Peak balls

The lights go red. It’s a very busy intersection in the inner north of Melbourne. And whilst five lanes of traffic have come to a halt, a young lady and a bloke daringly walk into the intersection and perform in front of all of the stationary cars. The young pair juggle balls and otherwise generally cavort around performing startling feats of acrobatic excellence. It is quite the show, and after many years, their timing is down pat. The lights eventually change to green, but before that happens, the pair have solicited some money for their performance from the captive drivers.

Juggling is a skill, and whilst some people are good at it, I can honestly state for the record that I’m not much good at juggling. Years ago, I had friends who for a few short months, would happily spend the occasional evening in the local park juggling and fire twirling. None of them lived anywhere near the local park, but it was bizarrely close to my house. And so all I had to do to enjoy their company was simply walk there. It was a nice place to spend time as the park had many tall shady trees. However, despite living close to the aerobic activity of my friends, it didn’t mean that I was any good at juggling balls.

Balls are one thing, administrative tasks are entirely different matter. I’m actually quite good at juggling administrative tasks. And that is good for me, because I get paid for doing exactly that for other people and businesses.

I performed a feat of dexterous administrative juggling the other day at the local bank. The editor and I were having a lovely conversation with the helpful person there. Part way through the conversation, the helpful person asked a throwaway question about whether I’d like to receive electronic notifications about the matter under discussion. Electronic notifications are a great idea, and who doesn’t want to save paper and the environment? I automatically replied that this sounded like a good idea. But in my head I could see that the virtual administrative ball was thrown into the air, and was now beginning to make its inevitable descent. The time for me to act was short, so I asked the helpful person: How does this electronic notification thing work? I had visions of the bank sending me a notification by email to my email address. That would have been useful.

But no, the bank meant something else altogether. In my mind, I was clearly dreaming of rainbows and unicorns, and I’d imagined that I’d caught the administrative ball only to throw it back into the air again. The bank dispelled the daydream, because what they meant was that I would have to regularly log into their system and check to see whether they had left anyย  notifications for me to action. I thought the bank was going to catch that ball, but no they didn’t want anything to do with it.

It was an outrageous suggestion on their part. It was if they considered that I didn’t have anything better to do with my time other than check their systems.

I can make outrageous suggestions too. And so I asked the lovely helpful person at the bank to ensure that they sent me paper notifications in the mail. It is unfortunately not such a good outcome for the environment (although the paper does eventually end up in the soil here (by way of ash)). Anyway, I’d proven my worth yet again as an administrative juggler.

Keeping the administrative balls up in the air these days is not as easy as you’d imagine. A month ago, the state vehicle registration department may have failed to send us a bill for the annual vehicle registration. Without the annual bill, we didn’t pay the bill. And the first we knew was a grumpy letter in the post saying that we were now late, and had only a few days to pay the bill otherwise the vehicle registration would lapse. It was not lost on me that it is an expensive process to re-register a vehicle in that circumstance, and so the bill was paid immediately. That time, we may have dropped the ball, but maybe they dropped the ball. We just don’t know, but we do know that we go through each item of mail as it is received, and we failed to spot the bill. Whatever the case may be, the balls hit the ground with a thud that time.

The editor and I are like terriers for this sort of administrative stuff, and so we contacted the bureaucracy, only to discover that they too suggested that in future we receive bills electronically, but first we’d have to sign up to their online system. I smell a rat, and terriers are useful at ferreting out rats.

Sometimes we’ve had no option other than signing on to an electronic system. And recently a very large government department dropped the ball, and their fancy electronic system did some really strange things. In previous years their electronic systems were fine, but not this time. And everything that could go wrong, went wrong. The editor and I could have fixed the problem ourselves in their system given a few hours of our time, but instead we took a leaf out of Sun Tzu’s treatise: ‘The Art of War’, and did something unpredictable: We phoned them and lodged a formal complaint, and got them to fix the problem. That took much less effort on our part, and after they investigated the error, even they couldn’t explain why the problem occurred. And then just to add insult to injury, they managed to botch the correction. It was an impressive display of incompetence.

How many more balls can I juggle – who really knows? Hopefully we have hit peak balls, but sadly I suspect not.

Summer would be nice without all the heat, dry weather, risk of fire, flies and stuff. On the other hand, the plants need the heat in order to grow. Walking around the garden the other evening we gathered produce for dinner, and it produced a colourful display:

Some of the foodstuffs we harvested from the garden a few nights ago

Despite the hot and dry weather in the past month or so, the blackberries have produced a good harvest. Every day we consume blackberries with homemade muesli and homemade yoghurt. But we are also storing excess blackberries in the freezer and when we have enough collected, we do interesting things like producing a batch of blackberry wine:

We made blackberry wine this week. It is good stuff!

We’re also saving blackberries (in the Cherokee Bank of Blackberries) to make a large batch of blackberry jam – which is very tasty on freshly baked bread during the depths of winter.

Speaking of blackberries, one side of the entrance to the blackberry and strawberry enclosures had never quite been finished properly (due to a lack of time). Over the past week or so, we’ve begun correcting that area, and at the start of the week it looked like this:

The entrance to the strawberry enclosure earlier in the week

Large rocks were placed on the uphill side of that path, and then the surface of the path had a good quantity of the local crushed rock with lime placed onto the surface.

The path now looks really good and provides for an all weather surface

And in front of the strawberry enclosure, we constructed three additional concrete stairs leading up to the next and higher terrace (which has yet to be dug).

Three new concrete steps were constructed leading up to the next terrace

One more stair step should complete that project. And it is a good thing too, because we used the small amount of flat land on the higher terrace to grow all of our Pumpkins, Melons and Squashes. And those plants are really starting to produce well:

Fresh watermelon. Yum! This may be Siberian Sweet, or not
Another melon, and this may be the famous moon and star melon, or not
An early butternut pumpkin, but then again maybe not
This looks to me like a rather large squash, definitely

The large tomato enclosure is feeling the pressure from these prodigious Cucurbits, and so they have had to up their game:

Slim eggplants. Yum! And just in time for the annual production of the tomato sauce (passata)
Early capsicums. We’ve grown several varieties of them this year
Hot chilli! Actually they are probably about a medium heat, which is still quite hot!

I thought I’d add in a photo of one of the slowly ripening Persimmon’s. This tree has never produced fruit before, therefore I have no idea what it will taste like. Apparently the variety is Fuyu.

I’m intrigued by this slowly ripening Persimmon

There are plenty of insects working hard in the gardens. This week I finally managed to take a photograph of the fast and elusive native Blue banded bee.

A native blue banded bee enjoys the pollen and nectar from this hardy Salvia flower

The European honey bees also enjoy the heat hardy Salvia family of plants:

A European honey bee also harvests from this Salvia flower

There are plenty of other flying insects, like these moths:

Moths enjoy the flowers in this colourful catmint

Onto the flowers:

We grow a huge variety of geraniums like this colourful aromatic variety
This pink form of aromatic geranium is beyond hardy and copes with both the heat and the dry weather
This bush rose is a stunner and it grows in the shade of a very large elderberry bush (the parrots love the berries)
We grow hundreds of agapanthus flowers and they survive the most brutal hot and dry weather, and still look great
And the nicest flower of the week award goes to: Toothy the sun loving flower

The temperature outside now at about 8.00am is 14โ€™C (57โ€™F). So far this year there has been 29.2mm (1.1 inches) which is slightly higher than last weeks total of 11.4mm (0.4 inches).

73 thoughts on “Peak balls”

  1. Hi Chris,

    First you can, then you must, as Mike likes to say. First you can sign up for a new cell phone provider electronically, then you must, as we found out when Mike’s 91 year old mother wanted to do that several months ago. She not only has never touched a computer in her life and is not about to start now, she’s never even had a credit card! Mike had to sign up online for her cell phone account, using his credit card to pay for it. So now, instead of her getting a paper bill from the provider and mailing a check in return, Mike’s credit card gets charged, the provider sends her a paper receipt, and she gives Mike a check to pay him back. A paper receipt and a paper check are still involved, but the credit card company now gets to stick its appendage into the transaction and suck up some profit for itself. A nice gig if you can get it. I’m sure the phone company upped its rates to account for the suck. And guess who gets to pay extra?

    Also about the same time, our landline provider announced happily, by means of a few lines buried in the other verbiage on the bill, that within the next couple of months, they would switch us to electronic billing to serve us better. Never mind that we had never asked to be switched to electronic billing and that we don’t want it. In fact, in order not to be switched to electronic billing, I had to go to their website to click on the button to tell them to keep sending us a paper bill that we pay with a paper check. This isn’t a service economy; it’s a disservice economy.

    I completed ordering seeds and putting together the garden plan and calendar for this season. Sometime next month I’ll post the results for 2018 and what I plan to do in 2019 on my blog. Meanwhile, we received some freezing rain today, but luckily no wind and not so much ice as to pull down the electrical lines. We didn’t need to go anywhere so we could watch the ice build up and then slowly melt. It’s supposed to warm up briefly by midweek and then turn cold again.

    @ Lew – close friends of ours moved to Everett last fall. Blame them for all your snow and ice. They must have brought St. Louis’ winters with them! ๐Ÿ˜‰

    Claire

  2. Hi Claire,

    I see those derelict buildings around these parts too, but they’re not often for sale, and when they are the house usually lowers the price of the land because of its condition.

    You know I reckon part of their appeal is that people in rural areas are already used to seeing a building on that property, and in fact they’d probably be supportive of restoring it back to some sort of functioning form. Your son is a smart bloke to have realised that sweet spot in the market.

    Yes, noise can be an issue anywhere! ๐Ÿ™‚

    Yurts originated in Mongolia, so I can’t imagine your winters would be worse than the ones they get there? Hehe! And they’d laugh at the winters down here. A bloke lives in a yurt on a large block just outside one of the nearby towns at the base of the mountain range.

    Cheers

    Chris

  3. Hi Lewis,

    Far out that is one cold day up your way. Did you make it safely to Safeway, and then back again before the dump of snow hit? Of course sorting out needs from wants is a crucial decision in extreme weather. All your talk about storms seems to have had the appropriate effect down here for tomorrow: Snow, fire, floods and severe storms in one day. Ah, the seasons turn and one day you wake up to find that you have survived the summer, and are now in autumn again (albeit early this year).

    As the sun moved ever closer to the horizon this evening, we picked a tidy haul of blackberries. The blackberry coffers are looking full, and there is talk that in addition to the jam, we may make another batch of blackberry wine. I’m starting to find that the berry jams are the best of the lot (with the exception of quince which makes a fine jam โ€“ which you might call a jelly), and not much beats raspberry jam. It is beyond good, and my one regret in life is that I didn’t set aside more land for raspberries. But you know, strawberry and blackberry jam are also pretty tasty. Do you consume jam? I’d imagine that blueberry jam is very good too, we just haven’t managed to harvest many berries from those shrubs.

    You are an excellent neighbour to have assumed icy-condition-dog-walking duties. Oh yes, Pomeranian’s are very close to wild dog stock, and the snow calls to their very Northern European (dare I suggest Finnish) blood. It is a form of natural affinity which cannot be denied. Sir Poopy was dirty for snow, and he’d happily run around in the stuff all day long. The other dogs never wanted much to do with such cold frozen stuff. No doubts the snow stirs deep cultural memories in your veins too?

    Thanks for the info about Jerusalem artichokes. I’m keeping my lot in the ground, but freezing soil is not an issue here, so digging is actually easier in winter. Have you got any suggestions as to storing the corn harvest? I was considering hanging them by a stainless steel cable in one of the sheds (with mouse and rat barriers at either end).

    No! I insist upon the occasional sweeping generalisation (with added disclaimer)! If the shoe fits… Mate, what a great point! ๐Ÿ™‚ I suspect the regret in those days was never dare mentioned aloud. When I look at the suburbs here, I see vast acreage of black tiled roofs – like such a cladding would work on a 100’F+ dayโ€ฆ And ceramic tiles let so much air into a roof cavity that I’m disturbed, but on the other hand, I guess the ceramic tiles keeps the rain off the roof timbers… The thing that really troubles me is seeing large plastic evaporative coolers sitting on a roof in bushfire areas, if only because I’ve noted just how well plastic and dried paper (inside the cooler) burns and melts… I always wonder what they were thinking?

    Lewis, thanks! I’m totally in awe of Timberline Lodge, on Mt. Hood. The charming stone foundations along with all of the delightful details, murals, mosaics and finishes… Absolutely, as a species we can do better and there is an example. I love the mosaics. I once encountered a house that had a huge dragon mosaic in the bathroom – it was awesome! And the joinery around the roof trusses is the sort of work that I’d be happy to construct, and is also a pleasure to look at. Have you ever had the pleasure of visiting the lodge?

    Hehe! Well I did have to write last night and extended trips into the interweb were beyond my abilities. It is sad to be a limited mortal, but at the same time I’m having a whole bunch of fun! Thanks for looking into the story and speculation and dreams seem to be the way of the iceberg towing story. I hope the speculatin’ folks remember to take a lifeboat with them on that iceberg ship thingee. At least they wouldn’t be short on fresh water (at least for a short while)…

    Camping out is a good way to describe the situation, and we always treated the deprivations like an adventure to be gotten through whilst other people watched television. Honestly, it never even occurred to me to do that, as when I was a kid I saw the outcome of that particular story. The famous punk band, The Ramones, had a song about sedation. ๐Ÿ˜‰ Their video is quite amusing too, but I suspect that you might not be a fan. I watched a TED video (! not saying that ted is also a potty mouthed bear, but you know if it is and all that) of the Detroit guy, and he’s onto something, but try telling people that it is an option and they look at you all strange like. I began this journey a long time ago, and I’m not sure what it says about me that I can maintain my attention span for so long, but oh well, there you go! If there was an easier way that was clear to me at the time…

    The book sounds very funny, but you know, we take a certain sort of pride in our well tuned and well practiced domestic arts, and I have real troubles relating to people who take pride in being a rubbish cook. Maybe, I’ve been on the receiving end of such fooding outcomes, and they trouble me for concern for their future, plus the fact that I may have ingested some of their rubbish. Ook!

    On the other hand, I applaud her sensibilities and ability to get annoyed at other peoples disorganisation. As someone who works in small business, I hear stories, and I note that there is an element of the population that are very free with other peoples time.

