Dry times and mince meat

So far this year, the climate in this mountain range has been warmer. If it is going to snow, August is usually the month that snow will happen. But no, it has been warm enough that we haven’t seen any snowfall that lasted more than a minute or two.

The winter here is still relatively cold and the wood fire has been providing comfort and warmth for the fluffy collective. Long term readers who make it all the way to the bottom of each week’s blog entry will note that there has been regular rainfall for much of the year. In fact, looking at the statistics this evening, we are only a few millimetres above the average for this time of year (575mm or 22.7 inches) for the last decade or so.

Rainfall for this mountain range 2004 to 2018

On more than a few occasions recently, I’ve been told tales of woe about how dry it has been this year. I don’t tend to know how such opinions are formed, because it sure isn’t as dry as it was back in 2008 or 2009. Those years were a shocker for both the combination of extreme heat and lack of the usual regular rainfall.

What the climate here does display is: extreme variability. In practical terms what that means is that I have no idea what the climate will be like from one season to the next. Earlier this year in the summer month of January, we had the second highest January rainfall of recent years, then in February – next to nothing. Clearly, nature provides sometimes, and then not at all at other times in this part of the world.

The continent of Australia has a very variable climate. The state to the north of here of New South Wales (NSW) has now been declared completely in the grip of a very serious drought: NSW Government says entire state in drought, new DPI figures reveal full extent of big dry. The state of Queensland which is further to the north of NSW is also in severe drought. The drought is extensive and horrendous, and you can see for yourself – if you dare – just how bad it is up there: Drought through the eyes of a 16-year-old.

Many long years ago, and back in the days when I lived in the big smoke of inner city Melbourne, I was oblivious of the climate. Of course, I adhered to the official water restrictions during the drought, and duly watched with horror as the daily statistics reporting on the dam levels fell to unprecedented lows. The head of the water authority at the time was heard to mutter something along the lines of: “pray for rain”. It was not a good time. But we did our bit and also used very little electricity, and given that we had a huge array of amenities on our doorstep, we both walked to work and rarely used the car.

But in the end it wasn’t the statistics that brought the drought story back home with a thud. It was the mince meat. Back in those days we used to cook with meat at home, and we purchased our meat at the Queen Victoria Market. Even back then we were tight with money, and so we used to purchase bulk supplies of mince meat from the many butchers operating at the market. And the quality of the mince meat during that drought period was amazing.

All good things come to an end though, and we felt that eventually the quality of the mince meat declined. The thing is, what we hadn’t realised was that the rains had returned, the drought was broken, and farmers were no longer “destocking” their farms. De-stocking is the process of reducing the number of cattle maintained on a farm. Usually the cattle are sold for human or animal consumption. This is a problem because if a drought is wide spread enough, then lots of farmers may be selling cattle all at once, and the prices for cattle get depressed. And feed can also be hard to obtain for farmers at any price: For the first time ever, Dennis has run out of hay for drought-stricken graziers

I have great respect for farmers. It must be heartbreaking to have to sell stock that you have been selectively breeding for decades all because you no longer have enough food or water to even keep them alive, despite the fact that you had in previous years.

You see climate variability means that nature provides sometimes, and then not at all at other times. And every single system I use here that harvests resources from nature works that way. I try really hard to consider how the systems here will cope with the worst conditions, but the truth is I don’t really know until they are put to the test.

The excavations for the extension to the strawberry terrace are now completed. The excavations took a day and a half, and after the first day of digging we were close to completion:

Another day of excavations brought us near to completion

A further three hours of digging on the following day had the job finished. I reckon the new terraces look great, and you can see both terrace extensions looking from above in the next photo:

Looking at the two recently extended terraces from the land above them

Observant readers will note that we used some of the soil from the excavations to begin creating another terrace (the patch of very dark soil) above the two new terraces. We reckon that terrace may get dug sometime next year.

The higher of the two terraces (adjacent to the strawberry enclosure) will be used as a corn enclosure. We’re in a bit of a hurry to get that corn enclosure completed because we believe that the seeds may have to be planted next month. To keep this project moving along at a brisk pace, I dug the post holes for the fencing posts.

The post holes for the fencing posts for the corn enclosure were dug

How cool is the fire screen in the photo above? Can you believe someone threw that out many years ago. I plan to make some minor modifications to the fire screen and convert it into a gate which will be used on the corn enclosure.

Given there will be more plants in that part of the farm, we purchased another water tank to place next to the water tank that is already in that location. Water tanks are made to order items and we got the call on Friday that it was ready to pick up.

A new water tank was brought back to the farm

The water tank is huge when compared to the dirt rat Suzuki and bright yellow trailer. Surprisingly, it doesn’t hold that much water (4,000 litres / 1,050 gallons). It sure is heavy though.

The area where the tank was going to be positioned had to be excavated so that it is perfectly flat. We then placed a layer of rock crusher dust onto the excavated site.

The author stands on the excavated site where the new water tank will sit

Then the tank has to be hauled up to that part of the farm. It is heavy work hauling a large and heavy chunk of plastic up a hill. We considered rolling the water tank up the hill, but there is little margin for error using such a gravity defying strategy.

The new water tank is placed next to the existing water tank

The water tank and rock walls look pretty good. Unfortunately the water tank appears to have some sort of minor leak around the outlet valve (i.e. the bit where the water exits the tank). This is a profound nuisance of a problem, but it is solvable.

All those excavations yielded an impressive collection of rocks. For the past few weeks, the editor and I have been very excited by the sheer volume of rocks that we gained access to during the excavations. Rock walls were built (as can be seen in the photo above), some rock walls were extended (which can’t be seen in the photo above) and one of the rock gabions which had previously been almost empty, have been completely filled. We need to do more excavations to avoid the dreaded Peak Rocks!

