Like An Onion

A mate of mine loved the film ‘Shrek’. He used to talk about the film, recounting stories where Shrek did this, or Shrek did that. I don’t dislike cartoon movies, but long term readers will understand that I take the word ‘busy’ to the whole next level, and so despite my mates insistent urging to watch the film, I didn’t immediately rush out to the nearest cinema.

Eventually one thing lead to another, and after a year or two of doing other things and despite being the usual busy, I found myself watching the ‘Shrek’ film. Well far out, the film was better than what my mate suggested. I really enjoyed it. Who would have thought that a cartoon film about an Ogre would be as entertaining as it was?

There was a scene in the film where the central character, Shrek (who was an Ogre) remarked to his best mate, Donkey (who was a talking donkey) that Ogre’s are like Onions in that they have layers. It is a neat analogy to explain that Ogre’s are probably far more complex than they may at first seem. In fact, I feel that the film was certainly more complex and enjoyable than my presupposition regarding it.

Growing edible plants without using a whole bunch of chemicals is also a lot like an onion in that there are several layers of complexity before the growing cycle can even begin.

Even the infrastructure that supports growing plants, has many layers before plants can actually spring from the soil and kept alive for the growing season.

The corn enclosure project has continued this week, but before the seeds can be planted next month, there are a lot of layers of infrastructure to firstly get in place. And so far we estimate that the corn enclosure will cost us about $400 to complete. It is worth mentioning that you can purchase a lot of corn cobs for that sort of money!

This week we cemented in the treated pine timber poles that will form part of the fence surrounding the enclosure.

Treated pine posts for the fencing surrounding the corn enclosure were cemented into the ground

Like the onion with its multiple layers, the cement holding the posts into the ground has to cure before we can begin with the next layer of the process which is: installing the chicken wire fencing and steel supports. If the chicken wire is pulled taught and the cement has not yet cured, the posts can easily be pulled out of alignment. The process of curing cement into concrete can take quite a number of days depending on the rainfall and the late winter warmth. Given it is cold here, I’ll leave the fence posts alone until next week.

Observant readers will note in the photo above that the corn enclosure has a base of volcanic clay. Volcanic clay just won’t grow the sort of vegetables that people are used to seeing on their dinner plates! Past experience has taught us that it takes somewhere between two and three years of soil improvements before soil fertility is good enough to plant heavy feeding vegetables like corn. Not to underplay the complexity of the situation, but we’re hoping to grow corn, beans, and squash in that enclosure beginning sometime next month. Something needs to change there with the soil – and quickly!

Fortunately for us, we can visit the friendly local sand and soil supplier in a nearby town and pickup a bright yellow trailer load of organic matter. The 7 foot by 5 foot, bright yellow trailer holds one cubic metre (1.3 cubic yards) of organic matter. The little white Suzuki Dirt Rat vehicle then pulls the trailer with the organic matter back up the hill from the nearby town.

We then have to push the organic matter off the back of the trailer into crates which can then be moved by hand. One full trailer load produces about thirty crates. Three of those crates fits in a wheelbarrow. In the wheelbarrow the crates are lugged anywhere about the farm. Even up the stairs…

The author lugs a crate of organic matter up a flight of steps

Unfortunately, the corn enclosure was twenty steps higher than the area where I unloaded organic matter from the bright yellow trailer! People who’s math skills are better developed than my own, can perhaps calculate just how many steps I trod up and down when I moved those thirty crates of organic matter up to the corn enclosure.

As we wish to plant corn into that area next month, we really had to turbo charge the soil fertility building process. With the onion layer analogy in mind, we attempted something new, and placed a diverse range of soil additives into the corn enclosure in successive layers. We have no idea how this experiment will turn out.

The first layer was rich black loam that was removed from a very long established garden bed. Over that black loam I then placed coffee bean husks.

Coffee husks are placed over a layer of rich black loam from a long established garden bed

There is no real reason that I placed coffee bean husks as the second layer of the soil lasagne, other than I had a bag of the stuff ready to hand. If I wanted to be a smarty pants, I’d write something about how I’ve noticed that the coffee bean husks are very good at retaining moisture in the garden beds, but really I just have access to a lot of coffee grounds and husks. For a couple of years now, I’ve been taking the coffee grounds and coffee bean husks (a waste product from the coffee bean roasting process) from a cafe in Melbourne. And all of that used to end up in landfill rather than in my orchard. These waste products have useful amounts of phosphorus, potassium, magnesium and copper, all of which are in short supply in Australian agricultural soils. The plants love it.

The back of the car is occasionally very full of the coffee waste, and I reckon it smells quite nice. Usually, I fill plastic bins up at the cafe and then empty them here in the orchard. However, sometimes the cafe produces more waste than my bins can hold and then I fill up the green ‘grain pro’ bags that you can see in the above photo.

Sometimes I joke around and suggest to the editor that I only head into Melbourne to pick up the coffee grounds and husks, but they also serve really tasty muffins at the cafe, and so that is perhaps the other reason! The coffee is also very good – another great reason!

The third layer of soil additives was a bag of used coffee grounds that I also had readily to hand. There is no real reason for this being the third layer, other than it seemed like a good idea to add them into the soil mix.

Used coffee grounds are added as the third layer of the soil mix

Then the process became a little bit dirty. I began placing a 10kg (22 pound) bag of blood and bone mix on the ground, and before too long, Ollie the cuddle dog (who every right thinking person knows is an Australian cattle dog) became intently focused on the contents of the bag. There is polite interest, and then there is Ollie trying to get his head into the bag of blood and bone mix.

Ollie attempts to consume the contents of a bag of blood and bone mix before it hits the ground

Before Ollie managed to consume all of the blood and bone mix that I’d spread on the ground in the corn enclosure, I had to get a layer of one cubic metre (1.3 cubic yards) of composted woody mulch over the top of the various lasagne soil layers. It was a race against time, and Ollie was pretty fast. He has a big head.

Ollie consumes the blood and bone mix, whilst the author places a layer of composted woody mulch onto the surface

Before too long, Ollie’s dessert was hidden underneath a layer of composted woody mulch.

A cubic metre of composted woody mulch was placed over the entire corn enclosure

By the next blog I plan to also place a 50/50 mixed layer of mushroom compost and compost over the surface. But in the meantime, in the week before that happens, Ollie and the other dogs, as well as all of the native birds that live here, will turn over and mix up all of those layers of organic matter.

I did say that the process of getting the corn enclosure ready was a many layered process!

Many of the larger rocks that we excavated recently were put to good use in retaining some the downhill side of the path between the house and the chicken enclosure. Just on the downhill side of the rocks, we planted dozens of Alkanet plants which are of the Borage family. Alkanet grows really well here. We have hundreds of those plants, and the chickens love the green leaves during the depths of winter. As we get more rocks, we’ll continue placing them along the path.

Some of the larger rocks unearthed from the recent excavations were used to retain the downhill side of the path between the house and the chicken enclosure

The weather this week has been really nice. The days were warm and the sun is now rated at Moderate UV. This means that the plants are starting to grow again and we are thawing out after the long winter. But then one afternoon a storm rolled up from the Southern Ocean. There’s not much land between here and Antarctica and so occasionally we get to enjoy a feel of just how cold it gets on that frozen continent.

A storm rolls up from the cold Southern Ocean

It even snowed on Sunday:

It even snowed on Sunday

At one point the sun peeked through the dark and ominous storm clouds and produced what we’ve nicknamed a ‘Snowbow’: (edit: it is a real thing)

Thick storm clouds parted just enough to produce a Snowbow

We had such a prolonged and late autumn that there have been several strange things going on with the plants at the farm. One example was that there were only a few hellebore flowers, when in past years there have been dozens of them. And the fruit trees are very late in breaking their dormancy compared to earlier years:

This almond looks as though it will be the first fruit tree to blossom
A plum begins to produce leaves for the growing season
The swelling buds on this quince will soon produce leaves and blossoms

With the moderate UV, the spring greens are now beginning to grow again:

Red and green mustard grows alongside perennial rocket

Despite the wintery conditions we have more citrus than we could ever reasonably consume. I feed half a dozen lemons per day to the chickens and they love them, but there seems to be still more fruit…

L-R: Pomello; Lemon Eureka; Australian Round Lime; Lemonade; and Lemon Meyer

Onto the flowers (you can tell that I became distracted this week due to the snow – hope you enjoyed the video):

Alkanet produces late winter flowers – and plenty of fresh greens for the chickens

The temperature outside now at about 8.00am is 2’C (36’F). So far this year there has been 620.0mm (24.4 inches) which is higher than last week’s total of 611.2mm (24.1 inches).

76 thoughts on “Like An Onion”

  1. Hi Chris,

    I think NZ got hit by the same cold front from Antarctica. Friday night, the weather forecast was full of breathless warnings about snow on the road down to 500m along the mountain ranges an hours drive west of us. Not to waste an opportunity, Mrs Damo and I visited a small club ski field for the day. It was pretty nice with a very small local feel (it only has T-bar lifts that pull you along the ground, not the chairlifts more popular mountains have) and the views from the top were quite spectacular (and a little vertigo inducing, the top is a narrow peak in every sense of the word with steep falls). Of course, that meant I had to ski down from the top and…well..lets just say I ended up at the bottom 🙂

    I am glad to see Ollie can not only help with concreting new steps, but also preparing new garden beds. Truly there is no limit to the assistance he can offer!

    I see your esteemed leaders are contemplating another PM – shuffling the deck chairs no? If nothing else it is good theatre whilst real problems get ignored (or solved to the benefit of others).

    You and Lew will be happy to note I have watched The Meg so you don’t have to. Short review – better than I thought. Doesn’t take itself seriously, a fun 3.5 stars.


  2. Hi Marg,

    I am sorry to hear about your brother. It sounds like he had a lot of people caring for him, especially near the end which is not always the case. I hope you and your family are doing as well as can be expected.


  3. Elbows,

    Thanks for the suggestion. I will see if I can track anything similar down here in NZ. Just looking for interesting things to plant. I won’t be making the same mistake of planting 8 zucchini plants like I did last season :-p I still have over 20 jars of pickles!


  4. Lew and Chris,

    I would strongly suggest removing Adobe flash player from your computer. It is a massive security black hole and vector for all sorts of nasties. Most major websites have not used it for years now – I doubt you will miss it when gone.


  5. Hi Pam,

    Snow is such a rare treat here nowadays. I reckon we’re down now to less than a handful of snow days per year here. It is such fun when the snow falls! 🙂 And I always like chucking the citrus into the picture because citrus and snow is such an unlikely pairing. Who knows, with the rate of warming going on, I may be able to grow oranges here sooner or later. 🙂 It is hard to believe it but the summers aren’t warm enough yet here for oranges…

    I love that chicken enclosure as it just works, and in all weather too. Hey, I tell ya I had to do a disgusting chicken task this evening. I had to cut a poo ball off one of the Wyandottes back end. That was an epicly revolting smelling job. The chicken in question didn’t put up a fight though which was a good thing so maybe she understood what I was up to?

    No worries at all. Do you want a laugh? I just checked the bottle of tea tree oil here and – ta da! 15%, a deep breath sure does make one’s eyes water! 🙂 Yeah, exactly, few people worry about potential carcinogen’s all over the shop, but far out if something looks a bit kooky and alternative it must be even worse for you. And such messages get under your awareness, because I remember feeling a little bit uncomfortable when I cooked up the first egg laid by the chickens all those many years ago. Nowadays, I can see and taste the difference with factory farmed eggs.

