2018 January posts x 5

Monday, 29 January 2018


Unbearable lightness of being an idiot

This blog is now available as an mp3 podcast through the link: www.ferngladefarm.com.au

I haven’t always lived this way. Almost two decades ago, I used to live in an inner city suburb of Melbourne. It was 4km (2.5 miles) from the city centre, so it was close enough to walk to work in the city, as I did every day. Cafes in that inner suburb were quiet on weekends and the editor and I would often sup on coffee and munch on a toasted focaccia, which were a popular food item back then. At the tables near to us were elderly gentleman wearing faded business shirts or otherwise tattered clothes reading the Financial Review. It was a strange but pleasantly quiet mix.

In those days, the suburb had not been gentrified by any stretch of the imagination, and someone once made the mysterious comment to me that there was “quiet money” in that area, not that I understood what was meant by that. I did however understand that the area we lived in had more than its fair share of characters.

For some unknown reason there were two retired school principals living a few doors apart. Both of them had kids living in the area, and the daughter of one of them was meaner than a cut snake. One day, I couldn’t help but notice that the mothers house alarm was blaring away. In those days a house alarm was an unusual item. Anyway, as an act of neighbourly goodwill, I went around to the daughters house to let her know of the situation. Well, the reception I received was far from warm, and  I could see by her reactions that she thought that I was somehow responsible for the wayward house alarm.

Then there was the guy that had lived there for ever and a day. He apparently didn’t work so he was always up for a chat. He only ever became cagey when the subject of government disability pensions were mentioned, although I am unsure why. He was the locus for all of the juicier items of local gossip and was generally entertaining.

Another bloke a few doors down was a house husband and perpetually wore his heart on his sleeve about his status. I always rather suspected that he just wallowed in a good depression and so I avoided him. I offered him work once, but he gave me a ‘go away’ price for his labour, and so I went away. His story didn’t end well. However, at least he didn’t recount the same stories over and over again like another person did! Those stories were amusing on the first hearing, and no doubts, people will be making that observation about this blog before a decade of writing is up!

And into this seething mass of characters was a young bloke who drove a duck egg blue Toyota Camry (a true rebel vehicle). That car was an odd choice, but it had been tricked up, as you do when you own a duck egg blue Toyota Camry. The editor and I used to walk the dogs around that quiet money suburb at night and we were the only souls on the move other than: The Camry Man. Yup, for that is what the editor and I called him.

You could hear that beast of a vehicle from a mile away because the car stereo was very impressive and he never went anywhere slowly. The young bloke must have gone through a few tyres in his time, because he was forever “lighting them up” (a fancy description for pulling a burn out). He even pulled that trick right outside his own house. A couple of times the editor and I and the dogs had close shaves with the Camry Man and we had to rush to seek the safety of the footpath as he did his usual high speed canon ball run up one of the roads late at night.

Night time was perhaps the best time to observe the Camry Man in his natural environment.  On one memorable evening, we could hear the doof, doof, doof, of the sub woofer coming from that most unexpected of vehicles. And as we drew closer to the noise, we could see that a laser light show had been recently installed. Even I was impressed as the green lasers were bouncing all over the insides of the vehicle (and indeed off the Camry Man himself) in time with the music. Of course, the vehicle was parked as even he didn’t have the competency to drive with a personal rave party for a passenger. I certainly wouldn’t!

Eventually, someone in the area took umbrage with the guy and smashed his headlights. It wasn’t me if only because I didn’t think of doing that! By sheer chance, the day after the vigilante struck, I happened to see the Camry Man’s distressed face as he surveyed the damage to his pride and joy. He eventually repaired the damage and was never really much of a nuisance again. Of course, he may have taken his nuisance activities elsewhere!

I have heard other people speaking about the word ‘community’. And to me those stories smell strangely as everyone thinks the same, acts the same, and has the same values. I reckon real community is a very messy beast! And for all of the bad that I painted in that above story, there was plenty of good going on too. People used to help me and loaned me tools and technical assistance with repairing the old house. One neighbour even had an extensive workshop and I was free to use it to fabricate steel gates and fences, which was a real boon during cold and wet winter days.

Community, as far as I can understand things, is both the good and the bad, and all the many points in between.

A baleful sun sets in a smoky atmosphere on another hot summers day

It has been another hot week here at the farm. A bushfire to the south west has meant that smoke has been drifting along the valley. However, the wind is blowing both the smoke and fire away from here. The sunsets have been superb! In an unusual turn of events, the heat has been punctuated with monsoonal tropical downpours. Even as I type these words, I can hear the sound of thunder pealing. And with the thunder, the rain has fallen this week providing a good drink to the entire mountain range.

As a precautionary measure taken earlier in the week – one hot day I refilled all of the primary water tanks. The various water pumps were going for hours and hours on end as I pumped water up from the reserve water tanks and into the primary water tanks. With a bit of cooking using the electric oven, we managed to utilise more electricity from the solar panels than any previous day. It was an impressive achievement and we used 20.1kWh that day. We really had to try hard to use so much electricity! If only we had a plasma TV however, we could achieve that total much more regularly. Damn you power saving appliances!

A record. 20.1kWh (559Ah x 36V) of solar electricity used in one day!

I believe the state of Victoria (of which Melbourne is the capital) broke all previous records for electricity demand yesterday, for a Sunday. It was a very hot day, and apparently 9,100MW of electricity generation was required at about 5.30pm. That sure is a lot of electricity, and apparently some of the distribution system failed, possibly due to a combination of heat and load. Damn you non-power saving appliances!