A rock gabion cage which was almost empty has been completely filled due to the rocks harvested from the recent excavations

In breaking plant news:

Daffodils look set to bloom
How attractive is this purple sage?
A cactus shows a bit of frost damage

Onto the flowers:

I’m not sure what this plant is
Tree lucerne (Tagasaste) put on a brave winter show of flowers
The echiums are very early this year
This plant may be ajuga
How beautiful are the lavender. We have plans to plant more of them in the coming weeks

The temperature outside now at about 8.00am is 7’C (45’F). So far this year there has been 611.2mm (24.1 inches) which is higher than last week’s total of 575.8mm (22.7 inches).

33 thoughts on “Dry times and mince meat”

  1. Hi Chris,

    Apologies for being missing in action.Oh my, I have been busy the past month. No doubt you were concerned for my whereabouts 🙂

    I hear you about the warm august, the locals tell me it is unlikely we will get snow on the ground this year. August is usually when it happens, but here we are on the 13th and buds are sprouting, birds are singing and there is a decidedly spring feel to the air. Mrs Damo and I planted some garlic yesterday. Over a month late I know, but I am sure they will do fine.

    No doubt you and Lew already discussed this in my rude absence, but Picard will be coming back to TV in a sequel to TNG. I love Picard and look forward to more TNG stories – but I have no faith in the current crop of writers and producers behind Star Trek. Still, Patrick Stewart is pretty much good in everything so /shrug 🙂


  2. Hi Inge,

    Fair enough. Details surrounding infrastructure are not as readily available as one would expect given they are usually paid for out of the public purse! Interestingly I have read recently that the electricity sub stations (they’re devices which convert the much higher mains electricity which gets transmitted around the countryside, into more usable household mains) put into new housing sub divisions are now far smaller than they used to be in the not too distant past. It interests me that water is piped over to your island from the mainland. I assume that the island is now more populated than what it was when first you moved there? Or do you get a great influx of visitors during the summer months? Huge influxes of visitors can temporarily strain infrastructure.

    I’d imagine that living on the Isle of Scilly would be an interesting existence! I’m amazed at the extent of agriculture on that series of islands – it is quite extensive.

    No doubts you’d be surprised at the sheer extent of the forests here. If a kangaroo decided to head to the south west from here, it would have to survive crossing a few major roads, but it could basically stick to forest cover for a large percentage of the way.



  3. Hi Lewis,

    Well our concerns about Damo have must reached his ears and set them on fire because I see that he posted a comment earlier this afternoon! Damo is a good bloke. And he arrives with fascinating Star Trek news.

    Nagging is not a technique that I (or the editor for that matter) grew up with, and so it annoys the stuffing out of me. It feels to me like you can build a brick wall, and then someone comes along and tries to take the brick wall down, one brick at an annoying time with their nagging. Some cultures are really good at it too – and they have years of learned defences against such a technique. I’m not a fan. Actually on some occasions I have rudely suggested to people using that technique that: “Asking me a second time does not endear you to me, and no you won’t get a different answer”. Of course, such an entreaty often falls upon deaf ears. What do you do? How do you deal with such techniques?

    Yeah, I’m the same too. I have this belief, and who knows where I got this idea from, but God helps those who help themselves. Well it is a good excuse for me anyway. Our time and energy are severely limited and so you just pick and choose, for it is an unwise strategy to try to please everyone. That is the way of the dark path… But neither is it good to please nobody, for that too is the way of the dark path. There is middle ground in there somewhere, and maybe it fluctuates and wobbles around a bit. We all need to go to the pub (or temperance hotel) every now and then and take some time out!

    Dried cranberries are almost unheard of down here. No seriously, they’re really expensive and I reckon that situation has occurred because there are so few suitable parts of the country to grow the berries. I grew cranberries here one year and they did really well during the damp spring, but the hot and dry conditions over summer wiped them out. Black and red currants do much better in our conditions and honestly they taste pretty much, but not quite, the same to me.

    It is funny you mention that about using preserving agents as part of the drying process, but I have noticed some rather odd tastes with dried fruit of late. There is an undertone of sulphur to the flavour and it is not pleasant to my palate. Other than sultana’s (which are dried table grapes) I avoid dried fruit as much as possible. We’ve still got weeks and weeks of preserved apricots from the last harvest and I tell ya, they’re good, but then I know what is in the mix.

    Fortunately the water tank has a ten year warranty, so only a few days after pick up should be no problem at all. And even if it is a problem I do have a plan B for the water tank should all else fail. I’ll have another look at the problem in a couple of days time. I really do need the water tank there, and I suspect that next year I’ll add another one to the mix in that location.

    I have seven of the manufacturers water tanks and so this problem is a first. Of course business may be slow for them, although with the drought going on up north, I can’t imagine how that would be the case. The stupid thing is that people tend to want to install water tanks during a drought, and getting them filled from the sky becomes a serious problem at that point in time. I guess they’d be nice to look at and imagine that one day they’d fill up again. Better to install them when there is that wet stuff falling from the sky. 🙂

    Mind you, that reaction is a bit like people being prepared for worst case events. How many people actually take action in advance of something horrid happening? Not many from my point of view. What do you reckon about that?

    I reckon you may have a long autumn, so you never know with your corn. Also, it might be worthwhile trying a different variety next season. Do you recall where your seeds (or seedlings) came from? They’re not all the same by a long shot. One of the benefits that I get from the local gardening club is that they collect seeds from varieties that are grown in a similar environment to here (although I suspect it is a bit cooler here).

    What are the notables suggesting about your corn? Hopefully they’re being nice?



  4. Hi Damo,

    No worries at all. However, your absence was noted and discussed, so perhaps your ears were burning! Hehe! 😉 I just finished reading ‘Into the Ruins’ book nine and I did rather enjoy your story ‘The Last Farang’. I really liked how the protagonist began his place on the ship distantly at first and then ever so slowly immersed himself into the culture of the ship.

    Hopefully you’re not too busy? One needs to remember to go to the pub every now and then! How’s that boat coming along? Have you had much opportunity for writing recently? There was talk of a second instalment of the Cuppertinians?