    You have encountered the downsides of charcoal. It is dirtier than Ollie digging up the blood and bone in the future corn enclosure! I found snuffle holes in the soil mixture tonight. Dogs….



  6. That snowbow is something!

    The corn enclosure looks grand. I sowed twice this year, and got 2 plants. Granted, it was pretty old seed.

    @Margaret so sorry to hear about your brother Michael. I´m glad he was surrounded by family and went peacefully when the time came.

    @Lew re tomatillos. I have several plants (apparently I still have trouble with this tray labelling thing) and while there are lanterns, the tomatillos inside are pea-sized. More water?

    I have some kind of beetle that is eating the roses. They particularly like the light colored, fragrant blooms. So far, I´m hand picking into soapy water, but that doesn´t seem to be putting a dent in the numbers.

    It looks like this will be the last year for the in-laws summer stay They both have mobility issues and memory lapses and the house isn´t really set up for the trip and fall risks.


  7. Hi Lewis,

    Thanks mate! I really love it when it snows here, if only because of the novelty factor. I’ve never lived anywhere where snow has to be shovelled away in order to get either in or out of a house, so snow has never felt like drudgery to me. And roofs tend to only collapse here when a huge tree (or some other object) falls onto it.

    Speaking of objects falling onto roofs, I do note that NASA dropped Skylab over the lower corner of Western Australia many years ago, and last century I took a look at the little out of the way museum that was storing the burnt up chunks of space station. Some of the chunks were quite massive and still quite identifiable as a space station. I did wonder at the time as to why energy wasn’t invested in keeping the station in orbit given all the energy put into getting it up there in the first place. However, I suspect the Earth is a greedy guardian of her minerals and is constantly drawing them back to the ground.

    Haven’t heard much about the Kessler Syndrome recently. Perhaps folks have other things to worry about? I wonder whether the Envisat will be eventually deliberately knocked out of orbit? And I do note that it is due to return to the surface regardless in about 150 years. What an interesting rabbit hole that was.

    Hehe! Well we are summer soft here, and the merest hint of snow is enough to send us scuttling inside the house to retire to the pleasant wood heater. Mind you, we deal with much hotter days than you. I read Cliff Mass’s post on the smoke and mate, I absolutely feel for your situation. It makes my sinuses ache even thinking about the smoke because I have way too much experience with that gear.

    The fire tornadoes occur here too, and they are a true devil to behold. I’ve never seen one, but I have read reports and accounts of them. During the 2009 Black Saturday bushfires, I saw photos of engine blocks that had turned to liquid, and I saw steel guard rails along the side of roads twisted as if they were dynamic ribbon devices. The energy released during such a fierce event is frightening. I don’t take that risk lightly. The firestorms produce their own dynamic weather events.

    I don’t know at all about the tomatillas because the cape gooseberry (which is so similar except that it is sweet) was self fertile. You might be interested to learn that the cape gooseberry has popped up in some unusual locations about the farm so it is a tough as plant. The parrots love the fruit and that is good for the birds.

    Yup, all those things are true about global climate weirding. If I can avoid the wildfires, then the droughts that I’ve experienced so far, aren’t too much of a problem here, but far out the heavy and intense rainfall events were four inches falls in under an hour. Mate, walls of text are one thing, but walls of water are an entirely different matter. The local creek and river are flowing really well at the moment.

    I watched the trailer for Coco and it looked good, and who can resist a trusty gangly street dog for a companion? I wasn’t quite sure what you meant by ‘Day of the Dead’ and was having trouble contemplating how that investment and production lot would have come up with a zombie flick, but the trailer certainly put an end to that misunderstanding! The characters of the dead are certainly part of Mexican culture. Down here we tend to pretend that nobody dies, and then it is a rotten as shock when someone goes about and does exactly that. The impudence of it all! Anyway, people have both long and short memories in our culture and the past is always with us whether we acknowledge it or not.

    I look forward to your future film reviews. Did you manage to score any films for the continuing Chehalis – Australian film festival? There was a local film I mentioned recently called ‘Breathe’ which I quite enjoyed, and it is a story about two young kids growing up in the 70’s in an isolated far western town, their friendship, and surf, but I’m not sure that appeals to you.

    The frontal assault from the dread frozen legions of Antarctica continued again today, so I kept inside for most of the day and did accounting work. I let the chickens out for a run in the orchard late in the afternoon and they weren’t bothered by the cold weather at all. One of the Wyandotte’s had a ‘poo ball’ stuck to her feathers and I had to grab her and cut it off with scissors. It was a very stinky job. Have you heard anything about your old chickens of late?

    Watch out for your breathing in all that smoke. It ain’t easy.



  8. Hi Damo,

    Hehe! Yup! Life is in the living and I would have loved to have seen the mountains and snow in your part of the world. Incidentally, snow was down to 600m here on Sunday, so it probably was the same weather pattern – it sure looked extensive on the forecast.

    Mate, your snow skills far exceed mine! Top work. Your description of vertigo inducing would be enough to send me inside a ski club house and brave the perils of drip, or heaven forbid, instant coffee! I take my hat off to you for your fearless encounter with the mountain. I am not worthy.

    Ollie is a ratbag of a dog! Hehe! Would you believe that I discovered several deep holes in the composted woody mulch today. His love of the blood and bone mix, well, it is dirty… 🙂

    It has been a while since I’ve noted who is the prime minister here. It is not like they are recognised in the constitution, because they apparently aren’t. And anyway, we seem to have plenty of them, so one more isn’t going to make much of a difference. The last one that expressed any sort of vision was Kevin Rudd, and I’ve always noted that children named Kevin seem to get into more trouble than other children, but I’m not really sure what that means. 🙂

    I believe that he appears to have kept his job because he decided to ditch international commitments, but really it makes little difference one way or the other. What did they say about Nero fiddling whilst Rome burned? I’d be reasonably sure that Nero wasn’t doing that, but it sure did make for a good story by his successors.

    Thanks for the review of the Meg! Good stuff! Hehe! For some strange reason your review put in mind of Evil Dead III: Armies of Darkness. Yes, a bit of silliness is an enjoyable way to spend time.



  9. Hi Inge,

    The snowfall was such fun! Of course it is a novelty here, and I didn’t have to dig my way out of the house merely because the sun broke through the clouds and melted every last drift of snow which was to be frank only a micron thin or so… 🙂

    Do you get much snow nowadays?



  10. Hi Coco,

    Yeah, how thick and low were the clouds surrounding the snowbow? The photo was taken mid afternoon and even I was surprised at how dark the sky was.

    Thanks, and I have absolutely no idea whether any plants will grow this season in that mix of soil. I plan to add mushroom compost and compost to it over the next few days and I’ll just have to see how it goes.

    I checked the Seed Savers Handbook about the longevity of corn seeds and apparently they are very variable and last somewhere between 2 and 10 years (according to the book). I frankly don’t have enough experience about the plant to be able to suggest anything else. I did worry about that too, and recently picked up a batch of entirely new organic open pollinated seed as well as the seed harvested from last years batch. Dunno at all.

    Sorry to hear about the mobility issues and memory lapses with your in laws. Ageing is a tough business.



  11. Yo, Chris – What’s hard about farming or gardening? You just stick a seed in the ground and the magic happens :-). The Preppers who stash away a few tins of vacuum packed seed and think their food security is assured are in for a big … and unpleasant surprise.

    All that hauling around. You should construct a funicular. You know, in your spare time. :-). I was going to remind you to toss in a few worms, but I see you’ve got that covered with “…long established garden bed..” soil. But don’t forget wood ash. Corn needs a fair amount of potash. From my own corn front, cobs are beginning to form! OK. Two, on just one stalk.

    Ollie was trying to figure out where you buried the body. Well, it could be worse. A friend had to stop using fish fertilizer on his organic garden after he discovered a very large cougar, rummaging around in the dirt looking for the dead fish. I see the deer were nipping at my corn, again. Time to throw around a bit more blood meal.

    I envy you your lemons. Yup. I suffer from lemon envy. The snowbox is quit something. I’ve never seen one around here. Cont.

  12. Cont. Oh, they probably let the Skylab fall out of the sky because all the systems were perking along, and all the bugs worked out. Hence, it was obsolete. :-).

    The smoke is back. After a few clear days, I noticed the moon was pretty red, last night. Drought with heavy, intermittent rains. That seems to be the new normal in several places.

    Yup. Dante the Street Dog provides plenty of comic relief in “Coco.” I saw the trailer for “Breathe” and it didn’t appeal. To many people yelling at each other. But, the library doesn’t have it, anyway. But, the library did have “Last Cab to Darwin”, which I may watch, tonight. So, the International Chehalis Australian film festival, continues.

    I figured out my tomatillo problem. See my note to Coco.

    Exciting times around The Home. One of the crazy old guys smacked (poked?) one of the Ladies. And, he managed to break the elevator. The police were called. They didn’t run him in (Friday night … they probably had more on their plate than a few old pensioners duking it out) but charges may be pressed. We may have a vacancy, soon.

    Sunday, I heard a great commotion in the hall. The Villagers were out with pitchforks and torches, trying to ferret out the source of a smell of burning mari-hochie. The Forces of Right and Good had worked themselves into quit a froth. The Great Marijuana Panic of 2018! Reefer Madness!

    I was quit amused. I couldn’t smell anything. I’ve floated the idea out there that imaginary smells are often caused by undetected brain tumors. I’m a live and let live kind of guy, and if someone wants to quietly toke up in their apartment, I could care less.

    But, we are in a rather awkward situation. The Federal Government still considers The Dreaded Weed a banned drug. While the States, left and right are legalizing it. The Second Civil War may be fought over State’s Rights and the leaf. Boggles the mind.

    But, back to The Home. We do get some Federal money, so, we’re a Federal facility. Kind of. Sort of. But, there is a general smoking ban, on the building. Even incense and scented candles are not allowed.

    With the new administration coming in, we’re in for rough weather. The first single spaced page of directives came out last week. Some petty and minor changes, some larger ones. All about power and control. And, stuff for our “health and safety.” Yeah, sure. Lew

  13. @ Coco – Well, I figured out my Tomatillo problem. They do not self pollinate. Who knew? I only planted one plant, this year, as they create such a jungle.

    Maybe I will race to the garden store and see if they have a stray plant kicking around (probably not. Pretty late in the year), Or maybe my friend Julia has an extra one that I can relocate. Or, I’ll just mulch the whole mess and call it good for this year. Older, and a bit wiser. Lew

  14. @ Damo – I’m running pretty old software, and if I don’t upgrade with Adobe, a lot of the “graphics rich” sites stop working. Lew

  15. Hi Chris,

    The seedling results so far are not as good as last week’s early report would suggest. While there are enough arugula, mustard, and bok choy seedlings for a good harvest, the seedling count to date is quite low for the rest of the brassicas. Plus what few lettuce seedlings I saw last week seem to be gone. Who knows why; disease or some small critter like a slug could be responsible. It’s raining again today and we are supposed to get a welcome three days of cool temperatures starting tomorrow, so I may attempt a re-seeding of the lettuces. Some of the other brassica seeds may yet come up as well.

    Snow with citrus in the background makes for an interesting juxtaposition of imagery!

    I hope your corn does well! The popcorn plants I am growing this year, with seeds I saved from the 2015 crop, look excellent so far. If the harvest weight is good then the genetics of my saved seed are good enough to keep the variety going for the near future. I’ve also been able to harvest seeds from two plants of the pepper variety I had feared losing. If they germinate next year, I will be greatly relieved!


