Two Toilet Roll Terror

The other evening the editor and I were in the big smoke of Melbourne on the hunt for a coffee and cake, and then a meal. Such expeditions are profitable undertakings because you never quite know what food genius you’ll discover on the journey. On a recent hunter gatherer expedition, we discovered a small “Piña colada” cake which has a green topping unlike any colour green you’ll ever spy in nature, but wow, is it good or what?

However, during the most recent saunter through the inner suburbs of Melbourne, by sheer chance we happened to pass by a supermarket where a young lady was exiting the premises possessively clutching the largest pack of rolls of toilet paper I reckon I’d ever seen. I salute the fact that she was saving money by buying the product in bulk, if only because that appealed to my inner tightwad!

At a guess I reckon there were about forty rolls of toilet paper all wrapped neatly in plastic. The paper looked silky soft too. I salute the War of Waste, I mean everyone is worried about a few million plastic straws and use once plastic shopping bags going into landfill, but why is all the plastic packaging conveniently ignored?

Perhaps it was envy on my part because we don’t enjoy silky soft toilet paper here.  For many long years we’ve used a product that claims that it is made from 100% recycled office paper. And even better the rolls are wrapped in paper  which can be used for kindling in the wood heater. And the paper ends up in the worm farm sewage system which ultimately benefits the soils and wildlife on the farm.

It wasn’t always that way though. In my very early twenties I shared an apartment (known as a flat down here when the building has no elevator) with a personable young lady. We had a money saving arrangement whereby we split the weekly grocery bill 50/50. That worked well for a while until I became dismayed at the sheer volume of toilet paper that the rapidly less personable young lady consumed. Rolls of the stuff disappeared every single week. It was something of a mystery to me.

Eventually I brought the unmentionable topic of unreasonable toilet paper usage to a head by politely asking the question: “What the f#$% do you do with all that toilet paper?” Of course at the time, I was a shameless young man hoping to leverage possible romantic relationships with the young ladies friends, and so I accepted her evasive answer which was: “Toilet paper has a multitude of uses”. In a win for my personal finances and inner state of parsimony we soon decided that the grocery bills would be split evenly, excluding the toilet paper.

We soon parted ways, and it was not on amicable terms. Fortunately for me soon afterwards I met the editor and moved in with her. I was satisfied with the editors bona fides as she too was tight with money, and even better there was no lingering mystery of outrageous toilet paper consumption between us. It all seemed very normal to me.

That does not mean that the mystery was solved, nor had it decided to not show its ugly head in other households. The mystery just went elsewhere. But sometimes, the mystery returned to our household. At those times, visitors were involved and both the editor and I marvelled at the inexplicable sudden increase in consumption.

I vividly recall one such event. I’ve always preferred older style houses, the older the better, but sometimes older style houses also come with older style sewerage pipes. Back in the day sewerage pipes used to be made from fired and glazed clay (i.e. pottery).  And I’ve dug a few of those up over the years. The pottery pipes were quite short lengths because they were generally heavy. The end of one pipe fitted snugly into the next pipe and so on until sewage was taken off the property. Unfortunately the seals between the pottery pipes aren’t as solid as the sort you get nowadays with PVC pipes. Inevitably the various leaks attract the attentions of plant roots looking for an easy feed and a drink during summer. Plants enjoy manure and a regular supply of the stuff would be too much of a temptation for some plants! Eventually plant roots work their way into the tiny seals between the pottery pipes and the sewer may become blocked.

A guest of the editor was staying at our older style house overnight. For some inexplicable reason which I guess we’ll never know (and perhaps there is an argument that we really don’t want to know) the guest used two rolls of toilet paper during her stay. It was a notable achievement, but other than thinking that it was a bit odd we didn’t really dwell upon the subject.

The guest departed early on the Saturday morning. We were in the process of selling the house and had an open house scheduled later that morning. Well, what a time for it to happen, but all that toilet paper (and other materials) began floating out of the gully trap (a device which provides access to a sewer connection but also stops noxious gases from escaping) flooding the back yard. It was like a scene out of a horror film!!!

Fortunately the real estate agent was very quick witted, saw what was happening, moved a few pot plants around and locked the back door which gave access to the back yard. He explained to people that we’d forgotten to provide him with the keys on that particular day. We employed a local plumber to clear the blockage in the sewer.

And to this day, we still don’t know how or why people could use so much toilet paper in such a short period of time. All I can hope though is that these profligate toilet paper people are concerned about the War of Waste.

This week we experienced the coldest morning that I can ever recall in this part of the world. People in much colder parts of the world may laugh, but far out it was cold: -2’C or 28’F.

Coldest morning ever! -2’C or 28’F outdoors and 15’C or 59’F indoors

Frost was everywhere. Even the dogs water had frozen solid:

The dogs water had frozen solid overnight

Some of the garden beds also looked as if they had frozen:

A raised bed of mustard plants sports frozen soil in the frost
A sad and lonely early asparagus spear valiantly struggles in the frost
Frost was mostly held at bay in the thickly planted garden beds

Many fruit trees have now produced early blossoms. I’m just hoping the frost does not effect fruit set on those apricots and almonds. I did notice that a cactus appears to have suffered frost damage and the top part of the plant looks as though it may have died back.

This cactus looks as though it has suffered some frost damage

The bout of cold weather hasn’t put the brakes on projects at the farm. This week we constructed another cement step on the latest concrete staircase. Ollie, the Australian cuddle dog (sorry, I meant to type cattle dog) is like a magnet for wet cement. He lurks around making a nuisance of himself and threatening to graffiti the drying cement with his large paws (as he has done in the past).

We hadn’t even finished constructing the cement step when Ollie began lurking around

The corn enclosure was completed this week. The local wombats and wallabies have learned that they can compact and bend chicken wire, so the stuff has to be anchored no matter how strong it is. With that in mind, all of the heavy gauge chicken wire was attached to the steel rails surrounding the enclosure.We also placed a layer of the locally quarried crushed rock with lime over the surface between the corn enclosure and the strawberry enclosure. That stuff provides for an all weather surface.

The corn enclosure – Done!

Peak rocks is the worst. That is the time when all of the easy to extract rocks have been extracted and you have to go ever further afield whilst expending ever more energy simply to maintain the supply of rocks that you’ve become used to. And we use a lot of rocks in various projects here.

Well its over for the time being! The editor discovered an ancient flow of lava on the property that is full of rocks. And we’ve gone hard extracting them, and there are still more. It is a fair call to say that with the extra supply of rocks, we’ve increased our consumption of rocks. We began filling the new steel rock gabion cage with the smaller rocks.

The new steel rock gabion cage gets filled with smaller rocks

Mid sized rocks get used to support the downhill side of the path to the chicken enclosure and secondary wood shed. Plus we added a nice additional layer of locally quarried crushed rock with lime to the all weather surface.

Mid sized rocks get used now to support the downhill side of the path to the chicken enclosure

Larger rocks, one may freely describe them as boulders, get used as a rock wall adjacent to the primary wood shed. There is a reason that larger rocks need to be used there, although it may not be apparent to readers until maybe sometime next year (more of a mystery than inexplicable use of toilet paper).

Larger rocks get used in the rock wall adjacent to the primary firewood shed

In breaking plant news:

We harvested our first leeks of the season and made potato and leek soup
How much citrus can a koala bear? The chickens enjoy half a dozen per day and there is still more fruit. Observant readers may note the new rock wall

In breaking flower news:

The indigenous Musk Daisy Bushes are producing flowers
Tree lucerne continue to produce ever more winter flowers
We took this plumcot out of its wallaby proof cage recently and the tree has responded well
Some of the geraniums are just beginning to flower
Silver wattle makes a colourful and striking backdrop to the forest
Daphne, does any flower produce a better fragrance?
This lonely little daisy is a very early season flower
Another hellebore has flowered. The very hot and long autumn meant that many of them did not flower at all over the winter
How nice do these daffodils look in the shade of a local tree fern?

The temperature outside now at about 8.00am is 2’C (36’F). So far this year there has been 641.4mm (25.3 inches) which is higher than last week’s total of 630.2mm (24.8 inches).

67 thoughts on “Two Toilet Roll Terror”

  1. Hello Chris
    The major addition to the soil in my containers is the matured manure from the pigs. I am really lucky to have that.
    Dare I enter the toilet paper discussion? Here goes:- I do think that females use more than males for obvious reasons. Then there are the other uses. My nose runs when I am there so an obvious tissue is available. An obnoxious insect appears on the nearby window, I grab some toilet tissue. There is condensation on the afore mentioned window etc etc. None of this explains that guest’s usage though.
    That vast amount of lemons in your photo is really incredible.
    Am just back from a fortnight’s shopping and curses I have been cheated on my super market receipt. I really should check through this always before I leave the store.


  2. Hi Lewis,

    Perhaps you are correct in your assertion, although I feel that if they draw a wage from the public purse, then they have obligations to the public regardless of the other sources of income. Ideology does not in fact pay the bills, but politicians by and large may believe that things are otherwise. You know, I see a lot of examples of social obligations being broken and exploited and I don’t really know how much of that story is being encouraged, and how much slips under the radar, and how much is just people seeking advantage for themselves, or just even general cluelessness. I don’t really know, but I am curious about that story because the alternative to a monetary economy is one of binding social obligations and those cannot be easily flouted because of the consequences. It is one of the reasons that most people run a hundred miles from the reality of community because of the high personal costs.

    Politics are an ugly business. Today down here we have alleged accounts of ministerial intervention in immigration breaches with an ‘au pair’. All I can say is that if you need an ‘au pair’ then there is a suggestion that you are not doing it too tough. Good ones must be hard to come by but I struggle sympathising with their plight. I can’t for one moment imagine what the people were thinking – possibly nothing good. Anyway, some people feel that the best form of defence is attack and they may be right in that assertion, but here goes: ‘I’ve kept a very good list’: Peter Dutton threatens to dish dirt on Labor amid au pair scandal. In the public interest it is probably not a bad idea to disclose the entire list. The strange thing is that I heard Peter Dutton interviewed on the radio and he didn’t come across as an idiot and so I do wonder about his ethics and integrity.

    Exactly, wondering about the sort of uproar that a proposed policy generates, has gotten the process backwards from the very beginning. I mean from the very outset the public begins with the assumption that it is not in your best interest,s and from there the further assumption is whether they are too busy and have possibly taken their eye off the ball. It is always a possibility.

    I’ve heard the talk about social issues and I don’t feel that they are as great as they are made out to be. Of course there are problems, anyone with half a brain can point to a problem and go look there, how about that problem huh? But you’re right, it’s an old conjurers trick, although that doesn’t make the bigger problems go away.