    Cheers

    Chris

  4. Hi Claire,

    Mike is on the money. I call it a bait and switch routine, and I have experienced a few situations where access to these systems were initially offered free of charge (whilst the alternative systems evaporated), only to have the cost for services ratcheted up at every opportunity. I have to pay a few of those services each year โ€“ and some of them for the business are not cheap.

    You know, I’m old enough to have seen the old school paper based accounting systems, and to be honest they seemed to work about as well as the current computer based systems, but I have noted that when things go wrong, often it is much harder to fix the electronic systems. In the story this week, I provided three alternative strategies:

    1) Avoid the new system;
    2) Put up and live with the new system; and
    3) If things go wrong with the new system, instead of fixing it, lodge a formal complaint.

    Exactly, what a horrid story that is about Mike’s mum, and yes there is little allowance for such things. I sort of feel that it is a larger story (as you alluded to) about pushing costs for simply doing business off onto the consumers of the product or service.

    Hey, down here with the big telco, I used to have to pay extra just to receive a paper bill, and recently – for your convenience – they now only send bills by email. It is doing us a disservice (thanks for that!), because I have to now print the bill out for my records. It is a bonkers choice, but makes it cheaper for them. It is a form of stealth inflation.

    Ooo! I’m looking forward to reading about what you have achieved and what you are planning for the upcoming growing season. Hope you liked the photos of the melons? I gift some of the melons to people I know who appreciate them. In commercial melons, Listeria has been a bit of a problem last year, and folks are rightly nervous.

    Hope you enjoyed the spectacle that nature put on for you and Mike? I’m almost embarrassed to mention what a nice day it was here today. The season has turned down here, and I’m now in something other than high summer. The local indigenous folk state that there are six seasons down here, and I see no reason to disbelieve them.

    Cheers

    Chris

  5. Hi, Chris!

    Hi, Toothy! Even before I saw where Chris mentioned Sun Tsu down below, I thought of you in connection with him. You look so wise, and Sun should be in your name!

    I suspect a naughty Chris – did you really want notification by mail? Somehow they will make you pay for that. We like to receive photo copies of our cleared checks; it used to be free, now we pay for it. Last December three of our bills failed to arrive in the mail (there’s another story – we don’t even get mail delivered some of the required days; I think our postman fishes). Luckily we watch out for that and contacted each entity.

    Certain views of your place remind me of a wildlife preserve, and I guess it is just that.

    Beautiful steps. At the moment they appear to head into the wilderness.

    Watermelons – how heavenly. That looks just like one of our baby butternut pumpkins. We have been eating them all fall and winter and have lots more. They sit in a cabinet in the basement, which is not always a cool place, with the woodstove.

    I can’t wait to hear your opinion on the persimmons. I didn’t bring many geraniums inside for the winter and will finally have to buy some this spring – after many years of not having to. I hope to find some interesting ones like you have.

    What a neat contrast is the rose and the cactus.

    Pam

  6. Hello Chris
    They try very hard here to make one accept electronic bills. I always refuse but sometimes am made to pay extra for my paper bill. Banks are constantly shutting down here, so getting access to one is becoming harder.

    Can you put up a photo of your Jerusalem artichokes please. There are different kinds, some being larger and smoother varieties. I leave mine in the ground as they deteriorate very quickly once out. Then I dig up and freeze the others before they sprout; leaving some behind of course.

    Am currently suffering from a ghastly cough though, oddly, I don’t feel ill.

    Inge

  7. Chris:

    I much enjoyed the David Hurst article. It is so interesting how many people, who think they don’t like people, find out that connections to others are really what makes our world go ’round.

    That was an incredible photo at the end of the fire and smoke. And they saved the pub by backburning up to their back door!

    Pam

  8. Yo, Chris – We have an old saying here. “Keeping all your balls in the air.” Yup, it is a juggling act, and there seem to be more and more opportunities to slip up. Which usually costs you money. My credit union (as, opposed to bank) doesn’t send out paper statements … but they notify me by e-mail when the statement is available on-line. I suppose they did, at one time, but it was probably before I switched over, from a bank. Now, that bank, used to do paper statements. Oh, you could still get them … for an extra fee of $3, per month.

    I get mostly paper statements from my truck insurance. I could pay monthly, for a charge of $3 a month for getting a bill in the mail. Or, pay it every six months, with no additional charges. I sock the payment, carefully, into my savings account, monthly, and pay the 6 month charge. I wonder if there’s someone, somewhere, quietly weeping at my insurance company, because they don’t squeeze the $3 out of me, every month?

    I’m surprised you didn’t have to spend much time on the phone, talking to the nice people in India. Phone tree hell has been developed to a high art form, here in the States. I’m sure they’ll catch on, down under, in not too long a time.

    That’s quit a haul out of your garden. Yes, the path to your strawberry enclosure was looking a bit … dare I say, tatty? :-). But I see you’ve rectified matters, and it now meets the high standards of Fern Glade Farm. Looks positively manicured, now. I’d say Green Mystery Orb #3, is a butternut squash. My friend Julia gave me one, and, my are they good keepers. I should do something with it. And, soon. I’d guess when it starts to go, it will go all at once. Right now, it’s more decor. :-).

    Almost as striking as your roses, are the cactus, next to it. The agapanthus is quit striking. I’ve got to get some. I’ve run across it in a couple of catalogs, but just the white or lite blue. I’m holding out for a dark blue. Haven’t checked the local garden stores, yet. Cont.

  9. Cont. It wasn’t supposed to start snowing here, until 4, yesterday. But the clouds were moving in, so I nipped down to Safeway, a lot earlier. The street was dry and clear, the only dicey part getting out of the parking spot, as it had a bit of ice. Not too many people, and plenty of check-out clerks. Only one lady in front of me. But .. they’re debit card reader was “down” and she had to write a check. It took her awhile to clear off, but that was part her being caught without cash, and part Safeway. She was pretty well organized. Even had her license number memorized. But, a supervisor had to be called for an ok, etc. etc..

    There were several odd gaps in the stock. My neighbor asked me to pick her up some oyster crackers, and they were completely gone. Bananas and garlic were almost gone. The clerk said it’s a combination of panic buying, and some trucks haven’t been able to make it in.

    And, then, the snow came. Into the evening, the wind began to howl, and it was blizzard conditions. And, then, after two hours of that, quit magically, the wind dropped and the sky cleared. We had snow on and off, all night. There was some melting, yesterday, so, currently, we have 4″ covering my garden. And this morning, it’s coming down again.

    But a change is coming. Later today, the temperature is forecast to be as high as 40F (4.44C). Our National Weather Service says “An EXTREMELY CHALLENGING FORECAST. …less snow due to possible sleet, freezing rain, or rain.” Prof. Mass seems equally stumped. Right now, 10am, lots of big fluffy flakes are coming down. At the same time, there’s a bit of drip and melt going on.

    Jams are chunky and have bit of fruit in them. Jellies are strained and have more clarity. I didn’t put up and serious jams, this year, but take frozen fruit out of the freezer and make up refrigerator jam, from time to time. Blackberry, blueberry or strawberry.

    Hmm. Cultural memories? Occasionally, I get the urge to make big rounds of rye bread, like Grandma. Haven’t acted on it. But I just picked up a book from the library, “The Nordic Baking Book (Nilsson, 2018). 500+ pages of Scandahovian baking. Lots of Finn stuff. I occasionally get the urge to pick up a couple of reindeer.

    Well. I had an “interesting” experience with the Jerusalem artichokes, last night. I took a couple of big handfuls and made them up like mashed potatoes. Butter, salt, pepper and a bit of milk. It was yummers. But, in short order, it got pretty windy, in my place. If you get my drift. And then … well, if you need a good purge, go for the Jerusalem artichokes. Your lower GI will be clean as a whistle. I think next year, I’ll leave them in the ground, and “take as directed.” I have set aside some little bulblets, to replant.

    I’ve never been up to Timberland Lodge. There are whole books about the place … I think there was a recent restoration. But speaking of architecture, I ran across this, last night.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vRSdiq3sOTc

    It’s a 15 minute report from 60 Minutes Australia, about the Opal Tower debacle, and, the current Australian real estate market. The map of Melbourne with underwater mortgages is pretty startling. What I’d like to know is, how did the young guy afford an apartment, there? What does he DO? And, the older dude they talked to, I noticed he said he bought the apartment, but had “tenants.” Bought it on spec and rented it out? Turned it into an Air BnB?

    I think Notaro was exagerating her lack of housekeeping skills for comic effect. And, I gather she is a good cook. She carefully observed her mum and grandma, and grew up “helping” in the kitchen. And said it’s taken her 20 years to attain the approval of the high standards set by those ladies. Cont. (HRH needs to be taken out for her morning run. And, it’s still snowing.)

  10. Cont. (Mission Accomplished!) That was quit an article about the recluse and the fires. I felt a bit sorry for him. Forced out of the woods. Having to deal with people. But, you adjust, needs be. Been there, done that, got the t-shirt. But, six years on that little sculpture? Hmmm. I think there’s a lot more to the story.

    I kind of laughed at the article on Australian weather. Must have been a slow news day. I mean, Australia is pretty big. You’ve got the Antarctic influence in the south, and monsoons, up north. Of course there’s going to be a variety of weather. But, I suppose the severity, and rapid ups and downs is newsworthy.

    Talk about going down the rabbit hole. I don’t spend a lot of time on YouTube. My computer is not in the most comfortable place (which is probably a good thing) and I don’t watch a lot of video, or listen to a lot of podcasts. But last night, I read a reference to this fellow

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prince_John_of_the_United_Kingdom

    I saw a fictionalized account of his life, about 10 years ago, and was curious. So, I watched a documentary about him. Then noticed a speech given by Peter Dinklidge at his old college (Bennington. Vermont?). To a graduation ceremony. He is really funny. Then I noticed a video of an antique dealer who bought a hoarders house up in Canada. A four part series that I skimmed through. An over 100 year accumulation of “stuff.” There were treasures to be found. Then there was the video of the mystery of someone visiting an English woman’s brother’s grave … and leaving little items, for over 50 years. I finally tore myself away at 3am. Oh, well. Now I know the dangers of YouTube and will beware. :-). Lew

  11. @ Claire – LOL. Oh, I’m sure your friends in Everett aren’t responsible. We get weather like this, from time to time, but it’s just rare enough that people freak out. But I don’t envy them. Everett is north of Seattle, and they get far worse weather than we do, here in the sunny south. Lew

  12. Chris,

    I was starting to notice the depth of soil you have and the amount of water you use. Thanks for making the point obvious. (Sometimes I can be slooowww.) Soil good quality and depth are my gardening priorities currently.

    Midwinter compost update…Since until recently our winter was more like March or even early April, on the last warm day we had I dug the goodies form the temporary compost bins into the compost pile. Over 85% of the previous (early December) addition had turned to soil. The bottom layers of the leaves had changed also. Not much more will happen until the weather warms back up.

    Ah yes, pragmatism. Gardens are a great teacher for that. I’ve also had a few other avenues that get me there. While I’ve tended in the past to get far too much into philosophical arguments, I’ve finally clued in that I’m much healthier when I look for a practical application to any ideas.

    Coo, we had 25cm of snow Friday morning until Monday morning. Today I had to assist my wife in driving back to her brother whom she is assisting. We drove separate cars, as just my presence ahead of her gave her confidence in a tough driving situation. The normal 4 hour trip for her took 5.5. I turned back a near the halfway point. The next wave of snow hit earlier than expected. I was stuck behind a major accident for 2.5 hours. That normal 2.5 hour return trip took me 6 hours to return home to an additional 7.5cm of snow with up to an additional 17cm possible overnight. Oh, and it’s -6C with ice falling too. Your suggestion that February might turn brutal was spot on.

    As always, I enjoyed your photos of the bees. That blue banded one is sure pretty.

    DJSpo

  13. Lew,

    A close friend of mine lives in Lake Stevens. I’ve been getting frequent updates from him about the snow they’ve gotten there. In just the last 10 days, Lake Stevens has gotten more snow than Spokane has so far this winter, including the recent hammerings we’ve been getting here. Puget Sound is NOT set up to deal with this like we are. When I was sitting behind the accident on 395 north of Tri-cities (3 semis got tangled up), I was listening to the increasing list of Tri-Cities school closures for Tuesday. Nobody is truly geared to handle what we’ve been getting recently.

    DJSpo

  14. Hi Chris,

    Your blackberry wine looks delicious! How long do you let that stuff age for? I did a batch of blackberry wine once, and I think it was pushing two years before it had mellowed out enough to partake of a tipple ๐Ÿ™‚ Honey mead by comparison was pretty good at 12 months, and smooth as butter by 18 months.

    Your rally experience sounds interesting, if not very comfortable! My one brush with motorsport was preparing an old Falcon XY ute for a demolition derby. It got knocked out early on, but was still drivable with minor repairs. That car could probably buy me a house now if it was still around ๐Ÿ™‚

    The tooth repair was straightforward enough. Bit of numbing cream, then a needle or two. Some polishing and grinding, then a paste of some sort was shaped on and cured with UV. Was out in 45 minutes. If the filling fails, they will do a porcelain crown, all covered by New Zealand’s accident scheme (I paid 25% out of pocket, or about $100). The scheme is a little strange, if I needed dental work due to ill health, I would have to pay the full amount. But anything related to an accident is covered. This is part funded by a fuel levy.

    Cheers,
    Damo

  15. RE: the Grand designs article

    Sorry, bit late on this one. But you know I can’t resist commenting on a good house price article ๐Ÿ™‚ I thought it was pretty good, and for my part that is a significant part of my enjoyment (the author is a comedian, but I doubt he was joking). In my more naive days I did see myself maybe attempting something like it, although at the DIY end of the spectrum. Now I realise it is pretty unlikely. If the land prices don’t get you, the incredible cost of complying with every and all building codes probably will.

    I do feel a little obligated to chip in a defense for the millennial who turned their nose up at the land+yurt suggestion. In a different time, I think the idea is a pretty good one (I would probably build a tiny house cabin instead though – bit more permanent). But these days, even a tiny block of land within driving distance of a region with employment is well north of $150K, and more like $300k on average. Add transactions costs, fees and the yurt itself (and presumably a small roof and water tank). So if you are lucky, you get some land and a tent with a $200k debt obligation that most people will take a good 15 years to pay off *if* you can maintain a steady job for that period and live like a student the entire time.