  16. Hi Chris,

    The snow is very pretty – especially since it doesn’t stick and the snowbow as well. Does Ollie ever leave your side?
    I’m guessing we’re going to have to find a source for some manure and I noticed a place with some horses close by. Things are finally coming together around here and I’ve had a little time to do some outside work. I haven’t been out to the unmowed area out back for several weeks and much to my dismay wild cucumber vine are trying to take over with morning glory a close 2nd. Guess I know what I’ll be doing.

    Leo and Salve were grounded yesterday for some hours as they chased the neighbors dog on the neighbor’s property. All was OK but that is certainly not approved behavior around here. They have been very good about staying on our property up to that point. Yesterday they also spent hours running from tree to tree looking at squirrels.

    I am trying to organize a “Celebration of Life” memorial for Michael. We’re going to have it at my brother-in-law’s restaurant. Of course trying to schedule something with this big family is next to impossible so I’m just going to pick a day and they’re just going to have to go with it. There will be a service at the facility where he lived as well primarily for the residents there.


  17. Oh, it has been a cold and wet week here in Tas, with yes, a little snow. Your lasagne corn bed is going to be the absolute bomb for your lucky corn, and that is exactly what I am planning for my own vegie garden as soon as it stops raining.. I am also going to throw on some crushed blue metal for extra mineral goodness, as our soils haven’t had any glaciers through lately to crush up our rocks for us and release all those good minerals.

  18. Hi Lewis,

    I’ve never actually encountered a prepper, but I ask you what could possibly go wrong with them? Hehe! Well, it might be nice for someone in the future to discover the nitrogen packed seeds, I guess! Far out… Well, they provide for some colourful entertainment.

    Funnily enough the mountain used to be littered with timber tramways which were put in place by the loggers. I suspect some of the roads now follow them, although believe it or not, the main road here (which is a dirt track) used to be a Cobb and Co coach road. It makes you wonder how that service coped with the winter slush on the clay roads. And the tramways, well the name suggests that they were possibly more advanced than they actually were – the brakes and tracks were timber… Again what could possibly go wrong?

    Thanks for the reminder about the wood ash and I’ll chuck some in over the next few days with the mushroom compost and compost. I see above in the comments that Jo also recommends some rock crusher dust, and I can get my hands on some of that too. For some reason Australia missed out on extensive glaciers in the last ice age and our soils are old and worn out. But quarries produce rock dust as a by-product and I’m thankful for that. And old the soils are especially low in phosphates – I still can’t believe we as a society flush them down the toilet at every opportunity. It’ll come to no good that!

    Top work with the corn. I told ya that it was still early days. The stalks produce surprisingly few cobs and I reckon it was about two cobs to a stalk, but I don’t have years of experience with those plants. What do you reckon the average number of cobs per stalk might be?

    I give away a lot of lemons, and we use heaps of them, but there seem to be more of them all of the time. The tangelo looks as if it is growing this year. The citrus trees which like long hot summers are really slow growing. I get mandarins too and the home grown ones are far superior to the shop bought ones which have little flavour. The mandarin trees are a bit small at the moment and so the fruit is also a bit on the small side. I guess like most of the fruit trees, thing will change with a bit of age. I’ve planted the citrus trees around the outlet of a drain and they love the storm water.

    I’d never seen a snowbow before either. I called it that name for a joke because that was the first thing that popped into my head, and the editor looked it up and said that it was a real thing. Who’d have guessed that?

    Haha! Funny, but not really funny. 🙂 There were lumps of Skylab all over the outback. The International Space Station looks set to be returning to Earth too. It all seems like a bit of a waste to me. But yeah, I hear you, the editor was battling a chunk of upgraded software (nobody asked for it to be upgraded) today. I asked if she knew what the answer should be, and indeed she did! Now getting the upgraded software to come up with the same answer appears to have wasted an inordinate amount of her time. Oh well.

    Speaking of upgrades, we almost scored another new Prime Minister today. Don’t feel bad for them, we’ve got plenty more where they came from. 🙂 Politics are very dull, if only because none of them appear to have any coherent vision or direction. The funny thing about donations to politicians is that we as the public pay to have politicians represent us all, and then someone comes along and for a couple of bucks, gets the politicians focused on some other matter. I’m genuinely surprised at how cheap some of the donations have been too, you would think that politicians would be more expensive. 🙂

    How are you coping with the intense smoke? It happens here too and it is bad news. But on the positive side of the equation, you get great sunsets and yeah, the moon can look really blood red. I find the smoke irritates my eyes.

    Exactly, drought then heavy rain. I read that parts of the UK have had that experience this summer. It makes it very hard for agriculture. Heavy rain is very hard to respond to ahead of time. Some of the drought affected parts of NSW (which ones aren’t) look set to get some heavier rain this coming weekend.

    Who doesn’t love an entertaining street dog with the name of Dante? Fair enough about the film Breathe, I can see that and thanks for the explanation. It was a drama after all that ended in the friends going their separate ways. And who needs lots of shouty folks around?

    How did I miss that film about the last cab to Darwin? Did you end up watching the film? And did you enjoy it? The landscape out that way is epic. They’ve passed such legislation in this state recently.


  19. I just took a break replying to enjoy a coffee and an Anzac biscuit. 🙂

    Sorry to hear about the disturbance and I hope everyone was OK? I have noted that aggressive younger folk often end up as aggressive older folk – it becomes clothes that they happily wear because they know not what else to do. Some people have only one tool in their tool box. And sometimes I have noted that some folks use aggression towards others as a shield to protect themselves from displaying personal vulnerability. That idea had never occurred to me, but years ago I read about a guy that did that because he was fearful of other people realising that he was illiterate. You and I (and others here) on the other hand, are like a good bottle of wine in that we get better with age. 🙂 You don’t have to look too far to see the wine that ended up as vinegar – there’s plenty of vinegar sloshing around the place! 😉

    Thanks for the tip about brain tumours. A frightening medical condition. I knew someone once who underwent brain surgery. Not to put too fine a point on it, they cut a small chunk of their brain out. I remember long ago someone rabbiting on about how we only use 4% of our brain. Whilst that may be true in some circumstances and for some people, it seems like a ridiculous claim because not much of our bodies appear to be extraneous. Have you ever heard those sorts of claims?

    I’d be quite amused about that situation as well. I don’t feel that it is any different from enjoying a drink, except that one is legal and the other not so much. I’ve never heard of people getting reefer madness and wanting to get into a fight, but other drugs seem to have that effect on people. I have no problems with the whacky tabbacky, but I do not indulge as my sister way went off the rails and I just don’t need to be told a second time and have no desire to mess with my mental health (there but for the grace…) I hear accounts and stories that a lot of problems occur due to the way that the plants are selected and grown. Food selected and grown that way is a problem too and for much the same reasons. Oh well.

    And I wouldn’t grow the stuff either because too many locals are into my business that it would be a serious problem. It doesn’t stop them asking me whether I do though. It is strange that they have such a story in their heads in that you either work hard and full time, or you must be growing drugs. Well no, not either thanks very much. It drives me bonkers. Oh, I’m ranting! Hehe!

    Actually the same thing is happening here with euthanasia. The film last cab to Darwin dealt with that issue, and because Darwin is in a territory and not a state, the Federal government over ruled the local legislature. There was a bit of unhappiness there about it, as I suspect is true of your country. You know it is really weird the sorts of issues that are quite simple, but they provide a focus for peoples discontent. Such craziness and pressure is akin to the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand and the explosion of WWI. As an amusing side story, Franz Ferdinand is a very excellent band. Who can argue with the genius of songs such as: “Take me out”?

    Smoking is banned in all buildings down under – and even in outdoor areas that serve food. It is quite a surprise to encounter smoke these days.

    Stay safe with the new administration and don’t dare let yourself become the example they needed to make. Some people take the go hard and go early mindset to extremes…



  20. Hi Claire,

    Sorry to hear about the Brassica’s. I do realise that the climate is different here when compared to your part of the world, but there is no way at all that I could get Brassica seeds started here in February (your August). It would be a complete disaster zone, but on the other hand, given you have some of the plants started, well I take my hat off to your superior plant skills and more temperate climate. Yup, slugs, snails, and wood lice all love Brassica seedlings so they are the most likely culprit. Did you get the rain that was forecast? It looks as though we are about to enter a few warm spring days with temperatures in the low 60’sF, but with really cold nights. This is not going to be good for the apricot harvest. Oh well.

    Glad you enjoyed the citrus with the snow. 🙂 The citrus trees are getting hardier and better established every year. I give away a huge quantity of lemons and there just seems to be more of them growing all of the time… Planting so much citrus seemed like a good idea at the time! The pomello grapefruit are very tasty!

    Thank you and I’ll keep you updated as the corn story progresses. I’ll be interested to hear how your popcorn harvest goes and nice work saving the seeds. I’ve never grown popcorn, but a diversity of corn genetics is probably not a bad idea from what I’m reading about the plants. I’ve concentrated on open pollinated varieties so who knows how it will turn out down the track? That is one crop I’m planning to grow more of in future years.

    I don’t grow pepper here, although the local garden club sells Japanese pepper shrubs. You’ve got me very curious as to what variety do you grow?



  21. Hi Margaret,

    It is lovely to hear from you. 🙂

    Thanks, and yeah the snow is a moment in time here because rarely does it build up on the ground. It has to snow overnight for that to occur, and even then the snow is just pretty rather than a hassle. And how cool was the snowbow? The clouds were so thick and dark and it was only mid-afternoon. I have plans to give a talk about solar power shortly and snow and solar panels will feature in the talk!

    Ollie is my little work mate, but he is a bit like my report cards at school in that: Ollie is a good student, but he is easily distracted! Like me, Ollie could learn a thing or two by focusing his attention a bit. 🙂 Have you noticed how Ollie has usurped Toothy in the photos? Ollie suffers from perennial jealously, but he’s yet young and it is one of his least endearing traits.

    Good luck with finding a new source for the manure. That becomes a relationship, don’t you reckon? Speaking of which I had to cut a poo ball off one of the chickens (a Wyandotte) back ends yesterday. What a truly revolting job and it smelled quite ripe. It is rare that it happens, but when that job needs doing, it sure needs doing. Have you ever had to do that with one of your chickens?

    Haha! You may soon be dreaming about something like the self-propelled mower because of that job? Maybe? All of those plants and the soil will respond well to some slashing. I find walking behind the mower (even the Honda which needs to be pushed) to be a very meditative experience.

    Naughty Leo and Salve. I do hope they soon learn their manners and haven’t become overly excited by the new territory? The dogs here often head over and play with the neighbours dogs, who enjoy the visits but quickly tire of their boisterous ways. Teeth get shown, heckles get raised, and my lot retreat back home again.

    Leo and Slave will probably need a bit more feeding given that story!

    A “Celebration of Life” memorial for Michael is a lovely idea and I do hope that it goes ahead. You know, funerals and wakes are rarely convenient and people just have to deal – well that is my thoughts in the matter. The thoughts may not be a popular view, but work, family, and social obligations all have to take a back seat for such times.

    A service at the home where Michael lived is a great idea too. I’ll bet he made quite the impression on people there.



  22. Hi Jo,

    Yeah it has been a cold and damp few months! Brr! Thanks and I appreciate the suggestion of the rock crusher dust as I would not have remembered to add that otherwise. 🙂 It all starts with the soil doesn’t it? I assume that you have a local source for such materials, and I do hope that the ash from your wood heater is also ending up in the garden (although I’d be surprised if it was otherwise).

    PS: Total respect for the kitchen alterations and the excellent preserves.



  23. @Pam,

    Odd shaped veg of dubious parentage are always such fun! I had been planting the Zucchini – Green Tiger F1 hybrid. (yeah, not a seed saving variety) I found it to be very robust. Unfortunately it disappeared from the seed catalogue last year. Now I’m planting just any old variety and hoping for the best.

