It’s an ill wind that blows nobody any good.

It’s an ill wind that  blows nobody any good. Citrus stinkbug up-date

My friend down the road just emailed me to say that he had been doing just the same as me. Getting out there and squashing the citrus bugs, but unlike me, he has taken the precaution of wearing the rubber gloves. Unfortunately, although he wears glasses, one of the little buggers managed to give him a serious squirt in the eye from an oblique angle. He ended up in hospital. His eye all swollen and weeping. Unable to open it. The hospital said that the caustic juice had corroded the surface of his eye! Poor bugger!

I’ve never been squirted in the eye by these stinky little effers. I can only imagine how painful it is. But I have coped a little spray on my neck and face and it really burns the delicate parts of my skin that might be exposed. The most pain that I have suffered at the hands, or should I say butts, of these little squirty critters is when I had a cut on my fingers and the acidic juice get into the cut. You can’t wash it out fast enough and it never really goes away for hours.

I go about on my rounds of the citrus trees this morning, I only find 5 victims. However, I’m wearing rubber gloves and clear protective goggles this time. A lesson well learnt by my friend and passed on in a timely manner. I see that ants are completely immune to the caustic acid juices of the stink bugs. All of yesterdays corpses are covered in ants, being dissected and devoured. It’s an ill wind that  blows nobody any good!

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The Summer Vegetables have Arrived

In these last few dying days of the old year, the heat has set in and all the summer vegetables that were dawdling along last month, are now racing in the heat and we have to water the garden every day. We had our first red tomato before the Solstice, as well as  beans, zucchinis and our first aubergines. There are lettuces shooting up, along with the radishes, mesclun greens and rocket. We have enjoyed the first meal of pan-fried, stuffed, zucchini flowers. It’s a rich and varied, fresh and crisp menu these days, with plenty of garlic, chilli and sweet basil. Roll on the summer days of veggie stir fries, BBQ’s and salads. Not to mention our blueberries, blackberries, golden berries, peaches and apricots for our breakfast fruit salads, all given a little bit of a lift with a squeeze of lime juice.

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Citrus Stink Bugs Move In

The weather is hot and the insects are very active. There are termites swarming in the evenings. Suddenly, I realise that the citrus stink bugs have moved in. Usually, they come in small numbers and are green. They slowly change over a week or two to a copper colour. Then finally to a shiny black. This is when they are sexually mature and start to breed. I hadn’t noticed them in the lead up as I might usually do. I guess that I’ve been too busy lately. I’ve been watering the citrus trees, but I didn’t notice them.

Now that I have noticed them, I start to crush them with my fingers. There are lots of ways to deal with them, but quickly reaching in to the foliage and crushing them between the fingers is the fastest and most effective. I have a 98% hit rate. Very few are fast enough to get away. If they do, they don’t go far and usually land on another branch where I track them down and finish them off.

If i don’t deal with them, they will breed up and eventually suck all the juices out of the new growth, killing it. Also sucking  the life out of the small fruit, until it drops of. So, with all the new growth dead and all the small fruit gone. this sets the tree back a whole year. Left unchecked, it’s a disaster that means hardly any fruit and an stunted tree.

I finish off every bug that I can see. So much so that my hands turn yellow with the acrid juices that the bugs spray out as some sort of protection. I have to be careful to keep my eyes clear, so as not to get sprayed in the eye. My hands are quite stained and they stink, but the job is mostly done. I will now return every day to the citrus grove to clean up any strays that I might have missed. I get 100 or so the first day and maybe another 30 or so the next. I don’t like killing things, but this is a case of defending my food supply. I can’t get them all, there will be some that get away and go on to breed, so that there is always another generation every year.

The second day I take out another 20 or so more. This time, I take the precaution of wearing rubber gloves. I’m not too sure what long term effect this caustic stink bug juice will have on my skin. It certainly smells awful!

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How Many Potters Does it Take to Change a Light Bulb?

How many potters does it take to change a light bulb?

The answer is, only one. But it takes about one hour and lots of frustration. Actually it just took me over 2 hrs, because I couldn’t believe that such a simple job could be designed to be made to be so difficult and monumentally stupid by a car designer, so I spent an hour on the internet looking up what other people had done to solve the problem.