    Doable? Sure. Good idea? Hmmm, not convinced. Definitely not good value. Oh, and good luck selling or even renting out that yurt if you lose your job or need to relocate.

    My plan, such as it is. Save a good proportion of income (average about 33% after tax at the moment) and *maybe* in 5-10 years I could buy somewhere a little more remote, outright with no mortgage. This might work, as if I can do it with no mortgage then the employment conundrum is not as urgent. Downside if prices keep going up, I am always renting. Upside is flexibility and a hopefully growing savings buffer for the unexpected. No good answer from where I sit ๐Ÿ™

    Cheers,
    Damo

  16. Hi Lew,

    Thanks for the reminder on the upcoming Fornax celebrations! Mrs Damo and I will be baking in her honour this Sunday. I will probably make an offering of a good, used Kenwood chef mixer (finally found one nearby, taking a look on Friday) and using it to make a sponge roll.

    Once I have perfected the sponge roll, I want to try my hand at a Charlotte Royale!
    https://duckduckgo.com/?q=charlotte+royale&t=ffab&iar=images&iax=images&ia=images

    I will need all the help from gods old and new for that one I think ๐Ÿ™‚

    Cheers,
    Damo

  17. Hi Pam,

    Toothy is a wise little soul – and he does love cooking his head in the sun. He tells me that cooked brains are the one true way to become unappealing to the hungry zombies. Plus for him, the sun just feels nice. The zombie bit is just bonus justification stuff. ๐Ÿ™‚

    I suspect they will make me pay for that little trick I pulled on the nice bank. Last time, they got me back by sending mail to my home address – and Australia Post does not deliver mail here. Yes, I live in a mail black hole. I had no idea such places even existed before moving here. The bank will most likely take advantage of that situation. Good on you sorting out the mail / bill situation before it blew up โ€“ systems these days can be very unforgiving even if you have a long established record. I keep an old school calendar where I write down important things that may happen at some point in the future. It works.

    Thanks on both counts. Yeah, there is a lot of wildlife living here. The steps are pretty useful – and believe it or not, the wildlife uses them all too.

    Watermelons are good aren’t they? And commercial ones had a bad run last year, so they’re in demand. Lucky you with the butternut pumpkins. How long do they usually keep?

    Most persimmons I’ve eaten have no flavour, so I’m interested to see how this turns out too. It looks like it might be a good year for quince too!

    The flowers are a great splash of colour in the garden. There are future plans where roses are concerned!

    Cheers

    Chris

  18. Hello again
    I should also have asked for Jerusalem artichokes measurements as it can be difficult to gauge size from photos.

    Inge

  19. Hi Inge,

    Yes, more and more bills are sent electronically, and I really wonder about how many people are dropping off the services radar because they are unable to manage any sort of electronic systems? I too pay extra for paper bills delivered in the mail, but the nice big telco recently put an end to that service, so now I am required to print the bill for my records.

    I hear you about the removal of banking services in the community. Down here, I’ve noticed that since the Royal Commission into the banking sector (which was not a good look for that industry), ATM’s have been disappearing, and my local branch reduced its opening hours.

    No worries, and I’ll try and get a photo of them for next week. The Jerusalem artichokes don’t produce flowers every year, and I suspect that they may not this year.

    Sorry to read that you are not feeling well. Hopefully the cough does not progress to anything more serious, and best wishes for a speedy recovery. I hope you saved some elderberry juice for just such a situation?

    Cheers

    Chris

  20. Hi Pam,

    Hehe! It was a good article wasn’t it? And yes, connections are everything, which is why the community put so much effort into saving the local pub – a true community service if ever I’ve read of one!

    Cheers

    Chris

  21. Hi Lewis,

    This essay appears to have hit a nerve. You know, it is just businesses shoving costs off onto the consumers of those services. Some bills which I’m required to pay, are backed by legislation, and I fail to see the benefit I get from paying the bill – other than not being beaten around the head by a bit of paper. And in those particular cases, the paperwork I’m required to fill out for them, sort of makes me feel that I’m keeping somebody there in a job – and they are doing nothing useful. You know, I reckon the worst of the lot is the water bill, as I fail to see what I get for the bill, and every year they ratchet up the price. It makes me grumpy.

    I do wonder about the fragility of electronic banking statements. I mean if push came to shove and you had to prove to an independent arbiter that you actually had money in an account before the statements disappeared… That would make for a good futuristic horror story. I’ve often noticed that there are less administrative stuff ups with the loan side of the equation. I once had to deal with a company that disappeared about $7k of my money and that was a devil of a problem to resolve. I eventually got the money back, but it was a nightmare.

    Yeah, the insurance companies want to get paid, so they’re pretty good at sending paper based bills. Hey, those premium funding debts that you referred to are possibly bundled and sold off. From what I understand of the matter, the financing issue is dealt with by another company, which pays your premium upfront to the insurer and provides finance. It is all very complicated. But yeah, I too think to myself: “this’ll f$%^ ’em!”

    Haha! The nice people on the phone were easy to get hold of because they were a very large government department that may have a lot of difficulty off shoring their call centre. I’m not saying that it is not possible, but it would not be a good look for that particular department. I’ve been stuck in phone tree hell too – and have had to talk to a malfunctioning chat bot. An abomination of a thing!

    Hehe! Thanks, and yes, tatty is an appropriate word. We do get around to finishing projects, but sometimes there are rough edges that needed to be attended too when time is not of the essence. Anyway, I’ve long since understood that perfection is over rated – try telling that to people though…

    Hey, I’m thinking butternut squash too. Oh shiver me timbers, I just typed squash when I meant to type ‘pumpkin’. Ah, the great Pumpkin debate of 2019 rages on. People are bogged down in political discussions of left and right, this and that, and I’m more concerned about what exactly is a squash, and what is a pumpkin. Wars have been fought over less than this. Imagine if the Archduke Franz Ferdinand had been lethally clopped in the head with a pumpkin, but other people swore it was a squash – alas world events would not have changed their dreary course.

    That cactus believe it or not was left by a housemate several decades ago. It is a true survivor, and from time to time I plant a chunk of it in the garden. The snow occasionally blackens off a chunk of it, but every time it bounces back.

    Glad to read that you like the blue agapanthus. They are so hardy, and the frogs love living in the depths of the leaves. Good luck with your search.

    Lewis, poor Cliff Mass has been pumped with comments. It is bonkers over there at that website. Good to read that you are expecting some warmer weather soon. And I just thought I might mention again that last year 2018, I saw both the coldest temperature and the warmest temperature that I had experienced here. Tonight is cold enough that I have my grotty (but comforting – and not to be worn outside the property according to the editor) woollen jumper on. I’m not going to tell you the temperature because you’ll laugh at me. Some secrets are best left untold! ๐Ÿ™‚

    Back in the day in retail, every business used to have a manual credit card swipee machine, and you’d phone the bank and get approval for the transaction. It was not a complex system and that may have worked in the situation you wrote about. Although manual swipee machines are done and you’d be hard pressed to find one โ€“ about as hard to find as a cheque book these days.

    Oh. You’d be feeling the garlic shortage, but I’d probably be more concerned with the banana shortage. Hey, I know Cavendish bananas are like the proverbial dead man standing, but I do rather sometimes dream of the tasty red bananas that I once encountered at the market. I only eat bananas over winter, and if I had half a brain – and more time than I do have – I’d construct a greenhouse with which to protect some sub tropical crops from the snow and frosts. I may have to do that in the long run as the eggplant, capsicum and chilli seeds did not germinate so well. I may have to experiment with those plants.

    Other than the cold temperatures, your weather sounds an awful lot like what I experience here (just a few degrees warmer here though). I note the good Professor wrote that he may write further about the difficulties of forecasting in such conditions. Models are good but they aren’t the entire territory. We scored about 1/5th of an inch of rain today. Happy days are here again!

    Never eaten rye bread. Out of curiosity, what is the texture like – my brain tells me that it will be a dense and heavy loaf, but I don’t really know. The book sounds like a weighty and informative tome, and it would be good for crushing the brains of thy enemies. Sorry my northern blood just kicked in… Have to watch that. Hehe! Well the reindeer had better keep a sharp eye out in case you are lurking around the forests! I could use some help with the deer here. People tend to end at the shooting point, but processing a deer is a big job that is way beyond my skills. I noticed three rabbits this evening where I’d previously only noticed one rabbit. Hmm.

    Haha! Ah, you lack the enzyme with which to process the complex carbohydrates contained within the tuber. Yeah, I reckon they are best left in the ground – as long as you can recall where they were – which in your case should be easier than mine. Actually the tubers look a lot like larger version of bluebell tubers, and I’ve foolishly planted them both in the same garden… Anyway, I declare 2019 the year of the globe artichoke although it might be a bit early to call that one. They are very tasty plants.

    Oh yeah, Opal tower is as much a horror show as the property market. Although, I’d also have to suggest that there is a Federal election coming up, and it looks set to be a bloodbath so the incumbents are cooking up as many fear stories as they can. Given they’ve been in power for almost six years I’m quite gobsmacked to see them still blaming their predecessors. It is a good strategy, but it is subject to diminishing returns. We have a saying down here, oppositions don’t win elections, governments lose them. Ah, the answer my friend is debt – and lots of it. Our property is akin to your health care costs.

    Far out, grotty jumper to the side, there is condensation on one of the windows because it is cold outside. Brrr! But at least I’m toasty warm inside the house.

    I respect anyone who is a good cook – it is a real skill and requires years of practice. Why anyone watches cooking shows and thinks that they’ll be the better for it is beyond me. It takes real world practice, and then some more practice just for good measure.

    Good luck with the snow, and remember that the Pomeranian breed lives for that gear.

    Yeah, there is more to the story, but we may never find out what it will be. It was very nice of the ladies to provide shelter for the blokes wax creation. There are people living in this mountain range that keep pretty much to themselves, but down in Tasmania, that would be much easier for a person to achieve. A kiwi mate was telling me a story about a bloke that took up residence in a remote area in the south island of New Zealand. It sounded pretty rugged.

    Thanks for mentioning the little Prince bloke as I’d never heard of him before. For all that was written about him, I tend to note that attendance at his funeral was high among the staff and I did note the lavishing of flowers upon his grave. People who are bidden to act in such a way towards another rarely display such compassion and outward signs of grief.

    Oh, you’ve been very bad indeed! Run, Lewis, Run! ๐Ÿ™‚ Haven’t we all been on utube rabbit holes.

    Cheers

    Chris

  22. Hi DJ,

    Oh yeah, grab as much organic matter as you can get your hands on. The more you chuck onto the garden beds, the better the soil critters there get at breaking it all down into black loam quickly. It really does accelerate. And the top soil holds water. Lots of water โ€“ and under the ground where it is hard to evaporate.

    Thanks for the update on your compost. It is fascinating stuff isn’t it, but yeah it does slow down for you now (for only a short while though). What do you reckon about adding the soil to the pile, do you reckon it was worth it compared to previous years efforts?

    Hehe! What is this philosophy stuff? Hehe! Mate, we’ve all been there. I tell ya, I used to occasionally indulge in heated interweb debates thinking I was doing something useful – and then that took my energy away from the garden and the bigger stories. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Mate that is one horror weather story. My blood pressure went up several notches just by reading it!!! Glad to read that you both arrived at your respective destinations alive – albeit late. What shocking weather. If it is going to snow down here, August (your February) will be the month it happens. An acquaintance explained to me that it is due to thermal inertia – he didn’t have to even think about the answer when I asked him. Some people are just around on this here planet to make us all look bad!

    Yeah, the blue banded bees are out in force now. We have a big collection of native bees but none of them down here collect enough honey to make a useful harvest – and none of them forage early enough in the season for the apricots, plums and almonds. Only the European honey bees do that. It is a bit of a worry, but there are now plenty of feral hives in the surrounding forest due to my inept early attempts at beekeeping. Ere he says he got better.

    Cheers

    Chris

  23. Hi Damo,

    All of the wines get to age at a minimum of 12 months. To be honest, they’re a bit rough if you indulge in them before that. But after that time, they’re very smooth. Oh, of course sake is produced at a much faster rate than that, but it still needs to settle so that the liquid can be strained off the lees (dead yeast and yeast poo that collects at the bottom of the bottles). Some cultures consume the mash from sake making, but I gave it a taste and can’t say that I’m a fan.

    Honey mead is good isn’t it? Honey is 80% sugar, so it produces a reasonably high alcohol per volume content and has other good stuff in it. Did you know it is a potent anti inflammatory, and I keep a few bottles around just in case I get stung by a bee, as consumption helps reduce inflammation, but Iโ€™m talking about the home made stuff not preservative laden commercial stuff. Yeah, it does get really smooth doesn’t it – and the difference is quite marked. That may require some further in depth testing though!

    The ageing process is complicated as it also depends upon how much sugar you add to the mix. The less sugar you add, the more likely the batch will get contaminated and/or take longer for the yeast to do their business.

    Cool. Yeah the XY Falcons were a real beast of a machine. Given you said it was valuable, I’m assuming it was a V8? Don’t tell me that you put an HO in a demolition derby. No. No. No. And one more No, just in case. Those things are rare as hens teeth. I recall when a couple of grand could get you a genuine Torana XU1, GT Falcon, or Torana SLR5000. Go figure, I could have done ten times less work and had ten times more mad cash by buying those things, so yeah your house thinking is pretty much spot on. It isn’t sitting in a back shed anywhere by chance? Just asking. Not really interested, but you know where exactly? Hehe! Just mucking around. Maybeโ€ฆ

    Ah, that is a composite. Yes, avoid smiling around that wavelength of UV in future! Cool. An enviable scheme that one, and glad that you recovered well. It may take some adjustment to your use of teeth during eating, but all the same the composite material is pretty strong.

    No, comment away, I appreciate your thoughts in the matter. I think that the author was joking around about serious matters, sort of the same way I joke around about serious matters. I really thought the guy had a lot of important points to make.

    You managed to make two boats using timber. Houses are larger and more complicated, but not necessarily that different. If you were around these parts I would happily lend you a hand as long as you were motivated enough.

    What you say is true about the money side of the equation.