    You’re spot on, both you and I are brutal realists and we’re talking from the same page. I read a lot about decline, and as far as I can understand the situation, there is stuff all any of us can do to alleviate the end point. That was the conclusion I took away from the Limits to Growth study and also the book Overshoot (what a read that was). The real question becomes: given what we know, what the heck do we do about it? That is the interesting bit. I mean it is not as if the authors of the aforementioned first book didn’t report their findings to the UN, the population at large, and other government bodies. We don’t lack for information.

    Mr Kunstler is always interesting and I regularly read his essays. As an outsider I rarely can add any value to the ongoing machinations or the sheer strangeness of the ongoings in the ruling class of the US. All I feel is that they must be rather concerned for their continued perquisites and standard of living. The news as it is reported is a point of view and not the lived experience and rarely does one see genuine analysis. I dunno, perhaps it could be said that ideology does not put food upon the table. Work does that! Yup, there are some good commenters there too and I’d personally rather know the ideas that are being mooted about, as distinct from being dragged from my bed by disgruntled and angry folks at 3am.

    Who knows how far out they count, but it is now apparently a two and a half hour drive between one extremity of the city and another. How infrastructure can be supplied over such a huge distance is beyond me. The city lost the title this year of the world’s most liveable city, which had been held for seven consecutive years. All policies eventually end up with diminishing returns.

    Nope, Roma’s are not a full sized tomato, but I’d consider them to be a bit larger than mid sized tomatoes. Seriously. The tomatoes I have been selecting from over the past few years are about half the size of the average Roma. I expect you’ll be onto something with the dehydrating and I find that they’re more intensively flavoured when dehydrated. They keep longer if you take all of the moisture out of them and they end up like little chips.

    Mate, I am genuinely impressed at the blueberry harvest that you have just put away in the freezer. It is nothing short of awesome. I’ve got about six weeks left of last summers apricots and I’ve begun considering whether I should head out and purchase more of the glass jars that I use to preserve fruit. Jo, who comments here semi-regularly put away bottles and bottles of preserved apples and it has left me wondering whether I should do the same. Dunno.

    Fog here too in the valley below this morning. It looks really nice peering down onto the thick layers of murky cloud sitting over the valley below. Fog is usually a good sign of the impending autumn / spring.

    Enjoy your labour day. I spent the day labouring away! 🙂

    Just in case you needed to be horrified: Capilano, supermarkets accused of selling fake honey



  3. Hi Inge,

    Oh yeah. I’m really envious of the digging and manure that your pigs can achieve. You are really lucky to have them, plus the home raised meat. Yummo! And it is one of the reasons that I have not ever fenced the wildlife out of the orchard because, you know, if I was to keep them all out, then I’d have to bring in an equivalent amount of manure, all of which the wildlife provides for free.

    I salute your bravery and no doubts you are correct. 🙂 Who am I to argue anyway? I wasn’t really seeking answers in the story, but more just raising issues in regards to general waste. I remember reading that back in the day, when ‘out houses’ were all in vogue – and I’ve experienced plenty of those over the years – toilet paper was often old mail order catalogues hung on the back of the door. Talk about doubling and tripling material usage: Reading, ordering, and wiping! Hehe!

    Thank you and I would offer you as much citrus as you’d like – if you lived nearby. Most of those trees are about a decade old now and they are really hitting their stride. I’m told that they can live for possibly 800 years, although it would be difficult for me to confirm that. I’m really struggling to find new uses for citrus fruit. When I was a kid I recall climbing in my grandmothers huge old lemon tree and the memory of the smell of the citrus flowers has always stayed with me.

    Sorry to hear that about you getting ripped off. Unfortunately it is one of those things that once you leave the store, all bets are off.

    You just reminded me, about a year or two ago, I witnessed a well dressed lady shop lifting an item at the local supermarket. It was all very surreal because as I discretely followed her out into the car park, I noted that she drove away in a very large and expensive looking vehicle. I was rather curious as to her story and wondered whether she had over committed on expenditure, or had suffered a series of personal setbacks, or maybe she was covering up for her gambling problems? Dunno. So many potential stories flashed through my mind, but the facts spoke for themselves. It was weird.



  4. Hi Chris,
    I shop at Costco once a month and buy one of those huge packages of toilet paper that in encased in plastic but at least the individual rolls are wrapped in paper. It’s also one-ply and even though people think you use twice as much I haven’t found that to be the case at all. Now that we don’t have as much space I may not be getting the huge packages but will still buy the same brand.

    Hopefully all the talk of plastic bags and straws will get people to think beyond that. We’ve saved some heavy duty take out containers to bring for restaurant left overs.

    We’ve had 7 – 8 inches of rain here in the last two days and there’s been some water seeping in the basement in two places. It seems to be right where Salve destroyed downspouts too. There is still more rain in the forecast but it does seems that it’ll lesson in the coming week.

    There will be a religious service at the place where Michael lived on the 16th and we are having a more secular “Celebration of Life” towards the end of the month at my BIL’s restaurant. We’ll do a power point presentation of his life and play all his favorite music. A couple of my sisters are putting together some picture boards for both events.

    I am doing OK but it’s weird to all of a sudden not be frantically busy as I have been – especially this last year. We are pretty settled now and without all the running around I had to do with Patrick, Michael and my MIL, Helen I have unexpected time on my hands.


  5. Yo, Chris – No laughing at you, at all. 28F is a very respectable cold snap :-). I could not figure out what the first picture was, but reminded myself that all would be revealed, eventually. Dog’s frozen water dish. Got it. Quit a pretty picture against the tiles. Ah, the poor cactus. It will be interesting (?) as other frost damage reveals itself.

    Well, you’re just giddy over all those rocks. Now you can, perhaps, get around to building that garden folly. Maybe a hermit’s cave? :-).

    Those are fine looking leeks. And, all the flowering plants are quit nice. But the daffodils really make a splash!

    Looks like Mr. Dutton knows where the bodies are buried. Someone asked me if I had run across people like our temporary housing director, before, and what I did. I said I usually started looking around for a new job. That “those kind of people” held onto their positions either because a.) they knew where the bodies were buried or b.) were sleeping with someone. Before someone accuses me of rampant sexism, that also applies to men in similar situations.

    Given the recent dust-up here, over immigration, it’s interesting that more hasn’t been said about our First Ladies path to immigration. And, recently, her parents were granted citizenship. Without too much problem. There’s also …. well, I’ll say it right out loud, the interesting fact that white immigrants aren’t subject to so much scrutiny and enforcement. I feel as if I’ve passed wind in church.

    A lot of social issues are banged on about by “small vocal minorities.” This applied to all “sides” and many different issues. One of the interesting stories in the raven book was that the Scot’s sheep farmers had a petition up that got 2 thousand some signatures to open up a bit of culling. Against 27,000 some signatures, against. But, as one farmer pointed out, most of the internet addresses were from around the world, not Scotland. One of the farmers made the point that it’s a local concern, and that, perhaps, people with no skin in the game shouldn’t be taken into much account.

    Online petitions are getting a bit problematic. Bots churn out hundreds of form votes and individuals (with no skin in the game) find it easy to just click and register a fleeting opinion without much reflection or investigation. Cont.

  6. Cont. I picked a few more tomatoes out of my patch, last night. And, one had blossom end rot. :-(. The Garden Goddess says it’s from a lack of calcium in the soil. I’ll have to look into that. I take into consideration what she has to say … but double check.

    Well, that was interesting about the honey. There again, you can get “the good stuff”, but you’ll probably have to pay for it. If a person can’t see past “cheapest price” or convenience, they get what they pay for. I did notice the bit about “private equity consortiums.” Rather a shadowy bunch. Same lot (by type) as the mob opening up a thousand acre blueberry farm in our county. I buy local honey (and pay a lot for it), and there has been times I’ve thought it a bit on the “thin” side. And wondered if it had been cut with anything. I don’t know if it indicates anything, but I did notice that if it sat in the cupboard for awhile, it crystalized up, just like honey is supposed to.

    On TP (toilet paper). Something I’ve been wondering about, but in the interest of delicacy, have not brought up. :-). But since you did … Where I lived before, due to the touchy septic system (and, my general thrift) I didn’t use a lot of toilet paper. Lets just say I use a bit more soap and water. Packs of the stuff used to last me a good long time.

    Even though I’ve maintained my thrifty habits, here, I noticed just about the time I moved here, that I seem to be ripping through a lot of toilet paper. It may be a paranoid fantasy, but I’d swear, even though the rolls look the same, there’s more air, and less substance. You’ve got to watch the quality of that recycled stuff. Some of it is so “purist” it still has wood chips in it :-).

    I dug one of my potato plants, last night. The one of four that had pretty much died back. Russets. I got a total of 5 middling sized potatoes and one the size of a marble. Not much of a yield. But I have higher hopes for the other three, which are in another bed. There just seems to be more going on, under the ground. Time will tell.

    Someone brought in a box of potatoes, and mixed in were some blue ones! I’m going to give them a try, and see how they taste and cook up. I may save a couple to start, next year. They’re just so cool. And, blue! They may be Adirondack Blue.

    I discovered that my friend Julia has 4 alpacas. I asked her, well, “why?”. Without hesitation she said they were great lawn mowers. She’s rather elderly and has a bit of land. At one point, she was paying $200 a month for mowing. Doing a bit of cost benefit analysis, the alpacas are a lot cheaper. She has to hay them a bit, in winter, but that costs very little. And, their poo is not “hot.” It can be applied directly to crops without any burn. Good guard animals, too. They work as a team to keep out any intruders that wander by.

    I guess I have to admit fall is on the way. Cliff Mass (the weather guy) has a post about radar and migrating birds. They move, mostly at night, so are hard to spot. But, they are showing up in great numbers, on radar, and moving in a S. / SE direction. So the migration is on and fall is coming. Lew

  7. Chris,

    You replied to something I said at Ecosophia a couple weeks back, but life intervened and I wasn’t able to reply there. I think you said something to the effect of it is hard for you to talk about the reality of solar power, because too many people refuse to accept that solar and wind sometimes do not exist.

    I feel your pain! I’ve tried to explain the same thing to people, but they don’t WANT to get it. I mention that there’s this guy in Australia who posts real time data about this, but people literally run away with their hands over their ears.

    I think you mentioned that you’ve been reading a book that takes place partly in Spokane? Out of curiousity, which book?


