Took a phone call the other day from some bloke I barely know. He was asking me for assistance with a basic work problem. The thing is, the bloke made the mistake of not offering me anything in return for my assistance. He just made his demands, and guess he just hoped for the best. I’m not into that story, and terminated the phone call. To ensure there were no future misunderstandings, he was bluntly told that if he wants help, he has to pay. I pick my charities, and he was no friend.
It’s hard to know when to provide assistance, and to what degree. Many years ago, when in the corporate world I ran a graduate program. Eight young enthusiastic assistant accountants reported to me. It was a lot of fun that job, and as you’d imagine, the young accountants worked hard and were kept well entertained. If they weren’t laughing, I wasn’t doing my job properly! However, you could only help them all just so far though. Training is hard work, and there are times when the trainee believes they know better. Being given enough rope, is a hard way to learn when things go wrong, but also an effective training tool.
The bloke who phoned me up was no trainee though and should have known better. And I guessed that he could afford to pay me for the work. My blunt response was intended to get across the idea that assistance was a possibility, but given there was only the most tenuous of connections, it had be done on a business footing. After all, we live in a society which has swapped social obligations, for monetary obligations.
It’s a bit of a shame that the monetary arrangements which underpin society seems to be getting a bit messed up of late. When prices for stuff and services, not to mention the cost of mad cash, all increase faster than community expectations, that’s a problem for the system. Monetary obligations are in place because it is the favoured system at the moment, but historically there were other methods to navigate transactions between unrelated individuals, such as social obligations.
There’s a lot of strange things going on right now with money. One of the unspoken ideas standing just out of sight and lurking behind current economic theories, is that demand should always exceed supply. This of course keeps prices rising, but also ensures that needs or wants go unmet. Push on either variable (demand or supply) too far in any direction, and strange things begin happening. Each week, I believe around 11,500 new immigrants arrive in this country. This sustains the demand pressure on housing. Yet, as the supply of available housing gets quickly consumed, prices continue to rise. There are winners and losers in that story. And I read somewhere the other day that an estimated 1,600 people each week are becoming homeless, and some of those even have full time employment and a good rental history.
These sorts of arrangements are crazy. But then the idea that it is even possible to grow an economy for ever and ever, amen, is bonkers. At best it is a belief, at worst it defies rationality.
My own lived experience suggests that house prices relative to wages are a good proxy measure for the declining real wealth. Based on that, as a society we’ve been in decline for a long while now. When I was child, things were different. My mother who was single, worked full time, had three kids, yet managed to afford to buy a house and put three meals on the table each day. We never had a lot of other stuff, we rarely went anywhere, but the basics were covered. Nowadays, that same scenario would probably place a family into the growing ranks of the 1,600 additional homeless folks each week.
You hear a lot of strange stories disparaging those earlier days. My mother had to get her father to guarantee the mortgage for the house, but the arrangement was cheap enough to manage on a single income. And my understanding was the guarantee was never called upon. A common misrepresentation you hear about those days is that ‘interest rates were so much higher back then’. Sure, true, but when a house cost three times an individuals annual salary to purchase, the interest paid wasn’t that great a factor. Nowadays however, when a house costs around ten years of salary, but for two people (ie: 20 years equivalent), any increase in the cost of mad cash (interest rates) is going to hurt badly.
I’m not suggesting my mother as a single mother had an easy time of it, and neither did her father. As a young bloke, he’d gone to Europe to fight in WWII. A harsh time that. There were a lot of things to cause the people of Germany to lose their minds and begin WWII, and out-of-control inflation was certainly part of that story. You can only hope our leaders in the west recall their history?
