Thursday, December 30, 2010

Two days in Tassie

I knew there was a reason that I'd put on an extra layer of fat in December. Between Xmas parties, my birthday tapas party and Xmas itself I was a little more padded. It was all so I could go for a swim in Tasmania.

The water here in Coles bay is beautiful, crystal clear and inviting and today was a warm day, we got a bit of a sweat up picking cherries this morning on the way up, but I am still shivering under a blanket 20 minutes after getting out. The water is chilly! We are up here for tonight and new years, staying at our mates Marj's family shack. It's a small place nestled into the she oaks a stones throw from that clear cold water.

Food has been a big part of the trip, I've been writing about it at Mother Foccacia here mainly because there is so much to write about. Taste of Tasmania yesterday, fruit picking and an amazing bakery today.

The mates we are staying with in Hobart, Dave and Marj, live in the last few houses on Mt Wellington. After Taste yesterday we went for a look up the top. It had been hot and sunny at the festival and Dave and I were going for a run after, while the girls did a walk so I was in a tshirt and running shorts, a vest and scarf. I froze my arse off! Those few extra hundred meters up make a big difference.

After the run and all the food the fire was lit and we sat round reading, one of the true pleasures of life that QLDrs don't get to experience. So far a great trip and so much more to do, as long as I don't die of hypothermia from my swim.


- Lantanaland from my iPad

Location:Freycinet Dr,Coles Bay,Australia

Monday, December 27, 2010

Holidays

This time of the year is crazy busy, but considering I am doing this blog on the Flinthart model, as a record for my future kids to read, I have been amazingly lax at chronicling all the stuff on the farm.

For one we have been finally rebuilding the deck, much to regular visitors relief. It has really changed the feel of the house, making it look a bit higher and bigger. Work has ground to a halt, because Queensland seems to be experiencing a spot of rain. I can't remember ever having such a sustained period of wet weather. I love the rain, means more grass for the cows and more growth generally, but we are escaping the big wet for sunnier and warmer climes. Tasmania.

When we get there I will be hanging my head in shame as I screwed up the car booking so now we are reliant on the good will of our great mates Dave and Marj. They are doing a road trip to come and get us and it means my highly anticipated visit to Casa De Flinthart is postponed to the end of the trip.

Oh well, some good food and wine and more food should cure my stupidity. That's if we ever leave Brisbane. The rain seems to me diverting and delaying flights. At this rate the room I just booked will be obsolete.




- Lantanaland from my iPad.

Location:Brisbane airport

Friday, December 3, 2010

Old School

I wrote the following for a publication celebrating my primary schools 150th year. Gladstone Central Primary school is a small school at the bottom of Auckland hill, when my mum went there the harbor came right up to the school fence, you could go fishing in the lunch break! Now all that is reclaimed for the port and there are railway tracks and silos but it was a great primary school to attend, small enough that you knew just about everyone. Three generations of my family attended there and while it's very unlikely that my kids will attend, I'm very glad that just down the road from us is a very 'Central' like school.

Most of my mates were in the year below me in primary school. That made it very easy for my parents to take me off traveling for a year and let me start high school with them. It was a good deal. When I returned and went off to my new school everything had changed. Not my mates, rather the way we spent our lunch hours. For some reason we were all suddenly too cool to play sport during the lunch hour.

Sport is what I remember the most from my days at Central. There was those innocent first two years up in the top playground where you just ran around chasing each other. What you really wanted was to go down to the oval. Where the big kids played. You always had a try, but the small school defeated you every time as the teacher always knew where you should be. Year three therefore, was a big step, you got to get onto the main oval and play sport.

The year was divided up into three sections. Summer of course was cricket. There would be games on the basketball court before school. The good players brought their own bats and everyone would bring a tennis ball, as quite a few would make it on to the nearby railway tracks. Lunchtimes would see multiple games, usually in year groups, using the trees along Auckland Street as stumps. I seem to remember one tree being particularly ours, at least until year seven, when the school managed the previously unthought of luxury of a kanga cricket stumps set. We could then set up shop in the middle of the oval and imagine the MCG or Gabba.

Imagination and sport went hand in hand. Being the eighties we all imitated the West Indies bowlers and Dean Jones batting. When winter came it was soccer and rugby league. Of course at origin time both teams were mostly stacked with Alfie Langer clones, unless you were from NSW and were weird. We would always push the boundaries and try and play tackle, each successive hit up becoming more tackle than 'hold', before a teacher would come and warn us and we practiced our innocent looks.

One of the biggest questions of my school life at Central was when you actually changed sports. There was always boys that liked one more than the other so would start bringing the bat or footy to school, setting up the stumps or piling the bags into try lines. We sorted this tense situation out with diplomacy that would not be out of place in the middle east, by playing a third sport called Sandwich, or more succinctly, Kill.

It was a game breathtaking in it's simplicity. Throw a ball into the air and watch 30 odd boys run like made to be first to get it. If you got the ball, you were fair game and you ran like hell until you thought your life was in danger at which point you threw the ball as high as you could into the air. Fear and self preservation usually kept the ball moving but occasionally you'd misjudge and find yourself at the bottom of a scrum of blokes, with latecomers doing swan dives onto the pile. It was usually at this point that the teacher of the day would politely suggest that perhaps we could find some other form of entertainment.

The worst thing that could happen to you at Central was forgetting your hat. Lunch, you could do without but to miss cricket or soccer at lunchtime was a tragedy. I'm sure Shakespeare first got in the mood for Hamlet by missing out on a game of cricket.

Every time I return to Gladstone I'll drive past that oval and instantly remember the times running around that green oval, wolfing down lunch so I could fit another oval or kick in, turning up early at school for just one more game.


- Lantanaland from my iPad.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Coda. Recap and top ten live albums

So I really enjoyed writing about my favorite albums and the comments on here and twitter. Even found out a few things I didn't know. When Dr Yobbo and I were setting this up on twitter and arguing out the ground rules, he correctly excluded live albums, because we figured if a band couldn't get their shit together to write a good studio album then they didn't deserve the spot. He's right, I've never understood why a band like Hunters and Collectors would produce such overproduced anemic studio recordings but sound so amazing live. They should have just miked up a big room and played all their albums like a live set. So here is my top ten live albums. Some of these bands are just better live than with a producer playing with their shit.

No 10. New York City - Peter Malik Quartet and Norah Jones
Great laid backed sound, which suits her voice to a tee. I think she is a bit underrated because of her profile. Great singer.

No 9. Live at Brighton Beach - Fatboy Slim
The Wife was on a train to see this set, or the second one I can't remember and missed a connection and missed out. A shame cause Fatboy Dlim live would be a great party!

No 8. Live on Earth - The Cat Empire
A good album, not a great album, but there a great live songs here that capture the essence of what makes them a kick arse live band. The little live show they played at The Rev for radio executives was probably the second best gig we had.

No 7. Ben Folds Live - Ben Folds
Amazing to think that a guy behind a piano could be so captivating. He has a fantastic voice and writes killer melodic pop songs with thoughtful lyrics. The version of Fred Jones Part II on this is haunting.

No 6. Live at the Matterhorn - Fat Freddys Drop
4 songs. 70 minutes. That pretty much sums up the Fat Freddys live experience. They don't just hit you between the eyes. They sneak up on you slowly, adding layer upon layer of music. When I first saw them live, they had just the bass player and the singer on stage for the first three or four minutes, and the singer was just grooving to the bass line! One by one the band came on stage, joined in and eventually the whole crowd was dancing to this amazing tightly played song, but the buildup was so relaxed and subtle.

No 5. Live Like Dogs
Again, Resin Dogs never truly captured their live style that made the beloved in the Brisbane Live scene. This album captures them pretty well, with the tracks with DNO rapping, The Mics Sound Nice and Freak the Funk the standout.

No 4. Feel The Seasons Change - Salmonella Dub and the NZSO
A band marrying with and orchestra doesn't always work, re listening to the Metallica one has left me a bit cold, but this is a great example of what it can be. It has that cinematic or stage show feel, with ebbs and flows and I would have loved to seen this live.

No 3. A-Z - Paul Kelly
I'm not sure that this has even been released yet, I have all these songs from the slow release Paul did on his website. These are from the A-Z shows Kelly does every year, shows which are amazing in itself, how many artists could even do an A -Z show without boring everyone to tears with obscure tracks. The tracks are being released with a huge book of liner notes which I can't wait to get.

No 2. Roseland NYC Live - Portishead
An electronic band playing with an orchestra? Sounds a bit contrived but this totally works, with her voice soaring above the music and the electronic parts blending into the background.

No 1. Living in Small Rooms and Lounges - Hunters and Collectors
Terrible, terrible studio band. They had this huge big kick arse sound and somehow manage to make it sound like a three piece on a record. Here though, they capture all the sound, the driving energy, the fantastic brass, that made them one of the best bands to see live. I only saw them once, on their last ever tour and it was amazing.