    On the other hand it may surprise you that one of my motivations is trying to avoid bills – and that may not be such an easy path for you. I can do a lot of this stuff not because I’m earning heaps of money, but because my cost of living is very low. There are two sides to the story and everyone I meet is fixated on the income side of the story – but it is the cost side of the story where magic happens.

    A wise strategy as the mortgage is a noose. In some ways it looks to me a bit like debt servitude.

    Cheers

    Chris

  24. Chris,

    In the compost pile, yes, I noticed that the addition of some soil helped. The leaves appear to be breaking down a bit faster than without the soil. The more noticeable difference is that the leaves weren’t all clumped together, which should allow them to decompose faster, also. As to what is happening in the bags of leaves, I’ve nary a clue. I’ll open them up in April or May and give an update.

    That was one of the more harrowing trips I’ve had in quite some time. I’m just glad that’s over. I took today off work to dig out from the new 17.5 cm of snow.

    As to your main topic from this week…I, too, demand that I get paper copies of bills. I pay one – the electric and natural gas utility – via automatic payment from my bank account, but even then I demand that they send me a paper copy of the bill.

    The worst is, of course, the cell phone. They text me that an “ecopy” of the statement is available. They email my computer, also. The paper copy arrives 10 days later, with barely 12 days for the check to arrive to them and get processed. I remit payment immediately. 3 days before the deadline, I start getting texts that payment hasn’t been received. I DID have to go to the local cell phone store and make a payment at the last second once. The check arrived 2 days late, so I did receive a credit for the next month. But they really, really, really want to do away with any paper.

    During the “polar vortex” I heard that several different states want to do away with missed school days due to the snow and cold. Since most of the textbooks are electronic, the kids can have an “e-school” day and log in from home. Even in Spokane, not every family has an internet connection. Get into some of the very rural and poor areas and there isn’t high speed internet anyway; I’ve got numerous relatives who can’t afford it even if it were available. Paperless doesn’t work.

    The “Pearls Before Swine” comic strip got at the overdependence on the internet today. Pig and Rat were walking to a new restaurant. Rat was using the GPS app on his phone to get them there, but lost his internet connection. He promptly laid down on the sidewalk. Pig pointed across the street at the restaurant, but Rat said, “Can’t hear you. Doomed.”

    Like you, I’ve found that the old paper accounting systems work just as well as, and often better than, the computer version. And the paper allows mistakes to be found and corrected much more easily. And, as has been said many times, many ways, every software “upgrade” makes things harder and more cumbersome.

    Time to get outside and start digging out. Big Bertha is earning her keep this month!

    DJSpo

    DJSpo

  25. @DJSpo – Yup. We’re just not built for snow, over here. I don’t know about the schools, here, but all the libraries were closed. And our system covers a 7 county area. Traffic over here is such a mess, even in the best of times. Just about anywhere north of Olympia.

    I can see I-5 from where I sit at my computer. It’s been banging along, during the latest go around. But, from Portland to about Olympia, there’s long stretches where detours are few and far between. Sometimes, if an accident is in just the right spot, all the I-5 traffic is routed through Chehalis and Centralia. THAT always makes for an interesting day.

    The only time I’ve seen I-5 completely closed, for days, was during the flooding we had in this county. Lew

  26. @ Damo – The Charlotte Royal cake looks like quit a construction project! Post pictures to your blog. I’ve heard there’s a web site, somewhere out there, where there’s a picture of a recipe, from a cook book. Then people send in pictures of what the home efforts REALLY look like.

    Because I’m a curious fellow, I wondered where Charlotte Royal got it’s name. Could be named after George III’s wife Charlotte. Or, one of the Russian Empresses. Both ladies lived at about the same time period.

    LOL. Gain points by telling Mrs. Damo that you’re making her something “fit for an empress.” ๐Ÿ™‚ Lew

  27. Hi Chris,
    Enjoyed the link from Grand Designs. Interesting how the author felt in some sense that he was a failure though that’s what the culture has drummed into him. I have a hard time keeping up with all the interesting links you and others that comment here post.

    I resent almost being forced into conducting personal business online. Guess I’m lucky that my bank doesn’t charge for paper statements – at least not yet. At present I have six checking accounts though when any of the estates I’m dealing with are finalized that’ll help. I would not be happy if I had to log in with separate passwords for all the accounts and at any rate it’s certainly easier to reconcile the account with a piece of paper in front of you. I wage a war on the cashless society by paying cash much of the time. Our electrician did a bit of work for us recently and charged less if we paid in cash.

    A couple of years ago car registrations no longer were mailed out and many people didn’t realize it. You can register on the secretary of state site for a reminder which we did. However if you renew online there’s a fee of course. The only other option is to get into the car and drive to one of their offices which is 25 minutes away.

    With Uber it’s getting more difficult to get a cab even in Chicago sometimes. I do not want to put a credit card on my phone so have not succumbed to Uber yet.

    What a harvest! The blackberry wine sounds wonderful. Is it a dry or sweet wine?

    All the pictures as usual are lovely. Looking good, Toothy.

    Got another six inches of snow last night with a layer of ice to top it off. Now you can’t even see the ice patches.

    Marty is getting close to moving and last weekend I went over to his place to check out the stuff so we can arrange for help. Even though he’s not moving for a couple weeks just about everything is packed in boxes but typical of Marty all boxes are unlabeled. He has a ton of stuff – much of it his Christmas decorations. I took pictures to show Doug and he was not too pleased at the amount. We are waiting for housing to do the inspection on the new place which takes place on the 22nd. He gets subsidized housing and the inspection is a requirement.

    The guy came to look over our insulation etc and it does seem like we could save a lot of heat loss by installing different insulation where needed in the basement and adding more to the attic. Estimate was quite high so we’re running it by our friend who also was our builder of the old house remodel and inspected this one as well.

    Margaret

  28. Yo, Chris – My credit union lets me know when the e-statement is available. But, I never even look at it, or print it out. Once a week I stop by the library (because their computer security is a lot better than the wi-fi we have here at The Institution) and make sure my check book and the online accounts agree. Often, when I order stuff on-line, I get an e-mail, “This is your order and order number, print this out for your records.” I never do. I just let it sit in my in-box, until the order gets here.

    Well, it rained all day yesterday and most of last night. Temperatures are well above freezing. So, now the snow is on the run, but it’s slush, slush and more slush. Maybe we’re done for this year? Time will tell.

    Oh, I well remember the old credit card swipe machines. That very satisfying “chunk-chunk” when you swiped the card. And, keeping track of all those little paper copies.

    Yup. Think of all the things you could grow safely, in a green house. The Green House Terrace? :-). I knew a fellow who was growing globe artichokes in his greenhouse. They don’t grow outside, around here.

    Rye bread is pretty dense and heavy. To get a good rise, you need to mix in some regular wheat flour. It’s also dark brown, usually. There are some sandwiches, that just aren’t “right” unless they’re made on rye. My grandmother used to make round loaves of rye, and they were great just smeared with butter. It’s also kind of traditional to flavor them with some kind of seed. Cardamom, fennel or caraway.

    The escalation of real estate prices has been pretty bonkers. The cafe that I used to live next to, and worked in for awhile, ran through many owners in 15 years. About 7. Every time the business changed hands, it was sold for around $25,000. Then, between one owner and the next, it jumped to $75,000. For now apparent reason, other than that an “official” evaluation had been done. Just nuts.

    The reason I got interested in Prince John, is, as I mentioned, I saw a fictionalized film about his life, maybe ten years ago. And then I ran across a book at the library, called “The Royal Nanny” (Harper, 2016). It’s a novel about Charlotte Bill, who went to be nanny to George V’s children, in 1897. She was nanny to all six of them, and, as Prince John was the last child, she became his “primary care giver.”

    There’s been a lot of speculation and rubbish, published about Prince John’s life. The documentary I watched on YouTube, pretty much laid all that, to rest. He was loved, and well taken care of. They even had an interview with one of his playmates (at filming, 99 years old and sharp as a tack) and the daughter of another one of his mates. They told quit a different story, than the media.

    My dad used to make blackberry wine, from time to time. Given we’re overrun with wild blackberries. It was very dry, not so sweet, at all. I don’t know what the alcohol content was, but a glass and a half on a full steak dinner, and it would knock you on your can. Lew

  29. Hello again
    I am much better just tired as the cough interfered with sleep.
    I reckon that Toothy is a very handsome fellow, it’s a great photo.
    So, you get a water bill even though you don’t have mains water!?
    That doesn’t happen here. Mains water and sewage are one bill of which the sewage portion is greater. No-one in my immediate neighbourhood is on the main sewage system so we don’t have to pay that part of the bill.
    I thought that I was going to have a lovely peaceful, solitary day but Son turned up with his chainsaw to take down a willow tree which is now hanging over my roof. A weird tree with lots of extra trunks wrapped around the main one. He got all the extra trunks down but not the main tree as yet.

    Inge

  30. Hi Chris,

    Unfortunately, it wasn’t the V8 version (and definitely not a HO – what a crime that would be!). By the time it went into the derby, its body was pretty bent and only suitable for paddock bashing. Indeed, it was the car I learnt to drive in – not sure if the gearbox was converted, but was a 3 on the floor (and a high-beam switch next to your left foot!). I once drove it at high speed into an unseen boulder on a back paddock. Car came to a complete and violent stop. I got out and inspected the sump which was massively dented. Wasn’t sure if anything internal was damaged, but started it back up anyway. No crunching, so I kept going ๐Ÿ™‚

    Some cheeky scamps suggest you should buy up cars which 12-16 year olds think are cool. In twenty years they will possibly have disposable cash to buy the cars of their long lost childhood. A good plan? Well, kids these days don’t care about cars as much, and I am not sure the will have much money either :-p

    RE: focus on costs, not income
    I agree, it is a well known cliche that peoples expenditure rise quicker than their income. Personally, I have always saved money week to week since I left high school. I don’t live as frugally now as I did then, but it isn’t a world away (and hey, I have two boats to maintain. That plywood aint cheap!). Even as povo-students Mrs Damo and I always had buffers of cash, you just live within your means right. Why is anything else even an option??

    Beyond that though, I am not sure. Are you suggesting a focus on costs can bring more people into their own home/land? Is that a variation on smashed avo?

    Cheers,
    Damo

  31. @Lew

    Good advice, and I will put pics on the blog. I already have a backlog I haven’t put up yet, but you know. So busy and important :-p

    Damo

  32. Hi DJ, Margaret, Lewis, Inge, and Damo,

    Thanks for the lovely comments, however it is the mid-week hiatus and instead of responding to your lovely comments, tonight we were very naughty and enjoyed delightful Vietnamese street food. The salt and pepper squid was particularly tasty as were the chicken spring rolls. It was good, and I do hope that in your hearts you find the niceness to forgive me and my erroneous ways – or simply tell me to stop waffling on! ๐Ÿ™‚

    Inge – Glad to read that you are feeling better today.

    Lewis – Of course, I have to keep records for five years as some of the bills relate to the business side of things. If it was only personal, I wouldn’t bother printing the bills out either, but alas. Speaking of the revenge of analogue, but two and a bit decades ago I recall owning vinyl records – which are making something of a comeback. And, you’ll like this one: ‘Shhhh. I’m reading’: the radical new activity in our parks. A truly lovely bunch of people.

    I am genuinely fascinated that in your country people still regularly use cheques to pay for things. Down here, cheque books are seldom seen, and if people require a cheque for transacting official purposes, they get a bank cheque.

    I use too the in-box as a tool to keep a track of electronic things that need doing / actioning. I did notice a reference in the article on the millennial burnout that the author mentioned how much difficulty they had actioning basic administrative items that arrive by email. I suspect that anxiety plays part of that story, but I’m not really sure. Nobody was anxious about anything when I was a young adult – we were probably a bit bonkers, really. But the recession gave us all a good wake up call. I hear concerns about anxiety levels in teenagers these days ,and I suspect the microscope that the kids get placed under by their well meaning, but faulty parents, has something to do with that. I heard that some of the parents are so bad these days that every single measurable item of kids school performance is now posted on the interweb for the parents to fuss over. Have they nothing better to do?

    Yeah, you may start moving into spring now? Who knows? I’ve had spring weather turn up and then go away – and that happened last year. The early fruit trees did not like that one bit.

    Ha! Tills were simpler in those days – I’ve seen staff at businesses poking at touch screens just to place a simple order. Paper is often much simpler (as long as it is legible – which is not always the case). A boss once told me in no uncertain terms that if I was going to write something, then it is to communicate things to other people. Bam! A good lesson, which some people may have failed to learn, as I’ve encountered some truly grammatically incorrect shockers in the work place over the years.

    Really? I guess globe artichokes like a bit of heat and dry, which is not a very good description of your part of the world. I feel that any greenhouse has to only have tropical plants because they would be better adapted to plant diseases and pests that do well in such environments. Down here I see a lot of empty greenhouses, so they are not a silver bullet by any means. Do people have them up your way? And how would they go in the sort of weather you’re getting now? I’ve seen one in an old hill station that has a gas heater in it (good luck with that expense). It to, was empty of plants.

    The rye bread sounds pretty tasty, and you’ve piqued my interest enough to see whether I can track some down. I have some spelt flour here which I want to try baking with. Hey, I’m onto the untreated bread flour now (i.e. unbleached flour) and it is pretty good stuff.

    Yeah, real estate makes no sense to me. I can only imagine that the inflation that I see in that market is a direct consequence of the ever expanding money supply – I mean the availability of credit is bonkers, and in fact I agree the whole edifice is bonkers.

    Well I guess that particular family has a burden of ‘do unto others’ to sort out as they haven’t always been angels themselves. But yeah, reading between the lines, the young bloke looks to have had as nice a life as possible for someone with his affliction in those days.

    Your dad was a smart man to have converted the plentiful harvest of blackberries (mate, it is the same thing here – I don’t have to go far), and yeah it does make for a dry wine, which I prefer. The sweet wines usually have had too much sugar added into the mix which the yeast probably hasn’t converted, and they give me headaches. There are a couple of commercial ciders like that.

    The only reason I grow blackberries in an enclosure is because very occasionally the local council gets all worked up about the plants, and then they spray vast areas of the forest with herbicide. It is a complete waste of time, because the blackberries die back only to then recover the following year. But in the meantime all of the dead and dried canes are very flammable – and the council doesn’t clean them up. It is the biggest waste of time and rate payers money, but I guess it makes them feel good and they can say theyโ€™re doing something.

