Behind the scenes

Last week the final key strokes of the blog were completed. The essay was re-read from start to finish, a few edits were made, and then the call went out: “Oi! Are you ready to edit?” It must have been about 11pm on the Sunday night, and the idea of bed had become an appealing prospect. The editor responded to the question in the affirmative.

I particularly liked the title of last week’s blog which I’d totally ripped blindly from a very catchy song from a now obscure 90’s Australian band. It is worth noting that titles are not subject to copyright! And anyway, bringing such excellent rarities to the light of day is a personal goal and also something of a challenge. I sat next to the editor as she read through the 2,000 words of the blog. Upon completion of the task of editing, the editor turned to me and with a searching look of a person who is about to deal a hammer blow. She casually remarked: “Not your best blog.”

Crestfallen is a state of mind that some would wallow in upon hearing such a blistering critique of several hours of their literary artwork. An intrepid blog author however can blithely ignore such words, such folks are made of sterner stuff and critics be dammed. But upon grudging acceptance, the editor might have had a valid point. My initial response was to quip that after six years of weekly essays, you can’t deliver solid hits every week. Anyway, what the heck it’s a hobby and I’m not asking for payment from anyone for the words.

Which reminds me that as an interesting side story, I actually used to get paid to write the sort of essays that can be read here for free. My venue of choice for writing was what might politely be described of as: The hippy press, and it’s various magazines. The writing was great fun and I enjoyed the act immensely.

Of course there were the occasional controversial moments, like when I was invited to write an article on water. Long term readers will probably realise that I enjoy a fart joke as much as the next twelve year old (or an adult with the equivalent sense of humour). I ended up writing a really funny story about water and chucked in the theme of bubbles. The story was not devoid of technical merit as lots of technical and useful information was slipped into the silly story. There is no reason why people can’t be informed and entertained concomitantly.

Who would have thought that bubbles could be controversial? The editor did the photo shot that accompanied the silly article. And the photo was a hoot! So the editor got me to sit in the bath. Now bear in mind that it was late winter and it was freaking cold. So the editor decides to open the window (the bath overlooks the valley) so the accompanying background view could be appreciated. Instructions were for me to smile for the photo. Smiling was a bit far from my face that day due to the more practical side of me screaming that it was seriously cold. We had to work bubbles into the photo somehow, so the editor decides to chuck a huge chunk of bubbles and dump them on my head just before taking the photo. And I had to smile about it all. It ended up looking like some sort of bubble spoof Carmen Miranda photo.

But unbeknownst to the editor and I, it turned out that bubbles were highly controversial. The article and photo were published, and I happily banked the cheque and thought no more about it. The photo is probably lurking around the internet somewhere, and no doubts it will harm my future political career. It is a bit hard to explain after all. But by sheer chance I heard second hand and at a much later time, that apparently the publishing team at the magazine had had a serious arguments over the photo. Some of the team had apparently wanted to put my photo on the front cover of the magazine, yet cooler and senior heads prevailed, and a tried and true front cover (possibly an earth mother type with a chicken or clutch of vegetables to hand) was used instead. My moment in the public spotlight was lost. Alas fame alludes some people. I could have been the cold bubble guy, although now I’ve just typed that, it does sound a bit weird. Oh well.

The thing was, as the years went on I was paid less and less for the articles – even the really silly, yet informative ones. And near to the end of my paid writing career, the long silences and then the last minute demands from the publishers, kind of wore me down. But mostly, the publications couldn’t take the volume of words which I wanted to write. Added to that the number of magazines was in decline. We went our separate ways, and the world was no longer entertained with my silly stories and the occasional bubble-gate incident.

Back to the main story. The editor has been suggesting to me for quite a long while, in fact a few years now, that the story of how this blog came about should be told and provide background to the writing process. So far I’ve resisted, however the editor is a lovely person and the occasional act of indulgence does much good. Also I’ve noted that chocolate works on her too.

The act of creating the words and essays is an enjoyable process. I’m reading the background to John Steinbeck’s classic novel: “The Grapes of Wrath”. An excellent book and written in a really lovely cadence. Honestly I can’t write as well as the classic author does. But then when you read the preface and background to the story, the author appeared to be tortured by his creation. Such an experience is far removed from my reality which is that I usually sit at the desk, enjoy a glass of wine or sake, and just bang on about whatever was on my mind that weeek. The only torture going on here involves photos taken during cold weather, the hint of few clothes and lots of bubbles, and damaged future political careers.

It took three years of prevaricating between the final article submitted to the hippy press and the decision to commence writing a weekly blog. It is hard to be creative when you work as an accountant, and most creative accountants end up in the slammer, so there is little outlet in the professional sphere. However, the loss of the creative process of writing essays and stories, no matter how silly, was felt keenly. The decision was made.

However before commencing the writing process it became necessary to work out a format. The former Archdruid Report weekly blog, penned by the prolific author Mr John Michael Greer provided an excellent format. Formats are probably also not subject to copyright, and the format was ripped off blindly on the basis that the best ideas are usually other peoples! It is a good format, and the ongoing dialogue with readers is a really lovely touch, and the reading and replying to the comments brings me much joy.

It took a while to find my feet, but the blog eventually settled into a three part format: Story; What we did about the farm this week; and Flower images. The flower images were originally animal / wildlife photos and short stories, but after a few months I ran out of new wildlife to photograph. What we did about the farm this week is reasonably self explanatory, although one of the core themes which might get lost in all the background noise of these lazy days is just how much you can accomplish if you work at things consistently. The story component is just me banging on about something or other with some useful old school values thrown in for good measure. In times of decline such as the current craziness, well the old school values have stood the test of time and still work. Nuff said.