Earlier in the week, we harvested and preserved the remaining apricots. The stone fruit this summer has been nothing short of excellent!

Earlier in the week the remaining apricots were harvested and preserved

The main firewood shed is now mostly full! Due to the excessive heat and humidity, the editor and I were up at day break some mornings and cutting and hauling the firewood. Then by the late afternoons, with monsoonal weather threatening, we then had to split and stack the firewood in the shed. Stacking wet and damp firewood in a shed will produce a vast quantity of mushrooms, some soil, and useless firewood. Firewood is best stored out of the rain when it is sun dried and seasoned (preferably for two years). Seasoning firewood is the fancy name for letting the sugars in the firewood logs dry.

The primary firewood shed is now mostly full

The bright yellow trailer which was recently repaired, has now also scored a couple of coats of quality metal paint – in bright yellow, of course!

The bright yellow trailer has now been repainted with quality metal paint

In breaking cattle dog news! Ollie has made an unholy alliance with Scritchy the boss dog, who now barely tolerates his presence. Incidentally, the dogs also find the extremely hot weather to be invigorating as can be seen in the next photo!

Scritchy the boss dog has come to terms with Ollie

Sir Scruffy wants none of that dog couch business, and instead he was busy protecting the radio as the Triple J Hot 100 and Hot 200 were playing on Saturday and Sunday!

Sir Scruffy protects the radio as the Triple J Hot 100 was aired – on a very hot day!

It is an exciting time of year, because despite the very hot weather, many fruit and vegetables are growing strongly. Here is a sample just to tease you folks held tightly in the grasp of winter (not that bread is a vegetable or a fruit, but it goes very well with pesto – which is a vegetable!):

Lunch: Home made bread, home grown tomatoes, and pesto made with basil straight from the garden
Cucumber and a container of King Billy plums and the smaller Damsons
Tomatoes have begun ripening over the past few days
We may get our first full sized eggplant!
The corn is growing well and each stalk looks as though it has produced two cobs
Melons love the heat and the vines are creeping everywhere and they are now sporting fruit
The last of the blueberries were picked
Olives are plentiful and they are now swelling in size

The other night I was walking Scritchy after a monsoon and I spotted this tree frog stalking a juicy huntsman spider. My money (and hope) is on the frog winning that epic battle.

A huge tree frog stalks a huntsman spider

Good flowers are not easily deterred by a bit of hot weather: as you shall see in the next photos:

The melons are producing plenty of flowers and the promise of tasty fruit!
Eggplants are enjoying the heat
The bush roses have bounced back with the recent monsoonal deluge
Globe artichokes produce superb flowers and are very tasty!

The temperature outside now at about 8.15pm is 17’C (63’F). So far this year there has been 60.4mm (2.4 inches) which is up from last week’s total of 22.2mm (0.9 inches).

Posted by Fernglade Farm at 20:57 88 comments: https://resources.blogblog.com/img/icon18_edit_allbkg.gif

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Monday, 22 January 2018


Lied about being the outdoors type

This blog is now available as an mp3 podcast through the link: www.ferngladefarm.com.au

Hi everyone! I’m Ollie the six month old Australian cattle dog. My boss, Chris, who usually writes the blog, asked me to write this week instead.

Less discerning people may call my distinguished lineage by the common name of: Red Heeler. Of course the use of common names, also indicates that the users may themselves be common.

What were we talking about? Oh that’s right: distinguished lineage. Yes, I am bred from a long line of tough cattle dogs. There is even a bit of dingo (coyote) in my DNA and it shows in my upright ears and alert face. I am a working farm dog.

As an alert puppy I do enjoy a bit of mischief. Anyway, I have it on good authority that we all get up to a bit of mischief every now and then.

The thing is though, I’m not really interested in this whole work thing. My previous owners who bred me, used to become really angry with me because I wouldn’t do what they wanted. They used to yell at me and beat me. Then they got rid of me. Just like that. Nasty people. I didn’t get fired from my job, I was just told: “Don’t you come back here!”

Who cares, I’m glad to be rid of them, those rotten people. Enough about them because it’s not about them, it’s about me. As a breed with a distinguished lineage, I knew I’d find another job pretty quick smart. And so I did. There was a position at some farm called: “Fernglade Farm”; and I thought to myself, “Well, I don’t really like working, but a dog has to have a job, and well, you know, I better apply for this job”. So, I applied for the job, and here I am.

As a working dog with opinions, I feel that I should choose when and where I have to work. In the meantime, all that thinking about work makes me tired and there is always time for a quick nap:

Ollie the Australian cattle dog enjoying a well earned break from thinking about work

I have it on good authority (Sir Scruffy) that some dog called Sir Poopy, used to be constantly hard at work underfoot in the kitchen performing the important function of trip hazard. I like food and if my hard work in the kitchen pays off with the occasional dropped chunk, then I’m onto that job. Yeah, let’s do this mother! Am I getting excited by work? Maybe?

Ollie, hard at work at the important function of kitchen trip hazard

As a cattle dog, I am blessed with naturally high intelligence and I’d much rather spend time on the Internet than being outside. Humans are stupid, because I did a bit of redecorating of my night time dog run in order to give those humans a good reason to leave me inside the house, where important work needs doing.

Ollie killed the dogs bean bag

It never occurred to me that the humans would not appreciate my redecorating skills, but there are other dog beds. Sir Scruffy has a nice dog bed, and because I’m of noble lineage, I can kick him out of his bedding. Take that Sir Scruffy!