    I have a mild African climate. Dry winters, warm summers, some years frost, some years hail, droughts and floods scattered in every couple of decades. Its pretty much been that way since my ancestors migrated to the region in the mid 1800s and before that too by all accounts.

    Which veg do you enjoy growing the most?

    Regards Elbows.

  24. Hi, Chris!

    Now I’m sorry that I never watched “Shrek”.

    This week, I too, have been pondering how much money and effort we put into our garden. But we do get some wonderfully tasty and completely organic stuff and have the fringe benefits of never needing to go to a gym or take Vitamin D supplements (well, dead of winter, maybe), and nothing can compare to the contentment that one gets from watching anything under one’s care grow and flourish. I am, of course, blotting the many disasters out of my mind . . . And we get to enjoy the lovely – and not-so-lovely wildlife. Note: Charlene the White Squirrel’s children have just appeared. They are regular grey/brownish squirrels with blonde – truly blonde -tails!

    Cementing in your treated poles is so smart. We didn’t do that with a few of ours and they have begun to rot.

    That clay of yours is the real thing! They make bricks in the next county, so we have our fair share, too. My goodness, Ollie is taller than ever! I hadn’t noticed that those legs of his had not let up growing. But Ollie! What’s with this eating of soil amendments and footprints in cement and, if you had skunks there, I’ll bet you would have already played with one. If you ever wish to get above the rank of Petty Officer Third Class, you are going to have to shape up!

    I love the storm-rolling-in photo. It’s so neat that the sun is still shining on your place.

    Oh, blah. Lemons are $.79 each here and sometimes pretty small, and we use a lot of them.

    I remember poo balls. Dogs and cats – especially old ones – get them, too.


  25. @ Coco:

    The tomatillo lanterns grow first and then the tomatillos grow to fill them – maybe. Sometimes they stay pea-sized. Go ahead and laugh – we planted 20 tomatillo plants this year. I am tired of tomatillos. We haven’t canned any salsa verde yet as there are passatas and peppers still waiting.


  26. Yo, Chris – Oh, I think corn get get 3 or 4 cobs on a stock, but those are probably hybrids. Even ancient farmers, probably, would have selected seed to save on plants with more cobs, if the cobs were the same, or almost the same, size. Bump up the yield by 1/3 or more.

    Maybe you can keep your citrus. That “long hot summers” gave me pause to reconsider. :-).

    I think there was a book, quit awhile ago, called “The Best Politicians Money Can Buy.” But, I may be imagining it. Ours are apparently, quit pricey.

    Cliff Mass had a new post up about the smoke, today. We just keep setting new records. It should start clearing out, tomorrow. I feel a bit more winded, than usual. You can actually taste it in the air, when you’re out.

    Turns out I had seen “Last Cab to Darwin”, probably when it came out in 2015. But, it was well worth another look. Maybe I’ll remember it, next time I run across it in the catalog. :-).

    Euthanasia doesn’t seem to be much of a Federal concern, here, other than the odd case that goes to the Supreme Court. Those seem to be pretty case specific and haven’t become the “Law of the Land.” It’s pretty much individual State’s laws. Luckily, both Oregon and Washington allow it. Cont.

  27. Cont. I’ve just about finished “Chasing Chiles: Hot Spots Along the Pepper Trail.” A lot of the heirloom peppers are in trouble, due to drought, followed by incredible rain storms and flooding. Then back to drought, again. But, the authors resist a knee jerk “It’s all climate change.” There’s a lot of other things in play. The loss of farm lands to urbanization. The lack of field workers, as they move onto better paying jobs. Farmers who stop farming for the same reason. Peppers also seem to hybridize easily, so keeping the old strains “pure” is tough to pull off. I think I’ll try a variety or two, next year. See if I’ve got the Chili Head Gene :-).

    I’ve also finished the series of DVD lectures, “Food, Science, and the Human Body,” (Great Courses / National Geographic.) That was pretty interesting and covered a lot of topics. The human body is a pretty complex little mechanism and there’s hardly anything you can say about it that applies to all people, at all times, in all places. Which can be a bit maddening.

    “X substance effects humans, according to some studies, but more research is necessary.” And, unless that research makes someone some money, somewhere, it’s not going to happen. An interesting case was (and this kind of applies to the riff we were running on the Dreaded Mari-Hochie weed) that it’s often been wondered why some people snort a bit of cocaine (goes for heroin, too) and are instantly hooked and fall down the addiction rabbit hole. But other people don’t. Better “Moral Fiber”? (I think you find that in oatmeal :-). Well. Teenagers who consume a lot of coffee, later in life, tend to be more likely to be addicted to cocaine, if they try it. Apparently, the chemical compositions are “like” enough that if the brain rubs up against cocaine (or, I suppose opiodes in general) the old reward centers light up and say, “Well, this is familiar.” But more study must be done. :-).

    Anyway. The whole series of lectures were pretty interesting. There were whole lectures on different food stuffs. Coffee, tea, salt & sugar, chocolate, beer & mead, wine, etc.. Discussing the history, trade, and finally, how it effects the human body.

    Oh, I’m basically just keeping my head down and seeing how it all shakes out, here at The Home. Once the new building head shows up, the interim martinet marching around with her scorched earth policies will likely vanish. We never saw her before, we probably won’t see her (much) after. Hmmm. This all may be a plan. Anyone replacing her, will seem like a relief and an improvement. Lew

  28. Hi Pam,

    Fortunately there is time for you to rectify that cultural lack, and watch the film. 🙂 Hehe! I believe the original intention of the film was to give Disney the middle finger, but in a strange twist of fate, the Pixar appears to have been purchased by the behemoth.

    The money is not as relevant a concept as people may think – and for all of the reasons that you mentioned. One of my motivations for setting out upon this strange journey is the acknowledgement that the industrial food system appears to me to be declining in quality of output. Some food made by other people and fed to me tastes very strange to my palate. And palm oil smells and tastes revolting to me but people seem to have adapted to it pretty easily, so who am I to argue with them? My thoughts on that plant is that it is inordinately destructive because it yields so well. One needn’t take part in such a system if they feel that way, don’t you reckon?

    It is good fun isn’t it? And yeah, the disasters, oh well, they sort of help keep us all humble. 🙂 Charlene sounds like a real little charmer and it is a pleasure to watch the succeeding generations of birds and animals grow up all about you.

    The cement is a very water tight mix too (a slightly higher ratio of cement to sand and aggregate). It adds a tiny bit of extra cost, but I reckon it is worth it.

    The local earth moving guy told me that the soil here is very stable, but I’ve seen the really heavy rainfalls (4 inches in an hour) cause it run, but it doesn’t take too much compaction to produce a nice flat surface. I’ll make some more terraces next year, but I’ve got to finish this lot first, and then there is roofing over the strawberry enclosure (a necessary job). Good to hear that you too have clay. It is useful stuff.

    Ollie is all legs and tail and stuff! Hehe! He eats a lot, I’m not sure I’d want too many larger dogs as they’d eat me out of house and home. That dog… He’s been back up there too, so the sooner I put down a layer of compost, well he’ll be into that too…

    Really? Lemons are usually about $1 each here, but I basically give them away to people that I know. And I use heaps of lemons in cooking and preserving. Each of the varieties have differing levels of biteyness! Some of them can make your eyes water and are thus great for cooking.

    Hehe! Yup, cutting poo balls away on animals is part of the whole deal. The chicken relaxed into it once she knew I didn’t intend her to end up in the pot.



  29. Hi Lewis,

    Ah! Thanks for the information about corn as I had wondered about that. The two miserly cobs produced by the stalks here may also be an expression of the lack of soil fertility down under? Dunno. Corn is not a big crop down here and a lot of it in the markets appears to be imported. Of course I’m also growing older open pollinated varieties. One of them dates back to the very beginning of the 20th century. I suspect that we aren’t spending as much time and effort on plant breeding these days as we probably should be. Of course ‘should’ is a loaded word and there are plenty of things that we should be doing that we aren’t. Oh, did I just use the word ‘should’ a second time around?

    I’ve got to head down into the forest today and cut up the humongous branch that fell down a few months ago. I’m trying to do it now whilst it is still cold because the branch fell close to one of the bee hives. The bees are easily startled by the sounds of machinery… I’ll have to keep one eye on the chainsaw and another on the bee hive – and that is going to be difficult because my eyes point in the same direction. Fortunately grumpy bees like giving warning by banging on my helmet. I don’t need to be told a second time in such circumstances and will try and be careful.

    Hey, long hot summers worry me too! Last year’s growing season was very, very, long and the cooler weather really didn’t kick in until about late May, which is frightening. There is talk about the burn off restrictions being introduced earlier this year, as in next month for the far east of the state which is in drought. It is nice to have a longer growing season, but you know, there are downsides. Oh, I must get onto the water tank people today. I contacted them last week with no reply, so pester and nuisance plan C will be implemented today. Hopefully to good effect? Nobody wants to see plan F implemented! Hehehehehe!

    We do things cheaper down here: Sam Dastyari and the murky links with Chinese businessmen that ended his political career. It is nice to hear that your politicians maintain proper standards and apparently request a proper and righteous fee for service! 🙂

    These things happen with the film, and I liked the sound of the story line. It was based on a real story, and unfortunately I read that the bloke ended up having to return to meet the fate that he’d attempted to avoid. It is strange how life works sometimes like that.

    I’d certainly take that option if things were clearly terminal. Some endings are pointlessly painful. I heard a strange story a few months ago which suggested that a particular religious group had put a lot of energy in to capturing the services of palliative care. It all sounded very weird to me.

    Almost finished Tom Sawyer and I’m really enjoying the story. The level of understanding and comprehension that the characters display in their interactions is quite startling to read. Then on the other hand the characters display a charming sort of naivety too and I’m trying to get my head around what that means. Probably it is just different, that’s all? Dunno. What’s next to read, well it’s either: Conrad Richter’s “The Field” or Alexie’s “Reservation Blues”. Which to pick? The stress. I put the question to you: which book do you recommend reading first?

    I reckon the chilli authors are correct because people, plants and the land are tied to the local culture, and if an other culture points people in other directions, that’s where they go and the plants stay behind. Really, the answer is all of the above. Look at how much palm oil finds its way into industrial food stuffs – and none of the plants are apparently grown down under (or that is my understanding of the matter). Talk about heavy feeders, those plants are a worry…

    That argument applies to herbal concoctions too. There is little money in researching them other than noting that there is a minor benefit through the older and cheaper method of observation. There is a bit of a turf war going on in that realm and it is best to use the best of both worlds. Nobody has managed to beat the system – the house rules are stacked against us from the very beginning! 😉

    Yeah it is weird how people are affected differently and because people are rubbish at acknowledging risk, they run the risk of falling into the permanent habit side of the equation. Mate, I saw my sister fall, and I can’t see why I’d be any different, so best to stay away and not partake in the first place. Some of my friends over the years that do enjoy a smoke were perplexed by my behaviour and always tried to entice me to join them, but you know, who said: “Discretion is the better part of valor”. Oh the wordsmith, that’s who! He was onto something with that. I once heard a policeman suggest that a person should never be afraid to run. Sound advice!

    If the martinet solution is the plan in your digs, then it is sheer genius! I do note that the martinet Governor Bligh was replaced by the more tolerant and far more successful Governor Macquarie in our history. Far our it is hard not to see that blokes name dotted all about the landscape down under in Macquarie this and that. He was a thoughtful bloke who built his power around the growing population of emancipated and free settlers rather than the much smaller military. A smart move, although tensions bubbled beneath the surface. He slowly began adapting the place from a penal settlement into a colony with all of the gear that brings.



