Archive | manly skills RSS feed for this section

DAY 359: Learning three important life lessons from Bear Grylls

25 Aug

My triple-A pass. I didn't abuse it, there were too many scouts around.

THE people either side of me are arguing over whether Bear Grylls has Asperger’s or ADHD.

“It’s ADHD,” the woman insists, jabbing her finger across my nose. “I work with Asperger’s, and they can’t make eye contact or answer questions. He’s got ADHD, that’s why he’s so focused and wants to take you on his exciting journey.”

Tonight’s exciting journey at the Melbourne Exhibition Centre comes with the stone-in-shoe hindrance of Nova tool Merrick Watts and his rote jokes, but generally speaking it’s mountain-moving stuff. You don’t need me to reiterate how charming and humble BG is… No, you just need me to tell you the three important life lessons I have learned.

1. Choose your battles

Bear learned this one when fighting a saltwater crocodile for a fish.

2. If you’re going to do something, do it properly

Bear didn’t just demonstrate how to drink your own pee from a homemade snake receptacle – having worn the fermenting concoction around his neck for a day and a half, he drank it, vomited, observed “there’s still a little bit left” and drank it again.

3. Don’t take anything personally

No matter what Worst Case Scenario he lands himself in, Bear is indefatigably chipper and matter of fact. The few men who made it, alongside him, through the training of the French Foreign Legion – which included being buried up to the head and used as a goal post – were the ones who didn’t take anything personally, he noted.

Keeper? Yes. And here are some spares: “Dig deep when pushed” (like his old muckers in the Special Forces), “You can’t put a price on pride”, “Detail is very overrated”.

DAY 353: Sharpening knives so that I might prepare for a dystopian future

19 Aug

“THIS is why you keep failing your driving test,” says Emerson, making his point spitefully. “You’ve got to understand that very few things come immediately. You’re all meat and potatoes and no foreplay. You’d be great in the trenches; you’d be over the top in a flash.”

Today I’m learning how to sharpen a set of knives on a carbon block with a dash of olive oil, and I actually reckon I’m being pretty patient for someone with a burning need for instant gratification – but it’s a scientific fact that men are more methodical than women and can quite happily do the same thing again and again and again without wanting to scream, so Emerson begs to differ.

“Man had knives before he invented the wheel or discovered fire,” he says, stroking away, “and if we end up like Mad Max, you’ll need to know how to sharpen your blade properly, not gouge a hole in the block.”

scrick scrick scrick

Here are Emerson’s precise instructions, if you can make it through to the end:

20 degree angle for a thin blade, 30 for a thick blade (rule of thumb), five degree for the finishing strokes (called linishing), then you run it over a strop (leather belt that’s affixed to something to hold it tight). “Stropping” is usually only seen with shaving razors as it gives that super keen edge that only lasts for a few cuts, but it’s worth doing nonetheless. You saw me do it with the autosol and a kevlar rag, rather than the traditional leather way. 3 strokes each way for soft blades like bronze or copper (as used by ancient types: Normans, Gauls, Mesopotamians) 10 for steel or low carbon stainless, and 20 – 30 for high grade austenitic alloys, titanium and heavily folded irons. 2-300 for foamed alloy.


Keeper? Yes. Would like my own gear.

DAY 346: Going to a peep show

12 Aug

I couldn’t take a photo, so I drew you a picture.

“I WANT to see a peep show,” I tell the good man behind the counter, sounding more English than is ordinarily the case.

We conduct a well-mannered conversation about the possibility of this and the coins I will be needing, over the strains of screaming and grunting, which turns out to be the cinema in the next room. Phew.

The man points towards a corridor and I go through and open what looks to be a cupboard door. It’s one of many cubicles around a central room with a bed in the middle, draped in zebra skin. I shut the door behind me and there’s just room to stand. Beneath me is a bin with used tissues in it, and all around me is the scent of freshly shucked testicles.

Trying not to touch the walls, I stuff a two-dollar coin into the slot above my window, and the window demists.

A big girl barges out of another door and into the room. Peeling off her red g-string, she rolls around on the bed a bit, opening her legs and bashing her twat with her hand. At first I’m perplexed that my window is a bit low. I have to crouch to see her face. Are all perverts short or something? Then I realise the window’s framing the girl from tits downwards.

My window mists up after 45 seconds, so I keep stuffing more two dollar coins in. Sherry (for it is she) whips a vibrator out of nowhere and starts boffing herself with it. I wonder if she’s curious about the lack of frenetic movement coming from my cubicle.

