Mad Skillz

A few days ago I conducted a discussion with the Green Wizard’s Association of Melbourne on the topic of renewable energy. I know a thing or two about renewable energy because I’ve been mucking around with the technology for about 11 years now and the house is not connected to the electricity grid. Over that time I’ve decided that the technology is good stuff, but it is no replacement for electricity generated from the usual suspects: coal; gas; oil; nuclear; and hydro. My reason for that conclusion is because renewable technologies just don’t work the same.

Over the years I’ve noticed that people get lost in the technical details of renewable energy systems. I neatly avoided that pitfall at the group discussion, and instead simply told the story (with photos) of my journey over the past 11 years describing how I adapted the systems and learned to live with renewable energy technology.

I always like to begin talks with a tension breaker. And on that day, I chose to show an image of myself from 2007 where I was looking off into the distance, all idealistic and stuff. Back in those heady carefree days, I hadn’t installed a single solar panel, a wind turbine, or even used any batteries beyond the cordless drill, and so there I was in the photo full of beans about the prospects of renewable energy systems. Anyway, here is the photo:

The author in 2007, with long hair, looking all idealistic and stuff

I had plans back then. The long hair sure gave me some serious mojo! But really, I had no idea at all back then about renewable energy systems (edit: or hair, or mojo).

Before embarking on the renewable energy journey I bought a few books on the subject and read them from cover to cover. Even then after all that reading, I still had no idea, but more importantly, I was willing to give the technology a go and had plenty of high hopes for the future. You could see it in my face – and hair!

Eleven years on, I now have less hair, less mojo, but I have far more experience with renewable energy systems. That experience leads me to suggest that renewable energy is good, but it ain’t good enough. In all that time I’ve learned that the sun don’t shine at night and therefore solar photovoltaic panels (solar panels) produce no electricity at night. Sometimes the weather during the day means that solar panels produce no electricity:

The now sadly deceased Sir Poopy frolics in the snow whilst the solar panels do not much at all really

People, upon hearing such bad news inevitably chime in with the suggestion that if the sun isn’t shining, then the wind will possibly be blowing which would be awesome for wind turbines. Well, it just ain’t so, as I discovered to my horror. Sometimes the sun doesn’t shine and the wind doesn’t blow:

Sometimes just when you need the power, the sun doesn’t shine and the wind doesn’t blow

As I said, I like the renewable energy technology that I use here, but I wouldn’t want to bet the farm that today’s renewable energy technology would run civilisation as we now know it.

I quite enjoy polite discussions because so many different points of view are raised and considered. That day someone asked me an outstanding and very searching question, the gist of which was: If you have taken eleven years to adapt your systems and learn to live with their limitations, what the heck are we meant to do?

It was such a good question that I may have actually mumbled an incoherent reply and then breathed a sigh of relief when the topic moved on. But then later, I began pondering that question and decided that I wasn’t going to directly answer it. Instead, here is an allegory on the very subject of starting a difficult task:

I read an article on the Australian government’s broadcasting (ABC) news website: Great Ocean Road erosion prompts call for plan to preserve tourist destination’s future

I like the coastal town of Apollo Bay along the southern point of the very scenic Great Ocean Road. For some reason I’ve been visiting the town since the late 1980’s, and it holds a special place in my heart. I don’t often go there any more because I don’t really much enjoy the population pressure from the huge influx of international tourists. Even during the depths of winter when the rain is driving and the oceans swell and roar, the town is now too busy for my personal preferences. I remember the town when it was otherwise, a mere two years ago.

Did I mention that the big swells from the winter oceans are eroding the beaches? Well you can see for yourself in the images in the article. I have seen for myself the giant trucks roaring up and down the beach moving sand from one spot on the beach to another spot. And most of that work appears to have been undone in a short period of time according to the article. Apparently, even a beach toilet block succumbed to the siren call of the mermaids!

The article also suggests that someone with deep pockets should do something about the situation to save the road and the low lying parts of town from the unrelenting ocean. But who is this person? What should they do? And when should they begin?

With any difficult task, failure is always an option. During my talk I included an entirely black photo, representing the light available when our solar power system unexpectedly shut down one cold dark winters evening this year.

The bright yellow trailer was used to bring back a cubic metre (1.3 cubic yards) of compost

Just to put the Apollo Bay article into perspective, the photo above shows 1 cubic metre (1.3 cubic yards) sitting in a 5×7 foot trailer. The article mentioned that 6,000 cubic metres of sand had been dumped onto the beach. Anyway, we brought the above trailer load of compost back to the farm this week.

Ollie the cuddle dog (who is actually an Australian cattle dog and has become Scritchy’s nemesis) continued to dig holes in the new corn enclosure so as to obtain access to the 10kg (22 pounds) of blood and bone added to the soil mix.

Yummy – Ollie digs for gold as well as blood and bone mix in the corn enclosure

With Ollie’s continuing depredations to the soil mix, we decided to finish the corn enclosure. And it is now mostly complete and ready for planting!

The author looking slightly weary but standing proudly in front of the newly completed corn enclosure with re-purposed gate

Part of the trailer load of compost was placed into the corn enclosure. It is a 50/50 mix of mushroom compost (stable manure and bedding straw) and fine compost (very finely composted and sieved green waste).

The final soil layer was placed into the corn enclosure. A 50/50 mix of compost and mushroom compost

And looking at the new enclosure from the hillside above the terraces may help put it into context:

Looking downhill over the garden terraces

We even began constructing a new set of stairs up to the next terrace which has not even begun to be excavated:

A new set of stairs is under construction leading up to the next terrace

The water pumps for the garden have continued to give me dramas (another difficult system – perhaps the topic of a future group discussion). The water pumps are very good, but the pressure switches which turn them on and off again are not quite as good. The water pump on the right hand side of the next photo failed this week. I had to rewire the two pumps so that I could switch them on and off again individually.

The garden water pump on the right has been giving me trouble again this week

We managed to construct a new steel rock gabion cage this week. Regular readers will recall that the volume of rocks extracted from the recent excavations filled up our previous rock gabion cage.

A new steel rock gabion cage was constructed this week

The steel cages take us a long while to fill up with rocks, but we can construct a wire cage together in about two and half hours now.

The new steel rock gabion cage is placed underneath the potato terrace. They take a lot of rocks!

We also somehow managed to find time on a gloriously sunny and warm late winters day to visit a local seedling nursery. The seedling nursery is a very cheap way to buy plants, and there are just so many temptations…

A visit to a local seedling nursery left us with a box of plants to plant out

We purchased a lot of lavender plants and planted them along the edge of the corn terrace. Last year we planted out lavender along the edge of the strawberry enclosure (which sits on the same terrace) and they have grown a lot in only one year!

Lavender has grown a lot in only a single year

Observant readers have noticed of late that Mr Toothy has been muscled out of the photos by the young upstart Ollie. Here he is beaming at the camera!

Mr Toothy beams at the camera

In breaking wildlife news…

Two King parrots enjoy the geraniums surrounding the dog enclosure
A lone kangaroo has been a visitor to the farm of late. Is that a joey in her pouch?
We discovered this wombat hole just on the edge of the property

In breaking fern news…

A tree fern looks almost ready to unfurl its fronds

Onto the flowers!

A very early season bee harvests pollen or nectar from this Echium flower
Daffodils have begun to flower this week
I spotted the first apricot flower today. There is going to be a frost later this week…
An almond produces plenty of early blossoms

The temperature outside now at about 8.00am is 2’C (36’F). So far this year there has been 630.2mm (24.8 inches) which is higher than last week’s total of 620.0mm (24.4 inches).

66 thoughts on “Mad Skillz”

  1. Hi Inge and Lewis,

    The Roman Villa discovery at Oxfordshire is fascinating. What a find, and nothing had been built over the top of the villa as it was in an open field. I hope they get the funds to uncover more of its secrets. It was a very late Roman era villa too. And fancy that about the owners of the land… I see an ancient city (approximately 4,000 years old) has been discovered in China too (Shimao). Whatever human artifacts will the earth eject next? The mind boggles.



  2. Hello Chris
    Great photos and what a handsome young man you were! Which is not to decry your current looks.
    I would just let the sea erode the coastline, it will win in the long run whatever is done. I believe that there was far more land on the planet aeons ago. We are on a hiding to nothing in many ways
    We had a massive amount of rain yesterday and the possibility of flood on the Island, is being mentioned. It won’t affect me though and it was nice to only have to water the greenhouses.


  3. Hi Lewis,

    Very funny. I’m not sure that I’d enjoy attending either event! But that maybe just my take on the choices offered? The burning man crowd has a reputation that precedes them, although I’m not sure that it is a good one. One must be careful of one’s reputation, don’t you reckon? So which event were you leaning towards? 😉 You know, I don’t travel much anymore. If it is more than an hour away, well, that seems like an awful lot of bother and energy to me. I have noticed that people who get into financial distress tend to want to (and sometimes actually do) take holidays that are beyond their means, but I haven’t conducted a proper statistically valid sample of friends, acquaintances and family. 😉

    I had enough free time today to read Cliff Mass’s most excellent essay. It genuinely surprises me to read comments suggesting that forests were largely unmodified and somehow natural (without human interference) collections of plants at the time of the white folks arrival. I feel that such a point of view is naive in the extreme. Of course people modified the forests so that they worked to their advantage, and had done so for so long that they themselves had become part of the forests. The same is true here. We meddled with that balance when we arrived on the scene and thus created the havoc that Cliff Mass wrote of. It seems obvious to me, but I’m surrounded by tall forest and its presence is sort of hard to put into abstract terms…

    Alexander the Great, far out, that bloke had ambitions and he was tutored by none other than Aristotle. How could one possibly go wrong? I’d have to suggest that he enjoyed the biffo far more than he did the day to day administration of his empire. What interest me about him was that he was undone by the tiniest of critters and eventually succumbed to disease. Just goes to prove that HG Wells knew his stuff when he penned War of the Worlds. The surveyor who explored this part of the continent named this mountain range Mount Macedon, and the lesser mountain range to the north: Mount Alexander. It is nice to see such a sense of history playing out many millennia after the events occurred. I’ll bet the Romans were watching his reach and thinking to themselves that: We can do that too! They didn’t reach as far east as Alexander did by a long shot. I suspect he never quite knew where to stop and consolidate. The crystal tomb would have been quite the prize so little wonder that it is not to be found. Pah, even in those days they were searching for unearned mojo.

    Haha! 2020 ain’t that far away! 🙂 The Limits to Growth models all suggested that the human population would (at best) reach 8.2 billion before rapidly declining, and they’ve been pretty spot on so far with the various projected model outputs which is not bad given it was written almost four decades ago.