That's the record that would have easily slipped into my top ten. All those live records are on pretty high rotation at my place though, well worth a listen.

No 50. Dire Straits - Dire Straits.
No 49. Good Gracious - M-phazes
No 48. Achtung Baby - U2
No 47. Manipulating Agent -
No 46. Stone Broke - Brothers Stoney
No 45. Based on a True Story - Fat Freddys Drop
No 44. Unit - Regurgitator
No 43. Apocalypso - The Presets
No 42. Signs of a Struggle - Mattafix
No 41. GRand Theft Audio - Resin Dogs
No 40. Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness - The Smashing Pumpkins
No 39. Elephant - The White Stripes
No. 38 Chutes too Narrow - The Shins
No 37. Stoned and Dethroned - The Jesus and Mary Chain
No 36. Alright Still - Lily Allen
No 35. Sea change - Beck
If you were a fan of Odelay than you'd be mighty surprised to find Beck writing sad assed country songs. Bloody good at them though.
No 34. In the Nude - Pornland
No 33. An Elefant Never Forgets - The Herd
No 32. Felt Mountain - Goldfrapp
No 31. Orchid for the Afterworld - Sonic Animation
No 30. La Roux - La Roux
No 29. Renegades - Rage Against The Machine
No 28. Flight of the Conchords - Flight of the Conchords
No 27. Play - Moby
No 26. Mezzanine - Massive Attack
No 25. The K&D Sessions - Kruder and Dorfmeister
No 24. You've come a Long Way Baby - Fatboy Slim
No 23. Rocking the Suburbs - Ben Folds
No 22. Tragic Kingdom - No Doubt
No 21. Prozac Beats - 2 Dogs
No 20. Dummy -Portishead
No 19. Kick - INXS
No 18. Fashion Nugget - Cake
No 17. Think Tank - Blur
No 16. Ok Computer - Radiohead
No 15. Power in Numbers - Jurassic 5
No 14. Nevermind - Nirvana
No 13. Wild Colonial - Ozi Batla
No 12. War Stories - Unkle
No 11. Two Shoes - The Cat Empire
No 10. Decoder Ring - Decoder Ring
No 9. Taste the Secret - Ugly Duckling
No 8. Surrender - Chemical Brothers
No 7. Angel Dust - Faith No More
No 6. Deep Down and Dirty - Stereo MCs
No 5. Blood Sugar Sex Magic - Red Hot Chilli Peppers
No 4. Shin Ki Row - Shin Ki Row
No 3. Killervision - Salmonella Dub
No 2. Foggy Highway - Paul Kelly
No 1. The Calling - Hilltop Hoods


- Lantanaland from my iPhone

Location:Late.

Coda. Recap and top ten live albums

So I really enjoyed writing about my favorite albums and the comments on here and twitter. Even found out a few things I didn't know. When Dr Yobbo and I were setting this up on twitter and arguing out the ground rules, he correctly excluded live albums, because we figured if a band couldn't get their shit together to write a good studio album then they didn't deserve the spot. He's right, I've never understood why a band like Hunters and Collectors would produce such overproduced anemic studio recordings but sound so amazing live. They should have just miked up a big room and played all their albums like a live set. So here is my top ten live albums. Some of these bands are just better live than with a producer playing with their shit.

No 10. New York City - Peter Malik Quartet and Norah Jones
Great laid backed sound, which suits her voice to a tee. I think she is a bit underrated because of her profile. Great singer.

No 9. Live at Brighton Beach - Fatboy Slim
The Wife was on a train to see this set, or the second one I can't remember and missed a connection and missed out. A shame cause Fatboy Dlim live would be a great party!

No 8. Live on Earth - The Cat Empire
A good album, not a great album, but there a great live songs here that capture the essence of what makes them a kick arse live band. The little live show they played at The Rev for radio executives was probably the second best gig we had.

No 7. Ben Folds Live - Ben Folds
Amazing to think that a guy behind a piano could be so captivating. He has a fantastic voice and writes killer melodic pop songs with thoughtful lyrics. The version of Fred Jones Part II on this is haunting.

No 6. Live at the Matterhorn - Fat Freddys Drop
4 songs. 70 minutes. That pretty much sums up the Fat Freddys live experience. They don't just hit you between the eyes. They sneak up on you slowly, adding layer upon layer of music. When I first saw them live, they had just the bass player and the singer on stage for the first three or four minutes, and the singer was just grooving to the bass line! One by one the band came on stage, joined in and eventually the whole crowd was dancing to this amazing tightly played song, but the buildup was so relaxed and subtle.

No 5. Live Like Dogs
Again, Resin Dogs never truly captured their live style that made the beloved in the Brisbane Live scene. This album captures them pretty well, with the tracks with DNO rapping, The Mics Sound Nice and Freak the Funk the standout.

No 4. Feel The Seasons Change - Salmonella Dub and the NZSO
A band marrying with and orchestra doesn't always work, re listening to the Metallica one has left me a bit cold, but this is a great example of what it can be. It has that cinematic or stage show feel, with ebbs and flows and I would have loved to seen this live.

No 3. A-Z - Paul Kelly
I'm not sure that this has even been released yet, I have all these songs from the slow release Paul did on his website. These are from the A-Z shows Kelly does every year, shows which are amazing in itself, how many artists could even do an A -Z show without boring everyone to tears with obscure tracks. The tracks are being released with a huge book of liner notes which I can't wait to get.

No 2. Roseland NYC Live - Portishead
An electronic band playing with an orchestra? Sounds a bit contrived but this totally works, with her voice soaring above the music and the electronic parts blending into the background.

No 1. Living in Small Rooms and Lounges - Hunters and Collectors
Terrible, terrible studio band. They had this huge big kick arse sound and somehow manage to make it sound like a three piece on a record. Here though, they capture all the sound, the driving energy, the fantastic brass, that made them one of the best bands to see live. I only saw them once, on their last ever tour and it was amazing.

That's the record that would have easily slipped into my top ten. All those live records are on pretty high rotation at my place though, well worth a listen.

No 50. Dire Straits - Dire Straits.
No 49. Good Gracious - M-phazes
No 48. Achtung Baby - U2
No 47. Manipulating Agent -
No 46. Stone Broke - Brothers Stoney
No 45. Based on a True Story - Fat Freddys Drop
No 44. Unit - Regurgitator
No 43. Apocalypso - The Presets
No 42. Signs of a Struggle - Mattafix
No 41. GRand Theft Audio - Resin Dogs
No 40. Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness - The Smashing Pumpkins
No 39. Elephant - The White Stripes
No. 38 Chutes too Narrow - The Shins
No 37. Stoned and Dethroned - The Jesus and Mary Chain
No 36. Alright Still - Lily Allen
No 35. Sea change - Beck
If you were a fan of Odelay than you'd be mighty surprised to find Beck writing sad assed country songs. Bloody good at them though.
No 34. In the Nude - Pornland
No 33. An Elefant Never Forgets - The Herd
No 32. Felt Mountain - Goldfrapp
No 31. Orchid for the Afterworld - Sonic Animation
No 30. La Roux - La Roux
No 29. Renegades - Rage Against The Machine
No 28. Flight of the Conchords - Flight of the Conchords
No 27. Play - Moby
No 26. Mezzanine - Massive Attack
No 25. The K&D Sessions - Kruder and Dorfmeister
No 24. You've come a Long Way Baby - Fatboy Slim
No 23. Rocking the Suburbs - Ben Folds
No 22. Tragic Kingdom - No Doubt
No 21. Prozac Beats - 2 Dogs
No 20. Dummy -Portishead
No 19. Kick - INXS
No 18. Fashion Nugget - Cake
No 17. Think Tank - Blur
No 16. Ok Computer - Radiohead
No 15. Power in Numbers - Jurassic 5
No 14. Nevermind - Nirvana
No 13. Wild Colonial - Ozi Batla
No 12. War Stories - Unkle
No 11. Two Shoes - The Cat Empire
No 10. Decoder Ring - Decoder Ring
No 9. Taste the Secret - Ugly Duckling
No 8. Surrender - Chemical Brothers
No 7. Angel Dust - Faith No More
No 6. Deep Down and Dirty - Stereo MCs
No 5. Blood Sugar Sex Magic - Red Hot Chilli Peppers
No 4. Shin Ki Row - Shin Ki Row
No 3. Killervision - Salmonella Dub
No 2. Foggy Highway - Paul Kelly
No 1. The Calling - Hilltop Hoods


- Lantanaland from my iPad

Location:Late.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

The Final Countdown. 10-1 Beeso's 50 top albums.

I wrote this post yesterday in a sparkling and witty price of writing that surely was one of my best. And then lost it. So you get this instead. On to the last ten.