  30. Hi Chris,

    The mountains are very impressive here – I have some tasty photos and will put them on the blog when I have some more boat progress to show :-p

    I am not surprised at all at Ollies antics, but I suppose one might as well shake their fist at the sky 🙂


  31. Hi Lew,

    Yeah, you will get those messages on certain websites if your web browser is out of date. I won’t pretend it is necessarily easy to fix – computers and software are nightmares for the most part. But if you feel so inclined look at installing the latest version of Mozilla Firefox and then remove Adobe. Running and old browser with flash would explain some of the gremlins you have experienced in the past.


  32. Hi Damo,

    I look forward to seeing photos of your travels in the south island. Mate, that landscape is epic. I’m sure the recent rain has been good for boat progress! 🙂

    Ollie rolled in something unpleasant this morning. A few minor adjustments, which he won’t make, would make him the best dog ever. Alas, so close, yet so far! Hehe! He’s allright that dog.

    Couldn’t get the chainsaw to start this morning so it is off to the repair shop. It seemed like there was too much compression which is frankly weird, but there you go. Instead I went off to muck around and make some changes with the garden water pumps. A bit of a story there… Don’t try and do things on the cheap seems to be the order of the day with water pumps.



  33. Hi Chris,

    Your corn (maize) terrace is progressing very well. I was eavesdropping your chat with Lew about the number of cobs per plant. Increasing the planting density of corn reduces the number of ears per plant and the number of kernels per ear.

    I add a link to a very handy booklet on the matter. At only 20 pages it is good for busy people. It gives details about how each stage of the plant’s development effects later stages. A “GPS” for corn growing journeys.

    This infographic highlights when you will need to water if you don’t get rain.

    Regards Elbows

  34. @ Elbows:

    That’s a tough one – which vegetable do I enjoy growing the most? Oddly enough, that would be the peppers (chilis) as they are the easiest thing to grow here here and provide foods that I either can’t find in the stores or that are expensive if quality is desired. We make gallons of fermented pepper sauces of all kinds, eat a lot fresh or fried, and dry others. Right this minute I am making hummus with dried cayenne peppers in it, later I will be having a fried egg with potatoes and spinach chard (home grown, though not the egg, anymore) and pepper sauce on top. You might say that we have spicy tastes around here!


  35. Chris:

    I don’t have anything called palm oil, but I love coconut oil. I use it instead of butter on toast, etc. I assume that they are different things?

    Ha ha – thanks for the morning chuckle! “I’ll have to keep one eye on the chainsaw and another on the bee hive – and that is going to be difficult because my eyes point in the same direction.”


  36. Chris:

    Yesterday my youngest son announced that his boss had rented a bus to take all the employees to a baseball game in our capital city of Richmond. They were going to watch the home team play, who is the Richmond Squirrels. I thought he was teasing me and finally looked up the name. It is indeed “Squirrels”, albeit “Flying Squirrels”. Their mascot is “Nutsy”. A great time was had by all.


  37. Yo, Chris – “The Fields” or “Reservation Blues?” Hmmm. I have to really think about that one. And, it’s early and I haven’t had my first cuppa, yet. I think “Reservation Blues.” The only reason I can come up with, for that choice, is to give a break from Ye Olde Times.

    I had an interesting interchange with one of the Ladies, yesterday. I was moaning about my Tomatillos, and the exchange went something like this:

    Her: So you need a male and female plant?
    Me: Well. No. Each plants flower has both male and female bits. But they won’t pollinate themselves, like some plants do.
    Her: Why Not? Are they bi-sexual?
    Me: No.
    Her: Are they gay plants?
    Me: I don’t think so. Not a disco ball to be seen in the garden patch. Maybe it’s an incest taboo?

    Well, in mulling THAT all over, later on I think I hit on what’s going on. And, told her so later. I think it’s to insure genetic diversity. And, even later on, I was reading “TomatoLand”, last night, and it commented that although our cultivated tomatoes freely fertilize with themselves, their wild ancestors needed another plant to have fertile seeds.

    And then it talked about genetic bottlenecks. If a population is fairly isolated (people, plants … whatever) bad traits can build up. Which is one of the problems with shrinking wild populations and seed saving.

    You’ve had some conversations, here, about the wisdom of saving seed from multiple years, to have a better selection of genetic material, each year. Or more varied genetic material available.

    My refrigerator vegetable crisper (seed storage) is going to get interesting :-). And, of course, I’m dealing with limited gardening space and limited number of plants. And then I contend with people growing things in close proximity.

    I have my two pumpkins, but wonder if they’ve been “contaminated” by the squash growing just across the path? It’s all rather complicated, isn’t it? Lew

  38. Hello Chris
    I am around, just very busy and tired. Shall try to come in properly tomorrow.

  39. Hi Elbows, Pam, Lewis, and Inge,

    Thanks for the lovely comments but it is the pub for I tonight. Who can argue with the wisdom of a pint and feed on a cold winters evening? I promise to reply tomorrow. 🙂

    Lewis – Far out, today we decided to set aside a day to complete the corn enclosure fencing and weld up the gate. This is a real problem because Ollie is enjoying consuming the blood and bone mix and there are holes dotted throughout the soil mix… For some reason he’s also began digging holes in the garden beds – no doubts he’s looking for rats. Puppies…

    Anyway, we ended up unexpectedly sailing the wide accountant-seas for a couple of hours this morning and plans were thrown to the winds. Instead in the afternoon, we constructed a new rock gabion cage and placed it just below the potato terrace. Have I mentioned how much I like those steel rock gabion cages? No, well I do! 🙂

    And I didn’t get to cut up the huge fallen branch because I couldn’t get the chainsaw to start and had to take it into the farm machine repair shop to get them to have a look at it. I had to laugh because when I took the saw in there, they asked me in all seriousness whether I’d pressed the decompression button (which we all believe is the fault) before trying to start the thing. Obviously if you’ve never seen or used one of the machines that would be a fair question, but in this circumstance it was a bit like the computer help desk people asking me whether I’d switched the computer off and then back on again? I gave an amusing reply which went along the lines: “Are you f……g kidding me?” and then we all had a laugh which broke the tension.

    Plans? Anyway, what are these things? A true mystery to me… I plan to have a more relaxed day tomorrow. The wide oceans of the accountant-sea have been lapping against the shores here too much of late – and that is no fun at all. 😕

    Did I just have a massive whinge-fest? It sure does sound like it. These things happen from time to time! I promise not to whinge tomorrow!



  40. @ Lew:

    Oh, Lew – you are killing me with the antics of your tomatillo plants! And your neighbors!


  41. Hello again
    As usual I am loving the photos particularly those that cover an area of your land. But my goodness, all those lemons! I am glad that I haven’t got them. At the moment I never want to see another blackberry or French bean let alone vast numbers of lemons.
    I have never seen or heard of a snowbow; fascinating. A lot of snow is unusual here though it can occur.
    A neighbour has recently concreted in a number of fence poles. However, the land has since moved and the poles are leaning over.
    I also enjoyed ‘Shrek’.
    Mentioned to my son that his father always sharpened his own saw blades. Son says that one can’t do that now as they are all ‘hard tip’. Is that so where you are?
    Have just learned a superb way of cooking zucchini, they really are a boring recipe:- Fry in butter with pepper until pretty brown. Then lay in dish, cover in grated cheese and put in oven for 20 minutes. This was really delicious.

    @ To all those who have been discussing toothpaste. Why go to all this trouble? I just use straight bicarbonate of soda which is what you are calling baking soda (I think). Why add anything? The powder is just fine.

    @ Pam A national newspaper here has just had an article saying that coconut oil is poison; perhaps some research is needed here.


  42. Yo, Chris – I also like rock gabion cages. Very picturesque. :-).

    “Wide Oceans of the Account Sea.” Of course, that put me in mind of Monty Python’s “Crimson Permanent Assurance” sketch. If this URL doesn’t work, look for the 16 minute version.


    Nothing wrong with the occasional Whige-Fest, as long as one doesn’t make it into a lifestyle. :-). Whinge on, Whinge Boy :-). Lew

  43. @ Pam – I didn’t realize you were a Chili Head. :-). After reading that book about the chili trail, I’m inspired to plant my own, next year. I’m thinking Tabasco, Beaver Dam peppers, Datil and maybe Fish Peppers. Subject to change, depending on what I see in the seed catalogs.

    I’m surprised you make your own pepper sauces. If they’re not secret old family recipes, tell all.

    I read about the McIlhenny family of Avery Island, LA. They had a whole chapter on them. Eleven generations! So, I went to the Safeway, last night, and found a bottle! I’m sure I’ve had some before in the distant past, but bought that bottle with the idea of REALLY paying attention to the taste and flavor. Quit nice. Made my lips tingle :-). Lew

  44. Hello again
    Correction: I meant ‘boring veg’ not ‘boring recipe’. Mistake due to fatigue I am sure.
    Neighbour has had a chain saw going all week; I don’t think that he likes trees. It is very noisy at the moment. Heaven help his land.

  45. Hi Chris,

    Did you get the chainsaw sorted? I am a chainsaw novice and didn’t even know they had decompression levers! Back in my mis-spent youth I used to ride dads trail bike around the farm (but never on the back country roads – that would be illegal!) and it was a beast of a thing, a 500cc single cylinder Yamaha TT. It was so old there was no auto-decompression mechanism. Just a lever which needed to be depressed on the downward kick, but released just as you got to the bottom. If released too early, you would get a sharp, painful kick back from the kick starter. If you released too late there would be no compression in the cylinder and the thing doesn’t start. Great stuff, none of this soft auto-decompression or *gasp* electric start here!

    Mrs Damo and I have planted some cabbages (trying again, I think we might be early enough to avoid moth ravaging!), garlic and beans now. I even want to be cheeky and try for some early tomatoes. The north facing brick wall is a bit of a micro-climate and it just might work! There has only been a handful of frosts this year – but we are only a 100 metres from the ocean so it probably moderates the chill a bit.


  46. Hi Pam,

    I add desiccated coconut to the Anzac biscuit recipe and coconut oil also smells really nice! When I was a kid, they used to sell a product called ‘reef oil’ which smells of coconut oil (it is really very nice smelling stuff), but wow, back in those days did the stuff used to cook your skin or what? The advertisement campaign back in those enlightened times used to have two groups of people showing “suntan versus” and the other cooler group of people as “reef tan”. I read somewhere once that skin cancer rates were the highest in the world down here. Can’t imagine why? I just did a Google search on the advertising images and they’re still there! Very 70’s. Fascinating stuff.

    Hehe! All part of the service! 🙂 The rotten chainsaw couldn’t be started as it has a wee bit of a problem with the decompression button. I love my chainsaw. ‘Tes not natural. All things considered, I probably should obtain a cross cut hand saw as well.

    That baseball game sounds like fun. Did ‘Nutsy” bear any resemblance to Charlene? Who doesn’t love a good outing? We went to a nearby seedling farm today and purchased a lot of plants. Ah, lead me not into temptation… 😉



  47. Hi Lewis,

    A truly sound strategy and I applaud your undeniable common sense to avoid all decisions until the first cuppa has been consumed! Thanks for the laugh. 🙂 The world is rarely clear at such times of the morning. Who are these early morning folk anyway, that is the real question? And are they truly happy? I doubt it.