    Off to bed! Did you get any more snow?

    Cheers

    Chris

  33. @ DJSpo:

    I have encountered those 2 hour + traffic jams before. Sometimes it is the weather, but more often it is an accident on one of our 2-lane rural highways (like the one I drive into town) that ties things up as there are few places for cars to turn around once in place and the backup can go for miles. I keep water, emergency rations (at the moment, a bottle of green olives as a mouse snuck in and ate my granola bars), and a book in the truck. The killer is if one has to go to the bathroom. Rule No. 1 – always use the bathroom before traveling these roads!

    Pam

  34. Chris:

    Our ripe butternut PUMPKINS keep for 11 months, just sitting around in the basement, right up till the next harvest. Not all keep, but enough do.

    ” but it is the cost side of the story where magic happens.” I know this, and have practiced it to my profit, but I forget sometimes. Thanks!

    Pam

  35. Chris:

    I forgot to mention that young butternuts, like you have at the moment, can be used as you would zucchini – but then, you have zucchini. I don’t always.

    Pam

  36. Chris and Lew:

    I am about to put some sourdough rye bread in the oven to bake. I do this once a week. I call it rye though it is only 20% to 25% whole grain rye with the rest an unbleached white (wheat) flour. The rye adds such a rustic and hearty flavor (actually kind of similar to spelt’s flavor). I used to add caraway seed, which is delicious, but the bread didn’t “go” with as many different things (mostly peanut butter).

    Pam

  37. Hello again
    Thank goodness, that willow tree is now down. I do hate chainsaws and the tree was right on the edge of my pond which meant that Son had limited standing space. He was trying to drop it where I wanted as that would have made a hedge. The willows root and sprout again given the chance. They can be seen making natural barriers where they have fallen in the woods. It was just going to be an horrendous job though and I told Son to stop trying and just get it down wherever. So at the moment it is across my ‘lawn’ and being cut up for shifting. Son says that willows are his least favourite tree.

    I have a general question about frost burns on food in the freezer. Son gets this, I don’t. It really doesn’t seem to matter and I cook and eat anything he brings me that has so suffered. Should it worry me?

    Inge

  38. Yo, Chris – Well, my life is now so situated that I write very few checks, anymore. Rent and electric is about it, for the monthly bills. It helps that in my dotage, I’ve finally gotten comfortable with the ATM (Automatic Teller Machines) at my credit union. Drive through! So I can get occasional infusions of cash for “walking around money.” And, my credit union is right across the road from the Club.

    Young folk and anxiety. Well, they do seem to shrug off electronic glitches, easier than old folks. Hmmm. I can’t remember what the topic was, exactly, but sometime in the last week I said to some young person, “Well, your young and don’t remember when “X” had a higher standard of service. You expect less.” I think another source of anxiety for them (self inflicted though it may be) is being under the microscope from their peers, due to social media.

    Green Houses. One of our Garden Goddesses pines for a greenhouse. But what I think people forget, is the maintenance involved with those things. SOMEONE has to keep all that glass clean :-). She can barely keep up with the patches of garden she has. I mostly see commercial greenhouses, of all sizes. And all states of maintenance. A lot of people seem to have sun porches. Or sun rooms. McMansions have that old Victorian concept of the conservatory. I think for the small gardener, the way to go is cold or hot frames, and now, poly tunnels.

    I think it’s interesting that Down Under, Rye doesn’t seem to be “much about.” Here, if you go to a cafe with a good selection of sandwiches on the menu, the server will usually ask you automatically if you want it on “white, wheat, sourdough or rye bread.” All commercial, of course, and now just a shadow of what they once were.

    Given our current state of germ-o-phobia, some people equate “street food” with “dirty food.” I think it’s part generational, and part class based. Did they have humbaugh (sp?) on the menu? I made a green bean casserole, last night. It’s kind of a retro thing. Green beans, a can of cream of mushroom soup, dried canned onions, a bit of pepper and milk. Baked. With more dried onions on the top. Those who “put on the dog” use slivered almonds, instead of the more prole onions. I also slipped in some shiitake mushrooms. And, a couple of Jerusalem artichokes. I read up on the “wind” factor, and it can be overcome with longer cooking and gradual introduction. No problems last night or this morning.

    Well, blackberries can take over a road. There tendrils will run right across a black top road and put down roots. Through the blacktop. If you get enough traffic, it’s less of a problem. Where I lived before, there was one patch just down from my driveway, and, about twice a year I’d have to cut back the tendrils. Without maintenance, nature will take over, very quickly. Lew

  39. Hi DJ,

    Interesting and thanks for the compost update. The place here is so big that nowadays I simply chuck manures and mulches directly into the garden beds with not much care, and let the soil flora and fauna sort it all out. What interests me is that the more I do that, the quicker the organic matter disappears. The interesting thing for you – and I’m just guessing here – is that when you use the compost, it will already have a diverse range of flora and fauna in there, so in theory, it should promote healthier and hardier plants. I look forward to your April / May update as I’ve never stored leaves in bags before so have no idea how that will work out. At a guess I reckon it will be some sort of fungal utopia!

    You were lucky that the trip was without incident given the conditions. How did big Bertha perform? That sounds a bit dodgy doesn’t it? I assume you are talking about some sort of snow blower or mechanical shovel?

    It is fascinating to me how many references I’ve read this week about people paying bills by check (we call them a cheque) – you rarely see check books anymore down here. I’ll bet there are plenty of people who wouldn’t know what to do with them. I once received a postal money order…

    Yeah, the e-school thing is definitely another way to leave kids behind. It is not a bright idea.

    Poor Rat! I’ve had visitors following their GPS devices – and they get lost because the tree canopy blocks the signals – and some maps are just wrong. The gogle (sic) map of this road is incorrect.

    Mate, you should try the online accounting packages on a slow interweb connection. They do my head in, they are just so slow. Strangely enough, given I’m in a remote area, the interweb here is very fast, but expensive. It is like what the engineers say about: Good, fast, cheap – pick any two. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Cheers

    Chris

  40. Hi Margaret,

    Glad you enjoyed the link. And yeah, I wondered about that sense of failure too. It is interesting to me that it is not expressed as anger, which it could so easily be. As an educator, you’d probably be aware of the increasing involvement of parents in their kids education. For the record, other than the report card, my mum rarely considered my results. I have heard that there are moves to put all assessments on the interweb so that parents can troll through their kids results with the underlying goal that they stop hassling the teachers. The parents from what I understand have become something of a problem and the constant micromanagement of their kids can hardly be good for the kids. Interestingly too, one way out of the maze of expectations and perfection (that they themselves probably didnโ€™t achieve) that parents have set for their kids, is for the kids to simply fail. And I wonder if that is part of the story? Admittedly, it is a very complicated story, but it wasn’t that way when I was a kid.

    You are lucky not be charged for the paper based statements. Down here the banks charge me a monthly fee for the account, and they describe it as a ‘plan’ fee – sort of like a phone plan fee, and interest earned is non-existent on transaction accounts. And interestingly too, I’ve noticed that recently, the bank will allow the account to be overdrawn with no penalties as long as the account is topped up again by 6pm, but if you can’t manage thatโ€ฆ It is not a normal state of affairs for me and I only learned of that when I once keyed in the wrong withdrawal amount on an ATM and the machine made this rather unusual offer to me. It seems a bit trusting…

    Dealing with the estates would be a nightmare of an administrative task. And from what I’ve observed of such tasks, they go on and on and on… Hey, I pay cash as much as possible too.

    Visits to vehicle registration offices are a like the ultimate time waster as the queue is usually long. Mind you, and I’d be interested to hear about your part of the world – it is one thing that is better than a couple of decades ago. Visits to those places used to be a half day extravaganza – like take a packed lunch and all that and hope you don’t have to go to the toilet and lose your place in the queue…

    I’ve never used uber and would stick to using taxi services regardless. My understanding of the matter is that that is a tough way to make a living, but then that can also be said of taxi drivers. Way back in the day, the person holding the taxi licence (which could be bought and sold like an investment) apparently used to earn more than the drivers. It did not make for a nice story.

    Thanks! And the blackberry wine is a dry wine. I don’t tend to make sweet wines as they require too much sugar and the end result gives me headaches. Seriously. We just picked some more blackberries in the last hour.

    Toothy says hi, and he has enjoyed the day in the sun cooking his head and munching on some bone off cuts I brought back home. He has good teeth.

    Far out, your weather is cold as! Hope it warms up soon?

    Hehe! Oh well, I guess Marty may well recall the contents of all of the boxes should some of them accidentally disappear. And your descriptions of the Christmas decorations are memorable. I can’t imagine he’d be open to whittling the collection down a bit? Could it even be discussed with him?

    Yeah, insulation is complicated to fit into an existing building. Mind you, if it is a timber clad house, you can always remove the timber cladding insert the insulation into the wall cavity, install a moisture barrier and then re-clad the building. I have heard of people drilling holes into the walls and blowing in insulation, but have no experience of that. What did your building mate think of the quote?

    Cheers

    Chris

  41. Hi Inge,

    It is lovely to read that you are feeling better today, and coughing does interrupt sleep and it can be hard to stop coughing once you start.

    Toothy says hi! ๐Ÿ™‚

    Oh yeah, and things go badly – and costs escalate – if the water bill is not paid. It is outrageous given how much I have to spend on water and drainage just to live here… Bonkers. A well heeled local took them to court too, and lost.

    Chainsaws are useful tools. I hope your son avoided dropping any chunks of tree onto the house? I’m always a bit concerned where trees are close to dropping on infrastructure here.

    Willows do grow in interesting ways too. In spring, I do hope that you can watch the tree emerging again from the stump.

    Cheers

    Chris

  42. Hi Damo,

    Absolutely! Putting a genuine GTHO Falcon into a demolition derby just for the fun of it would probably get you institutionalised, whilst at the same time a huge group of people mugged you and took the keys away from you. 3 on the floor! Never driven in a car with one of those gearboxes. Even my old Torana hatchback had a four speed gearbox – which was considered quite high tech at the time. Imagine if you pulled that rock and car trick on a new car? It would probably write it off.

    I’m with you. It is a chancy investment at best, and I do wonder about the money and energy side of that long shot investment. Hey, aren’t we all meant to be driving electric cars by that time anyway? Hehe! Hardly likely in my opinion given the resource constraints.

    Me too. Incidentally I call that being cash flow positive, as more has to come in than go out. It might interest you to know that a lot of natural systems operate on that basis too, and it accounts for and also allows for a bit of entropy, inefficiency and general all round disasters. People cut it a bit too fine these days for my comfort levels.

    No. I’m not suggesting that. And the origins of the smashed avo meme appear to me to look like a rotten piece of work. What I am suggesting is that, at this stage of the game I believe that you (and I mean you – not the nebulous โ€˜youโ€™) can do or achieve one or maybe two things well, and that is it. When I grew up people were always banging on about how limitless the possibilities for my future were. This was not true at all, and even way back then I understood that they were talking rubbish because I looked at their own lives – and the apple rarely falls far from the tree. Anyway, I’m not going to dissemble with you, because when I was a younger bloke there was actually more energy and resources available per capita and as such things were cheaper. This is not the case nowadays, and so you (and I have to face this dilemma too) have to pick and choose how you spend your time and resources. It is not enough anymore to have a vague plan and put it off for some time in the future, but you know I can only report the world to you as I see it, and I could well be very wrong. I’d be curious to read your thoughts on this matter, as I feel that it is important.

    Cheers

    Chris

  43. Hi Lewis,

    It is an enviable situation to disappear the pesky bills that weigh down so heavily upon a personโ€™s soul! ๐Ÿ˜‰ Certainly it is one of my ongoing goals, and I give it my full attention. As an interesting side story, we were discussing today whether we should top up with a small amount of shopping this week, or eat entirely off the produce of the farm for the next week. It gets better this stuff, but it takes a long time and a lot of learning – and mishaps.

    Hey, I still can’t wrap my mind around a drive through ATM! The only thing that is drive through down here are bottle shops and they are on their way out and are rarely seen nowadays. When I was a kid they were probably more profitable, and they always seemed to be attached to hotels. Of course, the sort of warehouse style (big box?) sellers were not to be found anywhere.

    I reckon the kids are under the microscope of their parents too. And the demands and expectations from the parents seem pretty anxiety inducing – anyway that is what it looks like to me. But yeah, you have a good point too, as I too recall when things were less stressed out and service was better. Nowadays I see posters in businesses reminding people to chill out a bit – the customer is never wrong is an idea that can be taken too far. I’ll bet you’ve seen a thing or two in your customer fronting days? I sure have…

    But yeah, social media is a hard gig as people try to gain social credit by show their best life. What do they expect to win by doing that is what I wonder? It is hardly acceptance. I do wonder about that and just try and write here about the ups and downs of things, and recall that life is more like a roller coaster ride with unexpected bumps and interruptions. If I avoided writing about the disasters, it would be a very boring blog! ๐Ÿ™‚

    Exactly! That is what I reckon. The greenhouses have to be kept clean because they are an artificial environment and who knows what flora and fauna will go on the rampage at any given time. I sort of suspect that they provide an advantage, which is then off set by costs such as the clean up. I’m wondering how to approach that task. Are you aware of any really long term in use greenhouses, and do you have any hints to provide? What is a cold frame?

    Yes, they are a shadow of their former selves and I’m really keen to grow a patch of bread wheat, but time and all that is tight… Sometimes bread gets served up to me, and I think to myself – what is this bread like product? ‘Tes not natural. But no, rye is rarely seen on offer down here. The original grain grown down here was the indigenous millet which is extraordinarily hardy and had probably been selected and improved by the first nations folk for millennia.

    I guess so. It was very quiet last night, but I do wonder if people were a bit fearful of the cold weather 18’C / 64’F as they may have become accustomed to much warmer weather. But we did sit at a table on the street and ate dinner which was very good. Years ago I never tipped, but now I tip as I get a feel for what businesses earn. Tipping is not part of the culture down here, but the economic waves make it hard for small business. Speaking of which I got an email today telling me that the government is now demanding that businesses report their payrolls to the government every time they prepare a payroll as of 1st July. Not a good thing as far as I can see, and it is very onerous for businesses that report using anything other than the latest software.

