A test of values

Vroom! Vroom! In my late teens I was quite the petrol head. I loved cars. I loved everything about cars, and the faster they went, the more I loved them. I owned a car before I even had a license to drive one. Here it is:

My pride and joy. A 1977 Torana LX hatchback at Wilson’s Promontory

I bought the snot green car for cash from a vehicle wrecker.

Given the story in last weeks blog, alert readers may wonder how I financed that cash purchase. The week after my final exam at High School I began working on a production line in a factory which produced computer floppy disks (remember those?) After a few months of that work, I put University off for a year (ultimately attending part time for the next seven years) and scored a full time job in the public service. Saving is easy to do if you are both tight and motivated. I had no access to my mum’s car (or cash) and I was still too young to drive, so I was very motivated by the thought of my own car.

Of course for those who are unaware, the word Torana is derived from an Aboriginal dialect, and it means: “To Fly”. And that baby sure did fly! Older cars were generally lighter than the over weight things they construct these days. In fact my beloved Torana weighed about the same as the current dirt mouse Suzuki Swift that we drive today – and that is considered to be a small city car. It was also a very simple car, and I was able to save money by undertaking all of the maintenance, repairs, and modifications myself.

Unfortunately all good stories come to an end, and within a few years of owning the snot green beast, I wrote it off in a ‘head on’ car accident whilst listening to AC/DC’s ‘Back in Black’ album at full throttle volume. Fortunately for me, I was shaken but not stirred by the accident, and even more remarkably I was able to walk away uninjured having lost only my pride and one of my nine lives.

In that unanticipated moment of accident-ness, I lost my love of cars. It disappeared because I realised that whilst I was dangerous, I discovered that vehicles are even more dangerous. I decided then and there that if I wanted any longevity worth crowing about, I had to do something different. So I bought the slowest vehicle that I could find. That vehicle was the original dirt rat Suzuki. The Old Dirt Rat had a tiny 1 Litre (61 cubic inch) motor and a four speed gearbox, with high and low gearing. You couldn’t go anywhere fast in that machine, but far out, you could go anywhere. If people wanted to get past me on the road, I simply pulled over and let them go. Is that a case of accepting: Zen and the Art of the Dirt Rat?

Say hello to the original Dirt Rat – boxy yet functional:

The original Dirt Rat Suzuki at Craig’s Hut on top of Mount Stirling in the Alpine Country

The Original Dirt Rat was a very simple vehicle and I could do all of the maintenance and repair work on it. It didn’t even have carpets or the luxury of air conditioning, and if it got muddy inside, you could just hose it out. After many long years of sterling service, I sold it.

Nowadays, I don’t much care for cars. I put them square in the ‘necessary evil’ category. However, I’m still a stickler for maintenance.

Life, is rarely hassle free, and last weekend the dirt mouse Suzuki Swift was accidentally backed into at very low speed. The car was parked at the time. It didn’t seem like a big deal to me. Despite being fully insured, I just wanted to get a basic fix which I was happy to pay for, then move on with my life. As the long deceased military genius Sun Tzu, would himself point out, expect the unexpected.

And that is when I discovered that my values in relation to cars differ markedly from most peoples values.

You see, the problem for me is that the 10 year old vehicle has a book value of $5,700. The insurance company was notified of the accident by the other party, and as such we are in ‘the system’. Being in ‘the system’ is not necessarily a good thing in this instance, because on Friday the nice insurance assessor, assessed the damage as being heavy and beyond their workshops abilities. The dirt mouse has been shipped off to somewhere mysterious and is now beyond our ken.

Here is what the damage looks like:

The dirt mouse Suzuki Swift. The tyre now rubs against the guard over some bumps

What most people will be unaware of is that nice insurance companies will only expend repairs up to 80% of the market value of the vehicle. My math is not the best, but using the back of an envelope (actually a calculator with big buttons), I calculated that if the estimate of the repairs exceed $4,560, less the insurance assessors additional towing charge, the vehicle may possibly be written off. And that will be that. If this happens, it will be a sad fate for the trusty, well maintained and reliable dirt mouse.

I’ve been asked: Aren’t you excited at the thought of getting a new car? The answer is a loud no. I sort of liked the old car, and it worked perfectly well prior to the accident. It seems inordinately wasteful to me to dispose of such an incredibly complex and well maintained machine, merely because society puts such a low market value on it.

As an alternative course of action, if the vehicle was written off, and I had the repairs done on the cheap, I probably won’t be able to insure the vehicle in future because the insurance companies will have records showing that the vehicle has been written off – and these days you have to recall that they all swap data.

Another thing to consider is that I know that cheap second hand vehicles of this age won’t have been maintained as well as I would prefer. Therefore that option makes no economic sense because the quantum of that problem is an uncomfortable unknown.

And just to complicate to the problem, I refuse to go into debt for a new car purchase so that if the car is written off, I’ll just have to hand over the $12,000 additional cash (plus the $5,700 from the insurance company) for a new replacement vehicle.

Over the past few days, I’ve turned the problem over and over and examined it from all sorts of different angles. It has become abundantly clear to me during this time of introspection that somehow as a society we’ve lost track of the ability to value of our creations.

I’d like to conclude this sad tale by writing something enigmatic like the words at the end of the Terminator film when the old bloke said: “There’s a storm coming”. It does sound good and properly enigmatic, but it would also be a bit weird because a storm did actually hit in the latter part of the week.

Happy Postscript Alert! After several days at the panel beaters, we received a call today (Monday 9th July) confirming that the repairs are to go ahead and the dirt mouse Suzuki will be restored to its former glory (or something resembling that former glory). I am genuinely relieved.

There was an ominous red glow in the sky in the morning before the storm (red sky in the morning, shepherds were nervous):

The sky had an ominous red glow in the morning the storm hit

For the past few days the wind has howled and it has rained on and off. At one point it got cold enough that snow fell:

A brief snow shower fell on the farm

The wind was the worst aspect of the storm. The top of an old and massive tree cracked and fell to the ground, narrowly missing the bees.

The top of an old and massive tree fell in the high winds

It would be fatal to be struck by that falling branch. In the next photo you can see that the tree trunk penetrated a few inches into the ground when it landed.

The tree trunk penetrated a few inches into the ground when it fell

There were actually quite a number of large branches which fell during the stormy days (although the one above is the largest).

The next photo shows another large branch which fell just below the chicken enclosure. It managed to completely miss several plants that have been in the ground less than a year.

A large branch fell below the chicken enclosure

The large tree next to the main firewood shed also dropped a large branch.

The large tree next to the firewood shed also dropped a large branch

It is all good really, because nothing was squashed by any of the large falling branches. The branches will be cut up for firewood – when the wind eventually dies down and it is safe to work underneath them. And the holes left in the large tree trunks form hollows which are like hotels for the many critters that live on the farm.

There was very little opportunity to work outside this week due to the prolonged storm. We distributed a cubic metre (1.3 cubic yards) of composted woody mulch in the area adjacent to the new concrete staircase.

A cubic metre (1.3 cubic yards) of composted woody mulch was placed in the garden beds next to the newly constructed concrete staircase

That was about it for work. On the other hand I discovered that the rats have finally tunnelled into the apparently rodent proof chicken enclosure. First, the rats killed the field mice that lived in the chicken enclosure. It was a brutal massacre that was swiftly conducted. Since then, the rats have been busy each day enlarging their access holes/super highways. They’ve also increased the amount of grains consumed each day by about an additional third.

The rats hole on the outside of the apparently rodent proof chicken enclosure
The rats entry point into the chicken enclosure

Please do not tell the rats, but the editor and I will implement a cunning plan over the next month. We’re going to lay a cement slab over the entire floor of the chicken run. Good luck tunnelling through solid concrete my rodent nemesis!

An olive tree appears to be struggling with its location and all being well, next weekend we will relocate this tree.

This olive tree appears to be struggling with its current location

If you want to impress your friends and family, you can chuck in the word “lodge” into a sentence. Lodge is the fancy word to describe vegetation that has fallen over.

Before the storm hit, and on the way to meet the nice insurance assessor, the editor and I came across this grumpy koala bear. The koala was walking down the middle of the road just around the corner from our place:

We shooed this koala bear off the road. The grumpy bear took a few swipes at the editor with its claws

It is amazing to note just how well the koala bears colouring matches the background vegetation. Don’t you just want to give the koala a cuddle? As a general rule, they are quite surly creatures, with long claws. They may possibly bite or scratch you, if you were so foolish as to call one ‘cute’ to its face. Go on, I dare you!

Despite the cold windy weather, the season is progressing. Someone once mentioned that you can’t stop progress, and I wonder if that was what they meant? Probably not. Anyway, I noticed that the daffodils have begun popping up everywhere.

Daffodils are popping up everywhere

The rhododendron flower buds are filling out too:

The rhododendron flower buds are swelling in size

Despite the light snowfall, there are still plenty of winter flowers to enjoy. Clearly the flowers must be wind pollinated because there are no insects around:

Tree lucerne (tagasaste) loves the cold winter weather
Pink rosemary blooms whilst the orchard is very much asleep
Blue rosemary tries not to be outdone by its pink cousin
Penstemon flowers make up for the lack of sunshine
Succulents appear to be brushing off light frosts and snowfalls
The many hellebore’s have begun flowering

The temperature outside now at about 8.00am is 5’C (41’F). So far this year there has been 475.6mm (18.7 inches) which is higher than last week’s total of 465.8mm (18.3 inches).

56 thoughts on “A test of values”

  1. Hi, Chris

    Far out, that is a big branch! I wonder if the bees know how lucky they are? I can understand why you didn’t want to work out there while it was windy! Still, all that free firewood for the effort of cutting it up sweetens the deal.
    While it rains (and snows!) at your place, Canberra is still as dry as. They keep predicting rain, and then we get a little drizzle and move on. So far this year, we’ve had just over 150mm, or a little over 6″ for the more imperially minded. While this is a dry place on a good year, the annual average is 620mm, so we are on less than half of our expected rainfall. We are lucky that the local government took the lesson of the last drought, and increased our water storage, so there are no problems with local supply. Like many Canberra houses, we have a water tank. This was also a result of the last drought, when water restrictions meant no watering of gardens. It’s not huge (5000 litres) but it can keep my veggies and fruit trees alive for several weeks in a watering ban.

    I hope the Dirt Rat is not written off. Don’t you get any say in the matter? I’d be complaining to my Member of Parliament (and anyone else who’d listen, probably!) if the decision was taken from my hands. If they plan to do so, could you say “Give it back, I’ll fix it myself?” The repairs would almost certainly cost less than a new car.

    The koala was obviously a drop bear in disguise! Another Australian beastie that wants to kill you! Mind you, if I had to live on gum leaves, I’d probably be terminally grumpy too.😊

    Keep warm, and avoid further falling branches.


