So what excited me this morning?  In the email was a link to a recent TED Talk - Elora Hardy, daughter of John Hardy, was talking about bamboo and The Green Village.  Oh, how I wish we could do something like this in Australia.

The Elora Hardy talk was done in May 2015, but the TED Talk with her father was done a few years ago.

Saturday, May 16

Across the Nullarbor

Nullarbor???  First of all, let me explain what the Nullarbor is.  The name is derived from Latin - no trees.  Essentially it is a stretch of land in South Australia and Western Australia at the very south of the land, "overlooking" the Great Australian Bight.  It is usually referred to as the Nullarbor Plain.

From Wikipedia

"The Nullarbor Plain  - Latin: nullus, "no", and arbor, "tree") is part of the area of flat almost treeles arid or semi-arid country of southern Australia, located on the Great Australian Bight coast with the Great Victoria Desert to its north.  It is the world's largest single exposure of limestone bedrock and occupies an area of about 200,000 square kilometers (77,00 sq mi).   At its widest point, it stretches about 1,100 kilometres (684 mi) from east to west across the border between South Australia and Western Australia."

It is often spoke of as inhabitable and in the early days of Australia's history it was only the indigenous peoples that roamed that part of Australia, but in the 1800's various explorers set out to see if one could travel from east to west along the Nullarbor.  The first one was Edward John Eyre, after whom the highway was named.  If you visit the Nullarbor Plain you will wonder in amazement at the feat of doing this in 1840! You can read about it here. 

I have traversed the Nullarbor on four occasions.  One was in 1960 when I attended an International Guide Camp, just out of Perth, Western Australia.  I travelled with a large group of girls to the camp, and I can recall we looked out of the windows of the train, the Indian Pacific Train, and saw flat treeless land in all directions.  The train line is somewhat north of the Great Australian Bight and it was quite an adventure to see the small settlements along the railway line.  On the first journey it was a return journey - we travelled back to Adelaide via the Indian Pacific (so named because the train travels from the Pacific Ocean to the Indian Ocean.)

In 1962 I went with a friend to the British Empire and Commonwealth Games in Perth, and we travelled to Perth by plane, and returned on the Indian Pacific Train.  It was a long time ago, and apart from similar memories of the treeless desert, there is not much that I recall.

In 2012, in January, I travelled again across the Nullarbor but this time on my own, in my car.  When I tell of my adventures, people are amazed that I did it alone in my car - not a 4WD but a Mitsubishi Lancer 2011 model.  (I might add that I virtually circumnavigated Australia in it - and had no car trouble at all!)

The Nullarbor???!!!  "You drove across the Nullarbor???" people ask in amazement?   Wasn't it boring?  Is there ANYTHING to see?  Well, first up, might I say that I never got bored nor did I find that there was nothing to see - in my whole 35,000 plus drive.  It did help that I had arranged for good music and podcast programs on CD and USB sticks, to play to keep me alert, and I used to put on great singing CD's when I wanted to be stimulated.  I can "dance" and sing loudly on my own in the car and it certainly gets the endorphins going!  I also had my camera.  My Canon SLR.    I stopped for photos regularly and the Nullarbor was no exception.

The road across the Nullabor is sealed and good to drive on,   The Eyre Highway goes from Port Augusta to Norseman, a distance of 1675  kms.    While I did drive through Port Augusta, I travelled south to Port Lincoln, before following the coast road.

What I did do, that apparently not others do, is drove left every now and then on little tracks that took me (safely) towards the cliffs of the Great Australian Bight.  I met up with fellow travellers along the way, and they would often complain about the boredom of the trip, but they did nothing but drive, drive, drive.  I stopped often to explore the scenery, or take photos.  I thought the trip was awesome.

At one place I found a short walk to a well that was dug by Edward John Eyre and his team to get water.  There were places where extraordinary history was recorded, including a shipwreck where several fishermen died in the sea.

Above two photos were taken at the Head of Bight.

Eucla - the remains of the jetty where ships docked to deliver provisions to the Eucla Telegraph Station.

You might want to watch the video below.  It will give you some idea of the geography of the area.

Other great photography here. 

My best advice is to take time and explore the wonders of the Nullarbor Plain.  It certainly is NOT boring, but I could see that you could describe it that way if you had no time to slow down and see everything.

Saturday, May 9


Queensland is one of the states of Australia that is prone to dramatic weather events.  Cyclones in the summer/cyclone season are common, usually causing damage in the northern regions of the state with dramatic weather with wind and rain that can almost wipe out some towns.

Cyclone Marcia did a lot of damage to towns around Yeppoon and Rockhampton in February this year.   Many areas south and west of the area also received heavy damage due to the rain - so flood damage there.

This is at a time when further west of the state they are in a dramatic drought - some places have hardly seen rain for three years or more!

Last week (May 1st) another weather event caused a lot of damage in the area where I live and work (volunteer), and luckily I "missed" it all.  When I knew that there was to be such a storm with heavy rains I cancelled my arrangements and stayed safe at home.  I know that if  I leave the little "village" of Beachmere, the chances of getting safely home are almost nil, as the Caboolture River usually floods on the road that goes to Beachmere.  As it did.

The rains came - it bucketed down, and I watched in awe from the safety of my home as gutters overflowed, drains backed up, and the road was covered with water.

I spent the day listening to the drama on the radio, and on Facebook and other Internet sites.  The roads were blocked, flooded everywhere.  Trains and buses stopped, and late in the day school children and workers endeavoured to get home on one of the most treacherous of nights!

Five people died.  All endeavouring to get home through flood waters.  I understand some may have even driven past "road closed" signs.  I know how easy it can be, especially for males, to think that they know their car, the road, etc and they will be safe.  The drivers of three of those cars were male.

I've spoken to folk who did risk it - and luckily did make it home safely, with their hearts pounding in their chest realising the risk that they took, especially when they heard about those who did not make it home safely.

We have a mantra - "If it is flooded, forget it" - but so many ignored that warning.  I found the video below which was filmed on that very day, which shows how the road might "look safe" but in reality it is breaking up below the water.  Luckily no one was travelling on this road at the time.

It doesn't take much imagination to understand how easily someone would have caused major damage to their car and risked their lives travelling on this road.

If it is flooded, forget it.