Our old Labrador died last winter, and Ginger the Half-Dingo is now completely deaf and sleeps much of the day.  That left Bella the Bitsa, who isn’t really interested in chasing foxes, who now come brazenly into the house yard.  The peacocks have dark suspicions that Bella is herself a fox.

So we decided to get another dog.  I found one at the pound, a New Zealand Huntaway breed.  They look like a cross between a Doberman and a Border Collie, and they are bred to move large mobs of sheep on snowy mountainous regions – just like Cockatrice Farm isn’t.

Buster was on “death row” – his time at the pound had expired, and he needed a home urgently to avoid being put down.  A rescue group advertised this at my work, and he looked like he would make a fox think twice.

So I went to meet him.  He was a friendly if boisterous dog.  While driving home, a voice in my head said “His name is Buster”.  Then another voice said, “That’s a stupid name for a dog, he should be called something like Thucydides or Montgomery.”

The voices were unable to reach consensus, so I left it to Allison.  She met him the next day and checked doggie compatibility: Ginger and Bella both liked him.  Allison agrees that, in all possible universes, this dog’s name has to be Buster.

Buster was already stir-crazy from some weeks at the pound.  Then he had to go to the vet to have his nuts removed, and I picked him up after that.  It was a 90 minute drive back to the farm from there, with Buster tied up in the back seat.  He worked out that at full stretch he could force his head under my armpit, so I drove most of the way like that, with this huge whimpering puppy desperate for reassurance.

We got home, and Buster settled down quickly.  So far he seems really well behaved.  As his rescuer, I am to be eternally adored, and licked at every possible opportunity.

The next day, we took Buster for a walk in the paddock on a long rope.  This proved a bad idea, as Buster is strong and fast, and whenever he reached the end of the rope I would be yanked a good metre.  So we soon let him off the rope, and he did everything he was told and came when called.  The next day the geese were in the paddock, and he ignored them.  The horses were a bit of a shock to him but he’s adapted.  He’s had a good formal introduction to the cat, but I sense that one’s not quite over yet.

This morning, as I was leaving for work, a fox was sitting outside the house yard taunting the dogs.  So I opened the gate and told Buster to get him. Buster was across the field like lightning, and the fox got the shock of his life.  I think Buster actually caught him, but didn’t know what to do then.  Lots of pats and cuddles after that one!  (Foxy has been back, but much further away.)

I’ll report on Buster’s further progress.  I expect him to do something really naughty soon, to test the boundaries and see if we really love him.


Rocks again

It turned out that Golden Dragon just wanted a big drink first, then everything added slowly while it is running.  We’re getting along much better now.

Cleaning Golden Dragon each day is pretty quick with the hose.  Lots of water ends up over me too, which is not such a bad thing on these long warm autumn evenings.

Daylight saving ends on 1 April, after which I fear our daily rock production may have to move to weekends only.  Getting soaked at night in winter will have much less appeal.

That will give me back some weekday evenings to sort out the remaining engineering details.  We can put the new entry road in anytime.

The aim is to get the concrete slab down in August, and to get to lockup by Christmas.  (That’s not a sentimental thing, it’s when I have two weeks’ holiday to stick up all the stones we’ve made.)

If all goes well, and “Grand Designs” tells me it always does, we should be living there by June 2019.  No, not taking bets!


  • Golden dragon, ready for loading.
  • Red dragon, now retired, in front of our second 3 tonne pile of aggregate
  • Rocks piled up on pallets; house site in the background.


Yet more rocks

Suddenly, it’s March.  Until very recently, we’ve still been using Mog’s ancient mixer, which I’m calling Red Dragon.  Red Dragon is a classic and proven design, and used within its intended spec is very reliable.

Our standard mix is about 50% too much for the mixer.  We could make a smaller mix, but then we’d have more work to do and have to measure two-thirds-bags of cement, which would be horrible.

We got around this by putting the mixer in a sling, so it can take extra mixture.  That doesn’t mix efficiently, and the dry materials clump at the back and have to be scraped off.  So we mix two-thirds first then add in the extra aggregate and water.  While in a sling, the mixer is unstable, and knocking off a big lump of unmixed material can cause it to spin around and empty.  At that point, I leap in to try to steady it, and gears and levers fly everywhere and into me, and the whole mixer falls over.

In other words, Red Dragon bites.  Treated carefully, it works OK.  When I’m tired, which almost never happens after I’ve been working all day in Canberra, mistakes happen.

So we bought Golden Dragon, a shiny but disturbingly flimsy Chinese mixer which is three times the size and half the price of the conventional equivalent.  I was hoping to write that this had solved all our problems, but the mixer arrived without a rubber gasket to join the two halves of the mixing bowl – so it has just been in our way.


We got used to Red Dragon, and with great care and the right incantations it was working reliably.

After some weeks, the company sent us a replacement gasket for the new mixer – which had clearly been recycled from a returned unit – not a good sign.  So we finished assembling Golden Dragon and hoped for the best.

Our early impressions are that the unit is seriously underpowered.  It just gives up and stops.  We get a bit further if we set the mixing bowl at a high angle to start with, but not completely upright which makes the whole thing dangerously unstable.  Once it’s going, and with quite a liquid mix, we can drop the bowl to a lower angle which improves the mixing.

We can do a whole day’s mix in one go, which is great.  With Red Dragon, we decanted into buckets and filled the moulds from there.  With Golden Dragon, we have to dump the whole lot into a wheelbarrow, and fill the moulds using a scoop, which is physically easier.

At this stage, we have a problem with cement clumping at the back of the bowl, which we have to scrape off during the mix.  This requires bad language.

We had the same problem with Red Dragon, and got around it by fine-tuning the mix sequence.  So we’ll keep experimenting and see if we can get the new mixer behaving better.

Red Dragon has been sent back to its cave, though I sense that we’ll bring it back before the end.