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Discussion Starter · #181 ·
WALPOLE HIKING DAY

Since we worked on Thursday, we hiked this fine Saturday instead, heading over to Walpole to attempt the Woolbales Walk Track. It's a 90-minute drive to Walpole, so when you're going there, you start early and try to get a full day in. Accordingly, when it was just warm enough to take the horse rugs off, we left around 9am. For once we didn't stop in Denmark, but broke our drive at Bow Bridge, where they have relatively decent food. I had a sausage roll, which is neither sausage nor roll, in case this food item doesn't feature in your regional cuisine - it's a mixture of sausage meat and grated vegetables (or sawdust and pig fat, according to an old colleague) encased in flaky pastry, and looks in cross-section exactly like your blood vessels will if you consume these regularly for 20 years or so. The Bow Bridge people make really nice versions of these staple English things, and also do a range of toasted Turkish breads, from which Brett chose the BLT version.

Thus fortified, we enjoyed the scenic drive to Walpole, through farmland, forests and heathland, with rugged coastline, brimful rivers and serene inlets regularly in view. The weather was cool and mild. We were heading for the Woolbales Walk Track west of Walpole, which I've had my eye on for over a year - unusual geology, forest, heathland, and we've never done this trail before.

WOOLBALES WALK TRACK

The first problem was finding the thing, as it was unmarked. We eventually used our map skills to determine which unmarked track it was, and set out cheerfully into a beautiful day, with the sun making an appearance and birds singing from the trees, and keen to get 3-4 hours of hiking in this magnificent place we had not yet explored.



And just look at this magnificent tree. It's so big you can't really get all of it into frame.


We were imagining that the cluster of monadnocks marked on the map would be a bit like Hanging Rock but on another order of magnitude - and very much looking forward to exploring this area. There's nothing else like it on the South Coast map.

But alas - we got barely over a kilometre down this lovely track, when there was a creek crossing without a bridge, flooding out the track for about 30 metres. This has happened before, like when we didn't get to Boat Harbour last year (and I realise we've now left it too late to go this year) - but this crossing didn't look nearly as deep or muddy, and the water was calm and clear.

So I took off my hiking boots, rolled up my pants and waded in. The water was icy, but after ten seconds or so my brain adjusted and things didn't feel shocking anymore. In fact, I was enjoying the nice clean sandy footing as I crossed over, barely up to my knees in the deepest parts. I was happy with myself on the other side and starting to put my boots back on. But alas, my husband's nervous system is wired up differently to mine, plus he hates wading - never takes his footwear off at the beach, not even in mid-summer - while I splash barefoot in the surf summer or winter alike.

I'll give him credit that he had a go. I encouraged him to channel the little boy he had been when he used to fish for gilgies in his local creek, but he told me he'd always done that in gumboots! He tells me now they only ever swam in the ocean or a swimming pool - never in freshwater, whereas I grew up swimming in freshwater - most notably Lago di Garda in Italy, but also many many other lakes, streams and natural outdoor pools in Italy and Germany - with jelly sandals for dodgy underwater footing. In Australia, where I arrived at age 11, I still literally jumped into anything freshwater, including reservoirs, farm dams and the leech-infested Harvey River, and later, places like Lillian's Glen in the Blue Mountains.

So he didn't get beyond the phase of making shocked noises when wading into the water. If that sounds funny to some of you, he has ASD-1 traits, and is cusp ASD-1 - and that includes sensory hypersensitivities, which actually both of us have, in different ways - but my DNA includes a good dash of Viking, plus I grew up in snow and thoroughly soaked in water, and this is not the case for him. But both of us can't stand clothing labels, little stones in our shoes, grass seeds in our socks, scratchy fabrics, a single toast crumb that accidentally got in the bed sheets, etc. He's highly photosensitive on waking and you'd think he has vampire genes when you see how he responds to sunlight in the early morning. I'm ultra-sensitive to noise, and can't bear normal alarm clocks - everything is turned up about 10-fold when I wake up and I literally get instant nausea if I hear a loud noise (including what others would think is a normal alarm volume) before I am properly awake. So I've got some ASD-1 traits too, but not enough of them to fit comfortably into ASD-1 - I think I've got my very own non-NT-ness (I am who I am), and have never comfortably fitted into any kind of category. You know those quizzes - introvert or extrovert? Well, part-time each. Personality type? Science or arts? No, it's always bits of everything, not one or the other - and actually I think that those boxes are artificial and tell you more about the people who invent them than about reality.

Anyhoo. So we didn't persist with the Woolbales Walk Track, but Brett put it in his digital reminder system for next April along with Boat Harbour and a whole other bunch of things down on the boggy bits of coastal plain.

But there were other things to do, like a long-overdue return visit to Mandalay Beach, where we'd not been since our first visit there in 2008. We hardly ever go this far over on the coast...
 

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Discussion Starter · #183 ·
MANDALAY BEACH

We always vowed to return here, because on our first visit 14 years ago it was freezing and a gale was blowing, so that we got sandblasted when we arrived on the actual beach, and had to get off the sand again. I don't think many words are needed for this part, I will let the photos do the talking...



















 

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Discussion Starter · #184 ·



...and now for two kind-of trick shots...