    I reckon you are right about the early spring. It sure feels that way to me here too. With that in mind I’m planning to get my summer seeds in the ground early this year and that means sometime in the early to mid September. But we’ll see, like you boat building, other things are distracting me. Are you planning another summer edible garden?

    Not at all! We were oblivious (although I can only really speak for myself here) about the return of Patrick Stewart. He made a great Captain, and I reckon he’ll do well in a new series. Are any of the other old crew members signing along for the journey?

    Did you end up watching all of the first season of Discovery? I haven’t gotten around to that yet. So many things to do (as you probably realise)!



  5. Hi, Chris!

    I think that there may possibly be no harder job on this planet than that of a farmer, bless them. Thank you for all the drought links. How terrible is that? It makes me think of dust bowls and the Great Depression.

    That is a beautiful jackhammer. So tempting! The terraces are so wide, and so flat – and so steep! What a lovely and graceful fire screen. Aren’t you glad that somebody gave it up?

    I don’t see how that dirt rat pulls such heavy things, especially uphill. Perhaps it is actually a dirt donkey?

    That unknown plant with the white flowers looks like our wild bittercress, which is edible. I have also grown a cultivated version called creasy greens that was a staple in the old times around here, but I like the wild one better. Creasy greens have a very, very strong brassica-family flavor.



  6. Hello Chris
    I liked the photos a lot, they gave such a clear impression of some of your setup.
    I also admire farmers, their job must be utterly heart breaking on many occasions; not a job that I would want.
    Explain the fire screen; it is a gorgeous piece of ironwork but I fail to see how it can be effective as a screen.
    Yes the Island population has increased massively since I first came here. Just as well because they were seriously inbred at one time. Holiday makers do indeed swell the population during the summer. Most noticeable when the traffic simply comes to a halt due to congestion.


  7. Yo, Chris – It occurred to me, looking at the first photo on the blog (Fern Glade Farm – Overview) that I really quit like that you’ve got a bit of seating, scattered about. Nothing is quit as inviting as a nice bench.

    I really should avoid graphs before I’ve had my first cuppa, in the morning. I was looking at the graph and thinking, “What’s Chris banging on about. The rainfall trends are CLEARLY up.” Then, after the caffeine hits my system, I realize that the bottom bars on the graph are for more recent years. What I call a “Duh!” moment. :-).

    Drought is … “Just awful,” doesn’t cover it. Stories are coming in from all over the world of drought. Unless one just “doesn’t want to think about it,” you wonder if it will happen to you. One of the low level, unsubstantiated rumors, running around The Home, right now, is that gardening may be cut back, due to the lavish amounts of water we use. “Expense” is the projected reason. I suppose about all I can do is keep building up my soil for water retention.

    Definition of a rock gabion. A place to store rocks in a neat and tidy manner :-). They are one of those things that are not only useful, but, to me, also very decorative. Not a bad “two-for.”

    Is that the first daffodil of the year?

    Naggers are best avoided. Not so easy when you’ve got one in the house. Often falls under the classification of “justifiable homicide.” Many a mystery has been launched by The Nag. I often wonder, if they’re reflective at all, if they sit around and wonder why people don’t like them or they don’t have any friends? Cont.

  8. Cont. When I was working for the library, one of the building heads I worked for, on occasion, married into a cranberry raising family. But they were in the process of cutting back the business, as foreign imports were cutting into the profit margin. But, every Christmas, I’d buy a ten pound box from her, at cost. We still get cranberries, here, from our coast. But, they can be pricey. Hmmm. Wonder if they’ll slap a tariff on the foreign ones?

    I quit gave up on any imported grapes (and, most of the ones from the US). They look so tempting, but had such a strong after taste of petro, that I couldn’t eat them.

    As far as water tank timing goes, there’s an old saying about closing the barn door after the (horses? cows? goats?) have escaped. But humans, in general, often only consider the threat right in front of them. In space, and time. And then there’s the whole “Why spend good money when (what ever) threat never appears?”

    I ran across that old concept, just last night. We’re kind of hardwired for it. Is that rustle in the grass the wind? Or, a saber toothed tiger? Choose wrong and you win this year’s Darwin Award.

    Oh, there’s not too much ribbing about the corn. I’m just getting tired of it being brought up. Let’s talk about my bumper crop of squash and tomatoes, instead. :-). I’m going to buy some potassium to throw at it, tomorrow. I did dig in a bit of wood ash, early on. Apparently (maybe) not enough. Lew

  9. @ Damo – Good to hear from you. So. Is Captain Picard going to be commanding the Starship Geriatric? :-).

    I breathlessly waiting for “Rampage,” “Ready Player One” and “How to Talk to Girls at Parties” to pop up in the library catalog. “2036 Origin Unknown” looks interesting. But, rather obscure. So, I don’t know if the library will spring for it. Lew

  10. Hi Pam (and greetings from the fluffies!),

    Oh yeah, we’d be completely up the creek without a paddle without broad acre farmers and possibly very hungry too. I think about the effort that would be required to replace the half acre of mixed grains that someone else grows, somewhere else for the chickens – every time I visit the local feed store. I’m slowly ramping production up here, but conditions are sub-fluffy optimal due to the slope of the land. However, on the upside things get done on a human scale and pace and that is a good thing. No need to go too fast with the projects, don’t you reckon? I could see how folks who attempted to do too much could be at risk of being overwhelmed. The human pace ensures such an outcome is not even a remote possibility. Machines carry risks on that front.

    It is really hard to get a handle on what the people in that part of the country are having to confront with the drought every single day. I’ve read that feed is being trucked in from Western Australia and Tasmania now because closer sources have apparently been exhausted. How’s that for a distance? It would be like carting feed from San Francisco to New York, it is just that sort of distance.

