Coal Seam Gas

Amazingly even this little, quiet corner of the world is under the watchful eye of the petro’ industry. AGL holds a Petroleum Exploration License that extends from the Northern End of Murrays Run, South West to Camden. In and around Camden AGL is currently operating somewhere between 40 and 80 active wells (it seems more difficult than it should be to pin down the exact number).

While the possibility of AGL or indeed any other gas company coming sniffing around Bucketty seems remote on the surface, this document published in March 2013 by the NSW Planning Department indicates that the peace and quiet might just be a piece of quiet before the storm.

Screenshot of Page 35 of the documentRecently a community action group has formed, under the convening hand of John Edye. There are fourteen of us all up on the committee, and we are in the process of organising a community wide survey to gauge the community’s feelings towards the idea of their collective backyard being turned into a gas field. I’ve written more about what I think here.

We are well underway to performing the community survey, having held a fantastically powerful community meeting on June 19th. From basically a walking start only three months ago we have built amazing momentum and it is wonderful to be able to contribute to the community this way. Most of the reporting of this journey will be on the website we’ve set up. Stay tuned.


On New Year’s Eve the tavern at Wollombi plays host to a sparky farewell to the old and a hearty welcome to the new with a bang, boom, and fzzzzzzzzpop flash of fireworks. A large crowd of locals and some not so locals come together around the bar, fill the balconies and stand in groups amongst the tables on the large, grassy lawn to ooh and ahh and gaze, faces tilted upward admiring the show. It is the sort of event where children dart around the legs of the bevie drinkers standing on the grass whilst their parents, for the most part, do not keep a specific track on where their kids are; trusting instead to the collective responsibility and care of the community to ensure safety. It works. So the kids, adorned with glow sticks, roll down the slope of the small hill upon which the pub stands, and try to slide down it on cardboard they have retrieved from the tavern’s recycling pile. The glowsticks are whirled in multi-coloured whips, and the colour combinations provide a reference point for identifying children – “Mine have orange sticks, with red and blue wrist bands.” Later, a sugar glider sat on the power line above us watching, probably wondering what the hell all that noise, smoke and odd light was about. Slowly the crowd dispersed, having exchanged good wishes, renewed acquaintances, met new people and shared a moment of community celebration.

In between sharing news, gossip and banter, some of the talk between the partygoers touched upon resolutions, whether real or joking. We tend to be prompted by the ending of each year’s calendar cycle to review our life’s progress. To find weaknesses and to resolve to address them. To identify opportunities and to promise ourselves we will make a better effort to exploit them. To realise that we have missed the chance to tell someone something important and to commit to ensuring we share how we feel with those closest to us. Somewhere today, more than a few people woke up having broke off a relationship last night having decided Enough!, or they entered into a new one sealed with a midnight kiss and probably fuelled with a big glass of suppressed inhibitions. Some will regret. Some will rejoice. Some will just be nursing a sore head and trying to remember how they got home. Some haven’t got home yet. Some never will.

Almost certainly though, most of the New Year’s resolutions that are made will not be kept. Various studies indicate that somewhere between 70 and 80% of resolutions will fail (the interweb told me so it must be true). A search on google for the phrase “how many new years resolutions are kept” yields a surprisingly precise 39,800,000 hits, which if nothing else demonstrates that the author of site’s search and display algorithm made and kept a resolution to code some fancy number rounding subroutine at some point. Well, at least someone keeps their promises.

Perhaps all those resolutions failed because the person making them was pissed at the time and just couldn’t remember afterward. Perhaps the resolution was made and voiced just to please someone else, rather than being one that the maker held as being personally important. Perhaps a genuine effort was made to live up to the promise but in the end “life just got in the way”. More than a few though I think will fail because as a rule we have the attention span of gnats, whilst the execution of our promises require effort expended over a year, which is three to four gnat life spans (which goes to show by the way that the phrase ought to be attention span of a gastrotich). The problem isn’t so much our adherence to the promises we keep, its the overly long interval between review periods.