  8. Hi Chris,

    Your toilet paper story reminds me of a joke in the old BBC sci-fi comedy show Red Dwarf. In one episode the 3 (male) characters went through an entire roll in one day. No one could believe it, so they laid the blame at the feet of aliens.

    Good work on the editor for locating another supply of rocks. If you want to call them boulders who am I to be critical!

    In other exciting news, I found a new show to binge watch. The Great British Bake Off! It kind of scratches my Gordon Ramsay itch (I wish he still made Kitchen Nightmares UK – the US version is terrible). In between amateur chefs trying their very best at complicated French desserts and pastry products they do little food history segments. Great stuff!


  9. Hi Margaret,

    One ply is a great idea and I applaud you. That basically halves the use in one swoop (or is that swipe). 🙂 The topic is a bit like car-pooling isn’t it, as it is topic that strikes fear into people’s hearts, but is not really that bad at the end of the day. Incidentally fuel here has reached $1.58/litre (3.8 litres to the gallon). Ouch. I saw a bloke fill up his large vehicle the other day, and the bill came in at about $188, which was pretty impressive effort really.

    Exactly, I don’t know where the whole plastic straw thing came from, it was a bit out of left field really. And I wonder why straws were chosen among all the various chunks of plastic that we litter our environment with. Dunno. There is a story there.

    Far out. That is an enormous amount of rain in such a short period of time, but on a positive note, if you have a dry autumn from here on end, at least you won’t have to worry about the fire risk. Out of curiosity what sort of materials are your downspouts made from? We use thick PVC which is exceptionally strong and long lasting, but not very fire resistant. And yup, houses collapse around their broken down pipes. I once saw a brick wall which had sheared away from a century old house. Nowadays I could fix that, but back then it scared me. It was a good buy too, as the block of land around the house was huge with two street frontages. It would have been nice to be the local gentry and cover the inner urban block with fruit trees. Alas. Can you pump water out of the basement?

    It is really thoughtful to have both services, and I hope that many people shed a tear, a hug, and a laugh possibly all at once in remembrance of a delightful person who you always mentioned in fond terms.

    Yeah, I’ve had that happen to me too. You feel a bit guilty as if you know you should be doing something but aren’t quite sure what it should be. It is hard to wind back after being wound up. You were very busy. Time to contemplate the oak trees and the bees for a while and watch the dogs chasing shadows.

    A herd of deer arrived here this morning. And I set Ollie onto them, because that is his job and what he gets paid to deal with. He can lounge around enjoying himself all he likes, but when he has to work, he has to get to work immediately. And Ollie shone. He chased the herd off the property and then a little bit further into the forest and returned. A mate of mine suggested his breed because they instinctively know their boundaries, although the breed also has a dubious reputation as being a bit mad, but I’ve never seen that side of him. I feel that people expect too much from the breed.



  10. Hi Lewis,

    Thanks mate! I was a bit concerned that the 28’F cold snap would get all poo-pooed and stuff, because you know, it gets colder in other parts of the world where men are real men, and women are real women, and small furry creatures stick to their burrows until it warms up again! 🙂 And that ain’t here. Despite the cold weather, the small (and large) furry creatures pottered around doing their stuff. A herd of deer rolled up this morning. And the big blighters stripped some of the bark off one of the apple trees. Boy, they annoy the daylights out of me. So I set Ollie onto them. And Ollie just got on with the job and chased them off and away into the forest. He’s a smart dog because he immediately returned once they were outside his territory (which is not far at all). He earned a beef jerky treat for that tidy work, and he looked well pleased with himself. I managed to get some photos of the event too and they turned out well and I’ll put them on next weeks blog. I don’t know whether the orchard can handle a small herd of deer, and what is with the bark on the apple trees? Are they seeking knowledge? An old timer orchardist told me that the trees will be OK and will recover from the loss of their bark. I hope he’s right.

    How cool was the frozen dog water? I had a walk around today in the delightful spring sunshine and 66’F warmth and checked out how the trees fared. Not many have lost any blossoms and the bees were out and about harvesting pollen. One thing I have noted about the European honey bees, is that they are far in advance of the other pollinating insects and that has given me a bit of pause for thought. There were plenty of insects about, it is just that the bees were the only ones harvesting pollen and nectar from the fruit trees.

    A hermits cave would be good, but an underground cool store would be much better. I’m channelling Jimny Cricket but I can almost hear the chorus line about something, something, when you wish upon a rock! I’m very curious about your spring houses for cool storage. Have you ever seen one?

    The leeks were very strong tasting and you’d enjoy that. The taste reminded me of garlic without the aftertaste. I was surprised that the leeks tasted like that. They are very reliable plants and come back every year in exactly that spot, except that there are always a few more of them (same as the garlic). I really need to set aside an entire enclosure for onions, but time may have fallen behind the couch again. So much to do.

    I too have come across such people. If they knew something was wrong, why ever did they put the public interest in second place to their personal interests? If it was you or I, then I can well understand that, but these are folks who are in high office wielding power. Do they not understand that they must do better than us mere mortals in order to maintain their credibility?

    Immigration has raised its ugly head again in the news down here. A former New Zealand Prime Minister raised the option of settling boat people in NZ. Of course the Australian government told them where to shove their kind offer, because economic refugees wanting to enter Australia would invariably arrive here via NZ. We have a close relationship with NZ and people of either country can travel in either direction without a visa. We effectively pay to maintain their borders because it is in our interests to do so. On a per capita basis, not many countries would take on as many refugees as we do, but the flip side is that we take a very hard line on queue jumpers. It is a very complicated story that people tend to simplify for their own ends. And we don’t look too good in the process. People have their own axes to grind, and whenever people cry: ‘bring them here’, I reply: are you willing and able to pay for that outcome? Inevitably they are not. We don’t have the water or the soils for the population that we do have. No, plenty of people have passed wind in church…

    I don’t take much notice of interweb polls, because they are unfortunately targeted and the veracity of the claims stink. If you want real change go and heckle your local MP. That’s democracy. I know someone who used to corner and hound the opposition leader. He’s a pretty clever bloke to do that.

    Yup, soils ain’t what they used to be! I have no idea what ‘blossom end rot’ is, but it sure sounds like a formidable fungi. As a general rule, increasing the pH will improve the balance of the soil between fungi (acid) and bacteria (basic). Mushroom compost will increase your soil pH. You have acidic soils in your part of the world as the norm, as do I. Tomatoes enjoy a balanced soil, but leaning toward the fungi (acidic) end of things. But too far in that direction is a bad thing. This also tells me that the plants evolved near to forests (which generally have acidic soils).

    Honey is a very variable product because nobody really controls the bees, although we do as a species but try. Honey from city gardens is often the tastiest due to the sheer diversity and length of flowering times of the plants. I’ve wondered for quite a while whether private equity seeks to invest first and foremost, as distinct from running a business. I’ve seen things. For some strange reason every time I dwell upon the honey and bee story, Soylent Green springs to mind. Who knows what that means? Have you seen that film? The strawberry jam scene burned into my consciousness as a kid. What sort of people take children to see such a film, and then at school get them to sing ‘pave paradise and put up a parking lot’ – and then act as if that all doesn’t matter? What a strange world we live in.

    Hehe! Yes, this week’s story was a bit controversial was it not? But yeah, yours is a good story too, and it is worth mentioning that it is much easier to make soap than toilet paper. 😉

    Potatoes are a complex plant and I have not yet gotten my head around their life cycle and story. But blue potatoes. Cool! There is an enormous diversity of potatoes however our palates may find some of them to be a bit crystalline. I mentioned the potato famine to someone of Irish descent the other night, and far out, but you know growing only two varieties and then relying on them was a bad idea from the very beginning.

    Alpaca’s are a good return on investment if you can get them to perform multiple roles (guard, meat, manure, and mowing). Julia is a clever lady.

    I read Cliff Mass as often as I can because he always has something interesting to say. I’m genuinely surprised by the volume of comments that his blog gets – and then sometimes not much comments at all. This blogging thing is a complex beastie! 🙂



  11. Hi DJSpo,

    Welcome to the discussion, and 10 out of 10 for the name. Are you a DJ or are your initials DJ? Or is it something else altogether? If you are a DJ at a wild guess I reckon you are a fan of Dub Step! 🙂 Just kidding… I quite the occasional bit of enjoy Skrillex.

    People hear what they want to hear. And solar and other forms of renewable energy are sacred cows. I feel that the word ‘must’ often gets inserted into unspoken conversations about such things. Last week’s blog will provide further background to that discussion.

    Ah! Reservation Blues by Alexie Sherman. I’m really enjoying the book and his ability to weave several stories all at once. I’m in awe really.



  12. Hi Damo,

    Hehe! Red Dwarf, ah yes, the English have produced some pretty good and very silly sci-fi over the years. It probably was aliens too! 🙂 I quite enjoyed Blakes 7 way back in the day.

    Well, you are actually qualified to make that fine distinction. Us lesser folks have to grade them based on the difficulty of moving them. That works for us, but secretly I’d like to blow some of the larger rocks up into smaller chunks. Alas, technical difficulties get in the way… How much fun would that be though? 🙂

    I’m with you about the Kitchen Nightmares UK versus the US version. I get tired of watching him have to out-alpha the various chefs, and so I eventually stopped watching the show. He spent most of the week doing that and it is not a pretty sight for me to watch. It gives me a headache. I think Lewis may have mentioned the The Great British Bake Off, and it sounds pretty good.

    How is spring going over there? Today was a superb spring day and it got to 19’C. Yay! Things are growing again.



  13. @Lee
    I have been plagued by blossom end for in the past. Save your egg shells for a while, let them dry and then grind them. Put them in the hole when you transplant. This worked wonders.


  14. Hi Chris,

    Our down spouts are metal and obviously not too heavy. I don’t recall seeing any PVC downspout around here but I’ll ask Doug about them. Fire is rarely an issue around here. We only got i little water in the basement – just had to mop it up.

    Ollie is earning his keep so I imagine you can overlook some of his other transgressions.

    I don’t know when the whole straw issue started. It’s a small thing that hopefully can lead to other changes. There’s not much one can do about some packaging. I see more places just putting straws in the table rather than automatically putting them in every drink. On the other hand banning them goes too far. Michael for example needed a straw as his hands were often very shaky. In my younger days my siblings and I found it very entertaining to blow the paper cover off the straw at people but then we are easily amused. With some practice they could travel quite far.

    I’m visiting my aunt in Chicago for a couple days. We went to an exhibit at the Art Institute yesterday and are going on an architectural tour along the Chicago River this morning.. Supposed to be 90 and humid though. Doug said there was a four hour power outage at home last night. No rain today but more tomorrow but at least it will usher in a cold front.