  2. Hi Chris, insurance can definitely be a pain sometimes. I hope it works out for you without you being too much out of pocket.

    We didn’t get that storm as bad here, but I still have downed trees and branches to deal with, the latest only yesterday, which I’ve had a go at dealing with this morning. More firewood, as you say. Nothing valuable flattened here either, thankfully.

  3. Hi Everyone!

    All’s well that ends well…

    Happy Postscript Alert! After several days at the panel beaters, we received a call today (Monday 9th July) confirming that the repairs are to go ahead and the dirt mouse Suzuki will be restored to its former glory (or something resembling that former glory). I am genuinely relieved.



  4. Hi Inge,

    It is hard to imagine the sort of effort that was required for the Victory Gardens in the UK during WWII. People talk a lot of rubbish about self sufficiency, but I’m yet to meet someone who can eat entirely off their own farm with no outside inputs. I read a few websites on the longevity of the blackcurrant bush and apparently the commercial growers in the UK replace them every 10 to 15 years. However, there was a New Zealand website which suggests that the plants have a lifespan of around 50 years. Of course productivity drops off after the commercial lifespan, but that in no way means that they won’t produce any berries. On the contrary, they may go biennial which is like a lot of fruit trees which produce heavily every other season. That may be what you are seeing? Do you reckon your plants are over a couple of decades old? Here is a link to the website: Growing Blackcurrants in the Home Garden. The article is very good and written by a reputable person. By any chance did you have a dry autumn? I’ll try to remember to let you know how they go here in about six months time as my autumn was crazy hot and dry.

    I assume you meant 30’C / 86’F indoors? That would be an incredibly hot temperature indoors here, and would take several days in a row of weather over 100’F to reach 29’C / 84’F inside which is as hot as I’ve ever seen inside the house.

    Can you get water to the plants in the morning and the evening? Tomatoes can happily droop during the day and recover at night after a drink of water. They’re very adaptable plants. I never bother watering them during the middle of the day as it is a waste of water (that is in the sort of summer conditions I get) and I’ve been told the water can burn the leaves, but I have never observed that happening. I’m quite used to seeing plants droop and wilt during extreme hot weather. As long as they don’t die, they do recover and the fruit is usually sweeter in such years. That is one consolation… I realise that many people advise not to water at night, but variable and changing climates means that such rules of thumb have to be abandoned in some years.



  5. Hi Lewis,

    They’re iconic down here too. The wind driven pumps can pull water out of the ground from a significant depth underground. You used to see them all over the landscape as people drew upon artesian water sources when the wind blew and the water was stored in the attached stock tanks.

    You may not be aware, but Hazel is referring to the drought in the state to the north of Victoria (which is New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory) which is pretty bad. And the drought extends well into Queensland. Most city folk are oblivious and don’t give a crap, but then they may be giving a crap. I spotted this article and have been aware of the use of bio-solids on farms for a while: Biosolids: Sydney sewage turned organic fertiliser improves NSW drought-hit soil. You know, I wouldn’t think twice about receiving a huge load of that stuff distributed around the property. I noticed that where I unloaded a trailer load of compost a month or so back, that the grass was much greener than the surrounding area. You don’t have to be Blind Freddy to do the math. I went out tonight in the dark (being careful not to annoy 7 foot kangaroos) and spread around about 60kg / 132 pounds of used coffee grounds about the orchard. We are so incredibly wasteful as a society, and I love bringing organic matter back to the farm (is it a hobby or a mild obsession?) I’ve managed to get my hands on some regular additions of wood ash too. Go Chris!

    I came across the yard art versions too, and frankly they’re a bit small and light weight. 🙂 Eventually, I’ll have to build a tower from scratch, I guess. The whole structure is made out of angle steel so it is enormously strong. Like the Sydney Harbour Bridge, you just have to keep painting it in order to slow entropy…

    Yeah, I reckon your observations are spot on. The flow of time in the story is also markedly different than what I’m used to reading in that there are hints and alluding to events as they are happening. I’m not sure whether those were the writing techniques of Mr Twain, or that was how people read back in the day? Dunno, really, but whatever the case may be, they sure did have superior, and far more formal language skills than today. No doubts about it.

    I’ve heard that story about being connected as a condition of employment and I often get berated about not being able to receive emails on the go. I suffer in silence on that matter. A few years ago I listened to a computer security person describe some of the hidden applications that employers (and romantic and ex partners) were putting onto smart phones. The discussion gave me the chills, but what was interesting was that all of the callers into the radio program seemed to be far more concerned about the hidden applications installed by current romantic and ex partners rather than the employers. I the idea to be repellent in any case, but most other people felt differently. Dunno what that means. What, you turn the phone off? Noooo. So naughty. Hehe! Mate, I rarely take the thing with me when I am working about the farm as it is a hassle, and likely to get damaged.

    How is the new warden working out? Are you serious about moving to Idaho? You gave it some serious thought in the past, but the winters would be a deal breaker for me. On the other hand, the summers here are a deal breaker for many people. $10 a plot per year is pretty good. What are ownership options like for housing? Are your friends considering moving from that part of the world, or are they likely to stay?

    Well if you know you have to watch yourself, and not over do things, then that is probably good enough. Most people hit the ground running and forget that they first need to learn to walk, and that was Mr Logsdon’s point. The essay was in that book too. If you need, I can look up what chapter it was in. The book is written as a series of his final essays and the theme is consistent throughout the book.

    And stretching is everything. I stretch all of the time, and do more of that activity as I get older. Looking for a sign is as good a guide as any. I often look for the moons aligning, although to be honest I haven’t ever suggested exactly where those moons are located, so I have given myself a rather easy time of it.

    Speaking of moons aligning, the call came through today that the dirt mouse will be repaired. I can not explain the depths of my relief at receiving that news. The editor pleaded our case with the business this morning and the call came through a couple of hours later. Before that, it was touch and go. The thing that I have learned about this episode is that it is very difficult to access ‘the system’ and not be drawn whole heartedly into it. The episode also revealed a massive hole in our strategy of maintaining infrastructure in good repair.

    Thanks for the tip about Cliff Mass’s excellent blog which I read this morning. Enjoy your nice weather and fingers crossed for the fire risk. I’ve been reading about fires in the large state to your south.

    Enjoy your ‘chin wag’ with Julia!



  6. Hi Hazel,

    The trees here are huge, and the branches they drop are massive too. I sometimes get visitors to stand underneath the bigger trees and look up into the upper canopy, and it can be a daunting experience. Hey, did you spot the photo with the canoe tree in the background? That is a very special tree.

    The bees are oblivious of all the time and energy I put towards them, in fact I’d go as far as suggesting that: at best they tolerate me. The cheeky scamps. 🙂 It is nice getting all that free firewood, and we’ll cut it and split it over the next few weeks.

    The ongoing drought in your part of the country is really serious. I don’t really know for sure, but as the weather warms, you may find that you get far more rainfall this summer. Fingers crossed. The reason for my thinking is that Lake Eyre is currently full, and the hot summer winds will hopefully bring that evaporating water with them over your part of the country. It is only a wild guess, so fingers crossed and we’ll see how it works out.

    The water tank is a great idea, and I always sleep more soundly knowing the water tanks are full.

    Well, there is great news on that front. The dirt mouse will be repaired! Yay! The editor pleaded with them this morning – and they took pity on us. Nice! It is interesting that you suggest that about having a say. We asked a million questions (well not quite) about the process and we were told that the insurance company would not write off the car without our permission. Now of course, that in no way means that the car would be repaired or even economically repairable. I’ve known people to purchase their wrecks, but again that means that something has to be done with the wreck. Best not to wreck something in the first place, well that is what I reckon anyway. My skills in the panel beating area are not so good.

    I was considering the fix it myself option, but insurance companies swap data nowadays and I’m really uncertain of the prospects for insurance going forward from that point. It would be a risky venture with an uncertain outcome as they would know that the vehicle was written off.

    Yeah, me too! 🙂 A koala’s diet sounds totally toxic to me. How good did the koala’s coat look? Good stuff.

    Keep warm yourself as well, and I’m doing my best to dodge falling branches. 😉 Best wishes for decent rainfall for you.



  7. Hi Bev,

    Thank you for your kind thoughts. We received the news this morning that the dirt mouse will be repaired. The editor pleaded with the panel beating company early this morning and they may have taken pity on us. It is a serious relief. I hope not to have to deal with insurance companies if I can help it.

    Yeah, the winds were particularly bad up here from about Wednesday to Sunday. Off the mountain it was nowhere near as windy. Some of the gusts at ground level were reaching well over 45km/h and the house was being buffeted and you could hear the windows groaning. Fortunately the entire house is strapped up with steel for extreme wind loadings, but far out. One Christmas Day many years ago a mini tornado hit – that was feral and I unfortunately didn’t have a wind speed meter, but the storm was very localised.

    Glad to hear that nothing valuable was destroyed by your falling trees and branches. Stay safe and keep alert as vegetation can continue to fall for days afterwards. The second photo was the head of a tree which was caught high up in another tree, but the wind eventually blew it to the ground.

    It is good and almost free firewood which I may even use next year – or possibly the year after. Don’t you get good at surviving minor disasters… What do they say, practice makes perfect?

    Not much is growing in the vegie garden at the moment. I reckon this year is colder than last winter, but the average temperatures this month compared to the long term averages suggest otherwise. We planted out our winter veg too late this year as we got sucked in by the warm and toasty autumn. Oh well, always learning…



  8. Hello Chris

    Vehicles are not my thing and I gave up driving over 10 years ago, but please tell me more about Craig’s Hut; I liked the scenery there. Nonetheless I am pleased that the Suzucki will be sorted okay.

    Thanks for info. on blackcurrants. My bushes are at least 10 years old so perhaps I should start again. Probably won’t though as I am definitely thinking ‘lets have lots of raspberries’. It wasn’t a dry Autumn and my loganberries were drowned the Winter before last. I thought that they were done for but recovery is in progress.

    Weather marginally cooler today 27C indoors; of course I meant centigrade before.

    Son took me shopping today and I requested a return along our back route. Not good for the truck because it is a bad dirt road. Anyhow it was interesting. All the fields, road verges and peoples front lawns have gone brown, similar to 1976. It is still completely green in my neck of the woods and I am even seeing dew in the mornings. This must be thanks to the trees and hedgerows which are almost a complete mesh.


  9. Hi Chris,

    Good to read that the dirt mouse will be repaired after all. Cars are really quite a pain. Thank you for sharing stories of your younger days. It’s quite evident that these experiences shaped you into who you are today though I suppose that’s true of most people.

    Would love to comment more but things are pretty crazy here. Closing the sale on our house in a few hours and on the new one tomorrow. There were several last minute glitches that I did not need but it seems all is good to proceed though one never knows until the check is in hand.