    Haha! Beware the lure of the jackhammer. As a hint, it’s good! 🙂 We use a clay spade bit as well as a rock chisel bit. You need both. I use both tools to break the clay and rocks, but use hand tools to break the clay lumps up further and hand tools to move the stuff. The jackhammer stops me breaking my back on the very hard clay. It is nice when digging to see that the rains have penetrated deep into the soil – where it should be. We accidentally uncovered a spring which bubbles out fresh clear water every time it rains. Fancy that huh? I thought that it was a hole that the rats had made into the soil. It doesn’t run for long, but I have noticed a few springs about the place and I get more water into the ground every year.

    Dirt Donkey!!! Yeah, maybe! 🙂 It has both low range and high range gearing and 5 speed stick shift, so it ain’t no drama at all!

    Well done with the plant identification. It looks identical, flowers, leaves and everything. Imagine that plant ending up down here. It is amazing how plants spread about with the movement of humans around the landscape.



  11. Hi Inge,

    Yeah thanks for noticing, I was trying with those photos to provide some context because otherwise the project could just sit off to the side somewhere on the farm if seen in isolation, and then the question becomes: why there? We’re actually trying to use the land closest to the house for a lot of these projects because it keeps the infrastructure, like water and power, and food, much closer to where it gets used. It seems obvious, but when I look at the layout of the old hill station gardens up this way, the orchards, milking paddocks, chicken runs, vegetable, and berry patches are all tucked way down out of sight. Heaven forbid that the owners had to be reminded where their breakfast came from! I assume that similar things occur in your part of the world with some of the older gardens of the well to do?

    It’s a tough and uncertain job for sure. Most people take their regular pay cheques in whatever form that takes, for granted! Agriculture is a very uncertain enterprise.

    Ah! It is hard to see in the photo, but the firescreen has a thick and strong steel flywire mesh attached to one side of it. It lets the radiant heat from the fire through the mesh, but catches all of the embers and sparks that may otherwise get through. Hope that makes sense?

    Surely you jest? Hehe! Mind you, there is something to be said about getting new bloodlines into an area. We caused quite the stir when we first arrived on the scene and managed to get a permit to build – and then followed through with the process of building the house ourselves. People believed then (and still do) that it was an impossibility. Not so. I suspect the old timers don’t know what to make of us! Good fun! Did you cause a stir when you first arrived in your area?



  12. Hi Lewis,

    Thanks, and believe it or not someone threw that seat out. I picked it up at the tip shop. I couldn’t believe it, I mean it is not as if there is anything at all wrong with it – which is probably why it was in the tip shop. There are a number of seats located around the farm. It ain’t all work here! 🙂

    It is quite a random process picking the, err, what does the system call it, maybe it’s the ‘Featured Image’ each week. I reckon the new blogging platform works better than the old freebie blogger. Far out that thing gave me some headaches towards the end, and the robot that turned up one day out of the blue was really quite frightening. I think it may have been called plagscan, and that sounds innocuous enough, but it wasn’t there for my benefit for sure…

    Speaking of robots, I just heard a radio news story about some dude that got sacked at his job by a robot which acted erroneously (or was it erroneous?) The Machine Fired Me. I can’t vouch for the reality of the story, but far out, it’s a goodie!


  13. You look very fetching in your fisherman´s sweater!

    Those are the neatest, tidiest fence post holes, I´ve ever seen. Mine always seem to get as wide as they are deep.

    I admire the fact that you feel compensated for all that terrace work by the number of rocks you dig up. That´s the spirit!

    @Inge, isn´t the Isle of Scilly famous for daffodils?

  14. Hi Chris,

    I am glad you enjoyed the story – it was fun to write. Although Mrs Damo insisted that nothing happened in it and thought the plot would revolve around the mysterious container ship they passed in the night. But I reckon sometimes odd things happen and there is no reason for it!

    I have not proceeded any further on the next part of the Cupertinians (although I have a pretty good idea on who Gibbon meets and what he gets up to) as I got distracted with starting another story 🙂 Hopefully I will get a bit more time now, over the past few weeks I have started to clamp down on the work hours I was doing – I am getting to grips with the concept of leaving things for tomorrow etc!

    Spring is indeed coming, and this means the boat needs to get a move along – I posted some photos the other day. I now have two intact hulls and will get started on fibre-glassing the bottom soon, then they will be watertight! Mrs Damo and I will indeed plant some more edibles this year, and this time a lot less zucchinis I can tell you 🙂 Any suggestions for what we should try this year?


  15. Hi Lew,

    Captain Picard is getting on a bit isn’t he? But for some reason he doesn’t look like he has aged much – lucky genes I guess! I want to see Rampage as well – who doesn’t love The Rock? I haven’t seen Ready Player One yet, it is on my hard drive but just not got around to it. By all accounts it is acceptably Ok :-p Is your library getting Star Trek Discovery or The Orville in at some point?


  16. Hi Lewis (cont…)

    Fortunately WordPress allows me to bang on for so long that these days there only seems to be the more ordinary (cont) rather than the previous (double secret cont) that blogger was prone too.

    What were we talking about again? Oh, that’s right – robots. Now at this juncture I feel it necessary to point out in my most dry voice that perhaps the guy that was terminated by the robot was the first victim of the terminator? Sorry for that one, it’s bad yes I know, but the joke was asking to be told! You know, I recall watching the original terminator film and thinking to myself that clearly this robot business isn’t all that it was cracked up to be. I mean they may have their own opinions? And I do note that there are inordinate amounts of words spoken about the ethics of self driving cars, but given the singularly focused nature of robots and artificial intelligence, isn’t the problem really that we are perhaps coming to terms with enabling a psychopathic entity?

    Anyway, I was interrupted from replying due to work issues – what a story there that can never be told, far out!

    Exactly, the graph is all over the shop. Some years there is a lot of rain, and other years, not so much. This year it is middling. Your suggestion about getting more water into the soil organic matter is really the only game in town. That is how they used to do things, if only because they had little other choice in the matter.