This is the kind of beach with such strong current and waves that the sand drops off rapidly towards the surf, and with the right angle you can get a fun shot as a result. Also - this is not a beach where people should swim - the rip out there is super strong and fast, not to mention the surf will completely pound you.

But it's a spectacular and beautiful place. I can't tell you how powerful a place that is - everything larger than life and turned up, with the waves churning like the end of the world. We love spending time in places like this.



The dog thinks it's pretty all right too. She lives for our hiking days. I tell her the night before that we're going "broom broom and BIG walkies tomorrow" and she turns her head on an angle and looks at me, then rolls around making joyous noises, paddling her feet in the air and waiting for me to come over and rough-house with her. In the morning she will look expectant and start shepherding us towards the car. It's hilarious. I should film it sometime.








...and the staircase back up...
 

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Discussion Starter · #185 ·
On the way back to Walpole, near Crystal Springs, we passed the property of some erstwhile farmstay guests who had relocated their Tiny House from NSW to our South Coast. Their gate was padlocked and nobody was home, so we couldn't say hello as we'd promised to if ever in the area - maybe next time - but you might all enjoy the videos he made of his constructions, and a documentary which featured his place...we'd be doing the same if we were in his generation and trying to get our own place from scratch. Far, far better than renting - not nearly as financially crippling, and actually a really good way to live in terms of ecological footprint, time spent cleaning, setting yourself up financially, having a life not focused on "stuff"...




Emmet works in Town Planning in Denmark, hoping to make this an option not choked by red tape - and good on him. Fabulous Tiny House he made! Love the special windows and the feel of the place and would far rather live in something like that, than a standard soulless industrial Legoland house.
 

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Discussion Starter · #188 · (Edited)
HOT TEA AND PLAN B

Next, we descended on the picnic area in Walpole for a snack break and to work out our Plan B. Initially that had been the Nuyts Wilderness Track, but the map showed ominous bridgeless creeks there too...and I didn't want to get stuck again! Besides, I was entering an early-afternoon energy dip, so we revived ourselves with our lovely hot thermoses of tea - hot sweet lemon tea for me, plain for Brett. We had a packet of potato chips for salt, the blurb on which declared they were "double crunchy" - by means of being more corrugated. You know that trick - give someone a sheet of paper, a fork and two tins, and ask them to place the paper between the tins so that it supports the fork? Those who don't head-scratch fold the paper into a concertina, which they place between the tins with the folds running lengthways and there you go, fork supported. So by that principle, extra-corrugated chips also take more force to chew, and that's how it worked out. It was an interesting experiment, but we decided we like chips most for their flavour; crunch is a lower-rating factor for both of us and "ordinary" crunch is fine.


WALPOLE TO JOHN RATE LOOKOUT

Plan B was my call, so I opted to walk from where we were to John Rate Lookout along the Bibbulmun Track - a return journey of exactly 12.4 kilometres (7.7 miles). Yellow with black dots on the map!

This was also a hike we had never done before, and turned out a very enjoyable route, even if I did start off in a state where, had there been a bed anywhere, I'd have curled up for an hour's nap before continuing. Gradually, I walked myself into a quasi-awake state, and by the time we hit some hills I was good again.

The first third of the walk was sandwiched between the Walpole Inlet and the fringe of Walpole "suburbia" - which is little dwellings of above-average character and below-average pretentiousness, sitting up on a parkland-cleared ridge above the Inlet. To the left of us was dense riparian vegetation, which obscured the inlet. This is a Paperbark community:


Anything that was not commercially exploitable for timber or agriculture and that's not yet been carved up into real estate has had half a chance of staying natural so far in Western Australia - but sadly this means over 80% of the Southwest was wiped out ecologically in just over 200 years of white colonialism. I wrote about that here if you're interested - our feelings about that underpin why we're on Red Moon Sanctuary doing what we do. We treasure what is left of ancient Gondwana and do what we can to protect it - and we love nothing better than to get out into the as yet unspoilt areas, although it pains us to have to commute out to do it.

The next section involved hills, as you can see from the fringe of Walpole here.

That section was entered over an elegantly curved footbridge.

The rivers are all running very high again this year, but so far we don't have any sign of a repeat of last year's flooding and havoc in our region.


Brett approved of the boardwalks. This prevented having to come up with a Plan C. ;)

Can you work this one out?

It's taken helicopter view straight down off the bridge and catches tree reflections in the still water. You can spot my hands and the camera in the reflection too! :)

The first bit of sustained uphill began traversing bits of the town's golf course, where we soon entered a Casuarina grove.



I understand most of you prefer to do this stuff on horseback, but my husband and I need the exercise more than Julian and Buzzy, so that we can stay in the kind of condition required to take care of them and the whole 62 hectares, and so we don't fall apart more than we have to as we get older. Apart from a bit of arthritis in the hands (which I'm managing OK), things seem to be relatively good in terms of still being able to move freely and efficiently with a combined century between us.