No 10. Decoder Ring - Decoder Ring
You'd have to be happy with this if it was your debut album. Dark, moody, cinematic, it is so seamless it is more one price than several tracks. Big chunky guitar riffs, throbbing organ lines, or was that the porno I watched last night? Not on iTunes unfortunately but well worth tracking down.

No 9. Taste the Secret - Ugly Duckling
Only one US hip hop band could write a hip hop lullaby, or in this case a concept album set in a fictional fast food chain called Meatshake. Great songs with tight beats and witty and mocking lyrics, the skit between the manager of Meatshake and his nemesis, the manager of rival VegeHut is hilarious. Good enough that a mate of mine who has rock music through his veins and shoots greenies on sight might actually enjoy some hip hop.

No 8. Surrender - Chemical Brothers
If only all electronic music was this good. Driving beats and fantastic guest vocals from start to finish this is one of my favorite albums to play really, really loud.

No 7. Angel Dust - Faith No More
Speaking of playing loud, this is how I like my rock music. Big riffs and chunky, funky bass lines and then Mike Patton's voice. It can do more tricks than a cirque de solie troop, going from an evil low croon to a howl that would rival most metal bands in a nano second. Then throw a chart topping cover in for a bit of a laugh.

No 6. Deep Down and Dirty - Stereo MCs
I got this album in a bunch of promo CDs that I regularly got for The Alley and it sat on my desk until the week before the Livid festival. I popped it in when my house mate mentioned they had written Connected, which by law must be used by every telecommunications company in the world at least once. I'm so glad I had a listen or I would have missed one of the top live experiences of my life. The albums has really tight song writing, with the contrast of that gravelly, serious British MC and the bright, happy vocals of the backing singers. I'm not a fan of the albums before and after, in complete contrast to the UK, which wanted the pop style of the other albums and trashed this one.

No 5. Blood Sugar Sex Magic - Red Hot Chilli Peppers
Easily their best album, with that funk style still rough enough to not be commercial poppy crap. A mate of mine, upon hearing Califonication, wanted to put together a fighting fund to send them some more drugs, in the hope that it might get them to write more albums like this.

No 4. Shin Ki Row - Shin Ki Row
A band with the wrong timing. Today, when hip hop is played regularly outside community radio and JJJ these guys would have had a great career. They had a live band with a MC and they were a good band too. The lyrics were like a hip hop version of Paul Kelly, examining the suburban life. "wrap tape round a tennis ball, over the fence it's out, on the bounce it's four." Unfortunately they had come and gone by the late 90s and not many people would have this album.

No 3. Killervision - Salmonella Dub
It was a really long and hard think to decide which album to put in for Salmonella Dub. They have so many styles they draw on, the main one being dub and it's easy to think that most of the percussive sounds you hear on this record and that give it that special sound come out of a sampler. Until you see them live and look at the huge box of instruments they dive into during a set. Never get sick of this album.

No 2. Foggy Highway - Paul Kelly
It seems strange now but I was never a fan of Paul Kelly until this album. It was another that came across my desk from EMI and sat there for a while, despite Darryl talking it up when he gave it too me. I mean a Paul Kelly bluegrass album? However from the very first listen I was hooked and it made me appreciate the quality of his writing and I have since become a huge fan and devoured his back catalogue. Easily Australia's best song writer and I would say he puts guys like Bob Dylan in the shade as well.

No 1. The Calling - Hilltop Hoods
Easily the most influential Australian hip hop album in the last twenty years, because it was the album that broke out of the community radio, JJJ cycle and onto the Nova's and Sea FM's of the world. I even gave my copy to Gold Coast FM through a record company mate because the distributor hadn't sent them a copy. Why would they? It wasn't that far removed from MMM's no rap crap ads. It is a great record. Party tracks like The Nosebleed Section right through to the hip hop version of Hotel California, (The Sentinel) it holds up well even now and they have gone on and sold bucket loads of records and are pretty much as mainstream as you can get. When this album came out, that was unthinkable.

That's it. It was an interesting exercise thinking about my music collection and what I actually thought were the strong records and about ones I loved when they came out and no longer really listen to. Sorry to the Phil Collins and Coldplay fans, no joy for you.




- Lantanaland from my iPad

Location:Should save my work.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Over the crest. Beeso's top 50 albums 20-11

I guess the key factor to the last twenty albums is that I like to listen to these ones in the whole form. There is something about sitting and listening to a whole album start to finish that gives it a sense of what the band was about, gives it another depth.

No 20. Dummy -Portishead
Fantastic voice and great production. These guys were the best of the moody electronic bands going around when I was at uni, top of a killer class that included Massive Attack, Morcheeba, Faithless and Sneaker Pimps.

No 19. Kick - INXS
I missed seeing them live because of a small problem with not having a lead singer for the gig I'd bought tickets too and they've well and truly trashed their legacy now. But listen to this album and you can understand what a great band they were, one that was selling out Wembley and the football stadium in Rio.

No 18. Fashion Nugget - Cake
Give me quirky lyrics and brass hooks and I'm yours. Bought this album because of the two big singles, but the writing is so offbeat and out there, you can't help but enjoy this record.

No 17. Think Tank - Blur
To me there is no question who was the best band of the Brit Wars in the 90's. Blur kicked Pulp and Oasis arse. This is a great rock album, full of light and shade but still has some great rocking songs as well. Gets better the more you listen to it.

No 16. Ok Computer - Radiohead
Still enough of the chunky guitars and great rock songs that The Bends had, but the album as a whole has this great cinematic feel, like it was written to a story. Sadly, they discovered samplers.

No 15. Power in Numbers - Jurassic 5
Great MCs and storytelling on this album, proving that not all hip hop has to be about guns and bling and bitches. Cut Chemist and Newmark put together some of the most inventive beats going round. On the bonus DVD I got, Cut Chemist recorded Newmark banging on the plastic lids covering their rider and then turned it into a beat for a song. Amazing.

No 14. Nevermind - Nirvana
Strangely enough I wasn't one of those conflicted teens that worshiped Kurt Cobain. I vaguely knew of Nirvana when he died, probably just Teen Spirit but it wasn't until I saw the classic albums doco on them that I gave the album another look. It's a fucking masterpiece, so simple and raw, yet I don't think grunge ever made another album as good as this. Not a bad song in the whole thing.

No 13. Wild Colonial - Ozi Batla
Most of you might not have heard of this solo album from one of the MCs from The Herd unless you listen to the Js, but this is OZ hip hop growing up. A varied and layered album both lyrically and musically it goes from party track to a dark historical introspection. Reminds me of Paul Kelly, varied and deeply Australian.

No 12. War Stories - Unkle
A kick ass album, big fat driving beats, great guest vocals. Just doesn't let up. MUST be listened to for the first time start to finish and really fucking loud.

No 11. Two Shoes - The Cat Empire
Party music. Not everyone likes these guys and I don't know why. Good tunes, brass, two vocalists.... It's not like there is anyone else out there doing anything like this. How those clowns with their top 100 Australian albums included a bunch of mediocre rock pop at the expense of an album like this is beyond me.

Only the top ten to go. I am certain Havock is going to be disappointed, pretty sure Phil Collins is not going to slip in, no matter how cool the cadbury gorilla ad was.


- Lantanaland from my iPad

Location:In bed instead of building the chookhouse

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Hump Day. Beeso's 50 greatest albums 30-21

Ok. No we are getting into the territory of albums I listen to fairly often. enough introductions, let em rip.

No 30. La Roux - La Roux
Welcome to the eighties revival. Anyone who sneers down their nose at music being too derivative is just an idiot who can't read history. And this stuff is fun!

No 29. Renegades - Rage Against The Machine
Their first album was fantastic, but what they did with this album, which is to cover a bunch of songs in a way that unless you were a huge fan of the original, you'd never know. That's not easy to do. RATM just make me fire up. Cracker album.

No 28. Flight of the Conchords - Flight of the Conchords
This might seem a bit strange but they do write great songs, with lyrics better than most of what you would see on video hits on a Saturday morning.

No 27. Play - Moby
Definitely an album that has probably suffered from overuse especially in ads, but still a great listen. I fondly remember coming home at 5 am from the live show and playing this really loud while I lay on the lounge room floor.

No 26. Mezzanine - Massive Attack
A brooding electronic album but with the typical fantastic vocal performance and great beats. So many great songs off this record, angel, teardrop, inertia creeps....

No 25. The K&D Sessions - Kruder and Dorfmeister
Bought this fantastic double album completely on a whim after hearing Myf Warhurst and someone discussing it on the Js. Even though this is a remix album of sorts, really just one long track with bits of songs twisted through it, anyone who has tried to do a mix like this will appreciate how hard it is to get this good.

No 24. You've come a Long Way Baby - Fatboy Slim
That guy kicks ass! Damn straight a great album guaranteed to get an absolute flogging at any party we had at Chapel Hill and we had a few.