    Michael also had another visit to the ER on Friday. Luckily it was pretty short and they sent him home with an inhaler. Why that wasn’t done in the first place – I wish I knew.

    On the plus side the weather has been quite delightful the last few days. May not be commenting too much for the next few weeks – depends on how smoothly moving everything to the new place goes.


  10. Yo, Chris – Well, I don’t know VWs from Ramblers. :-). Wow. I didn’t know that about the insurance companies. Purely a business decision, I’m sure :-(. They force you into buying something newer, and, of course the rates go up. Here, we’re having a problem with ANY claim, even if it’s not your fault and your rates go up. Why I bit the bullet and just paid for the deer damage, out of pocket.

    They seem to “total” a vehicle, at the drop of a hat, these days. Here, at least last time I checked, people either took the “totaled” money and repaired the vehicle … or, just spent the money. I don’t know if they’re then, uninsurable. In this State, you are required to carry insurance, by law. I’ll ask Frank the Mechanic, next time I see him what’s up. Congratulations on the late bulletin. You get to keep your Precious, on the road.

    Saw an article on the drought in SE Oregon. Also, about the terrible, record setting storms in Japan. Snow? What snow? I enlarged the picture and did see 9 tiny white streaks. Was that it? :-).

    I have no problems with bio-solids. The rebranding of poo. :-). As long as it’s properly composted, what’s the worry? Thousands of years of night soil farmers can’t be wrong. I think there are some treatment plants here and there that sell the stuff. Good to see an article like that, as it gives the Pro-poo people a bit of documented back up.

    I should carry my phone more regularly. In case the Garden Goddess or one of the other Inmates, goes down. But I forget. I sometimes carry it in my truck. Then forget it and I’m padding downstairs at bedtime in my stocking feet to retrieve it. That’s how attached I am to the darned thing. Not. Cont.

  11. Cont. There’s a small Wikipedia page for Council, Idaho, if your curious. They have a good temperature records chart. Startling. Looks like I’d be living in the Mediteranian climate you enjoy. At least, in the summer.

    My friends sent me more accurate information on the garden plots. 15×15′ (so, 225 square feet. Almost twice what I have now) and it’s $5 a month. Which includes water. They also have a little tool shed with tools provided.

    Yup. Counting way too many chickens before they’re hatched, I have thought about eventually getting my own place. If I’m up to it? I think being “on the scene”, living in The Barracks, I’d be more likely to find a place. And, there’s a possible job in the offing, at the local library.

    It was nice of the trees to have the good grace to not crush anything (or, anyone) vital. They must be happy with you. And, I too thought, “firewood!”. That’s quit a hollow tree, behind you. Very Winnie the Pooh. :-).

    I was reading more of the Logsdon book, looking for the story you reference. No joy. But I found the chapter on the old duffer, really interesting. I didn’t realize, that Logsdon, though raised in the country, and on a farm, had a different take on agriculture. Until he met the Duffer.

    I see from the book list in the front that he wrote a book on Wyeth! I think I’ve read it, but will get another copy from the library and give it another go.

    Our sunset, last night, looked like your sunrise. Quite pretty.

    I pruned more of my pumpkin leaves and had to explain (twice) what I was about :-). Besides keeping the weeds down, it also occurred to me that placing them thorny side up would (maybe) keep the kitties out of my garden. Lew

  12. Hi everyone,

    Just thought that you might enjoy this article on the breeding of and reintroduction of Eastern Quolls (a marsupial cat) on the mainland of Australia. They used to live in this mountain range until the 1983 Ash Wednesday fires destroyed their feed and habitat. Foxes and feral domestic cats have filled their niche since then. I read somewhere that the last Quoll hairs were discovered around these parts in about 1992 (or around that time). The animals need big old trees with hollows for them to live in – and then a whole lot of feeding. They’d do a good job with the rats…

    This article is from the state to the north of the one I live in: Baby eastern quolls born on Australian mainland in landmark win for reintroduction program.

    I’ve also read historical accounts that the early settlers and convicts kept them as pets.



  13. Hi Chris,

    I’m glad to hear the dirt mouse will be repaired!

    You make a good point about the system working against our efforts to do the right thing in some instances, and you found yourself about to be caught in one of them. After all, if all of us had minor collision damage repaired, how could auto companies sell us more cars? And what industry is among those used as a bellwether for the economic health of a nation? Bad Chris for not contributing to the GDP to your utmost ability! 😉

    I got into two minor accidents with our previous car, a 1985 station wagon. Both low-speed collisions damaged the front end but didn’t injure anyone. The first time the insurance company totaled the car. We chose to receive the settlement and use it to repair the car. Our insurance company continued to insure the car, but not for collisions iirc (it was 20 years ago; details have faded). But we still had liability coverage which is what we were most concerned about. We had to pay the entire cost to repair the second collision, but it was well worth doing as we got another 4 years of use out of the car and then sold it when we got the current car. In fact, we saw the previous car being driven around the neighborhood for a few years after we sold it. Perhaps the laws are different in Australia and the US?

    We had tree parts lying on the ground or hung up in electrical lines or on buildings in our area from the severe thunderstorm that hit us on June 28 like the ones in your post.

    Garden report: the cucumbers are outdoing themselves this year, but the zucchinis are underwhelming me so far. I did find three good-sized zucchinis this morning, at least. The first of the yard-long bean flowers have appeared. We have lots of green tomatoes, no ripe ones yet.

  14. Hi, Chris

    Oh, that is good news about the Dirt Rat! The editor must be a persuasive voice, or possibly the mechanics are just suckers for a lady in distress?😜

    I did notice the canoe tree, and wondered if that’s what it was. How marvellous to live with all that history, human and natural. The forests round your area are breathtaking, though I’ve only been there twice, both times when I was a child.

    I have hopes for rain in spring, which is when we get most of our rain usually. The strange thing about this year’s rainfall is that, of the 150mm we’ve had, 60mm fell in February! That is not normal, unless we have a really scary storm! A few years ago, we had a massive thunderstorm on New Years Eve. It dropped literally tonnes of hail that blocked gutters and flooded the roofs of a local library and theatre, and one street nearby was thigh-deep in ice. Happy New Year, Canberra! It makes me think of the line, “of droughts and flooding rains”. Ah, Australia, beautiful one day, 6 feet under water the next!

    Have fun waging war on the rats. Those creatures are smart, but until they develop power tools, concrete will (probably) stop them. We can hope, anyway!


  15. Hi Inge,

    Well vehicles ain’t my thing either, I’d much prefer slower methods of travel so that I could appreciate the passing scenery. But the monetary economy is not so easy to escape, although I’ve put a fair bit of distance in between.

    Craig’s Hut is a beautiful creation isn’t it? The alpine country is full of old stockman huts in ridiculously remote locations. There are 12 times the number of people living in the UK as in this state, despite it being about the same landmass. That means that there are some very quiet spots. Cattle were taken up into the alpine areas for summer feed and watering. Craig’s Hut is a fairly recent creation, believe it or not. It was made for the film of the Man from the Snowy River. It looks the biz, and I have camped out inside the hut on freezing summer nights and it is worth its weight. It also happens to be on one of the highest points in the state.

    Honestly, I have no idea what I would do in your situation with the blackcurrants. At a guess, I’d probably leave the existing ones and plant some new branches in the ground – but I have a lot of space to play with. Hmm! Raspberries!

    No worries, I thought that you meant centigrade. Incidentally, it wasn’t that different outside here at time at 30’F… Brrr!

    You’ve described exactly what summer here looks like. Exactly too, well established vegetation does such weather easily. People tend to separate chunks of nature into bite sized pieces, but it doesn’t work that way, it is more like an orchestra.



  16. Hi Margaret,

    Yup, cars appear to be a necessary evil to me too. No worries at all, and I am glad that you are enjoying the stories. It has been a fun ride. 🙂

    Best wishes for all of the separate little and big things that need to happen for you over the next few weeks. It is a lot for a short period of time, so remember to look after yourself and Doug and take it easy from time to time.

    People can get a bit weird about possibly being sued for making an incorrect assessment and no doubt that was at the back of their minds. Incidentally, down here you can purchase inhalers over the counter at pharmacies for under ten bucks. We had a weird thunderstorm asthma event maybe two years ago and the authorities lightened up a bit. A few people died from complications.

    It is nice to get good weather during a move. The weather gods are smiling upon you!



  17. Hi Lewis,

    I can’t blame you about not knowing the difference, because most new cars look the same to me too. 😉 I finally sussed out how to use the emoticons in comments. I didn’t know all this about insurance arrangements either, but you take two people with minds that get curious about things, like to ask questions, and with terrier like tendencies, and we usually get to the bottom of the important issues!

    We never fully understood the financial implications of the risk of owning older vehicles – even ones that are well maintained, but as events shift, we get to experience a wider perspective of a situation. Then we can work out how best to respond given the circumstances.

    The other thing to remember is that there is a conflict of interest, because if we do end up with a new car (which is not going to happen now), then the nice insurance company gets a larger annual premium, the car companies get to sell another vehicle, and the parts suppliers get their coffers refilled. I’d prefer to avoid all that unpleasantness. Yes, Smeagol will swear on the Precious! 🙂 Mate, life is full of compromise and each of us choose what we can live with. I’m unsure how to add more distance between myself and the monetary economy, as each further step is subject to diminishing returns. I’ll bet there is a book about that subject? I’d be very interested to learn Frank’s opinion of the matter. The people in the car industry that I know, also were a bit iffy about the possible waste of the situation and had been in a similar bind only recently.

    Oh, that’s not good about the drought in SE Oregon. I’d have to suggest that affecting 99% of the state population is quite significant. Well, extreme’s are getting more extreme, whilst things are staying the same all at the same time. You just hope your lucky numbers don’t turn up in that raffle. Yes, I’ve been reading about the floods in Japan. They’re horrific and massively widespread.

    Well, the snow looked better in, what do the kids call it, IRL?

    It is a good rebranding of poo product isn’t it? Exactly too, of course there are risks, but there are the same or different risks with all of the mulch and compost I bring up here. Will the mulch contain glyphosate? Of course it will. Will the compost contain antibiotics and vermicides? Of course they will. We live on a poisoned planet and that is what a poisoned planet looks like – which is sort of unappealing when you think about it, but people love applying that stuff so who am I to argue with them? 😉 Eventually it breaks down, the environment is very resilient – possibly more than we realise, but we may not like the outcomes of our policies…

    You are in good company, because I forget my phone too. I grew up not being contactable and maybe that is how I like my state of being. They’re handy technologies, and it amazes me that it wasn’t that long ago that a CB radio which could transmit 5 watts of power weighed quite a bit.

    You have to go where your heart tells you to go. Actually the summer weather is remarkably similar to here, and you know, you do adapt to the heat and cold. The rainfall is not too dissimilar from slightly further and drier north of here, but the snow melt may add to a lot of extra groundwater, but I don’t have any experience with that and am just guessing. A job at the library sounds pretty cool.