    Well in order to check the ingredients, we’d have to sully ourselves! It’s complex, but I’ll try and take a look the next time I venture into a supermarket. Do your food products require labelling of the ingredients? Long ago I wondered about what was in the dog food after reading about some of the protein sources used, and then discovered that such niceties are not required to be listed on the packaging. Dog food smells different to me these days, so that started me making my own lot. The dogs on the other hand don’t seem to care much.

    Hey, don’t laugh substitution is a real problem. I once made a batch of mead using honey that I sourced from a new supplier and the mead was sickeningly sweet. It was so sweet it left me with headaches after a single glass (my usual limit anyway). I suspect that the vendor had substituted some sort of syrup whether it be sugar syrup or corn syrup into the honey. There had been a dearth of honey that year due to dry weather. It was not good. I only buy my honey from places that do the harvesting themselves and I’ve known them for many long years. That time was an exception and I purchased the honey from elsewhere.

    Mmm! Red Tabasco sauce! Prepare for ignition! 🙂 I’m quite the fan of chillies myself. You lot scared the daylights out of me with the jalapeno harvest last year. Still, better to be warned than burned.

    Yeah, stupid huh? Someone once remarked to me that they were a fan of signage. I reckon signage is useful, but sometimes it can be quite the visual assault on the senses because there is so much of it. Personally it has the smell of a legal response. Common sense is not a bad response too, although it doesn’t tend to carry the same weight in courts. I’m not sure why? Perhaps you can cast some light on that matter? I’ve read a bit of law in my time.

    Speaking of sensible and lack thereof. Apparently a boat: Asylum seekers from ‘people smuggling’ boat held as Peter Dutton blames surveillance failure. They landed the boat in crocodile infested waters. Not good, and nobody wants that. Interestingly it is the first boat to make it to the mainland in many years. Most boats are turned back, and I believe we apparently even turn back boats heading to NZ. Peter Dutton was one of the people involved in the recent coup against the sitting and now deposed Prime Minister. Perhaps there could be an argument that he took his eyes off the ball?

    What is this extra time thing? I’ve never heard of such an outrageous claim before! Hehe!!!!



  4. Sunlight and allegories- Yes, fossil fuels have allowed is to fight against nature’s natural rhythms, but as that ends in the coming decades, we’ll all learn that the beach will be where the beach wants to be.

    As I contemplate whether to go off grid, it is sobering to recognize how much our life patterns would have to change. I think it could be a good thing, as we’ll need to pay attention!

    Living on our homestead has already got us partially tuned in to the ongoing symphony, but we still live in a comfortable cocoon of electrical convenience.

    To plan a year, a season, a week, a day based on rainfall, sun, and our necessary chores will mean doing much more forethought and develop an ability to improvise and switch gears quickly.

    A recent example: Our apple trees decided to ripen and start dropping apples a couple weeks sooner than “normal”, so we gathered and pressed apples on rather short notice. One batch of cider is now bubbling away.

    I guess the takeaway is that we must have the humility ( and wisdom) to hand over the conductor’s baton back to nature, and take our seat in the string section and play our part.

  5. Yo, Chris – Re: Picture from 2007. Looking all “Braveheart” and stuff. Was there a theme song from that film? Cue up the mournful bagpipes. :-).

    About the Green Wizards meeting. “…what are we meant to do?…” Well. Some people want their decisions made for them. In detail. So if things go wrong, they have someone to blame. “People make choices and then have to live with (and accept responsibility for) the outcomes. Good or bad.” (tm, Lew.)

    Apollo Bay seems to be catering a lot to the day trippers. I think any economy based on tourism has a limited shelf life. Do they have a farmer’s market? A bit of a local fishing fleet? A fish market? Inland small farms within a days walk?

    As far as the erosion goes, I think they need some of your rock gabions. :-). Artificial reefs have worked well in some places. Kick it off with sinking a few container ships and fill in with wrecked cars. But like alternative energy, I may be pipe dreaming, having no actual on hands experience.

    What I found interesting about the picture of the kangaroo was the enormous logs in the background. Next year’s firewood? I think you need to set up a tree fern cam. The daffodils are quit lovely. Sigh. We’re a long way from daffodils. I ordered a few more dwarf iris. Soon it will be time to plant next year’s garlic. Cont.

  6. Cont. I would have said Burning Man, but recently read an article about how poorly they treat the minions that set the thing up and keep the whole thing rolling. So, I guess it’s Finland. My Mother/Fatherland. On one side. “Hi! I’m your long lost (and very distant) American cousin! Do you have a spare room?”

    Some of the Eco-Folks just don’t get it. Forests are not preserved in amber. (Is that a pun?). They change. All the time. Heck, even the land changes. Sure, man is in the mix, now, right along with huge earthquakes that raise and lower coastlines, massive mudflows from the slopes of Mt. Rainier to the Puget Sound or volcanic eruptions (most recently in 1983.) (Did I get the date right? If not, someone will correct me.)

    Oh, the Romans were always looking over their shoulders at past glories. As we do. One of the fun things about the archaeology news sites I visit is people are always digging up modern classical allusions. Everything from advertising to architecture. 17th century representations of the 12 caesars. One of the early finds at Pompeii was a quit fine mosaic of Alexander at some battle in the far east. I’ll see if I can find a link.

    Well, we have food labeling, here. But it’s a bit squishy. Usually, some industry lobby manages to get it watered down. Sugar? Yes. But what KIND of sugar? Cane, beet or high fructose corn syrup. “Organic” is quit a thicket. Organic, certified organic, “natural.” There ARE actual definitions, if one wants to go to the trouble of looking them up. “Natural flavors.” Food producers can get away with not being to specific by claiming proprietary information. Secret ingredients. Although if they play that guitar, one to many times, someone’s likely to go out and have a chemical analysis done. And splash it all over the Net.

    Speaking of substitutions, I decided last night was a popcorn night. Due to settling in with “Ash vs Evil Dead”, season three. Usually, I season it with a bit of soy sauce. The bottle of Tabasco sauce sang it’s siren song. Zingy! Lew

  7. RE: roman villa find in the UK

    I read an article which said they uncover a lot more finds during droughts just like the UK is experiencing right now. Underground features such as walls and old ditches hold more moisture and the ancient features are visible as lines of green grass when viewed from a low flying aircraft or similar. Here it is:


  8. @ Lew
    Artificial reefs etc simply move the erosion problem further along the coast. I’m okay now mate, sorry about your new problem.
    @ Steve
    ‘Hand over the conductor’s baton…’. Brilliant, I loved it.


  9. Hi Inge,

    Many thanks, you’re the best! 🙂

    You are so right, the ocean will consume that coastline and there is not a thing anyone can do to stop it. The story is a good metaphor for the word ‘predicament’, as there is no solution other than retreat from the field with good grace whilst you still have an army. There are houses and business premises just on the other side of the road. In the town itself, I notice that there is only a single dune between the town and the ocean. I wonder what the future will hold in store for them? I’ve noticed in your part of the world that you have a lot of cliffs, although I assume that some buildings located around estuaries would be inundated during king tides?

    It is nice that the drought appears to have broken in your part of the world. The state north of here received a little bit of rain over the weekend just past, but things are very dire. Even the Queen mentioned recently that those people were in her thoughts. I hadn’t realised that the drought down here was getting much in the way of international press.

    Farmers urged to look after themselves as they struggle through New South Wales drought



  10. Hi Steve,

    Hope the summer has been good for you and your family and that you’ve harvested heaps! 🙂

    Exactly. You know our very culture and routines have altered and accommodated the extraordinary amounts of energy that we can access. I’m not much of a fan of getting up before the sun, but plenty of other people feel differently and that requires energy. The one I wonder about is preserving harvests as a lot of people in your part of the world enjoy the use of freezing. I know people who keep meats in cold storage down here, but not so much the other varieties of produce. I barely use the freezer. And so many methods of preservation – even firewood and straw – all require their own systems and practiced knowledge. It is complex.

    Unless someone chucks some large and very expensive rocks there, at some points of the year, the beach will be toast.

    It is interesting that you write that about changing your patterns to accommodate the available energy from renewable sources, but I had the electric oven going for about five hours today producing all sorts of stuff. It was very sunny today. It is a learning process that one. Given you are connected to the grid, you could use the grid to charge your batteries when there is little sun. A hybrid system gives the best of both worlds and if the grid fails for any length of time, you’ve had time to slowly adjust – and still have some electricity.

    I don’t reckon planning comes that naturally to people – although there is a lot of lip service given to such thoughts. Firewood is a fascinating example because we have to plan several years in advance of the usage. That job has taken us about a decade to get our heads around and master. And there is still more to learn.

    Go the cider! Do you make any apple cider vinegar? That is worth your while too. Yum!

    Couldn’t have said that better. Exactly.



  11. Hi Lewis,

    Your amusing observation is uncanny. Never watched the film, but the theme song makes for very pleasant listening – lot’s of wind instruments. Do you recommend watching the film? Bagpipes can be a mournful sound. A long time ago a busker used to play the bagpipes on the steps of the city’s main train station. I quite enjoy the sounds. Some rock songs managed to insert bagpipes, and ACDC’s It’sa long way to the top had the band on the back of an open deck truck cruising down the main street of Melbourne during the 1970’s. A blast from the past man! Apparently the film clip was cobbled together at short notice for the local very influential music TV show because the band didn’t have a film clip for it.

    Actually, I noticed the same goofy expression on a young bloke who was setting out on a deliberate multiple occupancy experiment held over in the eastern part of the state. It didn’t last from what I understand of that. There is a video about it somewhere. My gut feeling was that they talked more than what they appear to have worked. I thought that the experiment was a bit harsh and I reckon they’d be very resource constrained.

    It might be the coldest night of the year here tonight. Oh yeah, them folks in the big smoke won’t know what will hit them overnight! Hehe! Yup, the weather forecast is predicting that Melbourne will drop to 34’F tonight. I can almost hearing the epic sook brewing from here. They’re not used to such cold weather. I’ve had the wood heater ticking along all day, so it is pretty toasty inside the house. It’s already 34’F outside here, and I reckon it might just get colder still as the night progresses! Brr. Not a good night to be homeless.

    I like your trademarked thought. Top stuff, and so true. What else can you do? People ask for advice, but they’re not really asking for advice, what they want to know is how to keep the good times rolling for them personally. Generally, the ones that are happy to take a backwards step in order to preserve things are genuine, but most people (as a sweeping generalisation) want it all. It is not as if we didn’t have that message drummed into our heads when we were kids. The story they tell younger folks now is follow their passion – whatever that means. I’m not sure that it is good advice either because somewhere in there you have to support yourself and learn to make difficult choices. Neither story works well.