  15. Chris,
    Initials, not a job descriptor.

    I don’t remember if I’ve read “Reservation Blues” I probably have, since I’ve read most of his early books. I’ve got “The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven” on the bookshelf. The movie “Smoke Signals” was based on a story from the book I’ve got and was filmed partially in Spokane. I also watched his high school basketball team play a few times.

    His books are interesting, indeed. His use of humor is a good teaching tool. My wife is Native American and grew up in the “reservation system”. As a result, his books can hit a little close to home for us, as they can be very descriptive of the reality of life on a reservation.

    You’re right – the words “solar” and “wind power” have become sacred, and he who says that these new gods won’t save us from our follies is blasphemous.


  16. Hello again
    Notayesman’seconomic blog dealt with Australia on 4th Sep (er today). Remember that you can’t comment as his blog is daily during the week. A shame really but the time change makes it difficult.

  17. Yo, Chris – Naughty deer! I’m glad Ollie is on the job. Go Ollie! I never had problems with the deer, where I lived before. But then, these were really old established trees. They Hoovered up the apples, but never bothered the bark. I wonder if it has to do with the age of the trees. I used to have a friend who lived further out, than me, and he always caged his trees for the first 7 years or so. Of course, if it’s a hard winter and forage is scarce, all bets are off!

    I have never met a spring house “up close and personal.” But I remember seeing drawings of their inner workings. I think it was in Eric Sloan’s books. He mostly illustrated in black and white. His books are well worth a look. He even did a couple on weather.

    General internet opinions seem to be that blossom end rot is caused by lack of calcium. Interesting, as I did apply lime. And, egg shells go into the kitchen scraps to be dug into the garden. Probably not ENOUGH calcium. Or, it needs to break down and spread, a bit. I have noticed that I don’t have a MUCH blossom end rot, as some of the other gardeners.

    I did see “Soylent Green”, years ago. Probably about time for a remake :-). Also, about time to trout out the Triffids, again.

    I’ll have to get the story from Julia as to where she got the Alpacas. She’s quit the patient lady, and waits until markets in whatever she’s interested in, collapse. Hence, she’s pretty well off, I think.

    Cliff Mass’ comments stay pretty manageable, I think, as he very rarely responds to comments. Even to direct questions. Lew

  18. PS: Hmmm. Somewhere I saw a spring house illustration, but didn’t find anything under Eric Sloane. I did find this photo…

    Searching under “How to build a springhouse?” brought up a lot of photos of nice spring houses and a few floor plans.

    I forgot to mention I watched “Book Club”, last night. Diane Keaton, Jane Fonda, Candice Bergen and Mary Steenburgen. Worth a bowl of popcorn, I guess. You might like it. It’s a bit of a rom-com. Everyone ends up happy. Life’s not like that.

    I’m reading “Class: A Guide Through the American Status System” (Fussell, 1992). There was a bit I wanted to re-read, and I had to get it on Interlibrary loan. I find it a bit interesting where these loans come from. Closest library that’s willing to loan. This book? Clatsop Community College Library, Astoria, Oregon. Now why…. Lew

  19. @ Damo – Our library finally got season one of The Great British Bake Off!. I had been looking forward to taking a look. I watched an episode or two and decided it wasn’t for me. Trying to figure out why, this morning, I think it’s just that I just don’t like competitions, in general. Or people yelling and belittling. The Late, Lamented “Two Fat Ladies” is more my cup of tea :-). Lew

  20. @ Margaret – I add my eggshells to the garden (heck, I even microwave them in batches, before busing them up. 1.5 minutes.) But I think what I need to do is throw a couple of handfuls in the planting hole. Next year. Lew

  21. Hi Chris,

    Good dog, Ollie!

    I, too, have the dreaded blossom end rot on the tomatoes for the first time this year. Good news is there actually are tomatoes, despite the blight, ripe and everything. Bad news, the BER. I put crushed egg shells in the planting hole and periodically scattered coffee grounds and eggshell during the season. The internet tells me that irregular amounts of water can be an influence as well. Or, I suspect some imbalance of magnesium that prevents the plant from utilizing calcium. I used a bag of rock minerals to amend the new plot and I wonder if that´s the culprit. Did a poo run to the horsey place yesterday, so perhaps after an autumn application of leaves and manure everything will balance out next year.

    Book recommendation – A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles. A Russian count is confined to his hotel for life by the Bolsheviks on pain of being shot in the 1920´s. Beautifully written and entertaining allegory on making the best of your circumstances. I thoroughly enjoyed it.


  22. Hi Margaret, DJ, Inge, Lewis, and Coco,

    Thanks for the lovely comments, but I am unable to reply this evening. And honestly, I’m unsure I’ll be able to reply tomorrow either… Should be OK after that though! What did someone say about patience being a virtue, although not many people tend to think so these days.

    Lewis – Went to the cinema tonight to watch Crazy Rich Asians. Not sure you’d enjoy it because it is a rom-com, but then you do hide you softer side under the crusty and tough outer exterior! Hehe!

    It was a story about girl (with sketchy family background) meets boy, boy introduces girl to very crazy rich parents in Singapore, girl and boy fall out due to parental and other extended family interference, then girl and boy get back together again.

    I quite enjoyed the story, it was fun and very way over the top. I’m not fussed about sketchy family background, well firstly my story is not so crash hot, but then my mum reckoned that the editors wasn’t too good either. That’s a good match in my language! 🙂 Far out, interfering parents with expectations…

    Almost as bad as going to a big name Uni. I had the marks for one of those, but sort of felt the culture wasn’t a good fit for me. I’m amazed to have had that sort of honest self assessment at such a young age. The one I went to was no slouch, but they would have carried that book. It was once known as the working man’s college.




  23. Hi, Chris!

    An ice sculpture! How weird is all that frost so late in the season?
    Ah – you see why I can’t leave my cacti outside in the winter. And your fruit blossoms are a serious worry.

    Ummm . . . some of us just have to go to the bathroom more often . . . and some of have to sit down . . . What a clever real estate agent!

    Ollie looks so sad, standing way back, waiting to express his artistic talents in the cement. Good job with the deer, though! How neat are those lava rocks? Great find, Editor! Are they lighter than the other rocks? I feel cheered every time I see your chicken house rooster.

    You have more flowers than I do at the moment. Ours are dwindling and we have gone into the Dark Time, which starts about three weeks before the Autumnal Equinox when the sun begins barely clearing the trees on the slope above us.


  24. @ Margaret:

    That is so very wonderful of you to put so much effort into the occasion of a remembrance celebration for Michael. It has a very sacred feel to it, as well as joyful. I am sure that everyone attending will feel better for it.


  25. Hello again
    I am not at all surprised at your honest self assessment at a young age. Quite a while back, I came across a written argument with myself on whether to marry and have children or not. I was 19 or 20 at the time. Oh was I impressed at my understanding of myself and at my considered arguments.

  26. Yo, Chris – No worries. To paraphrase an old Saturday Night Live sketch, we’ll just talk among ourselves. :-).

    I harvested one of my varieties of garlic, last night. When gardening works, it’s like magic! I can’t get over that I shoved 7 little cloves in the ground and got back 7 heads of garlic. The variety I harvested is a Chinese variety called Shandong. It’s supposed to be hot and spicy. I’ll have to look through my Chinese cookbooks and find something to set it off.

    Interesting you mentioned universities. I read a section in the “Class” book last night about degrees and education. How colleges inflated themselves into universities and not all degrees are created equal :-). That many students (and their parents) were disappointed that a degree didn’t give them the desired leg up the social ladder. Lew

  27. @ Coco – When I was researching blossom end rot, one place said that epsom salts inhibits tomatoes from taking up calcium. Gardening guru Jerry Baker advocates tossing a lot of that around. One of the Garden Goddesses here follows that practice and has a lot of problems with BER. A controlled experiment is needed … Lew

  28. @ DjSpo – From your comment to Chris, I wondered if you live in my neck of the woods? You don’t have to be to specific, the internet being the internet. I live on the west side of the mountains, in Chehalis. That’s about 25 minutes down I-5 from Olympia. Lew

  29. Hi Pam and everyone,

    As expected I am unable to reply this evening, but tomorrow should all be cool. Until then…

    Lewis – The editor and I went into the big smoke today (to separate destinations) so we car pooled and took the little Dirt Mouse in. Tonight as anticipated the traffic was feral, which is what you get when you add one million additional people to the city in the last eight years. Neither the editor or I are fans of traffic snarls and so we just headed off to get a coffee and dinner. It was all very civilised, and there is no point joining such a huge exodus of folks trying to make their way out of the city.

    The funny thing is, there is an awful lot of construction and road blocks going on at the moment. I suspect that the people were added, the state and local government coffers were filled to the brim (and perhaps then some) by the newcomers, and then catch up with infrastructure has to take place. It is no easy feat to provide services to an additional million people. It would put a strain on most services.

    I have noticed that at the moment some of the inner city roads have been dug up and huge water mains are being installed (also tram tracks appear to be being replaced). All steel pipes and they look about eight or nine feet across. It is all very impressive infrastructure.

    On the other hand, I have heard some strange stories about the people directing the traffic holding the lollipops which say ‘stop’ or ‘slow’. By all accounts I believe they are on a very good wicket, and I heard a union boss justifying that good wicket by making the claim that it is a dangerous job because they’re out in the weather. Like the defence force personal don’t have to worry about other folks trying to kill them, or the paramedics who have to confront violent and distressing situations, or the police who have to confront people with violent mental health issues (or they’re just plain violent)… Yes, being stuck out in the weather, I know a thing or two about that. Oh here you go: Sweet deal: Traffic controllers earn up to $130,000 — all thanks to the construction boom. I’m absolutely stuffed if I know why I went to Uni given stories like that… I must be a sucker.

    Exactly too. Just before I attended that college, it was elevated to a Uni. I see a lot of people with student debts (which I incurred from day 1 and have paid in full as I went only because I could afford it by working full time and attending Uni part time). I actually chose that college because I was interested in earning an education. Some of the films I see of college life over in the US shows a story that is completely unknown and alien to me. People don’t generally live on campus down here, but I can’t really speak for the experience of the international students.

    You know, just as a general observation, sometimes policies can continue to be effected even when the outcomes of the policies themselves lack effectiveness. I’ve heard people pushing their kids into science, and I wonder where all the jobs are for them. I know a few ex-scientists, they do it hard and because of the funding model, it looks as if they have to reapply for their job every couple of years – and like politicians with mortgages and school fees, it would make for a nervous financial story.