No 23. Rocking the Suburbs - Ben Folds
While I like the live version better, there is no denying the Ben Folds is a fantastic songwriter. This album is full of good songs and I love his slightly offbeat style.

No 22. Tragic Kingdom - No Doubt
While I view Gwen Stefani now with a certain detachment and disinterest back in the day I loved this rocking little band with the cool chick vocalist. I thought I'd grow out of this album but I never have.

No 21. Prozac Beats - 2 Dogs
You have to love an album that starts with a scratched up vocal from Rodney Rude. This is pretty much what it would have been like if you'd dropped into Dj KATCH and Dave Dog's house for a beer and they were playing around.

Definitely more beeps and blips than chunky riffs in that section it's a great mix. I could quite happily listen to all of those in a row on a Saturday afternoon.


- Lantanaland from my iPad

Location:Are we there yet?

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Beeso's top 50 albums 40-31. The wonder years.

While Dr Yobbo mocks me by doing yet another large post I will chip away at my list, mainly because I'm not quite sure of the ordering of the final 40. I think I'll start with a bit of nostalgia.

No 40. Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness - The Smashing Pumpkins
There are a few bands that could've filled this spot. Stone Temple Pilots, Soundgarden, but not Pearl Jam, oh no, never, ever Pearl Jam. This one holds up the best for me. I still can sit down and listen to the whole album without feeling like I need to buy an $18 bottle of scotch and sit in a squalid share house to enjoy it.

No 39. Elephant - The White Stripes
I love these guys, so stripped back and raw. The kick drum alone is enough to warrant owning this.

No. 38 Chutes too Narrow - The Shins
Beautiful layered lush rock pop. If all rock pop was this good I'd take up poetry and give up sport and become a floppy boy.

No 37. Stoned and Dethroned - The Jesus and Mary Chain
I loved this little quirky album so much I bought the rest of their catalogue one day and was massively surprised to find out that they normally played fuzzed out guitar rock. I'm glad that they did this for whatever reason, because it's such a sweet gem.

No 36. Alright Still - Lily Allen
I DON'T CARE WHAT ANYONE SAYS SHE WRITES GOOD SONGS WHO CARES IF SHE IS A SLAPPER A GOOD SONG IS A GOOD SONG. Let's move on.

No 35. Sea change - Beck
If you were a fan of Odelay than you'd be mighty surprised to find Beck writing sad assed country songs. Bloody good at them though.

No 34. In the Nude - Pornland
Great, great fun, it pretty much is all summed up in the name of the band. Big band, big sound, orgasms a plenty.

No 33. An Elefant Never Forgets - The Herd
One of the two albums I think really broke Australian hip hop into the mainstream. This might not have been to everyones taste because of the politics, but at least they had something to say and they said it forcefully, getting notoriety for getting the C bomb on national radio.

No 32. Felt Mountain - Goldfrapp
I really struggled to pick which Goldfrapp album I liked the best but I feel that this one just captures that ethereal quality that I love about her voice the best.

No 31. Orchid for the Afterworld - Sonic Animation
A fantastic dance band and a fantastic album, I always rated them much higher than the Avalanches who were around about the same time. Another album that got a thrashing in the share house living. The Presets might have listened to this one a thousand times or so.

That's it. Deciding who gets in the middle third will be hard, I mean no one really loves the middle child as much right?



- Lantanaland from my iPad

Location:Lantanaland

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Top 50 albums. (Dr Yobbo is wrong I tell you!)

After gritting my teeth at Faifax medias' stupid bloody online experience to view their greatest Australian albums of all time, I then started yelling, both at the screen and on twitter. This led to my usual musical sparring partner Dr Yobbo and I to decide to put up duelling posts on our top 50 albums of all time. He has a good run down on the conditions he screwed me on in his post, so I'll just begin with the honourable mentions and some omissions.

The new album I've been listening to from Laneway could definitely make the cut, but i've only owned the album for two weeks and I don't think it will qualify on those grounds. Powderfinger. I just couldn't find space for them. The album I like the most is Double Allergic but i just don't listen to them anymore. Reef - Glow is another album that i like, but i've only just forked out the cash for it, so it missed the cut. Couldn't find room for Norah Jones or any jazz or KT Tunstall or Coldplay (thank god).

I am going to string this out a bit more so lets get started with the first ten.

No 50. Dire Straits - Dire Straits.
This was the band that I grew up with through primary school and early high school and I own all the albums but this is the album that holds up the best. Without any of the MTV pop it just showcases what a good guitarist Knopfler is. Six Blade Knife is just a killer song.


No 49. Good Gracious - M-phazes
This spot was going to go to Brisbane band George's first effort, but it is an EP so I'm going to give the spot to a new hip hop producer, M-Phazes, who had a stellar cast of MCs for his first album. It's tight, funky hip hop, in other words, Australian!


No 48. Achtung Baby - U2
These guys almost didn't make the cut, but unlike Powderfinger I can still listen to this album without dying of boredom. Another big one in the early teen years but has great songs.


No 47. Manipulating Agent - Katalyst
Party music. Katalyst would never make a live album list cause he's crap live but he is a fantastic producer and this record never misses a beat.


No 46. Stone Broke - Brothers Stoney
I don't love every song, but this is old school Aussie hip hop, rough and raw and full of booze, drugs and wit.

No 45. Based on a True Story - Fat Freddys Drop
Great kiwi grooves, beautiful instrumentation and layer upon layer, fat freddies are unlike any dub or groove band I've ever seen, just so tight yet appearing to be laid back and loose. If you love a bit of brass you'll love this.


No 44. Unit - Regurgitator
My arch nemesis Dr Yobbo reckons this was one the forerunners of the acceptance of hip hop in main stream Australia, which goes to show that the prescription drugs are better in NZ. What the gurge did was mine the eighties long before it was cool to do so for this rocking techno sound. Played a million times at least in one of my sharehouses.


No 43. Apocalypso - The Presets
Or as I like to call them, Sonic Animation II. All the JJJ presenters going nuts about their sound being new had obviously missed S in the music library, but that doesn't make this album any less great, electronic party music at it's best.


No 42. Signs of a Struggle - Mattafix
Bit of an unusual one, a mix of grooves and hip hop, but it really works. Sounds like it should be the soundtrack to a London gangster movie not made by Guy Ritchie.




No 41. Grand Theft Audio - Resin Dogs
Easily their best studio album ever, with Lazy Grey still the MC and the beats keeping you dancing and dancing. And then they throw a cool little number like Jazz Crime in just to mess with your head.


That's the first ten. Unless I change my mind overnight and completely rewrite it all.



- Lantanaland from my iPhone

Location:Lantanaland

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Paul Kelly writing an album for Mazzy Star

In another time, in a land far away, I ran a music venue. At that mythical and magical place I saw so many indie pop, singer songwriter, acoustic, hippie bands that any music that starts with the gentle strum of a guitar usually sends me heading for the hills. I am incredibly, stupidly picky about the music from that rough genre (which to be fair, The Wife and I had trouble defining) and one of the incredibly sad things about The Alley is that the best bands didn't always pull the crowds, get the airplay or sell the albums.

Take Alex Oliver, a long time muso around Brisbane and a legend at 4ZZZ radio, he had this incredible storytelling style and an unbelievable way of picking an acoustic guitar, but he never seemed to finish a lot of songs. He never got his shit together to make that next level.

Sometimes a band like Angus and Julia Stone will pop up and shine through the dross but how many great bands just slip through the cracks? In OZ hip hop, the genre I champion above all others, the good stuff tends to pop up, simply because there are just not that many acts and the good ones get noticed and promoted by the bands that do have the media profile.

When I was at The Alley I probably got fifteen indie pop/acoustic demos a week! And I was the smallest original live venue in Brisbane. How can you push through so many acts? How do you get noticed?

Recently through a set of unfortunate circumstances I was having an email exchange with some old mates from my home town and it was mentioned that Louise had an album out. This family have always been incredibly talented in the arts so I wasn't particularly surprised. Louise was kind enough to give me a promo code to download the album and to be honest I was blown away.

Imagine if Mazzy Star came to Paul Kelly and asked him to write her some songs. (just a side note, Paul Kelly is the bomb. You can keep your Tom Waits, your Neil Diamond, your Bob Dylan, I'll take Paul any day of the week). This is what that record would sound like. I love the way Louise's voice sounds.

So please go to laneway and have a listen. Buy the record. For me, I'll be going to my first live show since I quit the live venues, it's going to be great.


- Lantanaland from my iPhone

Location:Ten years ago

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

If the fire dies, who would you want to hang out with.

One of my favourite books is by SM Stirling, an examination of what might happen if the "fire" goes out of the world, electricity, gunpowder, in fact anything that goes bang. The REASON I like it is it makes me see the world differently. That big rain recently? Imagine if you had to try and keep up all that infrastructure without power, or cars. How long would the roads last before they would simply disappear. You only have to see the grass beside the road grow a metre while it's still too wet to mow to realize that our ordered world needs a lot to keep it that way.