    Actually the reason I liked the town was because it was just that bit too far for the day trippers. It is being flooded by international tourists, thus the comment in the article about the goose that lays the golden egg (a neat metaphor don’t you reckon?) I rarely visited the place during peak tourist season as I’m not a big fan of the crowds, but there seems to be no down time now.

    In days gone past, a small fishing fleet operated out of the harbour and passengers and goods travelled along the coast to Melbourne. Incidentally it does have a weekly farmers market. I’m not sure how much produce gets grown in that area. I’ve seen cattle and sheep. Back in the day saw logs were pulled down out of the extensive hills behind the town. The town has grown too due to a lot of retirees. There are housing estates on the outskirts. It really is a long way from Melbourne (about three hours slow drive one way). They’re pretty good for water in that part of the state.

    On the other hand being close to the ocean, they have a remarkably pleasant climate – despite the occasional big storm rolling in. I’m not sure how crops would go with the salt spray from the ocean. It is a hard environment for infrastructure.

    I’d like to say they’ll think of something, but that would be very cheeky of me to even suggest it. It is a very wide bay which is exposed to the ocean.

    Those logs are from the house construction all those long year ago. Until recently I have not had the skills to easily process them and have just kept them stored in that spot until I got around to that job. They’re not going anywhere. Those trees were babies compared to some of the really big ones here. I treat them with a level of respect and courtesy and try not to change the flow of water in or around them. Not good.

    The tree ferns are coming along well and hopefully as the weather warms, they’ll begin unfurling. I keep adding compost and coffee grounds into that fern gully and it is looking really good. The other day I planted some lilly pilly’s which are a native fruit tree in there. They grow them in southern California, not that people would know that they are from here.

    There are more daffodils too. This year the spread of flowering has been very erratic, and we’re wondering whether it has anything to do with the long and warm autumn. Dunno. It will be interesting to see whether you experience that too and we can then compare notes.

    I reckon you’re on the money getting the garlic in the ground during the fall. My lot has clumped because I’m a bit slack on harvesting it.

    Oh no. I wonder if the good folks that go there, are aware of the conditions for the working people that keep such a cultural behemoth floating along? Hehe! They don’t look like they’re giving newcomers the sort of warm welcome that they used to in that part of the world. Tensions are rising for sure. Finland has a rather large bear in its backyard too.

    I like the amber forest pun. Incidentally I’ve seen a petrified forest. The petrified stumps didn’t look at all scared (sorry for the bad reply pun)! But yeah, people have no idea. If they get too heated, I generally put a stomp on the conversation by finding out where they live and then describing the sort of forest that would have previously existed there before housing estates put an end on that (for a while anyway). Wasn’t that Mt St Helens? What a rabbit hole. I was watching a short video on some student that camped near to the summit when it popped and he took photos. As you do. Did he survive?

    That is funny about the Romans. It must be some sort of expression of feelings that we could be doing better – like they did in the past. Look back then… 🙂 Funny stuff. Thanks for the link too.

    I don’t know much about food labelling, although in the past I have noticed that some ingredients are supplied as numbers which from a consumer point of view are a bit vague (like your squishy). And some of the ingredient lists read like a mad scientists chemistry experiment.

    Go Ash! Tell me honestly, is the series enjoyable? I really enjoyed that third film as it was unexpectedly quite fun. I went to see a horror film that day and got to see something else entirely different, and frankly it was far more enjoyable. Zingy popcorn. A tidy bit of food genius.

    I just checked and the temperature is now at 32’F. Oooo, it’s gonna be a cold one tonight. Brrr!



  12. Hi Damo,

    Thanks for the link and I saw that article a while back too. It is an amazing opportunity for them. 🙂 Mate the ground heaves rocks out of its depths – they really do float (as you were probably already aware) in the clay.

    The boat is looking awesome and I can’t wait to see what you are going to work out for the sail and mast.



  13. Hi Chris,
    Nice to see Toothy again. Like Ollie, Salve and especially Leo dig holes to get to chipmunk tunnels. There’s still plenty around but I think the dogs’ efforts are discouraging them somewhat.

    Seems like trying to save the beach at Apollo Bay is a losing proposition but tourism must be preserved at all costs apparently. I’m with you regarding staying away from tourist destinations. Of course when we went to Alaska last year that wasn’t really possible in most cases.

    I’m reading an interesting (and depressing) book, “The Death and Life of the Great Lakes” by Dan Egan which chronicles how the lakes were connected by canals and seaways in order to facilitate trade. This brought in many invasive species which are spreading to waterways all over the country. Much of the spread to the west is due to pleasure and sport boats going from the Great Lakes to lakes and rivers out west bringing in particular zebra and quagga mussels which attach themselves like glue to the boats and can live for sometime even out of water. Having lived near Lake Michigan my entire life I was familiar with some of the species but didn’t realize the extent of damage they have caused and continue to cause. Many laws were passed and great effort expended to keep the mussels out of popular lakes such as Lake Mead and Lake Powell but now the mussels are there as well now. There was no mention of keeping boats especially from out of state out of the lakes of course because well tourism you know.

    The bees settled down in a day but Doug still has to bring two more hives tomorrow. It’s supposed to be a cool morning so hopefully these bees won’t be as upset.

    Did the attendees at your talk end up agreeing with your take on renewables?


  14. @ Inge – I knew there was probably a down side :-(. There usually are to “easy” fixes. Lew

  15. @ Damo – Yup. I’ve been seeing articles about the previously unknown sites that have been revealed by the drought. The list is now longer than anything that could be thoroughly investigated in several lifetimes.

    The article Chris linked to also mentions the problems with Night Hawks (looters) and lack of funds. Lew

  16. Hello again
    I found 2 horse mushrooms today when I walked up to my gate to see if I had any post. In addition there was a giant one but it was past it. Yesterday was a bank holiday and Sunday before that so I hadn’t been up there, hence missing out on the giant fungus 20cm across its cap. A shame I’d better walk up on Sundays at present. Anyhow, the 2 that I had were great fried in butter.


  17. Yo, Chris – Back! I’ve never seen “Braveheart.” The movie struck some kind of a cord, and is now part of the cultural currency. What was a rather obscure bit of history (at least here) will now be retold around campfires in future times. “Once upon a time, in a land across the sea…” “(What! Lands across the sea? Daft!”). :-).

    Rock ‘n’ roll bagpipes? I think we’re looking at an untapped resource, here. :-). I’ll have to look around and see if there are any other rock pieces where bagpipes play a major roll. I never cared for AC/DC, but that was quit nice. A real toe tapper.

    I hope you don’t suffer any frost damage. As the weather people used to say, “Colder in outlying areas.” I had to break out my heavy coat, last night. It’s like wearing a sleeping bag.

    Yeah, the whole “follow your bliss,” thing. Just read an article a couple of days ago by a woman who did that (gave up a good solid job for a magazine editor job) and then was blindsided by the 2008 meltdown. Her husband lost his job. Ten years on, they’re still recovering. Her advice? Keep the day job. Following bliss is a sideline.

    I haven’t been to “The Beach”, in years. But I always liked to go in the “off season.” Now I wonder if there IS an off season, anymore. I’d say Apollo Bay will do ok, if (when) things fall apart. After a painful sort out. To dredge up an old saying, “It’s got good bones.” Cont.

  18. Cont. I am totally unfamiliar with lilly pilly’s. Wikipedia has quit an entry. But not even other common names rang a bell. I did notice that way back in 2002, Australia issued a set of Bush Tucker stamps. Those were on the 49 cent stamp. Collect the whole set! :-).

    Mt. Rainier is just as problematic as Mt. St. Helens. Somewhere, I’ve seen a painting done by someone on an English exploration ship back in the 1700s. A painting of Mt. St. Helens in full eruption. Here’s an article about past, and possible mud flows. That southern possible mud flow (the red and yellow), on the little map along the Cowlitz River? That would take out several small towns in the eastern part of our county. No danger where I live. But the towns of Randall, Packwood, and Glenoma (and, probably Mineral) would be toast.

    Oh, someone’s always banging on about “the good old days.” Or, some semi-mythological “golden age.” On close examination, never what they are cracked up to be.

    Hmmm. “Ash vs Evil Dead.” It’s very much a “lads” or “dudes” kind of a thing. Probably shouldn’t be mentioned in polite company. Very much my secret and naughty guilty pleasure. :-).

    But I may have a book recommendation. :-). Just got into it last night. It shows early promise :-). “A Shadow Above: The Fall and Rise of the Raven.” (Shute, 2018). An English book by an English author.

    I wondered if we have ravens, here. I was going to check. But then, we must. Lots of North Coast native myths about raven. “Raven Steals the Sun” is one of my favorites. But I can’t remember consciously seeing one. We have crows, galore.

    And in a totally boring digression, is a rook a raven? I’ll have to check. One of the American pottery companies I collect is the Rookwood Pottery Company. Early 20th century. It’s quit pricey. Not often, but sometimes, they worked rooks into the decoration of their pottery. I’m managed to find three pieces with rooks on them. A pencil holder, a small vase and a pair of bookends. All in blue, of course :-). Lew

  19. Hi, Chris!

    The 2007 Tension Breaker! Arghh! Hee hee! It’s not your noble and handsome face that is so entertaining, it’s your expression and stance. And yet – captain of his ship, master of his destiny, comes to mind.

    I knew that was Sir Poopy. No-one one else had a back end like that.

    Do I remember a part of the Great Ocean Road succumbing to fire not so long ago, or was it a typhoon? What a gorgeous spot is Apollo Bay. It seems to sometimes be a natural progression that some places are meant to become ghost towns once whatever has driven their economies has disappeared. Detroit comes to mind. Once the auto manufacturing industry that made it the behemoth that it was wound down, the place began to fall apart. I think that it only still exists now as a large city because of massive amounts of money – stolen from the citizens of the state of Michigan and the general U.S. public – injected into it. This has also been true, of course, for cities that find themselves in predicaments due to recurring natural disasters. New Orleans is one of those. Every so often – quite often – a terrible hurricane blows in and partly wipes the place out. New Orleans is built below sea level. Is that a good idea? Perhaps the port there is crucial and has to always be rescued. I don’t know.

    The corn gate is just charming.

    That’s a good idea – to fix the water pumps to be switched on and off separately.

    Mr. Toothy – you are more handsome than ever!