The problem is that the low beam head light bulb on our car wore out after ten years of use. I have no problem with this. It’s the first thing to have worn out on the car. A Mitsubishi Colt hatchback. It’s been a really good, reliable, fuel efficient, little car. Changing it should be simple. The light bulb can just be twisted and pulled out and unplugged. A new one plugged in and twisted back into the socket, BUT and its a BIG BUT. You can’t reach the back of the head light with your hand. It’s been designed to be located into such a cramped space, that access to the back of the light is not possible from the open bonnet.

The owners manual makes light of this. Just rotate the steering wheel in the opposite direction to make space in the wheel well, remove the liner and replace the bulb as shown in the illustration. It sounds so easy – just do it. The only problem is that it isn’t. It isn’t easy at all! When you get down to it, it is a lot more involved. So I read it up on the web. And yes, it is a lot more involved. Very much more.

One mechanic wrote that it is much quicker and easier to remove the entire front of the car. Front bumper and other fittings , then take out the entire headlight enclosure. It is so simple to swap the bulb once you have the entire fitting in your hands! He claimed that it only took him 1 hr! I doubt that, unless you do it all the time and are used to it.

I decided to follow the manual instructions, and go in the back way, through the wheel arch. Using the added advice from the web chat line and the 15 minute video of high lights on You Tube. I like watching highlights! It’s my favourite way to take in the Boxing day cricket test match too!

So, this is what you have to do. You have to jack the car up on one side, as it is too low and cramped to get in there if you don’t. Good advice from the web. Remove the front tire. remove the wheel arch liner, or at least most of it – about 3/4. This involves snapping off he plastic rivets that hold it in. These all need to be replaced, but the manual doesn’t tell you that. I’m a careful sort of guy and take my time with these things, but I could only manage to salvage one of the plastic gadgets for reuse. It doesn’t help that you have to lay on your back, in a very uncomfortable position, in a restricted space, with all the years of accumulated dirt and sand dropping in your eyes while you work.

Next, you peel back the liner and twist it out-of-the-way. Finally you get to see the back of the head light fitting, but you can only manage to fit one hand up there in the narrow gap.

You simply have to release a wire clip, by twisting lowering and pulling. Simple on the kitchen table, using two hands. But not so easy in the dark, up in the small cramped space allocated. I say in the dark, because when you insert your hand up there, it blocks out almost all of your vision, so the operation has to be done by Braille. Oh! And the other thing that I forgot to mention, is that you are not allowed to touch the light globe with your hands! You must always hold it by the mounting socket only, or it will explode!

I finally get the old unit released so that the fitting can hang down on its connecting wires, to where I can get two hands onto it. I have to wear plastic gloves at this point, to avoid touching the bulb. I swap it over, but it won’t go back in to where it just came out of. It sort of goes in but the wire clip won’t go back into place to secure it. I manage to tear holes in 3 rubber gloves trying to manage this. I decide that there must be a left and right, or up and down option for plugging the bulb into the socket, but it is too dark to see if there is and the wires aren’t long enough to bring it into view. I just take it all apart and try again in reverse. Non of this is mentioned in the manual or on the webinar.

This does work however, I swap my thin sensitive rubber gloves that I can feel through, for a pair of thicker, plastic, work gloves that are clumsy but more robust, and by now I know what I ought to be feeling/sensing through the gloves. The bulb goes in, the mounting eventually goes back in, and the clip finally gets secured. I replace the wheel arch liner with the one remaining good plastic rivet. I can’t drive anywhere in the car like this. So then I hop in my truck and drive down to Mittagong to get a packet of new plastic clips/rivets, but they only come in blister packs off 3! So I have to buy a dozen in 4 boxes. All unnecessary land fill.

I replace everything as it should be, refit the tyre and lower the car back down. It costs as much for the plastic rivets as it does for the bulb. But most of all, I have just wasted 2 hours of my life that I will never get back, and had to drive 100 kms! Someone once told me that the garage charged an embarrassing amount to replace a blown bulb. Based on this experience I can understand why.

