75. Brown Bread – Journal Entry 8th Sep 1981

While feeding the chooks, I noticed a duck trying to eat a large green frog that I had killed last night. It was rather mangled and had been dragged around in the chook shit. The carcass was too large to swallow whole and the duck wasn’t getting anything off the frog. I tried to pull a limb off but it was surprisingly hard to casually pull off a leg. I left it, not willing to try harder.

I was still in the chicken pen when Les drove up to see mum. Joan and Sue arrived behind him to pick up Monika and Nathaniel. I watched mum shyly introduce Les to Joan and Sue. Mum and Les are now admiring mum’s flowers. There aren’t many but they’re hers and she’s proud of them. They are having coffee now. I had a quick chat to find out whether Les liked the boiled fruit cake so I could make him a reasonable exchange for his strawberries, enough for Johnny to make another batch of jam. Mum seems to be making an effort to get to know Les better and they seem quite happy together.

Would love to write and tell the folks back home that mum is having an affair! Actually I don’t think it would surprise them, even though mum has not done this before. I don’t think her capacity for such action is in doubt. She told me today that she didn’t have to be asked twice and seems very much in the air, absent-minded, giggly and thinking of snatches of romantic songs to express how she feels.

This is a queer position for Johnny and I, being all mature and responsible. We advised her not to get serious and worried about details but to get to know Les better and enjoy the relationship. There are certainly problems, if one cared to look further than the next few months. Would mum want to spend more days at his house? What would the mentally retarded daughter have to say about the new relationship? Would she welcome it or will it be a great loss to her? Mum has been Barbara’s closest companion until now. Why is Les pressing mum to spend the night with him at his daughter’s house?

Yesterday was the first cooking day of the season and I wonder if it is worth having a baking day; can one afford to spend a whole day cooking?

Made five loaves of brown bread, the evening meal, beef goulash for Wednesday, a pot of beans for Monika, a pot of beans for salad, lots of hot water for coffee and tea, three boiled fruit cakes, two chocolate chip cakes, a tray of buns and two small loaves of fruit bread. We lit the gas stove for the cakes and used the wood stove for the rest.

If planned properly, we could make savings of time and fuel by cooking more evening meals to freeze, making plain and sweet bread, storing cakes in the cupboard for immediate consumption and cooking beans or dishes that need long cooking times. Some things could be prepared the night before and we could start early in the morning. Dishes should be washed and tidied as one goes along or else there’s a lot of work at the end of baking.

Brown Bread Recipe (3 loaves)

Ingredients:
9 cups wholemeal flour (3 lbs)
1 dessert spoon of dried yeast (1 oz) or ½ oz fresh baker’s yeast
1 heaped Tbsp milk powder
3 tsp salt
3 cups water (1½ pints)
1 Tbsp oil

Please note, these measurements are approximate and with practice you will get the right feel for the dough. For instance, the water might be too much or too little for the flour you use, the main thing is that the dough should not stick too much to your fingers when kneading.

1st Stage

Take 7 cups of the flour, the yeast, milk powder and water and mix to a sloppy dough.
Cover and leave overnight.
This stage ensures a strong and elastic bread. If it is not convenient to keep the dough overnight at least let it stand for a minimum of 4 hours.

2nd Stage

Put in the salt, the rest of the flour and a tablespoon of oil or fat and knead to a smooth dough. When smooth, continue kneading for 5 to 7 minutes. The dough may need more flour if it is too sticky. You can add 2 teaspoons of treacle, molasses or sugar if you wish.
Cover the dough with a sheet of plastic to keep the moisture and warmth in the dough.
Leave for an hour or until the dough has doubled in size.

3rd Stage

Knead dough for 10 minutes and shape into 3 loaves, put into greased tins (cake tins are fine but loaf tins preferred).
Cover with plastic and leave for 1 hour or until the dough rises to the top of the tin.

4th Stage

Bake in a hot oven 225 degrees Celsius for 10 minutes and then turn the heat down to 200 degrees Celsius and continue baking for 60 minutes.
Take the bread out of the tins and cool on wire stands.