    Your bean casserole sounds really tasty and I particularly liked the addition of the cream of mushroom soup. A nice touch.

    Hey, I fully expect nature to reclaim the landscape if ever energy resources can’t be put to pushing it back. A lot of energy gets chucked at that task, but it needn’t be that onerous a task… It is a shame that people expect nature to look a certain way, because it needn’t be the case. I think I got a blackberry thorn stuck in my hand…

    Cheers

    Chris

  44. Hi Chris,

    As an aside on cars – I told my “future = progress” friends that I believe in 20 years, most cars sold in the west will be electric. They all agreed. Then I said, but they will be closer to a golf cart than a Tesla. Think electric version of Suzuki dirt rat, 200km range and a price tag 2-3x the petrol equivalent. They didn’t really agree with me, and seem to think we will all get Teslas for the price of a Toyota Camry. Hopefully they are right, I really liked driving the Tesla, but we will see ๐Ÿ™‚

    As for the hypothetical offer of helping with a build. Be careful with that, it is almost worth picking a new location to live for that sort of offer ๐Ÿ™‚ When I helped a mate in Brisbane with a shed build, it is amazing how much difference even just one extra pair of hands makes, especially when coming up with solutions for the myriad little problems that crop up. I was a bit dismayed at the corners he was cutting to fit in under a budget (downside of paying a big mortgage), but managed to sway him on a few of the worse ones. We saved a thousand alone by designing and cutting our own brackets, but I did get sick of cutting plate steel after a few hours.

    RE: picking a path and smashed avo
    I was being a little cheeky in the last post – I know you don’t buy that BS. But sometimes I can get a bit defensive on the things people can bandy about, although now I do think most people have actually accepted it is actually at least a little harder for people to buy a house/land.

    As for vague plans, I am not sure yet how to comment. Making a plan requires at least some faith in how you think the future will unfold. And on that I am still undecided. I think there is a non-zero chance we will manage to successfully inflate the money supply and keep asset prices at least nominally high. Savers like myself will get punished in such a scenario. Buying land early, no matter the cost is the strategy here.

    But, I do also agree with a slow-decline thesis. (Un)fortunately the timeline for that to really take effect might be longer than my working life. If so, traditional investing for retirement (or to save and buy a place outright for cash in 10years say) could still be a good idea.

    And there is the personal health angle. Is aiming for my own small-holder style property a good idea when Mrs Damo might not be able to help with most of the work? (thankfully this is not a certainty, but even in best case scenarios I will be alone for the heavy stuff).

    Such is the turmoil of being alive ๐Ÿ™‚ I was actually going to sit down over Christmas and come up with a proper cost/benefit plan for the future. Buy a house, stay in NZ, continue living around the world, where to work, etc etc were all on the cards. There would have being butchers paper, projections, spreadsheets and decision matrices! But then I got the Auckland relocation offer – and in all honesty that was the smart play, at least for this year. But at the back of my mind, I do know if I want a particular outcome, I do actually need to come up with a plan to make it happen.

    Cheers,
    Damo

  45. Peak terrace? Speaking of peaks, looks like you are slowly reaching the top of the slope. How many more terraces can you go?

    As others have chimed in, you’ve hit on another hot button, as technology enables the end of customer service and leaves us all on hold, or wondering how to get ahold of a business that has messed up. @#$*&^$%^!!

    I’ll just add the facet that drives me nuts, when communicating with businesses, is that they try to put the onus on us, with a “pull” system, where we are forced to check in to find out if we have any message, versus a push system, where they SEND a note to us when communication is needed. oddly frustrating, when we are otherwise subjected to torrents of pushed advertising every way we turn.

  46. Yo, Chris – I forgot, you asked me about drying corn. I just did my in the oven, for awhile. Then chucked them on a baking cooling rack for a few days. Then I pried them off the cops (sore thumbs!) and put them in a paper sack. On a slightly windy day, I poured them a few times from one sack, to another, to drive away the chaff. And, no, I haven’t ground any yet. I’m having a problem finding a counter edge. Seems like every darned counter edge around here is “rounded for our protection.” :-). I discovered something about the Jerusalem artichokes. They were drying out a bit. But, I pulled a plastic bag over the top of the bucket, after chucking in a slightly damp paper towel. I’ve been re-wetting the paper towel, every couple of days. Seems to be working.

    Yeah, it’s cool to use your own stuff. The green bean casserole was made with the green beans I grew myself and froze.

    The drive through ATM is very cool, at my credit union. But, I seem to have a talent for hitting it just at the time the armored truck is there to restock, and have to go through the window anyway. I don’t know how I do it. There only there for 15 or 20 minutes, every three days, or so. Even though I’m never on a set schedule, I always seem to hit it just right, and have to go through the drive through window. The library drive through is very handy. I use it when I don’t have business, inside.

    I really haven’t been up close and personal with a long term greenhouse. Except when I lived in Seattle, there was an old public conservatory, in Volunteer Park. It was really cool. Hmm How to explain a cold frame? Best Google it. “What is a garden cold frame?” My uncle had one, on his little mini-farm, made from old glass doors and windows.

    It occurs to me that rye is a northern crop. I think that’s why you see it in so much northern European cooking.

    Well, as far as the monthly reporting, more work for you and more billable hours? :-). Here, large businesses have to report monthly (some even weekly). Smaller businesses quarterly, or even yearly.

    A blackberry thorn in your hand! Will they have to amputate? :-). Good you have socialized medicine. You might try different kinds of tape, to lift it out, if it’s a really hard one to spot, or chase down.

    I’ve been watching a four part series, on DVD called “Native America.” It was pretty interesting. Covered north and south America. Mostly about pre European contact. A lot of the stuff, I knew, but it was interesting to see it all pulled together in one place. Huge cities, that they are discovering were bigger than anything going on in Europe or the Orient, at that time. Pyramids older and bigger than Egypt. Near St. Louis (Hi! Claire!), Mexico, Central America and South America.

    There’s a kind of new area of study called Astroarchaeology. They are finding that many of the cities were aligned to the heavens, in very precise ways.

    What was really interesting is that there’s a tribe on the California / Oregon border, that after decades of wrangling, have been allowed to do controled burns, as their ancestors did. I did a bit of Googling around, and there are several articles on-line about the topic. Here’s a pretty good one.

    http://www.wired.com/story/wildfires-native-tribes-controlled-burns/

    Sounds like it’s a practice, that may spread. About time.

    I’m off to the antique mall, this morning. They’re Presiden’t Day sale, kicks off, today. I went scouting, yesterday. I spotted a Weller pottery, “Forest Pattern” vase. And, a few other little things. I’m coming in well under budget :-). And, a very cool bookend. Lew

  47. Hi Chris and Margaret,

    Per your conversation, we had insulation blown into our walls in 2005, along with adding insulation to the attic, adding insulation to the basement ceiling, and sealing air leaks. We hired people to do the work. At the time we didn’t realize it, but it was probably the first time they had ever done the work. They spent so much time on it that it’s questionable if they gained any profit from the work. That said, they did a good job; the house is much more comfortable now than it was, and it requires less energy and money to keep it heated and cooled.

    The work is done by drilling holes into each wall cavity between the vertical 2x4s, inserting the end of a blower into the hole, and blowing in a loose insulation made from treated newsprint and/or other waste paper. For a frame house like ours the holes are usually drilled into the wall from outside the house: a piece of siding is lifted off, holes are drilled, the insulation blown in, and the siding replaced. In our case an upper layer of vinyl siding covers the original siding which is asbestos. It was impossible (and unsafe) to drill into the asbestos, so the holes were drilled through the inside plaster wall, the insulation blown in, and the holes patched. For several years, until we finally got around to painting the walls, we could see all the places where insulation was blown into the walls.

    As a side benefit, the blown-in insulation muffles sounds coming in from outside.

    Claire

  48. Hi Pam,

    I’m intrigued. Zucchini is one tough and heat hardy plant. What happens to your area in the years that they fail? And are the butternut pumpkins in your experience, hardier plants in those zucchini challenging conditions? I’ve never seen either plant fail, but there is always a first time for that to happen (I should have whispered that statement of hubris).

    Freshly baked bread with peanut butter! A true taste sensation – and one of my favourite bread toppings. Yum! Have you ever grown peanuts? I’m told that the winters here are too cold for them, but I can’t see why they couldn’t be grown as annual – like Claire does with ginger.

    Thanks for the info on rye. I have never tasted rye bread, and I assume it sits better with you – given the lower gluten? Just for your interest, when I was at a sourdough bakery (that is their specialty) there was a note on the wall which said that sourdough bread is more easily digested by gluten intolerant people (although it was not recommended for people suffering from Coeliac disease).

    Cheers

    Chris

  49. Hi Inge,

    Fair enough, but I do appreciate chainsaws, but like any tool they can be abused, although on the other hand they can do some seriously beneficial work in the forest here. For example, I can use my chainsaw to mimic the effect of fire within the forest, and everything benefits as a result, but at the same time it has to be used sparingly and with a level of judgement.

    Your son displayed skill dropping the tree onto the lawn, as distinct from into the pond. The more I know about trees, the less confident I am about them falling in a particular direction and generally I don’t involve myself in such work as it is extraordinarily dangerous. The blokes I employee every now and then to help me with that task, usually tie ropes high up into the trees (they throw them up there) and someone pulls the tree in a certain direction using the rope. That usually is sufficient to determine where a tree will fall – but even then, sometimes things go wrong.

    Incidentally, your lawn is probably getting a good feed from all of the chips that his chainsaw is spitting out. Even lawns need the occasional feed.

    Oh, I quite like willow trees, but yes I have also noticed that a fallen branch will produce a huge number of suckers. The authorities down here have a problem with willow trees and they spend an inordinate amount of energy and resources removing them from along creek sides. And after that happens, the summer sun dries up the pools of water left behind in the creek when previously they were shaded by the canopy of the willow tree. Anglers have been complaining that since that business has been going on, water temperatures have increased and trout have disappeared. From my reading of history, summer creeks down here used to look much like discontinuous pools of water, but not so anymore.

    Cheers

    Chris

  50. Hi Damo,

    I am the shy and retiring type, and avoid conversations about the future with people, outside of this blog. It is complicated, but basically I see no reason to burst anybodyโ€™s bubble – and they tend to react in an unnecessarily grumpy manner to suggestions that their investments might not be as assured as they feel. And it really doesn’t matter because events will be what they will be and it will all sort out one way or another. Nature is good like that.

    I hope your progress friends are right too. But as Khalid sang in his most excellent song, ‘Young dumb and broke’: “You always say I’m wrong, I’m pretty sure I’m right”. I too would enjoy driving the Tesla, and what I want to know is did you test the ‘Insane’ driving mode? The rare Earth metals used in the batteries and motors are rare enough that they are not likely to be widely available at el-cheapo prices, sorry to say.

    Well, if you and Mrs Damo were nearby, of course I would lend a hand. You know, it took the editor and I, 18 months to build this place from bare earth – and at the same time we set up and ran our own business and generally enjoyed life. And we learned plenty of things that would be useful to do the entire job all over again cheaper and easier. The thing is most people fall into the Grand Designs trap in that they design the building too big and too complicated and it is inevitably outside of their budget. I suspect that ego comes into play with that story, but you know it is a rare person that can watch that show and take on board the lessons that are there for everyone to learn. It is not as if the show tries to cover them over with niceness.

    Yeah, I got that about the smashed avo and knew you were just messing with me. There is a bit of acceptance, but I do wonder at the alternatives being offered up for consumption – like say: Opal Tower. How is that working for them?

    I don’t believe that anybody knows. But as a thought bubble, it is not as if lessons learned during recessions and depressions are not there for politicians and reserve banks to ponder upon. The Great Depression and the recession in the early 90’s were both brought about by a restriction of credit. The downturn in the market right now is to my mind being brought about by a restriction of credit. But then apparently unrestricted credit has left us where we are now. I doubt that either outcome is good, and I have noticed that there are increasingly periods of time where the money supply is reduced by disappearing money (i.e. rapid drops in asset prices). It maybe that we are nearing close to one of those events, but who really knows?

    Hey, cash is always a good bet as far as I’m concerned, and you sound as if you are aware of the risks.

    I understood the dilemma that you face in relation to Mrs Damo’s health. I get it, and you know Mrs Chris helps out on all of the projects here, and that is an advantage. Mate, I can only speak from my own perspective in that matter. The one advantage from your perspective that a small holding offers is good food and exercise which maybe beneficial, and maybe that might assist matters? But yes, life is complicated and sometimes there are no clear paths to follow.

    I reckon the Auckland offer was a good one to take up too. I would have done the same, and it is better to ensure that things continue than to be cast adrift because of others failure. If it means anything to you, I do not believe that as a culture we are very good at planning.

    Cheers

    Chris

  51. Hi Steve,

    Hehe! Maybe! But there is space up there for another three or maybe four more terraces. Shh! Don’t tell the editor in advance… ๐Ÿ™‚

    It is a very rubbish situation for sure. Hey, I wonder about the direct debits that can’t be stopped, where you can’t manage to get hold of a living person at the nice corporation to get them to stop the payments – and they don’t accept written instructions by email or post. I had that one recently which was the motivation for the essay.

    Exactly. You betcha, the systems where we have to log on to their system, and then check to see whether they’ve notified us about something or other. What ever happened to a letter in the post? It sure makes me grumpy too. Grump, grump, rant, rant! ๐Ÿ™‚ !

    Cheers

    Chris

  52. Hi Claire,

    Top work, and I too have noticed the difference with heavy insulation, although for your interest, the timber wall cavities here are 7.9 inches wide and I stuffed them full of glass fibre insulation. It just works and the lack of thermal mass means that it is easier to heat and cool the house which is I reckon a good response to living in such a variable climate.

    I have never seen the process of cutting holes into plaster walls and then blowing in insulation. It is a great idea.

    Asbestos is a real and very serious problem. Down here, I believe it was used in all sorts of products up until about 1985. I recall the ads even for garden edging. In other parts of the world I believe it is continuing to be used. And you’d be amazed at the number of products it has turned up in: Johnson & Johnson shares drop 10pc after claims it knew of asbestos in baby powder. The mineral is a crap shoot and I have almost certainly come into contact with it, but it is a risk because I have also known indirectly of people who have died from Asbestosis.