Ollie kicks Sir Scruffy out of his dog bed

Kicking Sir Scruffy out of his dog bed was a bad idea, because my boss Chris said something to me about Sun Tzu and expecting the unexpected. I don’t like being told off – and I blame the previous boss who used to beat me and yell at me, because I get scared and wet myself. OK, Sir Scruffy’s bedding is off limits. I’m a fast learner.

Being a fast learner, I am starting to get the hang of what is required of me around the farm. I may even enjoy working here. The kitchen is great, but the chickens are awesome. I love chickens and I so want to eat one them, but every time I get close enough to do so, I get pulled away at the last second. Pah!

Ollie on chicken and fox patrol – but mostly chicken patrol

What is with all of the boundary patrol walks? I can’t possibly imagine that there is anything out there in the forest to fear. Anyway, whatever is out there is certainly not as smart as I am, and they do not have a noble lineage!

On the second day at the farm, I decided that I don’t enjoy the lead and so I showed my boss how clever I was and unlatched myself. Those clasps are not that difficult. For some reason, I can’t go on chicken patrol without the lead. What’s with that? Being able to freely roam around the farm is sort of nice, and Mr Toothy has promised to teach me the ropes. Fortunately, I am a fast learner!

Mr Toothy shows Ollie the Australian cattle dog the ropes around the farm

Don’t tell anyone, but I’m sort of enjoying this whole farm work thing!

My boss and the editor work very hard in all weather conditions, and they provide me with food for thought about my own attitude to work. I enjoy being outside with them whilst they work. Even when it was really hot like this week.

45’C / 113’F outside in the shade and 30’C / 86’F inside the house

For some strange reason, those two, who have been very nice to me, are mucking around with firewood. As a six month old puppy, I know that it is always warm to hot, so why all this work with firewood? Beats me…

The boss shows off his new toy. An electric chainsaw

The boss was wielding around some electric chainsaw cutting thing which he’d recently brought back to the farm. I don’t see what all the fuss is about, but he kept saying something or other about a new and interesting use for electricity, whatever that is. Is electricity food, I don’t think so… Electricity sounds boring. You know what is not boring, brisket bones. They’re not boring and I have been enjoying them and my teeth are way bright and sharp!

The first firewood shed is almost full after three weeks of work

I still don’t understand what all the firewood is for. My thin coat is very suitable for all this hot weather. All I can say is that humans are strange.

The boss has also been outside in the hot sun, mucking around with water pumps. Chris said something or other about using the faulty high volume 12 Volt water pump as a transfer pump and he spent hours outside in the hot sun (when I was happily inside, in the kitchen hoping for something to fall off the bench) mucking around with pipes and cables. After those hours all he could achieve was pumping 26L / 6.8 gallons per minute from some hose. I just don’t understand why he doesn’t use water bowls like any other sophisticated farm dog. Surely he must have tickets on himself?

Chris sorts out a high volume and 12 volt water pump

Who understands these humans? The boss also spent a while in the hot sun connecting up a permanent water tap (spigot) and large diameter 3/4 inch (18mm) hose for the reserve water tank. I do not for one second believe that these humans are all that bright because he then began pumping water up from the very large reserve 33,500L / 8,800 gallon water tank. You don’t see me running around working in the hot sun, therefore I must be smarter than them. Although they do control the food, so I have to give them some credit where credit is due.

A permanent large diameter tap (spigot) arrangement was installed this week for the very large reserve water tank

The boss said something nice the other day. He looked at me and said, “Mate. You’re alright, we just have to learn to live and work together”. He’s alright that human. For some strange reason though he mentioned the word, “Abomination” and then quickly followed that up with, “broken from the factory”. I don’t quite know what those words mean, but they sure sound harsh. Fortunately, they were not intended for me. I later discovered that he was talking about a leather couch. Couches are nice to sleep on, if you’re allowed, and generally I’m not allowed. Not fair!

A leather couch which my boss, Chris, had spent thousands of somethings on. Apparently it is an abomination!

As I said before, those humans are pretty darn stupid. Chris sat me down in front of the couch and he explained that the leather was actually defined as leather but turned out to be ‘leather’ – constructed of small pieces of leather which had been joined somehow and stuck on a synthetic backing. By that time, my head was spinning and all I could think about was when is dinner? Can I eat leather? Can I eat ‘leather’?

Then the editor and the boss disappeared for a few hours, only to return with another couch. Surely, he said couches are broken from the factory? Not so this one which he said was constructed from much higher quality materials. I would sleep on the couch, if I was allowed… Not fair!

A replacement and much higher quality couch which was locally manufactured

As a six month old dog I am fully cognisant of the way of the world. It is always hot as it has always been hot. I rest my case! On my frequent boundary patrol checks I happened to notice that the bees were also feeling the heat. As an intelligent dog, I know not to annoy the bees because of a gut feeling about them. The bees and I have no troubles, because we likewise ignore each other.

The bees sure did look hot

The local parrots on the other hand, well, I’d like to eat one of them. But they’re fast and sneaky and look very tasty. Of course I am also fast and intelligent and so one day we shall meet, them and I and I shall prevail in that contest, despite their sharp wicked looking beaks! They have been annoying me this week as they are all over the many elderberries.