    Well it is always a possibility, and anyway most people water gardens too much – plants rarely need it – unless you are growing water loving plants like wasabi. The PNW has a mildly Mediterranean climate given you get such dry summers. I get away with 10 minutes per day for edible plants and that keeps plants alive during multiple 104’F+ days. It is possible. The orchard gets nothing at all unless I reckon the trees will keel over, and then I chuck a bucket of water on each fruit tree (that is a lot of water when you consider there are 300 of them) and that just helps them limp through until it gets cooler. They’re slow growing as a result, but they put down deeper roots every year. It is a bit like investing in infrastructure in that the costs are painful up front, but the returns are in the future.

    Haha! I loved that definition of a rock gabion. Both the editor and I are laughing about your description and it is so true. 🙂 You know us well my friend!

    It was the first daffodil of the year. I expect that the flower will have opened before the next blog. Hey, in Melbourne this week I noticed that many of the flowering trees are in full blossom. People do not understand that this is several weeks early. They could probably grow coffee shrubs if they could keep up the water to them. It is still too cold here for them. I should check the tea camellia…

    A nagger in the house. Ouch! That doesn’t sound like it is a situation that could be avoided. You know, one aspect of maturity is that we round off the worst personality aspects of those around us. It is a bit like using a file to smooth out the rough edges of cut steel. Otherwise if you don’t file the steel down, you get splinters and cuts and we may well have our own. Much easier to file the edges down so that that eventuality doesn’t come to pass. You know, tonight I’m tired because I spent most of today giving simple good advice to a lot of different people. It is nice to get paid for doing that, but it is an emotional drain sometimes, but you know, I prefer to get things on a playing field that may still not be good, but at least it is workable. What else do you do? I dunno.

    It all comes back to Star Trek. One of the six feet under episodes, which always began with a death, had the actor who was also the doctor from Star Trek Enterprise. He was sitting in the kitchen just talking at his wife. She bopped him on the head with a frying pan, and clearly she was in a bit of a need for some quiet time (who doesn’t like quiet time, although that fatal method was a bit extreme). Anyway, later in the show the characters mention that the character (who was also the doctor in Star Trek Enterprise) was killed because he was boring. To cut a very long story short, no I don’t believe they are reflective at all! 🙂

    What fun we have here.

    It is funny that you mention the cranberry family, but in less than six degrees of separation, I knew indirectly about a family that was in the spice trade. The supermarkets cliffed them, and nobody wants to be cliffed by their major customer. It is an unsavoury business.

    The dried apricots that I purchased were equally disgusting. No thank you.

    Ah yes, the horse has sailed and the ship has bolted. Once either of those events has occurred it is too late. But try telling people that. Mr Greer provided a link to a graphic novel which explained Buckminster Fuller’s understanding of energy. He’s a smart bloke that Buckminster, and I agree with his assessment of renewable energy. It surprises me that people consistently tell me that I’m wrong about that stuff despite them having no skin in the game. Mate, It has taken me over a decade of adjustment to learn to live with this stuff. It ain’t easy being green. Did I just quote Kermit the Frog?

    Well, there is always next year with the corn. You’ve just reminded me that I’ve got trepidation because I’m going to try out replanting the saved corn seeds from last year. So who knows how that will work out? Probably not good. The seeds for the varieties sold are too inbred, I should add some white corn and also the painted mountain variety just to inject some fresh genetics, but that may have to wait until the following summer when there is more space on the next terrace up.

    Congrats with the squash and tomatoes. Have you begun eating any of them yet? Our growing seasons are remarkably similar to yours.

    Thanks for the tip about the wood ash. Now may be the time to dig deep. I’m planning to add in a layer of composted woody mulch, fine mulch, and mushroom compost, but the soil in the new enclosure is so new that it may be to no avail. Maybe I should transplant some soil in there? That might be a good idea. What do you reckon?



  17. Hi Coco,

    Thanks (and blush). 🙂 I love that dirty old oversized woollen jumper. The editor tells me that it is not to be worn off the property because the wool has pulled through on a few of the stitches (courtesy of Ollie – it is a long story) and appearances must be maintained.

    On the other hand, I wear that jumper whenever I’m heading out to get a quote for materials. It’s like a lucky jumper for me because people inevitably give me better prices! 😉

    There is always a story in there, and believe it or not I originally bought the wrong size jumper and it was too large for me. Then I began wearing it, and now I’m not sure who is wearing whom? It is good stuff. The other jumpers don’t feel the same.

    Sorry I digress as usual. Yeah, I dug those post holes using the hand auger and it leaves really neat and tidy circles in the clay. We do neat here! 😉 I can well understand how that happens to your post holes. Years ago I read about an agricultural course and the people running the course complained that the attendees didn’t even know how to go about digging a hole for a fruit tree? You’re miles ahead of the competition. Incidentally, your garden is looking as beautiful as it is productive!

    Hehe! Yes, Peak Rocks is a dread time, and to put it off with further exploratory excavation work is an outstanding outcome. All of the larger rocks were used on substantial paths. The place is getting very organised!



  18. Hi Damo,

    Ah well, it may surprise you that I don’t generally discuss story ideas with the editor before writing them out. I’m deliberately vague and evasive, unless it is her idea and then we can flesh it out before I put the story to text. The discussion process in some ways stifles a bit of the creativity of the process. It is hard to explain. Sometimes the journey itself becomes the story, and as you rightly noted in the story, the pace of life can be a bit too fast to be enjoyable – although I may be reading more into your story than you intended?

    Haha! Well, the new story needs to be told, and who are we to stand in front of that freight train of creativity? 🙂

    Long work hours, you know all I can say is: Been there, done that, got the t-shirt. Nobody thanks you for the hours, and you’re rarely remunerated for it. Good luck. Actually how it is thought of is: Tick, that’s one problem solved, onto the next one. And it is very hard to do less, once you’ve shown your hand. It is like playing poker, you have to keep your cards close to your chest. I knew a bloke who used to be able to say with all sincerity: Mate, I’d love to help, but I’m really busy at the moment, maybe next time. It is a good line to remember for the future.

