Deep Shafts! Watch where you walk! There are over a million uncovered opal mining shafts around the Coober Pedy, SA area. Whilst it is illegal to trespass on a pegged claim, there are public areas on which tourists and locals can go to ?noodle in the mullock.? That is to go searching for opal in the waste material of a mined shaft. There is even a public mine shaft one can go ?fossicking? for opal. You will find some, though, most will be what I discussed earlier as ?potch.? We found some nice pieces, mostly potch, but that was exciting enough. Our tour guide, Graham, has an eye for spotting colour and he found a few tiny pieces which he gave to Nathan. I was fortunate to find the fossil of a clam like creature in the mullock. That was more exciting to me than finding opal. How do you get mullock out of a 30 metre deep shaft? In years past, it was using buckets and pulleys, now they use huge vacuum sweepers. With shafts about 30 metres deep and about a meter in diameter, there are signs everywhere warning of the danger, nevertheless the shafts remain uncovered. Do you suppose that it is expected to stay away and if you do trespass and fall in, it is your own fault! No use trying to sue the owner, he doesn?t have any money. This unseasonably cold weather is quite a challenge for me. I simply don?t do cold weather. The chooks have been quite unhappy about it and when there is the slightest amount of snow on the ground they won?t even come out of their house. When I go to collect eggs, they really chatter and tell me about their hardship as if it is my fault it snowed! We?ve been cooking soybeans to help meet their protein requirements through this really cold spell, so they?ve been laying at about one egg every two days. Not bad for continued freezing weather. Jessica sorted her ewes into three mobs earlier. One set to be with Micheal, one set to be with Matthew, and one set to remain open (not bred). Hopefully, they?ll stay that way; it seems sheep are so fertile, they simply look at each other and get bred. We?ve attended the myriad of Christmas parties, caroling, programmes etc and prepared and sent out over 120 Christmas letters. Now off to my parents in Mexico for a family gathering there on Christmas day. Busy time of the year. The neighbors are blessing us with an abundance of goodies and treasures which we consume with increasing abandon, promising ourselves that we?ll do better starting the first of January. Allen, John, and Bill Peacher have been installing our new outdoor woodstove this week before Christmas which added a bit to our busyness. Merry Christmas to our cats and dogs; they all received a good deworming. The cats are working overtime on catching mice. It is nice to know that it?s one more mouse not coming in our house. At night I fear some morning I?ll awaken to a pile of mice on my bed having scratched their way through the ceiling. Their pitter patter and scurrying about above my head gives me cause to consider this. No recipe this go. Have a blessed Christmas and a safe New Year. Please don?t eat too much! Tauna Powell lives with her family near Laclede, Missouri. She can be reached at www.mastersranch.com or firstname.lastname@example.org. Write to her at The Master?s Ranch, 19554 Fort Road, Laclede, MO 64651.