Now I could fool myself and think if the impossible happened and all the power went away that I'd be better off than most. By about one week I reckon. I have a cow and bees and chooks, but my garden is pretty poor and the fruit trees are a few years off truly producing and the tanks don't have gravity feed yet.

Stirling really looked at the way people reacted though. Some started little dictatorships. One group banded together and formed a clan. It truly was just pitching in and helping each other till things got back on keel. It only worked because of the attitudes of the people made it work. A different bunch trying the same thing might have torn themselves apart in a week. This is what I love about his writing, it makes a filter for your brain that can just drop in at unexpected times.

We've just come back from a weeks holiday at my parents beach shack at Curtis Island. It's a fibro open house and has solar power, tanks and home made solar hot water. It's not for everyone. There is bugger all privacy and you have to moderate your lifestyle for the resources. For the last six years a group of our mates have been joining us on and off for a week at The Island. I do all the cooking and we go fishing and play lots of cards. There is a mountain of washing up and little jobs but things just get done. There is no TV. A fair bit of drinking. But halfway through the week it struck me, if the fire died and I had to band together with a group of people, this would be them.

Unselfish, thoughtful, funny, willing to learn and always there when a job needed doing, that's the sort of people I'd want if my life depended on it. Luckily it doesn't, so we can still just go fishing, eat, play cards and drink beer.



- Lantanaland from my iPhone

Location:In Bed

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Butter Makes Me Batty

I like butter. A lot. Margarine has not passed my lips in probably ten years and butter was one of the main reasons that I wanted cows so badly here in Lantanaland. Most of my cooking knowledge comes from either a French or Italian background and there is nothing better than a sauce made from a reduction of pig trotter stock, with a dash of white wine and finished off with a big knob of butter. Preferably with a small mountain of mashed potatoes on the side. With butter.

Now I'm hungry.

The dairy industry is still getting my coin, because despite the large amounts of cream at my disposal, I have failed miserably to make any butter. I've tried leaving the cream out, the blender, the food processor, the stem blender, a whisk, the egg beaters, shaking it in a bottle, but nothing. Do I have some sort of anti butter field that prevents cream molecules bonding in my presence?

What makes it more vexing is that I am having moderate success with the cheese making, turning out reasonable haloumi and mozzarella and learning every time from my mistakes.

But no butter. It's making me a bit batty.


- Lantanaland from my iPhone

Location:Windy, Windy Lantanaland

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Raw deal

Having now invested in a herd share of three cows I am following the raw milk debate with some interest. Mainly because I have zero trust in the government to get these things right. I have a parallel in my current industry where there was a big push on lysteria that would have made it almost economically impossible for a butcher to do their own smallgoods.

Now food standards and various state bodies claim that they are trying to protect the consumer. But regulations like this, that remove production from the small butcher and put it all in the hands of the big factory producers means that soon you will be having maybe five very similar hams and bacons in Australia. The ability of a butcher to be able to make their own ham or salami or kransky gives them a point of difference from the Coles and Woolies of the world. It gives our palates a testing point, to find out what we like in a food.

The thing is, the big producers mission statement would read like this, profit, profit, profit, taste. Our suppliers make cures and premixes that allow the big guys to make more money. Sliceable water was one of the phrases I heard at my last technical conference.

So when I see the big dairy producers in Oz telling me that raw milk is dangerous and that pasteurized cheese is just as good, I get the feeling that they are looking at their mission statement dreading the small producer that might force them to change to taste before profit.


-- Post From My iPhone

PS. One of the twitterati pointed out that if governments were that worried about raw cheese affecting our health, they might remove cigarettes from sale, something that is proven to kill more people than any food product available anywhere.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Mates

Lantanaland can be a lot like my cows. If I go away for a few days, or their feed drops off, I get rewarded with piddly little streams of milk. Green grass, some fruit waste from the fruit shop, a brush and de ticking and I get multiple litres of creamy goodness.

Likewise lantanaland seems to like a bit of attention. Following the big Feastin N Fencin weekend in July the cows have gone to work, eating and smashing and bashing their way through the tough long grass. I thought that that paddock might last them a bit longer, but in the last month in has become apparent that while there looked like there was enough to feed them for the rest of the year, there wasn't that much edible food.






This time I planned ahead. In front of the house would be the next paddock, using one of the fence lines from the existing paddock then winding its way up the boundary to finish right in front of the spa. I'd planted some pasture improvement and started it off with the grey water and I had a nice patch of lush green carpet for the cows to start on.

What I really needed was a few helping hands. The fencing weekend taught me how much easier it is to get a fence built with even just one more set of hands, so I put the call out. Not to too many people, I'm always a bit worried about abusing peoples goodwill and it was about a days work for two or three of us.

Helping hands from mates really are the lifeblood of this place. I can toil away as much as I try, but the affect just having a few helpers can have is simply amazing. By lunchtime Simon and I had carved out the path with a big petrol hedge trimmer and bashed in all the poles. Do you realize HO little you use those muscles in your forearms? A beer and cob loaf with bacon, corn, herbs and five types of dairy went down extremely well.

In the afternoon Ryano and The Wife joined in and we had the fence lines strung and clipped, a new gateway put in and the energizer turned on and tested. Laf just about bowled me over when she saw the gap to that lush new grass and she must have enjoyed it because we got 3L of milk this morning, which is good even for a weekend.

As we sat in the spa enjoying an icy beer I reflected on how long that would have taken me. A month certainly and the hedge trimmer hire would have not been used as well, you can't really tell the bits you've missed until the fence is up. I then reflected that I'd left the bloody gate open and the cow was coming up the hill and if I didn't move quick smart there might be one more in the spa.

So thanks to everyone who's ever put even a minute in here helping at Lantanaland. I couldn't even contemplate this grand adventure without you.


- MF from my iPad

Location:Needham Rd,Luscombe,Australia

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Three Years in lantanaland

Well it's been almost three years since the delivery truck backed down the slightly washed out and steep driveway and dumped our meagre possessions onto the deck in a crazy race against a developing thunderstorm. I'm going to do a few video pieces of the different bits of the farm so I thought it'd be good to do a bit of a breakdown of what I expected to have done and what I wanted from the farm.

CHICKENS - the big plan for the chooks was to be breeding my own and eating them. Well I've done that but not exactly like I planned. I've only just raised the first batch of my crossbreed chickens up. I've eaten a few meat birds that I've raised up and a few ducks. When the guinea fowl are numerous enough I'll definitely be having a kcrack at them as well.






I've lost a lot of chicks and young birds to carpet snakes, who view my pathetic attempts at coop building as a sort of drive through takeaway. Add in a fox attack or two and I've learnt the hard way that if you want your birds to free range then you'll lose some birds. The next stage is a large fully everything proof pen with a straw bale house. Spend the time and the money to make sure they are safe at night and when we are away.

The guinea fowl experiment continues. I have a lot of ticks and long grass and only six ranging birds so I guess it is a bit early to call on that experiment.

DOG AND SPA - we have both these things, so The Wife is happy.

FRUIT AND VEG - I am going to be honest, I have failed, almost miserably in this department. Lack of infrastructure, poor soil, poor management has meant that I have had sporadic results at best. Bananas and mulberries have been the biggest success in the fruit tree department. I've killed a lot of trees through too much/too little water, overtaking by weeds and animals eating them. The best plan is to put the tree where you see it all the time. This is real basic stuff in permaculture but for some reason I thought I could put trees half way down a hill in six foot high grass and still remember to water them every couple of days. Yeah right.

Now just about all my trees are on my walk to the cows every morning and I ensure that they are looked after. Well rotted cow manure on tap doesn't hurt either.

I must have lost about 20 artichoke plants to the chickens, ducks and goats. My herb garden is nothing to write home about, but I have discovered sorrel in a big way this year. My dreams of big bunches of thyme are only realized when asleep. I've had some good pumpkins and tomatoes, but never enough to make the excess into tomato sauce or jam.

Again, the soil improvement you can make with manure is beyond belief. The new garden beds between the sugarcane bales with the manure from the holding yard for milking has been one of the best I've done. Thanks to Twitter mate Tammy I finally have a horseradish plant that is growing and I have five, FIVE artichoke plants that have survived. So I think things are on the improve there. I am planting tomatoes all over the place, in the hope that they will go a bit wild and provide me all year round. The litmus test for me is carrots and potatoes. And that has yet to be achieved.

BEES - last year was a bad year, too wet all summer. But that rain should mean good flowers this year and if we get on a good flow I will try and split the hive to get a second one. The hive is fairly strong, I have a bit of hive beetle but not enough to threaten the health of the hive. I never have enough honey to go around so two hives would be handy.