    Ah thanks for the reminder and I noticed your new blog entry. The boat looks like it is coming along well. Nice work.



  19. Chris:

    I couldn’t tear my eyes away from “The Machine That Fired Me” – a great science fiction story in itself, though true. But I did note that the situation was eventually resolved, and in favor of the fellow “terminated”. Some chaos, lost pay, a great deal of human stress all around, but it was fixed. And there never really has been anything such as real “job security”. It all depends on the whim and will of the master (ie employer) and circumstances beyond his or her control. There is an analogy lurking in the back of my mind for this, but I can’t find it.


  20. Yo, Chris – Glad to hear you got the bench from the tip. It did cross my mind that you might have paid a late night visit to the local city park. :-).

    That was a rather frightening story about “The Machine Fired Me.” On several levels. I can’t imagine working for a company like that. Vast cubicle farms. And, it reminds me of some of those stories where computers take over the world and just decide we’re all too tiresome to deal with.

    But we all hear about computer snafus, that seem unfixable as there is no living person to talk to about the problem, or, if you find someone to talk to, they don’t have the power (or skill) to fix the problem.

    I haven’t mentioned it (breath held and fingers crossed) but a week ago, I was rummaging around in the innards of my computer and noticed an odd File That Will Not Be Named. I dumped it in my garbage and … haven’t seen a pop up ad or the brown screen of death, since. All these months of agony and it was that simple? I still don’t know if I trust it enough to do financial stuff on it. We’ll see.

    I use the Cont. to a.) break up my long screeds a bit and b.) I always had the paranoid feeling that the brown screen of death was going to drop at any moment and wipe out everything that had been put down. Cont.

  21. Cont. LOL. Yes. You quoted that Great Twentieth Century sage, Kermit. :-).

    I’m off to the Big Box Store this morning to pick up a couple of kinds of fertilizer in an effort to try a last ditch effort to save the corn. Which fries my grits, a bit, as I feel like I should be able to work enough free stuff into the soil to avoid those expenses. Then, again, I’ve only been working on that soil for a year. My expectations and impatience are misplaced. Luckily, I’m in the part of my growing season where I can hit the organic gardening books and start plotting for next year.

    But since you had a successful test plot of the corn, I’d do whatever you did, with your soil. It worked? But I’d repeat what the Master Gardener told me. Corn is a heavy feeder. At least you’ve got the chicken poo out of your hen fortress. Keeping in mind it might be a bit “hot.”

    The squash is only the size of tennis balls, so far. Last night, I gently disintangled one from the corn as it was growing in thin air and I wanted it on the ground. I noticed one of (of two) pumpkins is turning orange. Two of my four potato plants appear to be dying back, so, I’ll be digging those, soon.

    My friend Julia gifted me with a really nice acorn squash and a dozen eggs. I’ll probably eat half the squash with just butter and brown sugar. The other half … well, I found a recipe that sounds good. Apple / squash muffins! Lew

  22. Hello again
    Thanks for explaining the fire screen, I’ll have another look at it. I’ll also have to have another look at your graph; Lew is way brighter than me, I gave up on it.
    I was not jesting. However inbreeding is fine if there are no genetic flaws. There was interest in the fact that the Island had a particularly large number of women living past the age of 100.
    There was no problem or particular interest when my husband and a brother and brother-in-law bought the land here. It was 1949 and I think that there were only 2 other families living near.
    We are having a fantastic blackberry year and I made blackberry icecream today. Son wants 8lbs of blackberries to make wine; I shall consider having a go at picking them for him.

    There are 5 inhabited Scilly islands and they do indeed grow daffodils. I am on the Isle of Wight which is further north and east and doesn’t grow daffodils commercially.


  23. Hi Chris,

    I’m feeling a sense of accomplishment because I got the autumn greens and roots seeds planted today. Supposedly we are to get some rain tomorrow and again toward the weekend and early next week, but I will believe it when it happens. For the moment, I have watered the newly planted area from the tank of water that has stored rain from the shed roof. There is plenty in there to get the seeds up and growing if nature cannot provide rain.

    While we are nowhere near the kind of drought that other parts of Missouri are dealing with (some parts of the state are under extreme drought similar to that being experienced farther west), it is abnormally dry. The lawn has stopped growing, now that I have the new lawnmower. Not that it breaks my heart to not need to use it, for there is a good deal of clean-up work that I plan to get to over the next few weeks, like cleaning the weedy shrubs, trees, and vines out of the bamboo patch and removing dead bamboo poles. But I do need to watch the vegetable garden and do supplemental watering when necessary. I also need to get some water on the American persimmon trees I received and planted in the spring if we don’t get a good rain in the next day or two.

    It’s quite sobering how many fires are ongoing in the US already, well before the worst of the fire season in California. Smoke from the fires causes the sky to be somewhat hazy here on clear days. The ongoing drought across most of the Plains and western US suggests that it will get worse before it gets better. I’ve noticed that once drought gets established it is hard to break, because the water cycle is disrupted. Trees cannot transpire as much water as the soil dries out, so fewer clouds form and less rain can fall, increasing soil dryness, and around the cycle. The best way to break a late summer drought here is for a tropical storm to come up from the Gulf of Mexico in the right direction to rain on us. So far none of those are in the offing.

    While I don’t think the mega-agriculture being practiced in the US Midwest is at all sustainable, it’s still providing us with most of our calories indirectly, through its use as livestock feed, and directly in some processed foods (and in the case of wheat, all of the things made from it). Few farmers, small, large, or in-between, can farm full-time unless a spouse brings in enough money for the family to live on. The average age of farmers in the US is 60 – not good at all.


  24. Hi Pam, Lewis, Inge, and Claire,

    Thanks for the lovely comments, and I promise to reply to you tomorrow evening.