Taking the opportunity to reflect on how we’re travelling through life, how we are treating ourselves, others, and the planet on which we live is a wonderful thing to do. However doing so once a year is something unlikely to ever yield real meaning or result. Too much baggage builds up over all that time – making the task of effecting change all that harder. Habits have become all that more ingrained, and words spoken in haste and emotion have over time become deeply imbedded in the listener’s and the speaker’s psyche; sharp splinters of sourness too deeply ingrained to be easily removed and healed over. If we are to succeed in bettering ourselves through thoughtful self analysis perhaps the answer lies in finding the time and courage to do so at the end of each day, rather than at the end of the calendar year. To be better tomorrow, in the next conversation, at the next meal, in the next deed performed and word spoken. To be resolute in one’s purpose; in striving to be a better person at every moment. To say thankyou, to offer a sorry, to remember to smile and to say please. To correct mistakes and to learn. To recognise what we each do well and what we can do better at. To walk with pride and grace and with a light tread.

The sun came up today on this first day of 2013, as it did yesterday on the last day of 2012. The timbre of its light is different, though you’d not know it – we don’t perceive the day by day change in the sun’s energy production. Every day seems the same and we have not any power over the course of the sun during each one; it is only within us that we can make a difference to the light.


Since about April we have been wishing for rain, as the ENSO cycle has brought an end to the wet of last year. December has been pretty much a zero rainfall flatline, however as the old saying goes “You need to be careful what you wish for”, because Santa brought us just a little more wetness than we would have liked: Screenshot from 2012-12-30 08:50:41




The water tanks were happy. The frogs in the dam were happy. The garden was happy. The eleven of us sitting around the table on the deck outside having Christmas lunch…well…not so happy. Apparently this was the wettest Christmas Day on the East Coast of Australia in seventy years. See…you wish for rain…you get rain. Don’t say Santa never delivers.

In between dodging raindrops we exchanged gifts and bonhomie, and demonstrated our mutual affection by cooking up a storm. The Others ate various dead animals they had prepared elsewhere and brought along already cooked. Meanwhile we feasted on stuffing; roasted baby potatoes with garlic, pine nuts and dill; rose harissa tagine, Bevski beetroot; sweet potato salad; quinoa salad, and I don’t even remember what else. Afterwards, just to ensure we hadn’t missed filling any spare sections of intestine we had Bevski Pud, and chocolate self saucing pud. And then we all looked like our friend Monty, right after he’s eaten a large something.Monty pythonLike Monty we all wanted to just lay in the sun for a few days and digest everything. Alas, there wasn’t any sunshine to lie in. Well, not for a few days anyway.

A very special guest for dinner

When I was living in Ol’ Blighty I had the glorious pleasure of spending time regularly with a friend Tim. Together with other mates we’d go sailing on Tim’s yacht, Moody Blue, around the Solent; we did the Palace to Palace bike ride, drank beers, laughed at the sometime silliness of office life, watched each other’s kids grow up and generally shared many good times together. I miss Tim (amongst other good people too).

A little while back Tim emailed to say that he was in the midst of a career change, and that during the gap-month he had the opportunity to sail from Fiji to Auckland on his friend’s 58 footer. An opportunity not to be missed, clearly. Which just left the question; “So Tim, are you flying back to England directly from Auckland, or are you coming via Sydney?”

Well, faster than you can sunburn an Englishman at midday it was all arranged and soon enough the day came around when Tim would here for dinner. It was surreal to say the least to speak to the man at 7:00am on the phone and to utter the words “See you this afternoon”, after not having seen each other for three years, and on the other side of the planet. On the train down to Central to meet Tim it was interesting to have a holidaying English couple sit immediately behind me, and hear their various exclamations as the train journeyed through the suburbs; a timely and very relevant insight into what an English visitor would find notable.

