19 November 1984

Letter: Making Bread

Letter 19 / 11 / 84

We are all getting over a virus, even Jo, and the freezer, generator, and washing machine are doing their various jobs saving us so much time and energy while we are so tired. I even put together a few of my 'rest' moments to do some sewing. If I try to sleep I usually get disturbed as soon as I drop off, which makes me feel lousy for hours, so I try to do something relaxing for an hour or so after lunch rather than let myself sleep. I put together some material scraps in rather hurried, rough-and-ready form and came up with a nice bright patchwork bedspread for our bed. I do enjoy using that treadle machine, I find it most relaxing.

The kibble wheat is lovely, but most of it just seems to melt away in the bread, only occasionally do we get a crunchy bit. Even though we now have a freezer I can't seem to keep my bread fresh - its only really nice for the first few hours. In the freezer (which is the absorption type and therefore very slow to actually freeze anything) it just goes dry very quickly. Is there something one can put into bread to stop it going stale so quickly? Would wheat germ keep it moist? - not that we have any.

Our garden plot

'Uncle' Kakam in the hilltop garden

The doldrums are trying to come, we keep getting really calm patches, the turtle season is well under way, and we can often see whales splashing about and spouting water out in front of our place out in the deeper water. We are longing for rain to grow a bit of greenery, fill our tank with non-scummy water, and try out Peter's new rock-wall on the drain!

We've taken possession of our piece of family garden land up on the hill. Its about half an hour's walk away, only the first bit is very steep. Its a fairly barren looking patch, with just scrubby lantana-type bushes - hard to tell what they are as its all been recently burnt. And there is one tree which will have some leaves later. The soil is red, but our section which has not been previously cleaned islander-style is covered with lovely brown humus - dry now, but will be beautiful when its wet. Peter got up there early the other morning and poked a few seeds in ... and now we wait for the rain and hope we don't get a big rain followed by a big dry so that the seeds don't germinate then just die. We live in hope.


We've got James going to kindy again after some weeks away sick. He even takes himself there on his bike. Its still a constant struggle to keep him on an even keel, he's so emotional and over-sensitive. Next year's school principal (as far as we know) has a six year old boy and a baby about six months old. That information may not be correct, but it would be nice for James to have a real boy to play with!

Alison, today, had half a dozen successes in her potty. I've been sitting her on there every hour - it seems to be taking a lot of my time, but I'm trying to think of it as an investment. Her chatter goes on and on, she's game to try repeating anything she hears.

She misses James when he's at kindy, but when he is away and Jo is asleep she rather enjoys being the only one for a while. Her hair is looking fairly respectable at last and I've been clipping it back or tying a little bunch rather than cutting a fringe - makes her look very cute! Her hair is quite blond, but not white like James.

Jo's hair is still brown (such that there is) and looks like staying that way. James's eyes have remained the same dark grey, but Alison's are a much lighter grey/blue. Jo's eyes are very dark, grey but tending towards brown. Her skin is slightly more sallow than the other two too. James and Alison both look very fair, but neither of them seems to burn easily.


We are celebrating James's birthday sometime next week, just so his little friends will still be here. Nerissa had her birthday this week and Danielle's birthday is a few weeks away so I think they are bringing hers forward after James's so she can also have all her little friends (James and Alison) for a little party.


A big mob (about 6) of white chaps turned up on a plane today. Heard on the bamboo line that they are from England and have come to up-date the Haddon report - done by the Cambridge expedition around the turn of the century, a six volume work and about the only real study ever done about these parts. Don't know how long they plan to stay - or where they'll stay - but I guess we'll catch up with them in due course. Just now another plane arrived with two more white people (a man and a woman), don't know who they are.


We still haven't managed to get the whole translation team together at one time. We had two meetings and only two out of four came ... reckon they'll all make it on Sunday maybe. Peter wants them to work in pairs for the initial part of a translation. We think we'll do the Parable of the Seed in story book form, and also dramatised for video. To get the women thinking in terms of literacy and realising that books do have something for them too, I'm working on a cookery / health book - haven't got very far yet, the women are so scared, or shy, or just busy.

Chooks and Ducks

Our two chickens are still laying, one each most days, but the two big ducks have gone broody - they don't do anything, hardly even eat, but sit on their nests and hiss at anyone who comes near ... and if we are not quick enough to collect the chickens' eggs they roll them out of the drum where the chickens lay and into their duck's nest and sit on them too.

The ten little ducks are doing well. One has a black spot on her forehead, one has two spots, and one has three. There seems to be only one drake, which we may keep this time. The three black ones are supposed to be magpie muscovies, but we are suspicious that they may not be muscovies at all - maybe that's why the big duck kept rejecting them. The black feathers they have grown now have a greeny sheen.

Uncle Kakam over the road has one black duck - strange looking bird, though - and he keeps it outside the run presumably because the others pick on it all the time.


We went up to the garden early this morning, managed to leave about 6:30am - not bad with that many kids to get ready! - and we planted a few more rows of corn. James managed to walk all the way up and back by himself - though a lot of the way down was on his bottom. Alison walked most of the flat bits by herself, and for the rest of the way Peter had to struggle with her on one arm, back-pack on his back, and mattock and cane knife in the other hand.