I think about history as a long series of connected incidents. A flow. And the old bloke weaves in and out of that story from time to time. A radish from the garden will remind me of his vegetable patch, which took up most of his backyard. He didn’t have an economic need to grow the vegetables, far from it actually. He told me he grew them because he’d grown up as a child in the depression. I had little comprehension at the time as to what he meant. It’s funny too, the old bloke never chipped into our household, despite the impoverished state. What he did do, was send me to, and pay for my final four years of High School at a more academically oriented private school, than the school for disadvantaged kids I’d previously been at. Paid for my sisters schooling too. So, I guess you could say that he also picked his charities. And over the years I’ve been grateful for his guidance.
It’s rained every day for ten days. Some days the rainfall was epic. The long term forecast was for a hot and dry spring and summer. The forecast failed to mention continent sized storms originating from the Coral Sea, then heading west and south west. The prevailing winds usually tend to arrive from the west, so there’s a lot of strangeness to the storm.
Some days the clouds were very low.
With almost 200mm / 8 inches of rain falling over the ten days, it’s been very difficult spending any time outdoors. Fortunately there is always work to be done in the house. Regular readers will recall that we’ve been replacing the faulty vinyl wrapped cupboard doors in the kitchen, with cupboard doors which we painted ourselves. And they’re blue!
The work in the kitchen is almost finished, and there are now only two very large cupboard doors left to replace.
We had a break in the rain which lasted for about five hours. During that time, we flattened out around eighty chicken wire tree guards and placed them in a nice neat pile for future re-use. Truth to tell, the cages were jumbled into a massive mess of tree guards. Some of them had been there so long, that plants had been growing through the cages. A month or so ago, we noted a rabbit escaping into the mess, and then decided to clean the area up. I don’t generally show photos of the few messier parts of the farm for fear that readers eyeballs will be strained.
Whilst stuck inside the house due to the considerable rain, I’d begun implementing a cunning plan: Project tiramisu. Having grown up in a single mother household, I was forced to learn how to cook from about the age of 12. It’s a handy skill, which I recommend people learn, especially given how often we have to eat. Based on my experiences in other households, people have been known to resist this call to practical knowledge. Hmm.
But yeah, I know my way around the kitchen, which I learned whilst being house broken as a kid. Hasn’t hurt me none! Maybe… Anyway, I’d long had a desire to cook the Italian dessert tiramisu from scratch. The weather made the decision as to the timing. There’s three parts to the recipe: The lady finger biscuits; The mascarpone cheese; and then assembling the dessert. But firstly, today two batches of the biscuits were made. Yum!
A few of the plants are now traumatised by the rain, some of the apricots in particular have gone into shock and dropped lots of leaves. Other plants such as the berries are having a massive party. We picked the first early batch of raspberries this week.
The berries are collected over their harvest time and frozen. When there are enough of them stored in the freezer, we turn the lot into very tasty jam. Home made raspberry conserve is a real taste sensation.
This year we’ve run an experiment with the strawberries. The more usually expected strawberry varieties were fed and nurtured. We even thinned out all the runners and increased the spacing between the remaining plants. So far, the harvest has been good in that we’ve grown one strawberry. It was quite nice, we ate half each. All the plants want to do is produce runners. I hate them because every couple of weeks I have to remove all of the runners. Look at them, it’s feral in there.
Late last year we planted out about six Alpine strawberry varieties in the greenhouse. The production from these six plants is astounding, and instead of producing runners, they produce berries and self seeded replacement plants. The experiment has been won by the Alpine strawberries. They’re also being collected and frozen. One of them even produces a white berry!
The next berry crop to ripen are the blackberries, but they’re still weeks away from being ready to pick. The signs are good though.
We’ve been experimenting with a few new crops this growing season, and radishes have been an absolute winner of a plant. Despite the cooler growing season (so far) a radish seems to go from seedling to edible tuber in about four weeks. That’s very fast growth. And they remind me of the radishes I used to eat straight out of the soil of my grandfathers garden. I doubt in those days I washed them before consumption.
Onto the flowers:
The temperature outside now at about 9am is 20’C (68’F). So far this year there has been 948.8mm (37.4 inches) which is up from last weeks total of 807.6mm (31.8 inches)