    I’d hope the trees are happy with the work that we’re doing – they look healthy enough – especially the older and larger trees which are only about half way through their lifespan from what I can tell. Humans can be pretty handy in a landscape that has adapted to their general mucking around in the environment, over the past forty plus millennia. The hollow tree behind me in the picture is a canoe tree and it is a very special tree.

    Might have to take a peek into the book after I’ve replied here, and I’ll see what I can turn up. It is in there somewhere. Toward the end of the book, from memory. That was a great story about him meeting the old duffer and the immediate influence the old duffer had on the people around him, merely through his actions. I hope to one day be an old duffer who can live up to such as that!

    Oh! We haven’t mentioned Andrew Wyeth before, but he’s good. Really good. I just went down a rabbit hole of looking at his art. Great stuff.

    Ah yes, red sunlight at night, shepherd’s delight! Given what Cliff Mass wrote about your weather, it sounds about right to me!

    Lewis, why ever are you pruning the pumpkin leaves? Hehe!

    I ran into a bloke I know this morning who has been out of action due to a serious bike injury. Being cheeky, I didn’t even mention the bike accident and just said: F!@#, you been? What, you go backpacking or something… Of course, I had to give the game away by throwing in a very cheeky smile and laugh at my own joke. He’s doing OK and had broken both of his elbows by falling off a push bike. Ouch. One needs a good laugh in that circumstance! 🙂



  18. Hi Claire,

    Yeah, we’re really glad that the dirt mouse will be repaired too. The waste would have been incredible. It has uncovered a giant hole in our plans, but you know, we’ll adapt. Better to learn now when you have the time to adapt, well that’s what I reckon anyway. 🙂

    Insurance is a funny game. You may note that from time to time, I install more permanent sprinklers and ever further from the house. Insurance on a long term basis is something I really wonder about, and you are spot on too, it is a bellwether.

    Actually the other thing is that there is a conflict of interest in there too, because the insurance premium on a new vehicle is so much more than what I pay for the dirt mouse.

    Thanks for sharing your story, and that is also an option. Down here we call that policy: third party, fire and theft. It covers the liability for other people, but not for yourself. Incidentally, our registration covers the cost of personal injury insurance so that everybody is covered. The law comes down pretty hard on unregistered vehicles – and there are more of those floating around than you’d think. Incidentally the police now have number plate readers on their vehicles down here and from all accounts they’re hooked up to the central database. That is not a risk I’d take. In a funny side story, one of the occasional Green Wizards lives on an island where pretty much the entire islands population were busted by the authorities for having unregistered vehicles…

    I hope nothing fell onto any of your property, fencing or garden? It was miraculous here that nothing was squashed, although I don’t wish to tempt the gods. There lies the way of hubris…

    Fresh cucumbers! Yum! We pickled about six huge jars of them last summer, and the editor is enjoying them in her lunch. It is a bit early for zucchini and tomatoes, if the seasons were stood on its head (more likely August). Enjoy your produce! Yum! 🙂



  19. Hi Hazel,

    Thanks! Yeah, the editor went hard and gave them a good story over the phone. Damsel in distress wins all manner of dragon slaying battles! 🙂 It would have been incredibly wasteful for the car to be written off, so we’re really happy with the result.

    Well done, you’d be amazed how few people recognise the tree for what it is. And I’m assuming that because the tree was hollow as a result of the scar and latter fires, the loggers never cut it down. There is also the remote possibility that they didn’t cut it down out of respect. Thanks. It is a beautiful part of the world. I love the mountains to the south of you, and they are equally beautiful and mysterious.

    I was surprised by the summer rain but, also very grateful for it. The fire risk here went right into early May, and the authorities lifted the restrictions about a week too early from what we could see. Exactly too, the climate is very variable and that happens here too, although New Years is usually pushing 40’C+ for some weird reason.

    Hehe! Let’s hope that the concrete does the trick. More to come on that story over the next few weeks…



  20. Hello again
    Another peerless Summer’s day. Creatures are beginning to hunt for water. I thought that a dog was on my decking due to excessive noise. It was a buzzard trying to reach water in a bucket. I have now put out a more easily accessed container of water.

    I water my fruit and veg every morning; some of it could probably do with an evening watering as well.

    I agree that living completely off the land is probably impossible at anything above basic survival for a short while. One would need livestock and be able to feed them + hunting/fishing and the ability to grow some cereal in addition to fruit and veg. Most people these days are completely unaware of how reliant they are on our modern civilization.


  21. Yo, Chris – Go the Quolls! LOL. There’s probably a sports team, somewhere, called the Fighting Quolls. Some poor sap has to be the team mascot and run around in a smelly costume. A marsupial. Figures. Being Australia, and all. But they are, cute as. Next year’s pet du jour! I’ll take one of the black and white spotty ones. :-).

    The snow looked better in the meat world. AKA, up close and personal. Snowfalls ARE so pretty and exciting. As long as they don’t get out of hand.

    Mobile phones look so funny in older movies that are trying to be “hip and with it.” Big ol’ things that are larger than a brick, but smaller than a shoe box. Maxwell Smart?

    I’m surprised I haven’t mentioned Wyeth. I really like his pictures and have several books about his paintings. And have read many more. But maybe not the one by Logsdon. Our library doesn’t have it. But Amazon does, and they’re not too dear.

    The whole family is pretty unconventional. And, touched by tragedy. The father, N.C. Wyeth was a quit well known artist and illustrator. You’ve probably seen his paintings. He illustrated lots of editions of books like “Treasure Island” and “Kidnapped.” He was killed in the early 1940s. Car stalled on a railroad track. Along with his grandson. Wyeth’s nephew.

    Andrew Wyeth’s son, Jamie, has become a well known artist in his own right. There was always a bit of tension, among the generations. Competition. They painted a bit different from each other.

    I’ll be going down my own internet rabbit hole. Logsdon mentioned (in the chapter on buzzards) that the Kuerner family has produced an artist. Their farm and family figure in many of Wyeth’s paintings. The print I found a few weeks ago that I got all excited about (Pauline Campanelli) is similar in style to Wyeth. She’s often compared to him. Probably why I liked it.

    I checked the blueberries, here at The Home, yesterday. One small bush had a few ripe ones on it. Other bushes have berries that look ripe, but aren’t. Pretty tart. A few more days … Lew

  22. Hi Inge and Lewis,

    Thanks for the lovely comments, but we got back home late this evening and have run out of time to reply. Promise to reply tomorrow.

    Lewis – The Quolls are great aren’t they? They’d be my totem animal if they were around these parts. They are really cute, but their bite packs a real punch. I believe in the animal kingdom, only the Tasmanian devils have more power to crunch ratio than the humble quoll.

    Got home late this evening and the weather station reported that today’s maximum temperature was 6’C / 43’F outside after an overnight low of 1’C / 34’F. Brr! We don’t re-load the wood fire overnight so it burns out. But with the fire out all day today and several days of single digit weather, well, this evening the inside of the house was 10’C / 50’F which is as cold as I have ever seen it. The previous coldest inside the house was 52’F so it is hardly that great a difference, but records are records and it doesn’t matter how fine the hairs are that we are splitting here… 🙂 Brrr!

    The batteries have a temperature monitor on them and it is reading even colder at 9’C / 48’F which is colder again. What a winter! And insulation can never heat the house, it can only reduce the rate of loss and gain of energy.

    Had Chinese dumplings tonight, and they were full of chilli, so my guts at least are feeling warm. Hehe!



  23. Hi, Chris!

    That dirt rat in the heading photo is tops! And how great was that Torana? Is that the make of the car, as in a Toyota or Ford? I like the green. My first vehicle was a 1966 green Ford pickup truck with no power steering, only lent to me by my dad when I had to have use of a car. What a beast; I wish I had it now. Then my granddad felt sorry for me and gave my his old blue Buick. You couldn’t bring it to a full stop or it died. At least it had brakes, which some of my subsequent cars didn’t. It is amazing that, with people on the road like you and I, any of our generation survived at all.

    I am so overjoyed to hear the news about the dirt mouse. Very good news! Your used cars sound quite expensive to me. I’m pretty sure that I could find a quite a good used car for $5,000 or $6,000.

    What a pink and purple sky! I’d give a lot to have your rain. It’s been 3 weeks without it here and hot as. We have to water every day. Parrots in the snow – and who lives in the bird house in the summer? Look at Chris all bundled up and stunningly clean as well! I’m trying to think if cement could be use on our garden perimeter as Arnie the groundhog works ever harder and still gets in sometimes. His Have-a-Heart trap was delivered yesterday, but my son says he gets one more chance (he has had multiple one-more-chances) unless he touches the cantaloupe vines. I think a small paintball gun is on order for the squirrels . . . I am informed that I must not feed squirrels next winter (that means no birds either). That will be hard because of Charlene the White Squirrel.

    That seems like a pretty big olive tree to move. And how about that ungrateful bear? Spring is almost there! It is a long time away for fall here.

    Your winter flowers are just as lovely as our summer ones.


  24. Yo, Chris – Well, it’s only single digits in centigrade. :-). Maybe if you think in F, you’ll feel warmer? I remember the little house I had with the little wood burner. I’d get home from work around 10pm. Thrusting a twist of flaming newspaper in the back of the firebox to heat up the pipe to get a good draw. My coat stayed on for quit awhile.

    I didn’t see Frank the Mechanic, but one of the fellows who works for him popped into The Club for a cuppa. Big Bearded Guy. He calls me Little Bearded Guy. :-).

    Here, it works something like this. If a vehicle is in a wreck and is repaired, if the insurance company has it down as a total loss, you can go to the State and get an amended title. Called, I think, a Collision Repaired Title. Doesn’t cost much.

    You can show that to your insurance company and get re-insured. Higher rates? Probably. Maybe. But you can only get liability insurance (if another driver or your passenger) is insured, they’re covered. You can also get “Uninsured Motorist.” If the other driver doesn’t have insurance (in this State, all drivers must be insured. Nice theory but …).

    It rained enough yesterday morning that I didn’t have to water. Might be the last of that, for awhile.

    That Chinese chili dumpling sounds really good. And, besides warming up your tummy, will probably be a bit warm … a little further down the line. :-). Lew

  25. Hi Chris

    1C overnight? Pure luxury! The last few nights have read -5, -7, -4C with pretty much the same predicted for most nights for a week. I assume that it’s the dryness of the air. Anyway, count your blessings – it could be colder!

    The quolls are absolutely gorgeous, I can understand wanting them as pets. It’s great news that they’re breeding successfully. Maybe they could keep your rats under control? You could sign on as a quoll whisperer!😃

    Go the chilli! I hope you were having a good time tonight, not working? That would make it worth coming home to a cold house. What you need then is a hot water bottle and a good night’s sleep, so you can face lighting the fire in the morning.