However: Someone (or perhaps more than one person) out there has a voodoo doll of me, I swear, and they sometimes get it out and repeatedly stab random bits of me with a sewing needle, in a systematic and frenzied fashion. Two nights ago they were stabbing my left foot viciously when I was reading in bed. The night before they focused on my right foot and then gave me three prods at knee level before letting up. 😵 Sometimes they dislocate one of my toes and pop it back in again. All of this is especially noticeable in the last decade or so, although they must have begun early, with the tip of my left ring finger repeatedly under attack since I was a teenager. 😬

All righty. As I mentioned before, I woke up by the time we hit the hills, and there was rewarded with wonderful biodiversity, as it usual in the heathland ecosystems between the forested ridges, since they couldn't be exploited for timber or woodchips. Just look at those tall Kingias too - ancient grass trees, hundreds of years old...

Their stems grow 0.5 - 2cm a year, so that tall one standing sentry in the next photo is at least 400.

I'm afraid my feet started to hurt and I put the camera away and increased my speed until we got to the lookout. So no regrowth Karri forest photos today, other than this, even though that's what the last half hour was:

You can just glimpse the coastline through the gap in the trees. Here's a telephoto shot through the gap:

And then there's us, with a time-delay shot I set up from that railing - tucking into apple crumble I'd made the night before from our plentiful summer harvest.

Even the dog got to tuck in. I made cauldrons of spiced apple pie filling in the summer, and froze it in batches for ready use. The crumble topping is a mix of butter, flour, cinnamon, brown sugar and porridge oats. No sugar in the fruit filling and half the recipe's suggestion (but four times the cinnamon) in the topping. Tastes out-of-this-world, even cold.

You can see Brett had a foot-bothering too - he says one sock had folded funny. 🤪

On the way back the sun made a late-afternoon reappearance and bathed us in the kind of golden sunlight you can eat...




Ah, intact ecosystems - how do I love thee. This is the world as it was before we destroyed it for excessive gain. This is the place that teaches me the truth about the dysfunctional system that eats the world for profit and to have more than our fair share in the catalogue of living things. This is the cathedral in which I understand the smallness of myself, the unthinkingness and sacrileges of our civilisation, and the cancer we "modern people" have become collectively. This is where I understand the wisdom of the Indigenous Australians who lived here for over 60,000 years without destroying the fabric of country, stewarding and treading lightly, limiting their own numbers and not taking more than they needed.

This hiking report was brought to you from Noongar boodja - Noongar country, where the Minang roamed freely for over 30,000 years and from whom and whose country we try to learn stewardship of the earth.
 

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Discussion Starter · #190 · (Edited)
HOORAY, IT'S HAY

We usually don't buy in hay as we grow a lot of tree fodder to tide us through the winter feed/roughage gap (with Acacia) and the summer green gap (with tagasaste AKA tree lucerne), and we don't overstock.

Some Murray Grey heifers eating mid-winter Acacia for roughage, 2017...

A lot of the tagasaste is self-serve over the fences for the horses, who are kept from bark-stripping by judicious placement of hot wires - you can see they trim the sides of the hedge themselves (and cows can't do that because they lack top incisors and have short necks).

I lop of the tops and feed them out to all our herbivores during late summer - here's some photos from 2018:


Just very occasionally, we have gotten in some hay to plug a little hole; and because the Acacias are coming to the end of their productive lives and I can't replant any until I get the fencing in the "inner" paddocks upgraded (AKA cow-proof), I decided just to buy eight roundbales this year, mostly for the cattle - I'm running eight steers at the moment, which is pretty close to full capacity. (The donkeys always get straw through winter because they need extra roughage.)

The hay arrived today, just over $100 a bale delivered, and I took photos after the first batch got in. The donkeys, who have an unerring instinct for food, twigged straight away and were helping themselves before we'd even finished unloading the first four. When the hay grower went back for the second load, I rolled out a third of a bale and attracted the attention of the cattle, who have never seen a roundbale on our place and therefore seemed oblivious to the arrival of food. They were so wrapped up in grazing I literally had to go get the pole saw and run it, because they know that sound means food - and then they came running!

I got my camera out shortly after to capture the banquet.



Have a good look at the above photo - there's a steer with hay all over his face. This is Mr Moo, who is very tame and very exuberant. Instead of just eating, he had to bury his face in the bale and wear his food. :ROFLMAO:

Mr Moo's lot of four is coming up to 18 months old, and we also have another four around 10 months old, like the two in the foreground. We buy them from the same people who deliver our fresh milk and cream to our mailbox each Tuesday - in the age of corporatisation, we want to support that now rare thing, an actual small family-run dairy farm with reasonable animal welfare standards where the person I deal with is besotted with her cows. No middle men are involved in any of our transactions, and we make sure to pay a fair price to the family.

You can see the horses are comfortable mucking right in with the cattle. Because they always arrive as weanlings, the horses are the unchallenged kings of the castle from the beginning.

Neither horses have any trouble with carrots or kibbles anymore after Greg did their teeth last week - and Mr Buzzy is happily processing his hay with one molar missing but everything else vouched to be in great shape. Such good news.

Mr Moo is to the right of Buzzy there - you can see he has a lot of character. He'd be the right candidate for a circus cow or a novelty showjumping cow - occasionally you get one with a super-curious, super-sociable disposition.

Julian didn't strictly need hay, but it's good for his digestion to have something with more roughage and substance than the winter-wet grass. Growth slows down during the coldest part of winter here, which is July and August, when the frosts also hit us, which kills some of the kikuyu (African runner grass) - the mainstay of our summer pasture. By late September/October, as the weather warms, we start to get the spring flush of annual ryegrass, clover, serradella, lotus etc.