“Oh, look a those blue trees, they really stand out don’t they” – hhmmm, yes they do but Jacarandas are generally recognised as being of purple bloom.

“Look, an Olympic sized outdoor swimming pool” – yes, and it doesn’t freeze over during Winter like it would in England.

“Did you see that kangaroo hopping down the middle of the road?” – OK…I made this one up.

After winding our way back North again Tim soon had a Resch’s in his hand watching the lorikeets flit through the trees in Rumbalara. Entree (spicy grated eggplant on a bed of lettuce, along with hommous and flatbread), Shiraz, Butter bean tagine with cous-cous, Shiraz and no room for dessert soon followed (and to honest, I never offered one). Just to make sure that we properly solved the problems of the world, we lubricated our minds with a cheeky glass of VET Antivirus commemorative port which has been lying in the bottle rack for at least ten years. It had more sediment floating in it than the dam at ridgesong, but we checked for tadpoles first and sucked it through clenched teeth so all was good. It was this latter technique I think that rendered our conversation difficult to follow and so SheWhoMustBeFed took herself off to bed to leave us fools to stay up until Stupid O’Clock talking bollocks and nodding wisely. For the benefit of all I must say here that VET put their name to better software than to port.

As Tim could stay only overnight before heading back to England again, the next day brought the challenge of what to include on a lightening tour of the Central Coast, a problem solved by a tour through Woy Woy, Ettalong, a visit to the rock platform in Boudhi National Park overlooking Maitland Bay, then through Terrigal for a coffee, a postcard, and a marvel at the concept of beach volleyball being played for afternoon school sport. Oh…and the sight of lots of those pretty, blue Jacarandas.

The train took Tim away far too soon as he headed off to the airport, but we remember him still – not least because we can still get a whiff of his aftershave every time we use the bathroom. They say that the olfactory sense is the one most closely associated with the recollection of the memories, and so he lingers still in our thoughts and our nostrils. And long may he remain there.



A hundred flickering candles

It is there in many forms
Colourful, gay, radiant
Some drab and muted
Some luminous and elegant.

When the wind blows
It swings and dances
Sometimes frantic
Sometimes slow.

Its soft light is man’s wonder
Skillfully honed and mastered
To illuminate lovers
And guide the path
Of a lonely dreamer.

The Lantern is there once more
Lovingly giving warmth
Beaconing far and beyond
Like a whisper from a tomb
Praying for a lost soul to come home.

-Sheri C Uy

On the first weekend in November the small, nearby town of Wollombi holds its annual Country Fair. Stallholders spruik their wares – wines, beeswax candles, plants, local foods, clothing, and recycled goods. Others take the opportunity to educate locals on issues critical to their livelihoods, such as proposed zoning classification changes affecting farmland, property development proposals, and threats to the water table from coal seam gas extraction. The two small sandstone churches of Wollombi open their doors to the believers and condemned heathens alike so that all may enjoy the craftsmanship of the old buildings, multicoloured sunlight streaming in through the lead-light and stained glass windows, casting a warm glow across the buttock polished timbers of the solid benches arranged in devotional rows before the pew. A rhythmic thunk hammers out as burly men swing chromed axe heads in a race to cut through thick logs at the woodchop. In the pasture beyond the Wollombi Tavern cows chew cud and devote not a single spark of bovine thought at all the human twitterings taking place around them. Amongst the trees in the tavern’s rear field a few tents and caravans stand, home for the weekend to some of the stallholders, entertainers and booze-bus aware patrons. In the evening a band will play on the stage behind the pub, beer will flow and more than the usual number of bottles of Dr Jurd’s Jungle Juice will be sold to the beer fuddled visitors.