Notes

  1. There is no need to keep the dough warm or to heat the water for the bread. Remember, use a plastic sheet to cover the dough and keep the bread bowl out of draughts. For a lighter bread, substitute a few cups of plain baker’s flour say 7 cups wholemeal and 2 cups plain flour.
  2. Elizabeth David’s book English Bread and Yeast Cooking is an excellent manual to own, and interesting to read even if you don’t use her recipes.
  3. Bread freezes well and if you put a frozen loaf into the fridge the night before, you’ll have fresh bread in the morning. This means you only have to bake once a week if you are willing to make a big batch in one go.
  4. You may increase the flour without increasing the quantity of yeast used because leaving the dough overnight will increase the yeast.

64. Carnage, Dog vs Ducks – Journal Entry 26th Feb 1981

Made oatmeal crunchies for Nathaniel’s playgroup, with extra for the family, and a salad for my lunch. After a little bit of tidying, I took Monika and Nathaniel to Yeppoon and then called on Linda. The Rover was spluttering somewhat, so I looked under the bonnet but couldn’t locate any obvious defect. Had coffee with Linda and we talked about being in our forties, feeling inadequate and frustrated, feeling one has missed the boat and wondering about one’s marriage. We discussed what skills to acquire, at this late age, in order to earn a living.

Made a chilli and coriander omelette for lunch with cold duck, brown bread, carrot salad and cider, put everything onto a tray, and ate outside at the barbecue table. After I had coffee in the kitchen and talked to mum, I managed to collect a few herbs and guava seedlings.

On the way to pick up Monika and Nathaniel, the Rover came to a standstill outside the Island View Caravan Park. After cleaning two spark plugs, I was able to drive off proudly.

When I returned, the family were back from school and work, so I read for a while and then made noodles and liver for dinner.

Johnny rang to say the moke was not back from the garage; he suggested I drive the Rover in the daylight to Rocky so I wouldn’t have to worry about its faulty light switches. Managed to get to CIAE to pick up Johnny, the Rover only “coughed” once or twice. The light, although brighter than twilight, was strange and heartbreaking and the countryside looked bright green. After the rains, Cawarral Road was lined on both sides with tall grass with delicate blades.

27th Feb 1981

A cyclone is heading for the coast, 300 km north of us. The rain is already falling steadily and the wind is very gusty; our chooks and ducks are drenched. The chickens must feel miserable in this weather without adequate dry housing.

11th Apr 1981

Poor mum cried when she saw the carnage in the duck pen. We lost eight ducks, many ducklings and two young Australorps. Another duck carcass was found inside the shed. Later I found a young injured drake that had tried to escape, caught between a sheet of iron and the wire fence. It had managed to stay alive, hiding from the dog that mauled its leg. Marcello’s ducks were safe and another young duck and some of our ducklings crept out of the bushes later that day. However, the next day, the rogue dog, a blue heeler, returned to Marcello’s pen, chasing his bantams around with great leaps. Dusty, our own dog, was encouraging it and, in fact, she nearly joined in the game! We found out who owned the dog and had permission to beat it (which I did) with a hose and a dead hen. Neither hurt the dog and it was glad to get away under a nearby caravan; I was upset and breathless from the effort. One of our other neighbours told me he had seen a few dogs over the weekend, one of them with a brown duck in its mouth.

It was so good to see Hamish. He called in for a visit with an American lass who was studying for a Master’s degree in Zoology at the University of Queensland. She told me the members of the Zoology Department’s Coffee Club owned a Jersey cow. They sold the surplus milk, far too much for their club, to the other department coffee clubs. They also had an egg cooperative, started by an adept member, who was told he could not exceed the limits of hens allowed for any one household. He consulted Legal Aid, then formed a cooperative and now looks after all the hens; the Egg Board can’t do anything about it.

“In true hegemonic style, the locally powerful were busy blaming their victims rather than themselves.” Colin Bell

KarenProfileCircle120Notes and Links

  • This journal entry is part of the My Mother’s Voice – Journal Series and based on the journals of my mother.
  • These posts are meant to be read in sequence and the Preamble post marks the beginning of the journal series. Refer to Archived on the Home page and scroll through to the bottom.