Nelly and Ben are afraid of cattle and like to eat at a good distance from them.

Julian is completely unimpressed by the size of cattle when he's eating with them - he lets them know he's defending his space and only has to snake-face a huge steer to get him to jump back. :ROFLMAO:

His mother Juliet killed a sheep once - just stripped half its skin right off it in seconds - it had to be put down immediately, which is one good reason for people to have firearms in the countryside, or to know someone who does, because you want to be quick if something terrible like that happens. Juliet was silent and deadly, and her son is the same. The steers know that if they don't jump back from his snakeface, he will rush straight at them with his teeth bared looking to bite.

And yet they're exactly the same cattle we met in the bush the other day when out riding, where he got spooked by them making crashing noises in the bushes! 🥳

Next we have a photo of Don Quixote with Nelly and Benjamin, just before I whipped his grazing muzzle back on him. I did let him have a little bit of fun first so he wouldn't feel completely left out.

By the way, Don Quixote never gets pushed around by cattle - he stands with his rear to them and starts kicking like crazy and snorting to defend his space. I suspect that is how Buzzy got the mystery dent in his forehead back in 2017.

Buzzy playing musical piles to compare eating quality...

It's getting cold at night, which is why I was anxious to get some solid feed into these young cattle. Dairy steers are always ribby until they have grown their frames to full size, but a stomach full of substantial food will help them stay warm during the worst part of winter, and also provide a fair bit of organic fertiliser to the Common. Each bale is around 500kg, so that's a lot of manure going down.

The younger batch especially, like the two in front, are going to appreciate this.

As Sparkle is blind and very small, I don't tend to put her in with boisterous steers - she and Mary Lou got their own pile in the driveway.

I gave Mary Lou another clip this summer. No idea what I'm going to do with the bags and bags of clumpy donkey fur I've collected from her over the years!

Everyone's super happy out there. I have been sneezing, as I got covered in hay myself, and am off to have a shower and wash my hair before returning to chores!
 

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Discussion Starter · #191 ·
JULIET AND JULIAN

I mentioned Julian's mother Juliet above. This is a photo from when we were harness educating her. I was 15 and in high school.

The mare went on to win 7 races, and get 6 runner-ups and 4 third places. Her fastest recorded mile was 1:58:5, which was very respectable for a pacer in those days.

Romeo was her full brother.

Julian was fast and won 2 races, got 2 runner-ups and 2 third places. He had a virus at some stage and was never quite the same for peak performance, and it also didn't help that unlike Juliet and the earlier batch of horses he was hardly ever track-trained with other horses, mostly only trialling and racing with them. As a result, he was green around running at close quarters to others and broke gait a lot - and this was not the horse's fault, this was an under-preparation problem with all horses my father trained post the 1980s, and especially post-90s. Julian best mile rate was 1:59:4, on a slower track than his mother's record.

I've been going through the archives. Here's some photos I dug up from 2007, the year I met Brett. He came to a trial once and therefore I have pictures of Julian and me at the Pinjarra Trotting Track from the year he turned 7.
Horse Stable Halter Working animal Tree

Horse Vertebrate Stable Working animal Mammal

Little did I expect that one day I would be riding him.

I also dug up some photos from early 2010, when Brett and I had just returned from Tasmania and had stopped by the relatives en route back to Albany - and six months later we bought our little farm. That is why we caught another trial, even though we find races and racing rather boring. Julian is 9 here.

Horse Working animal Bit Horse tack Horse supplies
Horse Working animal Bit Horse tack Horse supplies

Horse Plant Wheel Tree Tire

Horse Tire Wheel Working animal Halter

Horse Wheel Tire Harness racing Sky

This is just during the warm-up. Still, I thought why not dig through and see what I can find in our archive. There could be all sorts of stuff that might be interesting to look at again...
 

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Discussion Starter · #193 ·
FRIDAY MORNING RIDE

Because it's almost been another week since the last ride, and Brett was off to see his parents for the first time in two years for a long weekend, he decided to go around the valley floor with me and Julian and Jess just before jumping in the car for the four-hour journey. It was some exercise for everyone - me doing the least work there, but I had the house cleaning and washing to go pre hosting over the weekend!

I just wanted to have a solid half hour of routine riding again before doing some planned brakes-and-steering sessions in the Common on my own over the next three days, so the horse would be in the groove. I led him out past the hay everyone else was descending on when we opened the Common gate, because that was already enough of a case of "Why does everyone else get to do this except me?" without me trying to convince him to go past the lolly shop from his back. Much distraction and then praise when we got around the corner, where I hopped on the horse while Brett went back to get the dog from sofa in the house where we'd forgotten her. There was no fuss about mounting and no sense of surprise either - this is good.

Jess barked and barked and barked as we walked along and I told her off periodically, which always worked for about ten seconds before she was off again - gets so excited. At the end of the sand track she stopped suddenly to look at something right in front of the horse and he cannoned into her accidentally, which lead to a yelp from her and panicked running, which in turn led to a spook from Julian, but nothing major, I just circled him once and then things were back to normal. The dog was still in one piece and not limping. I think he got her in the right hind leg because she was licking it later on the sofa. Hopefully she will learn not to stop dead immediately in front of a horse again. She does it with us on bushwalks too every now and then, and we almost fall over her.