At dusk, children gather in the parking area next the tennis courts holding a myriad of paper and bamboo lanterns, stars, obelisks, pyramids, and similar simple geometric shapes. Their parents hover and herd them, sharing gossip amongst themselves in small groups as they await the signal to strike matches and flick the wheels of lighters in order to ignite the lantern’s candles. Four children hold a handle each of the fabulously constructed lantern model of the Wollombi Primary School, complete with chimneys and water tanks. As the evening sky darkens the darkened shapes of the lanterns are en masse transformed into a gentle, golden glowing parade held aloft on hooked bamboo rods.We snake along from our ignition point around the grassed yard of Saint Micheal’s Church, and eventually gather, a hundred flickering candles held above our heads as we approach the funeral pyre of our creativity – a bonfire lit in the grounds of the tavern where our paper and bamboo vanities may be consumed in a growing roar of flame. The RFS brigade members watch over the children approaching the fire to hoist their lanterns into it, and we all give a silent thanks for the weather gracing us with dry skies and an absence of a total fire ban for the evening.

In a world of Wii’s, iPods, wall-sized 3D hi-def LCD TVs, and hyper-connected social exchange a small community gathers together in a candle lit moment of simple, quiet enjoyment. Paper, glue, bamboo, wax, wire and flame binding together for a moment the various trajectories of classmates, neighbours, friends and strangers, Athletes, celebrities, fame seekers and heroes carry the Olympic torch, but in one small town a hundred ordinary children keep a light shining on the importance of friendship and community.


The Bandit and Octavia’s Daughter come for dinner

Octavia’s Daughter’s favourite film is ‘Angus, Thongs and Perfect Snogging’

Snogging sadly, gets in the way of chewing your food properly. Also, care must be taken to avoid parsley between the teeth, and an aversion to garlic and onion may become a nasty habit. So much for THAT film then..

On to the rest of the story.

The Bandit and Octavia’s Daughter came by this afternoon. They have already paid for their meal by way of their news that the local library sells off their excess stock of books for the bargain basement price of 50p for a shopping bag full. Clearly the library could do with some lessons in signposting, as SheWhoMustBeFed hasn’t noticed that goings on for five plus years.

What to make a houseful? Quick look in the fridge settles it on Fragrant Vegetable Tagine along with Haricot bean tagine. With some cous-cous to the side.

Yum…and Octavia’s Daughter is meanwhile playing the piano, while The Bandit irritatingly tries to look over The VegHead’s shoulder while he types.

Manners! On the decline everywhere!

PS. ‘Wild Child’ also gets the nod by the way for favourite file. Perhaps the perfect reel of celluloid for Octavia’s Daughter.

PPS. Octavia’s Daughter contributes the following

🙂 xoxoxox <3>


Christmas isn’t Christmas without stuffing. Though it is a fair and reasonable question to pose whether Stuffing is Stuffing if it isn’t stuffed up the vent* of a dead chicken/turkey? One reasonable answer is that the name is still appropriate because after you’ve gorged on the meal it is you who feels stuffed. This was made on the afternoon of the day before Christmas, simply because it could be and thus gave me one less thing to do in the kitchen on The Day. But if you want to sagely nod and claim that doing so will allow “the flavours to stew, intensify and gain complexity” go right ahead..


  • As luck would have it, a loaf of homemade wholemeal bread had just been finished leaving only the two end crusts from the loaf. Each of these was a fairly thick slice. So…two end slices of bread.
  • 6 or so thin slices of onion, finely chopped
  • 1 clove of garlic, crushed
  • 1 medium, firm mushroom
  • 1/4 cup of almonds, finely crushed
  • 1 tablespoon of marinated black olives
  • 2 teaspoons of light miso
  • 2 teaspoons of tomato paste
  • 2 teaspoons of chopped, fresh herbs: rosemary, thyme, parsley
  • 1 teaspoon of ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup of olive oil
  • Put the kettle onto boil…

Méthode de la fabrication bourrant…

  • Breadcrumb the bread slices. In my case, they were torn into medium size pieces and then “wizzed” using the ever useful Bamix.
  • Do the same for the mushroom and the olives.
  • Combine these with all other dry ingredients into a bowl
  • Dissolve the miso and tomato paste in about 1/2 cup of boiled water, and add to the mix
  • Add the olive oil, and mix thoroughly
  • Place mixture into an appropriately sized and lidded baking dish, squeezing down as you do so to ensure a tight fill.
  • Pour in additional boiled water to about the halfway level (this was easy in my case as the baking dish was glass so I could see the level).
  • Bake, covered for about 45 minutes in a hot oven.