    I think that is a joey in Ms. Roo’s pouch. What a neat wombat hole, but – oh dear – not fruit blossoms and frost.

    My son didn’t get the lawn mower that he had wanted last week; it was sold before he could get to it. But he found a different second-hand lawn mower for $25 (it was not in running order) that was pretty much the same as ours that had gone kaput (and just before it broke I would swear that I heard him mowing rocks . . .). He took parts from the one he bought and switched them out with parts on our old one and, wha la, it works. And my truck is running fine; it was just a radiator hose. It was not a Virginia Oak Tree (Live Oak) that I was sitting under while the truck was being fixed. They don’t grow this far north. I think that they were named that in the 17th century when the Virginia Colony still encompassed North Carolina and a bit of South Carolina.


  20. Hi Lew,

    Did your library end up getting the Orville in? I didn’t mind Ash vs Evil Dead – although I have only seen the first season. Mrs Damo watched the second and it seemed gloriously over the top as usual.


  21. Hi Chris,

    I also can’t wait to see what I work out for the sail and mast :-p


  22. Hi Lew,

    In Tasmania (the cold, forested small island south of Australia), they used to call crows “forest ravens”. The same bird was just a crow on the mainland. To me, forest raven sounded a lot more mysterious and becoming of a mist-shrouded isle. Blah, they are all corvids and too smart for their own good 🙂


  23. @ Lew
    A rook is not a raven. Rooks live in large colonies. crows and ravens don’t. Ravens are much larger than the other two. See Tower of London ravens.

  24. @Chris and Lew
    Have received the cheque from the auctioneer for the sale of the chest of drawers. It made £40 of which I receive £32.80. The Nelson drawer handles showed battle honours for Trafalgar and Copenhagen.

  25. Hi Margaret, Lewis, Inge, Pam, and Damo,

    Thanks for all the lovely comments, and they are indeed lovely! As is my usual wont I’m in internet hiding mode on Wednesday night, and promise to reply tomorrow! Happy days all! 🙂

    Lewis – You’ve got me interested in the story to Braveheart. Those Scottish tribes must have been ferocious and fearsome if even the Romans had to build a wall between them and the rest of Roman Britain. I wonder if they traded with the tribes for stuff during the off-season, before resuming hostilities?

    I wasn’t much of an AC/DC fan either and it didn’t help that I had a head on car accident listening to their ‘Back in Black’ album. Of course it was all actually my fault, but such incidents leave you with a bad taste in the mouth and a desire to go and do something more gentle such as watching rom-coms. Incidentally, there is a rom-com that has been receiving rave reviews: Crazy Rich Asians. I’m very certain that I would be totally unable to deal with a Tiger Mum in my life as some people create drama because basically I reckon they’re addicted to the adrenalin. I’ve met a few of those, and was once at risk of that myself. Words would definitely be spoken with such a person in my life.

    As to bagpipes and rock music, well there was the most excellent local band (who you’ve probably never heard of): Jebediah – Fall Down. It is a very spirited song and features bagpipes and kilts! All good fun. And you may get a laugh out of the vocals which are sung with a heavy Australian accent. I liked that band from day one.

    Far out, it got way cold down here last night. In fact it was the coldest overnight temperature that I can recall in the past decade. -2’C or 28’F. Even the dogs water froze solid… Who would have thought that could happen?

    Heavy coats are good stuff. Is your coat made of natural fibres like wool? I have a very long black woollen jacket which is good for nights like what you (although it was probably not 28’F in your corner of the world) and I just had. The wool goes most of the way to the ground and I swish it backwards and forwards as I’m walking and pretend that I’m Darth Vader! Hehe! 🙂

    Yeah exactly, the whole follow your passion (or bliss) is as stupid a concept as being brightsided and it has much the same outcome. There a folks I know who are held spellbound by that story and I want to shake it out of them, but then I’m not the real Darth Vader… It would be nice to be Darth Vader for a little bit, but then I’m not sure I’d want to beggar the empire by building all those expensive Death Stars. You’d think that the powers that be would learn sooner or later that a Death Star is a really stupid idea when it can get taken out by a small band of rebel resistance scum. I felt sorry for how stupid they were and it made me go off and watch something else. Maybe it is not a good idea to be Darth Vader after all. Maybe Darth was following his bliss?

    I wonder that too about no off season at the beach. It is an expression of population pressure as the most excellent author William J Catton Jr. would have pointed out. Sad. I loved watching the huge winter storms rolling in down there, but perhaps I’m not to go there again. These things happen. The town has good bones as it was settled from way back, and their water supply is rock solid, but in the very long term the population will be much smaller there. They even had a cable station for rescuing ships in peril. A bit further to the west is the shipwreck coast. What a history that place has.

    It is a great fruit tree and so hardy to heat and drought. But it produces a huge volume of fruit. The fruit could use a bit of selection. I’m trying to get some of them growing here, and it is slow growing because they seem to prefer slightly warmer winters than here. Sometimes in the city I see them raining fruit all over cars and that amuses me!

    Will talk tomorrow!



  26. Chris:

    Blast it – when I tried to watch Jebediah Youtube said that it was not available in my country. I was so looking forward to it and ready to join in a Scottish/Australian fling. I will look for a back door to it.


  27. Chris:

    I meant to tell you about ants.

    This past spring ants invaded our kitchen. I squashed them, but they got worse and worse as the summer wore on. I was squashing 50 or 60 a day. I found a recipe online that they like to eat and that they carry back to the nest and feed everyone else.

    1 1/2 teaspoons sugar

    1/2 teaspoons Boric Acid (some recipes say you can use Borax, but it didn’t sound strong enough. I have a bottle of Boric Acid powder that I bought at a chemists years ago)

    A bit of water to make it just barely syrupy

    A drizzle of honey on top for extra enticement

    I put this on a plastic can lid (mine came off of an oatmeal box) on the kitchen floor – DO NOT PUT THIS ON THE FLOOR IF YOU HAVE PETS OR SMALL CHILDREN. IT IS A POISON. Put it on the kitchen counter. UNLESS CATS ARE INVOLVED . . .

    About 40 ants at a time would gather at this “feed trough” and hang out there. After a couple of hours I would dash outside with this whole lid of ants and shoo them off, and then set it back on the floor inside (sometimes a bit more water is needed to keep it syrupy). After ONE day no ants came in for 3 days. Then for 3 days, 2 ants a day came in. It has been a month and no more ants have come in.

    I leave ants alone outside, but – sheesh – they were behaving in an ugly manner indoors . . .


  28. @ Inge – Well. The dresser sounded more … special than L40. But then, given that the prices on nice old furniture seems to have gone right in the bog, maybe not so unusual. Over, say, 15 years ago. I hope your not too disappointed. I wonder if your auctioneer on the island “buys in” the occasional undervalued item, gets a stash of them and makes his own trip to London? Sending things to auction is such a gamble. I wonder if it sold to a private party on the island, or is making it’s way “up the chain” of dealers? We’ll probably never know.

    LOL. Trying to sort out the Corvidae family was quit a trip down the internet rabbit hole. I see that rooks have a range from Britain to Japan. So, none here in the US. Though one source did say that there were occasional “vagrant” sightings in the US. So. What’s a vagrant bird? Do they sleep rough?

    Vagrant birds “Strays far outside its expected breeding, wintering or migratory range.”

    The author touched on the ravens at the Tower of London (which sits in miniature next to my computer). If they leave, the Kingdom falls. Given that one of the (many) rolls that ravens play are omens and portents, makes sense.

    One “expert” pontificated that “There is no consistent distinction between crows and ravens. Names assigned to different species based on size.” Well. If they’re different species, of course they’d have different names. Someone else just lumped them all into “birds that are black.”

    The collective nouns were fun. Of course, it’s a murder of crows. Ravens? Either “unkindness” or “conspiracy.” Lew

  29. @ Damo – I got back a rather snippy little note from my library that they couldn’t POSSIBLY consider ordering the “Orville” until the DVD release date. Which is in September. Odd that. Things often show up in the catalog, several months before something is out on DVD. Maybe I stepped on someone’s toes. Or they thought I was trying to “tell them how to do their job.” Oh, well. I’ll check daily, and if it doesn’t show up THE DAY AFTER the release day, I’ll send them another reminder. :-).

    “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom” popped into the catalog, yesterday. I’m number 6 on the reserves list :-).

    I see the Antipodes (did I get that right?) has three species of ravens. And, yes, Forest Raven is quit a nice name. Lew

  30. Yo, Chris – CORRECTION TO PREVIOUS POST!!! “…Mt. St. Helens in full eruption…” should have read, “Mt. Rainier in full eruption.” I think. I better look up that painting. I can see it clearly in what passes for my mind’s eye. The caption, not so much.

    Some scholars attempt to reduce Hadrian’s Wall to a mere customs check point. A tax collecting function. But most scholars assign it many roles. Then there was the Antonine Wall, that was built further north, and a bit later. Hadrian’s Wall was a bit abandoned, for awhile. Lately, there’s been more “finds”. More evidence of Roman occupation, north of Hadrian’s Wall. I’ve got a book on hold from the library called “Disputed Lands” which is a history of the borderlands. I’m hoping for a chunk on Rome in it. We’ll see.

    I’ve seen the reviews for “Crazy Rich Asians.” Mostly, good. I’ll probably give it a whirl when it hits DVD.

    I checked the composition of my coat. A bit of wool, a bit of cotton, but mostly out of a test tube. It extends to knee level and has all kinds of interesting pockets, snaps and zippers. Not a bad buy at $3 from the Visiting Nurses op shop. Lew

  31. Hi Margaret,

    For some reason, all of the animals here, including the humans like to dig. There must be some benefit for the environment and soils for all that activity. I mean, we’re all hardwired to dig… Salve and Leo are probably a bit like Ollie in that they have the muscle to make a difference with the chipmunks (or rats in my case). The smaller dogs aren’t quite as good at digging.

    I miss Sir Poopy as he knew exactly how to round up every single animal on the farm. He had skills I hadn’t quite fully understood until he departed. Ollie is good but he lacks the natural caution that Sir Poopy displayed and to put it bluntly sometimes he treats the job as a full on contact activity. Still, he’s young.

    Nah, I get that about Alaska, as it would be very hard to visit the tourist spots and not encounter the tourists. 🙂

    It is a bit tough that story about the Great Lakes. I mean species move across the land and sea – humans are a great example of that – and so I tend to think of environments now as a fluid place and not a fixed point. Even the climate is changing. I dunno, look at the beach, it is being washed out to the ocean and there isn’t really much anyone can do about it. On the other hand it is hard watching change, and I feel perhaps the lesson that we as a species will learn is to tread more warily in the future. What do you reckon about that?