  26. Hi Inge,

    Yup, water is everything during the sort of summers you are experiencing. From your experience do you feel that the hot and dry conditions in your part of the world will continue for the next month or so? For me, the dry summer conditions extended into early May, which is not unprecedented, but it is quite extreme. Incidentally, it is very thoughtful of you to leave water out for the critters. Even the insects will need access to a water source where they can’t be eaten by other critters.

    The evening water is worth considering, because I’ve found that the morning watering (and I have limited water supplies) tends to have evaporated by lunchtime in really hot weather, but evening watering hangs around for many hours over night.

    Exactly! It is enormously complex. For just one example, my sixteen chickens would require half an acre put to mixed grains – and I’m not doing that (at this stage). A single horse requires 3 acres. A single cow requires 2.5 acres. Mostly people over stock, but to go back to a really low energy system, that is tough – and I also don’t believe that the soil fertility is there at the moment in most parts of the world, although it could be restored, but it would take a few years… I’d be curious as to your thoughts, but livestock is I believe a form of food preserving if you can get the livestock through to about mid to late winter? Dunno.



  27. Hi Lewis,

    Too true about the snow looking better in the meat world. I like that term too as it sounds very sci-fi to my ears. Far out, it almost sounds a bit like the sort of rubbish that singulartarians would bang on about. Being locked into a computer would be a form of death to me, and it would be just so boring. What strange ambitions that lot have. Have you ever encountered one in the meat world? Can’t say that I’ve ever met anyone with that particular goal / desire.

    Yeah, the old mobile phones looked like glorified CB radios to me. Big chunky things the size of bricks. Years ago I saw a very old car mobile phone unit, and the transmitter was the size of a briefcase. It looked more like a satellite phone, or maybe something that could transmit a message to the moon or somewhere like useful that.

    Nup, you haven’t mention Mr Wyeth before. His paintings are extraordinary and quite striking to my eyes. Well, from time to time we must all suffer the indignity of expanding our book collections! 🙂

    Speaking of which, I’ve been considering rebuilding the library in the hallway of this house (book shelves line both sides of the hallway). It is a good use for an otherwise unused room. The materials used in the original bookshelves (melamine) are beginning to sag which is just another waste. I’d use much more sturdy materials in the replacement, but it is so hard to know what will go the distance until it fails utterly. But there are so many other projects demanding our attention. The rats will get a surprise tonight! Take that my rodent friends. The fluffy empire has struck a blow to the rodent resistance! We’re beginning the job of pouring a cement slab into the chickens run. It has been a complicated project because there are chickens inside the enclosure, and dogs outside the enclosure. The cement also has to be poured early enough in the day so that it cures firmly enough to squash the ambitions of the rats. They could easily dig through a wet and damp concrete slab.

    There is a family of artists like that down under and they lived out in the middle of nowhere. Well, I guess if you lived there you’d probably think that it was close to everything, because it would be for them. Anyway: Pro Hart.

    Hmm, yeah, unripe blueberries are an unforgettable experience. Did you pick the ripe blueberries on the small bush?

    Ha! What can I say, but I am summer soft and unused to such cold temperatures. 😉 It has been a very cold winter here, although the long term statistics are suggesting that things used to be colder. I can’t fathom it… Last night was a four woollen blanket night, and my face was poking out from a nest of the blankets and it sure felt cold to me.

    Big bearded guy has a good sense of humour and thanks for asking him. The uninsured insurance is one that I have not heard of before. Interesting, also the Collision Repaired Title is another thing that has no equivalent down here. Interesting. At any rate, as the vehicle gets older, it will likely not be worth fully insuring, and perhaps we may just cover the other parties damage. It is a very wasteful system. We’re incorporating this new information into our world view and haven’t quite come up with a plan for the way forward.

    Interestingly, it is house insurance that I really wonder about in the long run. I am installing sprinklers for the bushfire risk as I get the opportunity to do so for this very reason. My understanding is that only half of all houses in rural areas are covered by insurance. It is one of those bills that people can quietly drop and for all intents and purposes they can continue living large. I am uncomfortable with such risk and keep the place insured.

    Incidentally the banks are threatening raising interest rates down here. The numbers of folks in mortgage stress are quite staggering, and there are interesting things going on with the interest only mortgages which will have to be reapplied for at sometime in the near future. What the heck were people thinking taking out one of those mortgages? In one recent year, as many as 40% of mortgages were apparently one of those types. Our very own special Big Short in action, down under style.

    I began cutting up and burning off some of the fallen branches from the wind storm last week. The weather here today was gloriously sunny but very cold. I’m trying to have a very low stress couple of days because work has been feral busy recently over the past few months. Too much accounting makes for a very dull Chris…

    It is nice to read of your recent rainfall and the plants will surely enjoy it.

    Ha! Yup, no results today about the chilli, but most likely tomorrow… Ouch! And memorable…



  28. Hi Pam and Hazel,

    Yes, I’m naughty for not replying to your lovely comments tonight. On the other hand I’m off to the pub for a pint and feed! Is this a good thing that balances out the previous naughtiness? I’d like to think so!



  29. Hello again

    I used to water in the evening and have only started to water in the morning this Summer after failing one evening and therefore having to water the next morning. I then carried on. It doesn’t seem to be making any difference. Son says that mornings are better because the plants drink more then. I have no idea as to whether this is true or utter nonsense.

    Don’t know whether or not the weather will continue in this vein, our weather tends to be infinitely changeable. However I think that it might continue as a real heat build up tends to maintain itself. But what do I know! The older I get, the less I think that I know anything at all for sure.

    Oh I do love Craig’s Hut and continue to look at the photo with pleasure. It is my kind of isolated habitat with a fantastic view.

    I am looking at a particularly strange and gorgeous book which must have belonged to my mother. These are surfacing as I continue to deal with the damaged contents in my shed. The book is called ‘Gnomes’ by Wil Huygen. It is a complete survey of gnomes. Sounds ridiculous doesn’t it, but it is absolutely riveting.


  30. Hi Chris,

    May the concrete flooring prevent rat invasions! Why, the nerve of those rodents. They should know that the chickens’ place is not theirs!

    Meanwhile, a few days back I looked up into the peach tree and what did I see but a half-grown raccoon. It’s no wonder we don’t get any peaches, between the raccoons and the squirrels and the birds, and who knows what else that I haven’t caught sight of in there. Mike chased the raccoon out of the tree, but the peaches are still a few days from ripening enough for human consumption. We’ll be lucky if the critters leave us any.


  31. Yo, Chris – Nope. Never brushed up against a cyber punk. They cluster most, in the cities. Better connectivity, don’t ya know :-). Can’t say I care much for the cyber-sci fiction, either. Some of the movies aren’t too bad.

    Oh, yeah. I had forgot about the phones in the very posh brief cases. Very James Bond.

    I looked up some of Karl Kuerner’s paintings. He has a “looser” style than Wyeth. And, he occasionally dips into more fantasy or surrealism. Wyeth did do a few “mysterious” paintings. He’s got one (on the Kuerner farm, no less) called “Brown Swiss.” Which is a kind of cow. There is not a cow to be seen in the painting. Maybe some poo and a well trampled muddy farmyard.

    Hart is an interesting artist. Outsider Art. Reminds me a bit of Grandma Moses. But, given her time, she didn’t do anything remotely political. But, outsider artists are often “discovered” and sucked into the organized art world. Cont.

  32. Cont. I left the small bush to Steve :-). I told him, of course The Ladies will be saying “Steve ate ALL the blueberries.” As we were out of earshot of anyone, he said a rather rude word :-).

    I went out with a whip and chair, this morning, to do a bit more pruning on the pumpkins … and, the tomatoes. Hacking off non productive lower branches and shoving them back into their cages. I discovered tiny green tomatoes, hidden in the brush.

    After seeing a glimpse of the miniature penguins in “Islands of Australia”, I noticed a new DVD popped up at the library. “Australian Penguins: Penguin Island.” In some ways, it was a bit of a disapointment. There were no subtitles. And, between the crashing waves and loud symphonic music score, half the narration was lost.

    But if I can’t have a Quoll, I’ll take a miniature penguin, please. Why have an exotic animal if it’s not endangered? I’d be helping to “save” the species! I’m sure that’s what some of THOSE people tell themselves. Lew

  33. Hi Pam,

    Oh yeah, the little white dirt rat meant business. For such a small, lightweight, and basic machine – it really went places. And even in the worst mud, I never once became bogged down and stuck, which is the curse of many a larger and heavier vehicle. You know, I reckon there is a market for such bare bones basic machines.

    “You couldn’t bring it to a full stop or it died. At least it had brakes, which some of my subsequent cars didn’t”. Hehe! 🙂 I laughed pretty hard at those stories. Fun stuff. You know there are people around today who are oblivious of the fact that brakes in a car can fail, often without warning! I’ll bet you had to pump the brake pedal hard to get those beasts to pull up to a stop… Far out, yup drum brakes all round – that was the bane of the white dirt rat Suzuki in photo because if the water ever got into the brake shoes, stopping in time became a serious challenge. At least the snot green beast had disc brakes on the front wheels. Exactly too, I once vividly recall locking the brakes up on a major highway late one night and the car happily skidded and sailed across into the oncoming lane. Imagine that nowadays? There were very few cars on the roads in those days – and late at night out of town it was exceptionally quiet.

    Thanks, and we’re overjoyed at the reprieve for the dirt mouse. Things are cheaper in your country.

    Oh my, sorry to hear about the lack of rain and the heat. If your summer is anything like the one just past here, it swung from one extreme to another – and a hot and dry autumn just went on and on. Remember to hang onto some water. I’m going to add another 1,050 gallon water tank soon. Yup, water is a problem and is the limiting factor. Even the UK is having a heatwave and a dry spell. I put a link to an article in my reply to Inge (which hasn’t been typed out yet) about the situation there.

    Hehe! Yup, the parrots have quite a large family living here at the farm – and they are big fans of Ollie, if only because he is a big dog and eats a lot of food… Thanks about being “clean and all” over winter – I hate mud. Yuk! I should tell that muddy story… It is still cold here but I noticed some signs that things are beginning to grow again.

    Cement is good, and it would probably do Arnie’s head in. The rats have had a surprise this evening because one quarter of the chicken run inside the enclosure now has a tidy looking concrete slab which was poured this morning. The editor was amazed at the level of rodent activity in the apparently rodent proof enclosure. No eggs for about three weeks now.