Today we just rode an uneventful walking lap in which I didn't ask for any halting until we got back to the pile of hay at home, but I did do some steering to one side of the track or the other, and around various bushes and reeds once we got to the middle meadow. He was in a bit of a rush on the swamp track after Jess dived into the undergrowth for a minute or two crackling like nobody's business, and would have readily trotted had wanted him to, but I discouraged it because I'm determined to trot him when moving away from home, not towards home, for the first dozen or so times until we understand each other and get clean trot-walk down transitions established.

When we reached Scary Brook, he didn't do an almighty dramatic leap over it like his half-brother Sunsmart, an inveterate hydrophobe, used to do - he just stepped over it, even getting his hooves wet in the creek margins without much ado. We halted two metres from a pile of hay - the halt-dismount thing he always does beautifully, and I'm glad because he was the sort of horse who might have easily become a dismount-spooker, owing to an accident he has with a half-removed rug a few years ago - he'd run off with it half undone, rocketing through the field until it was torn to pieces. It took me 18 months to have him lose every last bit of nervousness about having his rug removed after that accident - always had to tie him at first after that, and fold the front section over the middle and the back section forwards and take it off like a saddle, and I still can't just pull the rug straight off him without folding it up first, but at least he stands calmly at liberty for me to do that for the last few months, with or without carrot.

If you'd seen how fast he moved from zero to one hundred the day he tried to run away from his flapping blanket, you'd also have been super careful not to startle this horse with mounting and dismounting in the early saddle training. That's why I worked slowly with lots of repetition, and super careful not to bump my right leg into his side during a mount, or to drag my leg over his hindquarter on the dismount. Fishing for the right stirrup on the first few mounts, I had to be really careful - he was very reactive to any sudden contact from the stirrup or my foot. He's the most reactive horse to things like that I've ever saddle educated - Sunsmart was very ticklish about brushes and grooming, but surprised rather than startled by things like stirrups or feet accidentally bumping into him when he was just starting out his saddle education.

But in other ways he's really sensible, and he's quite cooperative if you ask him nicely. :) Also he's getting very interactive with me straight after the dismount, when I take his gear off - we really acknowledge each other and the work we've just done together. He looks happy, not because he's finished with the ride but because we've done something adventurous together that he doesn't do on his own. He took some time to stand and hobnob with me, no food or expectations of carrots involved, after all his gear was off and he knew he was at liberty, rather than diving straight into the pile of hay two metres away from where I untacked him in the Common. And as always, after I'd carried the gear to the shed and re-appeared into view on our driveway, he lifted his head up from his food and looked to see what I was doing. I called to him and waved in greeting. We held eye contact for a good while, then I left him to it and went indoors.
 

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Discussion Starter · #194 · (Edited)
SARS-COV-2 IN WESTERN AUSTRALIA AND PRECAUTIONS IN OUR HOUSEHOLD

@TrainedByMares asked me about COVID precautions for our farmstay, remarking it would be a shame if someone brought us something we didn't want. :) It's good to know some people care about public health. For my own records, and because a friend sent me a funny graphic that I think goes with it, here's a copy of my reply to him!

As people have the option of eating with us, which means being in shared indoors spaces for meals, we do have to be careful with infectious diseases. Until March this year we didn't have community transmission of COVID in Western Australia, with very strict border and quarantine rules. 90% of our community was double vaccinated when the border opened in March, but the vaccines we have are based on the Alpha strain, and only offer partial protection for Omicron, and while it does decrease the risk of severe illness and death, doesn't prevent nearly as much long COVID as we would like, with 1 in 20 here getting long COVID after infection, and also a new study showing you can catch Omicron repeatedly and it seems to progressively weaken the immune system with each infection, potentially ending with an HIV-like state, so we really aren't keen to catch this, not to mention I am in a high-risk group because I have a paralysed vocal cord which makes me susceptible to complications from any kind of respiratory infection.

So Brett and I have had two boosters already since our initial two shots last year, and we wear N-95s when in shared indoor spaces with others, or in any crowd situations. House rules are people can't check in with any kind of active respiratory infection and if that happens to a guest I will re-book them later or refund them. Masks in shared spaces except when seated (but not in the guest wing or outdoors). We do social distancing at the table but have a big table where that is not an issue, and we still have great fun with most of our guests - anti-vaxxers, anti-maskers and other deluded or inconsiderate people are not encouraged to book with us.

If there's only one guest staying we waive the mask requirement if we all do an antigen test. My next guest works at a hospital and antigen tests every 48 hours anyway so we'll probably just do that.

Since mask mandates were removed here a month or so ago, hospitalisations have doubled and medical spokespeople are daily calling for their re-introduction, with which we fully agree. We went shopping this afternoon, and I got coughed on at close range by a maskless woman making no attempt at all to stay away from me or cover her cough - not impressed. While I was wearing an N-95, they aren't perfect and my eyes were exposed, so if I catch anything I will know whom to thank. Minutes later we saw a clearly very sick maskless old guy wheezing and sneezing all over the contents of the meat refrigerator and spreading his contagion far and wide. We brought him to the attention of management, who were wearing masks themselves and lamented that while there weren't mask mandates there was little they could do other than ask people nicely.