    Bedtime for me! Cheers


  30. Yo, Chris – I don’t like traffic snarls, either. Even in our little town, there’s areas I keep away from at different times of the day. Just down the hill from the Home, we have a big old grade school, right on the main drag. Twice a day it’s a chaos of traffic, school buses, crossing guards, parents picking up kids and on foot. Traffic backs up for miles. They built a new school! Market Street is serene. Heaven!

    We call traffic controllers, flaggers. Here, they have to attend classes and get a certificate. For a lot longer than two hours. And they don’t make near as much money. And, even though the fellow banged on about bad weather, the real thing is, the mortality rate in that occupation. I don’t know about there, but here, flaggers are frequently injured or killed due to distracted drivers.

    I’m unsure from the article (don’t know the agencies or alphabet soup of companies) if these people are public or private employees, or both. I’d guess a lot of it is outsourced. The governments involved probably think it’s a bargain as they don’t have to deal with those pesky employees with their benefits and retirement plans. :-). And, it looks like a lot of that wage is overtime. And, maybe holiday pay.

    Well, anyway. Good on ’em for landing a job like that. I just hope, since it’s here today, gone tomorrow, that the smart ones are stashing it away for something of value, and not just frittering it away.

    I go under the knife, on Monday. (Not) major surgery, but I ought to get some mileage out of it. :-). I have a reoccurring cyst on my back (right where I can’t see it, or get at it, with ease). I used to show up about once a year. Then it was two months, or so, of progressive nastiness. Ruined shirts, etc.. I finally wised up and got a long handled scrub brush, and last year, no problem. I thought I was done with all that. No such luck. Back again. But this time, since I have insurance (of a sort) I’m going in to the Doc and have it properly taken care of. No stress, or I should say, a lot less stress than say, having my teeth worked on.

    Seen on one of the archaeological news sites. 7,000 year old evidence of cheese found in Croatia. Now that’s aged cheese! Lew

  31. @ Lew, I’m in Spokane. Visited Chehalis area a few times the last two years. I like it there.

  32. Chris
    A few months ago they changed to single ply “John Wayne” toilet paper at my job. “John Wayne toilet paper – it doesn’t take &$%# from anybody. The reason: the toilets were clogging too much with double ply, and maintenance staff hates using a simple plunger. So now, one needs to use 5 times the amount of single ply so that 1) it will do the job and 2) not break up and stick in one’s, ummm, crack area. As a result, the toilets still plug up as often as before.

  33. Hi Margaret,

    Your down spouts sound a lot like what they used to use down here way back in the day. It was very thin sheet metal rolled into a pipe and the really old stuff used to have a seam that was pressed and folded together. It was quite clever really, but unfortunately not as water tight as PVC pipes. On the other hand, being light means that it doesn’t do too much damage if it say for example, falls on Salve’s head!

    Glad to hear that the mop fixed the water leakage in the basement, and to be honest given the amount of rain you have just experienced, that isn’t too bad an outcome. If that much rain fell on Melbourne, the place would flood. I saw 4 inches in an hour there once and the backyard flooded and I had to borrow a water pump to get the water out and into the old cobblestone lane that ran behind the house (it was an access for the old horse drawn night carts that used to ply their trade at night – mustn’t upset the notables by witnessing the contents).

    You are very lucky to not have to live with fire. It is on my mind as we get ever closer to summer. I believe I may have sorted out one of the problems with the garden water pump switches by simply replacing that part of the pump arrangement with a better quality switching unit. One must be careful of counting ones chickens too soon though… The garden water pumps run some of the bushfire sprinklers, so they sort of have to be a bit more reliable than they are at the moment.

    Yes, there are a few transgressions on Ollie’s part, but I’m forgiving by nature and he’s quite delightful really. To be honest he is making the other members of the fluffy collective look a little bit wanting. I’m mildly troubled that the place I got him from offered counselling services because they thought that he was such a difficult dog. I actually wonder if they knew much about dogs at all? Dunno. Probably not.

    Absolutely, and I totally agree with you. Some people just need straws, and like Michael, those folks do it tougher than the rest of us, and we should probably assist them as much as is reasonably possible. I am curious about where that straw story started. Straws are bit like most perquisites though in that they started off as a good idea, but soon got out of hand and became overused. And then one day we wake up to find that we can no longer afford them, because that essentially is the message that is being sent out about them. For your interest, I’ve never seen a straw with a paper cover as they mostly get handled here. I have seen them wrapped in plastic and stuck to the side of a drink carton. But I would do exactly as you did, because it would be fun! 🙂

    How was the exhibition and hopefully it was not too hot for both of you? The days here are very cool and sunny, which I’m really quite enjoying.

    I had a freak out the other day, because the local stock feed shop appears to have shut. I hope that this is not a permanent thing, but I have read that grain prices are on the up down here because of the ongoing drought. Gene Logsdon’s thoughts are in my head about half an acre of grains for the amount of chickens that I keep. That is a little while off into the future for my comfort…



  34. Hi DJ,

    Thanks for the explanation! Well, all I can say is get thee out to a library and track down a copy (or pick a copy up off a full service bookstore or internet supplier). I’m a music nerd and the story sings to my soul, but the story is also very deep and very confronting.

    Ah, I see. You know, not talking about it, does not in fact make it go away. We have similar problems here, and it is not a good look at all.

    I’ll tell you a little secret. Biological systems can save themselves, for they are able to reproduce themselves. All else is technology. 😉



  35. Hi Inge,

    I would really like to keep up with his blog because his thoughts are clear and outstanding. Unfortunately his essay cycle and breadth is beyond my available interweb time. And the comments are done by the time daylight hits here. It is not for me.

    However, I really enjoyed his insights into the housing market, and thank you for alerting me to the fact that he had written about the topic.

    As I know you too (like me) are curious about the world of economics, I will share with you something that I have seen. A few months or some time ago I wrote about the impact of the interest only loans in the blog. The banks appear to be in the process of converting those loans to interest + principal by converting savings into principal payments. It is an impressive achievement. Yes, I would be nervous about the possibility of margin calls on those loans too given the extent they were thrust into the unsuspecting population.

    The basic thing is that money in an expanding money supply has to be disappeared in order to avoid runaway inflation. Mind you, I got my house insurance bill in the mail today and it had increased by 30%+. I’ll bet a few people have fallen off the Titanic…



  36. Hi Lewis,

    Mate, I checked the photos out of Ollie looking at the deer and going WTF (a very un-family friendly thing for him to say) are that lot doing in the orchard and then just bolting into action. Go Ollie. And the photos looked pretty good too. I’m really annoyed because the deer have scratched the bark off an older apple tree. Fruit trees are hard enough to grow here without having deer ring barking them. That lot will be lucky if they don’t get converted into venison steaks for the dogs and chickens to enjoy. I suspect that fresh forage has been tough this winter due to the warmer days and colder nights. But the deer aren’t stupid and they’ll be waiting in the shadows for their day in the sun again.

    Lewis, I’m really impressed that you slipped in another book recommendation regarding the author Eric Sloan. I guess that means that sometimes all we have to just ask the right question! Hehe! His books are enormously expensive down here, and I do wonder if the hexes on barns would work down here where everything is so different on that front. Dunno. But cool storage, I could put some brain cells towards that problem in the future and no doubts it will be much easier to cut the room back into the side of the hill and then try to line it properly so that it is fairly water tight. I reckon I’m OK with that construction task, but like everything you never know how you’ll fare until you face the problem in the flesh.

    The thing is with soil additives is that you need to also have the bacteria and fungi in the soil that are willing to go to the effort of breaking down the egg shells into bite sized chunks that they can then swap for sugars with your plant roots. To be honest, you may need to add a collection of soil mycrhrozia as well as the additives. You may or may not have that sort of thing in your part of the world. You see the additives are the beginning, and then you have to encourage the little critters that live in there. It takes about three years to get that gear going in earnest. When I started the corn enclosure the first thing I did was chuck down a layer of well established soil. I have no idea what is in that soil, but that ain’t my issue either as it will have something living in there. If you want to provide those soil critters to your soil on the cheap, all you have to do is to find a really healthy organic patch of stuff that is growing somewhere else, and then just take a bit and add it to your soils. They will take a lot of time to move away from the inoculated area, but it is worth the wait. Soil also includes all of the life within it, and your fungi that is consuming the tomatoes is an expression of that. Other soil life forms will help the tomatoes.

    I have no idea what blossom end rot is and I have grown the tomatoes in the same patch for a few years in a row now which is contrary to learned opinion – but I do add additional manure, mulch, and compost every single year.

    I’d quite enjoy a dystopian story remade such as Soylent Green or Day of the Triffids being remade. I did actually quite enjoy the BBC’s version of Day of the Triffids from way back in the day. The remake of the Hitch hikers guide to the galaxy appears to have ended at the first film though so tastes change over the years…

    Julia probably has some good soils, so I’d start there. You don’t need much. I’d be very pleased to have the acquaintance of a person such as Julia’s good self. 🙂 Too few people down here are interested in edible gardening and the ones that are, appear to be getting older and deferring to me and I have no idea. It takes a lot of years to be good with this stuff.

    I reckon Cliff Mass does well with his blog, and it is a balance between producing the volume of readable text and responding to comments. I thought this week’s blog would not receive any comments outside yours and mine due to the controversial nature of the subject matter! We were all very mature.

    Thanks for the image of the spring house and that is exactly how I would make it, except that particular one looks as though it has timber slats for walls and I know that the rats would eventually breach the outer perimeter. Naughty rats…

    I saw posters for that film and was wondering about it. Incidentally I recall Diane Keaton from Woody Allen films of the 1970’s!



  37. Hi Coco,

    Ollie sends greetings and salutations to his northern fellow fluffy, Breo the magnificent!

    Honestly I have no experience at all with blossom end rot and tomatoes. It does strike fear into my heart because I’ve been growing tomatoes in the same spot for many years. On the other hand, I wrote to Lewis above about that problem and the story applies to you no less. Down here we have native nightshade family plants as Australia was once connected to South America. It may be that we have different soil critters that assist with the problem. I really don’t know at all.

    As to the watering, I water the tomatoes for about 10 minutes (maybe less) per day over summer. They’re not water hungry plants even when the weather gets above 100’F. I let them wilt during the day, and then give them a small water again at night on those days to perk them back again. But no more than 10 minutes and that is it. Dunno.