    Hehe! Yup, my thoughts with the bees run along the same lines. Cool mornings equal upset bees, but they may not be as keen to display their potent unhappiness!

    It is hard to know how other people take that sort of story on board and perhaps that is why I repeat it so much. It is perhaps an unpalatable concept to understand that in order to continue we have to knowingly invest in technologies that bring about so much harm, if only because the alternatives will require the population to not continue as they have recently done. Perhaps that is why there is so much prevarication on the subject? Dunno, but I’d be certainly interested in your take on that matter?



  32. Hi Inge,

    You are very lucky to be able to identify which mushrooms in your part of the world are edible, and which are toxic. Most people down here tend to stick to the pine plantations which usually contain European sourced mushrooms. The consequences of getting the identification process wrong are just too great. And believe it or not, I get white truffles growing here, but again the risk is just not worth it.

    I love mushrooms fried in butter too! Yum!



  33. Hi Pam,

    Thanks. It’s occasionally nice to be the Captain and Commander of the good ship! Just don’t let the editor hear me talking about such stuff. Hehe!

    I miss Sir Poopy. The Poopyquat looks as though it has some fruit on it, but we’ll see how that goes. The tree itself is doing very well as is the huge Olive tree I moved to a nearby location only recently.

    What a memory you have! Yes, the area of bushfire along the Great Ocean Road was at: Wye River. The forest is slowly growing back after the fires. Detroit is a fascinating place and the stories coming out of it from time to time are really interesting. And I too wonder how many times infrastructure can be rebuilt before it is abandoned. Dunno. Of course I have to worry about bushfires…

    Thanks. How good did the firescreen look? It wasn’t too difficult to modify either.

    Mr Toothy says hi! He’s sound asleep right now.

    I reckon it is a joey in the pouch too.

    The frost was a heavy frost (well for me anyway) 28’F. Brrr! As cold as I’ve ever seen here. I had a look at the flowers today on the apricots and I just don’t know, but they tend to rot and fall off after frost, but I’ll keep an eye on them over the next week or so and see what happens.

    Mowing rocks is not a good idea – but easy to accidentally do. Be careful of the sparks thrown by that, although you are having a damper summer this year, are you? Top work with the lawn mower too. It is a good score.

    Thanks for the explanation regarding the oak tree. They wouldn’t grow here either because the winters are a bit too cold. I saw a lovely cork oak tree today. Nice stuff.



  34. Hi Lewis,

    Mt St Helens is a rather fearsome and active mountain possibly with a very angry spirit in its depths. Thanks for the correction too. All our minds are turning to mush over time. It is all rather unfair, but it is a nice thing to be here too and mushy is a state we have to deal to.

    Exactly, the good old days weren’t always good and, tomorrow ain’t as bad as it seems (as has been remarked upon elsewhere). I don’t know much about Golden Ages, people still seem to have to cook and gather food whatever the Age is.

    It is nice to have secret and guilty pleasures. I may check out an episode or two. The film was very good.

    I see that Damo had an amusing observation regarding our Corvid friends! It was pretty funny. In a strange twist of fate, all that recent talk about Alexander the Great, crystal caskets and all that stuff. Well, today I thought I’d take a little trip up to Mount Alexander (as distinct from Mount Macedon which we’re on the back of) and check to see whether anyone had moved the crystal casket and dumped it up there somewhere. Well, I tell ya, I didn’t find any crystal casket, but there were a couple of abandoned quarries. The stone from that mountain is used in many old buildings in the big smoke. It was amazing to see and walk around an old abandoned quarry. I had rock envy because there were huge square cut rocks lying all over the place.

    And at one point in time we took a walk to check out a remarkable view, and Currawongs (a distantly related bird to the Corvid family) were mournfully calling out, and then all of a sudden, the quarry that is still operating nearby let off a few explosives in a row. It was a really eerie feeling being there, but at the same time it was quite interesting. I stopped off for a prize winning pie too. Seafood satay. It was very good.

    The mountain is surrounded by orchards and vineyards due to the sheer volume of granitic sand and minerals that have washed down into the lower reaches for a huge number of millennia. Ah, 367 million years old. Not old enough for gold although there were large deposits found nearby. Epic quantities.

    At one spot, there were the remains of the ruins of a Sericulture enterprise where a couple of ladies set out to harvest silk from silk worms in the mid 19th century. A long time ago I knew someone who maintained silk worms, and we had a mulberry tree (very heat and drought hardy trees) and used to take them leaves for the worms.

    How is the book on Ravens going?

    I can see that there has been some learned discussion on the whole Rook versus Raven business and I bow to the people displaying greater knowledge than I on the subject. We do have an Australian Raven and the call is an unforgettable reminder of the outback.

    Nice work with the blue Rookwood pieces. 🙂

    Both Hadrian’s wall and the Antonine Wall would have beggared the empire, so there must have been a lot of loot in Britain in order to make the project worthwhile. It is quite amazing to consider that such walls were constructed by hand. And then they put forts along the walls.

    I’ll be curious to hear of your thoughts after you’ve read the book (when it comes into the library).

    I may see that film, but I really don’t know about Tiger Mum’s… They sort of scare me!

    The coat sounds like a great buy. Nice one, but don’t get too close to a heater…



  35. Chris:

    Your mention of explosions near the quarry you were visiting reminded me of a trip to Arizona that my youngest son and I took when he was 13, on the way home from visiting my parents in Colorado.

    On our way over some mountains to visit the umpteenth skate park on our trip (we took turns – one day we did skate parks, another day I chose a sightseeing spot) we drove up the scariest mountain road that I have ever been on – and I was used to the Rocky Mountains. There were signs posted that said “Blasting Today”. This was because of the copper mines in the area of the town of Jerome, which literally hangs on the side of the mountain. So, I knew that there might be some explosions, but when they actually set them off, I nearly drove off the side of the road, which would have been fatal.

    It makes me wonder: Do you have any really hairy roads around where you live?


  36. Hello again
    Yes I am lucky in that knowledge of fungi has not been lost here, however I have had to learn and realise that one must be very careful. There are about only 2 or 3 from which there is no recovery, but a large number that will make one unwell and plenty that taste vile. I ate one that I knew meant that one mustn’t take any alcohol for a few days before or after. it contains Antabuse or to be more accurate, a chemical akin to Antabuse. Would you believe it, a daughter turned up the next day with a bottle of wine and I couldn’t partake.

    Crows and ravens have a completely different call so (Lew’s?) expert was a typically uninformed expert.

    I am being very irritated these days by the change in the ratio of circumference to height in saucepans and cake tins. They have all become shallower; oh for more depth.


  37. Yo, Chris – Your trip to Mount Alexander sounds like a feast for the senses. Everything from sight to taste.

    I raised a few silk worms as a wee small lad. One of our teachers grew some as a classroom demonstration. Where she got the eggs from, I don’t know. She gave me a few spare to try at home. It was interesting, but I didn’t end up with a silk jacket, or anything :-).

    Interesting how manias sweep the land, from time to time, to make fortunes off of animals or insects.

    The book on ravens is quit good. In one of those weird bits of coincidence, about a week ago I saw a new nonfiction book hit the list at the library. “Sacred Britannia: The Gods and Rituals of Roman Britain” by Miranda Aldhouse-Green. Turns out the library has several books by her. So, I put a hold on the new book.

    The coincidence? I’m reading along in the Raven book, and the author pays a visit to Miranda Aldhouse-Green. They have a long chat about ravens. Many Bronze Age burials around hill forts contain the bones of ravens. Pets? Offerings? We’ll probably never know.

    Ravens has almost disappeared from Britain. Only remaining in the far reaches of Wales and on Inge’s island. But they’re making a comeback. Big time. They’ve just about re-established their old range. But may need a bit of trimming back. I’m reading the section right now on how they’re pretty awful to have around sheep flocks or near pig farms.

    Ravens can be scary in their intelligence. There’s a lot more going on there (I think) than the scientists are willing to admit.

    Well, I’m off for my monthly lunch with Scott. We’re doing Mexican. Shrimp nachos, here I come! I’m going to pay a lot more attention to the bottle of chili sauce on the table.

    Last night I picked up a bottle of McIlhenny’s habanero sauce. Which is a mix of tabasco and habaneros. And claims to be hotter than the original sauce. I tried it last night. Oh, come on. Is that all they’ve got? :-). Lew

  38. RE: mushrooms

    Or as the saying goes, All mushrooms are edible! It is just that some are only edible once.


  39. @ Lew
    I have always found that auctioneer to play straight. It would be difficult not to as I could have had someone attending and thus checking on the auction. Actually I have used different auctioneers in the country + 2 in the USA and have always found them okay. Auctioneers selling houses may be different though!
    I am not disappointed, the value of old furniture has collapsed.

  40. Hi Pam,

    That’s not good about the video. It stops the spread of culture! The editor tells me that we get the same thing with some US videos but I’ve never come across that problem before. Makes you want to go off and subscribe to a VPN service… 🙂 Glad you liked the song because in the video they had a couple of blokes on the bagpipes in full regalia, but they were just peanuts compared to the thirty or so young ladies also dressed in highland regalia and dancing in sync.

    From time to time in rural areas I’ve stumbled across displays of Morris dancers, and I can see why the Scott’s were so feared! Certainly Jebediah’s crew would have destroyed the average troupe of Morris dancers… A much more energetic and lively performance, but then I guess traditionally they would have had to keep far more active just to stay warm in those long winters in the far north.

    Went to the pub last night and so the replies here were a total mess. Not because of the dark ale mind you, but the lack of time to reply. This evening I shall right past wrongs!

    Thanks for mentioning Boric Acid. What a fascinating chemical and so many uses. It is a flame retardant too. Did you know that composting cardboard can release useful amounts of Boron into the mix? And some plants which have minerally rich leaves can also suppress fire and many plants enjoy a good feed of Boron. The old dude Liebig, showed that plant growth depends upon inorganic compounds. He’s a smart bloke that one and not to be lightly ignored.

    Honestly, I’m not happy with the ants indoors either. Ants are also a bit wary of soil humus and that is where the worms enter the story because they love soil humus and organic matter. Those two critters are at war here, and I favour the worms if only because they don’t bite me and spray my skin with formic acid like the ants do. If that ain’t enough incentive to get deeper and richer soils going, then I don’t know what will ever achieve that! These days I enjoy more worms and less ants, but they are just waiting there for their day in the sun again.