    It is awful for me, because I sometimes have to interact with the lovely people at the local general store / post office / cafe before I’ve even had my first cuppa. It is not right, but hardships must be endured. It is probably more of a hardship for them though, but we have this lovely ongoing interaction where either they or I get the order right (I’ve never not been served the coffee) but something inevitably strange occurs and then we all have a big laugh about it and move on. I recall once when I forgot to collect my change and the boss who by now after so many years knows me reasonably well, had to explain to another employee that no, he’s not in fact leaving a huge tip! Funny stuff. Mornings… It would be nice to have enough money to be considered mildly eccentric! 🙂

    OK, so I went with your recommendation yesterday morning. Well, I’m thoroughly enjoying the book ‘Reservation Blues’, and after only two days I’m sadly a quarter of the way through it. Thanks very much for the recommendation in the first place. It makes me wonder what else you are holding back on? Insert evil genius chuckle!!! The editor loved the book ‘Empire Falls’, and we have discussed it since. It was a microcosm of a much larger story. Anyway, I really like how the author Alexi slips in bite sized chunks of reality in between telling a fascinating story which slips between the world that people experience and the actual world that surrounds us all. And you know, you started me wondering about what sort of person Alexi is, and you know, to me he’s just this guy that can tell a great tale, and I sort of feel for him that people project such wishes upon his own personal character, because the failure to live up to those wishes becomes the story, rather than the story that the guy actually tells. Everyone has their foibles and weaknesses, that is par for the course for being a human, but some can rise part of who they are into the collective consciousness. It is a complex matter, which we as a society don’t deal with as individuals or as a collective very well. That isn’t to excuse people of bad or illegal behaviour at all, but I reckon humans by and large are a mixed bag.

    Absolutely! I read another story on plant genetics a few months back and the author (it may have been Gene Logsdon) and he was suggesting that in ancient times the earliest farmers of corn used to grow the original plant nearby so as to give the corn genetics an occasional bit of a boost. I’m not nearly so lucky, and so I grab plant material from wherever it makes itself known to me.

    I mean exactly, we’re in the middle of a major extinction event – not that anyone notices and genetic diversity is decreasing. But with a bit of effort, we could reverse that, but that course of action does not involve doing what we want to do. That’s life. On the other hand life does seek diversity. The upshot is, I’m considering the problem of genetic plant diversity from a whole lot of different angles. I just have to start small and work up from there, because every system I take on requires upfront energy and then a lesser amount of ongoing energy. And frankly not many people realise that such matters are an important task.

    We visited a local seedling nursery today, and it was both massive and really good. So many plants… The people that ran it were really lovely.

    Yeah, exactly, I mean you stated the main problem in that it takes a community to raise a plant! 😉 The other day we came face to face with the selfish argument which really raises my heckles, but you know, I’m reasonably forgiving and just move on.

    Who knows about the pumpkins? Maybe, and then again, maybe not. It all depends. Which in summary means that I have no idea at all! I saved seed from the Queensland blue variety of pumpkin last year, but I don’t know whether it will grow true to type and then for how many generations of plants.

    Thanks. I like those rock gabion cages too. They just work, and I expect that by the time that the steel rusts away, the rocks and clay will have settled nicely into place? Maybe? It does sound good in theory don’t you reckon? We discovered a new supply of rocks today. We stumbled across an old lava flow, and then followed it down to a spot where the rain and frosts had broke apart the rocks and… It is nice to be able to read the stories that are written in the land itself.

    Thanks for the Monty Python video! And so they sailed off into the ledgers of history (and off the edge of something that looks like discworld)! 🙂

    Speaking of bloated merchant bankers. It’s hardly a matter of any great import, but today we apparently have another new Prime Minister: Scott Morrison wins leadership spill; Malcolm Turnbull takes parting shot at Abbott and Dutton in final speech. Anyway, don’t worry much for this one, because we seem to have plenty more where they came from. 😉 What a carry-on. Do they not realise that what they sow, so shall they reap?



  48. Hi Inge,

    Thanks, and I do try and put some context into the photos. But I’m trying hard to keep the most used growing spaces close to the house because it makes it easier for me, and also the wildlife circles the edges of all of the growing spaces. Like tonight there was a huge wombat casually ambling through the orchard, and also in there was a rather sad looking adolescent kangaroo. I wonder what his story was and why he wasn’t with his mob? I may never know, but he has been hanging around of late. I reckon I captured a good photo of him this afternoon, but I’ll only know when I download the photos.

    Oh yeah, there is a lot of citrus. Master Fukuyama of the ‘One Straw Revolution’ grew citrus as his mainstay crop, and if I were not so slack, I would get around to reading his thoughts. Incidentally, he grew nitrogen fixing trees which are local to here which is really weird, but there you go. I guess there are lessons for me in that book – I just have a bit of trepidation about reading it. Dunno why.

    Well, I’m envious of your blackberries and French beans! Tasty stuff. Sometimes it is hard to know what to do with excess production – which you have to admit is a much nicer problem than wondering where to obtain excess production?

    Yeah, thanks for that, I would have thought that your maritime climate would have meant that you were much warmer than the mainland. And hopefully the land is a bit more stable here. Fingers crossed anyway… The ground does move and swell with the seasons, but I haven’t noticed any great change in the infrastructure, but then all things are subject to change at short notice…

    Shrek was fun wasn’t it? Heck, I even enjoyed the first sequel.

    Ah, I sharpen all of our tools, blades etc. For carbon steel I have an industrial diamond tipped angle grinder blade and not much steel is tougher than that blade. It was interesting story acquiring the blade in the first place, and it came from your country too. It was an epic tale, and when the blades eventually turned up at the post office, I couldn’t believe it. Anyway, the upshot is, if it has steel, I can sharpen it here, one way or another.

    Years ago I met an old bloke who used to sharpen his very old pocket knife with a leather strop and far out that blade impressed me with its sharpness. Clearly I still have much to learn on that front. How then does your son get his tools sharpened?

    The zucchini recipe sounds delicious! You know we were still consuming our harvest until about three weeks ago. The last zucchini went to the worms as we chucked it into a garden bed – and Ollie dug it up and ate it. It seemed like a good idea at the time to plant it in the garden.



  49. Hi Damo,

    No problems at all. They don’t all have decompression buttons either. It is just the saws with bigger motors. It is almost impossible to pull the cord without first pressing the decompression button (it is a little black button usually found on top of the casing). And the mains electric chainsaw, is just a pleasure to use, although won’t cut the really big stuff.

    Sure you didn’t! 🙂 The editor used to drive around back country roads with her mum. My, how times have changed… Electric start! Softies! Hehe! Thanks for the laugh. I’ll have to say that newer motors are actually easier to start, but then there are more things to go wrong and the tolerances are far finer.

    Incidentally the Yamaha TT was a powerful weapon of a bike. Especially a 500. The 250’s are no slouches either. I forget, did you take your bike over to NZ? It’s probably a lot of hassle. Do they have much of a market for bikes?

    Good luck with the cabbages. The moths are unrelenting here and the cabbages don’t heart before they descend upon them. You might be lucky with the tomatoes. I’m waiting to plant out seeds until next month. There is a frost risk for tomorrow morning here. But yeah, there are plenty of advantages to your local climate. Yup.



  50. Hi Inge,

    Chainsaws can also be used for positive environmental outcomes, I guess like everything it all depends. Is he clearing a view on a slope leading down to the ocean? I hope not as it is probably not a good idea. 😕



  51. @ Inge:

    I do use plain baking soda on my toothbrush to brush with. Sometimes I use plain hydrogen peroxide on my toothbrush or a commercial toothpaste instead. Boy, does that bought tooth paste last a long time. I also use plain baking soda as deodorant. I just very occasionally mix up the coconut oil (refined), baking soda, peppermint oil toothpaste for a change of pace. I think that I am always trying to trick the mouth cooties.

    I have not heard that about coconut oil being poisonous. I wonder if it is the oil itself, or the refining process? Will have to check into it. Thanks.

    My son has some kind of electric tool for sharpening his chainsaw.


  52. Hello again
    I’ll ask Son but I don’t think that he sharpens saw blades any more.
    Neighbour has already cleared the view downhill (crazy) and is now clearing off to the side.


  53. Hi Chris,

    I have indeed noted the absence of Toothy. Salve is also very jealous of any attention that Leo gets though that’s lessened over time. There haven’t been any other visits to the neighbors but Salve has destroyed a downspout to get to a chipmunk and I’m pretty sure it’s her that ripped a the screen on the door to our deck most likely due to squirrel sightings. She is spending a lot of time staring up into trees.

    I was reading about wild cucumber and it’s not advised to compost the plants as the seeds will just sprout next year. I’ve started the eradication process.

    Two of my sisters and I cleaned out Michael’s room yesterday. We were interrupted by fellow residents stopping in. Michael’s girlfriend (who is quite bossy) proceeded to inform us what we should take and what she wanted. We find her pretty amusing.

    We also went to my BIL’s restaurant and set a date for the “Celebration of Life” which is at the end of September so much was accomplished yesterday.


  54. @Inge

    Your recipe sounds great – I’m going to have to try it.

    The sound of chainsaws and mowing drive me crazy too even though they’re necessary at times. You’d think out in the country things would be pretty quite – well at night it is.


  55. Yo, Chris – People who wake up singing … well, it’s maybe a genetic thing and should be stomped out! :-). If my body doesn’t rebel, like last year, I’m signed up for that weekend retreat, the end of September. We’ll be bunking 8-10 to a cabin. I was pleased (and amused) when one of the questions on the registration (check a box) was a choice between “early riser” and “night owl.” No extra points for guessing which box I checked :-(.

    Here’s the latest on the black casket found in Alexandria.

    Big hoop-la over the “opium poppy” depicted. Looks more like a pomegranate, to me. But, leave it to the media (and, some of the scientists) to go for the most sensational interpretation. There will be dueling dissertations. Academic careers will rise and fall. Ho-Hum.

    LOL. Book recommendations. What I’m holding back. Well, it’s more a matter of remembering. I’m not reading much fiction, these days. Seems like anytime something catches my attention, I read a couple of chapters and throw it back. I watched “The Shape of Water”, last night. I quit liked it, but would I recommend it? Hmm. Depends on your feelings about cross species romance :-). It was nice to see Doug Jones trotting out his creature chops. He’s created quit an acting niche for himself.

    The Monty Python sketch was a hoot. I was quit amazed at the athletic prowess of the old duffers. Must have been quit a thing to film. Needs a disclaimer: “No Old Duffers were killed in the making of this sketch.

    Yup. We’re clearly in an Extinction Event. Mostly of our own making. Ever shrinking varieties of crops. Besides the rigors of climate, there’s business decisions to go to mono-crops. But there is a glimmer of hope. People everywhere are working to propagate the old varieties. And many of them are freely giving away the seed. Like the fellow who is the third generation to grow Beaver Dam peppers. They were brought from Hungary, by his grandfather immigrant. And the Fish Pepper is now available in a seed catalog. My own Jimmy Red corn was down to two cobs. Now I’m growing it in the side yard. Cont.

  56. Cont. I’m trying to get more laid back about crop failures. If the corn hadn’t produced (and, it’s still a long way from dried cob … I see the first silks, this morning) and if I can’t cox a few Tomatillos out of the patch, I comfort myself with the ideas that they have provided the pollinators with a lot of tucker and, will provide a lot of good bio mass to plow back into my soil. That helps take the sting out.

    Well, watch out for poisonous critters among all those lava rocks! I wonder if you have lava tubes, there? You might have an interesting cave on the place. I visited a friend once, down by Mt. Shasta. He got his drinking water from a lava tube that had filled with ice. In our State, Bigfoot is reported to be fond of taking up residence in lava tubes.