    Lewis – In an act of utter spontaneity, the editor and I decided to go to the films tonight. But what to see. We settled on a quirky New Zealand film, The Breaker Upperers. It was very amusing and silly film, and was largely a film about the friendship between the two lead characters who ran a business which was paid to break up couples. Yes, that was the premise, and we enjoyed the fun nature of the film.

    Then hamburgers and chips… Yum! Mustard and Pickles. Now if only they could work beetroot in there somewhere it would be perfect, but alas it is not bad to be left reaching for perfection don’t you reckon? If ever it was achieved, I have the sneaking suspicion that the standards would merely be lifted to some new definition of perfection. Best probably not to try to reach for the stars and settle for merely good. Well, that’s my excuse anyway. They put rock salt and dried rosemary on the chips, and I reckon that’s pretty good.

    I’m going to have a bash at fixing the leak in the water tank valve tomorrow. Fingers crossed.



  25. Yo, Chris – Well, a silly movie now and again is a nice break. And a good excuse for a fine meal :-).

    On islands and inbreeding (or, I suppose more politely, genetic problems). Martha’s Vineyard, an island off the US east coast, was known in the early days for the high level of deafness among the inhabitants. Some kind of inherited condition, as I remember. The island even developed it’s own variety of sign language.

    Still quit smokey, here. Enough to bother my eyes, a bit. The sun and moon are quit red.

    I harvested my first two San Mariano tomatoes, last night. Sliced them up and and tried all kinds of variations. Everything from plain to slightly cooked with olive oil, salt and pepper. Quit good, if mild.

    Much to my surprise, they were hollow, like bell peppers. An excursion to the Internet rabbit hole reveals that this condition is called “puffiness.” Can be caused by a number of factors. Cool temperatures, poor pollination or high nitrogen / low potassium. We’ll see if it persists as the crop comes along.

    But, maybe not a bad thing. Wouldn’t get much paste out of them, but they’d probably dry nicely. I was also thinking I could stuff them with tomatillo salsa and pop them under the broiler. I did save seed, as they were the earliest. But that might not be such a good thing. The cool nights, early on, may have been the problem.

    The Bank of America branch is pulling out of Centralia. I don’t know. Just another example of big corporations pulling out of small places. In my more paranoid moments, a move to run us all into larger and larger cities.

    I thought the media person was so … cagey. For no good reason. As in the question about number of employees affected. Can’t say. Like it’s a State Secret. Very few I’d guess as they’ve been reducing staff for several years. And, I’d guess the management (as with so many other organizations, here) already lives “up north” and are probably celebrating that they won’t “have” to commute anymore.


    Much to my horror, yesterday morning, I took the daily trip to my library catalog. To my horror as we had an entire new catalog. The New Items, DVDs and Nonfiction had gone missing. I stopped by my local branch, and asked the head librarian, “Teach me how to love the new catalog.” Turns out those functions didn’t “migrate” and will have to be tinkered back into existence. But they are working on it. Don’t know why we needed a new catalog. The old one was just getting to the place where it was functioning pretty well. But then, as I read recently, “If a program is working, it’s obsolete.”

    I started reading “Tomatoland: How Modern Industrial Agriculture Destroyed Our Most Alluring Fruit.” (Estabrook, 2011.) One of those books I never would have known I wanted to take a look at, had it not appeared on the New Item / Nonfiction list.

    Interesting. Tomatoes have their roots (pun intended) in South America but were domesticated in Mexico. Oddly, I was watching a Great Courses / National Geographic lecture series, last night, and it was talking about tomatoes (and other crops) and how they spread worldwide. The course is called “Food, Science, and the Human Body.” The series is by Professor Alyssa Crittenden, who is an anthropologist. Lew

  26. Hi Pam,

    The new blog format put an end to the double secret cont. No seriously. No need for it! The old blogger had a limit of 4,096 characters in a reply, and “walls of text” rarely fit with such limits. The second comment reply was a ‘cont’ and the third was a ‘double secret cont’. 🙂

    What a story. I had no idea that such systems even existed. And the fact that things can go so wrong without human oversight is a bit, terminator, really. And he got terminated! 🙂

    When I was a kid people used to talk about ‘job for life’ as if it was a thing. I guess it really was a thing back then, but job security is not so good nowadays. I do know of people who have worked in the same company for almost four decades. I reckon the whole situation is just another example of how we are in decline. And under employment is a problem.



  27. Hi Inge,

    The fire screen is quite sturdy. I have to keep the resolution of the images lower than the old blogger platform because I pay for the storage of the pictures. Not to worry, some details get lost in the images.

    Thanks for the clarification. Well, these things happened from time to time and there are some examples about why it can be a bad idea. I reckon we’re a nomadic animal and that is good for the gene pool.

    Wow! How things must have changed around you since those days? I read an historical account about the mountain range here after WWII, and apparently there was only a single person living up in this end of the mountain range. It sure would have been quiet, and it is not like there weren’t empty houses around. I often wonder what the area will look like if ever there is a shortage of fossil fuels. Most are unprepared for that eventuality. No doubts it will be quiet up here again one day!

    Yeah, the blackberries love the summer heat and they’re real givers when all else has shrivelled on the bush. I feel that the plant is a bit maligned down here and an awful lot of energy and chemicals gets chucked at it, only for the plant to regrow and produce berries. Such a plant should be celebrated! The wine is worth the effort! 😉



  28. Hi Lewis,

    Your suggestion about the park bench is very naughty! I didn’t do it, if only because I hadn’t thought of it myself! Hehe! 🙂 Actually the tip shop is really good and it is well stocked. I’m amazed at the things that people throw out.

    I can’t imagine working for a company like that either, and there was an undertone of smugness of being in, versus being out. And who gets to set the goals and objectives for a robot? So many unasked questions there. It is a possibility, who knows what ideas artificial intelligence would have, and if the range of concerns was limited enough, then it would be a bit psychopathic. Car makers are coming to terms with that in the ‘who do I kill’ self driving car program.