59. A Quarter Of Beef – Journal Entry 16th Oct 1980

Plan for Thursday: Do Stats and Cobol, iron Johnny’s clothes and make the dinner: blanquette de veau (veal tail), lots of veg and rice followed by stewed mulberries and guava.

5:30 am Woke up and stayed in bed reading the Cobol book, did exercises, washed and dressed, talked to Johnny over coffee.

When I went to the kitchen at 6:10 am with Johnny, Barbara wanted to make coffee after she had started eating her egg. Johnny had said no because she didn’t do it while waiting for her egg to cook and would run out of time. When Johnny left the table, Barbara asked me if she could have coffee. I pointed out that Johnny had said no and if Johnny had said no, it was a no from me also. Johnny came back and said to Barbara something like, “Are you being tricky again?”
“Johnny…” I warned and mum appeared to freeze. I tried to explain to Barbara that she should be better organised.
“She knows all that,” says Johnny.
“You know all that, Barbara? Why didn’t you say so?” I asked.
“My mouth was full,” she replied.

Johnny went and had a quiet talk with Barbara about her talking on the bus and involving other people in her problems. Barbara was very sulky when she returned to the kitchen.

Nathaniel came with us to the bus stop this morning, it was such a lovely morning and so good to be outside.

When I returned, mum wanted my help with putting the newly hatched ducklings and their mother into a coop. Fifteen bright yellow ducklings were strolling around the yard while crows and kookaburras watched and waited in the trees. Also, a pullet had disappeared recently and there were small gaps in the fence.

The coop took a while to repair as we had neglected to maintain any of the coops so far and the chicken wire had come away from the frame. Monika and I had a talk about how to regularly and systematically maintain the house and yard.

The ducklings were tiny, really tiny, and they hopped away when we tried to catch them. The mother moved away from us when we approach. She seemed nervous, so I put a screen around the coop to calm her. The ducklings huddled together around their mother. The fence proved to be more difficult and will take longer to fix. One side of the fence had no retaining wall and we’ll have to stack logs and rocks against it by hand.

11:00 am Did some Stats, had some lunch and talked to mum and Monika.

1:00 pm Read some Cobol on file processing. Johnny came home with a quarter of beef, half a sheep and groceries from Flashers. We cut up, weighed and bagged the meat after quickly putting away the groceries. Mum managed to extract nearly a kilo of meat scraps from the bones after cooking. The bones will go to the dog and chooks and the soup, after having the fat removed, will be mixed with flour and given to the ducks.

2:00 pm Made coffee, put veal tail on the stove, tried again to ring Graham, the psychologist, and did some writing. Dozed a little after reading more Cobol.

Seems I did very little work today but worked later on from 7:30 to 9:30 pm

17th Oct 1980

Did one hour of study in the morning; who knows what else I did?

20th Oct 1980

Don’t move away from the desk unless absolutely necessary!

Made Spaghetti Bolognese, took mum to the clinic and went to the Conference Centre.

24th Oct 1980

Funny day today: Nathaniel is sick; Gareth is on holiday and limping around; Barbara is at home because of a school holiday and no bus run; Johnny is on holiday and not able to get on with any solid piece of work because he has to take the family to Rocky this afternoon. He is also unwinding after a hectic and tense week of important meetings; I have a pain passing through my head, almost on its way out now.

I must sort out what jobs need to be done. First the cooking of mashed potatoes, vegetables, sausages and liver. Johnny is making a cake and doing the library trip so I really have lots of time to sort myself out, tidy the desk, make scribble pads and phone calls, write-up my involvement in the Ecumenical Conference and sort papers into files.

25th Oct 1980

Did a little Stats revision in the morning and evening and picked our tomatoes –  two small baskets full. Made the meat and bean goulash for Friday and stuffed a veal flap for tomorrow’s sandwich filling. Had liver and bacon for dinner. The liver was excellent.

KarenProfileCircle120Notes and Links

  • This journal entry is part of the My Mother’s Voice – Journal Series and based on the journals of my mother.
  • These posts are meant to be read in sequence and the Preamble post marks the beginning of the journal series. Refer to Archived on the Home page and scroll through to the bottom.