Like a pokie fanatic, I’ve already decided that ten bucks is my limit, but then relent and opt for just one more. I have to scramble madly in my purse though, and by the time I’ve demisted the window, Sherry’s pulled her knickers back on and is moving normally instead of writhing around. It’s an unsettling moment, as though she’s a magician who’s just slipped up and showed me how it’s done. Or the Wizard of Oz, suddenly exposed behind his curtain

“You gotta be quicker than that babe,” she admonishes, whipping her undies off again.

“Sorry,” I say. She comes over and peers in the window, then resumes her dildo jiggery-pokery, but less enthusiastically now. No matter – I’ve already unbolted the door and wandered off.

Keeper? Was great fun, but that’ll do.

DAY 259: Laying bush tracks

17 May

I’VE never questioned the existence of boulder-lined bush tracks. They just crop up here and there, don’t they? Apparently not, as I’m given the mission of creating one today.

The hard work’s done – the quarry rocks have already been sourced from a nearby pine plantation and lugged to the right spot. My mission’s to help shape the track that will form a 1km walk around this property, so I start by undercutting the slope we’re on with the blunt end of a pick.

I’ve got to hack through tree roots and form a level area on which to lay the rocks. The bush pirate points out wombat trails as we go, identifiable by upturned soil and mulch all pointing in the same direction. He’s right – but I’d never have noticed.

Keeper? I only toiled for 10 minutes, truth be told. I don’t think I’m built for brute force and ignorance.

DAY 258: Swamp forest floor restoration

16 May

THE bush pirate is working on a property that’s in the middle of a clear fell — a brutally overlogged area that he’s trying to restore to its full foresty glory of 150 years ago.

He’s thinned the paperbark swamp forest of dead trees to create light and reduce fire hazard, and cleared out the undergrowth of blackberry bushes, nettles, logs and dead branches. Now he’s in the process of putting in braces of myrtle beech around the boggy patches, and an understory of four species of ground ferns and man ferns.



He piles up some of the detritus he’s cleared around the ferns, where fronds will keep the muck moist so that they grow moss which accelerates their delay, which in turn feeds the ferns. That’s clever.

Artful mulching.

Already, within the existing paperbark forest, he’s created two areas of rainforest, a blackwood forest and a eucalypt forest – all on this four-acre property.

Today we’re propagating ground ferns. When fronds of the ferns die, new buds and leaves grow at the end. These are pulled off and replanted in clusters. He grabs the last specimen from his pile of tagged man-ferns and shows me how it’s done. Muddy work, to be sure, but nowhere near as hard as transplanting man ferns, which can grow up to 22-feet tall and have to be manhandled by the bush pirate up and down steep slopes. I never knew gardening could be so sexy.

Getting the dead fronds with green tips.

Planting em. And so on it goes.

Keeper? Could actually do this without supervision, should I stumble across any ground ferns. 

DAY 201: Conquering the quad bike in reverse

20 Mar

Watch it.

ACCORDING to WorkSafe, quad bikes are “exceptionally dangerous vehicles”, and yet I am driving one without so much as a driver’s licence. Backwards. Cop that, VicRoads.

The faithful reader may recall that it all got a bit much on DAY 176 when I crashed a quad bike into a bush and couldn’t reverse out again. Today, the bush pirate suggests I return to the challenge – and spank it. He shows me once more the reverse function.

To reverse:

* Heave down button above left handlebar using the might of both thumbs.
* Simultaneously crank lever.
* Hit another button twice.
* Gun throttle with other hand. Oh, wait – you don’t have another hand.

The bush pirate tilted the camera so it would look like I was on a steep hill, but I think the angle of the grass gives it away.

Mission accomplished, I reverse down a track for a little bit and then go hooning through a paddock. After some bunny hopping (this thing lurches like a bloodhound when you change gears) and a detour into a prickly moses, I get it running smoothly. Thank fuck for that – you see three-year-olds operating these things on farms on the telly.

Keeper? Yes. Will try these stunts next.

DAY 187: She’s a beauty

6 Mar


TODAY I went around Emmo’s to work on getting my ute roadworthy – the handsome beast’s been parked in his drive since the previous owner wheezed it around. It’s the first time I’ve ever worked on a vehicle – hell, I only put petrol in one for the first time six months ago.