Crimson Rosella’s enjoy the thousands of elderberries planted as decoy fruit

Speaking of plants. I noticed that some of the very tasty plums ripened this week. Now, if only I could get past the wire cages I could give you a better report as to their taste. The boss says that they’re very tasty, but who is he? Humans have an unrefined palate as they refuse a good wombat poo, so what do they know about good taste?

Many tasty plums ripened this week

The boss refused to let me into the tomato enclosure. Whatever! I can see what is going on through the sapling picket fence.

Inside the tomato enclosure

The sugary sweet yellow corn look like they are growing well, but can I get to them through the pesky sapling picket fence?

Heritage open pollinated yellow corn is growing very well

I tell you what I could eat: Melons! Yum! Every sensible dog knows that melons are tasty, and the boss tells me that they’re growing strongly in the heat.

Melons are growing strongly in the heat

Can you eat flowers? I don’t think so! Maybe? What do you mean I have to show the flowers or face a rebuke? I am of a distinguished lineage which you are not! OK, I’ll show the flowers…

Eggplants have flowered or are now producing fruit
Capsicum (peppers) and chillies are flowering in the ongoing heat
Some herbs, like this soap-wort, are relishing the heat
Salvia’s are also no stranger to hot and dry conditions
Some geraniums have become withered in the extreme temperatures, but others are producing plenty of flowers
The mint family of plants are very hardy, like this oregano plant, which the bees love
Nothing can keep down the hundreds of agapanthus flowers which are enormously hardy
More agapanthus flowers with the dry looking shady orchard in the background

The temperature outside now at about 9.15pm is 16’C (61’F). So far this year there has been 22.2mm (0.9 inches) which is up from last week’s total of 21.8mm (0.9 inches).

Posted by Fernglade Farm at 21:36 62 comments: https://resources.blogblog.com/img/icon18_edit_allbkg.gif

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Monday, 15 January 2018


Deus Pox Machina

This blog is now available as an mp3 podcast through the link: www.ferngladefarm.com.au

Deus ex machina
is a Latin phrase borrowed from the Ancient Greeks which refers to ‘god from the machine’. A few years ago I first became aware of the term when I went to the cinemas to see a film of a similar name. I enjoyed the film and in the story line, the artificial intelligence robot seized an opportunity and dealt humanity, in the form of actor Domhnall Gleeson (who is also in the latest Star Wars franchise instalment), a harsh blow.

That is the thing about artificial intelligence, you never quite know who’s side it’s on. I was considering this problem the other day, because over the past few months I have had dealings with a semi-intelligent ticket vending machine in a car park. I loathe this particular machine and I hope it gets a pox!

Unfortunately, I know a lot more about car parks than any sane human should. One fun fact about car parks is that they make for boring dinner conversation, so I never talk about car parks. Another thing I noticed about car park owners and operators, is that they always want to make more money from their car park and so there is a temptation to replace human ticket vendors with a machine. What could possibly go wrong?

Every few weeks or so, the editor and I share a car journey into the big smoke. I like car pooling with the editor as we talk about a lot of rubbish (and serious stuff) and generally have a nice time. Sometimes, unfortunately for me, that nice time ends in a car park in a run down inner suburban shopping mall. Even not washing the small Suzuki Swift dirt mouse is no guarantee of a trouble free parking existence there. At a guess I reckon over half the shops in the mall are empty and I pay $16 per day for the privilege of that car spot. The mall has a feeling of decay, which is quite unusual in Melbourne.

Out front of the mall, what appears to me to be groups of junkies, hang around swapping barely coherent words at high volume all the while enjoying the morning summer sun. Into that heady mix of humanity, there are also high stress looking women wearing active wear and pushing prams. Meanwhile, the tolerant old timers who hail from post European WWII immigration, well they push shopping jeeps and form lines outside the banks on pension days. It is a strange mix of people, but the only thing that has given me hassles in that area so far is the loathsome semi-intelligent ticket vending machine.

Machines are meant to obey commands and perform functions. But who really knows what an artificial intelligence will possibly even want, and given my experience, I sure don’t want to find out. I’m certain the machine is playing tricks on me because every time I use the thing, it does something different. Sometimes, the machine refuses to accept credit cards and demands cash. I feel as though I am being shaken down for loose change by this machine, which is possibly how it is. Sometimes the machine issues a receipt, and other times it teases me by suggesting that a receipt will be forthcoming, but it never appears. And other times, no receipt is offered. This semi-intelligent machine sure has a complex personality.

The other day was the final straw for me. I couldn’t believe it. The machine refused to accept payment by credit card. Indignantly, I fed cash into the machine, and then just to add insult to injury, the nasty piece of work short changed me. I’d kick the machine if I wasn’t so concerned about injuring my foot and all of the ubiquitous security cameras that like in a scene from George Orwell’s classic book 1984, record all of our goings on.

But of course, it wasn’t really the final straw because in the future I know I’m going to have to have interactions with this machine again!

Fortunately, my grumpiness at the machines last insult was short lived because I soothed my shattered nerves with a coffee and a small cake. Now here is the interesting bit. I have known the lovely lady who served me that day at the cafe for more than a decade, but perhaps less than two decades, and without me even mentioning my interactions, she slipped me a free cake for being such a long term and delightful customer. My faith in humanity was restored, my faith in machines, well not so much…

As an interesting side note, I have a secret super power. Everyone does. My secret super power is that for some reason people who serve cakes and other delightful pastry items tend to occasionally provide me with free food. I’m unsure why this is the case, but as the old timers used to say: You must not look a gift cake in the mouth! Wise words and life is too short to go without tasty cakes and pastries!