46. Day of the Cyclone – Journal Entry 24th Feb 1980

It’s Sunday and the time is 4:50 pm. Destructive Cyclone Simon, also called Small Destructive Cyclone Simon, is 40 km away NNE and travelling toward us at 10 km/h. The wind in the centre is said to be over 200 km/h, and right now there are gusts at about 50 km/h. Six or eight roofs in Yeppoon have been damaged.

28th Mar 1980

Dear Joan,

What a wonderful surprise your letter was. It had very bad effect really because it arrived just as I was making a ‘fair copy’ of an Algebra assignment. After reading your letter, I found I was making too many mistakes and wasting sheets of paper. So, I decided to stop and write to you instead! If there are mistakes in this letter, you were the cause of them.

It’s nearly three months since you left. I saw Fr. Meade once when Johnny and I were at the airport leaving for Canberra. I met Nadine at the supermarket and she gave me news of you.

Speaking of mores and depression, I fully agree with you. When we left Manila to come back to Emu Park, I hurt for over a year. Actually, that was because we had left my mother and sister behind in rather uncertain conditions and circumstances. It took two years before we were reunited. I used to have nightmares. My sister had a bad nervous breakdown.

It does get harder as the years go by and we begin to appreciate people a lot more than we did when we were inexperienced. Let us not talk of age; right now I think life has never been so good for me and that a whole new world and perspective is before me. I have the privilege to participate, if I make an effort. I feel you also are very privileged and can do many more things in Brisbane than Rocky. So go to it my dear, use your time well, very well; you have no right to do otherwise. But also remember, being a delightful companion to your family is the number one priority, they need you, especially now when they are hurting too.

Your Australorp rooster is in full glory, he has the run of the yard and thirty hens besides. Unfortunately, I don’t have time to enjoy the chooks, there’s always study or family to attend to.

Marcello has a fine lot of Rouen ducks and they quack in unison when anyone calls out to them, especially at feeding time. Marcello works now, deciding that higher studies were not for him. I’m hoping quietly that he will do so someday because he has a good brain and should use it. But then I suppose most mothers feel that way. Monika has had a boy-child. Naturally, his grandmother in Emu Park thinks he is the most beautiful baby in the world! His hair, a dramatic black when he was born, is now a light brown colour which threatens to turn golden. Marcel Nathaniel has lovely brown skin. We’ve accused Monika of sun-tanning him on the quiet.

Lynne is also taking Computer Science I, so I see her at lectures when I attend them. Computing is fun but a hard art to master. Someone can write a program, however, an elegant one is a different matter. Intelligibility is the keyword, my Johnny tells me.

Johnny is as gorgeous as ever but overworked as usual. I look forward to the time he has less to do and can write poetry and novels and play the flute. He writes beautifully and I have a whole case of love letters to prove it.

Talking about books, Johnny bought me a crop of D. H. Lawrence books which I raced through; I should say I read voraciously. Also D. Ireland books and a very interesting study by Dr Kamien on community medicine among the Bourke Aboriginals. At the moment I am reading Manning Clark’s A History of Australia and am up to the age of Macquarie.

I don’t know if I told you that I joined a group known as the CIAE Search Group which helps people identify their problems and suggest solutions. At the moment we are working with the Aboriginal community groups as well as a group of Aboriginal delegates from central Queensland. We held our first 1980 workshop recently (the first for me) which was very exciting. A further weekend workshop with the delegates is scheduled for Rocky and Gladstone. Hervey Bay and a few others will be making requests soon I think. Reg is in charge and these workshops come under community development. If you are interested I could tell you more in some future letter.

I hear much laughter from the kitchen. It’s my mother who enjoys seeing the baby smile, laugh or make noises. She makes more noises than the baby! The kids won’t agree with the last statement. They will tell you I am much more noisy with the baby, but don’t believe it, it’s not true.