    Oh, well. Your Prime Ministers probably go on to very lucrative positions in the private sector. If nothing else, mad cash for just being listed on a corporate board. “Past Prime Minister” probably has a certain cachet, in some quarters.

    Used to be leather strops in every home that had a gent using a straight razor to shave. Also came in handy to discipline any naughty children lurking about. :-). Lew

  57. @ Damo – I was advised against trying any of the cabbage family, here, due to the cabbage moths. But I’ve been hitting the plants with Bt, from time to time, and so far, not many problems. I apply it about once a week, after a bit of a water, so it sticks to the leaves. A bit hard to apply, as it’s a white powder in a squeeze tube. And, forget trying to apply it if there’s any wind.

    I’m going to look into applying it to my corn, to avoid the corn borers.

    LOL (at myself). I’m thinking “Why does Damo want to plant his tomatoes on the cold side of the building?” before remembering that climate wise, your north is our south. That pesky equator. Up in this hemisphere, artists seek “northern light” for the best garrets. I suppose, down there, artists seek “southern light.”

    Our library appears not to have ordered Orville. If it’s not in the catalog, this morning, I’m putting through a “buy” request on it. Lew

  58. @ Lew:

    I may be a chili head, but I can’t stand it too hot. My husband – having grown up on the Mexican border in El Paso – can eat really hot stuff. So, we grow peppers with different levels of hotness and make separate sauces. I love Tabasco sauce, but I can only use a few drops of it at a time. This year we have made separate sauces of ripe mild anchos, hot jalapenos, and dubious cayennes, and a separate mix of unknown crossbred peppers, and throw banana peppers in sometimes just to use them up. Our pepper sauce is made like this:

    Wash and cut off the tops of your ripe peppers.

    If you don’t want seeds in the finished sauce, this is the time to slice open the peppers and remove the seeds.

    Throw the peppers into a blender. Blend.

    Add the mixture below to 5 cups of blended peppers and blend again:

    2 cups vinegar

    1/3 cup water

    2 1/4 Tablespoons plain salt (we have been using Himalayan pink salt)

    1 1/4 Teaspoons garlic powder

    ! 1/4 Teaspoons onion powder

    I know the measurements sound unduly precise for this sort of recipe, but we usually do a couple of gallons at a time, so I broke it down into a smaller batch.

    Then pour the mixture into bottles with secure tops. We save all sorts of bottles to use from stuff we have bought at the store. It doesn’t seem to matter if they are plastic or glass, though I prefer glass. Screw on the top and shake every few days. The bottles are well-washed, but not sterilized. Favorite bottles to use are the raw apple cider vinegar bottles with a bit of the “mother” still in them – do not wash these as the “mother” is extra helpful for fermentation. In fact, I don’t know why we are not adding a bit of raw apple cider vinegar to each and every bottle before filling with sauce.

    We start eating it immediately, but it developes a smoother flavor over time. We’ve never made enough to keep for more than 8 or 9 months – until this year.


  59. @ Lew:

    That’s white vinegar in the actual pepper sauce mix (the 2 cups). I knew that I was going to forget something.


  60. Hi Inge,

    Sharpening steel is no small skill. It is funny but I conducted a discussion on renewable energy today and one conclusion jumped out at me (and the people present at the talk): It takes a village to raise a village. I know (and can do) lot of things about all manner of interesting skills. I’m a bit of a jack of all trades, but far out, there is so much that I don’t know that it is frighteningly horrifying (I just made that up!)

    Well, that situation is crazy as – and on a coastline of all places. The oceans are hungry monsters that consume the land without concerns for personal preferences. I harvest firewood from this land, but far out, I plant and care for hundreds more trees (and thousands more plants) than that. I don’t even know what to say, other than I hope your neighbour gets some plants growing – and quickly.

    I once employed an excavator bloke to deep rip a large chunk of the property, but the day after he left, we took multiple trailer loads of compost and seeds and began getting the soil started again. It is a risky venture on the side of a hill, but if you time it just right (with a bit of luck thrown in) then it’s all good.

    It sure beats living in Venezuela!



  61. Hi Margaret,

    Toothy’s absence is a bit weird isn’t it? Toothy is getting a bit long in the tooth (sorry for the bad pun) and maybe he handed the photo batten to Ollie (of yet no fixed title)? You’ve got me wondering what is going on there, it is certainly not nothing! I’ll try to keep one eye on them whilst I’m working, but one must also give attention to the job at hand. 🙂

    Apologies, but I forget which is the younger of the two dogs, is it Salve (my guess) or Leo? There are plenty of petty jealousies that go on in the world of canine. It is my opinion that in the world of canine, the strong female dog is usually the boss. Scritchy, comes from a long tradition of female boss dogs which includes Old Fluffy; and the Fat – both of whom are buried here and were formidable personalities.

    Oh my god! Naughty Salve. You may have to install heavy duty steel fly wire screens in order to thwart Salve’s latest interests? The heavy duty bushfire resistant stainless steel mesh screens over the windows are barely enough to curtail the exuberant and young Ollie. Salve, like Ollie, are as they say: full of beans!

    Please keep wild cucumber to your shores! Far out, what a plant. After the zombie apocalypse has overrun us all, wild cucumber will continue to reappear every single growing season (best of luck with the eradication process)! The remaining human survivors will leave signs saying: “Beware zombies are known to inhabit this area, as well as wild cucumber!”

    Michael’s girlfriend does sound like quite the character. How are you and your sister holding up? I hope that you are both swapping funny stories about Michael as you go through his belongings? It is a tough task that one.

    I assume that you are having a separate and much earlier funeral for family and friends for Michael? I hope that the sun shines gently that day and despite the sadness, his spirit is acknowledged and remembered by all who attend.



  62. @ Margaret:

    As long as Leo and Salve are so busy destroying the house and looking up into the trees, I guess you don’t have to worry too much about them wandering away. They are an energetic pair!


  63. Chris:

    The other evening my son called me that my truck, which he was driving to pick up a second-hand lawnmower, had broken down in town and would I please bring his tools and some antifreeze (it was radiator related). I did so, and was fortunate in that he had parked under an ancient oak tree (next to a fast food restaurant, yet) which measured, I guessed, 11 feet around. I sat under it while he worked on the truck and as I looked over the rooftops I could see President Thomas Jefferson’s beautiful house, Monticello, on top of its Little Mountain. As it got darker, an almost-full moon came out, with a big red planet hanging under it, which turned out to be Mars. And then a flock of geese flew by heading south. Winter is coming. I believe you said that somewhere . . .


  64. Hi Lewis,

    Absolutely. Mornings are horrifying affairs that must immediately go elsewhere – or suffer such indignities that they would well wish to go elsewhere! Of course, I really do doubt my abilities to follow up on that threat to the unnecessary ritual of the early morning sun, but one can but wish! 🙂

    No doubts it probably is a genetic thing (I’d never considered that aspect before) and those early morning folks are probably putting it all on for show. Like, how great are we, we love early mornings… You reminded me that once I went camping with a bunch of friends and acquaintances. And some rotten early morning type, the disreputable rotter, decided to get up early at the crack of dawn and saunter around, and just in case everyone wasn’t awake, he ripped out an enormously loud fart and woke the people in the nearby tents. He seemed rather pleased with himself too. I hated his guts. And flatulence to the side, he used to further annoy me by claiming that, my daddy is a doctor, how great am I? And because I’m occasional controversial, I used to remind him that: “well you ain’t a doctor”. His girlfriend used to fawn over his family too. I had no time for such folks, but sometimes they’re audibly in your presence in the wee hours of the early morning making a nuisance of themselves.

    Sorry, I digress. Glad to read that you have the opportunity to attend the clubs men’s retreat. Good stuff, and I salute both your self-awareness and good common sense. Early risers… Rotters. Actually, I’m genuinely impressed that the club put the thought to paper and gave people the choice. I’m not much of a fan of bunk cabin arrangements.

    Yeah, I was a bit dubious about the poppy interpretation too, because poppies by and large have a single stem and that icon was something else, but as you say it makes for a ripping good yarn. The clarity is amazing after so many millennia. And the hole in the skull – intriguing. Nowadays such a hole would have an entirely different conclusion. And there were two males and one female skeleton. There is certainly a story there, although we’ll probably never know what it was.

    Hehe! I did but try to prod another book recommendation. I read Alexie’s book on the train into the big smoke today and can barely put it down. So many threads in the story, and it follows four distinct ones that I can note. One is the cultural history and treatment, the other the family history of the band members, the story of the band, and the reaction of the band in the community all rolled into one. It is genius weaving and beyond my skills. Anyway, I was on the train because I lead a talk today on renewable energies. It was an interesting discussion to say the least. When people discover that I’m not connected to the electricity grid, they inevitably share with me their beliefs for the future without putting any of those beliefs to the test. I’m polite in reply, but wish they wouldn’t share as I feel it somewhat necessary to stomp the living daylights out of those beliefs. And then everyone gets upset. What to do? It does stop them from projecting their beliefs though. My, my, it appears to be interesting in Tesla land right now.

    Nice one. Yes, what a postscript to that Monty Python sketch and probably very necessary. They even had a tea lady on the pirate ship. I’m just old enough to recall the tea lady and other lost occupations. A true morale booster that role.

    Exactly too. Plants love nothing more than hybridising, and they’ll get back there in no time at all. I have no doubts about that. Hey, the local eucalyptus species are so resilient, they can reputedly adapt to new climate circumstances within three generations. Talk about adaptable, and the forests are full of warring tree species. People see forests as fixed ecologies, but far out, trees are rough as bags and exploit every weakness of their opponents (which they probably consider us to be). I reckon they’ll be fine. Once there was something like 7,000 varieties of apples. Imagine that. Most orchards are genetically poor when you consider such a feat of plant breeding. Nup, that ain’t something I worry about. And there sure is one big wombat out there in the orchard some nights…

    It’s a slow process and failures are a good way to speed up the learning process. I tell ya, when we get things right first time around, I don’t even realise what we’ve done. But then replicating the win is a real drama, and that’s when I begin to really learn. I just try to grow as wide a variety of plants as I can possibly get my head around. I need to do more on that front, but you know, it is that time thing and I did check behind the couch for it. It wasn’t there at all.

    Actually I believe there are caves high up near the plugs of the old volcanoes so yeah, who knows? I haven’t found any lava tubes here, but down below in the elevated plains, you can clearly see them – and it is really fascinating where the roof of the tubes collapse because it creates something that looks like a sinkhole, but is actually lots of granite blocks. They often fill up with water during the winter months. Never heard of big foot down here, but then there is the “Bunyip”. I would not want to meet a three tonne angry wombat. I saw an article the other day about some person that was bitten by a wombat: Woman bitten on the leg by wombat at Queensland wildlife park. I’m sure there is a story there. I’d imagine it is something like: Look at the cute wombat, and the poor wombat then became cornered or some situation like that. They have a great sense of smell, so it may also have been something that the lady wore that annoyed the wombat.

    How did you know about the cushy corporate careers? They get a lot of benefits for staying for a certain number of terms too. Few bits of legislation appear to get signed off quicker than their own pay rises…

    Yes, I can see that. I shave as little as humanly possible, but standards have to be maintained. Do you use a razor that you sharpen? It maybe something to add to the ‘to do’ list, which is very long already!



  65. Hi Pam,

    Thanks for the beautiful description. Did your son eventually obtain the second hand lawnmower? Ah, radiators. Yes, they can be very necessary items. Did he get the vehicle moving again? Hey, in a weird circumstance, I had the radiator in the Dirt Rat replaced recently. I recall that back in the old days they used to solder a new core to the radiator top and bottom, but now they just drop a whole new one in. I’d have to suggest that the old one is recycled somehow, but I don’t really know and am sort of hoping.