A couple of good summer storms have rolled over the farm this week. The first storm changed the prevailing weather from very hot summer days to what felt to me like the late days of autumn. The rolling cloud sure looked impressive and there were even a few thunder claps to send a Scritchy the boss dog to hide under the bed (her super power is that she is a storm detective and can predict storms hours in advance. Sometimes the storms are even as far away as interstate).

A thick storm cloud rolled over the farm late this week and turned summer into what felt like late autumn

By the time the second storm rolled over the farm, we were running the wood heater and it felt like early winter. The setting sun as seen through the thick clouds looked awesome.

The storm that followed soon cooled the area further and it soon felt like early winter

The frogs enjoyed the rain and I discovered this frog on the side of the house sheltering from the storm.

Tree frogs seem to be multiplying around here!

Scritchy did not enjoy the rapid change into winter like conditions and I placed a woollen jumper over her so that she kept warm.

Scritchy the boss dog was very cold after the storm, so I draped my woollen jumper over her

At other times, Scritchy was busy monitoring her fluffy collective.

Scritchy monitors the fluffy collective as they enjoy a well earned rest

Scritchy has issues this week as we visited a local animal shelter and purchased a new fluffy. Meet Ollie, the six month old Australian cattle dog:

Ollie enjoys a well earned rest among the fluffy collective

There will be a more thorough update on Ollie next week.

‘Tis the season for storing sun dried and seasoned firewood for use over the coming winter. This week we spent two days on that task, and this year we have been moving firewood down hill which is a remarkably easier job than bringing it back up the hill. Who would have thought that? We have been using gravity and simply throwing firewood downhill. The firewood had been cut years ago and has been well seasoned. In between relocating the firewood and storing it, we leave any damp chunks out in the hot summer sun for a few days, before then storing it away.

A huge stack of firewood was thrown down the hill and was then stacked
Another load of cut and split firewood drying in the hot summer sun prior to storing

Who doesn’t love the bright yellow trailer? Everywhere I take that trusty old workhorse, blokes tell me how much they like the colour. Of course, they themselves would not dare paint a trailer that colour. But the trailer isn’t fussed and it gets a lot of love. Unfortunately, the rear flap succumbed to the dreaded steel worm (a fancy name for rust) and it fell off at an inconvenient moment. Fortunately, like the ‘A Team’, ‘MacGyver‘, or the ‘Six Million Dollar Man’ (edit: note the excellent use of the Oxford comma), we have the skills to take a bunch of rubbish chunks of steel and create a brand new rear flap for the bright yellow trailer!

We have the technology, we can rebuild the rear flap for the bright yellow trailer!
Have arc welder, can rebuild! 100% solar powered too. Hello Ollie!

With a bit of fancy cutting, and a lot of hours of work, I turned a whole lot of scrap steel into a brand new rear flap for the bright yellow trailer.

Speaking of scrap steel, we decided to use some scrap aviary steel mesh to temporarily increase the height of the dog fence in their outdoor run. Ollie looks like he may be an escape artist extraordinaire because I tied his lead to a post near to where I was working and he undid the complex latch and came bounding over to tell me about his latest feat of trickery!

Temporary steel aviary mesh was added to the dog enclosure to increase the height of the fencing

Just to prove that it is not all hard work here, we can do stupid too!

The author interacts with Ollie the Australian cattle dog puppy. Ollie is concerned!

I have to get a wriggle on! Fruit, well there is a fair bit of that stuff at the moment. The other day I decided to harvest some of the apricots that looked ripe to me. We may bottle (can) them in a couple of days time.

Lots of yummy apricots fresh from the trees!

The blackberries are just starting to ripen and they are both huge and tasty!

It looks like it may be an excellent blackberry year

I reckon cucumbers are of the Triffid family (that is the fancy scientific name).

Surely cucumbers are of the Triffid family of plants?

In other plant news…

Chilean guavas are swelling in size. This fruit is tasty as!
We made a batch of elderflower wine, but the thousands of berries I am leaving as a gift to the birds

Here are some for the flower enthusiasts (of which I include myself):

A bee and some bugs are enjoying this Balm of Gilead. There is no privacy in bugland.
The bees also enjoy this Cat Mint
This Salvia looks great and produces reliable flowers despite the heat that summer can throw at it
Lavender is another hot weather loving plant
The mint family of plants is as summer hardy as and this Oregano is no exception
If nothing else flowers in a hot summer, the Agapanthus always delivers for the bees

The temperature outside now at about 9.00pm is 12’C (54’F). So far this year there has been 21.8mm (0.9 inches) which is up from last week’s total of 0.0mm (0.0 inches)

Posted by Fernglade Farm at 21:34 59 comments:

Monday, 8 January 2018

Wish you were here

This blog is now available as an mp3 podcast through the link: www.ferngladefarm.com.au

The house is now quiet. There are no more large trip hazards in the kitchen. And there are certainly no flooring stomping and attention grabbing sounds from under the dining room table as we eat our lunch. The chickens are no longer protected by a patrolling dog, and the foxes are rejoicing. An era has ended, because on Saturday morning, the editor and I took Sir Poopy Fox and Rat bane to the local veterinary to have him put to sleep.

