Wannabe Darwinian

Monsoon Christmas

After racing through all the possible instances human poo could have made it down to my ankle that day, I’ve come to the conclusion that yes, that’s definitely dirt or mud from the chicken coop smeared just above my sock. I’ve told the nurse I’m handing over to this, but she’s looking at me with a mixture of disgust and amusement. Regrettable that I didn’t notice till she pointed it out two hours before I knock off? Probably. But I’m just stoked it’s not human excrement.

Truth is, before departing for his European adventure, housemate Tom left me with 10 baby Plymouth Rock chicks to hand-raise, which, in addition to the big girls, Eduardo and Lebron AND the vege garden, has turned me into a frantic Mother Hubbard of a morning.

I’ve probably been reading too many how-to chicken forums, but so paranoid was I of coming home to heat-stroked/cooked birds, that I’m down in that coop at 5.45am ferreting about before work.

Just to clarify, we’re talking about a small smear here – I don’t roll around in puddles before work.

Here is a series of photographs depicting a couple of wannabe-darwinian nurses holding chickens and fresh tropical produce:

The earth has gone from crispy and cooking to waterlogged, luscious green and dripping. At night our resident Green tree frog – Terrence – and his mates wage a sound war against cyclonic storms, which now smack and saturate us on a daily basis.

Each storm is more exciting than the last. I don’t even mind being woken up three times a week at 2am. Often the thunder overhead is so deafening and violent that the house shudders on its stilts. There is something eerie about seeing the world lit up in silent white light, then having to wait, bracing yourself for the low distant rumble and ear-splitting thunder clap. Never gets old.

In the first week of the rain, I was that idiot that kept whipping out my phone in public places to take photos of gathering clouds and swaying palm trees. I was at a BP the other day filling up the car and trying to take photos of the storm front at the same time. It was midday but the day was dark. There were two old blokes at the pumps on either side of me, both filling up their troopies. They’re both smirking at me, juggling my smartphone and petrol pump.

“First wet season is it, dal?” Clearly.

I pay for my petrol and jump back in the car. Antonin Dvorak is playing on classic FM, gale force winds are blowing the world sideways and I drive home feeling like I’m in an end of the world movie, grinning ear to ear.




Wannabe Darwinian

Is that the ocean, yappa?

My patient is perched on the arm of the chair in her isolation room, looking out the window. I’m making her bed and having a well-controlled inner tantrum with the sheets, which are sticking to my gloves and making my hospital corners look like, well, not hospital corners. As I’m in an isolation room, I’m also wrapped head to foot in blue plastic, which turns me into a human greenhouse.

“Yappa, what’s that thing over there?”

I turn around, exasperated. It’s 11 o’clock. I’ve got medications due, all five of my patients are diabetic and need their blood sugars done in the next hour and I’ve still got two bed-bound patients that need to be washed before handover.

I look to where my patient is looking, out over the car park, toward the trees that line the beach.

“What thing?”

She looks at me and then back out the window. “Is that the ocean, yappa?” She asks.

I’m confused. I point to the long sliver of ocean we can see just after the trees and below the clear blue of the sky, “The blue? Yeah, that’s the sea.”

She smiles at me and looks back out the window.

“Yappa, have you never seen the ocean?”

She shakes her head. “I was wondering what that bit there was, couldn’t work it out.”

I can’t quite believe it, “Are you from the desert or something?”

Yes, she says, from a community somewhere outside Alice.

I stand there for a moment, staring at my patient, who’s turned back to the window.

She’s lived all her life in central Australia, and at 40-something is seeing the coastline of her country for the first time. From the window of her isolation hospital room.

My brain is scrambling to make sense of what it means. Not because I had no idea there were people in Australia who haven’t seen the sea; but because the only reason this woman is in Darwin is because she’s sick. If she were healthy, she probably would have stayed in her country her whole life, and never laid eyes on that blue bit over there.

She also wouldn’t have this big, white Bondiite dressed in blue standing at her bedside gawking at her.

I’ve forgotten how hot and bothered I am. I push the mountain of tasks I have to complete out of my mind, and for a couple of minutes sit to talk to this woman about her country and the ocean she’d never seen. It’s going to make me late, and there are probably loads of buzzers going off outside. But I’m in this negative pressure room and I can’t hear them, so they can wait.

“Are you going to go to the beach and stick your feet in when you leave hospital?” I ask her.

“Maybe,” she says.



Wannabe Darwinian

Green snakes drive to sunset dinners

I’m driving into town to my friend Andrew’s place to help him and a bunch of mates eat the large amount of mud crab that they caught that morning on a fishing adventure. Looking at my scaly arms on the steering wheel I start to laugh uncontrollably at myself.

I’m still green from last night, where I ended up running around my lawn dodging homemade fireworks dressed as green snake. I mean, it was Halloween. But today is nothing, and I’m still green around my ears, on my neck and under my arms despite the three showers I’ve had to try and get the paint off.