THE HOUSE - other than the spa, which was a condition of buying the house from The Wife, the house has been pretty much unchanged in the last three years. This year will see the deck done, not before time, I have to get my guests to sign release forms before they walk up the front steps. Once that's done we'll replace the carpet downstairs with something cheap and that will do for a good decade or so.

THE LAND - the cows have done an amazing amount of work clearing out the land. We have walked though bits of the land we had not seen in the three years. I am now on a pasture improvement program to try and get more value out of feeding the cows. The next big purchase for the herdshare will be a hedge trimmer. It will go thought the thin lantana like something hot through something else that melts easily.




THE COWS! - one of the big reasons I moved to Lantanaland was to have cows. All the traditional methods of smallholding revolve around the the house cow. I cannot thank my herd sharers enough for giving me the chance to get these beautiful animals. Like everything I attempt, it's never turns out exactly as planned. Milking is relatively easy, now that I have a technique down pat. Making butter has proven beyond me, much to my huge frustration. How hard can it be! The dairy products made have been of varying quality, as to be expected.




So what's left? Pigs are the other big small holder staple, but they might be next year, judging by The Wife rolling her eyes every time I mention them. I need another paddock for the cows so I can start rotating and spelling. Get more fruit trees in. Write more about the fantastic, beautiful place in which we live. Shoot some video. Stay happy.

That's pretty easy here.


- Lantanaland from my iPad

Location:Adelaide St,Tweed Heads,Australia

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Politics and Technology

I woke up this morning, milked the cow and then sat down with a coffee and perused my Twitter feed. I came across this discussion between Adam Schwab and Stilgherrian, both commentators for Crickey.com.

I'm no technology or political or broadband expert, so I'm not going to get bogged down in the politics or minutiae of the arguement. But I'll take Schwab to task on a few things. He says that "In return, Australians will then need to spend upwards of $100 a month on a high-speed internet service that most don’t really want (for that price) and almost all don’t really need." My graphic designer that we use for work lives a stones throw, literally, from one of the major highways in Brisbane, Australia's third biggest city. She cannot get ADSL2+ or cable but relies on satellite broadband. It recently went down and she had to rely on a 3G modem. For two weeks. I had to post, by mail, all the images that i needed in our next mailout. Instead of talking by Skype, with the images on the screen that we could talk about and change, she was emailing me a low resolution image and we talked about it on the phone. And repeat and repeat and repeat. Is this good enough in 2010?

This is what we have now. I have three reps on the road working off 3G and it is far from reliable for data. I am trying to build a new application for our business for the iPad and after using technology like Skype and GoToMeeting i made the decision that they are just not robust enough to rely on, I employed a local developer.

In other countries where broadband is seen as an essential part of doing business they demand speeds that will outstrip the pace of the technology that is developing it. With devices like the iPhone and iPad and all the different devices of the Android marketplace becomes commonplace the demand on our internet has jumped markedly. Soon we will be expecting wireless everywhere we go, in the doctors and in cafes in train stations and anyone who has used 3G for business would laugh at you if you think that network can cope with mainstream internet as well.

Here is my main point, Telstra, Optus and the rest are there to make money. If they can do that without putting large amounts of money out there to build a new network they will. But if we want to develop as a nation economically we have to keep pace with the rest of the world, there are third world countries in Africa that have faster broadband speeds than we do. So isn't the government's responsibility to ensure we don't get left behind? Instead of talking to Liberal MPs and former Optus executives try talking to the people that rely on these technologies, today, tomorrow and into the future. Take the politics out of it and deliver us something. Now.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Keeping Up With My Mind

I love my technology, as anyone who knows me even slightly on the blogosphere or twitter will know. I particularly like my iPhone, and the convenience and utility contained in such a small device. Sometimes though I get thoroughly frustrated with the pace of technology to keep up with my mind, to produce what I see as quite logical leaps to applications that can take advantage of the world we live in.

My main frustration this year has been with our national broadcaster, the ABC. The ABC has this amazing amount of content, in particular audio content. Local ABC radio has these little regular segments on their shows, probably too small to podcast, but incredibly interesting nonetheless. Stuff like the AFL and NRL sunday shows, Spencer's chats with Susan about kids entertainment, The Hidden Persuaders, the radio version of Gruen Transfer that came before Gruen, Richard Fidlers friday afternoon cocktails or Kelly HD chats with Amy Gray, which while incredibly funny could do with less Glee and more Dr Who.

Now you can access a lot of this content on the presenters blogs, where it is put up, in f*&^ing flash. Flash is the twilight vampire of the web, sparkly, but ultimately utterly, utterly useless. I spend a lot of time in the car for my job, as do a lot of other people, and a lot of people spend times in trains or buses, where they have the time and inclination to listen to the wonderful content the ABC can provide and I do have a lot of the podcasts on my iPhone. But the hassle of getting that content from the web onto a device is too hard for me, a tech nerd, so it would be way too hard for the ordinary punter.

Which brings me back to the iPhone, which is almost as ubiquitous as the sparkly twilight celery eaters, but much more useful. It has apps. The ABC has an app, which for all intents and purposes, is useless. It doesn't provide me with anything more than the webpage does. Now if they had been trying to push the envelope, here is what they could have done. They have recordings of all these little segments from all the incredible shows the ABC has. And i only know of the ones for my local ABC. What about all the cool segments from Sydney or Alice Springs or North QLD? What I'd have is a virtual radio station. Let me build my own station, dragging and reordering my segments how I wanted them. Then let me cache 10 hours of it on the phone when I have a wifi connection, or let me straem bits over 3G.

I don't really care how its done, but the ABC is doing itself and its stakeholders, us, a disservice by trapping the content, by not realising that there are ways that they could be giving us all that content easily. There are over 1 million iPhones in australia already, not counting iPod touch's and iPads and you could just as easily write an app like this for Android as well. Considering the market for a 24 hour news network and the money spent there, is there really more people who are interested in that than being able to easily access their favourite ABC segment as they sit on the train on the way to work?

Monday, July 19, 2010

Early morning cows.





Despite a few years running a bar, I am without doubt, a morning person. Now The Wife is not and while I'm sure she loves me at least to about 90% at 5am, she doesn't like my habit of singing nonensical lyrics to my favorite songs at that hour. "Crazy" is probably the nicest of the terms hurled at me. That's why I'm really enjoying my 5am milking of the cows.

I get up, heat the water and sterilize the bucket, rouse Tally and head up. Laf is already penned up so I go and fetch the calf and Dolores and bring them down before letting Laf lunge into the pen so she can start inhaling her feed. I smear lanolin over her nipples and get to work.

I've been singing quite a bit of The Roots new album to her while I milk, mixed with a bit of Hey Jude and Hunters and Collectors. She doesn't seem to mind, well her milk hasn't curdled yet so maybe she's just deaf.

Each milking is yeildng between a litre and 1.5L. You can tell she's dried off a bit, she's never really bulging with milk. The grass is not particularly lush so I'm not keen to force her production higher. It means it will be another nine months before I can really start paying the herd sharers back in good kind, but they will be getting something.

Yesterday I made my first real cheese. It was, I hope, a farmhouse Bree, unpasturised of course, from 5L of Laf's finest product. It will be interesting to compare to shop bought cheese. For a start everything I've read and been told is that the quality of the feed determines the quality of the cheese and Lantanaland's pasture is pretty poor. It will get better of course, I am already knocking back the long stemmy grass and sowing clover and mung beans and pigeon pea. Secondly I have no idea what I'm doing. The curd felt very firm when it went into the molds, did I work it too much? At least it is a five week turnaround to find out, not twelve months like cheddar. On the plus side, raw milk cheese, with it's own bacteria, will be idiosyncratic but on the whole, a nicer product.

The process itself seems to be quite easy, but damn me but it is slow food. Lots of waiting for whey to express and to turn molds. Good for a Saturday arvo. I've already learnt a fair bit and I'm saving this weeks milk for another batch. Then I might bust out an improvised press to make a rough farmhouse cheddar. We'll have to see.

So if you come over and milk the cows with me I'll try not to deafen you with my singing, but don't blame me if the cows are grumpy, they like their tunes!

Lantanaland From My iPhone

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

The future?

I want to give people money and they refuse to take it. In fact they are actively making it harder for me to give it to them. Sound insane? Well, welcome to a large media industry waking up to the digital age.

I am a curious mix of old school and high tech. I milk a cow by hand, but also love my iPhone and use it for a whole bunch of things (as opposed to 95% of iPhone users, who use phone, web, photos and music. Maybe a few games.) Books had always been firmly in the old school camp, I love the feel of them, they way you can look at my bookshelves and tell which books I love by the level of abuse they have been subjected to. Plus all the normal things like reading in the bath (essential) and lending to other people.