    Yeah, the horse poo is a great idea as stable manure has both nitrogen and carbon (bedding straw) and tomatoes love that. It just takes a lot of years to build soil fertility the slow way.

    Thanks for the excellent book recommendation and what a time to live through – and I’m impressed that he did and grew as a person.



  38. Hi Pam,

    Hehe! I’d never thought of the dogs water as an ice sculpture before, but yeah it sure did look like one. I’ll bet you get some interesting ice sculptures over the winter months? I rarely see anything like that because the temperature was more extreme that day than what I’m usually used to seeing. It is hard to believe that last summer I saw one day when the thermometer recorded 113’F. When I was a kid I recall frozen puddles, but even then it was only a layer of thin frozen ice on top of water – a bit like the horrific scene in Damien Omen. You would think that if the evil returned, then he’d have a more interesting name like Kevin for example? Kevin’s are always naughty.

    Dunno, but the blossoms on the fruit trees seem to be OK today although some of them have lost their petals. Fortunately it was only early days for fruit set. The warm and late autumn has already produced some strange goings on with the plants. Oh well.

    Fair enough! It was a story about waste, and perhaps not about usage. Although I’d have to suggest that soap is easier to make than paper.

    Pam, lead Ollie not into temptation! I sounded a bit Yoda like there, but seriously he does not require encouragement in his hobbies. A little bit of discouragement is the order of the day for Ollie. Anyway, I’ve set up a pallet and some poly-carbonate sheeting which I had lying around the place not doing anything at all, and that fixed the naughty graffiti artist: Ollie. Now if he could only turn out a Banksy, I’d probably encourage him in his artistic endeavours, but alas he has no artistic streak.

    Nup, the rocks are all granite and heavy as. Some of the larger ones are the size of the wheelbarrow and it is all I can do to move them to their new location.

    Really? Wow, I guess I grow a huge diversity of flowers from as many corners of the world that I’m allowed to do so. The bees have even been flying about the place during the middle of the day now. Spring is here – whatever that means nowadays. I get that about your dark time, although that is three weeks before and after the winter solstice for me. I hear ya!



  39. Hi Inge,

    Absolutely, self awareness is not an age thing, it is an understanding thing. But some people are also taught to disregard their inner opinions too, and I see a bit of that about the place.

    Yours was an important question to cogitate upon, no doubts about it.

    I recall being a very young child and wondering why the adults were talking to me as if I were an idiot – which clearly displayed their opinions on the matter. I have always been very careful not to repeat that error whenever I speak with children.



  40. Hi Lewis,

    Mate, the traffic snarl was enough to send the editor and I off to find the nearest decent coffee, cake and hamburger. Interestingly, I went for the chicken burger, so that would technically make it a chookburger, or a chickburger (which does sound a bit weird to my ears). It was quite a good meal and a far better option than sitting stuck in traffic. Have you ever seen the film Office Space. It is a very quirky film and an employer of the editors at the time gave us free tickets to go see it. After the film was finished I turned to the editor and asked her whether she thought her employers were trying to tell her something… That film had a scene showing the misery of people sitting in traffic. I rarely see traffic congestion and so I want nothing to do with that gear.

    Hey, the parents picking up kids from school is a huge social game and people tell me stories about that business. I am not sure whether the participants understand the social displays going on in such a game, but I don’t have much time for those sorts of things. In a nutshell it too would drive me bonkers.

    Down here we have the primary schools on one side of the freeway and most of the housing on the other side of the freeway – with an underpass underneath the freeway. The volume of traffic that trundles back and forth twice per day is a nightmare of unsustainability. It is really quite an impressive feat of urban planning.

    Fair enough. I’ve seen bored looking flaggers looking at their phones. As you quite rightly point out, I’m not sure I’d recommend such complacency on the job.

    I have noticed a lot of people appear to be attempting to use their phones whilst they’re driving. You can usually tell by the way they veer around and in and out of their lanes. I lack such skills and so don’t attempt it in the first place. Honestly I can barely send a text message even giving it my full and undivided attention.

    Exactly about the benefits. Interestingly, I read a thoughtful essay by an economist recently who suggested that many of these folks were previously employed in the mining industries prior to the wind down of that industry. That industry really seems to love employing robots and I read about them skiting that they’d manage to operate a robot train recently (not to mention the robot trucks). Although I can’t imagine how hard that operation would be, but then I don’t really know.

    Down here, there have been some anecdotal reports of people getting spilled from their jobs so as to alleviate the need for future unfunded and perhaps over promised retirement benefits. It happens and I know a few people that has actually happened too, although that wasn’t the stated objective of the spill. If it can’t be afforded, then it probably won’t be afforded.

    I’m not sure people think that way about money. In fact, I often get to observe that most people don’t have a clue what to do with the stuff. And perhaps that may explain why they get taken by sharks.

    Surgery on Monday. You are totally due 110% (and maybe more) sympathy. You may even be entitled to use a proper swear word. Maybe… Absolutely, get the cyst looked at. You never know with them. Good luck and I’m sure that all our thoughts and well wishes will be with you during that time.

    I saw that about the ancient cheese. I wonder if anyone has thought to sample evidence of the cultures used in it? You never know what they may find. I noticed too that the find in Croatia blew away the Egyptian find by a few millennia. Cheese and yoghurt are just another way to preserve milk for later consumption. We take such products such as fresh milk for granted all year around, but back in the day, not so much – that was in season…

    Do you like acid tasting cheeses? Dunno myself although I do enjoy a vintage tasty cheese. My mates make a blue cheese but I’m no fan of that variety due to an unmentionable childhood cheese substitution incident. A truly revolting incident.



  41. Hi DJ,

    The name and tag line of the toilet paper is very amusing. Personally, I’m a bit concerned that we as a society flush so many useful soil amending (and other crazy substances) down the toilet just so they can end up in the oceans. The whole practice makes no sense whatsoever from a soil and ocean point of view. And plenty of civilisations have failed because they flogged their soils to death or over fished. It is not even a new or interesting way to go.



  42. Hi again,

    @ Lew – I may be confusing potassium with magnesium, since I am not a chemist, nor do I play one on TV. But one of those minerals is a ¨limiting¨factor in the take up of the other. If I could get epsom salts here, I would, but they´re neither available, nor cheap like they were in the US.

    Chris, I think you´re looking for what I would call a root cellar, rather than a well or spring-house, unless there´s a water source involved. And, since you´re on a slope anyway, use one of your terraces to enclose/ fill in the structure and Bob´s your uncle. Add a green roof for camoflage, and a round, hobbit door for charm. I believe I´ve seen lots of info on homesteader type pages for DIYing a project like that. It could double as your TEOTWAWKI bunker.

    @Margaret – you have my undying admiration for your support of your family. Two weeks of the inlaws and a few months of the BIL and I´m about ready to head to the hills for a hermit´s existence. I may take Breo.

  43. @Pam

    I did enjoy the time with my aunt. I usually go to visit her about every month or so but it had been six months due to everything going on. She lives in a pretty ritzy area downtown and truth be told she is a bit “entitled” but I try to look beyond that and enjoy her other good qualities. We had a nice tour of the riverfront area of the Chicago river that continues to be developed to draw more business and tourists. It was given by the Chicago Architectural Foundation which offers many tours. My aunt is a member so there was no cost. We also went to the Art Institute (she’s also a member there). Being quite close to Lake Michigan the temperature in the summer is usually quite pleasant but not so much this time as it was abnormally hot.


  44. Hi Chris,
    Yes that describes our downspouts quite well.

    It would be pretty scary to have the threat of fire like you do. Here it’s tornadoes that are the main threat. I don’t know if I mentioned it but this house and property were hit by a tornado in 2009 that took out the apple orchard buildings as well. It was unusual as it was in January. I was teaching at the time and was doing the after school tutoring program when the alarm went off. We were all ushered into the locker room which was on the first floor but one of the most fortified places in the center of the building. Nothing like being in a locker room with a bunch of scared Jr. high students. There were still quite a few there participating in after school sports. This is why a basement is pretty important around here.

    Many straws come wrapped in paper around here. More and more restaurants are just leaving a few on the table rather than putting them in all drinks so you have the choice to use them or not. If they weren’t wrapped I imagine they’d have to throw them all out used or not.


  45. Hello again
    I have told younger daughter definitely not to get an interest only mortgage. These have come home to roost here and people are in serious trouble.
    Absolutely agree with you; I always address children as I address adults. Society underestimates them and it gets worse and worse. They are mooting the possibility of preventing marriage before the age of 18. I have a photo of my mother at her engagement party, she looks at least 25 but was 16, the age at which she got married very successfully and happily.

    @ Lew
    I wish you all the best for that operation, may it be quick, successful and reasonably pain free. Problems that one can’t see or reach are the pits.

  46. Yo, Chris – Won’t you and the Editor also partake of the venison steaks? They can be quit nice! When I was a kid we had a method of preparing game meat called “Swiss steak” (why, I don’t know.) As I remember, it was long and slow with lots of tomatoes and onions. Top of stove.

    I’ve seen packets of soil mycrhrozia for sale at the garden shops. I might get a bit and scatter it around. But I must say, the soil, with all the stuff I’ve been working into it, is getting better. As you pointed out, it will just take time.

    Julia does not disappoint. :-). Keeping in mind that at one point Alpacas were selling for $5,000 a pair, she got her’s for …wait for it … free. The four Alpaca were advertised for $100-$150 a piece. She went and took a look and decided to think about it. After a couple of weeks, she called the people back, and they told her she could HAVE them, with one catch. She’d have to also take their one sheep buddy. (Unknown breed. Julia says it’s the largest sheep she’s ever seen.) She told them she would take them, but it would take her a couple of days to arrange transport. They said they’d deliver. Also, free. When all that was accomplished, she did give the folks $100 for their time and trouble. Cont.

  47. Cont. I’m pretty sure I saw “Office Space”, years ago. I read the plot synopsis, and it rang bells. Especially the red Swingline stapler. Don’t mess with a minimally psychotic office workers preferred office supplies! “Consultants” range a bell. Usually, the people a company can blame (from outside) who recommend horrendous changes. But not always. When I worked for the local library, at one point, due to budget strains, they called in a consultant. At least they found one with a library background. Well. They ended up stripping out a whole layer of management, that was pretty much a pain in the … ear. There was much wailing and gnashing of teeth. Even a threatened law suit. Which came to naught. I’m surprised the film “Office Space” didn’t do better. Revenge of the workers, usually plays well. Witness the popularity of the comic strip, “Dilbert.”

