Closer to Fine


Okay, so not much has been going on in my life, but I suppose the less I write about it, the less I have to write about (if that makes sense). The last time I wrote about something was at the end of May, after my trip to Cape Town. Since then, I turned 59 without any fanfare, although I did get lots of heart-warming messages on Facebook and a lovely prezzie from my bridge buddies. I also got bronchitis, again, and had to take a course of antibiotics as I picked up a bit of an infection as well. I felt poorly at the same time as the weather turned extremely cold and I spent a week at home, not venturing forth at all. Basically I mooched around the house doing sweet Fanny Adams. I emerged from seclusion to attend my book club meeting which, I have to say, exhausted me. As an introvert, I find group chit chat quite difficult, much preferring one-on-one chats, but I enjoy the company and hopefully I don’t fade into the background too much.

Meanwhile, back on the ranch the drought is really kicking in and the water situation has become quite dire. Our domestic water comes from 2 springs on the property and we pump our irrigation water from a neighbouring stream that we have water rights to. One spring has dried up completely (for the first time in our history here) and the other is down to a trickle. We are now pumping muddy water from the stream to our eco pool, passing it through the sand filter and pond plants before siphoning it into our water storage container (a JoJo tank) to feed our homes. Neighbours are kindly allowing us to fill up containers of drinking water from their borehole once a week, which we were previously having to buy in.

We have had to drastically reduce our use of water; no more baths, no dishwasher, limited use of washing machine and no watering the garden (although we still irrigate the allotment from the stream). Clothes are being worn more times than they should be (thank goodness it’s winter) and showers are very brief. Whenever I start to feel sorry for myself and the dustbowl that remains of my garden, I think of the farmers who have it a lot worse, especially our neighbours who are dairy farmers and are struggling to keep their cows fed this winter. It costs them R½ million to bring in two months worth of feed – it must be terribly stressful.

Of course it goes without saying that our water pumps play up on a regular basis and on very cold mornings the water pipes freeze. So there are days when our water supply is even more restricted than usual. It’s a challenge and it keeps us on our toes! I suppose that is one of the reasons why I enjoy living on a small holding – there is never a dull moment. And talking about challenges, the battle of the winter veggies has begun.

The dreaded porcupine (affectionately known as the little bugger) is back, digging holes under fences and feasting on our brassicas. And just when I thought I had thwarted the porcupine’s attempts to destroy our winter crop by barricading the veggies in, he chewed a hole in the shade cloth and ate the rest. I have started putting a bowl of kitchen scraps on the other side of the fence for the porcupine in the hope that this will keep it out of the garden.  We shall see. One thing I have learnt since moving to the country is that one is always at the mercy of Mother Nature. One step forward, two steps back.

59 is not exactly a milestone birthday but, as the last year of my 50’s began, I reflected a bit on how dramatically my life has changed since moving here in 2010 (only six years ago and yet it feels like a lifetime). Whenever I marvel at how different my life is, I wonder whether I too have become a different person.

One day she had been out walking and she wondered whether she’d become a different person in the last year. Then when she really thought about it she realized she’d been becoming different people for as long as she could remember but had never really noticed, or had put it down to moods, or marriage, or motherhood. The problem was that she’d thought that at a certain point she would be a finished product. Now she wasn’t sure what that might be, especially when she considered how sure she had been about it at various times in the past, and how wrong she had been.

Anna Quindlen: Still Life With Bread Crumbs

I’m not sure that I’m a finished product yet, more like a work in progress but the more time I spend here, the closer I feel I am to who I want to be. Living on a smallholding is not for everyone, I admit, but I really can’t imagine living any differently. Each day seems to unfurl in its own sweet way and I’ve learned to go with the flow.

It’s such a pleasure to be able to stroll straight out of my back door in my pj’s in the morning with the dogs, mug of tea in hand, to inspect the veggies, or what’s left of them, and patrol the fence for any porcupine activity – muddy hems of pj pants are a given, as are scruffy slippers. It’s a privilege to be the custodian of this piece of land and I love how every day is a surprise; one might have to fix a water pump, porcupine-proof a fence, jump start a quad bike, or fathom out what’s wrong with a sick chicken. There are days when I think, “fuck it, I’m too old for all of this, I need a plan”, but then the feeling passes and I know I really wouldn’t want it any other way.

A while ago I was given pause for thought by a comment on one of my posts made by Paul via Facebook. Paul’s comment was that “life really is about the journey, the lovely people and places that we come to know.” He also said “Very, very few came into my life as a result of a plan, a map or a schedule. Chaos has done it all.” And I agree. Life is confusing and chaotic, we should be grateful we have it and we may as well enjoy the ride.

There’s more than one answer to the questions

pointing me in a crooked line

The less I seek my source for some definitive

the closer I am to fine

porcupine damage to veggies - doesn't like lettuce - veggies barricade

porcupine damage to veggies – doesn’t like lettuce – veggies barricade


caught on camera - a not so little bugger

caught on camera – a not so little bugger

omigod, there's two little buggers

omigod, there’s two little buggers





stocking up for winter

stocking up for winter




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6 Responses to Closer to Fine

  1. Michael Hogan says:

    I think we are always work in progress. I still wonder what I want to do with my life and when my kids bemoan there jobs at times and ask me if I am happy in mine they have me wondering what I would really want to do. I do feel happy that we live where we do on our quarter acre with bush on our boundary. Not quite a small holding but our vegies are not threatened by porcupines! Just by my sloth at times although several recent trailer loads of new soil have done wonders. Except at 63 shovelling soil when you have arthritis is challenging.

    The wild life here is so different. We listen to the kookaburras making a a huge racket every evening when sitting on our back fence. Brightly coloured lorikeets are always noisily chatting to each other as they feed in our native trees. For such pretty birds they really fall down in the birdsong stakes. However the magpies make up for it with their lovely chortling.

    We went through some severe drought a few years ago with water rationing. The only benefit was that the visibility for diving in the sea was unbelievable as the rivers barely flowed. We had years of wonderful sunny weather but being Australia it was followed by severe flooding. Like SA this country is a land of extremes although living on the Gold Coast freezing pipes are never a problem.

    Well it’s 7 am and the corporate world is calling. The only benefit is that head office is in Sydney and my comings and goings are not scrutinised. Over the next 5 weeks I’ll be travelling with staff from Brisbane to Cairns seeing customers. From mines to hotels in the Whitsundays. Escaping from the office and the computer, well iPhones and laptops do follow you, is a tonic.

    • Cathy says:

      You seem to have the best of both worlds – a bit of bush on your doorstep, as well as proximity to the coast. Enjoy your time out of the office, and thanks for your comments – it’s lovely to hear about your life in Oz.

  2. Sharyn says:

    Just love your quotes and music….oh so fitting to the never ending changes of life.
    Love your blog it is uplifting, keep it up.


  3. Lee says:

    I had to laugh at you trying to bribe the porcupine. Trust me, it won’t work! I’ve tried it here at the bottom end of Australia (Tasmania) on Pademelons, our small wallabies. I’ve been feeling them for about four years now but the little ingrates still manage to break into my plant enclosures and either way or jump on my treasured plants. Still I enjoy having them around and wouldn’t be without them.

    • Cathy says:

      I agree, it doesn’t appear to be working. My offerings are treated as appetizers, before they move on to the veg garden for the main course. But, like you I wouldn’t want to be without them and it’s only during winter that it’s a problem.

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