    Yeah, the rats get one more chance too. Your son shows common sense and a heart. One must have both, me thinks. A paintball gun! Far out. On the other hand, it could add a dash of colour to the already colourful parrots and your squirrel. Charlene sounds lovely. Have you considered going out into the garden and having a chat to her about her nefarious ways? A little bit of feed wouldn’t hurt too much. You could suggest to your son that the birds and squirrels need to be slowly weaned off the winter feeding otherwise their population will crash in an unpleasant way? Anyway, think of the manure they spread around the garden. One must accept the movement of birds, insects, and animals through a garden otherwise you have to bring in and spread all of that fertility yourself. An unappealing notion…

    My mates of the big shed fame purchased an entire grove of olive trees that were going to be ripped out by a developer. Now if those trees could be relocated and survived last summer…

    Absolutely, the diet of a koala bear makes them very sleepy, but when they are awake, they’re really surly despite looking cute as. To be honest there are not that many large animals that can happily consume eucalyptus leaves because they’re so toxic. It is an impressive achievement by the koalas and we must forgive them their grumpy, I’ve had no coffee yet vibe! 🙂



  34. Hi Hazel,

    The editor’s uncle lived in Canberra and she spent many an enjoyable summer holiday as a child in that city as a guest of the family. She has told me on numerous occasions that you could be swimming in a pool during the heat of the day, only to be huddled in front of a fireplace at night! Far out! About two years ago we went to her uncles funeral and stayed near Kingston. The night before the funeral we decided to celebrate the blokes life and she shared memories of him over dinner at an excellent Italian restaurant in Kingston over a bottle of Chianti and some of the tastiest linguine fungi that I have ever consumed. Yum, and a nice way to celebrate a person’s life! So, yes, 1’C is a luxury and I am counting my blessings, and it may sound really weird to you but the coldest I’ve seen here is -1’C. You’d think it would be otherwise given the southerly location and southerly mountainous aspect, but the area is in a quite protected natural amphitheatre from the prevailing weather. I have read historical accounts that the temperature can drop to -10’C in the more exposed areas of the mountain range, but in over a decade I have yet to see that eventuate. They have snow gums growing up at the exposed points of the mountain range.

    Hehe! Yes, the spotted quolls are beautiful creatures aren’t they? And I would love to have a family of them here. You may or may not be aware of the Victorian – Tasmanian band: “Holy Holy”. They’re very good. Anyway, I once heard an interview with the singer who lives in Tasmania and he was apparently recounting a story of the quolls eating his chickens. Not very rock and roll huh? 😉

    Thank you for saying that. It was a four blanket night that night. Far out the batteries were at 9’C and they’re in an unheated room which shows how things could have gone if the fire was not lit the previous day. We woke up to 11’C inside the house and that felt very cold. Firewood is a beautiful heat source, but it takes far more work than simply flicking a switch. Oh well, we did choose this life so mustn’t grumble.

    Have you had any rain over the past few days? The Bureau put out the 3 month forecast and it does not make for good reading.



  35. Hi Inge,

    Your story is the stuff of true experiments! Sometimes we’ve completely mucked something up and learned from the experience. It can be quite insightful to do so. Ha! I beg to differ from your son’s experience, if only because the summer weather here is more extreme (like your winters are more extreme) and the plants bounce back from a hot summers day with an evening’s watering. You just have to be flexible. Sometimes evening watering can encourage fungal problems in some parts of the world, and I accept that, but it is just too hot for such problems down here during a hot summer.

    The Bureau of Meteorology down here has just released a: Dry, warm outlook for South Eastern Australia three month forecast which predicts warm and dry conditions in this corner of the continent. Strangely, the rainfall is about on average for the farm this year, but the temperatures are a bit more extreme in either direction. Dunno. I agree with you in that the only thing to count on is variability. Did you just suggest that the first steps along the path to wisdom is suggesting that perhaps we just don’t know? 😉 If that is the case, I hear you!

    It is a beautiful, wild, and virtually unpopulated area of the state. You know I sort of feel happy knowing that such places exist. Not to send you on an internet rabbit hole, but there are a number of other huts on that mountain: Mount Stirling. You can search on the internet by hut name and add the word image. They’re really beautiful and fragile constructions. The construction that is on the photo was apparently lost in the 2006 bushfires, but I believe it has been restored by enthusiasts.

    I have read that book on gnomes too. It is really lovely and I too would be lost in it, all the while considering the elder folk.

    Oooo! Before I forget, I spotted an amazing and very weird side effect of your prolonged heat wave and drought in the UK: UK heatwave reveals long-hidden archaeological sites buried underground. How good is that?



  36. Hi Claire,

    Oh completely and utterly far out! It is about 9.30pm here and we just visited the chicken enclosure to finish off the concrete pour (that now covers about one quarter of the chicken run inside the chicken enclosure). The form-work supporting the cement pour had to be removed. Form-work is the fancy name for the timber used to support the concrete slab as it slowly dries. It basically keeps it in place whilst it dries and being the curing process. Then despite it being only 37’F, I used a combination of cold water and my fingers to smooth off the rough edges of the concrete slab. I’m glad to be back inside the house where warmth can return to my fingers. Brr!

    No doubts the entire edifice of concrete will be a confounding mystery for our rodent friends. Over the next few weeks, we’ll expand the cement pour until the entire run is covered over. Deep litter mulch will then sit on top of the concrete and the chickens won’t know any differently as they’ll still be able to happily dust bathe in the deep litter mulch. Once the rats broke into the enclosure, that was that and something had to be done.

    Have you ever noticed that the birds and animals appear to enjoy fruit and nuts when they are ever so slightly under ripe? Fresh sun ripened peaches off the tree are a delicacy. Yes, who knows what else is lurking in the shade of the leaves of the fruit trees? Incidentally, rats can climb fruit trees and enjoy the fruit. I’ve seen rats living in a nest in a hollow high up in a big old eucalyptus tree. Fortunately they don’t seem to want to climb too high into the trees.

    It is an amazing balancing act, and it varies from year to year. Someone once remarked to me (the cheeky scamp) that I’d planted an extraordinary complex and productive supermarket for the local wildlife, and that applies equally to your garden! 🙂 The wildlife brings a lot of joy too, and my goal is to out produce them with winter setting an upper limit on their population. It may be possible? Dunno.



  37. @ Claire:

    We must all belong to some club, whose initiation by wildlife never ends. The squirrels here are now going through the ground cherries and tomatoes.


  38. Hi Lewis,

    You’ve had a lucky existence to avoid cyber punks. To me they reveal themselves as ‘true believers’ set to challenge me in the meat world whenever I mention that this renewable energy stuff is really good, but it just ain’t good enough. It is a complex interaction because inevitably I’m told by people with no skin in the game that the “stuff is getting cheaper all the time”. It is quite horrifying to face that belief system in the flesh because I purchase the other stuff required to make the cheap solar panels work – and that other stuff ain’t cheap, and it ain’t getting cheaper. I wish it wasn’t so because so many peoples hopes are pinned on the stuff – and they frankly have no idea.

    I used to enjoy the UK author Peter F Hamilton who I guess writes what could be described as cyber punk sci-fi. I enjoyed his recent book “Great North Road” because he introduced the concept of limits, ecological damage, and uncompromising aliens who took the long view and were prepared to thump humanity. I wonder what he is currently thinking about the prolonged heatwave and drought in the UK? At least they are smart enough to recycle water there – we balk at that choice down here, but time will sort that problem out.

    Hey, I never got around to watching the most recent instalment of the Blade Runner film – the reviews put me off. And Star Wars, I gave up on that franchise once Disney got their clutches on the beast. I like the unexpected films that can surprise.

    Haha! Yup, very James Bond indeed. Bring it back in one piece Bond! 🙂 Hehe! One of my mates is a big James Bond fan and to be honest I haven’t watched many of the films. They’ve never lost money, well that is the story that is told. Anyway he has a massive projector television and we watched the latest instalment of that franchise and I quite enjoyed the story and pace of the film.

    Speaking of Mr Logsdon, I looked up the specific chapter that I was referring to and it was Chapter 18 – Staying Longer in the Saddle. He even tells some sad tales without naming names…

    Your mentioning heritage wheat varieties and putting me onto books on that subject has yielded some results. Obviously I can’t plant until autumn when hopefully the new terrace has been dug and fenced (maybe?) Anyway, I came across this article in the news today: Bakers revive ancient grains and wheat from Australian genebank to produce better bread. Even better there is a link to a gene bank which is far, but not too far from here, and they have the venerable Federation variety of wheat. A famed variety which I have read about before for its drought, disease, and heat hardiness (i.e. it has long and deep root systems) which was developed over a century ago. I’m definitely going to write them an old school letter and see how I can assist them because it is a worthwhile project. One must keep ones eyes sharp for opportunities!

    Yeah, that outsider artist can take place in other realms such as music. It happens. I hadn’t heard of Grandma Moses before. Good stuff and who can argue with a quote like: “I look back on my life like a good days work, it was done and I am satisfied with it”. What a stoic philosophy.

    Naughty Steve! I hope he enjoyed the blueberries without suffering the indignity of being castigated by the venerable ladies of your establishment? 😉 Maybe he can just run fast or duck and weave if cornered? Hehe!

    August for your tomatoes at the earliest. Hehe! Good luck and don’t count the green tomatoes too early before they ripen. Hey, removing the leaves works with plenty of plants from the Solanum family. They’re a weird bunch because somehow they adapted the ability to survive being further buried. I mean what sort of environmental conditions would prompt that adaption? The mind boggles.

    One of the green wizards who is an infrequent attendee lives on the island (French Island) adjacent to the island that the penguins (Phillip Island) return to nightly. It is a huge international tourist destination and I haven’t visited the island since I was a kid. Incidentally, some small penguin colonies live on the breakwaters built into the huge bay that Melbourne is at the northern end of. When the editor and I used to live in the old suburb of South Melbourne, we used to sometimes walk down to the breakwaters at night and watch the penguins come in. It is quite amazing how much wildlife is hidden in and about the cities. I’m not sure the penguins are there now. Oh wow, there is a group that monitors the penguins: St Kilda penguins. Cool.

    Yeah, the broad Aussie accent can be a bit hard to get around. I get that.

    We poured the first quarters cement base underneath the chickens run, which is inside their enclosure today. The mice and rats are very displeased with us… No doubts they’ll come up with some new and interesting plan. Well, they have all day to come up with new plans… What did Mike Tyson apparently say: Every rat has a plan until it gets a face full of cement.

    Also began cleaning up all of the fallen branches from last week. So much free firewood. I made sure to thank the trees for their gifts. Not working too hard though and taking it all at a nice pace. I’m quite enjoying doing that as the past few months have been feral busy. The problems with the accident with the dirt mouse gave me pause to consider slowing down on some fronts of activity.



  39. Yo, Chris – I’ve been reading about the drought in Britain, too. Enough sites to keep the archaeologists busy, for decades. Manpower, money, time … weather :-). They’ll probably do a quick surface survey. See what’s on the surface and what the badgers have churned up. Maybe do a magnometer sweep. Then it’s “on the list” until someone gets fired up about a particular site.

