A few days ago I looked at my face in the mirror. I’d liked to believe that I was ageing well, but then the mirror reflected the face of some old dude back at me. Who was this old dude with weather beaten skin and the greying beard staring back at me? Despite the gradual replacement of the red colour in my beard with a sandy grey, I still feel young. But then time has this curious habit of eating away at the hours.

Some people have regrets, and I can understand the feeling of loss that a regret would induce. On the other hand, my brain is not really wired to feel the feelings of regret, so that isn’t a particular problem for me. As far as I can understand the world, sometimes you can take action or not, and other times the action that you do take, closes off other options. Life is perhaps better described as being, err, complex.

Anyway, it is fortunate not to suffer the awful feelings of regret, because a few months ago I discontinued my paid subscription of the local state newspaper. Between the two dominant stories of US election politics and the health subject which dare not be named, I was bored to death with the news of the day. Surely other things were going on in the world? But no, those two stories appeared to dominate the daily news, every freakin’ day.

And even a decent cappuccino and serving of delicious fruit toast slathered in melted butter, was not enough to convince me to delve again into murky depths of the newspaper of the day. Nope, the contents of the newspaper were not nearly enticing enough, and so I have substituted the newspaper with fictional books. Now at least I can enjoy better written fiction and with a side serving of a decent coffee and fruit toast.

Waiting patiently in a queue the other day at the local cafe, so as to order a coffee and serving of fruit toast, I happened to read the headlines in the newspaper which suggested that the US elections had reached their nadir, and the suggestion was that the media and current opposition party were calling a win in their favour. What? Why are our newspapers and news media in Australia full of this story? I guess some mysteries you just have to carry around with you. Thankfully I had my fiction book with me and could then go back to enjoying the nice spring morning air, albeit whilst wearing a mask.

Bizarrely, my High School – not the hippy dippy High School, but the latter more English than the English grammar school – provided me with quite a good education in the history of politics in this country. The teacher was beyond good, and the students even spent part of each class discussing political events of the day. One concept that was impressed upon me was that elections are legal processes.

It is worth noting that legal processes don’t have to have just outcomes, they don’t even have to make much sense, they just have to follow the established process or introduce an incremental addition to the existing process. That’s how they work, and I expect the US election process, of which I’m hearing way too much about, works more or less the same.

From my perspective, the media doesn’t dictate the narrative, and neither does the government nor opposition parties. Nope, it is the process itself which determines the outcome. Unfortunately, people seem to be investing a whole bunch of emotional energy into the outcome. The emotional tone sort of reminds me of the many stories I know of people attempting to obtain a planning permit from the local council. A planning permit is simply a legal notice of approval from the local council (local government) so that a person can construct a house, or undertake alterations to an existing house, on their property.

Obtaining a planning permit is simply a matter of following the process. It’s a legal process after all, and it is extraordinarily complicated. But it is not an impossible process to follow. The permit application process journey for the house on this farm took me several folders worth of documentation, and at every stage in that journey I addressed and responded to the legislation and dealt with any queries raised by the local council. Emotions were the last thing that should be raised in that particular process.

Unfortunately, a lot of people whom I have spoken with over the years in relation to their permit application process, seem rather swept away in the emotions of the journey. Most of the heartache involves people not wanting to, or perhaps being unable to follow the permit application process. It is a very complicated system after all, but it demands adherence. Talk of justice or fairness has nothing at all to do with such a system. That is the thing with such systems, they don’t have to be fair.

But getting back to politics. I’m hearing so much about US politics, that perhaps the fairness scales might need to be balanced off a bit by mentioning some fun facts from tha annals of Australian politics. So for the American readers, here goes:

  • In 1967 we lost a Prime Minister. Like seriously lost him. He disappeared one day whilst snorkeling, and many theories have been thrown around, usually involving sharks and/or foreign submarines. For all I know, aliens could have been involved and the case has never been formally solved. As a sign of the irreverent Australian humour, this particular lost Prime Minister has been immortalised by a memorial swimming pool.
  • Speaking of things lost, another former Prime Minister once famously lost his pants in a motel in Memphis, allegedly known to be frequented by prostitutes and drug dealers. The newspapers made much of the story, but nobody seemed to really care and it hardly seemed to tarnish his reputation.
  • Between 2007 and 2018 we’ve had six Prime Ministers, including one who came back for a second go. It having worked out so well the first time around, and all.
  • A Prime Minister in 1945 lasted eight days. Surely this is a record?
  • In 2007 the Prime Minister elect admitted drunkenly visiting a strip club in New York while representing Australia at the United Nations. His popularity soared in Australia and the muckrakers were probably upset that they weren’t invited on the night.
  • In 2010 we had a Prime Minister who was female, child free and an atheist. She also had lovely red hair which I liked far more than the media did! Imagine such a leader in the US!
  • And an honourable mention must go to Billy Snedden, not a Prime Minister but rather an Opposition Leader, who died in 1987 at a motel in the intimate company of an ex-girlfriend of his son. An act that is a bit ‘Bill and Ted’ really! A racy newspaper of the day declared that unfortunately “Snedden died on the job”.