    People think I’m a bit backward (some do), as, “I don’t text.” I was a bit thrown when after I made my doctors appointment, I got a text asking me to confirm. By text. A simple Y or N, in return. What? Well, I pushed a lot of buttons, and got back a confirmation. So, I guess it worked. But did it? I’ve left the confirmation on my phone … just in case.

    Promised retirement benefits. When I was a wee small lad, back in the 1950s, it was splashed about the local newspaper that our Big Local Family Owned Department Store, Meir & Frank (now part of the May Company) was laying off the beloved Elevator Ladies, just months short of their retirement dates. There was such a public outcry, that the company had to back down. But, in retaliation, they pulled their advertising out of that newspaper, for years. Not a problem. The newspaper chugged along happily without them. At the time, it was really quit brave of the newspaper, as those families had a lot of local clout.

    I like sampling exotic cheeses (or, what passes for exotic, here.) The cheese case at the local Safeway is not very … adventuresome. But, I did discover that I quit like a good English Stilton. Once in awhile, I can find a really nice local soft goat cheese. But, as I am taking off the weight, no dairy until I get to my goal. Nor the crackers or bread to smear it on. (I’m just a few pounds away.) Then I’ll be able to enjoy the occasional bit of cheese, again. In moderation :-). Lew

  48. Chris,
    Agreed. Humans can be smart, but we’re not very wise. Every civilization seems to end in repetitious ways.

  49. Hi Coco,

    That thought had occurred to us too about digging back into the side of the hill so as to incorporate a root cellar and then construct a terrace over the top of it. That project is on the to-do list, but it is so hard to get the time to get all of these things done and there are other projects vying for my attention. I’ve been considering the water proofing aspect of that job and it occurs to me that very heavy duty plastic pond lining would be the way to go. Given how much plastic ends up in the oceans, the pond lining stuff would probably have a half-life of several millennia if it is not exposed to the sun.

    Nope, about sheltering from TEOTWAWKI! Hehe! And I cite the fact that I already sometimes feel as if I no longer understand the city that I used to live in. 🙂 For me that has already happened!



  50. Hi Margaret,

    The threat from bushfire is pretty confronting, but there are things that can be done to mitigate the risk. And I’m onto as many of those as can be reasonably done without offending anyone. The basic problem is that upon the arrival of the Europeans way back in 1834 in this corner of the continent, introduced communicable diseases wiped out 90% of the indigenous population within a very short period of time. And unfortunately the result of that and the ensuing deliberate displacement of the remainder of the indigenous population was that knowledge of how to manage the land was largely ignored, overlooked, or even worse forgotten. What is of interest to me is that the massive bushfires are getting smaller over the years – although the results even today are very confronting. The 1851 fire was beyond imagination and nearly a quarter of the entire state burned and it has the land area of the UK.

    I recall that you mentioned that particular tornado and I can understand why you would have basements as a place to shelter from the high winds. January is a strange time for a tornado to form as I would have thought that they require massive changes in air pressure which would have been more likely at warmer times of the year. And I hear you, that scenario would be a nightmare. I may have mentioned before that we got a direct hit by a little tornado one Christmas day many years ago. The rain and wind was feral. I wish I’d thought to take a photograph as the cloud that rolled up over the valley was quite amazing to behold. I recall mentioning to the editor that: “that’s a strange looking cloud” – and then it hit.

    Ah, I see. Down here, most straws are held behind the counter and provided upon request, although some drinks such as a large ice coffee (or chocolate) would be served with a straw – but I have noticed paper straws being used lately. They’re hardly freely handed out or left on tables for people to use. What an interesting difference.



  51. Hi Inge,

    Wise advice. Yup, those loans are the gift that will keep on giving. And I believe that they are for set periods of time (about five years from what I’ve seen) as I’d have to suggest that they are rolled into bonds and sold to, I dunno, pension funds etc. After that time I believe a person has to re-apply for the loan and that is where the savings get consumed by the beast of a system. As far as I understand things, people accept interest only loans because they’re betting on capital growth and are able to borrow more (sometimes thus gaining a larger tax deduction where the property is rented) because they aren’t paying the principal. Investors seem to like them, but the stupid thing is from my perspective, is that losses are losses no matter how you dress them up.

    Whenever I interact with other people, I do my best to read the circumstances and their actions as they are presented to me. You know from time to time I’ve encountered people who felt they were smarter than others, and whilst I’ve met some stupid people, even those folks displayed a level of rat cunning that was quite impressive to behold. Basically it is not worth underestimating people.

    Our social norms are the stories that we have built around ourselves and they are a complex mix of changing circumstances.



  52. Hi Lewis,

    Maybe about the venison steaks. It all depends on what else is on offer at the time. The dogs and chickens would definitely enjoy a tasty morsel of venison at any time and the additional protein would do them some good. I spotted the herd again this morning, but they’d moved to a nearby part of the mountain range. Plants are beginning to grow again, but at lower altitudes where it is a bit warmer, the growth seems a lot more lush than up here.

    You’ve reminded me of a venison steak I did consume once at a very remote pub facetiously nicknamed the Kevington Hilton. The establishment is seriously in the middle of nowhere along the banks of a river. There was a sign in the pub pointing to the ‘beer garden’ which turned out to be a chair in the middle of a small paddock leading down to the river. Ah yes, foolish city folks fall for it every time!

    Oh! They’ve asphalted the road. Talk about progress. Maybe it always was sealed. Honestly, I can’t recall. But here goes, it is very quaint: Kevington Hotel. Maybe the dirt road south into the hills began south of that pub.

    Yummo! All this talk of braised and slow cooked meat is making me salivate. I would have enjoyed the Swiss Steak too. A mate recently cooked up beef cheeks for us in a slow cooker and it was very good. The name Swiss had something to do with the cooking process of swissing which basically means to roll or pound the daylights out of the meat. Many long years ago when I lived in the inner city, there was an old Yugoslavian couple living next to us and every Sunday morning they used to wake me up at the crack of dawn as the wife used to pound the daylights out of the Sunday roast which was fed to the family. They used to bring us around home cooked biscuits fresh out of the oven and so despite being regularly woken up by them on weekends, I could not fault their hospitality.

    Exactly, nothing can replace the time it takes to get soil started. We can speed it up, but you know, it takes what it takes. Hey if you pick up one of those packets of soil mycorrhiza it might not be a bad idea to gently mix them into the soil so that the sun’s UV doesn’t sterilise the little critters.

    Julia sounds like a fine lady and I’m impressed with such parsimony used to good ends and positive outcomes. Hey, that sheep could be a merino variety and they have a very long and distinguished history. There was one that escaped its paddock many years ago and its fleece kept growing. The fleece was something like 88 pounds when they eventually caught and clipped the sheep. And then there was the recent sheep that escaped capture (are you noticing a theme here?) Loose sheep evades capture and steals the hearts of Googong locals. That is just over the border from Canberra (the nations capital which is in its own territory). Sheep are escape artists, but I’d have to suggest that Julia already knows this!

    I’ve had that too where something really good has been done for us by locals, we’ve always ensured that they had their costs covered, and we acknowledged the social obligations. One of the things that struck me as being a bit odd about the local fire brigade was that we used our own vehicle all of the time and there seemed very little concern that this had costs for us. Not to mention the time spent there, and there was a concerted effort to stomp out any social activities. It was all very strange, and not at all how I would run the thing, but then I wasn’t running it either.

    Hehe! Yah, the film was pretty funny, but in a very dark way. Don’t mess with the local office psycho because it ain’t gonna end well. They also had an ongoing joke about some sort of TPS form which you never saw. It reminded me a bit about the Penske file story, which strangely enough may have been referred to in the Royal Commission into the Banking Sector. Aren’t that lot having fun there… 🙂

    Not at all. I only text when I have to text and some people won’t communicate by simply answering the phone and having a conversation. So 20th century that. 😉 I have a mate who tells me that with his business it is a disaster to send a text reminder message. And he may be onto something. I don’t do that either, but the dentist recently sent me one of those messages where I had to respond or risk being cancelled.

    Do you remember how I may have suggested that people tell me that inflation is low, all the while they maintain a straight poker face? Well, the house insurance renewal bill arrived in the mail and yup, it was over 20% higher than last year. I couldn’t believe it, but they’ve maintained that sort of increase for a few years in a row now. I reckon at the sort of costs I’m seeing here, there will be people falling off the radar for sure. It is like a self fulfilling prophesy.

    Cheeses on the whole can be a very exciting business. I was reading about some cheese which is meant to be a delicacy, but it smells like vomit. I really have a difficult time forming close personal attachments to such foodstuffs. Ollie would probably enjoy it though… You’d like the old school deli’s in the Queen Victoria Market. It smells really nice in there too.

    Best of luck with the diet and your goals. I’m hoping to grow old disgracefully on that front. 🙂 It’s an ambitious project involving lots of Sticky Date Puddings!

    Hey, we made another step today and cemented the external posts in the ground for the new garden shed. There are still five more posts to go in the ground for the shed before we can clad it and raise the roof. I’m pretty excited about it. The water tank people turned up on Friday too and welded in a new 1 inch tank outlet. Unfortunately, it still leaks, and I’ll have another look at it tomorrow morning… Oh well, nothings simple. I wanted to get the water tank repaired so that any rain collected on the new shed roof gets stored in there. I still have a plan B and C with that water tank, but far out it would be nice if it was just repaired and working…

    Today was a beautiful spring day and it was cool and sunny. I could feel the warmth of the sun on my skin late this afternoon. It was very pleasant to be outside.

    I was going to begin writing tonight, but I just wasn’t in the right frame of mind for such things. Onwards to tomorrow!



  53. @ DjSpo – We visited a distant relative in Spokane, when I was a wee small lad. Not many memories.

    But I’ve gotten a good look at Spokane, lately. I haven’t had cable or tv in years. Decades? But I get whole seasons from the library. I’ve been watching “Z Nation,” which is filmed in and around Spokane. What with the river and falls, a very pretty city. Lew

  54. @ Coco – Not a chemist, here, either. All I can hope for is articles that explain things in VERY simple terms. What they used to call “for the layman.” :-). Lew

  55. @ Margaret – OK. Make me insanely jealous. What exhibit did you see at the Art Institute? :-).

    I keep having this idle fantasy that I’ll hop a train, travel to Chicago, and spend a couple of days in the Institute. A bucket list thing. I’ll see if I can make it to the upcoming 20th century realist show in Portland. Lew

  56. Yo, Chris – The folks at the Kevington seem to have a sense of humor. The story about the “beer garden” reminded me of a P. T. Barnum story. In his famous museum, he had a sign with arrow saying “This was to the Egress.” People shoved and pushed to get a look at this fantastic beast. Only to find themselves in the alley :-).