The ‘To Replace’ list ends up being quite large, which is what you get if you consult a whizbang mechanic I suppose. I’m sure we can narrow it down to one or two items.



Door trim clips

Driver’s window regulator

Door hinges

Driver’s door cup

Fuck, let’s just replace the whole door

Glove box liner (really?) and lid latch receiver

Festoon bulb

Cigarette lighter


Bench seat cover

Mud flaps x 2

Tyres x 2 (tread is “in line with the tread wear indicator”)

Driver’s side quarter window moulding

Tonneau hooks

Shock absorbers x 4

Left quarter front side mould under fuel filter

Snib button LHS

Inhibitor switch

Foam mattress

Left hand bench seat side something or other

Water squirter motor

Air filter

Radiator cap

So you see, a lot of these are aesthetic issues which we might just brush under the carpet. Which no doubt needs replacing too. All we get to do today is swap the indicator and reverse lights around – some genius stuck the wrong bulbs in the wrong holes – and bicker about whether the cabin looks “gay” or not. I’ve high hopes we’ll get the old girl roadworthy next time though – and I’ve put the nitrous oxide manual at the top of the stack on Emmo’s bookshelf for inspiration.

Keeper? I’d better get at least 10 years out of her after all this.

I unscrewed all sorts of things in here, Emmo had a sigh, and I screwed them back in again. Bonza!

DAY 182: Getting a good snig

1 Mar

I saved this witchetty grub's life, so it owed me a photo.

YOU know, if I wasn’t being constantly supervised by burly experts I’d be going about many of my ventures in a very half-arsed manner – like for 10 minutes, tops. So it’s great that I have these hard taskmasters standing over me. I s’pose.

Today I’m going with the bush pirate to see a man about a dog chop some firewood. There’s a bit of a country-style barter system going on here. He’s had his ute fixed for free, so in return we’re visiting a coop to load up his friend with a stash for the winter. Tasmanians are very proud of their woodpiles, showing them off at the front of their houses. Shops, pubs and petrol stations have framed pictures of local loggers and heavy machinery lining the walls.

Or you could play golf.

After I take a few half-hearted swipes that come bouncing straight off again, the bush pirate demonstrates how to chop properly.

1)   Mark the spot on your stump with your axe. Make sure you’re going with the grain and avoid knots.

2)   Hold the handle with your hands about a foot apart and pull the axe back over your head.

3)   Slide your furthest hand back to join the other at the end of the handle, rock back and sling forwards.

3b)  Make sure you use your stomach muscles on that rock back, so that the weight of the axe doesn’t pull you backwards and send you staggering over stumps like a twat.

4)   Bend your knees as you bring the axe down. Make sure the blade hits the stump squarely, so that the wood splits like poetry.

5)   Keep going till you have a ‘good snig’ in your ute.

A good snig.

Keeper? I like chopping wood.

DAY 173: Bulldozing shit

20 Feb

I FIRST meet Stevo down the logger’s pub, where he turns up at five on the dot every day, or else. With the lube of VB, he’s easily persuaded to give me a go on his bulldozer, so the next day I locate him and his machine halfway down a muddy mountain of tree stumps. It’s like the Orcs have been through and destroyed everything.

Stevo’s a man of few words, but he teaches me well and I soon get this thing shifting a wall of mud from one spot to another. It’s got seven levers, but I only have to shift gears from neutral to first/reverse, wave the digger around, work the decelerator and brake, and use two more levers to steer left and right. Easy.

“Woman drivers, eh, mate?” Stevo yells out to the bush pirate, but thankfully then falls silent again.

Keeper? Sure – great fun!


DAY 152: Stalking bats and other stuff

30 Jan

THERE’S nothing weird about someone owning a Gen 2 night vision monocular in suburban Melbourne – they might merely be a bat-watching enthusiast.

(Add a Mossberg and a telescope into the equation and it gets a little weirder, but that’s none of my business.)

 Tonight we’re scanning the skies for fruit bats and skimming the grass for trapdoor spiders, the eyes of which you can see glowing up at you – so I’m told, anyway. I’m more interested in checking the windows of the neighbours, but they seem to be wise to this sort of behaviour and everyone’s got their curtains shut.

Keeper? Yes, but will invent an intrepid mission next time. Apparently someone has borrowed the perfectly normal Gen 3 US Air Force headset with automatic rangefinder and IR targeting laser to go pig hunting. So I’ll wait for the return of that.