Sir Poopy, the Swedish Lapphund had been ill for many months now. His eyesight was rapidly deteriorating and he was incontinent. Despite those conditions, he was full of excitement for the world. I have never before experienced the company of a dog so full of joy. As a blind dog, he learned to climb up and down stairs and even continue performing boundary patrol duties on his own. He was a useful and valued member of the household. Two weeks ago he even killed and returned to us a fox cub who foolishly underestimated him.

Alas, last week, he began suffering painful seizures. He would scream and scream and then be disoriented afterwards. The seizures were becoming more frequent and so we gave Sir Poopy a gentle exit out. The night before he died, he and I sat in the orchard and supervised the chickens. He was for the first time in his life, depressed, and all he wanted then and there was a sit and a pat and shared companionship. And I knew what had to be done to my little mate.


He lived life to the full that dog and I will always fondly remember our trips to the local cafe (in the absence of the editor). Sir Poopy would happily sit and enjoy the occasional chunk of fruit toast which was sneakily thrown in his direction. He knew better than to outrage the local notables by being caught eating at a dignified table.

Indeed, he was outraged by the acts of the local marsupials who shared his domain. It was like a scene from the old Warner Brothers cartoon with: Ralph E. Wolf and Sam Sheepdog; as Mr (at that time) Poopy would clock off as the sun set and the marsupials would then clock on. I’m pretty certain Fatso the wombat used to remark to Sir Poopy, “evenin’ Poopy!” to which he’d reply: “evenin’ Fatso!” Mr Poopy would retire to his beanbag which was convenient to the wood heater.

The birds still sing, and the cicada’s roar their summer songs, but Sir Poopy is now quiet. We buried him up above the courtyard where his spirit has a magnificent view over the surrounding valley and planted a Cumquat (Kumquat) tree over his grave. Rest in Peace little matey, it was a real treat knowing you.

Sir Poopy the Swedish Lapphund Fox and Rat Bane
A C/Kumquat tree planted on hot summer’s day over Sir Poopy’s grave


Saturday was no day for planting trees, or burying dogs, but what has to be done, has to be done. The previous night the sunset was full of colour:

Friday night, the sunset was full of colour

On Saturday, at one short moment in the late afternoon, the outside thermometer displayed 42’C / 107.6’F. Here are some temperature readings throughout the long day. The blue square in the next photo displays the outside temperature and humidity, whilst the yellow square displays the same information for the inside of the house.

Some temperature readings throughout the hot day

We have no air conditioning in the house and I reckon the thick insulation in the walls, floor and roof, works pretty well. The inside of the house began the day at 23’C / 73’F and peaked at 29’C / 84’F. At that point, we opened the doors and windows to the night air which cooled the house.

The sun sets after a very hot day and the smoke from nearby fires

Earlier in the week, we repaired the concrete floor in the second firewood shed. That shed was originally the old chicken shed, and it had a very dodgy concrete floor. The problem with the dodgy old floor was that if any water from storms managed to get into the firewood shed, it would pool at the low point in the middle of shed, and the firewood would begin to break down and convert into soil!

A new concrete floor was poured into the secondary firewood shed

The new wide and flat path between the house and the secondary firewood shed is now complete. I reckon it looks pretty good, and it will make life much easier during the damp winter months.

The new wide and flat path between the house and the secondary firewood shed is now complete

We had been putting off a repair job to the plastic bumper bar of the little dirt mouse Suzuki. The editor unfortunately had a minor incident a long time ago which cracked the thin plastic on the bumper bar. I recall the days when these things were made from steel…

We began repairing a minor crack in the plastic bumper bar on the dirt mouse Suzuki

The time to hesitate was now through, and so we just got on with the repair job. After a very good YouTube video and some mucking around, we removed the plastic bumper bar from the dirt mouse.

Sir Scruffy the Charming is impressed by our vehicle dismantling skills

We then used a stainless steel plastic stapler repair tool to shore up the broken plastic. The first step was to melt in some stainless steel staples so that the break held together:

Stainless steel staples are melted into the broken plastic

Then the plastic seam welder was used to heat and smooth the area (at the rear of the bumper bar panel – not the painted surface) and the join is as good as new(ish):

A plastic seam welder heats and joins all of the plastic in the repaired area

That day we discovered the hugest stick insect on the underside of the wheelbarrow:

A huge stick insect enjoys this quiet spot underneath the old wheelbarrow

The fruit and vegetables are doing really well despite the crazy hot day. On Saturday the prize for the most wilted plant in the heat of the summer afternoon goes to: Zucchini’s (courgette)

The most wilted plant on that really hot day were the zucchini (courgette)

The next day, you’d never know that they’d wilted in the heat. And the plants are full of fruit!

Triffid alert: Zucchini (courgette) are full of yummy fruit

I’ve been tempting the local Crimson Rosella’s (parrots) with the huge haul of almost ripe apricots. It is a fine balancing act between us harvesting the fruit after letting it ripen just that little bit longer on the tree, or having and the birds harvesting the fruit when we aren’t looking.