The iPad triggered an interest in ebook readers and after having a look at the Kindle app on Monster Yuppy's iPad I thought I'd download the kindle app onto my iPhone in anticipation of us getting ipads for work. I was pleasantly surprised by the experience. Once I'd read a few paragraphs and was into the story, I completely forgot about the medium. All I was interested in was the book, the plot and the characters were far more important than whether I was holding paper or electronics.

When I did notice the difference was later that day in a waiting room, killing time before an appointment. Instead of pulling up twitter or playing a mind dulling game, I pulled up the kindle app and was away, back in the story. I'd never remember to take my book with me.

Ok. Techy bloke likes a piece of tech. No great story there. But wait, here comes Techy blokes slightly angrier twin, Ranty bloke. You see amazon, or perhaps more accurately the publishing industry, want to make it very hard for me to buy books. First of all I opened my amazon account and went to the kindle store. And was amazed as I put in author after author, title after title and got back nothing. I'm pretty sure unless it's Dan Brown or John Grisham, it's not in the Oz kindle store.

So, as all good tech blokes do, I consulted twitter on how to set up a US amazon account. Easily done and a whole new, slightly bigger world opened up. I mean a few of the books I was chasing were available. Which I bought, obviously, to give the app a spin. But what I was hoping for was a nice swim in Lake Nostalgia. A bit of the Three Investigators or The Hardy Boys. Even a bit of Blyton's Famous Five for a giggle.

None of the back catalogue of my youth is there and I think that publishers are missing a great niche market here. Fair enough, hold back the new books till they've had a run in print first. I can understand that. However in the not too distant future devices like the iPad will be common place. Hell at the way it's selling in the very close future. I can easily download a song or TV show or movie that I have a sudden urge to buy. Compare that to the effort I'd have to go to on a rainy Sunday to go and buy a copy of a Three Investigators novel. There would be no copies in print, so I'd probably have to trawl the second hand shops. Say a whole day to maybe, just maybe find a book .... Oh look season two of Arrested Development on iTunes, let's watch that instead.

I know that the publishers are afeared that once they let the digital genie out of the bottle that there is no turning back. But consider this. I lend any book I own to anyone who wants to read them. Make all those back catalogue books say, three bucks and people wouldn't need to lend books as much. You already sell a whole bunch at that price point already. And it's just a matter of time before someone invents an easy way to digitize a book and if there is no digital copy for people to purchase, they will take the illegal copy available.

So while you still can, make it easier for me to give you my money please.


Lantanaland From My iPhone

Monday, June 21, 2010

So, what now?



Big events like Feastin and Fencin can have a real snowball effect if you follow them through. The most immediate thing that came out of last weekend was the combination of the bales being finished and as much grass as the cows can eat. Milk. My first decent amount, which was only a litre but so satisfying.

Last night I locked up the bull calf with Dolores for company. Laf doesn't need company as all that runs through her head is "food food food food food food water food food". When we came down this morning her udder was the fullest I'd seen it since she came to Lantanaland. The calf was also very thirsty and as I led her down to the pen I had to shoo him off her udder.

I got her into the bales and got to work. Of course the first thing she did was step in my nice clean bucket. Oh well. Then it was a combination of squeezes, pulls and squirts to get the milk out. I did ok for a bit with the traditional method but my hands soon got sore, especially the two fingers that I'm fairly sure I've fractured playing footy. I persisted and The Wife had a go as well and we have one tasty litre in the fridge. Butter and cottage cheese will be the go this week.

So the cows are producing. Next week I'll book the AI man to get them both pregnant. On July 1 the vet comes to make my bull a little less bullish. Meanwhile they continue to open up Lantanaland for me, exposing the lie of the land that we have never seen in our three years here.



So to give you a rough idea where lantanaland is at here is a arial view. The red section is the top paddock. This is where the bales are and where I'll keep the cows when they are close to calving. The green is the new paddock that we cut, maybe about 2 acres. The yellow would be a really easy paddock to do next as two sides are already cleared. The pink is probably the next big push as it would take in the dam. This would allow me to have a paddock that has it's own water supply when my tanks run low. The white and orange areas might get done when I have the money to hire an excavator to cut me some paths, swales and terraces.

The top paddock will also become the house block for the new house sometime in the future. There is half a house block already cut. Along the top fence I am planting out fruit trees. I have learnt the hard way that if you are random and unorganized like myself don't plant fruit trees where you only see them every six months. Plant them where you can get to them and walk past them regularly. I have a grape in on the gate posts, a grapefruit and an apple. Now that the top paddock is nicely cleared I'll be putting in more, starting with some mulberry cuttings. Cows love mulberries.



I have sown a little clover, both for the cows and for the bees and will be doing some research on a nice mix of fodder species for a dairy cow. The next project will be planting out some garden beds. This time I am trying rotted cow manure between sugar cane bales. Then another revamp of the chickens and maybe even another pen up near the bees for the second group of guinea fowl. With the amount of ticks the cows are picking up from the long grass I think it will be a few batches of eggs before I'll be selling keets.

Still life is never boring or still at Lantanaland. Soon I'll be experimenting with cheese making and I have to master the art of hand milking and rig up a solar panel for the electric fence and untangle the goats and and and and.....

Lantanaland from the iPhone

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

I have the best mates in the world (lantanaland will never be the same again)

I have had mates of mine insisting that they'd come and give me a hand on the farm if I did a big working day. I sort of never thought that people would actually turn up, let alone do the unbelievable amount of work that was achieved over the long weekend.



Before now it would have been useless doing any major work anyway. Clear away a big section of lantana and it just grows back or is replaced with eight foot high grass that needs slashing and mowing which is what I call repetitive useless work.



But the cows, the cows have changed everything. Apart from being beautiful creatures, they are grass eating, lantana bashing, path creating machines. I got them probably a month too early, bashing up a quick paddock held together with old bits of timber with electric fencing draped everywhere. I paid for it too, with the cows showing me all my weak points. I got a bit of knowledge back as well, learning that unless you have good well maintained barbed wire fences the cows will go through it without a single thought. Well maybe one thought, "that grass over there looks quite tasty". Electric fencing though, they show more respect to than a teenage boy dating a shotgun collectors daughter.







So I put the word out that I was going to have a working bee to cut a new paddock and fence it off properly with electric fencing. All I promised was free beer and good food, but I do have a small reputation for decent food so I thought I'd get one or two hungry boys and girls along.

I took the Friday before off to do a bit of preparation. Key amongst the jobs was to kill and pluck one of my eating chickens. Only one of them was big enough but I did the deed with that same sense of pride and melancholy that I get from knowing that I've grown and killed my own food. I also near killed myself getting a trailerload of concrete blend. The trailer was a touch too full and as it hit a bump it locked the wheel against the mudguard and slewed all over the road, dragging the Xtrail with it. It was some extra stress I didn't need.



Still I got most of what I needed prepared, lots of beer wine and champagne, fridge groaning with food, all the fencing equipment. My first guest arrived Friday night and it looked like being a real chilly weekend, at least for QLD. We got up early for some boiled eggs on muffins, something I can never weary of since I got chickens. Nine coffees later (for me, Andy doesn't drink coffee) we got to work.








We started off digging nice deep holes for the big top gate, wide enough for a bobcat or excavator to get through in the future. As more and more people arrived I ran round trying to divide up the jobs. In the end I gave rough instructions and left them too it while I drove in to town and bought all the things I'd forgotten or underestimated the day before. Then I started the cooking. I occasionally wander down and check on the progress and every time I was amazed. They were hacking out an enormous section through lantana, grass, weeds and trees then bashing in star pickets and running good gauge electric fence cable.



Meanwhile I was preparing dinner. Organic dorper lamb from Silverwood went into the camp oven with a crusting of garlic, chilli and rosemary. The free range pork I'd bought was a little more tricky. I carved the ribs off and cut the extra belly off for bacon later. But what the hell was I going to use as a spit. My last spit roast was a disaster thanks to the crappy spit I bought from BBQ galore. In the end the fence was the inspiration. A star picket wrapped in foil gave me a three sided spit and the meat was tied on and skewered through the holes in the post. Once the fire died down a bit it all went on, the ribs went into the oven with a sticky honey, soy and garlic basting, the hearty soup was checked and I was ready to receive hungry, and very thirsty workers.





Most of the fun in doing something like this, for me anyway, is the eating and drinking, the telling of stories (KC scooped the pool with the baby being born in the elevator) and the laughter. There was so much laughing. We got stuck in to all the food and a fair bit of the beer but I crashed out, leaving it to the serious night owls. The food went down brilliantly, all the lamb gone most of the pork and a few requests for the recipe of the brown rice vego dish I did.







The next morning was pancakes, some new workers and a few sore heads. This pancake recipe is so popular I never seem to cook anything else for large groups and it is bloody good. Another three rounds of coffee later and it was off to finish it all up.