The weather is so beautiful, especially as we’re heading fast towards winter. The sunshine, butterflies, the egg-laying-cackle of the chooks and even the chatter of the builders below make me feel so good to be alive. What does it matter if there are a few mosquitoes around, the lawn needs to be done again and Gran’s garden has more weeds than veggies in it? We’ll get around to them sometime, but in the meantime, everything smells good, the sea is calm and I’m writing to you. At least I was writing to you, but now I’ve come to the end of my letter.

Look after yourself and give my regards to the family.

Love,
Gita
PS: Do practice your letter writing on me!

KarenProfileCircle120Notes and Links

  • This journal entry is part of the My Mother’s Voice – Journal Series
  • These posts are meant to be read in sequence and the Preamble post marks the beginning of the journal series. Refer to Archived on the Home page.
  • A map of where we lived and a family tree are also at the bottom of the Home page, click here.
  • Added Nathaniel to the Emu Park Family Tree.

30. Journey to Ixtlan – Journal Entry 7th Dec 1978

A busy day. We have an order for 35 container candles. Marcello is cutting the stubbies and green wine bottles. It seems such slow work for so little money. Still, it’s money being earned while at home, where we like being.

We picked strawberries, a poor bowlful, from plants covered with weeds. Monika picked strawberry flowers for pressing and has made a batch of greetings cards. Gran bought a dollar’s worth, making it Monika’s first sale. There seems to be a rush to make money for Christmas. The kids were too busy with school to do any work for themselves. Karen is still not free until the end of the week.

Another sick chick is not able to stand up, so Gran dosed it with garlic, milk and bread and put it on a piece of hessian in the cockatoo cage we found at the dump. It won’t live.

It’s a lovely day, sunny and hot outside but with a cool wind blowing, I hear Marcello grinding glass; the geese talk among themselves under the low branch of the Queensland hoop pine. The Rouen duckling is silent for the time being. I’ll disturb them if I fill their plastic water container, so I’ll sit here enjoying writing with this pen. A baby butcherbird is crying for food.  You can tell it’s a young bird because it’s brown and white, not black and white like it’s mother, however, they are the same size.

Lot’s more noises. An earthmoving machine is on the hill a little down the street, it has been working for a while cutting a path to Mrs N’s old house and levelling the yard. Bottles clink – that’s Marcello. The butcherbirdling still whinges in hunger. Gran keeps shouting out messages to us which jars the otherwise warm and peaceful atmosphere. A magpie sings far away; it could be a butcherbird.

I’ve got to leave now to clean my darling’s desk and the file room.

9:30pm
It was twelve hours ago that I stopped writing to clean the study. I did Johnny’s corner fairly well; wiping walls and cleaning louvres. I polished his writing pane of glass – a very large sheet of glass – and put Monika’s drawings under it. Then I did the file room. It needs paint on the walls, roof beams and some floor covering, then it will be a good little room, clean, sweet-smelling and lovely to be in. Monika and I went looking for stubbies and Tooheys beer bottles. Marcello needed more to make the candle containers. None in the hotel bin so Monika suggested the dump. We filled up two small boxes with stubbies. There were a few flowers on the roadside, so we stopped to pick them.

Lunch was good. As usual it was a spread and we talked of catching fish, of Christmas presents and a few other things. I forget what. Had a short nap. Just before dozing I started Castaneda’s Journey to Ixtlan.

9th Dec 1978 8:40am

Back at the Base Hospital to get my stitches removed. I’ve dropped Mum, Marcello and Monika near the East Street shops. It’s cool here.

I must get a tight grip on myself, I’m in a bad mood. I was aware of it  when I made a remark about Johnny’s hair and he said not to maternalise him. Apparently that meant (what I would call) making cute noises at a child. Fair enough, I make comments without considering the effect they have on the recipient.

Anyway, in fairness to Johnny, I did make several comments about his new haircut. So I just stood under the tree near the old garage and he, after a look at my face, slowly drove away to the airport.