    It is funny that you mention vinyl siding because in this bushfire prone area that would be a total disaster. The stuff would melt away โ€“ if not combust! But then today at a farm expo I saw someone selling the product. Is this a serendipitous sign?

    Hope you are enjoying some warmer weather?

    Incidentally, do you grow ginger in your garden as an annual plant, or am I mistaken in this belief?

    Cheers

    Chris

  53. Hello again
    That willow tree has 3 stumps, it was one weird tree. Son did try to rope it to get it to fall as I had wanted but I knew that that attempt would be hopeless as there was nothing near enough to rope to. So I stopped his attempt to please me. He says the density of willow messes up his chainsaw blade.

    Beware ergot poisoning if you try to grow rye. I guess that it was that that sent rye out of favour for a long while. I always mix rye and wheat flour in the bread that I make but rye does inhibit its rise.

    White frost again this morning and I had to turn on some heating in my bedroom in the middle of the night.

    Inge

  54. Hi Lewis,

    Thanks for the details about drying your corn. Interesting. Last year I didn’t dry the cobs in the oven, and you’re system is probably better. The kernels germinated about as well as the seeds we purchased, but they just didn’t look as full (a highly technical term) as the ones we purchased and I have wondered about that.

    The corn has all been growing fine, but as they are open pollinated heritage varieties, growth patterns (and colours – I seem to have a mix of yellow and white, as well as all yellow cobs) have been all over the place. But for me that’s cool as I can leave the cobs out there and it saves me harvesting them all at once – which might be a bit of a pain.

    This morning we woke up before the sun had risen and we headed off to the Seymour Alternative Farming Expo. It was a lot of fun and they have a great poultry exhibit. Although I made the editor promise to not purchase any more Silky chickens. That last sentence was not my finest work with the English language, but perhaps that may be indicative of my passions about already owning five Silky chickens. Chookflation seems to have progressed since last I was there, although they do supply heritage and rare breeds.

    The expo is quite good, and I met a bloke who makes hand tools for rolling large logs. It is a clever tool as it bites into the timber and then acts as a lever. Couldn’t walk past one of those tools. And we tested it out this afternoon on old logging tree stumps – and they moved with a certain sort of nonchalant ease with which I’d previously not seen outside the use of fossil fuel powered hydraulic machines. An elegant hand tool. He mentioned in passing that the tool was constructed from bisalloy which is a stronger form of steel. Although clearly he didn’t consider that the editor or I were interested in the tool because we didn’t look ‘country’ enough. Amusingly, sometimes I even found myself speaking with other people there with a bit of a slight drawl to my voice. At such occasions, I like to use that voice when I’m making insightful comments or witty observations. I feel it adds something to the discussion.

    Anyway, we didn’t come back with alpacas, sheep or Dexter cows, although I did like the thought of a Dexter cow as they’re about the right size for me: i.e. small. And I’m slowly starting to warm to the idea of having roosters again, but it might take a few years of thawing before I can seriously consider that. Anyway, I’d need to work out a second living arrangement for the chickens and that is not yet clear to me. It is complicated. I did see a nice bantam rooster, and I’m quite fond of bantam roosters if only because they can’t be too mean to the hens or myself. The second last rooster I had, well it didn’t end up so good for him. I woke up at 5am one morning – not my finest hour – and thought to myself: I’ve had a gut full of your rubbish – and that was that. He used to give me stink eye, and then attack me. And he’d killed one of the laying hens the previous day. Some roosters have very bad attitudes. But then I’ve also had commercial breeds of hens that have had psychotic episodes – that was a messy business which I had to finalise.

    All up we had fun, and lunch was a very tasty kransky sausage with beetroot, coleslaw, fried onions, cheese and American mustard in bun. Thoroughly enjoyable!

    Your flair in the kitchen would put you in good stead of knowing how to cook with the stuff you produce. I’m amazed when people grow produce and then just don’t eat it or have no idea what to do with it. And I’m even more amazed at how little people know about cooking. I love food.

    Lewis, I hope the armoured truck doesn’t have a camera and notices that you have been there more often than not when they arrive! Hehe! Thanks for the laughs, your timing is impeccable. A hugely long time ago I used to work for a business that handled a lot of cash – in small denominations. It was a nightmare of a business to be involved with and those pick up people never tell you in advance when they are going to arrive and pick up the cash – for obvious reasons. I tried to chat to them to see what it was all about, and they told me that they can drive the truck away from the scene using remote control from a bloke inside the truck. They said the best thing to do in a problem was to get the cash away as quickly as possible. A bonkers industry.

    Yeah, the public conservatories (there are very few) down here are full of exotic tropical plants which are probably well suited to the warm and humid environment. I’d never considered looking at them as a long term workable greenhouse. Hmm. I’ve never seen a cold frame before. I may just have the right materials (polycarbonate) for that. It would save on transplant shock too. Nobody that I’ve ever seen uses them down here, but I reckon theyโ€™d work.

    Yeah, it is probably too warm for rye to be grown down here when bread wheat will grow more easily. Hey, speaking of hot and dry, oh my, when I headed north to see the expo, far out it is dry up that way. The paddocks look as if they’ve been eaten right down to the dirt and I see signs of feeding stalls in place. Mind you, plenty of barns appeared to have had good supplies of bales, but still – it was a bit of a shock to see – and it is less than an hour and half from here.

    Well yeah, that is one outcome, but I’m not entirely sure how much costs in relation to red tape, small businesses can take. It is probably not as great as people would think. There are problems that this initiative will address, but it is onerous for the majority of folks that are already doing the right thing โ€“ and the ones that arenโ€™t, probably wonโ€™t. Sometimes in my more cynical moments I suspect that people have taken Star Trek too literally and the powers that be want everyone to work for one big corporation (i.e. the federation in that instance). Not everyone can or wants to earn a living writing code for goodle (sic).

    Yeah, it is true, and I don’t fear that going to the doctors is going to bankrupt me (although it might be possible). I used a sharp needle to dig the thorn out and then chucked on a bit of methylated spirits (not much can live in that toxic stuff).

    Hey, even on an architectural front there are gains to be had from siting and positioning a building. It is only us lot these days that want to orient a house according to a road – which may or most likely wonโ€™t, bear any relevance to the landscape.

    Has anything been discovered about the precise orientation of the buildings? It sounds fascinating – and you know it might be a wholly different way of looking at the world?

    Ooo! I’m enjoying the article on the burning. The act if used slowly and carefully, allows for a build up of the top soil. It is good stuff. From what I saw today, the land could use a bit of help.

    Hey nice earthy colours with the vase. I saw a couple of bookends the other day that were two cats facing away from each other. And they were blue!

    Cheers

    Chris

  55. Hi Inge,

    Don’t laugh but I have seen people use hugely strong tow ropes tied to vehicles to do that trick with the trees. You would have to make sure the tow rope was longer than the height of the tree – for obvious reasons…

    Your son is very dutiful to have attempted to rope the tree so as to please you. Bifurcated (or would that be tri- in your case) trees are often problematic as I’ve found one or more of the branches eventually gives way. You were probably lucky nothing landed on your house as I’m not convinced that trees and houses play that nicely together. They can, but down here it is not good. I reckon the willow will regrow from the root system, but that is easily managed.

    We might get harder steel in our chainsaw chains because all of the woods are hardwoods, but then I’ve never cut willow before so I canโ€™t make a comparison and am only guessing. Chains have to be kept very sharp at the best of times and it doesn’t take much dirt at all for them to rapidly go blunt. If you have to use a chainsaw a lot, you get good at sharpening the chain through lots of practice!

    Oh yeah… I heard a theory once that some strange historic episodes have been attributed to ergot poisoning. It still appears in rye crops from what I understand and your warning…

    Soon it will be spring in your part of the world! We are in that in-between weather and today was a superb day 75’F, sunny and still. But up north today at the expo, far out, it looked dry up there and was hotter.

    Cheers

    Chris

  56. Hello again

    I am happy to say that it is not possible to bring any vehicle close to my property. Son may not agree but I think that the advantages
    outweigh the disadvantages. He does sharpen his own chainsaw blades. The willow will certainly re-grow from the stumps which is fine, it just won’t be permitted to get so large.

    Inge

  57. Chris:

    Our zucchini – no matter what variety tried – has a tendency to succumb to mildew and other blights, leaves and fruit. We have a big problem with stinkbugs, too, who not only eat the plant, but carry and spread the diseases. We killed so many stink bugs last year that surely there will be less this year?

    The butternuts are not much bothered by disease or stinkbugs. They often start themselves from seeds in the compost by choosing the most fertile places in the garden. They can stand a bit of shade, too, ever appreciated here. The only pest they have is a borer that shows up as the fruit begins to ripen and we get around that by covering every, umm, pumpkin squash (?) with a plastic bag. The ones that do get borers don’t always go bad, but enough do that we don’t like to take a chance.

    We did grow peanuts once and some monster ate them. Our garden is full of monsters. My part of the country, especially further south in sandier soils, is well-known for its peanut farms. They would certainly be an annual where my house is. I have grown ginger as an annual, too, but it needed a really long growing season (11 months?) and we started them inside in the fall and planted them planted them out 6 months later. We don’t seem to have enough sun – though they are suppose to take some shade – for ginger.

    I am indeed finding out that I can tolerate my own sourdough white flour/rye bread where I can’t tolerate other things with gluten. Happy days, as it sure was hard smelling that bread cooking, but not having any.

    Would the hand tool for rolling large logs be on the internet anywhere? It sounds intriguing.

    I checked out Dexter cows years ago when I thought we might want a cow. That would be my choice if I had a cow. At the time I decided that I didn’t need another mouth to feed.

    Pam

  58. @ Inge:

    Years ago I grew a bit of oats and the thought of ergot made me hesitant to eat any as I wasn’t sure how to tell if they had it. Now I could at least get some ideas off the internet.

    Pam

  59. Hi Chris,
    My students were all considered “at risk” which covered a lot of issues one of which was lack of parental involvement. There is a happy medium and my kids parents were on the other end of the spectrum from the helicopter parents of today.
    You are correct about micromanaging kids today and over scheduling as well.

    Now I’m worried they’ll start charging for paper statements here. I don’t bank on line as I figure the less exposure on the internet the less chance of being hacked or identity theft.

    I’ve got three estates open right now, my MIL’s, Patrick’s and Michael’s. My mother-in-law’s will be done after I do the final tax return within a month. Patrick’s is nearing an end and Michael’s, due to lawyer dragging her feet, isn’t even open yet. Both Patrick’s was to be closed and Michael’s opened two weeks ago and as luck would have it the date was one of the two days during the polar vortex the courts in Chicago were closed so they’ve now been rescheduled to March.

    I’ve had to go to the DMV from time to time and have learned what days/times are best as far as waiting. I have to get my driver’s license renewed this year and am hoping I don’t have to take any tests.

    I plan to make some elderberry wine this year as we have lots of them growing and as long as I can get to them before the birds….

    Marty will sort it out. He didn’t seem concerned. He has a wonderful case worker who’s really got his number. She had already told me about the unlabeled boxes. She said, “I told him to label his boxes and not to pack his food but of course he didn’t label them and did pack his non perishable food. That was at least three weeks ago and he’s not moving for two more weeks. No, I don’t think he’ll get rid of any of the decorations though he said he did get rid of two large bags of clothes. He also has quite a bit of his girlfriend’s stuff there as well.

    The one bread I miss is rye bread – yum.

    The farming expo you linked in a comment to Lew looks great. I remember going to a couple of those years ago when I had many more animals.

    Margaret

  60. Hi Chris,

    You’re right that I grow ginger. I’ve done so two different ways. The first was to sprout the tubers in a pot, plant them into the garden in June, let them grow, and then dig them up and put them into a pot in late September. They did OK but got shaded by other plants. The next year I thought, why not just leave the tubers in the pot and grow them like the other container plants that I leave out in the summer and bring in before winter? And that actually worked better.

    Ginger needs tropical warmth. It goes dormant by November on our unheated (except by the sun) glassed-in sun-facing porch and doesn’t wake up again till early June, even in our consistently warm summer climate. I keep the dormant plants in the house in their pots, not watering them so the tubers don’t rot, until the porch is really warm, which is around early May. Then I put the pots on the porch and start watering them, moving the pots outside by late May. About the time I think the tubers have died for good, they put up shoots. Then the shoots grow really fast. I might pot them on this year to get the tubers to grow bigger, but that seems to only need doing every few years.

    Claire

  61. @ Lew – I’ve been to the pyramidal mound you mentioned! It’s part of Cahokia Mounds, in Illinois about a 20 minute drive from our house. The mounds are part of a community that was more populous than any European city at the time (c. 900-1200AD). Most of the mounds were flattened for agricultural purposes but Monks Mound (the pyramid) and a number of others remain. Some mounds were excavated by archeologists; it appears that human sacrifice was practiced there, influenced in some way by Mesoamerican cultures who practiced it around the same time. The remaining mounds are now a World Heritage Site. Besides the mounds, there is a recreated astronomical feature on the site, Woodhenge, a circular area with tall vertical wooden posts. It’s thought that a similar feature existed at that same place when the community was active. Also there is a museum interpreting the mounds, with the obligatory gift shop, and programs are held near but not on the solstices and equinoxes, and I think at other times as well.

    Claire

  62. Yo, Chris – Corn can also be braided into drying bunches, like garlic. Beyond my skills.

    The Seymour Expo looked really interesting. Especially, the Country Kitchen, section. Sounds like the logging tool might be a peavey. If you’d thrown around that word, the vendor might have given you a bit more respect :-). I took a look at the Dexter cows. They’re a fine looking breed. Of course you know all about cows being “dry” and cows being “fresh”? ๐Ÿ™‚

    If I get a bit of food I don’t know what to do with, I generally browse through the indexes of my many cookbooks. The last resort is the internet.

    I seem to remember that cold frames also make hardening off, a bit easier. You can just prop open the top, during the day. Growing taller stuff is a problem. I expect some of your other contributor gardeners, to chime in here, with more detailed information.

    There’s plenty of dystopian sci-fi, out there, where corporations pretty much take over the world. Or, war with each other.