* “Vent” is the official name for the common opening that birds have, that is used for reproduction, and for the evacuation of stools and urine.

Christmas Gravy

“You are making gravy aren’t you?”…..spoke SheWhoMustBeFed about five minutes before everything else was about to be served for Christmas Dinner. Blinking innocently, the love of my life informed me that “I’ve told everyone you’re making gravy”, which struck me as being an odd thing to feel the need to drop into conversation with family and friends on the run up to Christmas. Note to self: should buy She WhoMustBeFed a copy of “The Fine Art of Small Talk: How To Start a Conversation, Keep It Going, Build Networking Skills — and Leave a Positive Impression!” by Debra Fine for her birthday.

And so…to the gravy…


  • Cornflour
  • Dark miso
  • The glass of red wine you’d just poured yourself to drink
  • Two or three thin slices of onion, finely chopped
  • Pinch of mixed herbs (oregano, rosemary, thyme)
  • Ground pepper
  • 1 teaspoon of sugar
  • Olive oil

Putting it all together quick enough that the rest of the meal doesn’t burn…

  1. Smile sweetly at SheWhoMustBeFed and say “Of course I’m making gravy dear…”
  2. Put the kettle on to boil. Once boiled, fill the gravy pitcher with hot water to warm it up
  3. In a small saucepan, over a low flame…
  4. Lightly saute the onion in 2 tablespoons of oil, together with the pepper
  5. Remove from heat and add a tablespoon of cornflour, stir out any lumps
  6. Return to the heat and add all other ingredients
  7. Add about one cup of boiled water
  8. Stir; taking care the miso dissolves thoroughly
  9. If not thick enough for your taste; remove a tablespoon of the gravy and in a cup, mix in another teaspoon or so of cornflour. Once mixed to an even paste, stir into the pan.

Christmas 2008

That’s that then. Only 363 sleeps until Christmas. And if there are any stores actually left trading come next Christmas (that haven’t gone bankrupt) we can again wrap a collection of gifts under the tree and contribute our own little way to the engine of economic consumption. Bless you all and especially the little darling loinfruits, and to paraphrase Dear Queen Lizzie – “Blessed are those who sacrifice a moment of their wealthy days and give something to the common people, standing in their unwashed millions beyond the castle walls”.

Thus directed by the only person who’s effigy jingles disturbingly near my groin when I have a pocketful of change, it is my pleasure to share the recipes for the two most important parts of the Christmas meal; The Gravy and The Stuffing. Now…get yourself off to the 90% Off Boxing Day sales before the last store closes…forever.

PS. For Christmas SheWhoMustBeFed gave me a set of digital kitchen scales. Accurate to 1 gram and able to be “zeroed” at any weight these are a boon to breadmaking as they mean all ingredients including liquids can be accurately measured by weight

Dinner with the Flying Dutchman

On Tuesday afternoon The Flying Dutchman signaled his presence in LizzieLand with a quick text. Hasty arrangements were made for him to come over for dinner, thus rescuing him from the foul produce of a Marriott Hotel kitchen. Having extended the invitation the only minor challenge was to open the fridge and see what was actually in the house to cook. The Flying Dutchman will – happily for us – eat what is put in front of him; even the culinary excesses of his mad vegan friends.

The choice of a Moroccan themed dinner was settled by the fact that everything needed was already in the house.


  • Hommous
  • Olives
  • Spicy aubergine dip
  • Pita bread

Main course:

  • Bean and lemon tagine
  • Golden cous-cous

And so I’d better get busy posting up the recipes for those….