    Thanks for the interweb rabbit hole! I tried looking at images of Jerome in the Rocky Mountains and there was some dude called Jerome Osentowski of Central Rocky Mountain Permaculture Institute. Yes, I got side tracked! What a character and he grows all manner of plants in that unlikely part of the world – a lot of which I grow here too despite it being much warmer.

    Sometimes when travelling, you find yourself in parts of the world with complex situations and you sure found yourself in one that day. Glad that you both survived too!

    A month or so back I planted out some seeds from American paw paw’s so I’ll be really interested to see how they go here. And I noticed this evening that a self-seeded avocado which I’d written off due to wallaby damage now appears to be sprouting some new green buds. Plants are far hardier than we consider, don’t you reckon?



  41. Hi Damo,

    Hehe! We both laughed here about your mushroom wisdom quote. Funny stuff and so true. There was a famous case about that a few years ago: My Horse Whisperer husband accidentally poisoned my brother with deadly mushrooms and we ALL had to have new kidneys. I’ve had friends harvest magic mushrooms and I wanted no part of that gear. I baby sat them that day. As an amusing side note one of them told me I was turning blue and then unfortunately belched. I almost threw up at the revolting smell.

    Hehe! Stop it! You are making me laugh with all of your witticisms! Hehe! Your Corvid story was just so true. 🙂 This evening a young magpie (which is of that bird family) took a half hearted swoop on the chickens in the orchard and then we just eyed each other off – and the bird was only a few metres away from me and the chickens. We have an understanding those birds and I, and from time to time they bother themselves to attempt communication when there is something in it for them.

    In between all of the dross, sometimes making it up as you go along can really produce some outstanding results. But remember to also carry a life-jacket on the maiden voyage just in case. Sorry for the bad Corvid pun, but people crowed about the Titanic being unsinkable. 🙂



  42. Hi Inge,

    Yeah you are very lucky that the knowledge has not disappeared because mushrooms are an amazing source of protein. And yes, careful is the watchword of the day. I posted a link to an article about the author of the ‘Horse Whisperer’ who had an unfortunate encounter with a mis-identification and from what I’ve read the differences are minuscule down here between the fungi fruiting body varieties. What do you do? In the future I do have plans to tackle fungi, but in the meantime other plans rudely intrude. Life is a bit like that don’t you reckon?

    Oh my, the chemical Antabuse sounds as if it has very complex side effects, and you were very wise to have understood your Mycology chemistry as well as you did. The subject is beyond my ken, and I know enough not to consume any wild mushrooms. On the other hand I do provide food for the wild mushrooms that live here because it assists the growth and decay of the forest and orchard. Both are necessary.

    Thanks for the explanation as we have both ravens and crows down here and I will take note as to which are which when next I encounter them. They’re not in this part of the world though as we have the Currawongs which have a beautiful call. A family of those birds has been attempting to muscle its way onto the farm with little success because all of the other birds resist them.

    It is funny that you mention that about the depth of pans. We’ve been learning about such things recently as I’ve become rather irritated by the sheer waste of the items. Steel is no longer what it used to be, but we have learned many interesting things and can at least live with the new (and we found a very deep fry pan recently) items and not damage them as we had previously been doing.



  43. Hi Lewis,

    I really enjoyed the little sojourn to Mount Alexander. We almost missed the old abandoned quarries too, but at the last second I noticed some very unusual rectangular shaped rocks which could not possibly have been natural off to the side in the bush. I wish I’d thought to take the camera as I reckon you would have been very interested in the setup. It is amazing what could be achieved with 19th century technology. Sadly the timber arm for the boom which would have been used as a crane was unceremoniously dumped just off the side of the mountain. The years had not been kind to the timber, but you could still see the rusty iron used to strengthen the boom. And the old concrete foundations where the boom operated from were still in place – albeit very worn out. Drill marks were left in the granite stones just piled up to one side and overflowing down the side of the mountain. It was a remarkably windy spot that old quarry. But once we spotted the first quarry, we then noticed a few more of them about the mountain. One is still in operation I believe and I recall a few years ago when it was advertised for sale.

    Shame about not getting enough silk from your worms. I guess that is why people favour wool and cotton. I’m amazed by how many cloth items these days are synthetic. Silk is an interesting material and the editor tells me that it is surprisingly warm on cold days. Linen (flax) is the best of the best for really hot weather.

    Hey, when I was a young adult I recall a craze for Ostriches and in a strange twist of fate I met a bloke who was buying something off me second hand, and he was bemoaning the loss of funds that he’d spent on Ostrich farming. Mind you, I’d never encountered a single ostrich product in my life and so I thought that the whole venture was ludicrous. Now Emu oil was a product that I’d seen and used for muscle and joint pain as a very young person, but you don’t see that much anymore. I used to like the smell of Goanna oil too. It is a really distinctive but actually quite pleasant smell. Goanna’s by all accounts are a rather fatty meat and they look like a large lizard.

    Really? I had no idea that Raven’s were threatened in Britain. Australian Raven’s by contrast are quite common (although not usually seen up in this mountain range) and getting more so: Australian raven. Their call is a such a distinctive outback bird call. The website link has a little sound bite of the birds call. I haven’t noticed that they are in the city, but I may just not have noticed them. It takes a lot of energy to keep some species at bay.

    It is really hard to know what animals were kept as pets. People get really funny in a bad way about keeping native animals down here as pets, but nobody blinks an eye at keeping dogs or cats. It makes little sense to me. I read long ago that the convicts used to keep native marsupial cats (spotted quolls) as pets.

    Wales sounds like both a fascinating and epic place. I reckon I’d quite enjoy visiting there, but I doubt I’ll ever get the chance to do so. They say it rains a lot in Seattle, but that’s just peanuts compared to the rain in Wales!

    The local magpie family of birds that lives here on the farm is also of the Corvid family, and they’re as smart as. The even attempt to communicate with me from time to time when it is in their benefit. Like when foxes are lurking about the place. I try not to annoy the birds because they’re reputed to live for two decades and they enjoy good memory recall. In Melbourne where people thoughtlessly annoy the same birds, they get swooped upon. Bike riders seem to be a particular favourite of the birds. The chickens get swooped upon by the magpies, but mostly it is to show the lesser birds who the avian boss actually is. And I also note that it is usually the younger magpie birds who are up for such pranks on the chickens. The chickens get pretty grumpy about the magpies and sometimes there are ugly face offs, but by and large the chickens do their best to ignore the birds.

    How did your lunch with Scott go? Did the shrimp nachos meet expectations? And most importantly, was the chili sauce hot enough for you? I liked your comment too: Is that the best you got? Are you feeling lucky punk? You sounded like Dirty Harry! 🙂

    Not to make you jealous, but we consumed a delightful bread and butter pudding today drizzled with fresh thickened cream. Yum! It was so good that I could feel my very arteries closing up. I plan to work it off tomorrow and hopefully I’ll get to begin the new shed over the next day or so. Fingers crossed that the weather plays nice because it rained here again today.

    Oh! And before I forget I spotted a bit of rough house diplomacy going on today: Hay redistribution to drought-stricken areas could kill a $500m industry, exporters warn.



  44. Hello again
    Oh dear, a number of my strawberry plants have just keeled over and died; at least they had produced strawberries first. The roots are covered in tiny maggots, yuck. I find it incredibly difficult to discover what these are, at the moment I am guessing vine weevil. This in addition to the potatoes having wireworm. Although we have had an amazing harvest this year, the bugs seem to have been doing well also.


  45. Yo, Chris – There was a whole chapter in the raven book titled “Ravens in Quarries.” More on ravens, later.

    What was interesting about the tag in the coat is that it broke down the contents of each part of the coat. Different mixes of synthetics or natural fibers in different areas. Sleeves as opposed to collars and cuffs. The lining. Stuffing. The coat was made in Korea, by the way.

    When I was a kid, I remember chinchilla farming was a craze, for awhile. “Raise chincilla! Become a millionaire!” The only people that made money on that were the ones selling the how-to books.

    I finished “A Shadow Above.” I found it to be quit a good read. Ravens took their first big hit when Henry VIII passed the Preservation of Grains Act. Later extended by Elizabeth I. The population was rapidly expanding and Britain was trying to feed itself. Many birds and animals ended up on the list, on some pretty thin evidence. Hedge hogs, as they were thought to drink cows dry in the night. Parrish church wardens paid out the bounties, so there are records of the horrendous toll taken on wildlife. There was a Victorian craze for amateur naturalists to collect birds eggs. Gamekeepers on the developing huge shooting estates tried to stomp out anything that competed with the grouse. Soon, the ravens were gone from most of England.

    Ravens are currently protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act of 1981. Which is why they’ve become such a menace to the sheep farmers. How do you deal with losing 1/10th of your lambs, yearly? Limited hunting of ravens in some areas is making a comeback. There’s one interesting story in the book about a farmer, up in Scotland, that shot a raven on the sly. It was tagged with a plate that said, “Tower of London, property of Her Majesty the Queen.” He kept pretty quiet, about that. :-). By the way, the whole Tower and Ravens legend was pretty much a Victorian invention. But we’ll keep that to ourselves. :-).

    Ravens are just so darned smart. Much more so, than other birds. Of course, they have a pretty large brain, compared to body size. But not much more than parrots. However, it’s been discovered that their brains are just stuffed with more neurons. Ravens have often been observed sliding down snow banks. Why? Apparently, just for the fun of it. Cont.

  46. Cont. Lunch was excellent. Sigh. I was surprised that there were no bottles of hot sauce on the tables. So, I asked for some. It was produced, but I found it rather ho-hum. There are a great many brands at the local Safeway. I’ll have to do a bit of exploring. In the interest of culinary exploration :-). I also paid for my dietary sins by sticking to a bit of fruit and a couple of squares of chocolate for my dinner.

    The hay export stories were interesting. I think we’re going to see more “resource wars” as time goes on. Not that they haven’t happened in the past. During the Irish potato famine, when a million died of starvation, Ireland was exporting food. People are always banging on about the US becoming oil independent, but often close their eyes to the fact that that stuff goes to the highest bidder. It goes overseas. Besides satisfying past contracts, I think (maybe? perhaps?) commodity futures markets play into it. “Playing the commodities markets” can lead to great riches. Or, great ruin.

    The wind began whipping a bit, late yesterday afternoon, and I thought I had better rope up my corn (something you might keep in mind) or I might loose it. So, I nipped down to the local hardware store and bought a hank of rope. Between the corn and tomatoes, it’s quit a thicket. I removed a bit of underdeveloped corn stocks that aren’t going to do much to create a bit of room. I also discovered that besides the wind, that the tomatoes had grown into the corn and also contributed to them being pulled over. Naughty tomatoes!