Apricots ripen in the hot summer sun

Apples are continuing to swell and ripen and the summer sun is providing the fruit some blush:

Apples are swelling and ripening and you can see the direction of the sun by the blush on the fruit

Blackberries are almost ripe and it looks set to be a huge harvest. Most of that fruit will be made into jam and wine:

Blackberries are almost ripe and ready to pick

The tomatoes, melons, corn, eggplant, and capsicum (peppers) grew strongly this week:

The tomatoes, melons, corn, eggplant, and capsicum (peppers) grew strongly this week

Our most reliable heat hardy summer greens are the perennial rocket. We pick huge quantities of this summer green and it is very tasty. The bees love the flowers and the plants happily self-seed:

Our most summer heat hardy fresh green: Perennial Rocket

Most of the garden shrugged off the extreme heat of Saturday and there are still plenty of flowers:

California Poppies scream bring on the heat! As does the nearby Catmint.
Densely planted garden beds are very heat hardy. It was almost 40’C / 100’F when these two photos were taken
Feverfew flowers in profusion in this hedge
Agapanthus is just beginning to flower. Mr Toothy is depressed at the loss of his mate
Two pink Poppies flower in among the Lamb’s tongue
This Fennel flower has attracted a local wasp
The Hydrangea’s bounced back after the hot day
This mauve Salvia enjoys a commanding view

The final word should go to Pink Floyd who are responsible for the lyrics that were included in this week’s blog. Not only are they outstanding musicians, the 1975 song Wish you were here is among my all time favourite songs. I hope you enjoyed it too. And Vale, Sir Poopy, you’ll be sorely missed.


The temperature outside now at about 6.45pm is 18’C (64’F). So far this year there has been 0.0mm (0.0 inches) which is not much rain at all!

Posted by Fernglade Farm at 18:46

Monday, 1 January 2018

Holiday horror – with vampires

This blog is now available as an mp3 podcast through the link: www.ferngladefarm.com.au

I was never a great fan of Vampires in literature. Vampires bored me with their monomania which exhibited itself as a lust for human blood in a bizarre quest for an extended lifespan. That was all they did, day after day. Boring! As a bit of a confession, I watched a few early episodes of “True Blood” back in the day, and even the vampires in that series looked bored, well at least when they weren’t killing each other…

So it was that on a nice sunny and warm summers morning, the editor and I were enjoying breakfast (and coffee) at the local General Store cafe, and I came across a reference to vampires in the book that I was reading at the time. The book was book four in the series “World made by Hand” written by Mr James Howard Kunstler (note the link to the authors twice weekly blog with the naughty name on the right hand side of this web page). It is an excellent series of books and I recommend them highly.

The vampire reference was indirect because it referenced the very excellent indie rock band: “Vampire Weekend”. As I sat there stunned by the indie musical reference, I contemplated many of the big issues that arose from this reference, like: Is Mr Kunstler a secret fan of the indie band?;  If he is not a fan of the band, why ever did he choose that particular band?; and how did he come up with the very naughty name for his excellent blog?

The mention of the band inspired me to use the lyrics from their most excellent song “Oxford Comma” in this weeks blog. There are a few naughty words in the lyrics, so if you are easily offended, I recommend you skip the lyrics in italics. Anyway, don’t blame me for the naughty words, they started it!

DeletedUnfortunately, I didn’t have long to consider those vampire and music issues because a small family sat at the table behind the editor and I. We continued quietly reading and enjoying breakfast (and coffee). Soon more people turned up to join the expanding group. Then even more people turned up and before too long, the now large group took up most of the tables in that area of the cafe (5 in fact). It was an impressive achievement and brought to mind mitosis .

A local who well knows my predilection for quiet enjoyment, walked passed the table that we were sitting at and made an amusing joke about space invaders and how they felt sorry for us! Very amusing…


Truth to tell, because of the now super large crowd of people, I could no longer concentrate on the words in my book – that was despite my best efforts, an engrossing story, and the authors reference to the indie band Vampire Weekend! (edit – note the subtle use of the Oxford comma!) The editor was sitting further away from the table and so had far better luck than I at blocking out the noise and presence (edit – not so).

With nothing better to do, I listened in to their conversation. The first item of interest that I learned was that apparently nobody at those tables had ordered food. Some of the people stated that they’d already enjoyed pancakes at home, however they unfortunately did not elaborate as to quality of those pancakes. I personally also wanted to know whether the people had cooked them from raw materials, or whether they had purchased an expensive pre-mixed sachet pancake mix (just add salt, egg, and milk – LOL!) Alas I was left with that mystery unsolved!

Fortunately, they spoke briefly about coffee. I like coffee (and am a sticky beak) so I paid closer attention! The large table of around 20 people had apparently ordered four coffees. When the coffees arrived at the table, the waitress was at first ignored, and then there appeared to be some confusion as to who had ordered what.


One of the downsides of working as an accountant for a few decades, is that you start to get a feel for the financial implications of human behaviour. And with that in mind, I’d have to suggest that large groups of people purchasing very little, whilst using a businesses amenities (which have to be cleaned and the furniture returned to order after the group depart), will most likely not even cover the costs of having the business operate during that time.They may also have scared off new customers from sitting in that area (note that we existing suckers stoically remained).

Money has become a very misunderstood item in our culture. Another incident from a few weeks back was where I was standing in line at a local bakery that makes very excellent and high quality muffins. The person being served at the counter ordered a large number of bakery items, but only appeared to be holding a twenty dollar note. As I observed the situation, I thought to myself that this is going to be an interesting confrontation. The person became very flustered and angry when they were politely told that the order came to the mid thirty dollars. They had ordered a lot of food after all, and they did eventually pay the amount, but their actions stated loudly that they believed that the price for that food was much lower than it actually was. And from my place in the queue, I could feel the tension!

I see a lot of people who have expectations from businesses that exceed what businesses can reasonably deliver whilst making a living wage. And I don’t feel that such expectations are a good thing. Anyway, where did empathy go these days? Why do people not want to pay a reasonable fee for the goods and services they purchase? From my perspective, it is a conflict to have that expectation whilst also seeking a high wage for themselves.