    Did I mention the local telephone company appears to have installed a chat bot for calls, and also Telstra slashing 8,000 jobs to cut costs, but shares still slammed. I was stuck in an endless loop with that chat bot recently and it drove me bananas. Probably explains a thing or two. Interestingly, that job cut is the biggest ever down here.

    Yes, naming the Odd file will probably bring misery down on all of us. However did the file get there? It makes you wonder… I try to keep a very tight reign on the files coming and going from this computer, but inevitably I’ll slip up sooner or later.

    I enjoy the ‘walls of text’! Although on the other hand I have lost walls of text to the blue screen of death and well, there was lots of wailing and gnashing of teeth. Who wants that? Not I.

    I couldn’t fix the water tank leak today so I initiated a warranty claim. It should be an easy fix for them, but I just don’t want to take that option myself in case in voids the warranty. Best to let them sort it out and/or give me the OK to do the work.

    Kermit is da man! 🙂 I used to enjoy the Muppets, it was good fun. I can still hear the ear worm theme song… Talk about programming.

    You’ve got me worried about the corn for here. I was out with the chickens earlier this evening thinking about your corn, and it may be that your soil critters haven’t gotten their act together yet. With that in mind, I’m planning on transplanting some good soil from elsewhere about the farm into the new corn enclosure. If the weather holds I may put down the compost for the corn over the next few days. It is an early spring here and I note that some of the fruit trees have broken their dormancy. Over the next day or so, I’m going to look back at the photos of prior years and determine if this is an ordinary situation or not.

    Elsewhere there are bushfires in the far east of this state and also in New South Wales which is the state to the north of here. Is this a normal winter? Perhaps not. Victoria warned to brace for worst fire season in a decade. Not good. The rainfall has been normal here, but elsewhere… It often rains here when it does not rain elsewhere due to the mountain range sticking like a sore thumb out of elevated plains.


  29. Anyway, the corn problem will be sorted out one way or another. That’s my way of saying that if it all fails this year, then hopefully I do better next year. Still, the area I planted them in last year was only a few months old, but it was adjacent to the existing tomato enclosure and so the soil may have been inoculated a bit quicker than otherwise. It really does take about three years to get soil back to life. That is one of my worries for the future, but one can only do so much.

    Squash grow really fast and if you get a bit of rain and a lot of hot days, they’ll be like zucchini’s… Don’t turn your back on the squash as they may show their triffid like qualities.

    Speaking of which (and silly films), and I know you have a dark enjoyment of the Sharknado franchise, well, they’re going one better: The Meg! Personally, I blame Jaws…

    How did the squash/apple muffins turn out? Apple muffins are a favourite of mine. Yum!

    We were speaking about inbreeding with island populations, a tough gig that. In a bizarre twist to the story the editor and I were discussing the same problem with dogs. Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. I read that that breed got down to six specimens at one stage and the current lot are all related to those. I’d call that a recipe for genetic disaster, and I have doubts that they’d make it as a member of the fluffy collective.

    Cliff Mass posted about your smoke. It was an impressive achievement. Not good.

    Hey, I’m going to head to the pub. 🙂 Happy days, pint and feed. What more does one need?



  30. @Damo (if I may)
    Bennings Green Scallop Squash are a good alternative to zucchinis. They also bear heavily but I found they don’t germinate all that well so plant a good few seeds and keep the best plant (or two). The yellow patty-pan scallop squash variety are tasteless and bland, don’t plant those. This variety is good. https://www.rareseeds.com/bennings-green-tint-scallop-squash/
    Regards Elbows

  31. Yo, Chris – That’s pretty awful about the Telstra lay offs. I see it will be over a three year period, so that “may” take a bit of the edge off. A lot of those people will find employment again, but it won’t be at their previous wage or, probably, have the benefits.

    Their current way of living will slide. They’ll either adapt, and find a different kind of happiness. Or, not.

    My Dad and brother managed to pull off that “job for life” gig. Nabisco. I could have probably done the same, but I think it was that pesky D4 receptor that made me so … restless. :-).

    The file appeared due to me being stupid. It stealthed in as a request for an Adobe graphics upgrade request. Which popped up at various intervals for years, with no problems. I didn’t get the memo that I was supposed to go to the official website and do it from there. Of course, there’s the problem of knowing if you actually ARE at the official website, or, something that just looks like it.

    Well. We got an onshore flow overnight, and the smoke appears to be mostly gone. I can actually see the distant hills. I don’t envy my friends further east.

    Yup. I’ve seen a bit of the media on “Meg.” I may have read the original book years ago. But somehow, it does not appeal.

    Nope. Haven’t made the apple/squash muffins, yet. Don’t want to rush into anything :-). Squash keeps so well, so no worries on that front. Actually, it’s the apples that are taking up my time, right now. Freezing. Re-organizing the freezer. Lew

  32. Hi Chris,

    At our old place there were plenty of rocks but here not so much. As two sides of the property border farm land Doug was looking for some rocks at the edges where farmers usually pile them. No luck though. He looking for a large one to put under the pigs waterer as they are digging a big hole underneath it. Yes, the pigs are here so only the bees left. It looks like a bumper crop of honey as well – maybe 500 lbs.

    On a sad note, my brother, Michael passed away Tuesday night. There was not much quality time for him during his 15 days in the hospital. Four times he seemed like he was making progress only to have another set back. We finally decided on Sunday that he receive palliative care. He was pretty agitated that day but they gave him Ativan which calmed him down, lifted his dietary restrictions and he enjoyed his burger and fries while watching a Cubs game. That day there were ten family members there. Things just got worse and he was finally given morphine with the Ativan to sedate him. We transferred him to the care center where my mother-in-law lived on Tuesday morning and he passed peacefully late Tuesday night of acute respiratory failure. All through this difficult time he had wonderful care from the nurses and respiratory therapists in particular and there was never a time without at least one of his sisters. Strangely both he and Patrick were the same age, 53, when they died. This has hit all of us quite hard but he had been in failing health for some time and most likely would have just gone from one medical crisis to the next.


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