So yeah, politics can be far more interesting than the emotional content currently being reported in the newspapers. And if you think politics is bad now, spare a thought for the good folks of Ancient Rome who in 238 AD who had six Emperor’s in one year. That even beats the Australian record for the turnover of national leaders mentioned above. The Romans didn’t muck around either, and clearly didn’t need sharks to disappear Emperor’s that year. I’ll bet the knives were kept way sharp! So yes, things could always get worse / more entertaining.

These were all the things that flashed through my mind as I inspected my ageing face in the mirror. Could be better, could be worse, but most likely things are on the decline.

Storm clouds rolled along the valley this morning

The weather has been fairly warm this week. Each day we get that bit closer to summer. As vegetable seedlings leave the greenhouse and get planted out, we’ve also had to set up the watering system and mollycoddle the seedlings until they are well established. Up until today, we’ve been watering by hand several times per day, but now the automatic dripper-hose watering system has been set up on the five garden terraces, and also programmed for action. Other parts of the farm are manually watered, and the job of watering can take up a surprising amount of time each day, so I really appreciate the job the water robot does.

Dripper hoses were laid out in this garden terrace
Plum inspects the job of laying out the dripper hoses on this garden terrace
Dripper hoses provide water to these seedlings for ten minutes three times per day

The farm operates using tank water, and the tanks refill from rainfall collected from the roof spaces for the house and sheds. There is only a finite amount of water stored and available to use, and we’ve found over the years that the dripper hose system is the most effective way to get water to vegetables and berries which require extra watering. The orchards rarely receive any additional water than the stuff that falls out of the sky. Also, as we save seed from year to year, the various plants selected get hardier to the locla conditions.

The greenhouse is also manually watered for a few minutes once each day. The seedlings growing in there don’t require any additional watering.

The seedlings in the greenhouse only require a minute or two of watering each day

The greenhouse is in it’s first season of use, and how we ever managed to grow seedlings in earlier years is a true mystery. The greenhouse has given us a real head start on the growing season. And we’ve begun trialling a lot of new crops, such as two varieties of peanuts. The peanuts have germinated now that the weather is slowly warming up.

Peanuts have germinated over the past week

Despite the reasonably warm to hot weather, the various seedlings planted out seem to be doing OK.

Recently planted out Corn seedlings appear to be growing well

Growing conditions in the many garden beds are very good this season. The many garden beds contain flowering plants of all sorts as well as some small trees like Japanese Maples. All of these plants provide feed and housing for the many reptiles, insects and small birds which live on the farm. Those little critters work hard towards pollinating and pest control on the rest of the farm, and it is rare to have a problem on either front. But really, we also just enjoy the riot of colour. At this time of year, the garden beds explode with growth, and sometimes paths and staircases simply disappear under the foliage.

Ollie ponders crashing through the greenery and bouncing down the stairs

We have a couple of electric mains powered hedge trimmers, which get put to good use trimming back the vegetation. And best of all, the power for these machines comes straight from the sun. The vegetation which gets hacked back and removed is simply thrown onto areas where new garden beds are becoming established. Eventually the stuff breaks down into very rich soil.

The elusive Editor wields an electric hedge trimmer

The job is not finished as it takes a few days to complete. But at least paths are beginning to open up again.

Plum approves that some of the paths are beginning to open up again

And some of the staircases providing important access can now be used again.

Staircases providing access to other parts of the farm can now be accessed

Every month or so I get some guys up to help work around the farm. I call the guys the tree dudes, and they work hard and we have a good long term working arrangement. This week, we got the tree dudes to begin cutting up a collection of logs into discs. The Editor and I will split the discs into chunks of firewood over the next month or so. Believe it or not the logs are well over a decade old – and they are almost as good as the day they were placed there.

The tree dudes worked hard this week cutting up an old pile of logs into discs
Over a decade on the ground, and this log shows much drying, but very little damage from having sat out in the weather all those years

In other farm news:

Fingers crossed that the orchards will produce a reasonable sized crop of fruit this year.

Plums are beginning to put on some size
Apples look set to produce better this year than any previous year

The plants in the fern gully are growing quite well. So far only one tree fern was believed to be dead after last summers two months of crazy hot and dry weather. But no, the tree fern has bounced back from the dead and a new frond is now forming.

A new frond has just appeared in what was thought to be a dead tree fern

Onto the flowers:

The forest floor is full of wildflowers like this Dichondra
Blue Iris’s look spectacular
Red Iris’s are also very showy
This exotic Clematis vine was presumed dead last year, but no
A hedge of Rhododendron’s grow along the driveway above a line of Agapanthus
Gazania’s are very hardy and also very showy
The Succulent terrace is growing very well
Dozens of Roses grow among the vegetables on the terraces
It’s early days but the Blackberry enclosure should supply enough berries for months of jam which is enjoyed during the cold of winter

The temperature outside now at about 8.00am is 16’C (61’F). So far this year there has been 1058.8mm (41.7 inches) which is up from last weeks total of 1036.0mm (40.8 inches).