    The bar looks so much like the bar in “The Brokenwood Mysteries.” But those are filmed in New Zealand. Standard Issue Bar, for Down Under? :-). A huge truck pulls up with what looks like a giant toothpaste tube on the back. Workmen start jumping up and down on it. Out squirts a fully equipped and stocked bar. I swear that’s how they construct some of the chain stores in malls.

    It’s funny how sometimes I can see a picture and know “That’s not here.” Interiors. Something just a bit different (off?) about the wall colors or furniture.

    The cost of living increases are not going up, story, isn’t flying much, anymore. Even the most uninformed Joe or Jane on the street is seeing through that one. Wonder what the next narrative will be?

    Yeah, some foods are just … well, life is short and there are so many other things I’d rather eat. But I’ll sample cheese. And, occasionally find one that’s really nice. Your lucky to be close to a big city (and, have a good excuse to be in and out) that has a selection of interesting foods. But, even here, things change. When I first moved here, in 1982, you couldn’t find a wonton wrapper to save your life. So, I made them from scratch. Now, they’re in every dairy case. Yogurt? Hippie food! I can now find some (if I’m willing to pay the price) good imported cheeses, here and there. Stilton’s and good sharp cheddars from England, nice Goudas from the Dutch. But, even our domestic cheeses from local (US) smaller companies can be quit nice. And, REALLY local goat cheeses. Yummy!

    Steps, post, water tanks … oh, my! :-). Herds of demented deer. Keeps you on the hop. I drug two buckets of garden kit, down to the garden, early in the evening. With a list of “things to do.” And, it started raining. :-(. But, I pretty much got everything done I wanted to get done. Picked about 20 ripe tomatoes, and, much to my surprise, not a single case of blossom end rot. Later in the season, maybe the lime kicked in? Gardening is so full of mysteries.

    I think I commented on how early the blueberries seemed, this year. Ditto, pumpkins. Local pumpkins started appearing a couple of weeks ago. About a month earlier than usual. Hmmm. Cont.

  57. Cont. I stopped by a used book place, yesterday (always dangerous) and found a really nice hardbound copy of “An Exaltation of Larks: The Ultimate Edition; More than 1,000 terms.” (Lipton, 1991). $3! Great old wood cuts on every page. So, if you’re ever stuck for a collective noun, just ask :-).

    Accountants? A column of. Hmmm. No pumpkins or tomatoes! Gossips? A dish of. Well, that explains a term I’ve heard from time to time. “What’s the dish?” It’s gossip.

    On writing. The muse must appear. I imagine the Australian version of a muse is perhaps a kangaroo … in a tutu. Playing a lyre. Lew

  58. @ Inge:

    My father was 17 and my mother 18 (he had to get parents’ permission) when they got married and they are still together and happy after 62 years. Though I’ll admit that a lot of their friends who got married that young got divorced somewhere along the line. My sister, 14 years younger than I, and my mother, 19 years older, sometimes all feel like sisters.


  59. Hi Lewis,

    It was pretty funny, and I fell for the sign hook, line, and sinker. And then proceeded to enjoy my meal in the public bar with the rest of the denizens of that very out of the way place. 🙂 P.T. Barnum was a consummate showman. I’ve never been to a circus, mostly because I have an intense dislike of clowns, but I once went to see the Jim Rose circus at the Melbourne Town Hall (which I once heard some naughty wag referring to the Councillors in there as the Melbourne Clown Hall! You can use that joke in many cities around the world) but that was a freak show and it was actually quite freaky. I could tell that the performers really gave the show everything. I guess the poor folks who were duped by Barnum could hardly complain – it is not as if they weren’t duly informed.

    Hehe! Don’t laugh, the English did in fact send out pre-fabricated buildings into the colonies way back in the day and some of them are still around (although there are not many of them). To be honest, they do look a little bit like the steel sheds that I build here. There is an argument that such an existence would be better than being in a tent, like a lot of people were in the mid 19th century in Melbourne. There was a shortage of housing stock due to the gold rush.

    The pre-fabricated houses would not have made for Grand Designs. I do note that a new series is apparently due to begin this month. It is the only show I watch nowadays, and it is very quirky and enjoyable. If I’m correct, the first one appears to be the restoration of a minor ancient ruin (as you do) and they uncover a graveyard under a folly. An intriguing story.

    Yeah, the old constructions were built with whatever was available to hand and they tended to follow a simple sort of colonial style which latter evolved into a more ornate (but still pretty basic) Victorian style. You’d probably find walking around the forests here to be a bit ‘off’ too as I do in other parts of the country and in other parts of the world. You get used to what is around you. Your buildings look different to my eyes too.

    That story, I wonder about that. I see costs increasing whilst incomes have flatlined (whilst expectations may have bizarrely risen) and the squeeze in discretionary income is driving a plunge into debt and/or reduced spending. Hmm, that story is a dead end one. I read about the work practices at the local warehouse for Amazon and all I can say is I’m uncomfortable with those arrangements and won’t patronise the business.

    Hehe! Yah, cheeses have expanded in quality and variety since I was a kid too. Far out, the stuff that used to be served up to me as a kid tasted like really bland bean curd and even back then I couldn’t stomach the stuff and much preferred vintage tasty. Yum! Even further back in time all cheese was local. Goats are a good source of milk, but then even sheep can be milked. And sheep cheese is pretty good.

    No time for mucking around here, with all of the stuff going on plus the deer. I’ll put the photos up tomorrow morning. Ollie did well.

    Hey, have you considered saving seeds from this latter bunch of tomatoes that aren’t showing signs of blossom end rot? It is still early days for your tomato harvest. You know, I have no idea how people get tomatoes here by Christmas (your late June), it all seems like a lot of hard work to me. I am going to have to get the seeds for the summer crops in the ground shortly. It was 61’F here earlier today.

    Yup, the growing season is getting longer for sure – in either direction. The first blueberry leaves appeared today (although most leaves have yet formed properly).

    Used book stores. Nice! Aren’t they fun? It is hard to know where to stop though. Lewis, that may be a first edition of the book. Well done, you have a sharp eye for a bargain. Who would have thought that there was a Parliament of Owls lurking around the forests. They probably couldn’t find the Egress… 🙂

    Speaking of not knowing when to stop, I spotted a delightful auction which may interest the collector side of your nature. It had a two page article in the Saturday newspaper. Sign of the times: Train fanatic puts $500,000 collection up for sale. Definitely a train spotter (in the old school meaning of that word). I believe the steam society further up the line must have been taking their machines out for a run yesterday because I spotted a couple of train spotters perched with the cameras on one of the old bluestone (a blue granite) bridges over the railway line.

    No! Surely you jest about the column of accountants? It’s a good story anyway! 🙂 I didn’t know that about the word ‘dish’ as I’d never heard the word used that way, although I have heard the word used that way a long time in relation to another person. Down here, they would say: “what’s the goss?”, but only if you were well known and familiar to another person. Otherwise they wouldn’t share gossip.

    Don’t laugh about the kangaroo in a tutu. In the big smoke last week I saw a couple of blokes walking a Staffordshire Terrier which in a strange twist of events was sporting a pink tutu. I’ve never seen that before. The dog didn’t seem to care.

    Better get into writing! 🙂



  60. @Lew

    It was the Charles White exhibit. As it was Labor Day it was fairly crowded. Just to make you even more jealous, both my aunt and sister, who also lives in Chicago, are members of the Art Institute so I can go for free as a guest. I have to admit I’m not very knowledgeable when it comes to art so am trying to rectify that. It’s great to be close enough to Chicago to take advantage of all it has to offer and then come back home to more peaceful surroundings.


  61. Yo, Chris – Pre fab buildings have always been big, here. Back in the day, you could even order houses from the Sears mail order company. There were several firms. Bungalows, mostly. There were a couple of firms that did terracotta commercial buildings. Centralia has two old bank buildings that were kits. You’d order, and they’d show up on the nearest railroad siding, all parts neatly numbered and packed in a box car. Log cabins are often “kits.” When I used to commute to Olympia, there was a company alongside the freeway that would build a log cabin, then disassemble it for shipment. Quit interesting to watch, day to day.

    I’ve noticed in the Australian movies I watch that it seems a lot of your outback hotels/motels seem to be constructed of steel shipping containers. Not something I’ve seen here.

    When I worked for the Waldenbooks retail chain, they were opening stores in such numbers that the stores were pretty much prefab. They had regional construction crews that would go around and put them together.

    Amazon is a problem. Of course, you’re lucky to live near a metro area where you have more choice. Here, I often can’t find something local, try though I might. So then it’s Amazon or do without. Sometimes, I find something on Amazon, and can then go direct to the company. They’re cleaning up their act, a bit, as warehouse staff abuses become more widely known. The book I read a few months ago about nomadic elderly workers had quit a section on Amazon.

    Oh, I intend to save tomato seeds. It will be a bit of a mix from last year’s crop and this years. You know, thinking about climate change, I remember when I was a kid that growing tomatoes, here, was really difficult. It was almost an art. Timing was everything. Now, it seems like anyone can plop a tomato plant in the ground and get a good return. Lucky for me :-). Cont.

  62. Cont. I stopped by the Senior Center Op-Shop, yesterday. I think their prices are high for a thrift store, but I occasionally find a treasure. They were doing a one day “4 books for $1.” I bought 8. Some for me, some for the library here at The Home. Our Visiting Nurses Op-shop does an every Friday, “two for one” sale. Our Goodwill thrift is a flat $4 for a hardback, $2 for a paperback. But, they have the occasional sale. More and more, Goodwill is putting items on Amazon and E-Bay. But, treasures slip through :-).

    The railroad collection is interesting. $500,000 … if that what it brings. :-). Railroad items are one of those collecting areas that are dying out. Aging out. The model railroad shows here are shrinking in size and number. The one I went to, here, well, I didn’t see many young people about. You NEED that Upper Ferntree Gully sign for your fern gully. :-).

    I occasionally here the term “dish the dirt,” ie: purvey the gossip.

    My neighbor’s dog, Princess, has a full winter wardrobe of winter coats. My favorite is the “Security” one.

    Good ol’ Google. Yes, I can dry green tomatoes. Yes, blue potato skins are edible. In fact, they’re really a lot more packed with nutrients than standard potatoes. The usual warnings about sun kissed green areas, apply. Lew

  63. Chris,
    Mr. Greer is probably correct about the view on the way down and then trip back up. I seem to recall his saying something like that many times.

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