It's a bit different in the medical practices, hospitals and aged care, where masks can still be enforced. The surgery my husband works at is very strict and keeps anyone with respiratory infections in their cars to be seen there. Masks on everyone in the building at all times. The other day two people walked in maskless and declared they had COVID - to the astonishment of the desk staff, who handed them masks, ushered them out of the building, and disinfected surfaces immediately. They had just been shopping maskless. Every day over 50 people in Australia are dying of this thing and hundreds are getting chronic illness from it, and a proportion of people can't be bothered to wear masks to protect themselves and others, let alone stay home when coughing and sneezing - this is why we need mandates re-introduced. It gives me a very low opinion of people if they can't care enough for fellow citizens and struggling hospital staff to do something as simple as wear a mask and wear it properly. The new incoming strain of Omicron is as contagious as measles and one person in a crowd can spread it to dozens of others.

This is simply information about the situation here and what we do, and personal journalling. It is not an invitation for arguments or commentary on this situation on my journal. My guest this weekend works in early childhood education at a hospital creche and is meticulous about good practice around this mutating virus. We both did an antigen test today and therefore didn't wear masks, but we still socially distanced etc, and we'd let each other know immediately if there was even the hint of respiratory symptoms for either of us, and mask up again just in case - since early infection stages can be missed by the antigen tests. Western Australia is at a critical stage. Case numbers are exploding because mask mandates were removed, and the new extra-infectious strains haven't even really hit here yet. We may eventually get an Omicron-specific vaccine, but by then chances are the virus will be one step ahead.

From my perspective as a biologist, this is just what you'd expect at our population densities and rates of international mixing. Disease becomes more rife as pressures on the environment increase. If humans won't use their brains in appropriate ways to regulate themselves, nature is going to do what we will not sooner or later. Call it Gaia and self-regulation. We've become a cancer on the body that is the biosphere, destroying functional tissues and organs necessary for the health of this body. Which way will it go? Very few people think even slightly outside the familiarity of their own experience and the smallness of our own lives, societies and world views. This is our undoing. As some people have commented, maybe we are the plague and SARS is the cure. Didn't have to be this way, but hey, didn't have to be lots of things. Sapiens, as a species we are not.

And now for the graphic a friend sent, and told me later he'd nearly not sent... ;)




...by the way, the horse seems to have the more comfortable option! ;) Those old-style N-95s are so uncomfortable. We used to use standard surgical masks, but now use Proshield N-95s which are super comfortable, soft around the face but have a proper seal, and easy to breathe through because they have an air reservoir.

They project out from the face a bit, so it's a bit Donald-Ducky, and we will say "quack" to each other and touch "beaks" for fun around other people. But it's really not an issue for us to wear these in indoors public areas or crowds - a very small inconvenience not just for our own safety, but for the safety of vulnerable members of our community, many of which are getting debilitated and dying catching this illness.

Maybe these masks should come with I LOVE YOUR GRANDMA printed on them.

By the way - these N-95 are re-usable for up to a year unless they get damaged or really dirty. We simply have two masks each which we alternate - mask A is worn while mask B hangs on the clothes line to catch some UV; next day vice versa. This also cuts down on plastic waste. When we're done with a mask eventually, we incinerate it in our wood fire.
 

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Discussion Starter · #195 ·
YOUR COW PATS ARE ON FIRE

Ever heard of mansplaining? The most outstanding example I've personally experienced in recent years was when I called up our local volunteer fire chief because we had a peat fire, and requested the fire truck to put it out. We both volunteer at the bushfire brigade, but the chief has to sign off on equipment use. What happened is in the aftermath of burning off our valley floor, which we did with various crews in attendance because it had gone too long unburnt and was too big to manage with traditional methods, one crew had back-burnt through a bit of peatland, and then not extinguished the peat fire that resulted (which is underground, a couple of inches below the sand - it's a typical valley floor soil type here).

And because I'm female, he was very sceptical. Can I talk to your husband? No, he's not here (and why the heck do you think he'd know more about it than me?). Umm. Aaah. I'll pop over later to have a look myself, before I authorise the truck.

Aargh. So he turns up, I show him the peat fire, and he says to me, "Sue, that's just a couple of cow pats on fire. This happens."

He's one of those people who think men automatically know more than women about anything technical, just by virtue of being men. So I've got a fire chief in the paddock with me over a peat fire, and he's telling me it's just cow pats on fire. You couldn't make this up.

So I tried to explain to him what a peat fire is. When he still looked at me like I was some kind of lunatic, I mentioned that I had done an extensive soil survey in the catchment just north of us back in the 1990s, professionally employed and paid to do so, and had described and mapped the soil types, and published the findings, and that this was a really common valley floor soil which consisted of a layer of acid sand (pH about 4-4.5) over peat, and peat is flammable and burns underground for months unless put out (like it is in Siberia since global warming), that made no impression on him at all. It's just cow pats on fire, Sue.

So I sighed, picked up the mobile phone, called Noel our neighbour who understands our soil types and is in the brigade too, and said, "Noel, we have a peat fire, the fire chief is standing here telling me I have cow pats on fire, he won't believe me, we need a fire truck, would you mind coming over and talking to him?"