    People are very short sighted about hidden … and not so hidden costs. Bits and pieces price’s fall. But, overall, everything is on the rise. Ten pounds of blueberries were $25, year before last. $30 last year. $35 this year.

    Thanks for the Logsdon reference. I’ll read it tonight.

    That was an interesting article about grain, in Australia. Similar is happening, here. I bet those are pricey loaves. Something “for special.” Not something you’re going to pack in your lunch box, everyday. I loved the line about, if you want to make money as a baker, bake donuts stuffed with Nutella. 🙂

    Since you’re well stocked with firewood for this winter, you can pick at the windfalls, at your leisure. :-). You’ll have a leg up on next year’s supply.

    I was fooling about in the garden,this morning. I asked the Garden Goddess if she wanted tomatoes or corn. Chose. As her tomatoes were over running her corn. Then I offered to trim that tomato back a bit.

    I trimmed up more of my tomatoes. Trying to get a little light into the Hubbard squash and keep them off the deer fence. Discovered two tomatoes that are quit large and going dark green.

    The smell of hacking away at tomatoes reminded me that, I think, tomatoes will repel some insects. I’ll have to look into that. It’s quit amazing. The pumpkin leaves and tomatoes I put down yesterday, are returning to earth at a rapid rate. Dusted a bit more Bt on the sprouts. The Garden Goddesses sprouts are doing to much better, than mine. Sprout envy. Lew

  40. Hello again

    Very strange: everyone to whom I mention the gnome book, already knows it including Son. How come I had missed it?

    One of the great joys arising from the realisation that one doesn’t know anything, is that one can relax and let the universe continue on its way without impediment.

    I hadn’t seen the info. about hot weather showing up the signs of old habitats. Remarkable how the lines show up in fields.

    Still hot and totally dry here.


  41. Hi Inge,

    The gnome book is very sweet and an enjoyable read, but there are a huge number of books to read, and only so many hours in the day – perhaps that explains the situation? I suffer that fate whenever a book recommendation is made. Do you have any criteria you apply as to whether you read a book, or not as the case may be?

    I had the pleasure of recently visiting a late night book shop in the city and it was nice just to peruse the shelves and see what books took my fancy. When I was there I picked up Mark Twain’s book Tom Sawyer, and am reading that now. It is a delightful tale which covers the full gamut of emotions whilst recounting disparate episodes from his childhood. Strangely enough when I was in the book shop they had a good collection of “The Classics” and I searched for Beowulf, but alas the search was in vain. Had I wanted to read the Iliad, well there were multiple copies of differing translations. Have you read either works?

    Exactly! I could not have described the situation better than that. 🙂 I really try hard to lower people’s expectations. On the other hand from time to time I do encounter people who use their expectations to gain an edge. I find such games to be tiresome, merely because they are beyond my culture, and often there is an element of cultural clash in such games.

    It is remarkable about the lines showing up in fields. The footings of those ancient constructions to my eyes display your falling ground water table. The excavations would – at a wild guess – be at a slightly lower point than the surrounding land. The plants root systems in those ever so slightly lower chunks of land would be able to reach the ground water a bit more easily than in the slightly higher locations. Dunno, I’m just guessing based on the photos. What do you reckon about that wild guess explanation?



  42. Hi Lewis,

    Yes, I often wonder who stumps the cash for all that research and exploration in archaeology. And also, I really wonder if the locals know more about the lands history than they let on? It brings to mind a story I read a few years ago a well funded federal task force which was established to investigate apparent sightings of foxes on the island state of Tasmania. Tasmania is apparently fox free. The thing is, I read anecdotal accounts that the well funded group raced around the area in el-flasho vehicles and some locals apparently took umbrage to that display of relative wealth. And then apparently, their umbrage took the form of not co-operating with the task force. Sometimes, you know, there is a level of tone deafness or perhaps colour blindness that goes into such efforts and the locals may full well know the history of the land, but they hardly want other people poking their noses into their business. Take the canoe tree I pointed at in one of the photo backdrops the other week. That identification in itself involves risk as to who may possibly be interested in the significance of the tree. I mean what do you do?

    Yeah, absolutely 100% spot on! Solar panels may be getting cheaper, but I can assure you that the copper cables to connect them up cost far more than those panels do. Not to mention, the fuses, battery regulators, racking, blah, blah, blah. People’s minds stop at the solar panels and that is all they ever see. I’m constantly amazed when I encounter people who feel that their actions and beliefs are somehow formed and maintained in a hard vacuum. I do wonder how that situation came about, where dissection takes precedence over an overview. It just makes no sense to me. Have you ever read anything on that historical development of thought in your travels – or am I just having a rant and rave?

    Ouch about the blueberries. Your prices are rapidly approaching the expected prices down here. From memory we pay on average about $45 for ten pounds of blueberries, but you can get cheaper if you scout around. The blueberry plants grew a lot last summer, so I’m hoping for a good harvest in about six months time. Strangely enough, we often run about the same time for harvests as in your part of the world – if the world were suddenly tipped upside down! 🙂 I guess that would be a confusing event for yourself to suddenly find yourself in winter?

    Yeah, those loaves are most likely high end bakery products and would cost a bit. To be frank I’m a bit dodge on bakery products, as some of them are produced many months before hand and are shipped across the globe as dough. You may recall that I have baked my own bread for about a decade now and there is a good reason for that. The final product never fails to win over a harsh audience too. 😉 It will be put to the test again tomorrow, and hopefully the results are positive. There is always the first time that I completely stuff the baking process up. Oh, the stress and pressure… I once forgot to add the yeast and the resulting damper was still quite edible. The dough did rise a bit because the kitchen is contaminated with baker’s and champagne yeast due to so many years of home production.

    But I am very interested in getting my hands on some of those federation wheat seeds and then getting them in the ground next autumn and trying them out in the following summer. A few weeks ago I saw a beautiful steel hand grinder for flour that has two adjustable stones. Lead me not into temptation… Well, maybe just a little bit! 🙂

    I can’t be entirely sure of the truth of the matter, but apparently there was a worldwide shortage of hazelnuts last year, and I believe that the recipe was adjusted to compensate for the lack. I grow a few varieties of hazelnuts here, and far out those plants are slow to get established…

    Have you read Beowulf, and would you recommend that I read the story? It has been on my mind of late that perhaps I should remedy my education in the classics.

    We processed all of the fallen limbs today with the exception of the very large limb. That job will consume most of a day in cutting, splitting and stacking. Anyway, the firewood we did process has been cut and split and is now happily curing in the winter sun. This week has been sunny, warm and dry, but just wait a few days and the rains will return for sure… Oh my goodness, Jo in Launceston of the ‘All the Blue Day’ blog looks set to enjoy a few days of solid downpours mid next week…

    All this talk of trimming the leaves off your tomato plants to let light in for the other plants makes me wonder if you are secretly hankering for a larger garden plot? I understand that ambition, you know if we want to plant something out, well, the space is there for the plants – we just have to construct the terrace and fencing (not a quick and easy job). One of the reasons I enjoy walking through the inner city suburbs of Melbourne is because I vividly recall the days of yore. I doubt I could easily go back to that way of living.

    Tomatoes are very untroubled plants by pests. Even the birds here refuse to consume the fruit. That in itself is a blessing. But the smell of the tomato plants after they have been watered on a hot day, brings to mind the heady days of summer.

    Funnily enough I’ve been considering the amount of work done over winter versus the amount of work done during summer. After many years I have concluded that it is much of a muchness. The reason for that is because in winter the mornings are astoundingly cold, so we have very late starts. In summer the opposite is true and the afternoons are astoundingly hot, and so we have very early starts. It is probably not an earth shattering insight, but there you go! Hehe! How do you reckon that insight stacks up against your experiences?



  43. Hi Chris,

    Quick check in here. Both closings went off without a hitch however on the way to the closing on the new house I got a call that Michael was being taken to the ER for the 3rd time in 8 days. His heart rate was 170. They got it under control and he was able to go home. My sister and I took him to see his cardiologist for the follow up appointment. She is co-guardian and her husband is a retired electrophysiologist so it was very helpful for her to attend. It was determined by the cardiologist and my BIL that Michael will have a type of ablation (burning of a small portion of the heart). It will take a while to schedule and will be at a different and much larger hospital so my sister will stay overnight with him. This won’t solve his breathing issues but may help some and he’ll be more comfortable and will prevent all these ER visits. They did change his medication and I’m hoping he won’t need to visit the ER before the procedure but it certainly could happen.

    With all this going on I’m not going to try to plant anything for the fall but will take the time to check out the new property more fully to determine where it’ll be best to put a garden. I did discover that there is an established asparagus bed though. I’ll probably enlarge it some.


  44. @Pam and Claire

    Our new place is overrun with chipmunks. I’ve put out rat traps with peanut butter and sunflower seed as that worked well one year when we had tons of them here. Unfortunately they seem to be able to get to the food without the trap going off. I’ve only gotten one so far. I watched one happily eating away while sitting on the trap. It’s the same kind I’ve used in the past so I’m trying to set it very lightly without it snapping my fingers. This might seem inhumane but almost all the time it snaps their neck so it’s fast.


  45. Yo, Chris – Ah, yes. Gnomes. When I was in the book biz, it was the “have to have” book, one Christmas season. Sold piles of the things. And, they were heavily “merchandized” into all sorts of other things. Potholders? Somewhere, I’ve got a little gnome fellow, shelf sitter (sits on the edge of a shelf, dangling legs.) The artist also did an interesting book on his life. WWII, Holland.

    “Historical development of thought.” I think about it as little as possible. Makes my head hurt. “…maintained in a hard vacuum.” I recently asked someone if they ever let a new idea in there. (there head). We don’t speak, anymore. 🙂

    Baking disasters? Never happens here! Or way, way in the past (in a galaxy far away.) Hmm. When was the last one? Oh, yeah. Last night. I measure stuff ahead. So. Sugar in the bowl (eggs and oil go on top, later). All the dry stuff on a piece of wax paper. Well. When I got to the egg and oil part, I discovered I had plopped the sugar down on the dry sheet. So, I was carefully excavating to get as much sugar separated out, as I could. It all came out in the end.

    Once the hazel nuts get going (at least here) they soon become tight thickets. The branches can be quit straight and tall, so, I’m sure there are all sorts of uses, for them. Cont.

  46. Cont. I read Beowulf, years ago. Or tried. I much preferred the Classics Illustrated comic book version. Or the recent, almost all CGI film. Though parts of it were quit silly. I don’t think I’d tackle it, without a heavily annotated or footnoted version. Sometime in my life time, Gardener did a version in more modern English. The Revised Standard version? 🙂 While I was traveling for the library, I got on a kick of checking out the “classics.” On talking books. Most were a disappointment until I got into the 20th century.