    The two blue cats bookends sound very nice. Wonder if they were from Australia’s Diana Pottery Company? Probably not. I got all the stuff I went after at the antique mall. The Weller vase, the monk bookend. A small pre-WWII German china bird, for my avery. And, a miniature Chinese (?) pagoda, in soap stone. When I was looking on E-Bay at Weller “Forest” I noticed a tea pot, in that pattern which is a real killer (I mean that in a good way.). Pretty pricey. I researched around, and it doesn’t seem like they made creamer, sugar or cups and saucers, to match. That seems incomplete … probably a good thing, as that way lays maddness! :-). I like my vase, as it’s got a bit of blue on it. Sky peeking through the trees. Cont.

  63. Cont. Native Americans seemed very concerned with the six directions. The cardinal points, and up (the sky) and down (the underworld. From which they came, according to many of their legends.) They laid their cities out on north-south, east-west grids. There were usually markers or monuments to mark the solstices and equinox.

    Pueblo Bonito (c. 1000 CE) was one massive building with 6-800 rooms, 4 (or five) stories, and covered over 2 acres. It’s at Chaco Canyon in New Mexico. It has two major E/W, N/S walls, whose shadows disappear on the solstices. It’s the largest of several similar complexes in one valley.

    Cahokia, out side of St. Louis in Illinois had a huge wood hendge, to track solar events.

    There was one Mayan city, that had a building that didn’t quit sit square on it’s block. It was, to use a highly technical and scientific term, a bit wonky. Every other building in the place aligns with the sun or moon. They’ve recently discovered that this one aligns with … Venus.

    Well, I polished off “Royal Nanny”, and now I’m onto reading “Little” (Carey, 2018). Another historic novel, about Madam Tussaud, of wax museum fame.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marie_Tussaud

    I got a few chapters into it, last night, and it’s shaping up to be a “good read.”

    We’re going to have a spell of rain, sun and cold temperatures. Way out next Tuesday / Wednesday, there’s a mention, again, of possible snow. We’ll see. Lew

  64. Chris,

    I agree that anything from the compost pile will have diverse goodies in it. We’ll see about the bagged leaves – this is a test with the soil you suggested that I add. If that doesn’t do much, then maybe I’ll try some of the kitchen waste in the bags.

    Big Bertha performed well, thank you. And I’ll spare everybody some sad jokes. As you surmised, she is the big snowblowing machine: the intake is about 50cm wide with a strong motor. Had to play with her again tonight: +1C with 6cm of wet and heavy stuff. Bertha does NOT like wet snow, so she does not throw it as far as she does the dry powdery stuff. And this stuff is icky, as there’s a nice thin sheen of ice underneath. That might disappear tomorrow because it should get up to +1or +2 C again. Dunno.

    And the 2 week forecast? Low temps Sunday and Monday -15C, then through at least March 1st lows between -7C and -12C with highs maybehaps reaching -3C. This is cold even for January and rare, but not unheard of, for approaching March.

    A lot of companies don’t want us to pay by cheque any longer. Some retail businesses don’t want to accept cash either, but still will if you get pushy. In the USA, we’ve had too many businesses and government agencies get hacked for me to be comfortable. I was a victim of one of those. So, if forced, I will use a credit card, as it will provide much more protection than will a debit card tied to my bank account.

    I agree, the e-school thing will leave a lot of people behind. I totally dislike the idea.

    Once upon a time there were mainframes with many terminals. These were slow during peak use. Then we got PCs, which were fast. Then the PCs got networked, but were still very fast. Now all the data and most programs are on the cloud, and things are slower than the mainframes ever were. And sometimes clouds can rain, so what will that do to our data?

    2 hours of pushing Bertha, gets me a long, hot shower. I’m a man who’s tired by golly, king of the snow. (Apologies to Roger Miller and “King of the Road” fans.)

    DJSpo

  65. Hi Inge,

    I understand your reticence regarding vehicles coming near to your property. Well of course, your quiet enjoyment also has some disadvantages and that is part of life – and I live with that too.

    Good to read that your son sharpens his own chainsaw chain. It is not a complicated task to do with a hand file. As a sad tale, I once loaned a chainsaw many long years ago to someone who blunted the chain, and then complained to me about how rubbish the machine was. As a result of the persons misuse of the machine, the case was damaged… I rarely loan tools nowadays.

    Cheers

    Chris

  66. Hi Pam,

    Of course, your summers may be more humid than the summers I experience, so the humidity means the fungi occasionally have a field day with your produce. I dug up a white truffle today…

    Yikes! Please keep your stink bugs up in the northern hemisphere. What a name too.

    Butternuts sound like very sensible plants. Do you relocate them once they appear in your compost pile? I get that about the borer. Cantaloupe grows very easily here, but the time between the melons turning ripe and millipedes consuming them is about a day – and if I miss that window of opportunity…

    Oh! That is quite a long growing season for peanuts. I probably couldn’t replicate that trick here, but maybe a cold frame might work? Dunno. Here’s to living in the mountains!

    Yeah, good for you, and the note at the bakery suggested that the increased numbers of goodies consuming the gluten in the sour dough starter was the reason for the difference.

    I’ll put a photo of the tool on the next blog. It’s ingenious and takes a lot of effort out of rolling logs.

    Exactly, I get that. People fail to understand just how much feeding is required, and then they expect that food comes from some source elsewhere (a magical place to be sure). The chickens here require half an acre of land set aside to produce grains purely for their consumptionโ€ฆ

    Cheers

    Chris

  67. Hi Margaret,

    Sometimes parental involvement in education can be a negative thing, although I was pretty much left to my own devices to pick and choose subjects at High School. But yes, I understand that that would not be a path that everyone would be comfortable with.

    Thanks. I reckon over scheduling is a real problem, and people always tell me how busy they are. Of course I tell them that I’m busy too, but sometimes social lies are required to smooth the ways. But yeah, over scheduling is a real problem and from what I’ve seen it leads to a sort of burnout, or maybe some sort of heightened state of anxiety? I dunno, but it isn’t a good thing to do.

    I have little choice as to logging onto a banks system, and the system has been setup to ensure that is the way it is. You are extraordinarily lucky to be able to avoid that circumstance.

    The wheels of that particular system grind slowly indeed. Eventually you’ll be free of its clutches, but nobody would have picked that the courts would be closed due to the polar vortex. At least the matters are not pressing with lives hanging in the balance.

    Hmm, there has been a bit of talk down here about re-testing, and drivers can be referred to the authorities for re-testing if members of the public believes they are a menace. Honestly, I do wonder about the future in that regard.

    Elderberry wine is probably a good hit of Vitamin C in the depths of winter. But don’t dismiss the elderflowers too as they make an outstanding wine.

    It is really nice that Marty has a girlfriend, and I can’t even begin to imagine the mischief those two would end up in. There is a sort of sweetness to that story. But, as a gut feeling, I’d have to suggest that the non perishable food is not at risk, and I do hope he is more careful with the perishable stuff! ๐Ÿ™‚ He’ll be fine, with a few dramas thrown into the mix just for good measure.

    Yeah, the farming expo was really good. In prior years they had seed merchants and I was hoping to get my hands on some sweet sorghum, but alas there was none to be found.

    Cheers

    Chris

  68. Hi Claire,

    Thanks for sharing your experience with growing ginger in your climate. Interesting. I do wonder whether the tubers grown in the pot did better because the pot was above ground and the warm air kept the tubers warmer than they would otherwise have been if planted in the ground? Dunno – that was just a wild guess?

    The reason I asked was because the ginger tubers sprout in the cupboards here where I keep them. One year I planted a ginger tuber out, but I believe that it was out-competed which is similar to your story.

    The hot and dry conditions since the start of the year have caused a few of the camellia’s to go toes up. The tea camellia gets much better watering, so it seems to be doing OK. The past week or so has been cooler, and I noticed today that one of the strawberry plants produced a berry – which was quite tasty. It is a complicated business this stuff and every year the climate is slightly different and produces different challenges.

    Cheers

    Chris

  69. Hi Lewis,

    Braiding corn may be beyond my skills too. Interestingly, some of the smaller cobs did not set as well as the larger cobs, and there are spots where a person would expect to find kernels โ€“ and there arenโ€™t. Although, I mustnโ€™t grumble because kernels still cover about 80% of the cob – and they still taste good, but there is a lesson in there for me, and I have only saved seeds from well developed cobs. Sometimes you have to employ a bit of ruthlessness with selection of vegetable seeds for future seasons.

    You already knew of the peavey! ๐Ÿ™‚ It is an awesome tool and will stop me from having to get up close and personal with very large logs. That is sometimes a problem due to snakes, ants, scorpions and pretty much a whole bunch of critters that get annoyed with me rolling logs. I first saw them in use two years ago at the same expo, and they were being used in tandem with a husband and wife team who were demonstrating, and selling portable saw mills. The two of them were moving huge logs into place and then milling them. I was suitably impressed. I just hadn’t seen any for sale since that time, then forgot about them. The one I purchased was superbly made and is incredibly strong. It should have a very long lifespan. It is a funny tool, because not many people would have a use for such a tool. The expo is a bit of a sales pitch, but you see things and learn things. The snake handler bloke was fascinating and had nerves of steel โ€“ and sold me a snake bite kit (it wonโ€™t save you from imminent death, however it will buy you some time).

    The cooking demonstrations are good – and there are all manner of tents where serious lectures take place. And a steam engine society brought along a working calliope – and it sounded really good! Although the instruments may have a bad reputation as the music has been used off-key for some horror films. I was enviously inspecting the workings of all of their fascinating steam engines. What surprised me about the steam engines is that they are very quiet, especially when compared to the average internal combustion engine. It was quite a gentle: chug, chug, chug.

    Just had to interrupt replying to consume some tasty corn chowder. Yummo!

    The other day I asked a friend for advice in relation to a minor matter with one of the chickens, and they asked me whether I goodled (sic) the question using the interweb? Nope. Your words about it being a vast echo chamber were on my mind, and it is hard to discuss matters on interweb sites. On the other hand, fixed interweb pages do very well at talking at us all. Like your recipes, what if the conditions aren’t exactly what the interweb page prefers to talk about? I dunno.

    Thanks for mentioning the cold frame, as I’d never heard of them before – and nobody uses them down here, but they would probably seriously help with the sort of spring I had last year. I’m going to see whether I can come up with a design that stacks reasonably flat in the off season, as they’ll only be required for about two months. Maybe an A-frame arrangement? Dunno.

    I try not to read such sci-fi, if only because I just don’t have the free time, and reading is one of the pleasures of my life. We went to the local cafe this afternoon, and that was after having worked outside in the hot morning and midday sun. And whilst reading a book, I also enjoyed a lime spider (basically lemonade, some sort of green colouring, and ice cream). It wasn’t my usual order, but you know, I wasn’t entirely sure today about how an ice coffee would go down after a long work day in the hot sun.

    Hardly! Hehe! No, the blue cat book ends looked as though they had an Asian influence. Actually it was almost a bit art deco as the cats were a bit out of proportion as they were taller than one would expect. A touch of artistic license perhaps?

    A tidy haul. You never mentioned that the bookend was of a monk. Does it have a sort of Friar Tuck look about it? Very funny about your avery. On the other hand, weren’t you looking after a cockatiel at one stage? My memory isn’t so good these days… I quite like soap stone carvings and you see a few of them down this way. I’ve had this urge to place a few gargoyles around the property, but haven’t quite found any ceramic ones that are large enough. Ah yes, we have discussed the difficulties of completing ones collection! Run, Lewis, Run! ๐Ÿ™‚ I quite liked the Forest depicted in the Weller Vase, it had a certain whimsy to it. Were those ceramics made in small run batches?

    It was very wise of the Native Americans in that city to have placed markers for the solstices and equinoxes, as that would be most useful information for the farmers in that district. It isn’t lost on me just how out of touch with the seasons most people are these days. I’ve almost finished the third book of the ‘World made by hand’ series and I enjoyed one of the characters (Andrew Prendergast) dropping in a bit of useful information about calculating time based on tables of sunset and sunrise. I would have enjoyed knowing such a useful person as that character.

    Cahokia was a truly fascinating rabbit hole, and yes I can well understand the interest in the Woodhenge. But a copper smith too? Good stuff. As an idle thought, I do also wonder if the mounds served a practical purpose during floods? And note to self, don’t mess with their priests – that would not end well. When I was in Peru, for some reason, explorers brought mummified remains off remote high peaks, and the story was told that the victims went willingly to meet their fate (with a bit of assistance). I went to see one exhibit when I was there, out of I guess morbid curiosity, but after having seen it I was pretty sure that I hadn’t done the right thing in that instance, but how do you know such things up front?

    Have you ever had the chance to visit Madame Tussauds exhibitions in your country?

    Possible snow, sort of sounds ominous to me given how feral the last batch was. The weather here has turned abruptly cooler, but still remains dry. They had some bad fires and very hot weather up in NSW last week.

    Cheers

    Chris

  70. Hi DJ,

    Yeah, do the experiment with the compost and the leaves, and then you’ll know for sure. I assume the bags with the leaves are plastic and are well sealed for the winter? That might create a low oxygen environment, but I can’t imagine much biological activity is going on in there anyway with the sort of weather you’ve been enjoying.

    What the heck did the folks in your part of the world do before Big Bertha? It would be a difficult job. And ice too… Dare I mention that during the next week it will be around the 70’s here. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Hey, the chainsaw artists weren’t at the expo. I was going to get you a photo of a chainsawed (Iโ€™m unsure of the correct word there) wombat or eagle or something like that, but no, they were not present this year.

    What a difference a world away makes. I try to pay cash as often as possible down here, and am always asked if I want a receipt. If you tried down here to pay with a check at a retail store, they’d believe that you were trying to act all shifty like – and probably wouldn’t take the check โ€“ but mostly there would be plenty of people who had never seen them before and wouldnโ€™t have a clue what to do with them. The hacking goes on down here too. There was quite a famous case of interweb shenanigans when the last census took place. Believe it or not the authorities suggested that it was impossible to hack their system. Red flag to a bull that one.

    I dislike the e-school idea immensely.

    Absolutely. And once your data is on an interweb based service, has anyone thought about how to remove ones data should they no longer wish to utilise the service? Not so easy and for good reason.

    Thanks for the laughs. I can’t even imagine what that job would be like.

    Cheers

    Chris

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