Noel turned up, and said, "Sue's right, this is peat soil, we have it at our place, it can burn for months, we need to put it out." And the fire chief says, "Well, I've never heard of that before!" but then he got the fire truck, and we put out the fire.

My current guest thinks we need to educate males about mansplaining because it's so culturally ingrained. As is whitesplaining. And yes, all sorts of people say all sorts of stupid things, but some types are so statistically frequent that they now have terms attached to them.

While I don't mind comment here on people's personal experiences with such stuff, I'm not interested in having an argument about the existence or otherwise of mansplaining and whitesplaining. Brett and I both see this going on all the time - if anyone has an ideological objection to those ideas, then your own journals are the space to express them, not mine.
 

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Discussion Starter · #197 · (Edited)
SOCIABLE SUNDAY EXCURSIONING ON FOOT

Yesterday it rained cats and dogs, so much so that the horses didn't come back from the Common at night for feed time - they stayed in the forest behind the house with the donkeys, where the ground doesn't get soggy. First thing this morning I went looking for them, and persuaded them to come home. So the evening feed became the morning feed, after which I took the heavy, saturated rugs off and the horses went and snoozed in the shelter.

We ended up with such a sunny Sunday afternoon that I decided to do something adventurous with Julian. Riding on the Common was out of the question - the place was saturated. Lightbulb moment - let's just do a leisurely equine excursion on foot and see who wants to come along.

So I put a halter on Julian (no bribes), called the equines and opened the Common gate. Out we all went, and I called encouragement to the rest of the herd to follow us. Everyone came along, except Don Quixote AKA Rotundo the Wonder Donkey, who elected to stay with the cattle and the hay bale. 🐷

I had no camera today but can reconstitute the general ideas for you with other photographs.

This is similar to what it looked like at the start:

...excepting that the dark donkey wasn't there, but all the others were. Chasseur was directly behind us, then Mary Lou (our asinine Einstein 💡) and Sparkle (who is blind but best friends with Mary Lou), then Ben and Nelly. After a while there was some attrition, and the order was as follows: Jess the Kelpie, Julian and myself, Chasseur, Mary Lou, Sparkle.

The six of us went walking companionably up the sand track. This was an exploration walk so I encouraged Julian to put his nose on the ground and on anything else he wanted to check out up close. He taste tested a few different plants, sniffed some manure piles from various species, nosed around the ground and vegetation, and stood looking at various views. Sometimes I had to move him on so Sparkle wouldn't accidentally walk into the back of him. Mary Lou looked out very well for her, positioning her body strategically between Sparkle and a few obstacles she might otherwise have walked into, like a fallen log - and I told her what a good girl she was for doing that for Sparkle. People don't see these things unless they spend a lot of time around animals in natural settings.

Near the end of the sand track, Chasseur decided to head back to the pasture, and then it was Jess, Julian and me, Mary Lou and Sparkle. We tried turning right up the hill at the south gate, but the donkeys voted to go left, so eventually we decided to follow them, even though this meant we would all have to make our way through puddles and the much-expanded Boggy Patch. I hopped from reed base to reed base to rock after the donkeys, quickly enough not to get in too deep with my hiking boots to cause wet socks. Julian tagged along; he's usually fine with water now.

Turning into the swamp track, the view Julian and I had was very like this (it's the exact place), except we didn't have the dark donkey with us:


I took the halter off my horse now, so he could walk freely in the group - Mary Lou and Sparkle heading up, us following. This looked a bit like:

...except that the horse and I walked next to each other most of the way. Occasionally he stopped and sniffed something, and I turned around after a few metres and waited for him to catch up. Sometimes I looked with him. I spent some time scratching his head and ears, and also draping my arm across his neck or back (and sometimes scratching the base of his mane) as we walked along, while he made friendly faces.

Once we got into the Middle Meadow, there was strawberry clover to be had. I was being as equine-style-companionable as possible, stopping within cooee of him when he grazed and getting down on my haunches whenever he was busy with a patch of clover.

He wasn't wearing a halter, of course, and these photos were taken behind the house.


It's interesting experiencing the world from an equine perspective. I went around with Mary Lou, Sparkle and Julian as they ambled up the meadow grazing, positioned as Julian's grazing buddy, like Chasseur usually is. It's a very peaceful life down there with the grasses and other vegetation and the bushes all around with birds singing and insects buzzing, with the lovely smells of plants and the sun warm on your skin; and of course we're not in a boring place, like a square fenced field - we're in varied terrain; little meadows between bushland, and 8 hectares of grazing along the road, on the Common side of our driveway. It's certainly different from the 100x20 metre solitary-confinement strip of double-electric-fenced sand Julian lived in for 17 years in his daytimes. In November he will have lived with us for 5 years.

I spent another 10 minutes with them, but then had to get back to some other work. Julian stayed with Mary Lou and Sparkle on the other side of Scary Brook to eat the clover there, and I snuck home with the dog.
 

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Discussion Starter · #198 ·
Wonderful song from a wonderful band - this song is nearly 40 years old, and this band won the NME Best Live Act a couple of years ago when they were all around 60 (except their drummer, who's about a decade younger and also does charity triathlons). Totally well deserved award - these people are riveting live, better than ever - and they perform much like a string quartet, rather than a rock band.