    Re-read that chapter in Logsdon on overdoing it. :-). Well, at least you’re wood is tidied away. I was thrilled to discover that Logsdon, said out loud, right there in black and white print a view I have long held. “Why do today, what you can put off until tomorrow?” :-).

    As far as “what gets done in the winter”, around here, well, our winter weather can be so miserable. But, you know, our native peoples had a rich artistic heritage. A lot more than many of the other tribes. The theory is, they were cooped up for the winter and had time to develop those things. And, living in a rich land, it was pretty easy to pile up surplus to see them through. When I give it serious thought, I think a lot of the productivity in winter moves inside. We really do have a lot of garages, home shops, basements and barns / outbuildings where people can work on projects, out of the wind and rain.

    I think my garden space is about adequate to my interest and energy. But, I would like a 3×3′ patch for iris. I have two pumpkin blossoms, this morning. The bees are busy. I do hope they don’t cross with the squash (which is quit a distance away), so I can get viable seed. Lew

  47. @ Margaret – When I moved out of my old place, the house was pretty much mouse free (thank you Nell, the cat). But the laundry room was infested. Once, a mouse jumped out of a box and ran up my arm. You haven’t lived …

    Anyway. I had a lot of boxes to sort through in the laudry room, so, I ran a trap line, for several weeks. At first, I used the standard trap. The cheap wood and spring ones. And, yes, I always feared for my fingers when setting them. Then I discovered the plastic snap traps. They are wonderful.

    They cost a bit more, but, they are a lot easier (less ick factor) to re-use. I used to bait with unsalted sunflower seeds. Scatter a few around the outside, and some inside. Just tip the trap back so they get deep inside. I think they make a larger version, for rats. Which would probably work for chipmunks. I must say that about one in five traps don’t work well. But, they sell them in multiple packs.

    Anyway. Give it a whirl and see what you think. I’d never go back to the old trap, again. Yes, someone has finally built a better mousetrap. :-). Lew

  48. @ Margaret – I’m glad the closings went exactly right, and that Michael is OK for the time being. May the ablation procedure go well for him!

    So far no chipmunks here, knock on wood. They are in the south end of the county I live in and in south St. Louis, but not yet in north city and county. Mike and I made our usual summer trip to Savanna IL and Madison WI a few weeks back. We saw a lot of chipmunks in Madison. They are welcome to them.

    We use the same kind of snap trap on mice that get in the house. It seems like the most humane way to kill them.

  49. Hello again

    I really don’t know enough to comment on your guess about the old excavations.

    Haven’t really got any criteria with regard to what books I read apart from avoiding horror. I have read Beowulf, in modern English of course; though I did read the whole of Chaucer in the original for an exam. Have only read a child’s version of the Iliad; that was a long time ago. I read Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn when I was a teenager so simply read them as adventure without giving the thought to them that you are giving to Tom Sawyer. I found your comments on the book interesting.


  50. Hi Margaret,

    Congratulations are in order! Successfully completing two closings within days of each other is no small feat! Good stuff and your nerves are far tougher than my own for having gotten through that legal situation without a hitch. Unfortunately, life is rarely trouble free and my thoughts are with you and Michael during this time. I must say, it is rather handy for Michael to have access to your brother in law during such a time. You have mentioned in the past that the dosages for his medication and altering them can have a dramatic impact upon his mental and physical health, and hopefully that is the case here. Best wishes for the cardiac ablation procedure and I hope Michael is OK in the larger facility.

    Life is complex. Exactly. Take your time and learn the land – or country as they call it down here. It will do you no good to set out a huge garden with everything else going on, if only because you may have dig it up and start all over again next summer. Anyway, it is nice just to sit around and watch the seasons, and the many changes that they bring. You never know what insights you may glean. On the other hand, it is nice that you will get to enjoy some fresh asparagus!



  51. Hi Lewis,

    Mate, the cover art was unforgettable with that gnome book. I recall it vividly as it caught both ones eye and their attention. Imagine franchising gnomes? Who would have thought that that was possible? Such marketing skills are beyond me, but I salute them, and the sales would have been a good leg up for your book store. I had not heard of the book on the artist’s life in Holland during WWII. What a time to survive.

    OK, so with all this talk about Beowulf, I recalled Mr Greer castigating his readers about not knowing nuffin about their own cultural history. Well, it surprised me that a Nordic tale would be written by an English scribe or two sometime around… Well it may have been the 8th century, or some such time. It is amazing that it survived. Anyway, I’ve ordered the translation and commentary by Tolkien, which also apparently carries a reinterpretation of the story in his own words and language. I’m impressed that an author who is long dead can produce new works. I doubt very much that I will be able to achieve such heady heights.

    You are very naughty to have suggested that someone consider a new thought. In this day and age, after all! You should know better than to suggest such a thing! Hehe! Little wonder that you are no longer on speaking terms. Anyway, it makes my head hurt too. 😉

    It all came out in the end with the baking disaster which could also be followed up by the thought that: “It all ends up in the same place”. This does remind me that I dared a visitor to take a peek and a sniff into the worm farm sewage system today, and they coped very well. It hardly smells at all. Now of course there are disasters, and then there are disasters in the kitchen. Some are edible, some, well, not so much! I have burned biscuits for no other reason that I didn’t keep a close eye on the cooking process. Not to mention forgetting ingredients. Nothing goes to waste though and I broke them up into small pieces and fed them to the chickens, who love them. “It all came out in the end” – like it! Maybe the lesson to take out of this is that each of us experiences food differently? Dunno.

    Yeah, you’re probably spot on about the hazel thickets. They’re just so mind bendingly slow to grow here that I just can’t imagine a thicket of them, although I would enjoy the hazelnuts. They seem to grow better on the sunnier side of the mountain range.

    Mr Logsdon absolutely said that quote. Yeah, how awesome was it. I read that quote too, whilst supping on a large cappuccino and plate of scrambled eggs on toast at the local general store, and it almost warmed my cold accountants heart! On the other hand, my much warmer farmers heart was leaping for the sheer joy of the words. Incidentally, that was one of the few rare days (a few weeks back) that I have felt overwhelmed, and his words were like a soothing balm on my soul. You never quite know where consolation will fall upon you, with some sound advice, or a good shoulder to lean upon, but that day for me the words were pure bliss. I decided to take that day off.

    Your winters sound quite nice for the enforced break in routine they provide. But generally, I reckon winter is a time to restore your energy reserves, warm yourself by the fire, sleep in, tell some good tales, and perform some minor works. The rigid structures that we live by are not in keeping with the seasons. Anyway, that is what I reckon. We do our best to adapt to the seasons, but I also have to participate in the monetary economy, and that requires a rigid adherence.

    Iris are a lovely choice, and not being a bad influence or anything at all like that – hey, you started it with all of the book recommendations 😉 – but iris can be planted in garden beds that don’t get too much attention. What do you reckon about that suggestion?



  52. Hi Inge,

    Fair enough, my reason for that observation was that I use depressions in the ground to slow the flow of rainfall enough so that it has a chance to infiltrate into the soil. I sort of felt that such a circumstance with the ancient earthworks would have had a similar effect in the fields today. But I have no idea really and am just guessing.

    Strangely enough, other than Stephen King I too have not read horror books. I can’t speak for you, but my thinking is that life is hard enough without inviting scary thoughts into a person’s consciousness. I mean the business section of the newspaper reads like a horror story to me, but other people feel differently.

    Thanks for that and I had not known that Chaucer translated Beowulf. But who can forget:

    “Hold up your tail, Satan!” said he.
    “Show forth your arse, and let the friar see
    Where the nest of friars is in this place!”

    My, my, wasn’t he the naughty one! How the lords and ladies of the court would have tittered so. 🙂

    Mr Twain makes many interesting observations during the story. He is very clever because he simply chucks them into the tale as a colourful backdrop. One such observation was that handkerchiefs were a luxury good and little Tom Sawyer looked upon those boys that had them as if they were a bit of a snooty sort holding all manner of airs and graces. I recall receiving birthday gifts of handkerchiefs and often took offense at them. What were they trying to tell me? Was I snotty or something like that… Oh well, I guess the times were different.



  53. @ Margaret:

    I am so pleased that the house closings went so smoothly; such is not always the case. But I am so very sorry that Michael is having so much trouble, extra trouble. I am glad that your sister can help.

    Our chipmunks all disappeared over the winter, but the groundhog is going all out to devastate our garden. A Have-a-Heart trap has been set for him, but I really don’t think that he’s dumb enough to go in there. The most unusual squashes have appeared from seeds saved last year – they appear to be a cross between a zucchini and a patty pan, shaped like zucchini but the very pale green, almost white of a patty pan. And the GH has eaten all but one. I still hope to save some seeds.


  54. Hello again

    I didn’t mean to imply that Chaucer translated Beowulf, I wasn’t trying to link the two though admit that it reads a bit like it.

    I see in your comment to Lew that hazel doesn’t grow fast where you are. Here it grows like triffids and intertangled with bramble, becomes completely impenetrable. Dangerous even with appropriate tools.


  55. Yo, Chris – It hit 88F (31.11C) yesterday. Supposed to hit 96F (35.55C), today. It felt warmer, last night. I think our parking lot is holding heat. My air conditioner is slightly on the fritz. Turns out, a dial is cracked. Thought I could swap out an identical looking dial. No dice. I hope Jeff, our maintenance guy has a spare. In the meantime, kitchen knife or needle nose pliers, works fine.

    It was interesting in the Logsdon book how he talked about some farmers that work themselves into an early(ier) grave, trying to keep up appearances. The “neat” farmyard. The manicured fields. Somewhat about power, control and one upsmanship. When I went from working 6 days a week at the cafe to 5, I was pretty happy about that. One old hay seed was disdainful and tried to make me feel like the laziest fellow in the world. Didn’t work :-). Even around here, let too many weeds creep into our patch and you’ll start getting snide comments.

    Watched a French film, last night. “The Outsider.” About a French banking scandal, a few years back. Interesting, but I fast forwarded through some sections. Guys yelling and waving their arms about in a computer packed “boiler room.” And, it really is a bit of a “lad” culture.

    I started reading “Shooting Victoria”, last night. (Murphy, 2012). It mentioned that 5 of the 7 attempted assassins were either deported to, or self deported (?) to Australia. I think this book will be a bit of a skimmer, as it’s 600+ pages. :-).

    Watered the crops, this morning. Everything looks to be banging along. Except I’ve got to get to that weeding! Lew

  56. Yo, Chris – Opps! Think I forgot the link to “The Outsider.”


    My daily meditation book kicks off with a quote by someone famous, or, not so famous. Today’s offering .. from, guess who?

    “There is nothing you can say in answer to a compliment. I have been complimented myself a great many times, and they always embarrass me – I always feel that they have not said enough.” – Mark Twain 🙂 via Lew

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