My bad mood was a result of last night. Just a few minutes before dinner, Johnny yelled at Gareth for not having done his bedroom in spite of repeated suggestions. He thumped Gareth on his bottom, then banished him to his room. This sort of occurrence is unpleasant whenever it happens simply because one is yelled at and the other is forced to do the yelling. I had just prepared a very special meal. We hadn’t had fish for weeks and weeks. Also the fish I had crumbed and fried crisp, were caught by Marcello. Now what was going to happen? Was Gareth to stay in his room while we ate a meal that would almost certainly be spoilt by his absence from the table? Why couldn’t Johnny time his chastisement better? I suppose we all are slack in choosing the right time for unpleasant things. And a time for pleasant things too, except pleasant things don’t dampen a scene.

I remember another time sitting down to a meal with Johnny, when he told me my brother had had a nervous breakdown and was in a sanitorium that I knew of and disliked. That was because of it’s uncaring treatment of the patients when the cows were always well stocked with feed. I remember being amazed, in spite of my shock and pain at the news, that Johnny hadn’t told me after the meal. Some would call it nitpicking. I don’t care, I maintain that discretion is essential.

Again, a telephone message came through for a neighbour one night, Johnny wrote out the message and handed it to young Gareth. The kid had to go down the drive, which is dark and spooky, and the neighbour may have been asleep. The message didn’t appear to be urgent at all, it was a confirmation of an arrangement three weeks away.

Anyway, I add to Gareth’s nervous state by shouting at him this morning. He was rude, but on reflection later, it appeared to be a natural exclamation one would make. He wanted a stapler for school and had planned to be taken to the shop and returned home so he could cycle to school.

12th Dec 1978

Jobs that have to be done:
Verandah
Dining room
Sitting room
Bookshelves
Laundry shelves
Get camping gear sorted
Slaughter chook and drake and duck.
Tonight: Put away cakes, make bread, clean bedroom

Don Juan [Notes from Journey to Ixtlan]:

“People hardly ever realise that we can cut anything from our lives, any time, just like that.”

Erasing Personal History

It is best to erase personal history because that would make us free from the encumbering thoughts of other people.

Nobody knows who I am or what I do. Not even I.

You see we only have two alternatives; we either take everything for sure and real, or we don’t. If we follow the second and erase personal history, we create a fog around us, a very exciting and mysterious state in which we don’t know where the rabbit will pop out, not even ourselves.

Losing self-importance

You are too damn important in your own mind. That must be changed. You are so goddamn important that you feel justified to be annoyed with everything. You’re so damn important that you can afford to leave if things don’t go your way. I suppose you think that shows you have character. That’s nonsense. You’re weak and conceited.

Death is an adviser

Death is our eternal companion, it is always to your left at an arm’s length. It is always watching you. It always will until the day it taps you.

How can anyone feel so important when we know that death is stalking us?

A thing to do when you’re impatient is to turn to your left and ask advice from your death.

Death may tap you at any moment so really there’s no time for crappy thoughts and moods.

Assuming responsibility

When a man decides to do something he must go all the way, but he must take responsibility for what he does. No matter what he does, he must know first why he is doing it, and then he must proceed with his actions, without any doubts or remorse about them.

In a world where death is the hunter, there is no time for regrets or doubts. There is only time for decisions.

To assume responsibility of one’s decisions means that one is ready to die for them.

There are no small or big decisions, there are only decisions that we make in the face of our inevitable death.

The Last Battle on Earth

For me the world is weird because it is stupendous, awesome, mysterious, unfathomable, my interest has been to convince you that you must assume responsibility for being here, in this marvellous time. I wanted to convince you that you must learn to make every act count, since you are going to be here for only a short while, in fact, too short for witnessing all the marvels of it.

If this was your last battle on earth, I would say that you are an idiot.

You are wasting your last act on earth in some stupid mood. You have no time, my friend, no time. None of us have time.

KarenProfileCircle120Notes and Links

  • Click here to go to Home
  • This journal entry is part of the My Mother’s Voice – Journal Series

29. Crows and Cane Toads – Journal Entry 6th Dec 1978

The weather has changed, my skin feels cool, dry and slightly uncomfortable. A storm? The winds for the past few days have been strong. It was difficult using the gas stove because of the strong draughts through the house, especially the kitchen.

Last night was very pleasant.

First before dinner we packed a forequarter of beef into the freezer, a slightly tedious job, cutting up, sorting, weighing and packing. Meat prices are going up, so we must be more restrained in our eating habits.