Maybe next time, I’ll try dismantling the front of the car and go in that way? At least I’ll be standing upright! There is bound to be a next time, as the car is now 10 years old and the other side bulbs will be getting old too. At least I’ll know what to expect. I’ll buy all the plastic clips as well along with the bulbs. I console my self with the knowledge that I’ve just saved myself a few hundred dollars. This car has never been to a garage to be worked on. I’ve managed to keep it all tidy and well serviced for all these years. It’s all just a tiny part of being self-reliant and living frugally.

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The First Ripe Tomato Before Xmas

We have just picked our first ripe tomato before Xmas. This was never possible when we came to live here 40 years ago, but now, with global warming, we have been able to do it for the last 3 or 4 years in a row.

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We have a nice crop of red cabbage coming along just now, so it’s time to make a batch of pickled red cabbage. I slice it finely and remove all the coarse bits to be fed to the worms. Then place it in a big bowl and pour over some brine. This is the standard 1 cup of salt to 2 litres of water. This is a pretty saturated solution. It’s just about as much salt as cold water can dissolve. It’s left to stand over night with a weight on top to compress. It soon drops down and is submerged in the brine. In the morning I pour off the brine and rinse it once on cold water, then pack the cabbage into sterilised jars. I prepare a batch of pickling vinegar, by heating up standard white wine vinegar with all the usual spices and a spoon full of sugar. This is poured over the cabbage and the lids sealed down. It couldn’t be simpler.

I want the cabbage to remain crunchy for use in salads, so I don’t cook it. It’ll need to be kept in the fridge for safe keeping.

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A good job well done

Last week, I delivered the latest kiln to its new home at the Sturt Pottery in Mittagong. Fortunately, everything went as it should, no drunks coming along to ‘help’. No neighbours off their ‘meds’, no visits from the police. Everything went just as it should.

I loaded the kiln on my truck and delivered it to the site. Dave turned up and met me there with his big crane truck, That crane is just the most amazing piece of technology. Every ten years, when Dave replaces his truck, he gets a new crane and it gets bigger and bigger each time. This one is so powerful that he doesn’t even have to turn the truck around to get the crane closer. It reaches right over the truck and lifts the kiln into position perfectly and without effort – but not without cost!

Dave is fitting me into his busy Xmas schedule, between other loads that he has booked in for the day.  The old kiln was moved out and the new one lifted off my truck and onto the lifter trolley. While we push the kiln into position, Dave packs up his crane and it is all over in 30 mins. Just as it should.

A big think you to Mark, Simon and Dave for all doing their essential parts. The kiln now has a new home for many years to come.

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Get your Claus of me

It’s that time of year again and the Village is having its Xmas party for the residents and the emphasis is on the children as always. That’s what Xmas is all about.

It’s my turn to be Santa again this year. This job is rotated around all the fathers about once a decade. This is my third turn. The first time, Santa turned up in a horse and cart. The next I was delivered in the Village Toyota Land Cruiser Ute from the fire shed. This year I’m in the big, shiny new, all wheel drive, 10 tonne tanker, fire trick. I arrive with sirens blazing and lights flashing.

It’s funny that they choose a Bah Humbug person like me to be Santa, but every other compliant father has already done it a couple of times too, so It’s my turn again. I remember the first or second time that I did it. I was wearing hand painted pink sand shoes that were visible from under the long red pants. My little son spotted them and the Jig was up, the game was over. Santa was really his Dad in disguise. Word soon spread through the kiddies in his milieu , that’s Geordie’s Dad under there. Look at the shoes!

Geordie is now in his 30’s, so no one will recognise me this time. I don’t know many of these little toddlers. My job is to turn up in the truck, say “Ho, Ho, Ho” and “Merry Xmas”, “Have you been good?” etcetera, etcetera. I hand out the presents and a bag of lollies each. Pink parcels for the girls and blue wrapped presents for the boys. It all goes off smoothly and my civic Santa duty is over for another year or two – or ten. Someone else’s turn next year.

Once all the kiddies have their presents and are gorging themselves on the lollies. I’m asked  to stay and sit for the photo shoot. I do, and this lovely grown-up girl comes and sits on my lap. I put my arm around her and she tells me to “get your Claus off me”.

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