 

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Discussion Starter · #200 ·
@egrogan, thank you for that! 😁

Thankfully, like yourself, I am married to an egalitarian who identifies himself as a feminist, and I do not have this trouble with him. We have an egalitarian relationship where we each learn from the other. He wouldn't presume to mansplain science to me, or anything else I'm super qualified in (or to mansplain to anyone, full stop), which doesn't mean he can't query a point or offer critiques of certain things that are a bit fuzzy, but then my husband himself is incredibly well versed and continuously self-educating in science, philosophy and literature and far more qualified than the average citizen to offer such critiques. The thing about him is that he understands his own limitations very well - he does a lot of metacognition, and considering different perspectives - and also he understands (actually understands from knowing me) which areas I understand better than he does (and vice versa), and because of that he often comes to me with, "I've got a science question for you!" - and my answer to him will also extend into epistemology and etymology, and with something complex, where the fuzzy bits still are and why, and various alternative hypotheses around that.

And of course, equally I'll go to him with, "I've got an IT question for you / a graphic design question for you / a question about film and media / about this particular Shakespeare play you've read / etc etc etc." And he'll also ask me about geology, geography, animal-related things, literature, philosophy, mathematics, farm management. Basically we know where we can augment each other and what areas the other has a lot of depth in that we can dive into with them. And we love the interactions, and grow from them as people.

That's a level of discussion I can only get into with colleagues who are still open learners and don't think they have "arrived", or people like my husband with a lot of background understanding and a very broad and deep self-education, or with really bright and open students I had at university and later at high school. It is not something that can generally be found in internet discussions. It's also not something you can ever find with people who subscribe to inherited and often medieval world views, religious fundamentalists who think ultimate truth about the physical world is found in "holy books", or people whose cognitive biases blinker them because they don't seriously engage in metacognition. And obviously there's Dunning-Kruger Effect. So on the internet, there's a lot of hot air which the people engaging in seem to think is somehow rarefied and intelligent and profound, and it's just hot air.



A bit more about mansplaining, since it's topical. Definitions:

..."to comment on or explain something to a woman in a condescending, overconfident, and often inaccurate or oversimplified manner". Author Rebecca Solnit ascribed the phenomenon to a combination of "overconfidence and cluelessness" (from the Wikipedia entry)

..."Mansplaining is, at its core, a very specific thing. It's what occurs when a man talks condescendingly to someone (especially a woman) about something he has incomplete knowledge of, with the mistaken assumption that he knows more about it than the person he's talking to does." (from the Merriam-Webster entry)

Mansplaining happens a ton to highly qualified women, and the men doing it often either get even more mansplainy after it's pointed out to them, or they think there's something wrong with the woman (because it's not them, is it) like they're "too sensitive" or "taking this the wrong way" or "my intentions were noble" or "I've got freedom of speech" or "You can't handle it when I disagree" etc etc etc. Only rarely do mansplainers think about what they're doing, realise it's their bad, and genuinely try to change their habits - although sometimes it can happen, and then that's great. I guess giving up mansplaining is a bit like giving up smoking - a hard habit to kick.

But do you reckon that our fire chief went away from the experience I related in Your Cow Pats Are On Fire, thinking, "Oh, I learnt something today, I shouldn't have said that, and I need to do some serious thinking about how I interact with people?" I don't think so. For one thing he did not apologise to me or even acknowledge remotely he'd been idiotic and condescending and wasted my time and my neighbour's, and for another, he's still a condescending posterior orifice every time we run into him, which is as little as possible if we can help it. And just for supplementary information, although this has never come up in conversation between him and us, he belongs to a fundamentalist religious group known as the "Free Reformed" who are "flat-earthers" scientifically and theologically (Biblical literalism, "young earth", superstitions about evil spirits, ban Harry Potter because it's occult etc, male entitlement as doctrine, trying to prescribe their ultra-conservative and socially unjust Sharia Law-equivalent on everyone else in society who does not belong to their group or share their views, if they could see their way to do it, etc). Here's some information about religious narcissism, which has interesting reader comments as well - because it is so interesting how many core mansplaining / whitesplaining offenders are also religious fundamentalists.

More information here:




A few fun examples:

“I’m an attorney, and I practised family law for a while. I had a male client who not only mansplained his cheating on his wife, he also wanted to explain to me how family law (particularly, child support and spousal support, of course) work in my state. And he was dead wrong. And I told him so and showed him the relevant statutes. And he got ****'y and asked for his retainer back because clearly I didn’t know what I was doing.

So I showed him in our contract where he signed acknowledging his understanding that the retainer was non-refundable. He then wanted to explain to me why that wasn’t legal. So I told him to get out of my office and find another attorney to sue me for the retainer if he wanted it back. Never heard from that guy again. His ex-wife’s attorney totally took him to the cleaner’s, and I loled.”


“I have a degree in Biochemistry and I invented and published a new method for measuring lifespan in these cells I work with. While setting up to run a tutorial session on how to do it, one of the male students started to ‘Correct me’ and explain how to use the method.

Which I invented.

And was literally there to teach him.”




from 25 Exasperating Examples of Mansplaining
 
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