Then dinner, which was good. Marcello and Monika are away. Gran talked of her National Fitness Christmas party. We talked about the trip to the dentist and so on. Immediately after dinner Johnny made two fruit cakes with Karen. I offered light relief and very little help. Then went to read The Lord of the Rings. After that I sat at my desk for a while, sulking a little and then told Johnny, rather dramatically, that I would have to rearrange my life. We sat in the file room and had a glass of whisky and coffee and talked – with me getting quite giggly and amorous after another half glass of whisky.

This pen is so fine I could go on writing and writing words, lots of words.

It was a reasonably good day today. I spent several hours getting the Meals on Wheels (M.O.W.) papers in order and writing up the minutes of the last meeting and typing the Treasurer’s financial statement.

Monika rang wanting to know when Marcello wanted her to come back – this afternoon or evening. I gave her the Svendsen’s telephone number. By about 10am Marcello rings in to get a lift home and to ask for the drill and sanding disc. So I put together some strawberry jam, marmalade and empty egg cartons for the Svendsens as a small thank you for putting up Marcello for a couple of days. Mark and Marcello load a lot of gear into the Rover, give me some fish that they had caught and suggest I come later in the afternoon for Marcello.

I drive home and head for my desk, switch on the cassette tape recorder again and continue working for a while.

No, I’m wrong. What I actually did was fry some fish as soon as I got in and served lunch. It was a gorge of crisply fried fresh fish. I then went to my desk, switched on the cassette tape recorder again and continued working until midday.

After a small rest for about 60 minutes, I mix a bowl of pikelet batter and get the roast in the oven. While putting herbs on the roast and sticking garlic in the meat, I tell my mother that perhaps the chickens have chickenpox. I had observed a very small chick sitting with his head smack on his shoulders and beak pointing at the roof. He then woke up, made a few pecking motions and then settled his head back again into hunched shoulders with the same strange beak-up pose. A little while later, mum came in to say that not only was this chick missing, another like him in size and behaviour was also missing and would I creep into the pen and search for them, please.

“Do you mind if I went later?” I asked. “I’d like to get this finished. If I went now I’d come back with chicken pooh on my hands and knees from crawling through the low chicken coop door.” Mum agreed, so the pikelets were made first and the tea tray prepared for Gareth’s ‘Jaguar’ friends who should race to our kitchen this afternoon as soon as school is over.

In the chicken coop, I couldn’t find the missing chickens or their carcasses. Trying to count thirty fast-moving chicks and three ducklings was difficult, but fortunately those nursing chicks were much smaller than the others.

Then I went looking for cane toads. They have been known to eat very young ducklings. There was one toad, which I killed. Next, I checked for holes or gaps in the wire netting overhead that would allow the crows in. Recently, large numbers of crows moved into the neighbourhood and one large family was nesting in the tree in the poultry yard. I found a large gap and fixed it with a piece of wire I found lying in the coop. We removed the Rouen ducklings because they foul the chickens’ drinking water.

Back inside the house, I clear the sink and get ready to go pick up Barb at the Yeppoon bus stop. I write a little while waiting for her. While driving back up Phillips Street, I see an embarrassed S talking to J O’D who is holding a mangled white Leghorn hen. He has it by the feet and it’s bloody neck and head dangle while he talks. Good, he has evidence I think – he must have caught the Dean’s two dogs while they were attacking his chooks. They have killed over 17 of our birds within a few months. I should have stopped to add my complaint too, but I continued home.

After dinner Marcello and Gareth shot a crow. We have a large family to feed too, the crows can search for carrion (there’s plenty on the road), instead of stealing our eggs and chicks. The kookaburras are a bit of a pest.

The day was not yet over. I leave at 7:15pm to say hello to the Batik class and say how sorry I am that I can’t join them because I have a M.O.W meeting at 7:30pm. The M.O.W. meeting was short and lively. We’re having problems getting volunteers. One woman is terrified of a M.O.W. recipient dying while being served a meal, another is alleged to have said she was not willing to be a servant to anyone. Pearl is having to do 2 hours a week.