Once we got going you could start to see real visible progress. The fence was joined back up to the new gate. The electric fence was redone properly on the top paddock. The cow yard and bale was finished The new fence was tensioned and plastic posts were put in to make sure it was at the right height. Trees were trimmed and grass cleared. I was shocked at how much they'd got done and the sheer physical effort needed to do some of it. It would maybe take me 12 months to do that sort of work, by which time the bit I'd started on would be all grown back.

All in all it looked tip top about two in the afternoon and we opened the gate and shooed the cows in. They got to work straight away. I can't wait to see the results.

So to Dave and Marj my awesome mates who were visiting from Tassie and worked twice as long as they thought they'd be able to stay, Andy and Pia, comedians both, Cobbs, The Big German and Rozy, who didn't want to walk up the hill that last time, Delia and her family, Ed and KC, who had fun giving Ryan a hard time, Neil, such a fantastic father in law, my man Pol, who'd been helping me prepare weekends before, Darryl whose picture is next to 'worker' in the dictionary, Simon and Sarah who have impeccable timing and my darling beautiful wife, thank you a million times. Lantanaland thanks you as well because it is on the way to becoming a productive farm and maybe a cooking school and before now the vision was getting cloudy.



I can see pretty clearly now and it's looking good.



Lantanaland from the iPhone

Feastin on Film

I'm writing a longer post on the fencing weekend but here is a small tidbit on what happens when you work someone hard all day then give them free beer.
video

Monday, May 17, 2010

Work like a bee


A heap of people have indicated a willingness to come and help out over a weekend. I am going to fence off a second paddock so i can start a bit of rotation. If you know me you know there will be great food and cold beer.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Things have been happening


Things were grand. The three dairy cows I'd bought were in the back of my neighbours horse truck. He'd kindly loaned himself and his truck for me to go and pick up what would be the centerpiece and the pride and joy of Lantanaland. Two dairy cows and a young bull for beef would be living here because of the kindness of friends and the marvel of herdshare. It was the fruition of a seed planted ten or so years ago by a raw celebrity chef from Essex, a English smallholder and an author and his wife living in the NSW countryside. The harsh doses of reality that had formed in the last few weeks and would come thick and fast every minute after I opened the trailer door were unimaginable to that kid all those years ago.....

The realisation of the rule of my mums house that the cook didn't wash up was probably what got me cooking. When I came to university I was at least able to not solely rely on takeaway or stirfry. I can vaguely remember trying things like packet beef stroganoff and being pleased with my daring. I did a lot of cooking for the boys in that house, mainly potato based. Despite eating mounds and mounds of the humble spud I never got sick of them or the butter and cream that went into them either......

As soon as we bought Lantanaland I wanted a cow. Look at all that grass! (in between the lantana). Free milk and meat, endless cream and butter. The cow will amble over and stand patiently while she's milked. Alas there was bugger all fences and no cash so the cows would have to wait. I'd have to make do with getting a rooster to keep my girls company...

I figured that cooking was a good way to get or at least keep a girlfriend. So once The Once and Future Wife introduced me to the fact that yes, she did like me, I was keen as Keens mustard to show her that I could cook. Buggered if I know what I cooked in the early days. Something with potatoes no doubt. Then came along the likely lad from Essex. Jamie Oliver's simple recipes and the way he stripped food back to its basics gave me the confidence that I could cook from first principles....

I had confidence now from the fencing the free goats from across the road that I would be able to keep cows in fairly easily. Still had the cow energiser that I'd been given for Xmas by The Wife. I could hem in paddocks of land with an electric fence and the barbed wire fence could be checked and mended. My derelict paddocks would become rolling green hills.....

"The drawbacks of living this kind of life elicit little sympathy from those who've not experienced them personally, so I'll simply add that derelict houses in derelict villages are derelict for a reason" I read eagerly from 'A Year of Slow Food' I'd bought on a whim from the Malaney bookstore during a romantic getaway in the hinterland. In a tiny toaster oven roasted two baby chickens stuffed with new potatoes. I was adapting my cooking style, based on French and Italian, but always that simple fresh ingredients came first. And now here was this amazing book about living off the land, with bees and cows and fruit trees and hard bloody work. But I glossed over those parts when I read it the second time the next day.....

I'd been watching the cattle classifieds for a bit. I'd put up a post about herdshare on the blog and had enough interest to seriously check every day. Wanted Dexters or Jersey cows and needed a calf on the mum, so we could go away for a weekend and the house sitters wouldn't have to milk. There was a lot of hard work to be done though. I needed to slash a path for the electric fence through six foot high grass and lantana. Needed to make or buy a gate and get that in. Patch the barbed wire along the driveway. Get firmer interest from people about chipping in, starting a little community based around a cow seemed pretty cool....

Living in the inner city with The Wife I was reasonably content with my chickens and my vegetable garden and my aquaponics. Then came River Cottage. The way Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall bounced around the community started something else in me. Maybe I could make a small living off having a bit of land, I had a few ideas and he really made it all look like he was having a ball. He just exuded this carefree attitude of "who cares if something goes wrong, I'm a smallholder I'll adapt and roll with the punches".......

The worst possible thing had gone wrong. I needed to slash another 20m of grass and scrub and hammer in ten or so star pickets to run up this fence and I could barely walk. I'd partially slipped a disc playing touch footy the night before and was in severe, sharp pain. I couldn't walk without aid. A nice sixtyish women helped me into the physiotherapists. Will I be able to fence by Saturday, I asked? Not a chance. The next two days were spent ringing and texting and facebooking for help. One of the herdsharers, Mick, came through and I hobbled around in the afternoon, running the light nylon cord that would hopefully keep the cows in the small top paddock. Everything I'd read reckoned that it should be fine.....

I laughed at the book I'd just been given for my birthday. We were at Lantanaland for my birthday party, The Wife had organized some bee hives and two of my best mates had a little something extra. The Healthy House Cow......

I wanted to laugh. I wanted to cry. The energiser was registering a fault. Oh well the cows would stay up the top while I ran and got the more powerful one I used for the goats. By the time I'd run shuffled to get rh gear and back they were on the other side of the fence. Arrrrgh! I shooed them back in and patched the fence and away they went, munching happily away at the green grass......

I fired up the mower for the fourth weekend in a row. Lots of summer rain meant the grass was growing faster than I could cut it. I didn't mind the mowing but there were so much better things I could be doing with my time......

I'm not going to have the time, I thought as I drive home in a panic. Lafayette, the big mum had gone straight through the barbed wire. It was Wednesday afternoon and we left Friday morning to drive to Gladstone for my grandmothers 90th birthday party on Friday morning. The Wife had done her best to get them all back in but had almost injured the young cow Dolores by tethering her while she herded the other two. When she came back she'd got herself tangled up. I borrowed some fencing gear and got my head torch and started work. My back ached but my mind ached worse, what if they went through the fence while the the house sitters were here?

I went to bed thinking that my dreamer tendency had finally got the better of me. I really needed at hot-wire all around the fence and the only time I had was the next morning. I usually leave for work just before six am. So when the alarm went off really, really early I got the head torch back on and traipsed up to the top paddock. The mist gave me about a meter of vision but blanketed everything with a wet peaceful silence. After joining up the fence I noticed that one of the tied off ends was arcing on a fence post. I was wearing heavy riggers gloves so figured I'd be fine to brush it away. BANG! Bloody hell, if they don't respect that then I've got no hope.

I don't think the level of anticipation driving home had been greater than the first day I drove home to Lantanaland. Cows in - good. Cows out - bad, very bad. I'd only have that afternoon to fix the problem and I'd have no idea if it would work as I drove away Friday morning, to a party 600km away. I came down the hill and there they were, all three, INSIDE the fence, waiting at the gate. A huge wave of relief washed over me. Things would be ok. I could make this work.


Of course it's not that easy. I have no idea to hand milk and no one to show me. My herdshare depends on me being able to get the milk the herdsharers own out of the cow and turned into butter, cheese and yoghurt. I have no bales or crush. When we came home yesterday Dolores was covered in fat paralysis ticks.

However I feel the enthusiasm that Hugh, Jamie and Gerda and David Foster had for living with food that is fresh, to make the land that we own into something productive. And I have friends to help. Two of the herdsharers run an organic lamb farm and are a repository of great farm advice. Mick who helped with the fence has worked on dairy farms and has mates in the business. My mum owned a dairy farm before I was born. The lovely neighbours who lent me the truck have lent me fencing tools as well. My natural (The Wife would say unfounded) optimism has returned. I'm pretty much as raw a rookie as a smallholder can get, but the only way is up!

Postscript. Ive been talking about a working bee day in June for a while. A few of the foodbloggers would like to see the farm. Mates want to help. Good food will be eaten. The eating chooks are growing daily. We have chosen the long weekend in June, 12-14. I will try and cut some new lines for fencing and maybe build a woodfired pizza oven. All I can promise is great food and drink and spectacular views. And potatoes.

Lantanaland from the iPhone