04 November 1984

Letter: All Mod Cons

Letter 4 / 11 / 84

The time has come, the time is now! I think I might get a letter written ... allowing for an interruption about every two words. Things are improving, I'm gradually catching up on what has to be done.

We now have a little freezer, which frees me from making bread so often. It doesn't freeze brilliantly (takes at least twelve hours to freeze most things, even small) because its an 'absorption' one and runs on gas. But its still a great help, with storing fish too. Also, we have our little generator AND WASHING MACHINE! What a difference that makes! What used to take hours is done in half an hour, and I can even do it with a baby on my hip!

Doing the washing with the new machine

Visitors left

Our visitors have finally all gone - it was nice to have them here, but it is a relief to be just us again. We enjoyed having Rod and Hazel staying with us, but our house (even with the translation house in full use as well) couldn't really cope with four adults and six kids. Meal-times were a special kind of nightmare, with our picnic table that only seats four - seats are attached to the table and can't be moved - and an extra chair at each end of it - that makes six. Our attempts to put James, Linda and Alison at a separate table failed, and we ended up having two sittings (in which case the kids all hung around for the second sitting anyway ... ) or we all had kids on our knees while we ate.

Nevertheless it was a nice break - a change from our usual routine. We managed to all climb the hill, and I minded the littlies while the others all went right around the island, and we had a trip over to Dawar Island. Poor little Philip had a rough time with fevers, and Linda was under stress because she is very much an 'indoorsy' city girl - so Rod and Hazel got to discover some of the joys of 'mission life'. But they sent Kay to school here, and she loved it.

More visitors

The day they left we were supposed to have two more people coming, so we were most relieved when they delayed their visit for four days. Peter H came from Cairns (he's the 'extension officer' for TAFE college) bringing a lady who is to run a gardening course up here. They only stayed for four days, and it was a relaxing time because they didn't bring any kids and ours really took to them. Kathy rather shocked the locals (and us, for a moment there, as we may have been up here too long ...) with her extremely short shorts - I trust she will adjust her clothing before she returns for the main part of the course.


Jo continues to develop in her own sweet way. She's so placid and content. She doesn't generally cry when she wakes up, I often go in and find her playing happily. Sometimes at four or five in the morning I'll hear a little voice and find her on her back, wedged across the cot, all tangled up in her mosquito net, playing in the dark. She's full of smiles and little chuckles, especially for things like mobiles, and her 'crib exerciser'. She turns over with ease, and is getting fairly accurate with her hands.


Alison is as Alison as she ever was. Chatters all day - puts quite a few words together into little sentences now. And copies everything James says. She's getting gentler with Jo, though every now and then she'll suddenly claw at her face, or come running from a distance and jump on her! She has one or two dolls of her own now who get frequent baths and cuddles etc. She's quite the little girl, though she still acts as a magnet to dirt. Her hair is getting thicker, and I'm trying to get her used to having clips and things in it without pulling them straight out again. I have her in pants all day, but we are having no success at all with her training. If I could have just a few successes in the pot to reward we might get somewhere. She knows what she's doing, and rather enjoys the sensation of a puddle around her feet.


As for our James James ... he's a long skinny creature these days. He's been very sick - again. His asthma attacks get worse. Last night he had a really bad attack - rather distressing for all of us. Ventolin is a fairly standard treatment - he has it in liquid form. But he coughs and coughs and vomits, and its very difficult to get anything into him while his stomach is in spasms. I think you can get a Ventolin inhaler, which he may be old enough to learn to handle.

Anyway, his new bike arrived 2-3 weeks ago, and he hasn't been willing to ride it. Even with the trainer wheels he was sure he would fall off. We realised after a while that the real reason is because he's feeling so weak and tired he just doesn't have the strength to push it. But he's been getting better as he always does when we give him a course of Incremin tonic, and today he was suddenly willing to try. Once he got going he gained confidence and didn't want to stop. He got faster and faster and went further and further each time. Peter says he remembers his dad said his (dad's) chest troubles started to get better once he got a bike, and Peter had the same experience. I guess exercising with your hands out (and therefore chest expanded) would be good for these problems, and hopefully we'll see James improving fast. I think he'll be up early tomorrow morning wanting to ride. His speech is good these days, still a smattering of Creole language mixed in, but mostly English. He chatters non-stop, louder and louder ...

Ducks and Chooks

Of our three large ducks, two recovered from their broodiness and started laying, but the third took over all the yellow ducklings as her brood and turned nasty towards the three black and yellow ones, and us, and everything else. She was quite a nuisance, so in the end we just gave her away. Now one of the other two who were laying has stopped laying and is looking after the (not-so-little) ducklings ... it seems we can't win. At least the chickens are still laying, about 5 eggs every 3 days between them.


The citrus trees are still growing well. And we have corn and tomato and bean seedlings on their way. In the kitchen I have parsley and coriander and dill and tarragon growing in teacups on my windowsill! Its the parsley I'm most keen on. They are still very small, but I was very tempted to pick a little leaf to put on a dish today.