Now onto some breaking and sad farm news. Earlier in the week Mr Poopy the twelve year old Pomeranian (whom everyone knows is actually a Swedish Lapphund) performed his swansong act of serious farm dogness by capturing and killing another fox cub.

Mr Poopy gets down to some serious farm dog business

Observant readers will note in the above photo that Mr Poopy’s eyes are opened alarmingly wide. It looks as if he is startled by his own act. Not so, his breed have a congenital condition that means that the nerves between the eye and the brain deteriorate with age (Glaucoma). Like me, Mr Poopy is an old fella. What this means in practical terms for him though is that Mr Poopy is now almost as blind as a bat. He still gets around the farm using his other senses, but sooner or later he may possibly injure himself. And I have seen him banging into walls. Fortunately, he appears to be learning to slow down and take life at a more leisurely (and less risky) pace, but time will tell how that situation works out. We accommodate him.

This week has again been warm to hot with mostly sunny blue skies. Another brief and torrential tropical storm reached down to this southerly location and dumped a short burst of heavy rain. If the weather continues that way for the rest of the summer, I’ll be jumping for joy as the regular rain is really assisting the fruit trees grow and grow!

Another brief tropical storm dumped another load of short, sharp, and heavy rainfall over the farm

In the photo above, you may be able to see a couple of kangaroos in the paddock. Kangaroos couldn’t care less about the rain.

I knew the rain was forecast, so earlier in the week I added an overflow pipe to the water tank which is attached to the main wood shed roof. Long term readers will recall that that water tank was lowered a few months back and I had not yet got around to connecting up the overflow pipe. If those overflow pipes ever fail, the collected rainfall from a roof gets concentrated and the flow of water can cause a lot of damage.

An overflow water pipe was added to the water tank that is connected to the main wood shed roof

I always add a layer of the locally quarried crushed rock with lime over the soil in utility areas as it rapidly forms an all weather and permeable surface. I am not a fan of mud having once crawled around underneath a house during winter performing urgently necessary repairs.

Locally quarried crushed rock with limestone is added over the trench containing the overflow water pipe for this water tank

The rock gabion that was filled last week was sewn shut with heavy duty gauge steel wire. Then we constructed another rock gabion cage and began to fill it with rocks.

Another rock gabion cage was constructed and began to be filled with rocks

The sheer number of recent tropical downpours has left me wondering about the various water drainage systems around the farm. Recently, a major drain failed, and so we decided to line the drainage channel with cement mix.

A main drainage channel was lined with cement mix

The grate and pit directs rain water to the citrus trees, but unfortunately, the pipe attached to this pit has become blocked with gunk (that is the technical word) and we will have to call in the plumbers to de-gunk it. A failure at this point in the system will direct a huge volume of water in front of the house, and that is probably not a good thing.

We have also been very busy excavating a wide path between the house and the secondary firewood shed. As of today, the excavations have been completed, but there is still work to do over the next few days constructing a crushed rock all weather surface. On Sunday, the path looked like this:

A wide and all weather path has been constructed between the house and the secondary firewood shed

Tomato vines have to be constrained, otherwise they run all over the ground. This season, we have gone very high tech and have instituted proper restraints on those naughty sprawling vines. It is surprisingly orderly! The steel supports were purchased from the local tip shop.

Proper fencing was installed for the tomato vines

For about the last decade, I have been relying on a local farm gate to supply us with early season and very tasty tomatoes grown in a hoop house. For some unknown reason, this year they have shut up shop. I was unprepared for that loss. However, the earliest ripe tomatoes from here should be expected about the end of January.

Tomatoes are green now, but should be ripe before the end of the month

The other summer fruit and vegetables at the far end of that enclosure are starting to really grow!

Sweet Corn, Canteloupe, Water Melon, Capsicum (Peppers), Eggplant, and Chilis are enjoying the summer

The biggest plant surprise for me this summer is that the first year English Walnut was not dead, it just required a lot of summer sunshine and regular tropical downpours… (edit: I told you that it wasn’t dead and to not pull it out!)

The first year walnut appears to have finally broken its dormancy

Other fruit trees are enjoying the weather too:

L-R: Manchurian Pear; Japanese Maple; Sugar Maple; Tulip Tree; and two Jonathon Apples

I’ve rubbished on a bit too long today, so here is a brief update for the summer fruit:

Apples! These are a variety suited to cider production
Quince. I trust that readers have enjoyed Quince wine and/or jelly?
Almonds! I am keeping a close eye on these nuts to see whether the fuzzy green coatings split
These Nashi Pears avoided the recent bird attack
It looks like it will be a good plum harvest
How good do these apricots look? We are leaving them in the summer sun for a few more days
This may be a Loganberry or a Marionberry. Not sure, but it sure is tasty!

Hopefully there are not too many photos this week, because there are still some flower photos to go!

More roses are blooming this week. I moved this one over winter so it is nice that it survived
The Hydrangea’s look as stunning as they have ever looked
Soap wort has bloomed this week
Cat mint is a very summer hardy plant and the insects love it
Geraniums are very hardy and reliable
Another rose has also begun to bloom
The bees adore the flowers from Lamb’s tongue

The temperature outside now at about 7.45pm is 19’C (66’F). So far this year there has been 922.4mm (36.3 inches) which is up from last week’s total of 913.8mm (36.0 inches).

Posted by Fernglade Farm at 20:15