    So the corn is safely roped in. Corn in bondage? Think I’ll pick another gallon of blueberries, today. Lew

  47. @ Inge – I do know there are some sly auctioneers out there, but I’ve never seen anything “off” at the local auction. I quit trust them. One old crank I know was grousing that he always ends up paying the amount of any absentee bid he leaves. I’ve often left absentee bids and have often paid far less than the amount of my bid.

    There’s also some grousing that the employees of the auction also are free to bid on things. But that’s made very clear at the beginning of the auction. The times I’ve seen the employees bid, it’s usually been things going begging, at very low prices.

    The old duffers are also still moaning (fifteen and twenty years on) about the buyers premiums. They still remember the “golden age” when buyers didn’t pay a premium. As they die out, I suppose that will go away. When I’m breaking in an auction novice, I’m always careful to stress that there are added costs. Buyers premium, State sales tax. Sometimes, there’s a discount if you pay cash, instead of using a credit card. All that needs to be taken into account by the bidder.

    But, all in all, I think it’s great fun and I’ve got many things at a bargain price. Lew

  48. Hi Inge,

    They say it doesn’t rain but it pours! Work today was a washout, because we were doing well until lunchtime and then the heavens opened and the rain has been arriving in waves ever since. The rain was so heavy I ended up having an hours nap in the afternoon. Recharge the batteries for tomorrows work effort.

    The same can be said for your part of the world. Not much rain for you over the summer, and then the insects go feral when the rain does return. The insects that worked their way into the roots of the strawberry plants sound very scary to me and I’ve never seen that before. Out of curiosity, did they take all of the strawberry plants or just some of them? I’m planning to thin the strawberry patch next autumn, but first I have to get a steel roof over the enclosure otherwise I won’t get any berries…

    Potatoes can be a mixed bag with insects. They’re mostly untouched here. I’m not sure I’ve encountered a wire worm before. Oh, yes, I’ve seen those. Down here, they are onto the cantaloupe melons the moment they are ripe. It is a tough business gauging exactly when to pick them and when to leave them on the vine. I even had one wire worm trying to burrow into a watermelon and those fruit have extremely thick skin. Potatoes by way of comparison don’t stand a chance.



  49. Hi Lewis,

    Manufacturing is a funny business and you’d reckon that clothing items would be more or less made from the same materials, but as you note with your coat (that rhymes nicely don’t you reckon) it is a mixed bag of different materials. It is quite extraordinary to consider that someone (or a group) had to make a decision about whether to use synthetics or natural fibres in all of the different cuts and linings in the coat. I used to work as an accountant in clothes manufacturing. They actually used to make good quality stuff but it is an extraordinarily complex process.

    For some reason, the policy makers got it into their heads that the local textile industry no longer needed support and the tariffs were removed. Clothes did become cheaper as a result, but many skilled people lost their jobs. I’m not convinced that the quality is the same. A pair of jeans I bought recently seemed to be made from thinner weight denim. Anyway, I assume the same thing happened with the car industry. Some cars are cheap nowadays, but those always were, but even I’m surprised by the high cost of a lot of new cars. I guess they prop up the financing side of that equation rather than the manufacturers. And I had to laugh because I read an article in the newspaper by a well known economist explaining that because the textile industries and the vehicle industry had been thrown under the bus, so to should the farmers. It is nice to be consistent, but I can’t say that I agree with such a policy proposition.

    I find it to be very strange that politicians these days introduce policies without feeling that they have to first sell those policies to the population.

    This afternoon, it has rained and rained. I was planning to work outside and did so up until about lunchtime. Nope, no good. I had an afternoon nap instead and recharged the batteries and will get back into the work tomorrow. A very civilised thing to do. 🙂

    Chinchilla’s! They sound a lot like Ostriches! I don’t really know, but at a guess I reckon the same thing is true of them, as the only people buying the birds were other people trying to get into the game. It sounds a bit like a ponzi scheme to me, although someone somewhere must be buying the product? Dunno. I even remember the ads on the radio promising returns of 17% or something like that.

    I thought alpaca’s were a bit like that too, but they appear to have found a niche for themselves as guardian animals for other farm animals such as sheep. You often see alpaca’s with sheep down here. They might assist with the crows? They reputedly can fight off foxes. The crows and sheep may have had a bad story which went too far.

    Yeah, that has happened down here too and the Tasmanian Tiger fell victim to the bounties paid for its hide. The evidence for that case appeared to be pretty thin too. I’ve wondered about that story, and one conclusion I drew is that it provided gainful employment for folks who were inclined to such activities. Dunno. The story all seemed a little bit strange to me to be honest.

    But then I’ve heard people decrying the activities of wombats on their farms. I mean, a lot of people seem to have the expectation that every single chunk of output should be handed over to them, and that may be indicative that they’re running things too close to the bone. On the other hand, sometimes the wildlife takes things too far here, and the strawberries (or the rats and chicken eggs) are a good example of that. I guess my take is (and I’d be interested in your good opinion) is that wherever there is a surplus, something will come along to eat it and convert it into another product, which may in turn also be eaten.

    Oooo. The Japanese have been having interesting weather of late. It now looks like Super Typhoon Jebi is headed their way. It’s a category five at the moment.

    Birds are pretty smart, and the birds here muck around a lot. They often play and sometimes I’ve seen them do things just for fun. And some like the Cockatoos have extraordinarily long life spans. Every now and then a parrot will settle onto the whirly gig that sits on top of the worm farm sewage system and they’ll spin around and around. I expect it is a bit like those bucking bull machines you have over in your part of the world.

    Mild chili sauce is a disappointment when you are reaching for potential mouth explosions! It is a bit like mild wasabi (usually horseradish root dyed bright green) that doesn’t provide enough brain pain when one is expecting it. Culinary explorations are always a worthwhile endeavour. One never knows what genius they’ll stumble across in their journey. 🙂

    Oh yeah, it’s on for young and old with that resources story, but nobody seems even mildly concerned… The funny thing about it is that reliance on gas fired power stations to meet peak electricity demand seems to be the route that the population wants to take. I guess they’re cheaper to build than coal and they’re quick to fire up (unlike coal). Unfortunately the gas is going elsewhere: Gas prices will rise and there’s not much we can do to stop it. Oh no! And according to the article: Australia will need to lift that total output by 50 per cent just to meet its expected exports in 2020. It seems like a big call to commit to such expansion.

    Yeah, I’ve read about corn lodging (i.e. falling over) in the wind and will put some brain cells towards that problem. Rope is an elegant solution. I didn’t notice that they did that last year, but it was a bit more protected in the old growing location. Be nice to your corn, but don’t hesitate to yank the rope if they get out of line! 😉 And my, your tomato vines do sound like they are behaving rather naughtily. Are they ripening better now with more flavour?



  50. Hello again
    Remember that because my ground is solid roots from the trees, I grow everything in containers. This happened in one container of strawberries and the plants all went together over night. Other strawberry containers are okay. The potatoes in trouble, were elsewhere in a deep bed created by Son. Because rats had eaten my potatoes the previous year, I was avoiding planting them in my area this year. However I did plant a few bought to eat that had suddenly sprouted. These have been fine except that they were prone to blight and I had to dig them up young.

    I believe that the ravens at the Tower have clipped wings!


  51. Chris:

    The Jerome I was speaking of is in the Black Hills of Arizona, but they sure look like mountains when you are on them! That Jerome fellow of the Rocky Mountain Permaculture seems to have a lot going on!

    Our postman used to belong to a Morris dancers’ club. I saw them once or twice. I think they’ve disbanded as they could not get any fresh, young blood to join and they were not too young anymore.


  52. Hi Chris,

    Well Salve’s taken out two downspouts and one screen in her pursuit of chipmunks. I have three different types of snap traps but so far have only caught a few. Some are sprung without any catch, others are ignored and ants eat all the peanut butter off others. Salve has caught a few.

    I certainly hope we learn from past mistakes but sometimes the lessons learned are too late.

    The second set of hives that were moved went much smoother. All have calmed down now though Salve who ignored the bees before actively avoids them now.

    There are quite a few solar farms proposed near here. The local environmental organization is all for them but those neighboring – not so much. These will all be placed on productive farm land.

    I hope you don’t lose too much fruit after that frost though if it wasn’t too long or over several days you could be OK.

    We now live just a couple of miles from a large popular apple orchard. They offer berry picking so I went over there the other day. The raspberries were teeming with bees. If one was at all afraid of bees it would be the stuff of nightmares. The blackberries however didn’t seem to be as attractive to them. The berry patch wasn’t busy but the rest of the place sure was even though apple picking doesn’t start for another week or so. It has all the bells and whistles including a retail store, restaurant and attractions for kids. It is described as a “tourist attraction”.

    We had a pretty heavy rain the other night and several inches in the forecast for today. Unfortunately the Balloon Fest is also this weekend. The balloons can only go up in good weather and winds of 10 mph or less. Too bad as it raises money for all the local organizations who volunteer there.


  53. @Pam

    Being from the flatlands I find driving in the mountains quite scary even as a passenger.

    Thanks for the ant recipe. It’s been a banner year for ants.


  54. Yo, Chris – Government support (subsidies) and tariffs. It’s all about lobbying and political contributions by industries. After WWII, several US industries (pottery and glass come to mind) were destroyed due to “cheap foreign imports.” Of course, the narrative was that we had to get war torn countries industries back up on their feet and producing, again. Even the ones who had recently been our opponents. Another narrative was “consumers DEMAND lower prices.” That one is still trotted out with regularity.

    Might be a bit of truth in that last bit. What with the ever increasing impoverished population and ever shrinking middle class. It’s all very complex and one never quit feels like they have all the “facts.” Makes one’s head hurt. Far more pleasant and soothing to wonder what some celebrity is up to or the latest lurid crime du jour.

    Animals as ponzi schemes. Yup. Chinchillas to llamas, right down to breeding dogs and cats. Although llamas and alpacas have proved useful. My friend Julia has one or the other. They do keep the coyotes off her chickens. There are people around our county who harvest the fur for thread. They can be good sources of meat, but that usually has the llama breeders fainting in the aisles. But I do remember the period when breeding pairs brought quit a bit of money. And then, didn’t. Cont.

  55. Cont. I’m not quit following what your question about surplus, is. Maybe I need more tea. I don’t mind sharing a bit with the animals. But then there is no profit factor involved. And I probably won’t starve if the deer get all three of my brussels sprouts.