The stories themselves are generally what I’m thinking about during that week. It can be a minor or very innocuous incident which can leave me considering just what is the core story, value or theme relating to the incident. Generally I have scraps of paper hanging around and when such an incident or idea occurs, it gets noted down. Then during the course of the week, the idea gets chucked around my head and padded out to something in the order of 1,000 words more or less. And hopefully I can chuck some silliness into the story. The world is a remarkably humourless place these days, and it needn’t be that way.

The blog itself has become something of a training exercise for me. In my professional life I’m often required to explain complicated situations to people, and the art of telling a coherent and structured story on the fly has proven to be a rather valuable skill. Us humans think in terms of stories and narratives, and so being able to do so has genuinely assisted me.

From time to time over the years I have taken on guests posts. There is no pay for me, so there is no pay for them either, although they do enjoy home made dog biscuits. The dogs here occasionally write a guest post and the stories they tell are a bunch of fun. One of my favourites was the now sadly deceased Sir Poopy standing high above the other outraged dogs on the car trailer. He was looking very proud of himself in that particular pose. The car trailer contained Sir Poopy as well as three round raised garden beds. Sir Poopy was overheard speaking to the lesser dogs below him: Three rings to rule them all suckers! And the other dogs were outraged at the display of arrogance. The voices of the dogs are often aggressive and self absorbed, but they do actually care for each other and enjoy the company. They’re simply jostling for position all of the time. Sometimes you can almost hear them saying: “I’m going to kill you. And you are going to die, and it’ll be me that did it. But I guess we can share the bone”. Yes, a complicated worldview. The dogs sure are fun though and they are always up to mischief of some sort. And as they scamper around the farm I imagine what goes on in their heads.

For anyone who is remotely interested (and still reading by now), the blog gets four reviews and edits before being published. If you are going to do something, you might as well do it well.

The administration of the website is fairly easy, although the process has caused me to learn far more about the workings of the internet than I’d otherwise like to. If any SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) providers are reading this, then they need to get the hint and realise that there was no reply to the 50,000 other email offers for marketing assistance. They’re probably not reading… And hackers are a nuisance, but I take internet security seriously and do my best to repel their efforts.

That’s about it really. Onto whatever it was we did around the farm this week:

It’s not every week you get stopped by police at a road block and your identification is checked. The editor and I live in a small rural area that is currently not subject to lock down restrictions, and so the other day we were able to head out in search of gourmet pies and farm gate supplies. We encountered this in the middle of nowhere:

Surprise! A police rural road block due to COVID-19 lock down restrictions

If we were not meant to be there (A.K.A. locked down) the fines would have been epic.

The weather has been flip-flopping between superb and really inclement. The superb days brought often brought early morning fog with amazing colours in the atmosphere:

Amazing colours were spotted in a band above the fog early one morning

There was even a rogue fog wave – think Perfect Storm, but with clouds. If you look closely at the top right hand side of the cloud in the photo below you can even see the shape of a head of a dog:

A rogue fog wave

For a couple of days in a row, the mist was seriously thick and the rain fell.

Thick low cloud hang over the farm for a few days. Solar begone.

The lower driveway was partly widened. Agapanthus plants had grown so thick on one side of the driveway that we decided to remove them.

The much shrunk driveway before the Agapanthus plants were removed

The roots on those plants are massive and we had to use the jackhammer to break up the plants.

The jackhammer was used to break up the clumps of Agapanthus. Ollie helped.

Once the plants were removed, we could see the rockwall for the garden bed. The rocks looked a bit under sized and so we replaced them all with much larger rocks.

Larger rocks were brought down to fix the garden bed wall

The top layer of locally quarried crushed rock with lime was repaired, and the driveway looks pretty good now. This project will continue further at some future stage when a supply of suitable rocks is sourced.

After the some of the Agapanthus plants were removed from the lower driveway

A large rock on the end of the very highest garden terrace was also reduced in size by a third:

Many deep holes were drilled into the very large rock
The large rock was then split apart using the jackhammer. The smaller chunk was used on the driveway widening project.
The now smaller (yet still massive) rock was rolled onto the next terrace down

The section of fencing adjacent to the very large rock in the above photo was also completed. The fencing is quite strong in order to keep the wallabies (a forest kangaroo) out of the garden terraces.

The fencing on the terrace to my right in the above photo was completed

A photo taken from the bottom of the fern gully puts the five garden terraces into some perspective relative to the house and sheds.

The five garden terraces as seen from the bottom of the fern gully

Some of the woody mulch supplied by the nice electricity company was placed around the raised garden beds next to the house. The two sheep dog pups had been busy burying bones in there and had thoughtfully created a huge mess.

Woody mulch was placed around the raised garden beds next to the house. Puppies thwarted.

Onto the flowers:

A Rose flower forms in the depths of winter
Alpine Heath is a very cheery wildflower
This looks like a Plum blossom
Gazania’s are crazy colourful flowers
A very early Lavender flower forms
The terraced succulent garden bed produces plenty of flowers
In late winter the Hellebores put on a show

The temperature outside now at about 9.00am is 7’C (45’F). So far this year there has been 691.2mm (27.2 inches) which is up from last weeks total of 671.0mm (26.4 inches).