    What a great oak tree. Was it a Virginia Oak Tree? I love the look of those trees with their shaggy great hanging manes. 🙂 Yup, you are handing over the batten. Today was a superb late winters day. Not a breath of a breeze and the sun shone strong and true. And the sun now warms the body. Very pleasing!



  66. Hi Chris,
    Many of the residents are characters to be sure. There is one man who has to go through all our siblings’ names and birthdays as well as some of the nieces and nephews each time I see him. Another woman informed me that she told Michael to zip his fly regularly (no surprise to me). Whenever Michael was in the hospital or went to a doctor (which was often) he would quiz all the doctors and nurses regarding how long they had held their position and where did they go to school. Michael often let out with some zingers. One of our favorites was the time he was at a gathering after a funeral for a relative. There was only one black person there. Michael went up and introduced himself and then asked “Aren’t you glad they freed the slaves?”. The gentleman just responded , “well yes I am.”

    Doug and a friend moved four of the six hives this morning and the bees were not happy. He went while it was still dark thinking all the bees would be inside and he could close them up – well not so for two of the hives. They are either too numerous to fit in the hive or it was too humid out. Both Doug and his friend got stung a few times. After they got here I let the dogs out once the hives were unloaded and situated as the dogs were crying to get out. I didn’t know how angry the bees were and both dogs got stung as well. All are fine now but I think I’ll tread lightly for a few days until they settle. Doug and his friend plan to go back in a few days when it’s cooler and get the other two. He put another box on in case it was crowding that was the issue.


  67. @Pam

    Well it’s actually Salve who’s the destructive one. Leo is the one who’s always looking to get on furniture and leave copious amounts of dog hair. They do have a lot to amuse themselves with around here and when they get tired there’s plenty of sticks to chew.

    We had a couple of really nice days and now it’s back to heat and humidity so sure doesn’t seem like winter coming. Haven’t seen any geese yet.


  68. @ Pam – “…we grow peppers with different levels of hotness…” So, some are really “lookers” and some aren’t? :-).

    I’ve been really slopping the stuff on, to no ill effects. But then, I got the McIlhenny’s “standard” and not the “hot.” Which I’ll try, next time. But then, my taste buds are pretty dead. What was interesting, is, the next day I was e-mailing a friend about my chili sauce experiment and my lips started tingling and my tongue felt “funny.” Wow. That stuff really “imprints” on you, quickly.

    I’ll copy and paste and print out the recipe. Much thanks! I really need to look into fermentation. The Katz book Chris mentions, I think. Because I immediately wonder about refrigeration or botulism. Silly me.

    That was a lovely passage about the moon and Monticello. Geese. We have geese that overwinter, so, it kind of confuses the issue. But I’ve noticed quit a few flocks heading here and there. I think they’re “in training” for the long haul. Lew

  69. Yo, Chris – A couple of stray thoughts. My friend Julia gifted me with a jug of pumpkin syrup. For pancakes, and such. I accepted it with good grace (this is the woman who keeps me in eggs and squash). But, was leery as THE first ingredient is high fructose corn syrup. I does have pumpkin in it. And, all the usual spices in pumpkin pies. Except for nutmeg. So, I made some corn pancakes and took it for a spin. Very mild, even with nutmeg sprinkled on top. The two pancakes I reserved for tabasco sauce were much better. Guess I’ll just let the jug expire quietly in an out of the way cupboard.

    Yesterday was the anniversary of the 79 CE Vesuvius eruption. Maybe. (Dueling academics, etc.). Also the anniversary of the Allied bombing of Pompeii during WWII. They thought there were Germans lurking in the ruins 🙁

    I had forgot, a bit, about the blueberries. So, I picked another gallon, last night (#11). Harvest end is in sight, but I’ll probably get 2 or 3 more gallons.

    The doctor’s son sounds like a self entitled twit. A one note claim to fame. I actually said to someone, once, “Besides a great head of hair, what else do you have going for you?”

    The retreat is not sponsored by our Club. But, of groups further north … Tacoma, Seattle. I just heard about it through the grapevine. It’s the 14th, or so. Sounded interesting, so, why not?

    Yup. Mr. Alexi is quit the story teller. A sweeping generalization, I know, but native peoples DO have a long tradition of storytelling. We have a clutch of Native American writers who are well received.

    Yes. Things are grim in Tesla Land. Mr. Musk was a bit down. Had the blues. The stock market took a dive. Ho-hum.

    Well, I did my bit to smash a few childhood (childish?) beliefs in the wonders of solar power. It was a bit like saying there’s no Santa or Easter Bunny. But, gosh, do a little due diligence before taking the plunge! If I ever decided to fiddle with solar, I’d start with a battery, one panel, and expect it to light a bulb or two. If that went well, I might slowly expand. Maybe.

    Yes, the Tea Lady was a nice touch in the Monty Python sketch. They do pay attention to detail.

    Cliff Mass has a new post about historic Pacific Northwest forest fires. Worth a look.

    The woman was probably trying to get a selfie, with the wombat. This time of year, there are many news reports of dumb tourists trying for selfies with large animals. Buffalo, bear and alligators seem popular. It never ends well. There will be many contenders for this year’s Darwin Awards. Lew

  70. Hi Margaret,

    Thanks for sharing the stories about Michael’s friends. It is funny you mention the story about the man with the excellent memory recall skills but otherwise unusual social skills. I once encountered an older local bloke who used to say to the editor’s face that: Oh I remember you, you’re the one who wore the blue hat. It was a curious thing to say, but no doubts he was having some minor age related difficulties upstairs and we just accommodated his difficulties.

    The gentleman in question in your story responded to Michael with exceptionally good grace. Most people are very good natured with people having difficulties, as long as they’re not violent or otherwise acting aggressively toward them. That can be a bit confronting and I’ve read news articles about some school kids who’ve been locked up because they were so out of control. Fingers were pointed everywhere in those circumstances. On the other hand it would be very confronting for everyone around them.

    Oops! Sorry to hear about the bees. Yes, I totally understand, they’re a very easily upset species and can hold a bit of a grudge when disturbed. How are Doug, friend, and the dogs doing with the bee stings? Ouch. They definitely don’t like being moved. I usually give the bees two days to calm down and get back to normality. Have you dodged the dreaded bee sting? Discretion is the better part of valor! 🙂



  71. Hi Lewis,

    The article regarding the sarcophagus mentioned the speculation that it may be the remains of Alexander the Great and the age of one of the male skeletons may be approximately about right. The final paragraph of the article was a bit disturbing about the foul smelling liquid. I’m not sure how much manna may be gained from such an act of consumption, and I have a hunch that it might make someone rather ill. And the fourth plaque, why ever is it shown side on? There is mystery there.

    I’ve never heard of pumpkin syrup before, but am glad that you have road tested this concoction. We rarely see corn syrup added to products here, mostly because corn isn’t that widely grown down under, mostly because sugar cane is on the tropic north east coast. Savoury pancakes are quite tasty and who can argue with the genius of Tabasco sauce? Did you apply the red or the green Tabasco?

    Well there is a bit of irony in there that apparently: “the recent, highly publicized collapse of some Pompeian buildings did not involve ancient structures but rather post–World War II reconstructions.” At least there is a certain sort of consistency there, although it would be rather impolite of me to point out the obvious. In a strange twist of circumstance, I walked through the city the other day with a friend and we discussed the possibility of future deconstruction of some of the cities sky scrapers. I’m unsure how such a thing will be possible without a lot of resources. That is what I call a gift to the future. Funnily enough I’m considering writing about that tonight. I better get on with it… 😕

    Mate, I’m absolutely floored by how much you have harvested from the blueberries. They really are great berries. I may chuck a bird net over some of the bushes this year as they have started to get to a size where the plant can carry that weight (excuse the music pun).

    A very witty reply, but a great head of natural hair is a rare achievement. Funny you mention that, but when I was younger and with less stress and concerns, I had more hair. What changed in the meantime? I always try to delay getting my hair cut, for no particular reason, but I use the excuse to the editor that I would lose my mojo. Such excuses worked for Samson, did they not?

    Hey, the grapevine is a good thing to be connected into. And I hope the retreat is a really good experience for you. I enjoy my catch ups with friends and the various groups that I know, and then I like my quiet time back up in the forest to recover. It seems like a nice balance to me. 🙂

    The ability to hold four different threads, talk some brutal truths, weave a love story, and tell an entertaining tale is beyond my skills. A wiser person may suggest that the facts speak for themselves in this particular case, and so I deftly brush aside your gentle disclaimer of the use of the sweeping generalisation. It’s a skill which has to be practiced. I use story telling in my work life because people respond well to that, and can then consider responses, and to be frank, the numbers themselves tell stories if you know how to read them.

    It is all a bit ho-hum. I saw in the newspaper that they’re parading the much vaunted model 3 down here. By all accounts I won’t be able to afford it on more than a few fronts.

    Exactly, that is how I began the journey of solar power, and it was also a story that intrigued the listeners. There was a suggestion that I may have done better had I sought assistance with the system in the first place. And that is a fair call, but to learn the story of a place is to live in a place. Not that anyone wants to hear that little gem of information. It is unpalatable.

    I’ll check out Cliff Mass whilst I’m eating dinner, but I better get on and do some writing tonight. Time waits for no man, unless you discover that it fell behind the couch and is waiting to be retrieved along with the dust bunnies. It may need a bit of cleaning before re-use. 😕

    A few months back I checked out a web page where someone, or some group decided to collate data on ‘selfie’ deaths. It makes for disturbing reading. I read about a council in the state north of here that has cliffs abutting the coastline, and people appear to be regularly falling off them whilst taking selfies. I dunno, it ain’t good that’s for sure!



  72. @ Inge – I saw some of the articles about the find of the villa in Oxfordshire. The boar’s tusk was quit interesting. Of course, they immediately leaped to the conclusion that it must have been a hunting villa :-). I’d guess, palace of local Romanized tribal chief (like Fishbourne) or, maybe the country villa of the Roman governor. Some of the tablets from Vindolanda mention hunting parties.

    Late in the year so there won’t be many more excavations. But, it sounds like they’ve done a fair amount of radar survey and a test trench or two. Given a bit of money, I expect many finds, next year. They’ll be planning the campaign all winter. Lew

  73. Yo, Chris – Decisions, decisions! To attend the World Air Guitar Championships in Finland, or Burning Man in Nevada? I feel torn. :-(.

    According to legends, Alexander was buried in a rock crystal casket. A’la Lenin. So people could see him. Julius Caesar paid a visit and broke his nose off (or, was it Augustus?). it will leak out, sooner or later, what’s on that fourth plaque. Either it’s so obscure they’re arguing over what it means, or so startling they want to make sure they get it right. Maybe it says (in English) the world ends in 2020? :-).

    The Editor and you are rather unsullied by processed food. I bet if you checked out the ingredients on some of the junk food down there, you’d find a lot of corn syrup. Depending on the Australian labeling laws. It might be disguised as just “sugar.” They probably ship it in on tanker ships.

    I went for the red tabasco sauce. I wanted the whole effect.

    I suppose the families of some of the people who went over the cliffs taking selfies, sued the local councils? Not enough precautions against people being morons. I wonder if the councils carry moron insurance? Maybe not. Must have been tourists. I like to think of the Australian people as being a lot more sensible.

    It rained, yesterday afternoon. And last night. So, I didn’t have to water, this morning. What will I do with all the extra time? :-). Lew

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