    I read the article about gas exports. And, went down the rabbit hole and read the links to “Energy Crisis Looms” and “Should You Turn Off Your Gas?” Taken together, the three articles pretty much made clear the current energy problems and outlooks. But, it made my head hurt and I wonder what that celebrity is up to, today. :-). Said with tongue firmly in cheek. But, I suppose a lot of people, if they bother to read the articles will just dismiss the whole thing as propaganda, or, moan about how the Government (or somebody) should do something.

    Somehow, or another, it put me in mind of Kunstler’s post on Friday. Well, some of the first day comments. Someone went off on a tangent about Britain feeding itself. WWII rationing and Victory Gardens. Etc.. The ravens figure in there, somewhere, too.

    So sitting here this morning, I wonder if there is a country anywhere in the world that feeds itself? Could they? And how does wants vs needs figure into all that. Is there anyone out there that feeds themselves? Well, the Editor and you make more than a pretty good stab at it.

    One of the Ladies gave me a couple of good sized sweet peppers she had grown. So, I stuffed them with a mix of rice, mushrooms, diced tomatoes from my garden, garlic and spices. Topped them off with a part can of diced tomatoes. Hot sauce. It was “good”. My stomach was full. But I still felt a certain … lack. Oh, of course. No salt (not much), sugar or fat. But I can’t say I went to bed hungry.

    My later tomatoes have less “air” inside. Not as “puffy.” The flavor is pretty good. Rather mild. But then, my taste buds are old and worn out. :-). Lew

  56. Hi Inge,

    Thanks for the reminder about your soils as I’d forgotten the details. I’ve never experienced such expansive plant root networks within soil. On the other hand your idea of growing everything in containers is an elegant solution. I assume that you have to provide all of the minerals and water required in each container? I honestly lack the water for such a system and the plants I grow have to learn to send down deep roots, which frankly doesn’t always work.

    It is interesting because as a comparison, when I dig, I do encounter plant roots, but not as many as you’d think.

    Blight is a rotten thing to discover in a potato bed. Those potatoes are a very gooey mess. I’ve had a few of those, but most potatoes are unaffected. I assume that plant breeders have to keep ahead of the blight in the long term?

    I’m planning to read up on the Ravens at the Tower! It seems like an intriguing story.



  57. Hi Pam,

    Thanks for the reference to the Black Hills of Arizona. Wow. They have the most amazing displays of wildflowers (in season). Some of the flowers look like Californian poppies to me, which happily grow here. Don’t you reckon it is funny that some of the most arid locations contain huge diversities of wildflowers. That happens down here too. The forest here is quite boring by comparison to those riots of colour! 🙂

    Oh yeah, some people are put on this Earth just to make the rest of us mere mortals look bad! Hehehe! The bloke looks like he is doing some very good stuff there. And bananas in that location is an impressive achievement.

    I note that you did not elect to join the Morris dancers club. I salute your wisdom. I better get on and do some writing tonight! 🙂



  58. Hi Margaret,

    Naughty Salve. A mate of mine tests systems just by being him and can find any weakness in them and clearly Salve is of the same disposition. Yup, some systems just aren’t tough enough to survive the Salve treatment. It might be worth mentioning that Ollie is also testing the garden beds and has made many trails through them. Today he brought back a dead wallaby tail and the stench was epic, although he himself didn’t seem to mind it too much. He probably thought that it was fragrant. I felt compelled to remove it from him and chuck it in the worm farm because the worms know how to deal with chunks of wallaby. I reckon you will soon be upgrading the fly screens on your doors (or training Salve not to destroy them).

    Everyone is different on that score and who knows? Some people bury their heads in the sand like an ostrich. I wish it were otherwise, but it is worth noting that there are diminishing returns to that mental tool too, and sometimes you just have to learn to let things go.

    Sometimes I see two dogs being walked and one is on the lead whilst the other is not. Salve perhaps would be a lead kind of dog! Ollie is of that sort too. 🙂 Glad to hear the new hives are settling in.

    I had to do a quick word search for the right word. Ah, that’s it: Rue. Solar farms have no place on productive farm land. There is a proposed solar farm down here and it is larger than the nearby town. Such things lack scale and they are on productive farm land. It is a story that won’t end well.

    Thank you and I’m keeping a close eye on the consequences of the frost. Certainly it was not consequence free, but time will show how it played out. Dunno.

    Exactly, I had the same experience with an old heritage apple orchard. The first year I went there, it was a quiet affair and we met some nice people and made good contacts. Then apparently it was advertised and the whole thing turned feral. We turned around and never returned.

    I have mixed feelings about the rain. On one hand it is a bad thing for the balloon fest, but then the risk of fire gets reduced. I have to confess that I’m conflicted on that score and would favour the rain.

    How are you doing? Did you have a funeral for Michael and are the plans for the wake going ahead all smooth sailing? Funerals bring out the best and the worst in people.



  59. Hi Lewis,

    I may have said it before, but your mention of “It’s all about lobbying and political contributions by industries”, brought to mind the fact that politicians are firstly public servants and have to recall that their wages are paid for by the public they are meant to be serving. Donations on the other hand tend to divert their attention and present something of a conflict of interest. I read an interesting article recently which suggested that the rise of career politicians has caused a bit of a problem in that they have mortgages and school fees and the poor dears are reluctant to take risks because they worry about losing their jobs. I have no benefits whatsoever and I really struggle empathising with that lot and their concerns.

    Years ago I read an economics textbook which suggested that the number one policy of macroeconomics is to reduce or constrain inflation. That can be interpreted as reducing or constraining prices for consumers. The alternative has played out time and time again in history, and south of you Venezuela appears to have just had a currency meltdown. That is what happens if inflation runs amok. It can get worse than that story too.

    Julia is very wise to procure the services of, and I’m guessing it is an alpaca. Llama’s are a haughty bunch of animals, and their royal friends the Vicuna are even worse. I have been spat on by a Vicuna, and one point of view is that I should have felt privileged by that act, but I just felt put out. And take my word for it, alpaca steaks are really quite tasty! You never see the meat for sale here, although they are a more appropriate animal because like marsupials they have soft pads instead of hard hooves and the soil compaction is not as severe.

    I’m actually not sure at what point profit even shows its head in agriculture. Someone is making money somewhere, but they sure aren’t on a small holding. As to surplus, well plants can apparently harvest 2% of the energy from sunlight and there is your surplus as everything else is extraction and draw down.

    It is not just you that such stories makes one’s head hurt. 🙂 I actually wonder how per capita energy can rise at the same time as exports are radically expanded by such a huge volume. That story makes no sense to me. There have been articles recently about the looming threat of brownouts this summer – and every future one.

    I try to read as many of the comments as I have time for over at Kunstler because they are a very eclectic bunch and it is nice to know what some folks are saying even if it is an unpleasant point of view. There is a lot of social posturing and drive-by-trolling there too which are more or less the same thing. I couldn’t find the references to Britain feeding itself, but it has been a long while since that outcome was even remotely possible.

    If the energy keeps flowing, then the population down here is small enough that it can feed itself. However, if the energy stops flowing in any meaningful sense of that word, then all bets are off. We are limited by water and then the soils have been flogged hard since the arrival of the Europeans. Energy is what keeps the good ship afloat and we should be thankful for that. Melbourne hit 5 million souls yesterday.

    We do OK on the food front, and will do better as time goes on. It is a big job and a very steep learning curve. I reckon it is all about learning the stories of the plants themselves. I’m genuinely surprised to observe how little interest growing one’s own food generates. But I must mention that the concept of self sufficiency at the tech level I enjoy is a ludicrous notion. Thus the stability of the Dark Ages or Feudal systems where things were simple enough that a few people could get their heads around the very basics.

    Stuffed peppers are awesome. Yum! And a review using only the word “good” is an outstanding review in anyone’s books! 🙂

    Have you considered growing mid sized tomatoes next year? They have a stronger flavour and a shorter growing season which might be of benefit to you. Mate, even I can’t get full sized tomatoes growing with any level of flavour here. There is not enough energy in the summer sunlight to build up the sugars in the fruit. Some limitations can’t be worked around. And I tried that one because larger tomatoes are easier on many preserving fronts…

    I better get writing! Hehe!



  60. @ Inge & Chris – Well, I noticed on the new items list from my public library that they’ve got a book on order called “Ravenmaster: My Life with the Ravens at the Tower of London.” Coming soon to a library near me :-). Now we’ll get the full story, straight from the raven’s mouth. Lew

  61. Yo, Chris – “…public servants … wages paid for by the public.” Not so much. More like big industries and wealthy people protecting their interests. Even though politicians wages are rather modest (well, not from my point of view) if they leave office, they always leave a heck of a lot more well off than when they entered. They, and their families, also get full free health care, the best, for life.

    I meant to respond to something you said yesterday about politicians introducing policies without checking with the people who elected them. Here, it’s more like they introduce a policy and see how much uproar it creates. And, it depends on where the uproar is coming from. And how massive it is.

    And both of our parties are constantly throwing up smoke screens of “social” issues to draw attention away from what’s really going on that effects people in the streets. The old conjurer’s trick of misdirection. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain. I don’t know. I’ve been sitting here awhile watching the cursor flash, so I guess it’s time to move on.

    Kunstler is … interesting. Sometimes I wish he’d get off the politics and get back to livable cities and energy depletion. Generally, I just scan the first mornings comments and call it good. Some commenters I skip, some I pay more attention to. Walter B. is pretty interesting, as an elected official of a small New Jersey town. Politics and government from the inside. Green Alba is a well spoken English woman, who has interesting things to say …. when she isn’t baited and sparing with the resident neo-Nazi. It’s a mixed bag.

    Melbourne at 5 million? That’s staggering. I remember when Seattle hit 1 million. And the Portland metro area was 1 million. I have no idea how big they are now. It’s that “metro area” thing that throws things a bit up in the air. How far out do you count?

    The San Marzano tomatoes I grow are about the size of a Roma. Which I’d always kind of thought of as a mid sized tomato. They’re not the little guys. It will be interesting to see how concentrated the flavor gets when I dry some up.

    I got around to picking another gallon of blueberries, yesterday. The 12th to go in the freezer. Would like 14, but I don’t know if the harvest will hold up. The bushes are getting pretty bare and there aren’t many green one’s coming up.

    We have fog, this morning. Our first autumn fog? Maybe I’m in denial, but I’m not willing to call “fall”, yet. Though the days are getting shorter. No leaf change, yet. Still doesn’t smell like fall.

    I’ll see Julia, this morning, so I’ll get more details on her critters. Holiday, tomorrow. Labor Day. Lew

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