It’s 6.15 and still a million degrees, so there’s a chance I might just sweat the remainder of the paint off on the 15 minutes it will take me to get to Andrew’s house.

I’m driving along Dick Ward Drive. There’s a perfectly placed cluster of clouds on the horizon that the sun is sinking into – their bellies lit up in a ridiculously pretty way. Like, how does mother earth DO that?! Although I’m green, hungover and sweating my weight in water, this sun business is making me smile. Which is ironic, as I spend most of my day avoiding, hiding from and sometimes cursing its rays and the levels of stinking hot I feel because of it. And then when it finally starts to go down, it makes itself and the world so damn beautiful that I want it to come back, or slow down going down.

I arrive at dinner feeling pretty filthy, but that’s okay, because a lot of people in Darwin are in, or feel like they’re in a permanent state of filth. This ‘dinner party’ is no exception. Andrew’s apartment is ridiculously nice – modern, open plan 5th floor apartment with panoramic ocean views. But everyone’s walking around bare foot and dressed in as little clothing as is socially acceptable. There’s a crab massacre going on out on the big balcony – crab guts, gutsy water and crabby juice is everywhere, and everyone’s walking it all through the kitchen with crabby, bare feet. As I said, I’m filthy and green anyway, so I just join in.

I don’t have a good track record with mud crabs. When I was on Elcho Island, I had a near conversion to vegetariansm trying to cook a mud crab. These were no exception – despite being dismembered, cracked and par-cooked in simmering stew, the damn things were still moving, scratching at the bottom of the pot lids.

I think I might be a bit conflicted – here I am only a couple of months ago brandishing one of the poor buggers and looking stoked about it… Did I crack open the cooked red claws and eat the very-dead crabs? Why yes! I did.

Generally the nature up here is on roids. When I first arrived it was still the dry season, so swimming at the beach and in waterholes down in Litchfield was all hunky dory (according to locals). I mean, by swimming I mean wading 10-20 metres out onto the sandbar and wallowing briefly in the hot shallows. And that was only if the dogs went in first.

Now? I just stare at it longingly. I’m not that keen on being lethally stung by a box jelly, or stalked and subsequently eaten by a 4 metre salty. Here is the Rapid Creek crew engaging in some of said wallowing.


I don’t mind non-lethal friendly pythons like Mr Tickles though. He must have been the inspiration for my halloween costume and semi-permanent green-ness

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Wannabe Darwinian

Chilli and Chicks

Owing to the fact that most of my new friends are not shift workers, my days off have thus far mostly been spent hanging out in my troppo share in Rapid Creek, with two rabbits, a couple of dogs, ten or so chickens and some mangey housemates. We have a veggie patch which is currently supplying more eggplant and chilli than we know what to do with. There is also an impressive assortment of tools, wood, metal and gardening stuff under the house. Unfortunately for me, I’ve realised over the last couple of weeks that for the most part, I have absolutely no idea what tools to use (or even if I did, how to use them) to make these ideas come into fruition. So I usually go downstairs, pick up a few pieces of wood, a metal pole and maybe a drill bit.  I stare at them for a moment or so, wishing I could give them a purpose, and then put them back.

Housemate Tom on the other hand is constantly constructing things. This morning, for example, he woke up and casually built a chicken-coop-within-our-pre-existing-coop (which he also built), to house the 10 Plymouth Rock chicks we have recently adopted. Here they are in all their scrawny glory, with my two rabbits Eduardo and LeBron:

I have managed to satisfy some of my DIY dreams. Mostly, I think of the idea and get someone else to execute it. My new clothes rack, for example; I was integral to the building process as the tool-passer and photographer:

I’ll leave you with a slide-show of garden-to-plate food porn.  And my biggest permaculture success story to date: chilli jam.

Wannabe Darwinian

A wannabe Darwinian

I’ve been trying to justify creating a blog about re-locating up to Darwin, and keep stalling because all the reasons I come up with seem lame and self-serving. Happily, I’ve narrowed it down to a few finalists that don’t totally fall on their face…

… this little city is exciting and ever-changing and people do exciting things in their spare (and non-spare) time. Maybe my musings about life up here can play advocate for one of Australia’s under-appreciated cities.

Living up here is so much more in tune with the seasons and the nature that surrounds the city. Its energy ebbs and flows with the Wet and Dry. Locals live and do business with the seasons, constantly aware that up here, we are not the top of the food chain. Between knowing that prehistoric reptiles are stalking me as I stroll along the beach, and living alongside one of Australia’s biggest and most diverse Indigenous populations, I feel so much more self-aware than I ever did in Sydney.

Finally, owing to the humongous tropical garden surrounding my house, and an abundance of tools, machinery and carpentry paraphernalia underneath it, some of my ridiculous DIY dreams are actually coming true. These posts will be photographic evidence of the fact!

At the very least, this is me keeping my family up to date with what a wannabe Darwinian’s life looks like.

Happy reading!