Back at the desk, I’m writing in this notebook and drinking black coffee. The red Japanese clock strikes ten. I’ve just challenged Johnny to a game of chess. Karen has made a row of greeting cards with pressed flowers and Monika is making hers. The two lads were hunting cane toads. Death to cane toads and crows. Sometime last fortnight there was a very bad smell just near the rose bush. After a bit of a search we found a small galvanised bucket full of dead, bloated cane toads.

I must remember to separate the Rouen duckling from the geese. Her companion gosling is missing and she is being picked on. How she quacks; if she didn’t make such a noise and if she were white instead of chocolate brown, she might lead a less stressful life among the geese. I hope she takes to the spare Rouen drake we have, but he may not make the right noises; she thinks she’s a goose.

There’s a moth on this page as I write, a greeny mother-of-pearl creature, slim and long with flowing antennae. Now he is still, but for quite a while he would flutter, rise and jump or fly backward to land on his feet with a slight noise; curious movement this hopping backwards and landing with a thump. There’s another like him now flying around the lamp. He won’t last long.

CicadaPoem
Poem by Gita 1978

KarenProfileCircle120Notes and Links

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  • Marcello’s girlfriend Monika came to live with us in May 1978 and she has been added to the Emu Park Family Tree

12. My Duck Maisy – Journal Entry 19th Jul 1969

[My mother’s childhood memory of keeping ducks.]

My mummy said I wasn’t old enough to own a dog so she bought me some ducks from a farm nearby.

She said that at least the ducks can be eaten.

I went with my dad and mum to pick them up. We bought six ducks. I had to feed the ducks every day and give them clean water. They were always dirtying the bowls of water I’d put out for them. They had baths in their drinking water. We didn’t have a pond for the ducks to swim in nor did we have an old bathtub which we could use as a tiny pond.

So one day my mummy asked my friend’s dad if we could search the village dump for an old tub for my ducks. My friend’s dad is in charge of the dump. He said yes. So we went there and found an old petrol tank which my friend’s dad cut open. Then he hammered the sharp edges and made it into a super swimming pool for my ducks.

At first they didn’t go near the tub when I had filled it with lots and lots of water. They were afraid. The next day they took water in their beaks and threw it over themselves like they did with the bowls of drinking water.

After a few days, one clever black and white duck jumped into the tub. She liked it so much that after she’d had a bath, jumped out and dried herself she jumped back into the tub to have another bath.

Before we found this tub I had to hold a water hose over them so that they could have a shower. Some ducks didn’t like it and tried to run away but I could easily spray them with my hosepipe so the poor things just had to sit quietly and get washed.

Afterwards they loved flapping their wings and fluffing out their feathers to dry themselves. They looked very happy drying themselves in the sun.

One day when I returned from school I found two ducks missing and I saw a few feathers near the back verandah.

I knew my mum had taken them for our dinner.

So I went to her and told her not to kill my favourite little white duck Maisy. Well, at least not till all the other ducks had gone first. And as my mummy said, “The ducks were bought for the table, after all.” She also said she’d buy more ducks and a drake, and that the white moscovy ducks with the black spots on their heads would be kept for me.

Moscovy ducks can fly. They were always flying over their fence and into the garden. They ate the cabbage and for that their wings were clipped. Now they climb up the wire netting fence and jump down into the garden. But they know they mustn’t go near the vegetables and I quickly chase them back to their pen whenever I see them out.

In the afternoons, when I remember, I take them for a walk up the hill at the back of our house. They love eating weeds and catching insects. I have to be very careful though because they head straight for the cabbage patch when they think I’m not looking.

My ducks started laying eggs. The magpies sometimes stole the eggs.

Maisy, my little white duck made a nest right under the duck house. She was so far in that my mummy pulled up a board in the duck house so I could look at Maisy sitting on her eggs.

The other ducks are very rude to her, I don’t know why. They hiss at her with their necks on the ground, their heads up and beak open. They look very nasty and mean. The drake is good to Maisy and talks to her when she comes out to feed.

The other ducks started laying their eggs in Maisy’s nest. She is getting more eggs to sit on now.

KarenProfileCircle120Useful Links

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